Zvi (Joel Of Jerusalem)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the years you have come to know and love “Joel of Jerusalem” through the pages of Israel My Glory. You may even have met him during one of his visits to the United States. Many of you are aware that “Joel” is a pseudonym for his real name, Zvi, and that he is the subject of two biographies, Zvi and Zvi and the Next Generation, both published by The Friends of Israel. To alleviate the confusion sometimes caused by the use of two names, we have decided to rename this feature “Zvi.” The reports will continue to be just as exciting and challenging. Only the name has changed.
In Deuteronomy 20:1 it is written, “be not afraid … for the Lᴏʀᴅ thy God is with thee.” Here in Israel, we are living in the light of this promise day by day as we face SCUD missile attacks from Iraq. We are sure of His divine protection; therefore, we can sing confidently the words of our national anthem, Hatikva: “Od lo av-da tik va-te-nu” (So long our hopes are not yet lost). We also believe that where there is life, there is hope, and that is especially true at this time. Even with missiles being dropped on us nightly, people are going about their daily routines with high morale because they know that God has said, “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, who shall never hold their peace day nor night” (Isa. 62:6). Although the vast majority of our people do not believe in the Messiah, they do know and trust in the promises of God to His chosen people of Israel.
There are, however, many new immigrants in Israel, particularly those from the Soviet Union, who do not know the promises of God. They have lived all their lives under the red flag of communism, and when they arrived in Israel, it was like coming to another planet. They have to start their lives over, and that means learning about God. As soon as they arrive they are contacted by ultra-orthodox elements, whose job it is to bring them into the fold of Judaism. They have free access to the emigrés, but the emigrés are told not to have any contact with those who believe in Christ. Although the orthodox are trying to brainwash the Soviet Jews with their false doctrines, they will not succeed because the truth conquers all things. And when are people most interested in learning the truth? In times of trouble, such as Israel is experiencing now.
I consider it an obligation to go to such people and comfort them with the Word of God, and I am thankful that the Lord has given me the ability to speak their language. When I first engage in a conversation with a new immigrant, it is not with warnings but in the spirit of friendship. Then, when I have gained his trust, we can be open with each other and are free to say what is on our minds. In this way I guide him as he takes those first steps on the road to a true knowledge of God through faith in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Initially the emigrés are surprised to learn that a Jewish person would believe in Christ, especially in Israel. Even as missiles are raining down on their heads, they seem more interested in knowing how and why a Jewish person can believe in Jesus. One emigré told me, “It is impossible for a Jew to praise the name of this one whom Jews have hated through the centuries.” I replied, “I have heard many people say this. You may also think that a Jewish person who believes in Christ hates Israel and anything that pertains to our nation. That is-not true, but it is not your fault that you believe this. You have been brainwashed against believers from the moment you stepped off the plane. I have not come to tell you stories, such as those in the many commentaries of the rabbis. That is all you will hear from your orthodox friends; but, as a true child of God and a good citizen of Israel, it is my duty to show you the right way to approach God, as it is explained in the Holy Bible. If you will read the Jewish Scriptures for yourself, you will understand how to have true faith in God. You can see that I do not have with me any of the old commentary books—no stories, no traditions. But, if you want it—and only if you want it—I will give you a Bible in the Russian language. After reading it, you can make your own decision about God.”
It is much easier to deal with people who have never read the Scriptures than to deal with the orthodox people, who have studied all their lives (unfortunately, they have studied the wrong books). Even though the immigrants have been instructed to stay away from believers, they are very independent and want to make their own decisions in their new land, and they are open to discussion. Of course, some are skeptical because of the warnings they have received. Some of the emigrés asked me if believers in the Lord are against the Jewish religion. I responded, “I am not against any religion if it is in accordance with the Holy Bible. It is written in Deuteronomy 12:32, ‘Whatsoever thing I [the Lord] command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.’ But, I am sorry to say, most of the people of Israel are far from being the ‘holy people unto the LORD thy God’ that He has instructed them to be in Deuteronomy 7:6. And they are the very people who are telling you how to worship God. I am not trying to give you orders; I only want to help you find the Lord, your Savior. Then you will truly be His ‘chosen people.’”
These immigrants were very moved by our conversation. They said they had learned more in one hour than they did during several days of instruction from their assigned “guides.” Please pray that the Lord will give me more opportunities to speak with Soviet immigrants. Pray also that as they read the Scriptures, the Lord will be their Guide and lead them into His truth, which alone will make them free (cp. Jn. 8:32). Finally, during these difficult days, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper who love thee” (Ps. 122:6).