by Tamar Afriat
Several weeks ago, Israel honored Holocaust Memorial Day, a solemn day of radio and television broadcasts devoted to holocaust survivor stories, difficult and chilling documentaries, and deeply touching memorials to the survivors. It is a national day of mourning. Israel was born out of the ashes of the holocaust: even if your parents or grandparents are not holocaust survivors, you know someone who is the child or grandchild of survivors. At this point you may be wondering, “What does the holocaust have to do with Israel’s green passport system?” The answer is: absolutely nothing. But that is precisely the issue: recently some believers abroad and even a few here in Israel have begun comparing the Israeli government’s vaccination campaign to Nazi medical experimentation and the green passport system to the Nazi use of the yellow star.
When I first became aware of this fact, I was shocked. Israel-supporting Christians were comparing Israel’s government to the Nazis because of its vaccination campaign? Criticizing Israel’s government is fair— we Israelis have plenty of criticism of the government and the way it has handled this pandemic. Expressing concern about the covid-19 vaccine and criticizing the way the government is dealing with the pandemic is one thing. Comparing Israel’s attempt to deal with the pandemic (an unprecedented health and economic crisis) to the tactics of the fascist, racist National Socialists who instituted one of the world’s most brutal and murderous totalitarian regimes ever and perpetrated genocide and torture on an unprecedented scale against Jews and other undesirables…is way beyond the pale. It is wrong and dangerous.
Using the Holocaust-Hyperbole as a Political Weapon in the US
When I started researching the covid-19\holocaust comparisons, I quickly discovered that they were already surfacing last summer: like when a Kansas newspaper published a cartoon comparing its state’s mask-mandate to the yellow star. In reaction to that cartoon, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted: “To compare COVID-19 rules to the slaughter of millions in the Holocaust is disgusting, wrong and has no place in our society.” But that was just the beginning.
A March 29th Fox News article quotes Republican congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina stating that proposals for vaccine passports in the US “smack of 1940’s Nazi Germany.” On the same day, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky tweeted: “Are the vaccine passports going to be yellow, shaped like a star, and sewn on our clothes?” That tweet caused a wave of condemnation, including from the spokesman of the Kentucky Republican Party who publicly responded by saying that their state’s party members “will always condemn this kind of hateful and extreme rhetoric.”
However, the trend of March 29th continued unabated, with the former US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell tweeting a meme comparing vaccine passport with Nazism. Ironically, in 2019 Grenell, who is a member of the US Holocaust Memorial Council, tweeted: “Never compare the Holocaust to anything. Ever.” Back then he raised that standard as a response to liberal Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who was then labeling immigrant detention camps on the Mexican border “concentration camps” and using the phrase never again—which is the byword of holocaust remembrance—in connection to the border situation.
Christians Focus the Holocaust Rhetoric on Israel
For some months, the vaccine passport-holocaust canard circulated in social media, making itself acceptable speech in the anti-vaccine camp. It was particularly upsetting, however, when Christian leaders began using this speech specifically to describe Israel’s vaccine campaign. Prominent Christian leaders called the Israeli vaccine campaign “a war crime” and compared it to the barbarous medical experiments performed by Nazi doctors on Jews and other “undesirables” without their consent, without anesthesia, in de-humanizing conditions. What the Nazis did can only be labeled torture.
These leaders also likened Israel’s green passport to the yellow star which the Nazis made Jews wear as they began systematically removing them from all spheres in society in preparation to annihilate them. Note: their reason behind making Jews wear the yellow star was to systematically remove them from society and annihilate them because they hated them and viewed them as racially inferior. To label Israel’s vaccine campaign a gross human rights violation on par with Nazi medical experimentation and to call the green passport system the yellow star and a slippery-slope to totalitarianism, is simply insane—but what is mind-boggling is that there are many people, many believers, who do not bat an eye at this comparison.
A Quick Reality Check
In case we have forgotten, there is a global pandemic on, and every nation around the world (perhaps with the exception of Brazil which has largely adopted personal freedom over quarantine and vaccine, to unfortunately disastrous effect) is trying to get covid-19 vaccines to its citizens and re-open its economy. Therefore, Israel is not special or extraordinary in that regard. The Nazi regime, on the other hand, was advancing a campaign to conquer the world with its radical, racist cultural theory in a brutally violent war. They were not trying to stop a global pandemic – that is, to save lives and livelihoods.
It is interesting to note that in his address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in February of this year, former President Trump took personal credit for the swift production of the covid-19 vaccines in the US, saying: “I Pushed the FDA like they have never been pushed before…What the Trump administration has done with vaccines has in many respects perhaps saved large portions of the world. Not only our country, but large portions of the world.” I have yet to see anyone compare former President Trump to the Nazis for what he did concerning the covid vaccine. Sadly, some Christians and a few believers here focused on Israel for that instead.
A Lesson from the Holocaust
Viktor Klemperer, a Jew who survived Nazi Germany in the city of Dresden, risked his life by keeping meticulous diaries of daily life during the Rise of the Third Reich and throughout the war. He was also a linguistic professor and offered insights about the powerful role extremist language played in the Nazi’s take-over of German society. Klemperer observed: “Words can be like tiny doses of arsenic…they are swallowed unnoticed, appear to have no effect, and then after a little time the toxic reaction sets in.” Right now, many are using reckless language and exaggeration to express their opinions and alarm about government handling of the coronavirus without taking into consideration how powerful their words are: unwittingly they are sewing fear and confusion. A natural reaction in the human heart to fear and confusion is anger and hate. Antisemitism has seen a dramatic rise during the last four years, particularly during the pandemic, even among Christians. The Nazi comparisons used by some Christian leaders recently to criticize the Israeli government is deeply troubling and should be a red flag to us all.
A note on the use of the Nazi epithet in Israel
In Israel, the ultra-orthodox community makes regular use of the “Nazi” epithet or put on the yellow star in protest when they feel persecuted or oppressed by the secular government. Whenever the Israeli police has to engage with ultra-orthodox communities, they are called “Nazis”. Most Israelis shrug their shoulders at this because the ultra-orthodox communities are viewed as “fringe” or extreme to begin with.
This year, Israeli anti-vaccination protests began using the holocaust comparison, with protestors donning yellow stars. In response, Israel’s Yad V’Shem issued a warning against “the demagogic abuse of Holocaust imagery and language which distorts the past as well as the current reality for political purposes.” Further they added, “Exploiting these terms from the Holocaust, in order to incite and inflame hatred, desecrates the memory of the Holocaust.”
by Moti Cohen
Sometimes our work serving the homeless in south Tel Aviv can be intense and emotionally challenging, but one thing I have learned: God always gives us grace to continue in the calling He has given us by showing us that we are doing is making a difference. I would like to share a couple encounters we had over last few months which were a great encouragement to me and to the teams of volunteers who serve with me.
A Surprise Encounter at the Super Market
Each month we prepare 1,400 hot, home-cooked meals to serve the homeless, so, needless to say, I spend a lot of time in the supermarket. The past several months I noticed that a young Arab man who worked at the meat counter would go out of his way to give me wonderful service. He always smiled at me, almost like he knew me, and made sure I was getting what I needed, even if he wasn’t serving me directly.
One very rainy day in Tel Aviv, I was doing the shopping during a downpour and I practically had the place to myself. When I got to the meat counter, the polite young man was there to greet me with a smile. “You don’t recognize me, do you?” he asked me. I told him that I didn’t. “I’m not surprised that you don’t recognize,” he replied. “The last time you saw me a year ago, it was in a rainstorm like this, and I was lying like a dog in the street. You and your people brought me hot tea, soup, warm clothes and a sleeping bag.”
I was shocked. The young man standing before me was tall, handsome and looked healthy. I remembered that night, and back then he was a shadow of the man standing before me. “I will never forget what you all did for me,” he said. “The love and kindness you showed me stirred something up in me, and that night I vowed to get off the street.” He explained to me how has a daughter and that he promised himself to get off the street for her.
Each time I go into that store, I ask him how he is doing: he is grateful for his job which keeps him busy during the week. He said that the weekends are difficult because he is alone, and every few months he cracks and goes down to south Tel Aviv for a hit. I asked him, “Do you remember what we talked to you about that night last year?” I reminded him that we shared with him about the love of God. This young man is from a Muslim background, and God is giving grace on how to share Messiah with him. Please keep him in your prayers!
A Seed that Bears Fruit Comes back to Visit
This past year we have begun partnering with a discipleship program run by Yuval and Valerie Yanai called Your Kingdom Come: each week during their studies, the students of the program join me in preparing food and serving it on the streets in Tel Aviv. One evening after our outreach on the streets, we still had food left over and decided to distribute it at a nearby park where many drug addicts and migrants congregate.
There in the park, a certain young man caught Valerie’s eye, and she tried speaking to him. When she realized that he only spoke Russian, she asked one of the youth serving with them who knew Russian to translate for her. Valerie felt burdened for this young man and he seemed open and receptive: she shared with him about God’s love, that He has a plan for his life, and that God’s grace will give him strength to get off the street. Finally, they gave him the contact information of a drug rehabilitation for Russian-speakers in Jerusalem run by believers.
Fast forward two months: Valery is at their discipleship training center near Jerusalem when she notices a young man fixing a light and recognizes him: it is the is the same young man she witnessed to in the park! It turns out that he contacted the rehab center that very night and has been there ever since. How did he end up at Yuval and Valerie’s discipleship center, you ask? The leaders of the rehab center decided to bring some of the young men in their program over to help with some building maintenance at the discipleship center and to join their program for the afternoon.
That afternoon, Valery got to see the young man she had witnessed to in the park two months earlier leading worship for the students in the program: it turns out that he is a gifted musician and has found what is intended for—worshipping God. Praise God for his goodness and faithfulness to save the lost and to bless us so deeply by giving us glimpses of the fruit that comes from seeds of the gospel we sew!
Thanks to your generous support, we are able to continue reaching the homeless in Tel Aviv!
by Tamar Afriat
We are year in this covid pandemic (which has felt more like ten years!) and I believe it is important for us to stop for a moment and take a step back. When I look around in the secular society and even among believers, I see much fear and confusion. But when I look at God and focus on what He is doing, I am filled with gratitude and excitement. I will go so far as to say covid has been a blessing, and most of us don’t know it.
A year ago, Gil wrote these words:
“Why would God use a plague to judge the earth? …Trial and tribulation are a tool that God sometimes uses to wake people up, to cause them to seek Him. Looking at the present sufferings in that light, this pandemic can be seen as an expression of God’s grace and love in that He is shaking the very things that may be hindering many from seeking Him. God is more concerned about our eternal destiny with Him rather than keeping us comfortable in our temporary lives here on earth.”
The Covid Harvest at Tiferet Yeshua
While we have experienced many trials and difficulties the past three months here at Tiferet Yeshua, at the same time we have had an unprecedented number of young Israeli seekers, some from religious backgrounds, contacting us and joining us each week in our services. Gil had the opportunity to partner with an outreach ministry here in Israel to teach a seminar on Yeshua’s parables. From that seminar, two young people have been joining our services regularly.
It is such an amazing blessing that God gave us the budget to hire Kosta last year to focus on discipleship: Kosta is busy meeting weekly with new believers for discipleship and communicating with new seekers who are asking for New Testaments and information about Yeshua.
Kosta shared this testimony about a young man he is discipling through zoom:
While I was praying for E., I felt like I couldn’t continue, like something was blocking me. God put on my heart that E. has an issue with forgiveness. So, I stopped and asked him if there was someone in his life he was not able to forgive. He told me that there was a difficult situation with someone at work, and he had told himself that he would never forgive this person. So, I prayed for E., that God would touch his heart to help him with forgiveness. The next week when we met, he told me, “I can’t believe it! When I went back to work after you prayed for me last week, I saw that guy, and I was actually happy to see him! I can’t understand it. It’s like my heart has totally changed toward him.”
Another young man, B., who reached out to us through our Facebook page, came to faith all on his own through seeking information online about Yeshua. He began reading the New Testament on his own and asked Kosta if there needed to be witnesses for baptism. The reason: he already made the step of to commit his life to the Lord and baptized himself in the Mediterranean.
God is Doing a Quick Work
We have shared about H., a man from a religious background who came to faith at Tiferet Yeshua this last year. H. committed his life to the Lord over the summer and immediately started joining Moti at our weekly Feed Tel Aviv outreach to the homeless. This week I saw H. at the congregation: he was there for a meeting with Gil and Kosta, and he had a young man with him. It turns out that H. witnessed to this young man during Feed Tel Aviv outreach. Apparently this young man has a very difficult life story. During their meeting, H. told him: “I want you to know, whether or not you choose to follow Yeshua, I will be here for you. I will help you in any way that I can.” A nine-month old believer witnessing to others and leading them to the Lord – how many of us could take a lesson from this “babe” in Messiah?
I am convinced that God is using the Covid crisis to cause people all over the world to seek Him while He yet may be found. The question is: are there workers for the harvest? Yeshua’s words come to us now, almost with urgency:
Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.
We are praying that that the Bride of Yeshua would look to her Bridegroom who wants to share with her what He is doing because He wants her to partner with Him. Our prayer is that God would send workers to His harvest in every nation of the world.
We want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who support us! Your generous giving is allowing us to have workers who can devote their time to this harvest.
by Gil Afriat
In the first nine months of the covid-19 pandemic, it seemed like our congregation was being protected from the covid-19 virus. Yes, it was challenging for all of us being in long-term quarantines, not being able to meet in person, and trying to care for those who had suffered either financial or emotional difficulties. However, we were all so thankful that only two people from our congregation contracted the disease and both recovered quickly and without major symptoms.
Hope and Fear
Starting late December, just as Israel was beginning to vaccinate its citizens, more serious cases of the virus started to arise in our congregation. The Israeli government’s massive vaccination campaign caused responses on opposite ends of the spectrum in the community of believers and in society at large – hope and fear. Some felt hope that the vaccination was grace from God to allow us to start making our way out of this pandemic. Others, however, were gripped with fear—some legitimate concerns about the vaccine were engulfed by a tidal wave of conspiracies about the vaccination. To this day, fear continues to cloud the decision-making of many believers, causing much confusion.
Covid Hits Tiferet Yeshua
Then on February 2nd, we heard from a dear family in our congregation that the whole family was sick with covid, and the father, Orel, had been admitted to the hospital with breathing difficulties.
Orel and Monica Obreja are parents of nine children, making the seriousness of Orel’s condition feel more dire. They are also a well-known and beloved family in Tiferet Yeshua: we are a small congregation that feels very much like a large spiritual family. While Orel was in the hospital, Monica was so weak that she could not even stand on her feet. When she finally started improving a week later, two of her teenage sons were admitted to the hospital with breathing difficulties. That same week, Olga, one of our team members, and her whole family contracted the virus. Then we got word that the doctors had decided to put Orel in an induced coma in order to intubate him, which meant that his condition was dire.
The Valley of the Shadow
The following week, Orel’s condition took a turn for the worse, and Monica called us in tears: the doctors had told her that he only had a few days to live. A week later, our sister and co-laborer in the ministry, Olga, was admitted to the hospital with breathing difficulties. Then we learned that the music leaders of our worship team, a husband and wife team, were also infected with the virus. It felt like illness was all around us and death was knocking on the doors.
We did all that we knew to do: we prayed non-stop. We asked our international friends and partners to pray as well. Without having to ask or organize anything, the congregation came together and provided food and groceries for Orel’s family. Olga’s family was provided for as well. We felt like all the challenges we faced up until this point through the last year were nothing in the light of this struggle.
Battling in Prayer
For two weeks, the whole congregation was praying, fasting, and trying to help care for the immediate needs of our families who were hit with covid. We were encouraged with updates from Monica that the doctors were amazed that Orel was still alive. Then by the week of February 21st, we had news that his condition had slightly improved. We knew it would be a long process of healing for Orel and that we would have to organize long-term support for the Obreja family, but we were also hopeful that soon we would celebrate Orel’s healing.
Purim’s Death Knell
As we approached Purim that week, we learned that our worship leader couple was now bedridden with covid and that another woman from our congregation was also very sick with covid. As a pastor of a small flock, the attack on the lives of our people felt raw and deeply personal. Purim, a holiday of joy, celebration and divine turn-arounds, was on Friday that week, the day of our services (which we still hold on zoom), and we were preparing to hear a message of faith and hope for that day. Two hours before our service was to begin, however, Monica called to tell me that Orel had passed away.
I felt broken and confused, and yet I had to find a way to lead the service, to share with everyone the devastating news and point them, somehow, in the direction of His comfort and healing—one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I should have known, though, that it had nothing to do with me—Holy Spirit arranged the service in such an intimate and special way. It was healing and encouraging to everyone, me included.
God is Sovereign
This season of trials has taught me much. The greatest lesson I have learned is that the more I grow in my faith, the closer I draw to God and the more I understand about Him, at the same time I am discovering how little I know about Him and His ways as well. All I need to know in these challenging times is that God is sovereign, and He causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28) – even suffering and the untimely death of a loved one.
Beauty for Ashes
We barely see one step in front of us, but God sees the end from the beginning and where each event will ultimately lead us. Along the way, God’s Word prepares us for these moments: when we pass through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us (Ps. 23). We are actually blessed when we mourn because He will comfort us (Matt. 5:4). We consider ourselves happy to endure in sufferings (James 5:11). We discover Him intimately close to us when we are the most broken and vulnerable. In that place, He promises us beauty for ashes, oil of joy instead of mourning (Isa. 61:3), that if we sow in tears, we will reap in joy (Ps. 126:5). We are holding onto all these promises that He will bring about a rich harvest in each one of us of being closer to Him, more dependent upon Him, and filled with a joy that not even death can steal.
by Tamar Afriat
One of the best feelings in the world is to be snug in your warm bed on a cold winter night with the sound of the wind howling outside. It is one of those things we tend to take for granted: a clean, warm bed, a hot shower, a warm meal. Recently, I had the occasion to see up close and personal what it looks like not to have a bed, a roof over your head, or warm clothes on a cold winter night, and it was shocking, humbling, and amazing.
This past month our team joined associate pastor Moti Cohen at Feed Tel Aviv, the weekly outreach to the homeless in south Tel Aviv, in order to help out with a special project. We had received a generous donation for our Feed Tel Aviv outreach with which we purchased warm winter gear for the homeless (hats, socks, neck warmers, blankets and high quality sleeping bags). In the cold winter months, being able to stay warm becomes critical for people living on the streets.
After preparing and serving the warm meals at the facility, we all grabbed bags of the winter gear and sleeping bags and followed Moti out into the dark streets and alleyways of south Tel Aviv where many homeless spend their nights. At one time, Moti only served food out of the soup kitchen facility until he realized that many of the drug addicts are so weak and sick that they cannot walk the several blocks to get to the facility. So, knowing the streets, parks, and alleyways where the drug addicts spend the night, Moti started taking the meals to them. It was to those places we went to hand out the warm winter gear.
It is one thing to serve the homeless out of a bright, clean soup kitchen which is soaked in prayer and worship on a regular basis. It is another thing altogether to go out onto the streets where homeless drug addicts are huddled together to get through the cold night. This area of the old central bus station in Tel Aviv is considered the worst area for homelessness, drugs and prostitution in Israel and is just a couple block away from brand new multi-million dollar high rises and high-end businesses .
For some of us, it was our first time out on the streets with Moti, and it was shocking, humbling, and amazing.
Shocking: seeing people huddling together under makeshift tarps of rags and cardboard boxes, shooting up heroine or smoking “nice guy”, a cheap and horribly addictive street drug—anything to numb the pain of who knows what trauma they have experienced.
Humbling: to serve with some truly amazing people who have a special gift to get on level with the homeless, in the trash, with the rats, and give them love and respect, and to share the love of God with them. Whoever is willing, we connect with drug rehab facilities.
Amazing: Some just wanted prayer, like the man in this picture. It was a powerful moment for all of us.
As much as this ministry is an outreach to the neediest of the needy, the people on whom our society has given up, it is also an essential learning experience for us. To put it in the words of our friend, Anat, who runs a ministry with her husband, Ishai, reaching out to the women enslaved in the sex industry in this area: “This is what Jesus would be doing if he would came here today. He would find the Samaritan woman right here. He would find Mary Magdalene right here. He wouldn’t go to our churches, I’m sorry to say, but He would come right here to the homeless and the needy.”
When we minister to these precious people, we touch something important in the Lord’s heart : humbling ourselves to be open to and to serve those who are in the most desperate need of His love. That is indeed what He did for us. I imagine that those dark, cold, trashy, rat-infested streets where the homeless live is not a far cry of how the world felt to Yeshua when emptied Himself of His glory to come down to earth to serve and save us.
“I imagine that those dark, cold, trashy, rat-infested streets where the homeless drug addicts are trying to numb their pain in whatever way they can is not a far cry of how the world felt to Yeshua when emptied Himself of His glory to come down to earth to serve and save us.”
We want to thank you for supporting this ministry. Because of your help, we are able to continue this important work of reaching out to the poorest of the poor in our city. Thank you!
By Gil Afriat
The Bible is clear that God will judge the earth in the end times and that His judgments begin with His household (1 Peter 4:17). Judgement is a word that makes most cringe, but in God’s economy, judgment is an act of grace to remove the things in and around us that hinder His love. In the beginning of the pandemic last year, I felt one of the things that God was doing through this global shaking was to wake up sleeping believers and to cause complacent non-believers to seek Him. I still believe that continues to be an essential part of God’s plan through this pandemic. Throughout the trials and difficulties of the covid crisis, we have seen believers growing in spiritual maturity and committment in our congregation. We have also seen an unprecedented number of Israelis reaching out to us online seeking information about Yeshua. Praise God!
God is now taking things to a deeper level: as this pandemic crisis continues, causing turmoil in the physical, emotional, economic and political realms worldwide, God’s judgement has been exposing weakness and darkness in the corporate Body of Messiah so that we can repent, be sanctified and become the spotless Bride He is calling us to be. The goal is glorious, but the process is painful.
One of the great shakings of this pandemic has been political instability around the world as governments struggle to deal with the challenges of the pandemic, particularly in democratic countries. In the United States, the 2020 presidential elections were possibly the most contentious, divisive elections in that nation’s history, and people around the world closely followed the tumultuous unfolding of the elections and their fallout. On November 8th, just five days after the election, Ron Cantor, our friend and elder at Tiferet Yeshua, publicly shared a word about the election on his Facebook page: Ron felt the Lord speak to him that the election would go to democratic candidate Joe Biden largely because of the idolatry on the part of many believers toward Donald Trump. (You can read Ron’s full word here). In response, Ron received a barrage of vicious attacks from professing Christians, some even cursing him and telling him to go to hell. At that time, Ron was the only public voice not prophesying a victory for Trump, which is what all the public platform prophets were doing.
On January 7th, Jeremiah Johnson, one of those voices which had been prophesying victory for Donald Trump, posted a public apology for inaccurately prophesying a second Trump term (You can read Johnson’s apology here). Though he expected a backlash, Johnson said he never could have imagined the attack that came his way in response. On his Facebook page Johnson shared the following:
“Over the last 72 hours, I have received multiple death threats and thousands upon thousands of emails from Christians saying the nastiest and most vulgar things I have ever heard toward my family and ministry. I have been labeled a coward, sellout, a traitor to the Holy Spirit, and cussed out at least 500 times. We have lost ministry partners every hour and counting.” (for the full post)
I share these stories only to highlight the exposure the Lord is causing to these things in all of us. We asked a family member of ours living in the US how things felt there after all the turmoil and violence surrounding the elections, and he said one verse has been going though his mind a lot recently: the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12) I firmly believe that God is calling all of us to take a long hard look at ourselves instead of pointing the finger at others, and to look at where our hearts, thoughts, and speech are reflecting the world’s values rather than God’s, whether it be in our daily lives or how we express ourselves on social media. Where have we allowed our love to grow cold?
Another end-time warning from Matthew is 24:10-11 God has put on my heart during this season:
“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.”
This verse talks about brothers in the faith betraying one another and hating one another. No, I do not think that what we have seen in this last season is the full end-time fulfillment of this verse. However, seeing brothers in the faith hatefully attacking each other over perceived “loyalty” to a political leader or to the “words of the prophets” is troubling and should be a wake-up call to us all.
The Love Litmus Test
The Word of God is clear about the standard:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
But what about Matthew 22:39 where Yeshua already stated that to love our neighbor as ourselves is the second great command? Actually, Yeshua’s command to His disciples in John 13 is different because He is setting a new standard for love: His selfless and sacrificial love is the standard. For the perfect list of the qualities of Yeshua’s love, we should study 1 Corinthians 13. We should make it our litmus test!
It may seem like an impossible task, and it is if we try to do it in our own strength. We can succeed to love others the way He loves us only if we receive, comprehend and experience God’s unending love for us and His unending grace for our mistakes and failures. When we internalize that, His kind of love will naturally flow out of us. And we will show love to more than our brothers and sisters in the faith; we will love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:44) That is real spiritual warfare!
I have hope and faith God is doing something great in His Body in this season, that God is cleansing us from the ways of the world, and that we will see the Bride rising up in love and holiness to be a witness to a world that is growing darker and more confused by the day.
by Moti Cohen
Happy New Year dear friends! I would like to share an update with you about our weekly outreach Feed Tel Aviv. Yesterday was New Year’s Eve and, because my wife has a Russian background, I know that this holiday (called Novi Gode) is a very festive and nostalgic time for those who come from the former Soviet Union. Russian Jewish immigrants in Israel celebrate this holiday with certain foods, and I decided that after our regular meal distribution to serve one of the staples of the traditional “Novi Gode” food that every Russian associates with the holiday: smoked salmon served on white bread with lots of butter. The Russian speakers in the area of our outreach (drug addicts and women enslaved in the sex industry) were excited and touched by the special holiday food. Some of them, with tears in their eyes, said that it was the loveliest surprise they could have had. They were touched that I, with my Moroccan Jewish background, would care enough to do something special for them. This very simple dish that we served created a special atmosphere, smiles and even laughter which is extremely rare for people who live a daily existence of so much suffering. Praise God!
This year our congregation received a generous donation from believers in South Korea which has allowed us, among other things, to purchase winter gear for the homeless which arrived this week. So, on New Year’s Eve we were able to hand out blankets, sleeping bags, warm socks, hats and gloves to the people living on the street who suffer greatly during the winter months. We give all the glory to the Lord, and we would like to thank our friends for their generosity: your support is enabling us to continue serving in our calling as a congregation to shine the light of Yeshua here in His homeland Israel!
We pray that God would bless you abundantly in 2021 with the blessing He has promised for those who love and stand with His people Israel!
At the end of 2019 we published an article about looking ahead to 2020:
“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.”
Little did we know how much we would be going off the main highway in 2020 into something we could never have imagined!
In 2019, we had just finished our major sanctuary renovation and were getting ready to install livestream technology. When Israel went into total lockdown in March, we had been meeting in our newly renovated sanctuary for about six months. As of the writing of this article, we are in another strict lockdown, and our new sanctuary has sat empty and almost completely unused for the majority of 2020.
THE BUILDING NOT MADE BY HANDS
How does a congregation survive without being able to physically congregate? Like many other congregations around the world, Tiferet Yeshua went online when the pandemic hit. Despite the many challenges we faced through this pandemic, we can say that, by God’s amazing grace, Tiferet Yeshua has continued to thrive and even grow—becoming more God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9). Beyond that, this year we have experienced financial breakthrough and expansion of our ministry here in Israel.
THE AMAZING YEAR OF 2020 FOR TIFERET YESHUA
The end of 2020 is the first time that we are not finishing out the year barely above budget red line —this is a huge breakthrough! We feel God’s hand on us through this crisis, supplying and encouraging us to continue forward and prepare for bigger things to come. We even found ourselves in the amazing position of being able to bless those in need more than ever and to help other congregations and ministries here in Israel because of generous international support.
- Covid Crisis Help – we were able to provide financial support to families and individuals in our congregation who suffered economic loss because of the covid-19 crisis.
- Special grants – We were able to give special financial grants to widows, single mothers, and orphans who suffered disproportionately from the economic crisis
- Mercy Ministries Support – in addition to being able to continue funding our own Feed Tel Aviv outreach ministry, we were able to support other fantastic ministries of Messianic believers in Israel such as: The Red Carpet (an outreach for women enslaved in the sex industry in south Tel Aviv), The Drug Rehabilitation Center in Netanya, and Adullam Outreach Center in Jerusalem.
- Homeless Winter Outreach – we were able to address the immediate challenges the homeless face during the winter months by providing jackets, thermoses, hats and gloves, sleeping bags, and warm winter clothes.
- Covid Grocery Outreach – during Israel’s first and second lockdowns, we provided over one hundred weekly food packages to those in need within our congregation and to people in the community at large. We also brought weekly groceries to single mothers in our congregation.
- Congregations in Need – we were able to give support to a couple congregations in need, one Ethiopian congregation in particular which offers a place of worship for the many undocumented workers and refugees from Africa living in Tel Aviv.
- Little Hearts Preschool – we were able to give a grant to an amazing little preschool in Jerusalem, one of the only Messianic Jewish preschools in Israel!
This year became the year of online outreach all over the world, making our ability to livestream an important asset! In 2020, Israelis found themselves in home quarantine and spending lots of time online while looking for answers to the questions the pandemic has caused many people to ask. This year we were able to hire a professional to redesign our Hebrew website and YouTube channel to improve our online media outreach. Additionally, we invested in critical technology for our livestream and hired a professional soundman.
OUTREACH AND DISCIPLESHIP
In March this year Kosta joined our team in order to focus on outreach and discipleship. Kosta has led street outreach during which he and his team have had many conversations with open and seeking Israelis, handed out many Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian New Testaments and booklets with Old Testament messianic prophesies. He has also been investing in keeping in contact with people who are interested in learning more about faith in Yeshua, in discipleship of new believers, and staying in touch with new congregation members. In short, Kosta has been an enormous asset to our team!
AN ENORMOUS THANK YOU
Despite and through the pressures of this challenging year, God is doing amazing things, and we cannot thank all our supporters enough for standing with us and supporting us. God is always faithful, and He always provides for our needs in surprising ways; but this year, He went out of His way to surprise and bless us through the love and generosity of the international family we are honored and blessed to have. May the Lord bless you with knowing Him more intimately this coming year and leading you into the surprises HE has for you in 2021!
Our Lord Yeshua is the light of the Word (John 1:1), and He calls us to be like Him—to shine His light in the darkness of the world. Each year when Hanukkah comes around, it is getting darker and colder – the perfect time to focus on being a light. When so many in the world are experiencing a dark and difficult time due to the stresses and challenges of the covid-19 pandemic, being a light is all the more important.
“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 15-16
Closure of Restaurants, Hotels and Reception Halls due to Covid-19 has Surprising Effect on the Needy
Each month, we prepare 1,400 hot meals for the poor and needy in Tel Aviv. In addition to our weekly outreach in south Tel Aviv, we have also started providing meals for four other humanitarian outreaches in the area of south Tel Aviv. Before the covid-19 outbreak, restaurants, hotels, and receptions halls provided soup kitchens and halfway houses with all their leftovers. Because of the covid-19 restrictions in Israel, restaurants, reception halls and most hotels are closed, meaning that, in addition to many people being out of work, humanitarian outreaches have lost their source for meals. The outreaches I spoke to had looked into the option of ordering catered food, but the prices were astronomical. God put it on our hearts at Feed Tel Aviv to help other outreaches to the poor that have lost their meal source by increasing the number of hot meals we make each week.
Making Hanukkah Special, Even on the Street
This week during Hanukkah, we wanted to bring some joy in our street food outreach, and, along with the warm meals, we handed out dozens of Hanukkah doughnuts. As you can see in these pictures, there were quite a few children who came to take the doughnuts we were handing out. The fact that there are children in the streets here is a new phenomenon: the soup kitchen facility from where we serve food is located in an area of brothels, hard core drugs, crime and violence. Until recently, we never saw children hanging around this area. The children we have been seeing here recently are the children of migrant workers, the majority of whom were employed in restaurants, hotels, and reception halls which have been completely closed for the last several months due to the covid-19 restrictions. They have no money and, because they are undocumented workers, no access to the State’s social safety net. As a result, they are sending their children out onto the streets to beg, which is the last resort of truly desperate parents. I have been noticing how their mothers arrive with them to the public park nearby and from there they send them out to try to find food.
Thanks to your ongoing support of this outreach ministry, we are able to respond to the immediate needs of the weakest sectors in society here in Tel Aviv which are suffering the most from covid-19. Thank you for helping us shine the light of God here in Israel!
There was a man who firmly believed that access to the Word of God was the only way to bring about real personal and societal change, especially for the poor and disenfranchised. Where he lived there were no Bibles available in his native language, and he was willing to risk everything to get them into people’s hands. His name was Jan Hus, and he was burned at the stake in 1415 for translating the Bible in the Czech language. During Jan’s day, Bibles were only available in Latin, Greek and Hebrew and were the monopoly of the tiniest fraction of the population—church clergy and academics. Back then, making Bibles available to non-elites was a bloody business, and many were brutally executed by religious authorities for attempting to translate any part of the Bible. For the next couple hundred years following Jan’s murder, many brave and deeply committed men paid with their lives for attempting to get Bibles into the hands of everyday people in their own language.
“If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause the boy who drives the plow to know more of the Scripture than the pope does.”
~William Tyndale, burned at the stake in 1536 for translating the Bible into English
Why was there such great resistance to the translation of the Bible, beyond the fact of the clergy wanting to retain its hegemony on power? The answer is this: the Word of God is powerful, and when a believer starts reading the Word daily with the aim of getting to know God, the kingdom of darkness trembles.
Knowing God without reading His Word: Impossible
Five hundred years after those first brave men began risking life and limb to get Bibles translated and into the hands of everyone, the majority of people in the world have the Bible available to them. In the West (including Israel), we not only have multiple versions of the Bible in our native language, we have easy and instant (thanks to smartphones) access to it. According to the American Bible Society, the average American household has 3 Bibles.
With such easy access, one might naturally conclude that there would be very high Bible literacy rates. Sadly, the opposite is true. According to a study by LifeWay Research, over 40% of church attenders in the US read their Bibles only occasionally, once or twice a month, and only 45 % say they read their Bibles more than once a week. If the Word of God is our daily spiritual bread, those statistics mean that two thirds of all believers are spiritually starving. Considering the love, devotion and faith it took those men over five-hundred years ago to risk their lives to give everyone the right to access the Bible, it is heart-breaking to realize how few of us make use of that precious right.
As a pastor, it doesn’t take long to notice the effects of spiritual malnutrition from not reading the Word. We make it a habit to ask people who are seeking council for persistent difficulties in their lives whether they regularly read the Word, and we have discovered that a high percentage of them do not. And they tend to have an anemic prayer life as well.
The only way to experience real change emotionally is to grow spiritually. The only way to grow spiritually is getting to know God. The only way to get to know God is spending time in His Word and in His presence through prayer each day. Period. There are no short-cuts in any relationships, and that includes the incredible relationship with God that we are privilidged to have.
Taste and See!
It can be a real challenge finding the time for prayer and meditation on the Word with busy schedules and the noisy distractions in everyday life. As believers we have access to every kind of worship or the latest message from our favorite preachers, and it is easy to put on worship or listen to a good sermon or teaching while cleaning or cooking or driving to work. 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. Because this one step is so absolutely integral for believers to start growing, maturing and fulfilling their destinies in God, and because it makes us absolutely dangerous for the kingdom of darkness, the devil spends extra time trying to throw distractions at us to keep us from carving out that time each day.
Here’s a little secret: when you sincerely pray God’s will, He always comes through. If you want it with all your heart, and you ask Him for help, and you don’t give up, even when you’ve fallen off the wagon for a few days or a week, He will give you the grace to push through the initial challenge of making His Word and prayer a daily part of your life. When you do, you are in for a great surprise: spiritual hunger increases when you start feeding it on the Word and the sweetness of His presence. Before you know it, you will miss Him if you skip a day, that’s how satisfying His presence is. Soon enough you will discover the wonderful, constant journey onward and upward in Your relationship with the Creator of the Universe!
If you don’t spend time daily with the Lord in prayer and reading His Word, I want to challenge you to take God at His Word, to taste and see how good He is! Then share your experience with us.
by Tamar Afriat