By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (ANS) -- As Israelis celebrate Rosh Hashana, or the Jewish New year, many of them can reflect on the past year, which has had its joys and its challenges.
The year ended on a sorrowful note as the nation mourned the accidental loss last weekend of the young Israeli Air Force pilot Capt. Asaf Ramon.
Asaf was killed when his F-16 fighter jet crashed while on a routine training flight.
Six years ago, his father Ilan Ramon was tragically killed in the Columbia shuttle tragedy as the spacecraft re-entered Earth's orbit.
"Both father and son are now buried together and our hearts go out to the family and particularly to Rona Ramon, who has now suffered a double loss," writes Rev. Malcolm Hedding, executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).
"On a more uplifting note, we have seen new Jewish immigrants pour into the country in recent months from America, South Africa, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the former Soviet republics," Hedding says.
"As the population of Israel swells, it nears the milestone of over 6 million Jewish citizens, which will mean that more Jews now live in Israel than in the Diaspora among the nat ions. The second and great Exile to the 'four corners of the earth' is virtually over and the third Jewish Commonwealth has been anchored back in Eretz Israel!
"This is nothing short of amazing and the fact that Jews now celebrate their ancient biblical Feasts in Zion is testimony to the God Who called them and promised that as long as the stars and moon shine in the firmament, just so long will Israel exist as a nation before Him. New beginnings indeed!"
Hedding says the tragic loss of a father and son is not disconnected from the story of 'aliyah' (literally 'ascent', or the immigration of Jews to Israel).
"They represented a proud Jewish family that not only has roots in this ancient soil but which also gave of their very best to defend Israel and make her great. They are prime examples of a modern miracle and they give testimony, even in death, to the life that springs forth from this ancient and new nation. They stiffen Israeli resolve to remain strong and to be a place of refuge for the worldwide Jewish co mmunity.
"The return of the Jewish people to their biblical, historical and national homeland and to the ancient city of Jerusalem is an ongoing miracle that defies the 'tide of history.'"
Hedding says it annoys politicians, leaders and peoples from all over the world, but it will not be stopped because the Scriptures foretold it.
Is Messiah Coming Soon?
Not only is the Jewish population of Israel growing, so also is the number of Jewish believers in Jesus Christ in the Holy Land.
Though Jesus clearly said of His return to the earth, "Of that day or hour no one knows" (Matt. 24:36, NKJV), there are signs throughout Scripture that point to the second coming of the Lord.
"One of them is the increasing number of Jewish people who are coming to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah, and another is the growing body of Messiah in the land of Israel itself," writes Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, located in New York City, in an e-mail article on http://www .Charismamag.com.
Glaser says the Messianic movement refers to the growing number of Jewish people who have become believers in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel.
"This movement began with the Jewish disciples, continued into the first four or five centuries and then was lost. After a terrible season of forced conversions during medieval times, more reasonable attempts to help Jewish people find Jesus began during the post-Reformation period," said Glaser.
In his online article, Glaser states the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews, established in 1809 and now known as the Church's Ministry Among the Jews, various German and Scandinavian missions beginning in the mid-19th century, and the rise of North American Jewish missions, including Chosen People Ministries -- founded by a Hungarian Rabbi in 1894 -- "all attest to the commitment of different segments of the church to Jewish evangelism.
"One of the high points of the modern Messianic movement occurred between the two world wars, when hu ndreds of thousands of Jewish people professed their faith in Jesus-primarily in Europe," (see his dissertation on Jewish missions in Europe at http://www.glaser.charismamag.com ).
"After the Holocaust, the Messianic movement went through a difficult period -- yet revival was in the air. In the mid-1960s, the Jesus movement roared into prominence with a large Jewish contingent in its midst. This movement of God gave rise to the modern Messianic congregational movement, which has flourished during the last 30-plus years," Glaser says.
He states the growth of the Messianic movement in Israel has been particularly remarkable.
"From the mid-1970s until the present day, the number of Jewish believers in Israel has grown from less than 3,000 to more than 10,000 (a conservative figure), and Israeli Messianic congregations now number close to 140.
"I believe we are witnessing the gradual fulfillment of one of the signs of the end times-today! According to Scripture and most theological traditions, there is no doubt that a final Jewish remnant will cry out to God, accepting Jesus as their Messiah, which in turn will precipitate the second coming of Christ. In that day, all the promises God made to our father Abraham will come to pass as the Jewish people will be united with their land once and for all through faith in the Messiah Jesus."
Glaser asks how can you "hasten the coming of the Lord"?
"Share the gospel with Jewish people. Yet because we still live in the shadow of the Holocaust, the pogroms and the Inquisitions, you must witness sensitively and wisely," he says.
"Great evangelism is built on great relationships! Christians who are trying to find ways to share the gospel with Jewish friends and neighbors must build relationships with them, which then serve as the natural bridges over which the gospel can pass easily.
"This is one of the reasons it is so important for Christians to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, take tours to Israel and participate in ministry in the Holy Land through direct evangelism, benev olence and other good works."
Glaser concludes: "It is true that we cannot know the day or the hour of our Lord's return, but we can discern the signs of the times! I believe this growing remnant of Messianic Jews in Israel and across the globe -- perhaps as many as 100,000 -- is a sign of the end times. We need to pray for and nurture the modern Messianic movement. It is prophetically profound and one of the sure signs that the second coming of the Messiah is near."
Have Christians Betrayed Zion?
In a related article on Charismamag.com, Barry Segal, a Jewish believer who is the president of Vision for Israel (www.visionforisrael.com ), a humanitarian aid work located in the Judean hills of Jerusalem, says: "We are on the brink of a spiritual breakthrough in the nation of Israel.
"Today, the number of Israeli Messianic Jewish believers is estimated at 12,000, with about 140 different congregations and home fellowships. God is birthing a new end-time movement of Jewish lovers in Y eshua that is becoming a prophetic voice to Israel as well as to other nations. This is truly a time to rejoice," says Segal, who also produces the TV show 'Roots & Reflections' which helps people in other nations learn about Israel,
Nevertheless, says Segal, many Jewish believers in Israel regularly experience not only rejection by the traditional Jewish religious establishment, but also growing antagonism and hostility from extremist ultra-orthodox elements.
"What is happening to the Messianic Jews is to be expected considering we are in the end times. Similar persecution is being experienced by believers all over the world," he says..
"What is disturbing, though, is the trend among many Christians and some Christian Zionists to sever their relationships with or withhold support from the Messianic Jewish community in Israel for the sake of maintaining ties to political figures or religious leaders.
"This trend is counterproductive for those of us who desire to see the natural and spiritual redemption of Israel. It is imperative that we stand in prayer and support for our Jewish brothers and sisters in Yeshua."
Segal says he believes that God isn't pleased with lovers of Zion who turn their backs on their own -- the Jewish body of Messiah.
'In fact, some Christian funding is being funneled into organizations, both Christian and Jewish, that are fighting the local believers in Israel. This is a time to use discernment in your giving," he says.
writes: "There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is being poured out on
God's chosen people once again. The prophet Jeremiah foretold this
season when he wrote, 'Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when
I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house
of Judah,' (Jer.31:31, NKJV). The Lord confirmed it when He spoke
'I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you' (Ezek. 36:26-27).
"We, Israeli Jewish believers in Yeshua the Messiah, are dedicated to the land and people of Israel. We know that God watches over His people; nevertheless, we must speak out when adjustment or correction is needed. Now is the time to bring the good news and the hope of Israel to our people," he said.
Segal says that in the days of the early church, even a very orthodox Jew stood up among the elders when they were accusing Peter and the other apostles.
" ' Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and.said to them: 'Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.
" ' After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it-lest you even be found to fight against God, ' (Acts 5:34-39)."
Segal says that when the apostle Paul went on his journeys, he raised money for Jerusalem.
"He always did it for and through the community of Jewish believers in Yeshua.
"Today Christians are showing their love for Israel through many wonderful acts of compassion. Our nation appreciates your love."
|** Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent of ANS, is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station. Michael has traveled to Albania and the former Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany and the former Czechoslovakia, Israel, and Canada. He has reported for ANS from Jordan, China, Russia, Jamaica, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649,at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can donate online to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.'|