This Jewish story begins almost 4,000 years ago with our father Abraham, and then with his two sons. One son mocked the seeming insignificance of the other. Later Isaac's two sons strove, with the blessing given to our father Jacob/Israel. The other son never really got over his loss. Jacob's own 12 sons have been squabbling ever since over who should have the place of honor. When we do bad things to each other, we say it is just a family feud, but when others do bad things to us, we call it something else.
We are a picture of humanity in microcosm. Although God has told His chosen people how to worship Him, we have disputed about even this. Some of us deny that there is even a God who has told us anything. Others will even use unlawful means to accomplish what to them is a just end.
Last Shabbat, December 24, we were mobbed by a crowd of ultra-Orthodox extremists. While extremists controlled the direction and tone of the demonstration, other participants seemed ashamed of the violent behavior. The "we" here are Messianic Jews and gentiles, including Arabs, who believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah, and the one who saves us from our sins.
We are called by many different names, some honorable and others not so; but by whatever name, it is with Jesus Christ that we are identified. Our faith in Him is based upon what we believe to be the truth of God's Word given to Moses and the prophets of Israel, written in the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. We also believe that history confirms the New Covenant (Testament) testimony of Yeshua being the Son of the living God.
This angry confrontation of up to 500 men, women and children was organized by the Chief Rabbinate of Beersheba, calling them out from the synagogues around the city to come to the private property used by the local Messianic congregation for prayer and worship.
Forcing their way into the walled grounds, these people overthrew chairs and tables and resisted the police who were called in to protect the innocent and to disperse the mob (which took a couple of hours). The mob broke and damaged property and equipment, and physically assaulted and insulted men, women and children by hitting, spitting, pushing, punching.
WHAT WAS the "crime" for which the haredim were attacking us? We believe that Jesus is Lord and Messiah. The day of the attack, two women (over the age of 18), one of whom was born into a Messianic Jewish family, were to be baptized by immersion.
According to the basic law of freedom of religion in Israel, no law was being violated. The local Orthodox authorities, however, decided that this law (which is for the benefit of all citizens) is too liberal for them. The chief Sephardic rabbi of the city was present at the illegal and violent demonstration, and was seen preaching to the crowd standing outside the property.
While claiming that he does not advocate violence, he has never apologized or even expressed any regret for what his disciples did, in apparent disobedience to his instructions. (This is not our first encounter with him and them).
"Go to Gaza!"
"You're worse than the Nazis!"
"Israel is the land of the Jews!"
"Go back to America... to Russia... to Argentina!"
Doesn't this sound like what many of our parents and other relatives heard in Europe not so very long ago? In fact, in our congregation we have converts to Christianity who are Holocaust survivors, as well as people who were born Christian and whose families helped protect Jews from the Nazis.
The God of Israel allows a place of honor for the "strangers" in His land, for those whose hearts are joined with His people and with Him. Worship includes how we treat our neighbor and the stranger, for the Jews were strangers in the land of Egypt.
I AM a Jew who grew up in the US; my parents and grandparents are Jewish. My prophetic bar-mitzva portion was from Ezekiel 36, which is being personally fulfilled as God has brought me home to Israel from exile, and Jesus has brought me back home to our Father in Heaven. My choices regarding faith and identity have always been made in awareness of my being Jewish.
Since the days of Samuel, prophet and judge, it was from Beersheba, the City of the Fathers, that Israel has asked for a king like the gentiles have. We eagerly wait for the day when the Kingdom of God is restored to Israel and to the nations, and the fruit of His righteousness will be true peace and security.
The writer is serving as pastor of Nachalat Yeshua Messianic Congregation in Beersheba. He and his wife have four children born in Israel; two are presently serving in the IDF.