Returning and Rebuilding
or “What I Learned in the Last 25 Years”
Twenty five centuries ago, Nehemiah returned on a donkey from the exile of dispersion, to rebuild the ruins of the House of God in the Land of Israel (Nehemiah 2).
Twenty five years ago, on November 12, 1992 we rode an airplane and landed at Ben Gurion Airport as brand new Israeli citizens, embarking on the adventure of a lifetime: aliyah. Aliyah means literally “going up,” and in our context, it means dispersed Jewish people going up and returning to rebuild the land of our forefathers. “Aliyah” is a little word with huge implications. We were a small entourage: two college-aged children, a four year old tyke, and Connie – 45 years old and 6 months pregnant. Looking back I’m totally amazed that we moved to Israel from America at that stage of life. Surprisingly, I’ve never regretted it for a moment, though there’ve been plenty of difficult moments over these 25 years. Arriving at this milestone inspired me to take a look back. I asked myself “So, Eitan, what have you learned in your quarter of a century in Eretz Yisrael?” Here are my observations from our journey and also Nehemiah’s. Perhaps they’ll provide some relevant road signs for you as well.
I. Brokenness and Nehemiah’s Intercession (Nehemiah 1:5-11)
Long before living in Israel I realized the profound importance of the great intercessors of the Bible, such as Moses, Nehemiah, Yeshua and Paul. Their hearts were broken over the nation’s rebellion against God. The prophet Joel states that weeping priests will release the end-time outpouring of the Spirit and subsequent harvest (Joel 2:17ff, I Peter 2:9).
Having seen the fallen, burned down gates of Jerusalem, Nehemiah cried out to God for forgiveness. When we were fire-bombed by zealous religious Israelis 20 years ago, in 1997, we saw the perpetrators as our brothers. Our grief at the destruction of our humble facility was matched by our longing for our people to know Yeshua as the true Messiah. So, we prayed.
Brokenness is also the by-product of knowing that you are “beyond your depth.” I can’t remember a single day out of my 9,125 days here, when I felt fully capable of coping in the Hebrew language, Middle-Eastern culture, and intensity of everyday life in Israel. Yet this very state of recognizing our own insufficiency is the portal for God’s strength and grace (II Corinthians 12:9,10) and the key to His direction (Jeremiah 10:23).
II. Covenant Friendship (Nehemiah 1:11-2:8)
From our first days in Israel until now, we have depended on caring friends to lift our arms when we were weary, dry our tears when shaken, and inject love when empty. There is no substitute for genuine friendship— especially in pioneering situations.
Nehemiah was a pioneer. He was called by God to rebuild and restore a nation. To do so required the favor and supply of a Gentile king, Artaxerxes. In his role as cupbearer, Nehemiah must have enjoyed the king’s implicit trust. This trust brought the favor Nehemiah had to have in leading an expedition to the destroyed city. Their connection exemplified the Jewish-Gentile covenant friendship I wrote about in the book What About Us?
Loving teamwork and the centrality of family are further expressions of covenant relationships. Nehemiah chapter 3 names dozens of specific individuals and families, and the portions of the wall they repaired. When Nehemiah exhorted the workers, he said “Let us do this for the sake of our families.” We have come to treasure our children more and more over these years (and don’t let me get started about our grandchildren).
III. Vision from Above (Nehemiah 2:11-20, Ezekiel 37)
We are all caught up in something far greater than ourselves. It is overwhelming to realize that we are seeing dry bones brought back to life and placed back in this Promised Land after nearly 2000 years! When I’ve struggled with the challenge of rebuilding Messianic community where it first began, I have had to remind myself that this is not MY idea. It’s God’s.
The vision that brought us here in 1992 and that has sustained, inspired, and fueled our hearts all along is one that originated in the heart of God. This is God’s deal. It’s His script. Nehemiah was gripped by the vision of restoration! He rallied God’s people, calling them to look beyond their own personal situations, into a larger destiny worth pouring themselves into.
IV. Perseverance (Nehemiah 4)
I’ve long been provoked by these verses:
“If you faint in the day of adversity how small is your strength” (Proverbs 24:10).
“Through faith and patience we inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much” (Matthew 25:21).
Perseverance is a prime element in God’s equation for fulfilling His purpose for our lives. Clearly, creating an enduring legacy demands steady, unrelenting investment. Despite public posters warning against us, harassment from “antimissionaries,” and rent contracts cancelled, we’ve seen incredible breakthroughs. Only one example is that following the fire-bombing of our humble original warehouse facility we found ourselves in a new industrial building that we now own! We are all pioneers. You are too! And pioneers persevere.
Nehemiah and his crew finished rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem in 52 days! Both the enemies and the nations around admitted that this work was done by GOD. This is exactly the testimony we long for regarding the all the ministries associated with Tents of Mercy.
With a full heart, Connie and I want to thank you for traveling these 25 years with us. What a journey! And it’s not nearly over. Let’s be faithful to the end and see the full salvation of Israel.
Network Updates from
Who am I? Most people ask this question at one time or another. We hide behind a fence that builds a ghetto around us. Moroccan, Yemenite, Brazilian, Argentinian, Ethiopian, American, Afro-American and so on.
These associations come from the areas where we grew up and the culture within them. Even in the time of Yeshua there were different assumptions made according to people’s backgrounds. We have a good illustration in John 7:52 of how the Rabbis in the time of Yeshua viewed people from the Galilee.
Having said that, let’s take Paul as an example in addressing the question of “Who am I and why is it important?” Paul identifies himself and his personal history in the following verses: Acts 22:1-3, 22:25-29, 23:6; Philippians 3:5-6 and Romans 11:1.
He admitted having had a zeal for the Torah and persecuting the congregation (church, followers of the Way). He describes himself as being a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew, an Israelite, a Pharisee descended from Pharisees and finally a Roman citizen.
In spite of all that Paul says about his background and culture, he continues on in Philippians 3:7-11 to express that all of the above is nothing in comparison to the calling that is in Yeshua.
We must stop seeing ourselves according to our identity in the worldly sense and instead see ourselves primarily in our identity in the Messiah. What exactly does that mean?
1. We are the children of God, and we have the right to call God “Abba Avinu” – our Father God. (Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 3:2629, 4:6-7; Colossians 1: 5, 3:11)
2. We are the temple of God, meaning He will dwell within us and never leave us. (Romans 8:9-12; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:1920; Galatians 3:13, 4:5)
3. We are partners in God’s nature meaning we have the character of Messiah Yeshua. That is the fruit of the Spirit. (2 Peter 1:4; Galatians 5:22-23)
4. We are citizens of heaven and ambassadors of the Messiah. We are living epistles, living letters. (Philippians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 2:14-3:3, 5:20)
5. We belong to Yeshua and can overcome all the tests of life. (1Corinthians 10:13; Romans 8:26; Philippians 2:13, 4:13; Ephesians 6:10-18)
6. There is a purpose to our life. It is to reflect Yeshua. We are made in His image. (Genesis 1:26; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14; Philippians 3:10,21; 1 Corinthians 15:49- 58)
7. God reconciled us to Himself, forgiving our sins and enabling us to identify ourselves in Him. (Colossians 1:22)
What am I expected to do with this new identity? Proclaim faith and live life according to the Lord’s commandments.
How is our identity in Yeshua reflected or expressed in our everyday lives?
* Doing good
* Loving honestly
* Teaching and reading the Scriptures
* Fellowship with believers
* Prayer and thanksgiving
Only through our identity in Yeshua will we stand in times of trouble, persevering with Him until the end. Otherwise we may find ourselves rejecting the very one who is our identity.
Until recently, Oasis was a small Russian language publication—both a messenger of the Messianic movement in Israel and the newspaper of the Return to Zion congregation. Being a pioneer in this field, Oasis revealed opportunities for evangelism in a difficult environment, sometimes even dealing with negative reactions. Some ultraorthodox religious Jews used to tear up copies of Oasis that we would distribute, and throw them away. Leon Mazin, the main initiator and publisher of the Oasis-Newspaper, was harassed. Pictures of Leon and his family were posted publicly around the city with warnings that these are “traitors of the faith,” but at the same time, the newspaper’s format was copied by others as a useful way to pass on information.
Despite all the obstacles, the Messianic movement and Return to Zion Congregation grew, and Oasis grew alongside, turning from an information leaflet into a serious media platform. More and more news and unique materials were published online on the Return to Zion website.
The Oasis-Newspaper moved into virtual media cyberspace, with our open YouTube channel ranking first among our media efforts. Today, not only material and seminars of Messianic teachers are being published, but also live video streaming from the Oasis Media studio in Haifa, and live broadcasts of Return to Zion congregational meetings. Currently the OasisMedia-TV YouTube channel has several thousand subscribers and about one and a half million views. The benefit of modern media platforms (for example, You Tube, Facebook, and Twitter) is the two-way communication it enables. Our subscribers are not passive viewers, but active partakers in the discussions: their questions are raised in the live broadcasts, and they find answers within our internet sites.
The year 2017 was a year of development and distribution. Having gained a lot of useful and unique materials in the field of Messianic ministry, the emphasis has been shifting from production, which is constantly increasing, to expanding the audience. This year, broadcasting on the social media network “Facebook” was launched, and a YouTube English channel was started.
After exchange visits from and to Taiwan it became evident that there is a huge potential audience in Asia. With the help of Chinese speaking believers, translation of materials into the Mandarin dialect of the Chinese language is underway. Thus, the Good News about Yeshua the Messiah will also reach those regions that have in the past rejected the “Western” way of thinking. In our modern world of information and information technology, Oasis Media has become a reliable flagship of the Messianic movement in Israel and abroad.
Oasis-Media is no longer a small, local congregational project, but an international faith project that will grow and improve with assistance and additional financial resources. Please prayerfully consider supporting the educational and broadcasting projects of “Return to Zion Ministry.” – Michael Klimov – Oasis-Media administrator