- Camaraderie Forged in the Crucible
- Boasting in Whom?
- Serving Holocaust Survivors
- Honoring the Elderly
- Download March Newsletter as a PDF
Camaraderie Forged in the Crucible
The auditorium is filled with Israeli soldiers and their families. The soldiers are leadership candidates and have completed one of the most grueling portions of their combat training. They’ve marched all night with heavy loads in a “masah” which roughly translates as “trek.” Each soldier’s name is called out. Each receives strong congratulations from the officers, and an award for completing the grueling test. Families are cheering wildly at the mention of their *son, grandson, nephew, brother. The level of emotion is high. It reminds me of an athletic championship game. Yet these young men are not on a playing field. They’re going to be on a battle field. This is life and death.
During the ceremony an officer addresses the soldiers and their families. “I don’t have to explain the sensitivity of our security situation today. The threats against Israel amplify the importance of these young warriors.”
The feeling of Israel as an extended family is nowhere as touchingly manifested as on this kind of occasion. Israelis of every description and every background, feel they are all one through their young men and *women, who are going all out to defend us all.
The camaraderie is thick. Lithe, muscular dudes hugging for real. These rugged, hardship-tested soldiers have such affection for each other. It’s unfeigned. Unexaggerated. They’ve forged this heart bond by being stretched again and again, and by reaching high—to a place they’ve never been. And they’re doing it side by side. So when we see them smiling, joking around, teasing each other—we know that they’re still youths in their late teen age years. At the same time they have matured, in the crucible of being pushed to the limit physically and psychologically.
One cannot help but admire them, and be inspired by their example. At 19 years of age, they already possess a seasoned and selfless perspective of maturity.
Now, after the formal ceremony, we’re at a reception in their honor, hosted by the moms and dads. Gifts are flowing. Each “graduate” receives a new back pack, a hoody with their brigade’s insignia, and a framed photo of their unit. All of this is to build loyalty, team, commitment. And it’s working. You can feel it.
To understand the youth of Israel, it is essential to be aware of this experience that permeates all levels of Israeli life since serving in the army is mandatory. Their army service is a time like none other. Many lifetime friendships are formed during these three intense years. Many hundreds of young Israeli believers are among the tens of thousands of youth serving in the Israeli Defense Force. They need our prayers and our gratitude. – Eitan Shishkoff, Pastor Emeritus
*In Israel mandatory military service applies to men and women. Over recent years women have been increasingly given opportunities for combat service. My gender terminology reflects the fact that I personally have up to this point only experienced a son and a grandson in combat units.
Boasting in Whom?
When Paul first wrote to them in I Corinthians 1:4-7, and by extension to all of us as believers, he referred to how we are rich in every area: in what we speak, in knowledge and spiritual gifts given us by the grace of God through our Savior Yeshua. Jeremiah the prophet also referred to riches. The prophet spoke about what God says about mankind. “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man boast in his might, nor let the rich man boast in his riches; but let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth” (Jeremiah 9:22-23).
Boasting in our Teachers and Denominations?
Mankind has a tendency to boast, and that’s what happened in Corinth. They were boasting about the importance and wisdom of their leaders/rabbis/teachers, when they said they belonged to this or that teacher. Paul referred to this behavior and attitude when he asked, “In whose name have you been baptized” (I Corinthians 1:13)? Even today in congregations and churches, we hear people boasting that they belong to this denomination or that fellowship and follow this theology or that teaching. Yet above all, Yeshua is our Rabbi, our Messiah and we are baptized into Him and in His name.
Each of us should be proud of the fact that we belong first and foremost to Yeshua. Then we will be able to stand in unity and love. Yeshua’s bride should be one! Yes there are different ways of expressing faith, like the colors of the rainbow. However, we are called to be one, and this one-ness is only found in Yeshua. We should be reflecting His Grace – making His Grace available to those around us in our lives.
Like Yeshua, our desire and prayer is that we, His body, will be one, focused on Him and not on our differences.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) – Guy Cohen
Serving Holocaust Survivors
The ink of the tattoos has faded over time. The skin of the forearms has grown old and wrinkled. Yet the chilling image is still visible – a serial number on the arm of a former Nazi concentration camp prisoner.Once there were hundreds of thousands of survivors bearing these numbers on their flesh. Today, seven decades later, only thousands of them remain alive. Every year, there are fewer and fewer of them.
The word “catastrophe” does not sound frightening enough to convey all the horror and all the pain, since many catastrophes occur every day. There is a special word in the dictionaries of the whole world for that specific catastrophe – the “Holocaust.” It was the “final solution to the Jewish question” developed by meticulous Nazi criminals who tried methodically to wipe out God’s people from the face of the earth, numbering each of their victims.
One of the tasks of the concentration camps was the destruction of the human personality. When instead of a name there was a number, instead of clothes there were striped pajamas, instead of love and compassion there was senseless slave labor and constant humiliation, it was easy to surrender, to lose all remnants of faith.
It is said that when British troops liberated one of the women’s death camps, most of the prisoners were already close to death from epidemics and unthinkable cruelty. The British prepared food for them and gave them warm blankets. Unexpectedly, lipstick showed up as part of a package of humanitarian aid supplies. Soon, the lips of these emaciated women, exhausted from disease and beatings, shone with the bright red color of victory painting over the gray hell of oblivion. Suddenly these women began to feel alive: real people again.
Today there are not many of these old women and men left, and those few get lost in our ever-rushing modern world. Currently many of these survivors live in the Jewish State of Israel, protected from anti-Semitism, starvation and humiliation. However, bitter roots of resentment and pain still corrode their hearts.
Our Ministry “Return to Zion” could not turn away from the pain of these survivors. Over the years we have developed a warm relationship with this community of people who lived through the horror of the Holocaust. Students of our music school often organize concerts and creative evenings for them. On Jewish holidays our team prepares festive events and banquets for them. Often partners from abroad participate, eager to contribute to the lives of these people. Just recently a group from Dallas lead by Neil Crabb joined us for an event serving Holocaust Survivors, with a genuine desire to serve them and to pray for them.
There was is just one main task and one desire in the hearts of all of us – to show God’s love to those who have already seen hell on earth, before they reach the end of their days. In this we welcome your prayers and support – join us in blessing this precious remnant.
Honoring the Elderly
“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32).In most buses in Israel, near the front of the bus, is a sign that reads: “Stand up in the presence of the aged.” As a new immigrant, when I was able to read at about the level of my second grade son, I would go around practicing my elementary Hebrew by reading the many different signs posted in public places. I remember attempting to understand that particular sign. Written in the original Biblical Hebrew, it was not easy for me to decipher. The accompanying clipart made it obvious that the sign meant priority seating for the elderly, but it took me a while to realize that the modern transportation instruction was a direct quote from Leviticus 19.
Age is such a deceptive thing. Kids think getting older is the solution to their troubles – the thing that will give them more privilege and freedom, so much so that they defend every month as if it is a major accomplishment. “I’m not 8. I’m 8 and a HALF!”
At forty-something, I am all too aware of the years flashing by. Maybe that’s part of my attraction to interacting with the elderly in our community. While a bit selfish, I think it is part of the formula which God intended. The elderly carry wisdom and experience we simply haven’t lived long enough yet to attain. Honoring them, listening to them and spending time with them helps us keep things in perspective. It also gives them the attention and recognition they genuinely deserve.
Yehudit comes to our service nearly every Saturday. The younger people help her off of the shuttle bus, and she shuffles into the building with the help of her cane. In her wrinkled old purse she brings her Bible, various medicines to help her manage the collection of ailments she suffers from and small packages of candy. One by one, when the small children see her they run up and present themselves to her. She hugs and kisses them and hands them a candy. As a mom of one of the children enjoying her attention, I ask-scold, “Did you give her a hug? Did you say ‘thank you’? Did you smile and ask how she is doing?” I have grown to love Yehudit, and sincerely enjoy greeting her every week, especially in light of the fact that none of my own grandparents are still alive. Her warm smile and soft cheek make me feel loved and happy. Originally from Romania, she has been in Israel so long that her Hebrew is very good, which allows me to communicate with her, whereas many of the older people in our community only speak Russian.
This last month we held a one day conference for the senior citizens group in our congregation and invited the senior citizens from the network congregations as well. The pastor of our “golden age” ministry, Albina Mazurovsky, did a great job mobilizing help and planning the day. Both Avishalom and Andrey gave stirring teachings to honor, inspire and encourage those who attended. We served them lunch and prayed for them one by one. Among them was my dear friend Yehudit. It was obvious she was enjoying the day and being fed spiritually and physically.
It was truly a privilege to serve the elderly and devote a day to honor their presence in our midst. We pray that God will be gracious to tend their physical needs and give us many more years with them to learn from their life stories and soak up their grandmotherly and grandfatherly attention, gaining an even deeper understanding that God’s design for the generations is perfect. – Hannah Tekle