If You Will It, It is No Fable
By Eitan Shiskoff
Theodore Herzl was an Austrian Jewish journalist who lived from 1860 to 1904—only forty-four years. Yet in his relatively short life, he impacted history in ways that are still reverberating throughout Israel and the world, over one hundred years later.
More than anyone else, Herzl was the original human architect of the State of Israel. He was gripped by this vision when there were yet a very few Jews living in “the Holy Land.” In fact, his first instinct, as a secular Jew, was to imagine the Jewish people of every society remaining where they were and strengthening those nations. As the direct result of the overt anti-Semitic humiliation dealt to Captain Alfred Dreyfus in France, Herzl realized that the Jewish people needed their own country, in which to live and worship freely.
His courage, drive, determination, and capacity to impart vision, galvanized Jewish leaders and organizations from across Europe and beyond. The First Zionist Congress was held in Basle, Switzerland in August, 1897. Herzl is famous for many of his forthright statements, but one of them strikes me as especially relevant to us today, as Israeli Messianic Jews. “Im tirtzu, aiyn zo aga-da…If you will it, it is no fable.”
Over twenty years ago, before I arrived in Israel, we began this publication. The first article I wrote was entitled “Spiritual Pioneers.” In it I drew a parallel between the early Zionists and our generation of Messianic Jewish “pioneers”. They faced numerous obstacles in order to establish the modern State of Israel. We have the challenge of restoring the Hebrew-speaking com-munity of Yeshua followers in the state they sacrificed so much to build. Both the physical and the spiritual restoration are miracles that have waited near-ly twenty centuries for fulfillment. With two decades of hindsight, I now see that the spiritual process of reviving our people will require even more years of dedicated sacrifice and visionary perseverance than I could have then imagined. To gain inspiration in order to “run the race” to the finish line, we can look at numerous “marathoners” in the Tanakh. One of them is the archetypal rebuilder, Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was simply a hero -a hero of the Bible and a hero of Israel’s history. He accomplished what was virtually impossible, recreating Jerusalem’s defense in just fifty-two days! You’ve probably read the account. It opens with a scene of Jerusalem’s wall and its gates in burned rubble, in the year 446 BCE. His dismay and grief turn to intercession, inspiring one of the Bible’s greatest intercessory prayers (Nehemiah 1:5-11). Securing the favor of Persia’s pagan king, the restorer rallied those remaining in Jerusalem, saying “Let us rise up and build… [for] the God of heaven Himself will prosper us”(Nehemiah 2:17, 20).
This confident faith in God and His plan carried Nehemiah through frequent harassment from enemies, scattered workers who were not easily unified, and the immensity of the task. What a man of faith and action. He decided to make himself fully available, to be used by the Almighty to draw the people of Israel together in a daring step of rebirth in the homeland from which they had been exiled.
Nehemiah (whose name means “The comfort of God”) inspired a spirit of community and of collective sacrifice that broke through long-standing barriers. He not only rebuilt a wall, he rebuilt a people for the sake of God’s covenant with them. This is our assignment too. History and the Spirit of the Lord have positioned us to be restorers. I find the exhortations of both Herzl and Nehemiah ringing in my heart. “If you will it, it is no fable.” And “Arise and build.”
There is something about inertia and comfort that work against stepping out into the uncertain territory of pioneering. It reminds me a lot of Bilbo Baggins, the central character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic tale, The Hobbit. Bilbo was comfort- able in his hobbit hole. He took frequent meals and snacks, had plenty of good books to read, and a lovely garden to tend. It’s not that those things were wrong; it’s just that there was a larger destiny awaiting him. The “adventure” he got caught up in was all about redemption – helping another, exiled people, return to their homeland, assisting them in their restoration.
When I encounter Bilbo’s ordinariness, and his sense of not really being qualified to enter the realm of epic battles and dark danger, I’m reminded of myself —and maybe of you. Few of us are naturally fitted for heroic deeds. Yet we have been called by the great King to participate in a real life adventure of far greater significance than Bilbo’s journey. We have been drawn into the return of the exiles to the land of Israel, and to the restoration of faith in King Yeshua. This faithful remnant must be resident in that land in order to see Him reclaim His rightful throne.
What an honor! What a privilege. What an opportunity to give ourselves to a quest that requires the very best we can give, and promises the highest, unending reward granted by the King of Israel—the King of all Kings.
Gathering the Children Together
by Marty Shoub
The heart of Israel’s faith is the Shema, “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). What may be surprising to some is that immediately following this great declaration of faith is a command directed to parents: “and you are to teach them [the commandments] carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up”(Deuteronomy 6:7 CJB). Israel’s parents are charged with passing on their faith in the God of Israel to their children; not just in formal, religious settings, but also “on the road”, concurrent to the busy rhythms of everyday life.
Guy and Tali Cohen have a vision. They know how difficult it can be for Messianic children in Israel to grow in their faith while “traveling on the road”. Guy explained, “there is a lot of pressure on our children. They are a small minority in Israeli society and other children don’t always understand. Our children need fellowship – many of them only interact with other Messianic children on Shabbat mornings.”
To that end Guy and Tali are working towards establishing a Messianic educational center in Akko to serve the children of Western Galilee. Their first step in this ambitious project was to start an after school program for children in the region. Once a week, children from Akko, Carmiel and Nahariyah are bused to Katzir Asher to enjoy fellowship, have fun, maybe learn some new skills and build their faith. After everyone gathers around in a circle for prayer, the children go off to the different work stations which include ping pong, art, voice and English. Each of these stations is headed up by a professional teacher in that field. After participating in two of the four skill specializations, the children all gather back together for a hot meal, catered by Katzir Asher volunteers.
“Yeshua is the center,” explained Guy. “The important thing is the fellowship. It is creating a unity among the children of Galilee – here they do not feel like outsiders, they feel like they belong.” Guy and Tali are moved to invest in this young generation. The Messianic movement in Israel is still in a foundational stage. Guy likens the present adult generation to the generation that came out of Egypt. Most of us are immigrants to Israel and like that generation in the wilderness, cannot help but bring along the baggage of our previous life in the Diaspora. Guy is optimistic: “This generation of children is like the Joshua generation, they are the ones who will go in and take the land.”
Guy’s wife, Tali, is the administrator for the after school program. “The children have been very happy. They really look forward to our times together. The parents are also very pleased – many of them could not afford to pay for these sorts of programs.” One of the three congregations sending children to the program is a Lebanese Christian congregation from Nahariyah. Many Lebanese Christians had to flee their homeland in the aftermath of the First Lebanon War. Their integration into Israeli society has also been a challenge. Tali explains, “These Lebanese children speak Arabic at home but study in Jewish schools. At first they were a bit isolated when they joined our program, but now everyone is interacting very well. This is creating good relations between Arab and Jewish children.”
Guy and Tali are looking forward to the day when they can open up a full time school for these and many other children from Western Galilee. They are dreaming big, but they know that the same God who prepared a generation to enter the Promised Land beckons to this new generation through the words of Yeshua: “Let the children come to me, don’t stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these”(Matthew 19:14 CJB).