A New Beginning
“One who is gracious to the poor, lends to the LORD, and He will reward Him” (Proverbs 19:17).
“Shana Tova Umetuka” is the way Israelis greet each other on Rosh Hashana* (the traditional Jewish New Year). As we approach the fall season, families and friends wish one another “a good and sweet year.” On September 19th we will graduate from 5781 and move into the year 5782 by the traditional Jewish counting, since Creation.
Israel will embark on a new beginning. For us and for most of you, this year has been like an island surrounded by shoals and reefs. Many aspects of our lives have changed. Our community gatherings and worship services changed. Our summer camps and family plans changed. Even the way we walk down the street…changed.
Tashlich is a symbolic ritual performed on the second day of the Jewish New Year. On this day, it is customary to travel to a body of water and throw rocks into the water symbolizing casting away the previous year’s sins and unpleasant events. We do hope and pray that in the coming year a rescue boat will come across those waters, an ark that will sail us to the shores of health and prosperity.
Through it all, God remains the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He is the Rock, the Ancient of Days, that we can depend upon always. And as an expression of His love, from year to year we reach out to the underprivileged communities of our city. In this ongoing global health crisis, Israel’s unemployment numbers are steadily rising―currently standing at 875,000, 21% of the overall workforce! “Needless” to say, this year the needs have grown dramatically.
The verse at the beginning of this article is one of my favorite, both because it promises that God will acknowledge our service to Him, and also because I love seeing the heart of God expressed. The Hebrew word used is “Honen” which means more than charity. It means adding value and favor. It implies that we are to regard the disadvantaged with honor and respect, seeing the potential beauty even in the midst of poverty. That’s how God views us and regards our outreach to the needy around us, as a loan to Him. So humbling!
In September it is our intent to distribute food baskets to 800 families who have been affected by the Coronavirus crisis. As we prepare, this verse is fresh in our minds. Even more than what we give, it matters how we give it. May God use us to add favor to the lives of those He has called us to reach in His love.
We kindly ask you to pray if the Lord would put it in your heart to partner with us to be His instruments for such a time as this. – Avi Tekle
*Rosh HaShana―literally the head, or peak of the year.
A Lesson for Hard Times - Gleaned from Israel’s History
“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” – C. S. Lewis
The world is going through a hard time…again.
Just a few weeks ago Israel commemorated the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, as they have been doing for millennia. This solemn anniversary culminates the annual three week “dire straits” period of mourning over the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem as well as other disasters in Jewish history.
As the world faces the current pandemic and the other events that have brought fear and strife to many nations, I want to go back in history, focusing on Israel in order to draw a parallel to our current difficulties.
2 Kings 19:15-19 records Hezekiah’s response to a fearsome threat of impending destruction in Jerusalem. What did he do? He brought it before God. He literally spread out the pieces of paper with the written military threat, in the temple, and cried out, “Open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God.” (verse 16)
Hezekiah was a king in crisis, in spite of having restored Israel to following God’s way of holiness, and in spite of having destroyed the idols! Now he was in the middle of a storm, just as big as ours or bigger. With encouragement from his “buddy” Isaiah, he persevered in faith—through conflict and trouble. In the end, he was victorious.
This is where we are today, watching Israel and other nations being pressured from every direction. People are changing before our eyes—looking inward at their individual needs and responding with anger at governments and those in authority. We are in a time of trouble which is affecting the health of the nation as well as the economy, security and future.
In Israel, we face military threats, as in the time of Hezekiah. Meanwhile, brother is turning against brother. Will we and our leaders rise up and run to God as Hezekiah did? Or will we put our trust in something else (foreign gods and idols), succumbing in the end to their authority and not God’s? Have we even noticed that, in the meantime, the enemy has arrived at our borders with Gaza and Lebanon, waiting for our destruction?
The book of Lamentations is read in its entirety on the eve of 9th of Av. In the face of the coronavirus, the words ring truer than ever. I feel as if we have never been closer to the physical and spiritual condition of Jeremiah’s day than now. Mankind so easily forgets God until a time of dire need arises.
With God’s righteous judgement impending, may the world not be found lacking (like Sodom and Gomorrah) in men and women of righteousness, those who know the Lord and are ready to stand in the gap for their nation. As we draw closer to the fulfillment of all things, we join in agreement with the closing words of Lamentations 5:21:
“Turn us again to Yourself, O Lord, and we will be restored.”
Thanks to Yeshua, we are the righteous of this day, standing as Hezekiah stood. May the Spirit of God lead us in intercession for our people and nation. – Guy Cohen
“My dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, as I know you are well in spirit” (3 John 1:2).
First and foremost, we thank you for your prayers and your support, which enable us to serve here in Israel.
A few months ago, thanks to the strict closures, Covid-19 was not widespread within Israel. Unfortunately, when we began to open up our society, the numbers began to rise dramatically, especially among the ultra-Orthodox population and the Bedouins. Like EVERYONE, we need prayers that strengthen faith and overcome fear. We have already started to feel the economic crisis. More than 35,000 small businesses closed between February and July 2020. This is an immense number for Israel. The people in our congregation are also losing their jobs. We feel our need for God more than ever!
I ask you to pray for us and for our soup kitchen project (english.shaveitzion.org/soup-kitchen/) that is providing warm meals and dry goods to people in our community. It is our desire to always give what is needed to those who ask! This project reaches out to both Russian-speaking olim (immigrants) and to the Arab population from the Christian and the Muslim sectors. We want to continue to be the hands of the Messiah!
Return to Zion Congregation
Since the beginning of the quarantine, our congregation and ministry have seen significant growth. Home groups have taken on more importance, and online meetings have expanded. Instead of 500-600 viewers per week “before quarantine,” we have reached 2,000 viewers during our Shabbat service alone!
Also, we have divided our congregation into two groups (Covid-19 restrictions limit the number of people allowed to meet indoors). Today the Russian-speaking group gathers at 11 a.m. and the Hebrew-speaking group at 1 p.m., and an additional group has begun meeting on Wednesdays. As a pastor, for many years I had not led a home group. But in March I began an online meeting for those who are not members of an existing home group. Today, during online studies of the Scriptures on Wednesdays, about 90 to 100 people are gathering. This is a welcome addition to our congregation, with its own requests, needs, and questions.
We do not know how events will continue to develop and whether we, as a country, will enter another full lockdown. It is so important to maintain effective communication and strong connections with our congregational members and with our greater community. These issues continue to challenge us, and I ask you to join us in PRAYER for wisdom from HEAVEN!
Once again, many thanks for your support and loyalty. We pray for God’s protection for you and your families, and for God’s assistance in your lives. We also pray that your spiritual lives may prosper, regardless of external circumstances.
With respect and love,
Leon and Nina Mazin
Not Just Nostalgia
Many years of pioneering ensued. Congregations were planted, humanitarian aid distributed, and offshoot ministries born. Asher’s teaching ministry impacted new Israeli believers in Hebrew, while reaching the nations in English. God blessed us both with teams of young people eager to be equipped and released into their callings.
Through those first two decades Asher and I never lost touch, but we were focused on developing indigenous Messianic ministry in our old/new country. Four or five years ago, it was as if we poked our heads up out of the all-consuming harvest field. I had been laboring in the north, the Galilee; and Asher poured himself into Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Now, that we were passing the leadership baton to our spiritual sons and daughters, it felt like God sovereignly reconnected us.
Meanwhile, Dan and Patty Juster arrived, adding maturity and mentoring capacity. The three of us had not been geographically together since the early 90s in Maryland, USA, when Asher and I were sent out with Dan’s blessing and indispensable support.
It was a new stage, an opportunity—even a compulsion—to renew and re-strengthen our covenant friendship. Since then we have seen the growing brotherhood of the next generation of congregational leaders who’ve been our protégés. This seasoned group of leaders is called “Tikkun Israel.” In parallel, the Lord has thrust Asher into a place of international influence. The umbrella he’s holding with Ron and others has become known as Revive Israel-Tikkun Global, and includes being available to serve the American Tikkun network, as well as the ministries of our long-time covenant brothers, Paul Wilbur and David Rudolph—now led by their sons.
Dan, Asher, and I are now grandfathers. Our greatest reward is to see the fruitfulness of both our natural and spiritual children. How gracious of God to draw us back together for this vital season of generational transition and lifetime vision fulfilled before our eyes.
I can’t close without taking this opportunity to thank you from around the world, who’ve stood with us and taken part in this process. The trust you have put in us and the incalculable value of your prayers have carried us through these twenty-eight phenomenal years in Eretz Yisrael. Yes, together we have a lot to be thankful for. And the best is yet to come. Our role has merely been to help plow and plant seed. Others will continue to water and harvest, and God will give the increase. – Eitan Shishkoff