You may recall a story I posted back on August 8th concerning an Israeli Journalist who, pretending to be a follower of Jesus (a Messianic Believer) infiltrated a Messianic congregation, gained their trust (and love), and turned around, writing a horribly twisted expose on the Church and the Messianic Believers who attend:Messianic Believers to face more Persecution?…(this is disturbing)
At the time it was only published in Hebrew, and in the Hebrew equivalent of the english speaking YNET News, called Yedoit Ahronot.
This evening I received a newsletter from Maoz Israel with the story in english, along with a link to the story and photos on-line: “Israeli Journalist Infiltrates Tiferet Yeshua Congregation”
Monthly Report: September 2008
Last May, an Israeli journalist was handed a flyer in Tel Aviv about Yeshua the Messiah of Israel. Jews for Jesus conducted a major campaign with many Israelis and foreign volunteers spreading out across the country to give Israelis a chance to ask questions about faith in Yeshua.
Today, the number of Israeli Messianic Jews is increasing at a much faster rate than ever before. In fact, many favorable articles have been written at face value concerning the presence and lives of the Messianic Community in Israel. (See Last Article)
However, the editors of Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s largest paper, fighting to keep its readership, is always looking for weird, repulsive and frightening stories. Yediot has remained in first place by evolving into a full-blown tabloid; its number one goal is to sell newspapers at all costs.
With that in mind, their journalist Tehiya Barak set off with a goal to infiltrate a Messianic Jewish congregation in Tel Aviv. She picked our congregation, Tiferet Yeshua.
She arrived while Ari and I were in Germany, and began making friends among the congregation’s young people. She attended a number of times until a few days ago, when Ari received a rather unpleasant phone call from one of the editors at Yediot. He began by accusing us of “converting to Christianity” under-age kids without their parent’s permission – illegal in Israel.
Three days later, (on 08.08.08), a vicious, twisted article of nine solid pages (24 type-written pages) came out in their weekend magazine which has very wide coverage. The article was designed to scare the public – to prove that Messianic Jews are dangerous, law-breaking, mystical misfits.
(Thirteen years ago this same paper wrote an even uglier article about a national youth conference we held at a kibbutz in the north of Israel. It claimed we were abducting children without their parents’ knowledge and attempting to convince them to leave their Jewish heritage and convert to Christianity – an accusation which could have brought a jail sentence. Several times we showed the police the permission slips that each parent had signed to allow his or her child to attend the conference, and the police closed the case. We took the newspaper to court and after three years they settled out of court by writing a letter of apology that the things they accused us of were inaccurate)
This newspaper uses the same hate-filled rhetoric that Hamas uses against the Jewish people, that anti-Semites use against Jews. It caricaturizes the believers in a way that makes us appear all-bad with no redeeming value.
So as Ari and I began our one week Maoz business trip and two week vacation in Germany this summer, the journalist attended her first service at Tiferet Yeshua. She was to continue her visits until the first week of August.
The tabloid cover showed a leader in our congregation praying for a young lady. Blazened across the darkened, eerie greenish picture (though taken in broad daylight) was the title “The Baptizing Cult.“ We cannot reprint the whole nine pages, but here are excerpts from her article which she called “The Messianic Code” (Like the Bible Code)
May 25th: Penetrating the Messianic Cult
My name is Tehiya Barak [tehiya means “resurrection”], a journalist, 28 years old, a Jew. During the past two and a half months I wore different clothing. A flyer, one of thousands that were distributed on the streets of Israel in the framework of a campaign run by “Jews for Jesus” sent me on a long-term journalistic mission: to infiltrate a Messianic Jewish congregation as a sister among the minyan [group].
Because of her mindset and her mission to write a salacious article, she viewed and described everything as mystical, abnormal, occultish. She wrote about our faith as a ridiculous assortment of rituals and she spells Yeshua’s name as “Yeshu”, the way non-believers pronounce the Messiah’s name in Hebrew. (Yeshua’s name means “Salvation;” Yeshu means “may his name be obliterated,” although when Israelis use this pronunciation, they do not usually know the meaning of this acronym given by rabbinical authorities centuries ago who did not want to call him “Salvation.”)
Tehiya continues: For the duration of several long weeks I was thrown into a parallel universe. I turned into a fervent member of an ancient cult that combines a concoction of faiths, symbols, and messages from various religions. Our father Abraham with Yeshu, Old Testament with New Testament, prayer shawl with baptism, Israeli festivals with holy bread [the Lord’s supper, editor], and also a threatening satan, who lurks at every corner and appears in the form of man, jellyfish or evil inclination.
Much of Tehiya’s article focuses on what she calls “missionary” work, one of the most hated words in the Hebrew language. In the mind of the typical Israeli, a missionary is one who lives to destroy the Jewish nation. How? By converting Jews into non-Jews, thus slowly decreasing the number of Jews in the world. For most Jews, it is still beyond their imagination how a Jew can remain a Jew and believe in Yeshua the Messiah. Only Christians can be a follower of Yeshua, not Jews, in their thinking. So her constant reference to missionary activities are buzz words which cause great concern among the Israeli public.
Also, when journalists speak about missionary work, they virtually always claim that the people the “missionaries” are able to reach are those who are oppressed and downtrodden – and thus easy catches for the missionaries. Messanic believers, on the other hand, will reply that only God can change a person’s heart and make him into a new creature. People can fake it for a while, perhaps thinking they are going to receive some material help. But when that does not appear, the fake seeker soon goes his own way.
Furthermore, the Messianic Jews of Israel stress over and over again that Yeshua has given them the power and the guidance to be Jews in every sense of the word, living lives devoted to the God of Israel who created the Jewish people for His own purposes. Yeshua makes it possible to fulfill that purpose. Nevertheless, Tehiya’s descriptions are sure to bring fear to the hearts of many.
My Sabbaths were spent in ecstatic, long prayers, and the rest of the weekdays I dedicated to aggressive missionary activities and internal social events of the congregation. I won their trust, and they – slowly but surely – embraced me into their world.
Little by little a Messianic-spiritual world was exposed to me, which at its core lies a closed [closed?? That is an interesting observation! editor] and embracing congregation, at times mesmerizing, which forms a warm and sheltering home with not so few people who found it difficult to find their place in Israeli society – and a moment before they were crushed in its margins, found refuge in the bosom of Yeshu; despairing youth who had descended into crime, ultra-Orthodox Jews who left their way and suffered alienation by their families, lone soldiers, immigrants, foreign workers.
Tehiya relates that one of the Jews for Jesus members “connects me to a congregation, ‘Tiferet Yeshua’ in southern Tel Aviv that belongs to the ‘body of Messiah.’ The Messianic cults have been active in Israel since the last century and include thousands. Even though the Messianics view themselves as Jews, experts define them as a cult from the Christian world. They, from their side, maintain close connections with Christian congregations worldwide.
Tehiya was told by her Jews for Jesus friend: “this is a large congregation, with a lot of young people and a lot of the Holy Spirit. I am certain that you will be happy there.” And so, within a moment, my journey begins, which by its end I am sentenced to find myself confused and divided – Judas Iscariot woman that I am.
Tehiya describes her first impressions of the Sabbath service at Tiferet Yeshua Congregation:
May 31st: To come apart in religious ecstasy
“Welcome, Yeshua, we invite you to come.” I enter into the prayer hall as this song is sung in a powerful voice. On the stage there is a keyboardist, a guitarist, three singers, a trumpeter and a drummer. The Messianics are standing on their feet; some of them are dancing. Everyone is singing in one accord, in religious ecstasy, with burning faith. Their hands are spread out upwards. The words are displayed on a large screen; however, no one needs to refer to them.
All this occurs at the outskirts of the industrial area of southern Tel Aviv. The entrance is in between two peeling buildings. On the entrance floor is a small kiosk and adjacent to that is a gas station. In the area, such is told to me by one of the brothers, there is also a casino and other dubious businesses.
However, the staircase is sparkling clean. A few of the youth in the congregation come early in the morning every Saturday, and sweep the filth – cigarettes, syringes, hard liquor bottles. At one stage, when passersby and members of an ultra-Orthodox organization harassed the Messianics, there was a security guard at the entrance. A t present day, for discretion purposes, there is not even a sign.
When one enters, the filth disappears from sight. From the sparkling marble floor up to the ceiling, everything points to prestige. The congregation rents the second and third floors of the building.
I … do not know where to look first. At the elderly believer who is dancing with great fervor, at the singer who breaks down in the middle of the song in front of all to see weeping bitterly, or at the barefooted, long haired youth who is closing his eyes and singing in somewhat of a sensual intoxication. “I want to lie at your feet, Yeshua,” implores the singer. “Allow us to feel You.”
The spiritual shepherd of the congregation, Ari Sorko-Ram, a veteran immigrant from the U.S.A., is presently abroad. In his absence Motti, his ‘spiritual’ son, takes front stage. He is dressed in jeans and sneakers, upon his cheek is a microphone. “Yeshua, open our eyes so that we may see You, and our ears so that we may hear You. Allow us to feel You, here, now, in this room,” he calls with shut eyes.
Tehiya adds: Over the course of my mission, I meet quite a number of Messianic soldiers, some of whom arrive at the congregation meeting in their uniforms.
Tehiya tells how she advanced her deception, sitting in our fellowship room after our Sabbath meeting, talking to evangelist Yacov Damkani.
For several weeks I have been attending the Messianic congregation as one of the believers. I am in command of the secrets of prayer, am present at the social events, am in good contact with most of the brothers. “To be saved, to be evangelized, God has placed a message on my heart,” have become a part of my vocabulary. I proved my dedication; I won the trust of the members. Now I want to join the secret missionary assignments reserved for the faithful.
…At the conclusion of the Sabbath prayer, I sat opposite [Yacov Damkani] on a couch in the congregation of Messianic Jews named, “Tiferet Yeshua” in Tel Aviv, asking with a shaky voice to join the most important and spiritual mission in the eyes of believers in the cult: evangelism of Yeshu throughout Israel…
Damkani hesitates. He fixes an extended look at me, penetrating, and then proceeds with a series of questions.
Tehiya then narrarates her madeup story to Damkani. She adds, “It is not every day that a young Israeli requests to join the mission field, considered horrendous in the eyes of most residents of the State of Israel. I find it hard to breathe under his gaze: what will happen if my cover story should collapse?”
She emphasizes again and again our outreach to the lost and she portrays it in a most negative way.
One cannot separate the compassion of the congregation from their objective: the spreading of the faith, under every condition, among as many people as possible. The Messianic representatives reach neglected corners, at times unseen, to which the Israeli society does not bother to direct its gaze: they distribute foodstuffs to the poor, to terror victims and Holocaust survivors, who do not know what they will eat tomorrow, and they speak to them about Yeshu; they wrap in love and holy songs drug addicted prostitutes in a shelter for the needy which they established in the heart of Tel Aviv; diminish the loneliness of soldiers in training fields, with the help of songs, candies, literature, and volunteers from abroad. The possibility of adding new people to the faith increases amazingly after you show them kindness.
Tehiya talks about the lifestyle of the young believers:
In the event that you are a member in the Messianic cult, your daily routine is full. Long prayer times, gatherings that continue long into the night, communal ‘praise’ songs, picnics, ball games on the beach.
The meeting takes place on the third floor of the building, in a room that belongs to the youth of the congregation. On the red wall appear large letters that the youth wrote: “Thank you, Lord Yeshua.”
The Messianics are standing on their feet, some of them are dancing. Everyone is singing in one accord, in religious ecstasy. Their hands are spread out upwards. All of a sudden the singer bursts into tears and cries, “I want to lie at your feet, Yeshua!”
Tehiya then talks about the persecution of the believers in Israel. She, of course, ignores the fact that articles such as hers can cause fanatical Orthodox Jews to target the believers with violence. Thank God, there is a growing number of fearless believers, soldiers, young people, elderly people, lawyers, doctors, scientists, and simple beautiful citizens of Israel who are ready to face the persecution that comes with serving the One who gave His all to us. Here is her summary of some of the incidents of persecution that have taken place lately:
These days are not easy for the Messianic Jews. From time immemorial the believers have suffered harassment, however, during the past year, they have a growing sense that the satanic circle is closing in on them and getting stronger. During this past March, an explosion caused severe injury to the son of a Messianic family in Ariel; two months thereafter, in a large bonfire, recorded on photographs which shocked many, New Testament books that were distributed by Messianic Jews were burned in Or Yehuda [translates Light of Judah]; In the meantime, the call to cancel the traditional, annual Bible Quiz [on Israel’s day of Independence] was on account of the participation of a young Messianic girl. [See last article].
From her preconceived ideas of a cult, Tehiya has created a false image of the Messianic believers in general, and our congregation in particular. We are portrayed throughout the article as scheming, secretive, manipulating cultists. That is often how persecutors portray believers throughout the world. We are no exception.
At the end of the article, the editor who called Ari a couple of days before it went to press, quoted three sentences from their telephone conversation – in order, I am sure the editor thought – to make the article “fair and balanced.” This is the quote:
The Messianic Jews: We are Jews and our activities are legal. Ari Sorko-Ram, the spiritual leader: “We are Jews who believe in biblical Judaism; it is the right of every Jew to explain his Judaism. We do this among acquaintances, friends, family, and whoever wants to know. We are permitted by law to explain our faith.
We cannot end this article without stating our earnest desire to draw closer to our Lord and receive divine discernment concerning those who join our congregation. In no way do we wish to be suspicious of newcomers, for that is what the enemy would want. But we do ask from our Heavenly Father wisdom to stand against the wiles of those who are working to harm and persecute the Body of Messiah in Israel. Your prayers for us and all of the Messianic leaders of Israel will make a difference.
more, with photos here, including, What Tehiya DIDN’T Say About Us!