by Tamar Afriat
As the Covid-19 makes its way across the world, this little virus is bringing the economies, industries, and the day to day lives of many nations to their knees. In one fell swoop, our lives have been radically simplified. Suddenly we all have had to cancel plans, meetings, trips, business, studies. The noise of our daily lives has been shut off.
For many the correlation is clear: this virus is forcing everyone into what the Bible calls in Hebrew Shabbat Shabbatone or a Sabbath of rest—a day that is not actually the Sabbath, but is treated as a Sabbath of solemn rest. “Solemn rest” means that we seek Him as our rest and honor it by not going our own way, doing as we please or speaking idle words (Isaiah 58:13-14). It is a rest in which we find our joy in the Lord, not in binging the latest series on Netflix.
As believers, we understand the meaning of this: many of us, particularly those who work in ministry, the significance of our daily activities, even activity done of service of the Lord, has evaporated in the light of standing alone in the presence of the only One who matters. And perhaps our activity looks sorely empty if we realize that we have long neglected this first Love, that we have not sat at His feet for a long time.
God is clearly calling His bride to a time of separation unto Him, to spend time at His feet, to go deeper into His presence while all the noise and distractions of our lives have mercifully been turned off. In that place He wants to purify us, fan the flames of our love for Him and to prepare us to be the holy priesthood He intended us to be.
Repentance and Sanctification
We have experienced something incredible from our members at Tiferet Yeshua in response to this crisis: a spiritual awakening! While our weekly prayer meetings had ten to twelve participants, now we are holding prayer meetings online with over thirty people attending; everyone’s prayers are of repentance, crying out to God to prepare and mature His bride, for unity in the Body, sanctification, calling for the Lord to use this crisis to bring people to a saving knowledge of Yeshua the Messiah. May we all continue in this place in His grace all over the world as the Lord causes us all together as His Body to reach the full measure of the fullness of Messiah! (Ephesians 4:13)
by Moti Cohen
Last week in Israel the government released new updates on stricter regulations for gatherings and businesses every day because of the massive spread of the corona virus. At the beginning of the week, only ten people could gather in one place. By mid week, the Ministry of Health had ordered all non-essential personnel into home quarantine.
Because of the restrictions, we could not use the soup kitchen space in south Tel Aviv for our regular Thursday Feed Tel Aviv meals for the needy. So, we decided to improvise and, with the help of my children, we made 80 sandwiches, and I headed to the streets with a couple volunteers to set up tables in different areas where drug addicts, refugees, and those caught in the sex industry live. The police were in the area, and I made sure that it was okay with them (the police are enforcing the quarantine regulations) that I set up tables with sandwiches so that people could come and take them on their own while we maintained the required two meter distance.
I was shocked at the condition of the people on the streets: it’s the worst I have ever seen in all the years I’ve been serving on the streets. Because of the risks of having people together in close quarters, almost all the homeless shelters have decided to close their doors rather than risk having a corona outbreak on their hands. So, in a week that has been unseasonably cold and rainy here in Israel, countless homeless wound up on the streets. It was a heartbreaking sight to see people trying to cover up with wet blankets. Many came to the tables we set up and all the sandwiches were quickly gone. It was hard to keep our two meter distance because people wanted prayer, they wanted the love and warmth they’re used to getting from us. But we just can’t get physically close right now in order to keep to the guidelines (people who are caught breaking them will be fined $1,000 at a minimum, jail time in extreme cases).
In times of national crisis, the poorest of the poor are the ones hardest hit because all the resources and energies are being focused elsewhere and the people who regularly serve the poor find themselves in the position of worrying about their health and well-being. I will be going out a couple times each week, bringing 100 sandwiches each time. Since all my five children are home with us, I will enlist their help in making the sandwiches again!
This is a critical time for all of us, and we tend to worry about our own well-being and the well-being of our loved ones. However, I encourage everyone to take time to pray for and consider helping the poor and vulnerable in your area. While everyone’s worrying about whether they have enough toilet paper stocked, I guarantee you that there are homeless people who have lost their safety net and will be sleeping on the streets tonight. I would also like to ask you to consider supporting us with our Feed Tel Aviv outreach. Thank you and God bless you and keep you in this challenging time!
Are you getting tired of hearing about Israel’s elections? So are we.
We had hopes that this third election would be it! But those hopes began to fade as the final results came in the day after the elections: Even though Likud could claim a big win, it still could only pull together 58 mandates (three fewer than what they need to form a government), and the voices from the center-left parties were making clear that they are still entrenched in their positions. So, we are right back where we were last elections in September and the elections before that in April. It’s starting to feel like political trench warfare: everyone is digging in and no progress is made.
WHO ARE IN THE TRENCHES?
Kachol Lavan (Blue and White) – A centrist party that was formed by former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Ganz over a year ago with defectors from the Likud, among others. It seems Netanyahu has stepped on the toes of his colleagues over the years and made some bitter enemies of his former political allies. Though they deny it, this party seems to be running on “Anything but Bibi (Netanyahu)”. Blue and White’s Trench: they will not be part of a government with a prime minister who has been indicted and has to stand trial (Netanyahu has been indicted on charges of breach of trust and corruption). Their slogan? We are for Israel, Netanyahu is for himself.
Israel Beytenu (Israel our Home) – A right-wing, nationalist party headed by former Netanyahu ally Avigdor Lieberman who can personally take the credit for forcing the first elections last year when he left the government in a huff (seems he has a Bibi ax to grind as well). Israel Beytenu’s trench: No government with ultra-orthodox parties. Their slogan? No government with the ultra-orthodox unless they agree to: civil marriages, public transportation on the Sabbath, and universal conscription for all ultra orthodox (who are currently exempt). When will the ultra-orthodox agree to that? Never.
PLANNING AN AMBUSH
It came out yesterday evening (March 4th) that the centrist-left parties (including Blue and White and Israel Our Home) are planning an ambush for Netanyahu: they want to pass a law in the Knesset (61 Knesset members—which they have—can pass any law they want) that would prevent an indicted Knesset Member (that would be Netanyahu) from forming a government. If this law passes, the courts may get involved to determine if it is even lawful to pass a law against a candidate right after he has won the majority of the voter’s confidence (the Likud is calling it an assault on democracy). Finally, it is anyone’s guess how long any of this might take to play out. Despite our hopes that this election would end it, Israel continues to be in political paralysis. The prospects are looking grimmer as each day passes: the different sides are taking off their gloves, ramping up the attacks, and digging into their positions.
LOOKING TO GOD, NOT MEN
All of this instability and uncertainty only strengthens us in our understanding that our faith is not in man but in God; only God will save us, not a politician or any other man. As political instability continues in our country, while countries around the world, including Israel, are hit with outbreaks of the corona virus, causing many to fear, we look to God for direction and encouragement while standing in the gap and crying out for his mercy on behalf of our nations and our people!
Why was I so happy to plant a tree in Israel with my son David?
In Israel, in the middle of the winter, we have a special holiday call Tu Bishvat. It’s called the New Year of the Trees or the Birthday of the Trees. It means literally the 15th of the Hebrew month Shevat, and it’s a holiday when school students are happy to get out of their classrooms for an afternoon in order to plant trees in coordinated efforts to increase forest land in Israel. This year the holiday falls on February 10th.
It’s simply amazing to me that little more than a hundred years ago this land was bare and barren. A quote from Mark Twain’s account of travelling the Holy Land in 1867, just a couple decades before the first waves of Jewish settlers began to arrive, describes what the Land then called Palestine looked like:
“…a desolate country whose soil is rich enough, bit is given over wholly to weeds—a silent mournful expanse…A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action… We never saw a human being on the whole route… There was hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those hast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” ~Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad
Back then, it seemed nothing was able to grow here and, as Twain himself pointed out, it seemed that the land itself was cursed. Furthermore, the Turks who then controlled Palestine taxed land according to the number of trees it had on it, an incentive to remove trees from the land. When the first Jewish settlers began arriving to the Sharon area (north end of Tel Aviv today) the land was bogs and swamps.
Those who first came to start working the land (the first Zionist settlers were driven by an agricultural vision) had to first drain vast swampland, and many of them died of malaria and yellow fever. But the first Jewish pioneers who arrived with in what is called the First Aliah (the first immigration) refused to give up. They dried up the swamps though various methods, including planting huge Eucalyptus tree groves (the Arabs learned to call them Jewish Trees) which require large amounts of water to thrive.
Today, those vast areas of what were once swampland have become some of the most fertile and productive agricultural lands in Israel today, including the great Jezreel and Hulda valleys. Also, the areas that were once swampland were so disease-infested that there were hardly any animals that were able to live there. After the swamps were drained and the land rehabilitated from all the salts, animals—especially birds—began populating those areas, bringing with them the sound of birdsong—something that wasn’t heard in these areas for hundreds of years!
In the area of the Sharon today there is the forest of Petach Tikvah (Hebrew = A Door of Hope), a city which started as a little settlement which was nicknamed “The mother of settlements”. Because of the success of Petach Tikvah, many other settlements began springing up, which were also established on agriculture-especially citrus plantations of oranges, lemons and clementines.
The cursed land has become a blessed land! It’s amazing that, after hundreds of years of desolation, all the land where the Jewish pioneers arrived has turned into rich, productive land, agriculturally and industrially.
I still have strong memories from when I was a little boy in school and went to plant trees and plants on Tu Bishvat with my classmates. We felt that it was part of our responsibility to our precious homeland—we knew well how important and special it is for us to have our own homeland where we can be Jews without the fear of persecution—and to take care of and to invest in the land. So, when my oldest son was born, it was important for me to take him out on his fist Tu Bishvat to plant a tree together, which we did! David’s first tree was planted in an area that is planned to be another forest in hills of Jerusalem.
Just planting a tree that will be part of a forest in Israel: one of the ways that we can be active participants in this miracle called “The Establishment of the Jewish State”. It is a living memorial to God’s faithfulness to His promises and fulfillment of prophecy before our eyes:
“‘But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I will cause many people to live on you—yes, all of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will increase the number of people and animals living on you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” ~Ezekiel 36:8-11
Happy Tu Bishvat!
…we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Defend the weak and the fatherless, uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
This past year at Tiferet Yeshua we were able to help and support dozens of families and individuals who were in need with both spiritual and financial help. When serving in ministry, it can be easy to fall into “religious” activity while neglecting the most basic principles of faith which the Apostle James speaks about: pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Therefore, we make sure that one of the most basic foundations of who we are as a congregation is the ability to help those in need by making our giving fund one of our highest priorities. There will always be people experiencing difficulties in their lives. However, God wants to use us precisely in these situations in order to grow and mature us in Him. So, in times of crisis in peoples’ lives, praise God that we can be there as a congregation to help and support them through it!
Testimony of a Single Mom in Need
I would like to share one special testimony about Eden (not her real name), a single mom at Tiferet Yeshua. Eden immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia; her parents were not able to make the journey to Israel. Finding herself completely alone in Israel without family, Eden soon ended up in a relationship with a man whom she hoped would marry her. She became pregnant, but, after the baby was born, it became clear that the baby’s father had no intention of marrying Eden or helping support her and the baby. All at once Eden found herself alone in a very difficult situation. When Eden was pregnant, she started attending Tiferet Yeshua, and, when it became clear that she had no one to help her out in her difficult situation, we were there for her as her spiritual family.
Judith, a sister at Tiferet Yeshua, and I have been supporting Eden for over two years—visiting her at home, listening to her, praying with her and providing her with emotional and practical support, as well as connecting her with financial and job counseling. When we first started visiting Eden, she was living in a small, dark basement apartment (with no windows) in a very rough area in south Tel Aviv where there is a high level of poverty and violent crime—certainly not an ideal place to be raising a child. With the help of God, Eden was able to move to a better area of Tel Aviv where she is renting a much nicer apartment.
When we visited her in her new apartment, Judith and I noticed that she did not have a good kitchen table (she was using a plastic outdoor table and chairs) or any storage closets. Praise God that congregation Tiferet Yeshua was able to buy her a new kitchen table and chairs and two wardrobes for storage. This week Judith and I took Eden shopping so that she could choose the kitchen dinette and wardrobes herself. What a blessing to Eden to make a new start in 2020 in with a new apartment and new furniture! And what a blessing to us to be able to help our dear sister in the Lord, just as it is written: it more blessed to give than to receive.
Remembering the Poor Brethren in Israel
One of the most central and basic messages of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is giving help to the weakest and most vulnerable in our societies. In Galatians 2, the Apostle Paul writes about visiting the Jewish brethren in Jerusalem and receiving the blessing of the Apostles Simon Peter, John and James, the Lord’s brother, who exhort him to continue remembering the poor and needy of the Jewish brethren in Jerusalem, even while they serve among the Gentiles.
Likewise, we want to thank you for remembering the poor and needy Jewish brethren here in Tel Aviv: your faithful support of Tiferet Yeshua Congregation allows us to continue taking care of the poor and needy in our midst here in Tel Aviv. On behalf of all those we’ve been able to help here in Tel Aviv, thank you for your generous and faithful support!
2019 was a year of FAITH and GRACE for us at Tiferet Yeshua: God strengthened our faith in His provision for the vision He had given us to update and expand our sanctuary. When the remaining funds we needed finally came through in the spring, He gave us grace in abundance to manage a complex renovation project while continuing our congregational life as usual. Near the end of the year, we faced some daunting challenges, but, at the last minute, God brought us help and support in surprising and unexpected ways!
Now with the incredible blessing of our new and expanded sanctuary, our new media capabilities which will allow us to live-stream our Hebrew services, with new seekers visiting every week, and with our congregation continuing to grow in love and spiritual maturity, we can only marvel at how good and faithful He is!
As we face 2020, we feel this is a year of HEARING HIS VOICE. There is so much noise around us: our smartphones and social media platforms are continually inundating us with notifications and messages which seem so important at the moment. With so much “noisy content” flooding our lives, we can become easily distracted from the voice of the One—the Lover of our Souls—who wants to lead us onward. As believers we have access to every kind of worship or the latest message from our favorite preachers, which is not negative in itself. However, hearing about Him is not the same as spending time with Him. When all we do is “hear about Him” from others, we will not know Him or His voice.
How can we hear His voice? It is rather simple. By spending time with Him each day—in prayer and meditation on His Word—we will learn to hear His voice more clearly. The more time we spend with Him, his voice will soon be the one we hear above all others. Also, spending time with Him causes us to hunger for Him more and to hunger for the world less.
The path before us may seem clear, but we might be continuing on it without listening for direction from Him: He may be calling us off the “main highway” to something we never imagined. As we embark on this New Year of 2020, may we all devote more time to Him and be able to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd leading us onward and upward to our higher calling in Him!
The Two Seas
Ron Cantor, an elder at Tiferet Yeshua, has shared this analogy with us in the past: if you look at the Sea of Galilee, you see a lake that is full of life—there’s lush vegetation around the banks of the Sea, and, as the New Testament stories make clear, it is full of fish! It also serves as a source of fresh drinking water for Israel. About a hundred kilometers south of the Sea of Galilee is the Dead Sea: it is an extraordinary place but it is quite literally dead. What’s the difference between these two seas? The living thriving Sea of Galilee has streams of water feeding it and streams of water flowing out of it. The Dead Sea only has water flowing into it: nothing flows out. When a believer, or a congregation, for that matter, doesn’t have an “outflow”, it is in danger of becoming what the Dead Sea is. God fills us not so that we can stay put but in order that we can become literal rivers of living waters to those around us.
The Living Sea
One way a congregation can be living waters to its community is through evangelism. Every week we see new faces at Tiferet Yeshua, in no small part due to the fact that our members live a lifestyle of sharing the gospel in their day to day lives. Some of our members go out on the streets to pray for people and witness on a regular basis. The first Friday of December, one of our members brought a whole family she had witnessed to. The week before that, Dudu, a Tiferet Yeshua member who goes out to witness every week, brought several young Israelis to our Friday evening service whom he had shared the gospel with on the streets of Tel Aviv. That evening, they heard a powerful message from one of our deacons who finished his message with a call to anyone who hadn’t dedicated their lives to Yeshua. At that point, one of the young Israelis Dudu had brought that evening came forward.
We don’t often have alter calls at Tiferet Yeshua: the Lord called us to make disciples, a process that only begins with the so-called “sinner’s prayer”. However, the openness and sincerity of this young woman touched the whole congregation (she even asked that someone film the moment because she wanted “a record of this important step” she was taking). Please keep S. in your prayers, that the Lord would continue to touch and heal her heart in a powerful way and that she would commit herself to the path of discipleship and growing in the Lord!
November 13, 2019
Update: Israel under Attack
In the pre-dawn hours this Tuesday, Israel successfully carried out a surgical assignation strike against Baha Abu al-Ata, a senior military leader of Islamic Jihad, killing him and his wife in the Gaza Strip. In retaliation for his death, Islamic Jihad, a militant Islamic terrorist organization supported by Iran, began a rocket barrage against the communities in Israel’s south and central areas, bringing everyday life to a standstill (schools were closed, all non-essential personnel instructed to stay at home).
As of this evening, over 350 rockets have been fired at Israel which continue to put the Gaza border communities in Israel’s south in complete lock-down. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted close to 90% of the rockets fired from Gaza, but there have been several close calls, including a rocket which hit a retirement community in Ashkelon today, lightly injuring a woman, and a direct hit on a highway yesterday in which, amazingly, no one was hurt.
Netanyahu Updates the Nation on the Situation
After meeting with top officials and military leaders today, Netanyahu announced: “We have not set our faces to escalation, however, we will do all that is necessary to return to quiet and security.” Netanyahu also said that the success of the assassination of al-Ata signals “a huge change in the equation” between Israel and her enemies, stating that, “It robs [the terrorists] of the feeling that they can act against us, against our citizens, while hiding behind their citizens…They now know that we can get to them in their hideouts with surgical exactness.”
Israel had its eyes on Al-Ata for quite a while: he was responsible for most of the rocket attacks against Israel in the last year and was constantly undermining attempts to establish calm with the Gaza government. Having already survived several assignation attempts, it is said that Abu al-Ata would surround himself with his wives and children at all times in order to protect himself from further assassination attempts.
Iran’s Presence Looms Large
In the past, Hamas, the fundamentalist Islamic organization governing the Gaza Strip, led the major conflicts between Israel and the Gaza. However, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group supported by Iran, initiated this latest volley of rocket attacks which Hamas has chosen in the meantime not to join: Hamas’ approval ratings have plunged due to the carnage to its economy and infrastructure from its destructive wars with Israel, high unemployment, high taxes. If Hamas stays out of the fray, this round of violence will most likely be short-lived.
For all intents and purposes, by killing Baha Abu al-Ata, Israel was taking out Iran’s man in the Gaza Strip. Iran’s has its tentacles in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Gaza Strip where it gladly exports its militant brand of Islam. In every place where Iran exerts its influence, there is an escalation of chaos, conflict and suffering.
Please pray for continued protection over Israel, wisdom and guidance for our leaders as they navigate the complicated and deadly political landscape of the Middle East, and that the eyes of many Muslims will be opened to the ruthlessness of Islam and their hearts opened to a revelation of salvation through Yeshua!
On Friday, September 27th we had reason to celebrate! Just a few days before Rosh Hashanah, making it extra celebratory and meaningful for us, we dedicated our newly renovated sanctuary—the culmination of a four-years-long walk of faith. Four years ago the Lord confirmed to us the vision to livestream and renovate, and then He took us on a journey of trusting Him and His way of doing things. Though at times it seemed like the funds weren’t going to come through, in the end His timing was perfect.
We are humbled and deeply blessed by the great outpouring of love and support that received from our friends around the world and by their commitment to see the gospel preached in Hebrew every week here in Israel on our livestream. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who supported us with your prayers and donations. This would not have happened without you!
A Blessing to Tiferet Yeshua
Anyone who ever has ever had the chance to visit us before our renovation, you would know that our old sanctuary left much to be desired. It was dark, outdated and awkwardly arranged. The transformation brought through the renovation is truly astounding! We feel like we’re in a new building: it is light, bright and beautiful. It makes better use of the space and can accommodate many more people.
Additionally, the update in our sound equipment to accommodate the higher quality required for live streaming has improved sound in the auditorium space and in the worship team’s earphones, blessing both worshippers and the worship team alike.
The Cutting-edge Gospel Platform
The vision to live stream our main service came from Tiferet Yeshua founders, Ari and Shira Soko-Ram who have a burden to reach the lost sheep of Israel with the gospel. The greatest tool available to share the gospel in Israel today is the internet: according to a report produced in 2018 by an American marketing research company, Israelis are second in the world for mobile phone ownership, rank seventh for internet usage, and Israelis lead the word in social media usage with the average Israeli spending a shocking eleven hours a day on social media.
Tiferet Yeshua’s worship service and main message will be broadcast live through Facebook every Friday afternoon. Afterward we will have a media team which will edit and post the best of our live worship services and powerful messages on social media.
In addition to being witness to Yeshua in Hebrew in Israel, our live stream will also accommodate our members who aren’t able to make it to services. Because quite a few of our members live outside of Tel Aviv, in Hadera in the north, Samaria, Ashdod, Jerusalem and even in the Arabah next to the Dead Sea, many make it to services about twice a month. Our live stream will give them an opportunity to connect when they aren’t able to make it.
The Livestream Countdown
We should be live on Facebook in a couple weeks: our talented media team has been working tirelessly to have everything ready to stream, but one of the new camera components malfunctioned, requiring us to wait while a replacement part is reordered from abroad.
We cannot thank you enough for your prayers and support which have made this vision a reality! We ask you to prayerfully consider supporting us as our general budget has taken a hit due to the renovation and our expenses have increased with the addition of media team members to run and edit our live steam production.
By Moti Cohen
“My daughter is hungry and it’s her birthday today. Maybe you have some food left over that I can bring her to make her happy?”
This was said to me by an older gentleman who seemed to be in his early sixties while we were taking our food out to the street in order to serve it to the needy in the area. In Tel Aviv there are streets where there are many drug addicts who are so sick and weak that they’re unable to walk a few hundred meters to the soup kitchen where we’re serving hot meals. Because of that, we send out groups of volunteers to take food to those areas where there are lots of drug addicts because they can’t come to us.
On the same evening the elderly gentleman spoke to me, it was particularly busy and a lot of people were asking for food. However, that father’s request for for his daughter went straight to my heart. I stopped what I was doing and went with. We walked a few meters down the street where there was a woman, this man’s daughter, sitting on the ground, clearly addicted to hard-core drugs. We wished her a happy birthday, and she answered, “Today I’m twenty-nine years old.” After bringing her a plate of food and something to drink, the father and daughter shared their story; both of them have been addicted to drugs for years which ultimately landed them on the streets-it’s a vicious cycle we’ve unfortunately seen many times. After they had something to eat, we asked if we could pray for them, and they agreed. We told them about the drug treatment facilities we work with and shared testimonies of people we personally know who were able to escape the deadly cycle of drugs and crime through faith in God. We embraced them and brought them another “birthday” helping of food and drink.
We have a chance to meet many people at our outreach center, almost all of whom have a story that will break your heart. But something about meeting this father and daughter who are on the street together touched me deeply, and I can’t stop thinking about them. Now that they know we’re in their area every week, I pray that they will come back with open hearts: we will be there to pray for them, support them and hopefully help them on their way to a drug rehabilitation center we have connection with.