The only real Christians

Dear coworkers,

Your messages and prayers for us during the Iranian attack last night were a gift. There’s a peace in knowing we are under our Father’s eye and in the prayers of his people. In fact we were all sleeping soundly in Ashdod while you were worrying!

Calmest of all was three-year-old Sohaib, who traveled from northern Iraq through Jordan while all this was going on literally over his head.

sohaib eating bananaHe and his mother reached Ashdod tonight just in time to carry on eating some tasty kebab and pizza:

sohaib eating kababWe’re grateful for Ben and Kerstin and their three fearless girls who escorted Sohaib all the way from Jordan, and for the courage and trust of his mother Zainy. Nothing turns back a mother whose heart is fixed on getting healing for her child!

And praise God! Sohaib’s expenses are already fully covered through the same local leader that organized support for his first heart surgery in 2022, the Tikvah Rabah (“Great Hope”) ministry connected with a messianic congregation in Washington state.

Amazingly enough, both Eva and Jan from Kurdistan were also fully covered this week for their upcoming treatment. How could this happen? Here’s the story from our coworker Andrea, who just returned to Switzerland yesterday:

During my 11 weeks as a volunteer, I wrote to my family, friends and church almost daily about what was going on at Shevet Achim in Ashdod. I sent a lot of pictures so that everyone could see how the children were doing and how they were growing.

Eva Andrea Jan

There was still missing money for the treatment of our two children Jan and Eva and I asked Jonathan if I could ask for donations for them in my newsletter. He gave the ok. I prepared a text on Saturday that I wanted to send on Sunday with the request for 14,400 dollars.

On Saturday evening a friend texted me that she and her husband would like to make a donation for Shevet Achim – she didn’t know at that moment that I would be making a donation request on Sunday. God put on their hearts to give money at the right moment – they have donated the complete treatment for Jan.

For me, this was a great miracle because the Holy Spirit was guiding them and my heart was full of gratitude. On Sunday I sent the text and God gave a generous heart to many people. The money needed for both children was ready within three days.

I am overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness and care. God is good all the time. Glory belongs to God.

Wow! It’s been so long since we had even one local leader. You all are renewing my faith that if we share what’s happening in a timely way, the spirit of God can work through his people. It’s not that we have the resources ourselves, but if we pray, give what we have, and share the story, there’s no limit to what he can do. Jan will go in for his interventional catheterization on Wednesday, God willing.

Maybe it’s not coincidental that all this is happening during the same week that we finalized the painful decision to lay down our beautiful Jerusalem house.

jerusalem home

After delaying as long as we could, finally there was peace. The words of Messiah helped: every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

We needed to be pruned. We’re grateful to be pruned. Prune us more Lord!

(Be careful what you ask for).

Now what about Israel. Is all well now that we’ve weathered Iran’s attack? There are signs that severe pruning lies ahead also for our elder brothers in the faith.

The same Western nations that helped Israel foil last night’s attack are also binding his arms with a thousand silken cords. Refusing to support an Israeli counterattack, and especially any attempt to damage Iran’s facilities which are on the brink of producing nuclear weapons. Pressuring Israel to withdraw from Gaza and allow Hamas to survive. Still inexplicably providing billions of dollars to the Iranian theocracy. Denying the people of Gaza any escape from the destruction which has come upon them, unless they can raise tens of thousands of dollars to bribe the Egyptian border officials:

Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), says “we must fervently do everything” to avoid such an outflow of the Gazan population.

“Another refugee crisis from Gaza into Egypt, I can assure you… would make the resolution of the Palestinian refugee question as a consequence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible,” Grandi tells Reuters at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva…

“But I repeat, we must not arrive at that atrocious dilemma, which would be really almost the end of the road for what is really important here: ultimate peace.”

This week I came across a still-timely quote from the “longshoreman philosopher” Eric Hoffer, written 56 years ago in the wake of the Six-Day War:

The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews.

Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem. Russian did it, Poland and Czechoslovakia did it, Turkey threw out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchman. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese-and no one says a word about refugees. But in the case of Israel the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees.

Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis.

Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world…

I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish the holocaust will be upon us.

Yes there’s the double standard we discussed last week. The only real Christians!

And yet. The sickness which has entered Israel’s bloodstream in the last few years continues to rage unchecked. Pogroms committed by religious Zionist Jews this weekend in Arab villages across the West Bank, unrestrained by the army, after a teenaged Jewish shepherd went missing and was later found killed. Continued flagrant disregard by the police and courts for the lives of innocent Arabs in East Jerusalem and in Jaffa.

Today I had “the talk” with Max and Zech that black families in the US sometimes describe having with their children: If you’re ever confronted by an angry policeman or soldier, don’t talk back and don’t resist. Lie down on the ground.

The Torah weeps.

This is another way I’m personally going through pruning these last months. For decades I’ve championed the essential righteousness of Israel’s cause. The regathering of the Jewish people to this land is firmly based on the word of God, and the end goal is the redemption of the world.

But these same prophetic promises can be blindly misappropriated and cruelly exploited in ways that lead to disaster. Friends, if we were living in the first century would we have supported the Zealots because they were acting with faith in the prophets? They brought about the destruction of Jerusalem, and their spiritual seed are once again wreaking havoc in Israel.

The prophets were all about calling out injustices. We cannot keep silent when Jews are falsely accused and abused. We also cannot keep silent when Arabs are falsely accused and abused. What would we have done in Germany in the 1930s? Now we find out.

And crucially the prophets were always about more than pointing out wrongdoing. They always, always, pointed also to redemption. There’s already more than enough fingerpointing going on. Who but we, the people of Messiah, carry the story of redemption?

God help us to be honest in all things, and also to keep majoring on the majors. The evangelist Billy Graham, when he preached God’s offer of salvation, was unsurpassed. Like Hoffer quoted above, many of his messages from the sixties and seventies are still fresh today. People from all backgrounds could hear his voice of truth and be convicted by the word of God through him.

billy graham

But sometimes he got drawn into the geopolitical struggles of his day, particularly speaking about the evils of communism. What he was saying was true and may even have been necessary. (God help us that we live in a generation clueless about the evils of communism, with many poised to unleash them again on the world.)

And yet when you hear those messages from Graham, you instantly feel you’ve entered a different realm. It’s no longer eternal, it’s no longer heavenly. It is the struggle against flesh and blood.

My prayer for our Shevet community, as we navigate the frontiers between Israel, Iraq and Gaza, is that we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers. That we won’t shy away from speaking the truth about evil in the world, but only as a prelude to the good news of Yeshua (salvation).

Oddly enough, I came across a similar call today from an orthodox Israel who’s working to build ties betwen Jews and Christians. Here’s part of what he had to say about the “day after” the Gaza war:

With no good solutions based on past failed models and unreliable partners, it’s time to think out of the box, to look at a solution not through a prism of how we want it to be, but based on reality. I have a solution that’s as radical coming from an Orthodox Jew as it is one, perhaps the only one, that can bring genuine peace.

The solution for long-term peace in Gaza is Jesus.

In the past one might think that the Arab-Israel conflict was about land. It’s not. It’s a religious conflict fueled by an Islamic ideology that the sole Jewish state is by definition illegitimate. Islamists like Hamas and their Iranian backers which embody that ideology seek Israel’s annihilation, not to live side by side with it…

Christians will bring the greatest ability to rebuild Gaza by both genuinely loving and caring about Israel and its safety, and also about the well-being of Palestinian Arabs…

It may sound crazy for an Orthodox Israeli Jew to propose peace not based on a faulty formula of two states but for our neighbors living in spiritual darkness to become theological allies. With anger among Gazans toward Hamas growing, if presented a viable alternative, one based in morality that can bring prosperity and hope, the ground is fertile for such an opportunity.

Yes it does sound crazy, and I don’t think the writer has any practical idea of how this could happen. Neither do we. Yet it’s a profoundly biblical hope that some in Gaza can through peace with God find peace with their Jewish neighbors, and there are hints of this in the prophets. We know our lovely neighbors in Gaza, and their zeal for God. It’s true that until they have a spiritual foundation for peace it is never going to happen, and there is only one cornerstone upon which they can build.

It’s hard to find the faith for this. Certainly we can never bring it about. It’s just as impossible as the idea that the Jewish people could ever be reestablished in their promised land. Friends of Israel believe in miracles. Let’s ask one for Ishmael too.

Jonathan for Shevet Achim

“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity…for there the LORD commands the blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm 133).