Tag Archives: Israeli Jews

If You Think Being a Messianic Gentile Is Tough, Try Being a Messianic Jew

Jewish Israelis are deeply divided societally, religiously and politically, and are to a large extent tightly stratified within their particular societal sector a new report by the Pew Research Center has shown.

The survey showed that there is very little inter-marriage between haredi, religious-Zionist, traditional and secular Jews, and little societal interaction between the different sectors as well.

The deep division in Israeli society was highlighted by findings that show that Israeli Jews in general are about as uncomfortable for their children to marry a Muslim as secular Jews are for their child to marry a haredi person and vice versa.

-by Jeremy Sharon | March 8, 2016
“Pew poll: 48 percent of Israeli Jews support transfer or expulsion of Arab Israelis”
The Jerusalem Post

israeli jews
DEMONSTRATORS GATHER in Sakhnin, October 13, 2015. (photo credit:JOINT ARAB LIST)

I came across this news article in my Facebook feed, and it reminded me of my recent blog post Attached and Yet Unattached which mentions a group of Messianic Jews in Israel who desire to become an integral part of normative (Orthodox) Jewish synagogue life.

The article and Pew poll highlights just how isolated the different parts of Jewish society in Israel are.

Secular Israelis comprise the largest sector, totalling 40% of Israel’s total, population, traditional Israelis are 23%, religious-Zionists 10%, and haredim were 8%, while 14% of the population is Muslim, 2% Christian, and 2% Druze. In total, the Israeli population is 81% Jewish, 19% non-Jewish.

According to the study, 95% of Haredi Jews and 93% of secular Jews have a spouse from the same subgroup, while 85% of religious-Zionist Jews have religious-Zionist spouse.

Traditional Israelis were the only sector to have a somewhat higher rate of intermarriage with other Jewish groups, with approximately 33% of traditional Israelis marrying a religious-Zionist or secular Jew, and 64% of this group marrying within their sector.

In other words, Jews tend to stay socially within their own particular population and rarely have friends or marry outside their groups.

Messianic Judaism isn’t mentioned as a Jewish population group in the article, but I did wonder about that 2% Christian group. Of course, there are normative, non-Jewish Christians in Israel, but, from any other Jewish groups’ perspective, would Jews who are known to be “Messianic” be considered Christian?

My guess is “yes,” and if so, I’m sure that causes dismay among those Messianic Jews to no end.

Stuart Dauermann
Rabbi Stuart Dauermann

Which brings us back to the idea of Messianic Jews integrating into Orthodox synagogues and communities as an effort to become living examples to wider Jewish community in Israel (and any place else)  that they are us, not them.

But the Jerusalem Post article, if it is at all accurate in representing Israeli Jewish society as it truly is, indicates that this is easier said than done.

Of course, even though these sub-groups of Jewish Israel differ widely from one another and barely associate with one another, on some level, they consider each other Jewish…I think.

It’s difficult for me to tell as an outsider not only to Judaism but to life in Israel.

But I do know that Israel’s Chief Rabbis and the Rabbi of the Kotel oppose any government decision to formally recognize Reform Judaism, so it’s possible that Orthodox Jews in the Land (and elsewhere) may not consider Reform Jews as Jews, or at least consider them on the same plane as secular Jews.

And all this might be what’s fueling some Messianic Jewish groups in Israel to breach social barriers, so to speak, by associating and folding into Orthodox Jewish community, to be “us,” not “them.”

I wonder how (or if) that’s going to work. On the one hand, if these Messianic Jews are “undercover” and do not reveal their devotion to Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ) and their revelation of him as Messiah, and assuming they are observant to the same degree and manner as the communities they join, then they will likely succeed in becoming part of larger religious Judaism.

On the other hand, they will not have a regular relationship with a community that recognizes our Rav and acknowledges the revelation of Yeshua returning as King Messiah to fulfill all of Hashem’s promises to Israel.

When I made the decision (which I’ve done a few times over the past several years) to live without community, I received many kind emails and other communications telling me that it was a risky business standing apart from a Yeshua-believing congregation.

I know after leaving Hebrew Roots some years ago, my “plan A” was to attend Chabad services and/or classes with my Jewish wife.

However, she wasn’t anxious to include her Christian husband in her Jewish religious and social life, and ultimately, that plan went down in flames.

Tent of DavidMy “plan B,” after much consideration, was to do a sort of Tent of David integration into a small, local Baptist church, even after being warned by a good friend of mine that the effort was doomed to failure as well.

I stayed with the church for two years until the Pastor, frustrated with me “digging in my heels” as he put it, and remaining steadfastly devoted to my perspectives on the Bible, Israel, Messiah, and Hashem as a Messianic Gentile, gave a sermon on misuse of Torah, which included the belief that the Sinai covenant was still fully enforced upon the Jewish people.

That felt like a very personal and public rebuke.

I blogged my disagreement, which came with consequences, and ultimately decided it was in Pastor’s, the church’s, and my best interest for me to apologize and then exit Christian community entirely.

But Christian community isn’t Jewish community. Jews belong with other Jews. I don’t know how Messianic Jews are going to fully meld into Orthodox Jewish community in Israel, but I guess they’ll find out. It just seems that if the boundaries between the different sub-groups of Israeli Jews are so rigid, that penetration of said-boundaries is going to be rather difficult.

In theory, I could walk into any church in my community and be immediately welcomed. As long as I kept my big mouth shut or only mouthed the “party line” supported by that particular church as “sound doctrine,” I’d be OK.

Of course, the obvious barriers, besides me keeping my flap shut and not blogging on each and every church experience that rubbed me the wrong way, are not being able to invite people from church over to my house because it would make my wife uncomfortable, attending church at all because (she would never stop me or breathe a word of dissent about me attending) the very act of my going to a church would emphasize that she’s “sleeping with the enemy,” so to speak, and my attending Christmas and especially Easter services, would totally devastate her.

But outside of my home life and my highly specific theology, there are (or should be) no barriers to me attending church and being accepted, at least in my own little corner of Idaho.

jerusalem at nightFor Messianic Jews in Israel, it seems as if they have an especially tough row to hoe, so to speak, again, at least according to the Jerusalem Post news story.

I’ve written plenty about the struggle for we “Messianic Gentiles” in establishing our own roles and responsibilities relative to Messianic Judaism as well as to each other, but we need to be mindful that Messianic Jews also face a very similar challenge in relation to larger Judaism, especially in Israel, but also everywhere else.

Why should devotion to Israel and to Rav Yeshua be mutually exclusive for a Jew? It shouldn’t be, except that nearly twenty centuries of enmity between Christianity and Judaism has made it so.

What Would You Do To Fight Against America’s War on Israel?

I don’t usually get political on this blogspot, but sometimes things just build up.

The trigger was my reading two articles. The first was written by Caroline Glick and called The Obama Administration’s Most Covert War, which I found on Facebook. The second was written by Naomi Ragen and titled Israeli and American Jews: The Grand Canyon. That one was sent to me via email by my wife.

From Glick’s article:

Over the past several weeks, we have learned that the Obama administration believes it is at war with Israel. The war is not a shooting war, but a political war. Its goal is to bring the government to its knees to the point where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu loses power or begs Obama and his advisers to shepherd Israel through a “peace process” in which Israel will renounce its rights to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

This pretty much makes my blood boil. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not any sort of Obama fan, but the fact that he’s playing political games to establish his so-called legacy by risking the lives of every Israeli Jewish man, woman, and child is reprehensible and vile.

obama
President Obama

Naomi Ragan wrote about her encounter with a liberal Jewish woman during a short car ride here in America to highlight the chasm existing between Israeli and American Jews.

She was silent for a moment, then shook her head. “He [Netanyahu] shouldn’t have come to America. He shouldn’t have addressed Congress. It polarized American Jews, politicizing the support for Israel,” she said emphatically.

“I think it’s been politicized for a long time,” I answered drily. “Democrats voted for Obama. Republicans didn’t.”

That seemed to surprise her. “So, Israelis don’t like Obama?”

“They hate his guts.”

She shrugged. “Yes, I can understand that. What do you think happened to him?” She seemed honestly bewildered.

“Nothing happened to him. Anyone who did the slightest bit of research understood that he had been a member of an anti-Semitic church for twenty-five years; a church that gave an award to Louis Farrakhan.”

Ragen pulls no punches and takes no prisoners. It also seems quite true that Israeli Jews have a lived experience many American Jews (or Americans period) are clueless about.

The Ragen article continued:

If I’d had any doubts, her reaction put them to rest. She had been one of the 70 percent of American Jews to vote Democrat and elect Obama. Twice.

“You know, American Jews vote for the things that are important to them. Those are not always the same things that are important to Israelis.”

I looked surreptitiously at my watch, calculating how much more time we would be locked into this conversation. Too long to say nothing. So I ventured mildly: “What is important to you?”

“Well, women’s rights, reproductive rights. The environment. And fighting the evangelicals.”

I suddenly remembered something my Harvard-educated son recently told me: “Many American Jews will blindly follow any agenda created by the Liberal establishment because it makes them feel virtuous and like part of the in-crowd.”

“So,” I said unwisely, my temperature rising, “let me get this straight. You’re worried about abortions, climate change and being converted to Christianity?” I didn’t let her answer. “And those things are more vital, more important to you, than whether Israel’s greatest enemy gets an atom bomb to blow the next six million Jews off the face of the earth?”

ragen
Naomi Ragen

And the article ended…

Just at that moment, the hotel loomed into view. I thanked her for the ride, opening the door and stepping out as swiftly as possible. Before I closed the door, I turned back and looked at her.

“Please,” I begged her. “Don’t vote for Hillary.”

It was the last straw. “She’s better than Trump!”

“I don’t think so,” I told her with full confidence.

She rolled her eyes. I rolled mine.

And then the door slammed shut, and she disappeared in one direction, and I in another.

But then, why should you care about all this?

Here’s why.

The question shouldn’t be “Why are you, a Christian, here in a death camp, condemned for trying to save Jews?” The real question is “Why aren’t all the Christians here?”

-Joel C. Rosenberg, The Auschwitz Escape

I’m going to assume that the majority of people reading this blog aren’t Jewish but rather, American Christians or perhaps what I call Gentile Talmidei Yeshua, non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua (Jesus).

My experience in various Messianic Jewish and (largely Gentile) Hebrew Roots groups is that their members, Jewish or Gentile, tend to be pro-Israel politically. Of course, I live in Idaho, which is a pretty “red” state, so folks here are generally conservative about a lot of things.

I have to believe that when Ragen says Israelis hate President Obama’s guts, it’s because they see Obama all but handing Muslim Iran the keys to a nuclear arsenal and showing them how to aim it at Israel.

glick
Caroline Glick

Caroline Glick’s article outlined the nuts and bolts of Obama’s (not-so) covert war against Israel in less passionate but no less disturbing terms. The country we’re citizens of (I’m assuming most of you live in the U.S.) is deliberately acting against the Israeli people, putting all their lives in jeopardy. It’s terrifying to think that the other people I share this nation with voted to elect a man into the office as President twice who is capable of such heinous acts.

Naomi Ragen complains about the liberal Jews who are more worried about “abortions, climate change and being converted to Christianity” than “whether Israel’s greatest enemy gets an atom bomb to blow the next six million Jews off the face of the earth.”

What about the rest of us?

If you’re religious and you’re a political conservative, you’re probably pro-Israel and in some fashion, oppositional to abortions and the idea of human created climate change. You may indeed want to “share the Gospel” with Jewish people, but if you’re Gentile Talmidei Yeshua, that might seem a somewhat different process to you than how Evangelicals might approach it.

Whoever you are, if you say you are pro-Israel, how far does that go?

I learned from this Aish article about Swedish journalist Petter Ljungggren, who tested anti-Semitism in his own country by putting on a kippah (he’s not Jewish) and letting himself be publicly cursed at, threatened, and harassed.

holocaustI’m not a big fan of non-Jews wearing traditionally Jewish apparel, but in this case, Ljungggren had a good reason. It makes me wonder if we all shouldn’t start donning kippot, not to imitate Jews but to stand in solidarity with them and with Israel.

Maybe we’d just feel social pressure like this young fellow, or maybe we’d experience a whole lot more.

Millions of human lives are at stake. Millions of Jewish Israeli lives are at stake. We happen to be living in a nation that’s at least contributed to if not acted as the direct cause of the danger to Israel.

If the Jews were once again rounded up and sent to the camps tomorrow would we Gentile disciples of Rav Yeshua (or just regular Christians) go with them?