“My friend here believes in Yeshua [Jesus]!”
Micah* was pointing directly at his good friend Sasha* while sharing the gospel with three Orthodox Jewish men near the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. It was Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). Micah’s conversation was taking place near the holiest site and on one of the holiest days for Orthodox Jews.
Sasha’s immediate thought was “Oh man, don’t say THAT to THEM!”
The danger of witnessing to Orthodox Jews
Sasha and Micah had been praying at the Western Wall when they both separately felt a strong urging to share the gospel with some of the many Orthodox men who regularly fill the courtyard to pray in front of the ancient temple’s outer wall.
Orthodox Jews make up around 20% of the population of Israel, but their influence on culture and politics is far greater than the percentage would suggest. It can be dangerous to witness for Messiah Yeshua among this highly conservative religious group that generally views Messianic Jews as traitors to both their nation and their faith.
Sasha argued with God, “This is not a good place to preach. This is the holiest place in Judaism. Anywhere else Lord, just not here!” But Micah, who had grown up as an Orthodox Jew, came to Sasha and shared the same strong calling to witness: “I have this feeling we are supposed to share the gospel with someone here.”
Sasha, fearful, asked his friend to leave with him, and they started walking out. But God was not ready to give up on Sasha or concede the opportunity.
“On our way out we saw three young Orthodox men. [Micah] started talking with them,” Sasha said. That’s when Micah pointed over to his friend.
The men were curious, though, and invited Micah and Sasha to come to their house and talk more about Yeshua. So they went. On the way Micah and Sasha shared how God had changed their hearts and lives through Yeshua.
A night of tough questions
The two young Messianic Jews were in for another surprise when they arrived at the house.
Twenty-five Orthodox men stood inside.
“As we came inside,” Sasha said, “one of the men who had invited us shouted out, ‘Guys, look who I brought with me…missionaries! They came to preach about Jesus.’ I thought, There will be a fight. How will we get out of here? But one of the group, a tall man dressed as an Ultra-Orthodox stood up and said, ‘Yeshua? Tell me about him. I’m curious.’”
Sasha and Micah learned that this place was a shelter for Orthodox Jews who were disillusioned with Judaism. Some even stopped believing in God. They live with two identities: this secret, disillusioned one and the public one their families and congregations see.
It was about 11 p.m. when they arrived, and the former Orthodox Jews immediately began asking tough theological questions. Sasha soon realized that they were far more knowledgeable than he was. It became painfully obvious to Sasha that he was not going to be able to adequately answer their questions while relying on his own wisdom.
Sasha told me that for the first hour, “They were killing me [with their learning]!”
Then in desperation he prayed, “God, I need your help! Please give me your wisdom.” Sasha became quiet for an hour and simply listened. Then he began to ask his own questions.
“Every question I asked them was like a bullet to their heart. They were shocked and began to melt inside as we shared the gospel of Yeshua with them.” Sasha and Micah continued to share with them until four in the morning. They had become so open to the gospel that some of them came close to accepting Yeshua as Messiah that very night.
This group could influence all of Israel
2 Corinthians 3:14–17 says, “But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
“If you just open your eyes you can see Yeshua throughout the Scriptures,” Sasha said. “Yet [the Orthodox] just don’t see it. Still, I am beginning to see the cover slowly beginning to fall from their eyes.
Afterward, Sasha learned that this community of ex-Orthodox numbers 40,000 in shelters all over the country.
“This was the first time I realized that these [ex-Orthodox] groups could impact the entire Orthodox community in Israel. And even secular Jews [the majority of Israelis] could be reached with the gospel.“
*Names have been changed for security reasons.
*Photo credited to Tom Gordon on Pixabay
In late October and early November of 2019, I traveled to Israel as part of an ANM/Comfort My People Israeli Advocacy Tour. Our team shared fellowship with many of ANM’s Messianic Jewish, Arab, and Ethiopian ministry partners in Israel, visited the major biblical and historical sites, and had our minds and hearts opened to the critical nature of what God is doing in this ancient and modern land.
Listening to and learning from these faithful followers of Yeshua (Jesus) was a transformative experience for me and I believe for many of our team. Following the tour I remained in Israel for several days to conduct interviews with eight of our partners for publication in 2020. The story above, related to me by a young Messianic Jewish man (whom I have renamed “Sasha” for security reasons), is the first in a series of posts based upon my interviews and observations during the trip.