Did you know that the greater Tel Aviv area is the largest and, demographically, the youngest metropolitan area in Israel with a population of 3.7 million people? In fact, the Jewish population of Israel is growing! And Tel Aviv is the financial and cultural hub of the country.
The character of Tel Aviv is distinct from that of Jerusalem. Tel Aviv is Israel’s most secular city, whereas Jerusalem is more religious. There are probably a dozen believing congregations scattered throughout the greater Tel Aviv area—averaging about 50 – 75 congregants.
The usual and more conservative estimate regarding the number of believers throughout the entire country is somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 – less than 0.5% of the overall population. This marks the modern state of Israel as having one of the lowest numbers of Jesus followers in the world.
Naturally, Israel is of great importance to the work of Chosen People Ministries, as we are a mission to the Jewish people. Tel Aviv is, therefore, critical to our ministry, as it is the home of the largest population of Jewish people in the Holy Land.
The Greater Tel Aviv Project
We believe that the bright future of Gospel ministry within Israel is with the younger Hebrew-speaking population. This is why we have initiated the Greater Tel Aviv Project designed to reach younger Israelis and their families—the building blocks of Israel’s future—with the life-transforming message of Jesus.
Our focus in Tel Aviv will be on two suburbs that border the downtown area – Ramat Gan2 and Givatayim.3 These urban suburbs consist of families who work downtown, but cannot afford the high cost of living in the city. Over 300,000 people live, shop, and have their social life in these two communities.
At present there is, only one small congregation serving these two urban suburbs, making the need great. Our great interest in these two communities is also driven by the nature of both suburbs as growing communities with young families as well as an “old guard” of original settlers within Israel who have probably never heard the Gospel.
We have placed four missionary couples, all of whom are Israeli citizens, in these two suburbs, and they are already sharing the Gospel within the community. But, this is just the beginning! We are also ready to move forward as we have finally found a wonderful 1,600-square-foot commercial space in the midst of Ramat Gan to turn into an outreach center. We will offer Bible studies, public lectures, moms’ groups, children’s ministries, an outreach café and more through this center.
The ministry in the greater Tel Aviv area will be primarily focused on evangelism, discipleship, and congregational planting. We expect that the ministry will focus on younger people and their families, but we will also plan on working with middle-aged and older people—especially as we plant a congregation.
One of our goals during the next twelve months is to hire another staff evangelist—hopefully a young Israeli who is a graduate of Israel College of the Bible. If the plan goes well, we intend to hire a staff evangelist each year for the next three years to serve out of the Greater Tel Aviv Messianic Center and to also be involved in the congregational plant.
All of our missionaries in Israel currently raise their funding and, by God’s grace, the four couples and one single missionary already have the bulk of their support raised. It is difficult for them to continue raising additional support because they are in Israel, so we do our best to try and subsidize their shortfall.
I appreciate the opportunity to share my heart for my Jewish people and excitement for the Greater Tel Aviv Project. By God’s grace and faith we are going forward with this because we have no other choice—the days are dark, and we are growing closer and closer to the coming of the Lord.
We believe the Lord will provide for this work!
Our plan is to begin in the very place where it all began—in this instance Tel Aviv, as the Lord did tell His disciples to begin in Jerusalem and then to go to Judaea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world (Acts 1:8). The church has done a great job fulfilling this command, but now we need to return to the starting point of the Great Commission—to Israel itself—the very land where our Savior lived, died and rose from the grave…and the very place where He will return to reign as King!
I was recently in Jerusalem and visited with a couple who served as volunteers for six months at the new Chosen People Ministries youth hostel in New Zealand. This is a strategic spot as thousands of Israelis wander through the South Island of New Zealand each year to enjoy the spectacular scenery and hiking trails. In fact, the word on the street is that the Israelis who go to New Zealand after the army are looking for God through nature—as opposed to those who go to India who are so often searching for God through drugs and eastern religions.
This wonderful young Israeli couple shared so many of their conversations and experiences with the 750+ Israeli young people who have wandered through what we call the Zula Lodge. They told my wife and me story after story about conversations they had with Israelis seeking the Lord. These spiritually focused conversations often took place late into the night and early hours of the morning.
I was encouraged to find out that the Hebrew version of the book I wrote, entitled Isaiah 53 Explained—which is at the heart of our Isaiah 53 outreach around the globe—was distributed to hundreds of these wandering Israelis.
Sometimes it is really difficult to share the Good News with people who know little about Jesus or who are resistant to the Gospel. Most Israelis fall into this category as they are raised in traditional, but modern Jewish homes that simply do not know anything about the Lord Yeshua, our Messiah.
Many of these young and, most often secular Israelis also pick up on the resistance to the Gospel prevalent among Jewish people for so many generations. I am happy to say that this attitude seems to be changing and many Israelis are opening up to Jesus! This is especially true of Israeli young people who are traveling around the globe looking for the answers to life after having gone through a stressful season of military service.
There is no doubt that we have undergone a slight shift in our strategy for reaching these wandering and wondering Israelis. In the past, we have sent short-term mission teams, usually Israeli believers who live in Israel, to reach their counterparts across the globe—from New Zealand and South America to India and even in the United States. However, we have now discovered that setting up permanent facilities where we can house wandering Israelis allows for a deeper and more intimate ministry. This enables us to take our presentation of the Gospel to a new level!
This is why we have recently established another center for traveling Israelis in Buenos Aires, Argentina—a city of almost 300,000 Jewish people. Chosen People Ministries has been serving in Argentina since 1942, when one of our missionaries from Austria helped many Jewish believers and non-believers escape the Holocaust and flee to Argentina from Vienna. He followed them and began the ministry of Chosen People Ministries in Argentina.
We have two wonderful facilities in Buenos Aires where we are teaching Bible studies, planting a congregation and utilizing the Spanish version of our Isaiah 53 online campaign. God has really blessed this work, which is now a partnership between Chosen People Ministries and the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists.
The Lord has recently provided us a believing Argentine Jewish couple who also lived in Israel for many years and learned to speak Hebrew. Their knowledge of Israeli culture will allow them to connect with the young Israelis who travel through our centers. Thousands of Israeli former soldiers travel to South America to hike near the lakes and through the mountains.
We have renovated a large house in Buenos Aires that serves as living space for our missionary couple, some volunteer staff, and as a hostel for about twelve Israeli backpackers. These young Israeli travelers begin their journey in Buenos Aires before they embark on the trek across South America. We greet them warmly and provide housing in a safe and comfortable atmosphere; all with a loving Argentine Jewish couple who are willing to have hours of conversation with them about Jesus!
There are lots of ways you can get involved in helping us reach wandering Israelis throughout the world. We especially need your prayers. Please pray that God will open the hearts of these wandering young Israelis to the Messiah. When this happens everything else is easy! But we do need your prayers also for God’s wisdom in running these various youth hostels, His guidance during late-night conversations and very simply for His hand in directing those He wants to reach through our efforts in Argentina, New Zealand and elsewhere.
I also ask you to get the word out that Chosen People Ministries is offering these opportunities to serve the Lord in short-term ministry in both New Zealand and Argentina. These are great winter ministries as they fall during school breaks and some are in our target areas. This is a perfect mission trip for those who are looking for something to do during the winter, as the touring season in both Argentina and New Zealand is at its height during January and February. Do you know any young people who have a heart for Jewish people or are avid hikers and are capable of sharing the Gospel with Israelis if trained? I am inserting a card that you can fill out and send to us so that we can then contact those you know and give them an invitation to these wonderful short-term ministries.
Finally, we value your support for these ministries, as we need to underwrite the hostels since we charge the Israelis very little money to stay there. Also, we would like to provide scholarship support for young Israelis who would like to go into short-term missions in either New Zealand or Argentina or perhaps India, depending on our short-term mission schedule. It takes about $2,500 to scholarship a short-term missionary to go from Israel to New Zealand for a couple of weeks and just about the same for Argentina. It is also very difficult for our dedicated staff in Argentina, Israel and New Zealand to raise funds for their ministries and so some of what you give can also go to help them.
Thank you so much for your love, prayers and engagement with Your Mission to the Jewish People as we reach Israelis around the globe with the message of eternal life through Jesus the Messiah.
This post-army season is so critical in the lives of these young Israelis. They might never again be as open to the Gospel as they will be during this time of travel.
So please pray fervently and give generously so that we can bring the Gospel to these wandering Israelis.
Shalom in our exalted Messiah,
Zhava and I just returned from Israel, and I want to share a few impressions regarding what God is doing in the Land and invite you to pray for the Lord’s work there. First of all, I am happy to tell you that there is a movement of the Holy Spirit in Israel today, and many young Israelis are open to the Gospel.
Believe it or not, we have now sent out over 1,000 Hebrew versions of the evangelistic book Isaiah 53 Explained and most of these were sent to Israelis under the age of 40. Our staff in Israel have been following up on these contacts and discovered that there is a genuine, sincere curiosity about the Gospel among them.
We have also noticed that there is a great need for ongoing discipleship among the Israeli Messianic Jews we meet through the online campaigns.
Let me share a quick story from Gabriel, one of our Israeli staff members:
Recently there was a Facebook message on the Isaiah 53 Explained Facebook page. It was a believer asking to order a book. I responded and asked for his full address. Yoram*mentioned that he believes in Yeshua, but doesn’t know how to share his faith with co-workers so he hopes the Isaiah 53 Explained book will help him with this. I shared that a good way he can tell people about Yeshua is through his testimony. So I asked him why he believed in Yeshua. It was clear as he tried to share his testimony that he didn’t know why he believed. He read parts of the New Testament and in a truly powerful way came to understand that God is real and through Yeshua, he can have peace with God.
I asked Yoram if he attends a local congregation. His response was typical for many new believers in Israel. He responded by asking me what I meant by “congregation.” I shared with him that the Bible speaks about the fellowship of believers who come together to worship God and pray together. Yoram said that he didn’t even know there were other believers in Israel and had not heard of any congregations.
He lives in Haifa, the third largest city in Israel and has never met a fellow believer in Yeshua…imagine that! Yoram was unfamiliar with the few local congregations in the Haifa area and as a result, he is not meeting other believers, which also means he is not being discipled.
Everything he has learned about Yeshua is from online sources and from the New Testament itself.
I would say that this young man is fairly typical of many of the young Israelis who are coming to faith. They are not coming to the Lord through a local congregation and not even through some evangelistic mission agency like Chosen People Ministries. Rather, they are coming to faith directly through the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Just as it was in the Jesus Movement of the 1970s when I was saved, the work of discipleship begins after the Lord has transformed the lives of individuals by the power of His Holy Spirit.
An online discipleship program would greatly help Yoram be discipled and become planted in a local congregation.
This is one of the reasons why Chosen People Ministries, in partnership with other Israeli ministries, is now working on an online, video-based personal discipleship website so that those who are seeking the Lord and who have already come to faith will be able to learn more about the Bible and the Savior by engaging with us online.
The second impression I have after being in Israel for almost three weeks is that local, indigenous Israeli ministries are growing by leaps and bounds! I remember my first trip to Israel when there were very few local Messianic congregations that spoke Hebrew. I remember singing “Amazing Grace” in Hebrew! I love the hymn, but at the time, there was very little original Israeli-style music that allowed Israelis to express their love for the Lord in a more Israeli way.
Now, young Israeli believers are producing their music, and it is beautiful! The worship services I attended while in the Land gave me a foretaste of heaven—worshiping Jesus the Messiah, in Hebrew, in a more authentically Israeli way. It was just fantastic!
We also see the growth of national evangelistic ministries like Bible colleges and discipleship programs for both future and former soldiers. Local congregations are growing, and the leaders are developing. I think we have entered a new day. This causes me to believe that Paul’s words in Romans 11:25 will come to pass soon. As the apostle wrote,
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written.
Your Mission to the Jewish People in Israel is led by Israeli nationals. We have 20 full-time staff members within Israel, and the entire work is led by Michael, a dedicated Russian Jewish brother who came to faith in Jesus after he made aliyah (immigrated to Israel).
Our work in Israel is exciting as we are reaching out to elderly Holocaust survivors, feeding the hungry, planting congregations, conducting online evangelistic campaigns, discipling new believers, working among single mothers with young children, conducting children’s camps and so much more. The scope of the work and energy of our staff leaves me breathless!
Recently, we had a terrific Bible conference in Orlando with the theme, “Israel’s Glorious Future.” After this conference and now after spending time in Israel, I am more confident than ever that the Lord will fulfill His promises to the Jewish people!
We are living in a great day, but we also understand that there are great challenges.
There are challenges of safety as Israel is still surrounded by enemies that are seeking her destruction. Israel also has many internal problems and is still a divided country. The government officials both on the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian side need our prayers desperately.
I could go on and on with prayer requests, but I also feel compelled for the sake of the Gospel to ask you for the needed funds that allow us to continue this great work in Israel.
We could not minister in Israel without our dedicated team back in the United States, who provide the administrative and logistical support for our workers in Israel. It takes thousands of dollars a year of office support to keep a missionary on the field in Israel. So I am asking if you would consider giving a generous donation this month to help both our field staff in Israel and our faithful workers in the United States, who make it possible for our Israeli evangelists to continue their work.
For your generous donation of $50 or more, we would like to send you a beautiful copy of the following prayer declaration for Israel that I hope you will hang somewhere prominent in your home so that you can remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. All you need to do is frame it, and I believe this declaration will become a cherished reminder of the faithfulness of God to His covenants and promises to the Jewish people. The declaration states the following:
A Prayer Declaration on Behalf of Israel
I will pray for the peace of Jerusalem as commanded in Psalm 122:6 because I love the Jewish Messiah, the Jewish people, the non-Jewish citizens of Israel, and am committed to obeying the Word of God.
My prayers will include petitions for the political leaders of the Land of Israel, both Jews and Arabs; the spiritual leaders of Israel: Jewish, Christian and Muslim; the military leaders of Israel, and for business and academic leaders as well.
I will pray that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, will dwell in the hearts of the leaders, citizens and residents of the Holy Land and that His Spirit might empower His true disciples living in Israel today.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good (Psalm 122:6-9).
We have created a beautiful version of this prayer declaration that we would love to send you! Your gift of $50 or more will mean so much to us this month as the summer is often a difficult season to raise funds for our ongoing ministries. Our total budget for our work in Israel is a half million dollars each year, so if you can give more generously—that would be wonderful! Thank you so much for considering this gift, and of course, for your prayers.
Thanks for loving the Lord and His chosen people!
Have a great summer in the Messiah,
P.S. If you would like to listen to some of the messages given at the “Israel’s Glorious Future” conference, all you need to do is visit www.chosenpeople.com/IGFmessages and it will take you to a site where you can freely listen to these great messages!
Dear friend of the Jewish people,
Shalom from our headquarters in New York City. It is always a joy to write to you in our Chosen People Ministries newsletter each month. My wife and I just returned from Israel where we had a very encouraging time with our 20+ staff members serving in the Holy Land. It would be impossible to try and communicate to you all that these dedicated servants of the Lord are doing in reaching our Jewish people in Israel. We are beginning to see many young Israelis interested in the Gospel!
One of the most notable changes in Israel is the rise of the French Jewish population. French Jews are now the largest group of Jewish people taking advantage of the Law of Return, immigrating to Israel each year. Israel is a safe haven for Jewish people around the globe who are experiencing antisemitism and persecution, simply because they are Jewish. The arrival of the French Jewish population has been one of the most significant demographic changes within Israel.
Did you know that France has the largest Jewish population in Europe? In fact, after Israel, the United States and the countries of the former Soviet Union, France has the largest Jewish population in the world. The Jewish people in France thrived after the end of World War II, but now the fate of the Jewish people in France is fragile due to the rise of militant Muslims.
To make matters worse, the evangelical church in France is small and struggling, and there are fewer than twelve people dedicated to Jewish ministry there at this current time. My dear brothers and sisters, it is time to pray fervently for the Jewish people of France.
To meet these needs, Chosen People Ministries has initiated a number of new strategies. Along with our direct missionary and publication ministries that have been going on in France since the 1930s, we now have two websites in French that are touching the lives of French Jewish people in many ways.
The first is an Isaiah 53 website where we are offering the book Isaiah 53 Explained in French through Facebook ads, which include the testimonies of French Messianic Jews who are part of the website. These ads are reaching French Jewish people in France, Israel, Montréal and around the globe. Hundreds of French Jewish people have already ordered the book.
We also have initiated an online aliyah helpdesk that allows us to engage with French Jewish people trying to move to Israel. In 2014, 7,500 Jews made aliyah from France, the highest number in 30 years, making France the number one country for Jewish immigration in the world. In 2015 that number was exceeded and it is expected that the 2016 immigration number will be even higher. We are offering these immigrants helpful information, both online and on the ground. Through the relationships that we build we hope to tell them about the Jewish Messiah who loves them and who died and rose so that they might have everlasting life.
Let’s look at some recent events to better understand why so many French Jewish people are leaving France.
The 2006 murder of French Jew Ilan Halimi was a major wake-up call for the Jewish community who no longer felt safe in France.
In 2012, the “Toulouse Massacre” of seven people, including a rabbi and three students at a Jewish day school, reinforced the reality that France had a problem keeping its Jewish community safe.
The January 2015 “Charlie Hebdo” massacres included a kosher supermarket hostage situation and resulted in the death of four Jewish patrons.
Then there was the November 2015 attack that claimed the lives of 130 people. It is widely believed that the main thrust of the terrorist attack on the Bataclan concert venue was organized to hurt the two owners of the place who happened to be Jewish (incidentally they had sold the place a few months prior).
My heart goes out to the French Jewish community. It has been my prayer for many years to be able to reach that very community with the Gospel of Yeshua. Because of the rebirth of antisemitism in Europe and its current exponential growth, French Jews, among other European Jewish communities, are scared and hopeless. But together, we can offer them hope.
As always, we need your continued support to keep our missionaries in the field as they serve the Lord in the United States, Israel, France and in the other 13 nations where you are helping to reach Jewish people with the Gospel.
We deeply appreciate your prayers and loving support.
Dear friend in the Messiah,
I’m writing to you on behalf of those who would never communicate with you.
I’m writing on behalf of my mother and father, grandparents, uncles and aunts and literally hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who were born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City—the current home of almost a million Jewish people.
I’m writing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jewish people and Russian Jewish immigrants—many of whom cannot write in English and are already quite elderly!
By now you realize I’m writing to you on behalf of the many Jewish people in the borough of Brooklyn, who do not believe in Jesus.
These are the people who would never ask you to send them a missionary!
Believe me, so many of these dear, precious Jewish people in Brooklyn are very able to communicate. As you well know, there have been many famous Jewish people from Brooklyn, who are teachers, professionals, thinkers, artists, and musicians. Within the Jewish community, we know that most of our leading Jewish rabbis and Jewish theologians either come from or still live in Brooklyn, which I affectionately call the other Holy Land.
There are also hundreds of thousands of Jewish people in Brooklyn who are more secular and do not think they need a relationship with God at all.
Allow me to tell you a quick story about one of my favorite Brooklyn Jewish family members—my father.
Whereas my mom was raised in a more Orthodox Jewish home, my paternal grandpa was a tailor and a butcher and did whatever it took to help his family survive. He was a good man, but not religious, though his family, of course, celebrated all of the Jewish holidays. My dad followed suit.
Some years before my father passed away, we were sitting in his car in an area of Brooklyn called Bensonhurst, where he lived. I was speaking to him about Jesus, and the conversation went on for about 15 minutes. He listened attentively, and I actually thought that he was more open to the Gospel than ever before. I was excited! So I kept on talking.
By the way, this is a mistake some of us make when sharing the Gospel with non-believers. We should make sure to take a breath every once in a while and ask the person we are speaking to if they are still interested in what we are saying!
Eventually, I paused, and my father looked at me and said, “Son, I really love you, and I know it makes you happy to talk to me about your faith; I’m always happy to listen.”
I stayed quiet for a moment to see what else my dad would say and thankfully he kept talking! He continued, “It’s not that I have anything against Jesus, but I don’t even believe in God.”
I was stunned and disappointed because I thought that he was becoming more open to the Lord. I thanked my dad for being so honest. He knew I would not be happy with his position, but loved me enough to tell me the truth.
My dad was typical of many secular Jewish post Holocaust men and women who live in Brooklyn, in Israel and around the world! A recent study of Israelis reported that 50% of those living in Israel claim to be secular Jews. This does not mean they do not identify as Jews—as my father had a strong Jewish identity. It simply means that they do not practice the Jewish religion outside of celebrating many of the holidays which are viewed as part of the Israeli national calendar.
Those who need the Gospel the most do not know it…and would never ask us to send them missionaries. We know Jesus said the field is ripe for harvesting and the laborers are few, but those who are part of the harvest are SILENT.
They will never issue the invitation for us to come!
My dear brothers and sisters—the initiative is ours to take, as Jesus has already told us to go!
Your Mission to the Jewish People has been preaching the Gospel to Jewish people day in and day out…in Brooklyn and throughout the world for almost 123 years! Sometimes we intensify our efforts, as we will this summer in both Brooklyn and Israel.
Would you please pray for our intensive summer outreach in Brooklyn called Shalom Brooklyn?
The Hebrew word shalom means “peace” and Jesus is the Prince of Peace according to Isaiah 9:6. These verses adorn the plaque on the front of our Brooklyn Messianic Center, in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn. Isaiah writes,
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Dozens of Chosen People Ministries’ staff and volunteers will be on the streets of Brooklyn for two weeks proclaiming the Good News of Jesus the Messiah to both religious and secular Jewish people. We will be reaching out to both Russian Jewish and Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn. Additionally, we will be placing evangelistic ads on Facebook directed towards Jewish people in the greater New York area.
We expect there will be hundreds of Jewish people who will be interested in receiving a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained and in learning more about the Lord.
I would also appreciate your prayers for our two short-term mission trips to Israel this summer. Chosen People Ministries’ staff and volunteers will be reaching Holocaust survivors, young secular Israelis and religious Jewish people who will listen.
Give on Behalf of Those Who Would Never Ask for Help
We also need your financial support. This summer of outreach is going to be a huge investment, especially as we enhance the work on the street with our Facebook ad campaigns. We are offering a free copy of Isaiah 53 Explained in English, Hebrew and Russian. We can deliver this book into the hands of a Jewish person for $5, inclusive of printing costs as well as the ads.
Your gift of $50 will enable us to send ten books and your gift of $500–100 books. We also need your support to help
underwrite the evangelistic outreaches on the streets of Brooklyn and in Israel. We have budgeted $10,000– $25,000 per week for these efforts, and we have four weeks of outreach planned between Brooklyn and Israel.
Thank you for your willingness to pray and give generously so that we can reach Jewish people with the Gospel of Jesus our Messiah. I especially want to thank you on behalf of those who would never ask or thank you—until they come to faith in Jesus the Messiah.
Have a joy-filled summer in the Messiah and please pray for our summer outreaches!
Yours on behalf of those who are SILENT…but desperately need the Lord,
Dear friend in the Messiah,
Happy 68th birthday to Israel!
It is hard to believe that modern Israel was established such a short time ago. The modern state of Israel is an answer to the prayers of Jews and Christians and is a signpost of God’s faithfulness to His covenants and promises.
The survival of the Jewish people and their return to the Promised Land of Israel is a clear testimony of God’s faithfulness to His word! The miracle of Israel is a joy to behold, but the glorious future promised by God has not fully arrived yet. There is more to come as so many prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures are still to be fulfilled—and we look forward to that day when the nation of Israel will “look to Him whom they have pierced and mourn as one mourns for an only begotten son…” (Zech. 12:10).
As you know, we are living in difficult days for the nation of Israel as Hamas is still firing missiles into the border towns and personal terrorists are murdering innocent Israelis each week. We are hoping and praying for peace!
Meanwhile, there are millions of Jewish people and Arabs in Israel that we must reach with the Good News of the Gospel. In order to do this we must have a better understanding of modern Israel so that we can be most effective in our ministries.
The Pew Foundation Report on the Jewish Religion in Israel
Recently, the Pew Foundation, which has done such an excellent job analyzing the Jewish community and many other faith communities, produced a report on Jewish religious life within Israel. The full report is over 200 pages and is the result of surveys taken between late 2014 and early 2015. You can read it by going to the Chosen People Ministries Facebook page or website where we have posted the full report.
The report did discover seven key findings, and I will note and comment on them here in relationship to how each might impact our bringing the Gospel to the Jewish people in the Holy Land. The first paragraph of the report is a good introduction as to why the foundation felt it was important to do this study:
For a small country, Israel holds a place of great importance for three of the world’s major religious groups. The modern Jewish state is not only the “Promised Land” for Jews, but the only country in the world where they form a majority of the population. For Christians, Israel is the “Holy Land,” because it is the place where Jesus’ life and death unfolded. And, for Muslims, Jerusalem is the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Here are the points, followed by my comments:
1. Israeli Jews are largely united on the need for their nation to be a homeland for Jews, regardless of their origins.
One would expect Israelis to affirm the need for the nation of Israel. Remember, the modern state of Israel grew out of the ashes of the Holocaust. Also, antisemitism is on the rise around the world and perhaps the number one reason why Jewish people from across the globe move to Israel is because they feel unsafe in their current locale. This is clear from the following response to the survey,
Three-quarters of Israeli Jews (76%) see antisemitism as common and increasing around the world.
This sense of threat which Jewish people feel because of growing antisemitism also gives us opportunities as followers of Jesus to help the Jewish people better understand the promises of God so that they can depend upon Him for safety and security. It also provides us with a great opportunity to show God’s kindness to the Jewish people so that they understand that “true Christians” love the Jewish people because they love the Jewish Bible and the Jewish Messiah. Remember, aside from Islamic extremism, most Jewish people generally believe that Christianity is the source of antisemitism. We would like to change that understanding through our love and actions as believers in Jesus.
2. Virtually all Jews in Israel identify with one of four major religious subgroups:
Dati (“religious”) and
This part of the report was very helpful in understanding the religious divisions among Israelis. The report indicates that about 50% of the Israelis surveyed are secular and the other 50% are religious in one way or another. Therefore, it is actually wrong to think of Israel as a secular country. Other reports and surveys in recent years have indicated a growth in Orthodox Judaism, not only because they seem to have more children than other types of Jewish people, but because they are also making converts from among more secular Jewish people.
This means that our efforts to reach Jewish people for the Messiah in Israel cannot simply be limited to those who are more secular. Certainly, at times it seems easier to reach secular Israelis with the Gospel, but we must remember that there is a substantial group of religious Jewish people, the Orthodox, that we must pray for and give the message of Jesus.
3. Jewish groups consistently disagree on a range of specific public policy issues.
It is clear that there is a great divide between Orthodox, traditionalists and secular Jews in their vision for the state of Israel. The secular would like to have complete freedom of movement on the Sabbath as Israel for the most part does not allow public transportation to run on Friday night and Saturday. There are a host of other issues as well, including military service, as in years past Orthodox or traditional Jewish people were not required to serve.
In light of the above, it is important to note that most Jewish people and those thinking about becoming religious believe they are faithful to God and have a certain idea of what that means. Paul understood this in Romans 10:2.
I believe that this divide between religious and nonreligious Jews in Israel provides an opportunity for the Gospel, as long as we continue to show His love to both secular and Orthodox Jews. Remember, we want to reach all Israelis with the Gospel.
4. About eight-in-ten (81%) Israeli adults are Jewish…
It is important to note the religious diversity within Israel, not simply among Jewish Israelis but among all Israelis. According to the survey the non-Jewish population of Israel is divided in the following manner,
…the remainder are mostly ethnically Arab and religiously Muslim (14%), Christian (2%) or Druze (2%). Overall, the Arab religious minorities in Israel are more religiously observant than Jews.
As the figures indicate, Christians in Israel are a very small minority, something American evangelicals are not used to at all. Israel cherishes religious freedom and people of all faiths are able to worship as they wish, build houses of worship, print books that reflect their religious traditions, etc.
In effect, there is great freedom to proclaim the Gospel within Israel; however, individualized opposition or opposition coming from smaller groups of more religious Jews and Muslims will always be a challenge. In fact, this is one of the reasons that the Christian population in a town like Bethlehem has been reduced by almost 50% over the last few years. The problem is not the Israelis, but the more religious Muslims who are intolerant of Christians.
5. Half of Israeli Jews (48%) say Arabs should be transferred or expelled from Israel while a similar share (46%) disagree with this.
This is a large and disturbing number and inconsistent with previous surveys. The reason might lie with Pew’s use of Hebrew. It is technical but important. The Pew study used the word for Arab without the Hebrew definite article. This would cause the respondents to be unsure about what the researcher intended. The London-based Jewish Chronicle describes the problem in this way,
Every respondent will have interpreted the question in their own way, which is bad planning by Pew because it needed just one more letter to make this aspect of the question clearer. The definite article is extremely important in Hebrew, and if Pew was interested in what Israeli Jews think about the presence of Arabs, it should have asked about “the Arabs” not “Arabs”—which would have required one extra letter, a hey.
The language in this question seemed to be confusing and should become the subject of vigorous discussion in the days ahead. However, this question did show the lack of good faith between Israelis and Arabs.
This is simply a reminder for us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem as only the Lord can break through so many seemingly insurmountable challenges to peace.
6. Together, Israel and the U.S. are home to about 80% of Jews globally, and there are strong bonds between the world’s two largest Jewish populations.
The ties that bind the United States Jewish population to Israel are strong. The author of the summary further writes,
Most Israeli Jews feel they share a common destiny with U.S. Jews and think U.S. Jews have a good influence on Israeli affairs. American Jews also harbor warm feelings about Israel. Our 2013 survey of U.S. Jews (http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-culture-survey/) found that most say they are either “very” (30%) or “somewhat” (39%) emotionally attached to Israel, and that caring about Israel is either essential or important to what being Jewish means to them.
This is another reminder of how important it is for evangelical Christians to support the modern state of Israel, not because modern Israel is perfect, but because the Jewish people have come back to the Land promised to them by God. And the relationship between our two great democratic nations needs to be strengthened so that we can show a common front in facing our common enemy—radical Islam, especially as seen in the actions of ISIS, Iran and Hamas.
7. Israeli Jews overall are more religious than U.S. Jews, partly because Orthodox Jews make up a greater share of their population.
There is no doubt that the Orthodox Jewish population of both Israel and the United States is growing in number and influence. This growth has an impact on Jewish community life, politics and of course, faith. We experience this already in reaching the almost one million Jewish people of Brooklyn as the ratio of Orthodox to non-Orthodox Jews is quite different than in most cities within the United States. Brooklyn has a high percentage of Orthodox, or otherwise religious Jewish people, which shapes our community.
We might be entering a season when more traditional Jews become the Jewish religious norm in Israel and the United States. I believe we will continue to see many Jewish people rejecting religion and faith and others becoming more traditional.
This is all the more reason for Christians to pray for and support ministries like Chosen People Ministries. Reaching religious Jewish people is better accomplished by Jewish ministries like ours as traditional Jewish people do not often know evangelical Christians. Perhaps this can change as Christians begin to find new ways to love and pray for their Jewish friends, both secular and religious.
As always, I want to thank you for your generous prayers and support without which we could not continue this great work that began in 1894!
Yours in our Messiah,