Most news we hear from Israel involves suicide bombings, military skirmishes and ethnic tensions. In the time since the Jewish state was created 61 years ago, it seems its history has been written in blood as Israeli leaders have fought to defend the land that was given to them by God thousands of years ago.
Yet this place we call the Holy Land cannot be defined by religious conflicts and territorial disputes. Pilgrims who have traveled there from around the world have discovered that Israel defies the stereotypes and the political clichés: They have discovered a land rich with history and a diverse people who want peace more than war.
Although most international journalists focus their attention on clashes between Israeli Jews and Muslims, Charisma has found a growing surge of interest in Christianity in all sectors of society—from the growing urban centers of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to the hillsides of Galilee to the Arab-dominated territories. Below the surface, Israel is experiencing a significant visitation of the Holy Spirit that is spreading into every ethnic community.
In this issue, we offer a look at the Christian peacemakers who are taking the gospel of Jesus Christ not only to Jews and Muslims but also to Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, prisoners, unwed mothers, drug addicts and tourists who visit this unique land. We hope that when you visit Israel you will look beyond the stone monuments, churches and biblical sites to discover the people of faith who are transforming the land.
Arie Bar David
The roots of modern-day Messianic Judaism in Israel go back to Switzerland in the 1920s when a Jewish Bulgarian aristocrat named Chaim Bar David was handed a booklet containing the Sermon on the Mount. With that, the man believed Yeshua was the Messiah and moved to Palestine in 1928 during the British Mandate.
Today Bar David’s legacy of faith has influenced five generations of Messianic Jews in Israel, including son Arie Yehuda Bar David, whose name means, “lion of Judah, son of David.” Born a year before Israel became a state in 1948, Arie was an infant during the Arab riots, the War of Independence and the siege of Jerusalem. As a young man, he fought in the army’s paratrooper unit in all but one of Israel’s wars since 1967 and battled once alongside former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Growing up in Jerusalem, Arie participated in family worship services, Bible studies and prayer groups with his parents, siblings and grandparents. Arie remembers other children assaulting him, his family being called “Nazis” and having a constant barrage of rocks thrown at their home because of their faith.
As a result of a disciplined and lonely upbringing, Arie’s spiritual roots grew deep. During the Yom Kippur War, passages of Scripture he learned as a child sustained him. “Hundreds of Egyptians were shooting at me, most of my unit was at my side, seriously wounded,” he recalls. “But my story comes back to this: As a little child you hear the stories, you see the verses, and I believed-100 percent-that thousands would fall, and it would not touch me.”
After his army service, Bar David, a distinguished classically trained musician, played double bass in the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra for seven years. Twenty-six years ago, he laid down his flourishing music career to live on a moshav, or a collective community.
Founded by Finnish Christians and located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Yad HaShmona-the only Judeo-Christian moshav in Israel-hosts Messianic conferences while other facilities have shut out the believing community.
Bar David fulfilled a longtime dream last year when he conducted the first-ever performance of Handel’s Messiah in Hebrew. He oversaw translation of the oratorio and recruited a choir and live orchestra for the historic performances.
Avi and Chaya Mizrachi
In a nation where preaching the gospel is taboo, Avi Mizrachi is audaciously evangelistic, enduring persecution from religious Jews and scorn from the secular.
“I’m radical, I’m bold, I’m not afraid of anyone except the Lord,” Mizrachi says. He was saved and met and married his wife, Chaya, while traveling in the United States in 1984. Then he headed back to Israel on a mission. “I wanted to come back to my city, to Tel Aviv-Jaffa, and I wanted to make disciples,” he says.
As one of the trailblazers among born-again sabras, or native-born Israelis, Mizrachi opened Dugit as an evangelistic outreach in Tel Aviv, Israel’s most cosmopolitan and worldly city. “Tel Aviv-Jaffa is very secular, very lost, full of darkness, prostitution, drugs, alcohol, abortion, mafia-we have all of it,” Mizrachi says. “They come to Tel Aviv to party.”
From Dugit, which means “small fishing boat,” teams go “fishing” on the city streets. When Mizrachi began the outreach in 1993, an anti-missionary group harassed and stalked him and his family, loudly cursing and insulting him. Mizrachi had to hire bodyguards for a time.
The persecution has let up since then, and the outreach has expanded. Now Mizrachi also runs healing and distribution centers to meet practical needs in the community, work that has found favor with the municipality. Chaya leads seminars and counsels women who have had abortions. At their congregation, Adonai Roi (“The Lord Is My Shepherd”), they disciple the newly saved and impart a fervor for evangelism.
Mizrachi’s parents, both from Bulgaria, met in Israel in the 1940s, his father after enduring the Holocaust. His mother was saved under a born-again rabbi in Jaffa at a time when there was a handful of believers in the land and only five congregations. Intent on seeing unity among believers in Israel, Mizrachi was part of a group of pastors who established Sitting at Yeshua’s Feet (SAYF), where Messianic and Arab pastors gather together for spiritual recharging.
“It’s a very stressful country. The spiritual warfare here is triple that of anywhere in the world,” he says. “That’s because Yeshua is coming back here-not Washington, D.C., or Rome.”