Oasis Newsletter

Oasis Volume 21, Issue 12

Perilous Exodus and Dream Come True

JERUSALEM – NOV 20, 2014: Kessim, religious leaders of the Ethiopian Jews, leads the Sigd pray in Jerusalem, Israel. The Sigd is an annual holiday of the Ethiopian Jews

Fifty days following Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the Ethiopian Jewish community celebrates Sig’d, a special day of Thanksgiving in realizing the fulfillment of God’s promises. This is an ancient practice among Jewish descendants from Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, it was commemorated with half a day of fasting and intercession, and the latter part of the day was spent breaking bread and feasting as a community. Still cherished among the brethren of Ethiopian Jewish ancestry, today Sig’d is also a nationally-recognized Israeli holiday. On this day we like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the miraculous nature of our own family’s story and enjoy our Ethiopian-Jewish heritage.

The government-sponsored event in honor of Sig’d takes place at Armon HaNatziv, a beautiful promenade overlooking Jerusalem. This year we couldn’t make it to the main event, but decided to drive to Jerusalem anyway and see if we could catch the afterglow. Arriving just after sunset, we watched as clusters of beautiful Ethio-Israelis of all ages walked about with joy-filled expressions, matching beautifully the breathtaking view of Jerusalem bathed in soft evening light. Unexpectedly, we ran into two young adult girls who knew our daughters from believing conferences. “Are you coming to the youth worship night at Succat Hallel?” they asked as if the answer was obvious. We thought – what a way to end this day of celebration: coming together with young Messianic Ethio-Israelis to worship Yeshua in Jerusalem. It felt as if we were walking into the fulfilment of this verse right before our very eyes: “From beyond the Rivers of Ethiopia, My dispersed daughters, My worshippers, they will bring Me an offering” (Zephaniah 3:10).

It was the perfect timing and location for our daughters to join a youth worship night. Both our daughters are worshipers in heart and calling, and would happily give up other plans for such an event. Upon arriving at the building, the first person who met us was a daughter of dear friends we had not seen in a long time. Yet another special touch from God to encourage us parents, that even now, God is fulfilling His promise not just in bringing us back into the Land, but causing us to walk into prophetic Messianic fulfilment, with our very own daughters coming together with others to “bring an offering” to God. We were doubly blessed to celebrate Sig’d and witness a generation of young Messianic Ethio-Israelis serving Adonai shoulder to shoulder, welcoming the King of Glory in worship!

2021 marks 30 years since my own arrival in Israel, and is the anniversary of the Operation Solomon airlift. Despite the fact that modern Israeli life is nothing like what the Ethiopian communities dreamed it would be, we see that God’s grand plan has not changed. He is faithful!

As a tribute to God’s faithfulness, we want to share excerpts from an article published in 2007 – the gripping story of our dear Aunt Webijig, a member of our congregation who made the miraculous, perilous exodus from Ethiopia to Israel decades ago…

The perilous exodus began at night.

The elders of the Jewish Council had given each family notice when to depart. On the appointed night 27-year-old Webijig, her father and three of her seven siblings set out to meet the guide whom they had hired for the price of one cow and a 50 birr ($5) wristwatch to lead them through the desert. They were filled with excitement. The dream and longing for Jerusalem, passed down through the generations, were finally coming to pass.

Leaving the familiar outskirts of the village in the darkness, barefoot Webijig stumbled and fell. Her little four-year-old sister whom she had been carrying in a sling flew off her back and landed in the bushes. Webijig searched frantically but couldn’t find her until she cried out. It was only after Webijig drew her close to her chest to quiet her, that she noticed the large and bleeding gash in her leg. Fearful of the barbaric night thieves, she carried her sister in her arms for some time so that they wouldn’t hear the child’s cry and attack.

The excitement of the journey carried them swiftly along the path that first night. As the dawn began to break, Webijig could suddenly see hundreds of additional families from her village and others, trudging along determinedly in the same direction. Her home already seemed a lifetime away. The sun was already hot at seven in the morning as they stopped to get some rest and hide from bandits.

After a fitful sleep, they woke and prepared for the night’s walk, eating a small meal of dried meat, dabo kolo (a cracker-like snack), honey and water they had brought. With charcoal they smudged dark streaks on their faces, camouflaging to blend into the darkness and distort any physical beauty liable to appeal to the desperate lusts of the night thieves. When everything was ready, Webijig lifted her six-year-old brother onto the family horse and hoisted her little sister back up into the sling on her back.

For six weeks, Webijig and her family followed this same harrowing routine, night after grueling night, day after blistering day. At night, the sound of lions, hyenas and other wild beasts sapped their courage. In the day the sun beat down as they slept, drying out their exhausted bodies and baking the earth they slept on. Bandits besieged the families, stealing, assaulting and even killing. The more they walked, the farther they spread out one from another.

One evening after walking a short distance, Webijig noticed that her aunt was no longer beside her. She went back and saw to her grief that her aunt had collapsed dead on the path! The family wept and stood in reverence for a moment. As they walked on, they saw other grieving families. At that same time they also heard the cries of a woman in labor walking with a family beside them. The family cried out in joy at the birth of a sweet new son, and Webijig was awed at the fusion of death and life together on the path to Jerusalem.

The physical adversity of the journey did not weaken their deep faith and desire to reach the Promised Land. “This will all be worth it,” Webijig thought, “because when we arrive in Jerusalem we will wipe our feet with oil and draw milk and honey out of the earth.” Webijig and her family envisioned a land of righteousness, and she and all the other journeyers determined that, “even if our hands and legs are cut off and our eyes cease to see, we will be content just to reach the Promised Land!

After crossing the border into Sudan, they were in refugee camps for 9 months until being airlifted to Israel along with with hundreds of other Ethiopian Jews to Israel by disguised Israeli planes from a remote rendezvous point. Webijig came to faith in the Messiah 3 years after her arrival in Israel.

“Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land.” (Ezekiel 37:21)

Meeting the Needs

By Guy Cohen

During our lifetime, we each face our own challenges and difficulties. Often, we go through these experiences with a sense that no one really grasps our inherent need to be understood and to feel warmth and acceptance.

Through people and experiences, we will, at the very most, only temporarily meet those needs. The only way to find long lasting contentment and gratification is through a personal relationship with Yeshua. Building that connection and embracing Yeshua as a true friend is the only way life will not ultimately be a disappointment. In Yeshua we find the answers.

We each have the need to be accepted but, all too often, through our own weaknesses, we are misunderstood. This can be one of the main reasons for division in a congregation. Unfortunately, this leads some to focus on internet or television edification where we can hide in anonymity. We must face the fact that each of us is liable to be hurt or misunderstood as well as be the source of hurt or misunderstanding.

The Source

In John 6, Yeshua fed the five thousand with two small fish and five small barley loaves.

What did the people see? A miracle.

What did the disciples see? Something brought forth from nothing.

What did Yeshua see? He saw the people and their needs – including being hungry.  

When Yeshua looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy enough bread for all these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” (John 6:5-6)

My ego is an obstacle to God meeting people’s needs through me. I must die to self, for only when I am weak can I be strong. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Messiah’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

It is Yeshua working through us in the lives of others to meet their needs – not us. Let’s look to Him.

Advance Warning

By Leon Mazin

“They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.” (John 16:2 NIV)

In the days of Yeshua, the synagogue was not just a place of prayer and learning, it was the center of Jewish communal life. Yeshua’s forewarning was serious!

In today’s age, people’s feeling of social acceptance may be related to their job, college, hobby, and extended family. This is a general warning from God that, for the name of Yeshua, we may be subject to rejection.

I believe that in the coming outpouring, the inner fire and desire to glorify the true God will open believers’ lips in bold Gospel proclamation in a manner reminiscent of the book of Acts. With the outpouring, greater persecution is also coming. However, God’s Word encourages us all that His Spirit will give us enough ability, strength, and patience to stand in the truth at that moment.

There is absolutely no need to force events, yet we must understand that this is reality. It will happen one day, “I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you” (John 16:4 NIV).

A few words about our congregation & ministry:

At our weekly congregational worship gatherings, we feel the nourishment of the Holy Spirit, yet there are still numerous members that are fearful due to Corona. I ask for prayers for continuous strengthening in the Holy Spirit, and victory over fear!

I’m leaving soon to teach in the United States; this will be the first time since the start of the global pandemic. I will be in Colorado, Arizona, South Carolina, and Virginia. I am so looking forward to meeting my dear brothers and sisters in Messiah!

With God’s help, we are opening an exercise gym, in the bomb shelter of our congregational building, for members of our congregation. In the future we hope to be able to open it to the public. God’s truth can be preached in many ways!

The humanitarian kitchen worked super hard all October, and many people were blessed! Many elderly, needy, and brand-new immigrants (with their families) come to us for support and guidance as they settle in their homeland.

workers

As you know, Return to Zion has several educational projects. Over the past 14 years, the music school has served hundreds of people, not only with knowledge and talent development, but also with spiritual encouragement. We see it on the faces of both children and teachers.

Now we are in the developmental stages of an educational project which will teach computer science to young new immigrants. This project is to help low-income families educationally and vocationally. Please pray with us for God’s guidance.


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