Protests have rekindled recently in southern Israel outside a new Messianic meeting center that re-opened up in the center of Dimona earlier this month.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews protested outside the center and even threatened some of the people there, months after they also demonstrated outside the homes of believers in Dimona connected to the center, damaging their home and traumatizing the children who live there.
Albert and Esther Knoester updated Kehila News Israel regarding the current wave of attacks and both the positive and negative aspects of the attention it has brought. Albert is an elder at Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua’s Inheritance) congregation in Beersheba.
KNI: What sort of center did you open in Dimona and where exactly?
The place is meant to be a meeting place, a place where people can walk in, sit down, have a cup of coffee or tea and can chat. Several media called it “a Mission Post.” Others wrote about a place where it was preached that “Jews had to convert to Christianity.” Others wrote that it was a place where a congregation had their services. Now we are NOT ashamed of the gospel! But this place is not intended to be a “Mission Post” but a place of meeting. Approximately half a year ago this place was opened. But because we soon experienced severe opposition, we decided to close this place temporarily (in order not to add oil on the fire). In the beginning of January this year, we re-opened a few mornings/afternoons per week. The problems start again.
KNI: You have experienced opposition in the past in Dimona. What sort of reactions have occurred since you opened this center?
Both, very positive as well as negative reactions. Because of all the negative attention we received in the local news papers, people came to us to talk with us also about what we believe. Some of them had never ever talked with Christians. It caused severe reactions from others. We had a “Sanhedrin” coming to our home. With a number of rabbis we were interrogated for some hours. The first religious leader who entered the house screamed: “Where is the cross?! Where is the cross?! And where is Jesus on the wall?! I can only see the 12 tribes of Israel and the gates of Jerusalem on the wall and a big Menorah!”
He was completely confused. After a time of cooling down they started the issues against us.
The first point was the Tanach. We allegedly have a different Tanach (Old Testament), than they have.
Our Tanach was searched and they reluctantly had to admit that it was a real Tanach.
The next point of examination was: The New Testament would have been written by Christians. Esther remarked: “Dear gentlemen, Matthew, Mark, John and Peter were not Christians but Jews!” One of the men demanded: “Give us a New Testament.” That in itself was remarkable, for quite a number of Jewish people are afraid to be struck by lightning, when they touch the New Testament. The New Testament was handed from one to another. And the last rabbi apparently was so fascinated that during more than 15 minutes he deepened himself in the reading of the beginning of the gospel of Matthew.
Then came the next “attack.” One rabbi said: “You are a komer (priest), for you read the Bible, and you try to explain the Bible in this house, but you are not at all capable to understand it. For the Bible is just like an ocean. You are able to ‘sniff’ a bit at the surface but we can go for the deep.”
I asked Esther for my Bible and read the first couple of verses of Psalm 23: “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” I said: “Maybe this is too deep for me. Maybe I understand nothing of this, but with this we can live and with this we can die.”
Then they questioned Esther: “What do you think of it when people spit at you and they are they throw stones at you?” Esther replied with a quote from that same Psalm: “You will prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
At the end of the gathering we agreed that we would (temporarily) close the “Open House” and together with the “religious leaders” we would continue our conversation what place the “Open House” should get in the community. Their eyes full of hatred did not predict much good, but from that moment onwards the situation only worsened.
One day later, one of the rabbis wrote in a local news paper: “We went to that house in order to silence them by force, but that woman would not stop talking! She should know about that other verse of Psalm 23: about the valley of the shadow of death. Let her go through it, together with her husband.”
Also there were many made up stories in the various media the following days. We were accused of bribing people. We would give someone in Dimona a car to try to make him a Christian. We would put a powder in someone’s coffee to change Jews into Christians. We coerce Jews to give up their faith by force. We spread evangelistic materials, etc. etc.
Because they are unable to charge us, and unable to find anything against us, another weapon is used instead: lies, gossip, changing facts and blackmail. There are pictures of us in the city center with severe warnings. Also big posters on billboards with nasty texts have been put up. The people are warned to watch out and protect their children against us.
Really all tools are being used. When we were in the Town Hall for a meeting, Esther suddenly noticed that they were taking a film of us through a small hatch in the wall.
Not long after this meeting demonstrations started to take place in front of our house. A call was put out on Facebook and we were visited by Yad L’achim. Then also a number of our windows were smashed, and yet more other damage was done to the house.
But together with the opposition also comes the blessing! All things work out for good! After having been indoors for over a week ( for fear of the Jews), we decided to walk to the town center. Suddenly there was a shout: “Bo, (come)! Do you want a drink?” And there we suddenly sat on a terrace between the people. After 15 minutes someone said: “You know, I am a Jew. But I do not believe in God. After what my family has experienced in the second World War, I can no longer believe in God.” But… he said: “I see that God is with you!” Esther said: “One day God will also open your eyes.” These words touched him deeply as we could see. Quite a number of “ordinary people” are feeling ashamed of what is being done to us.
We receive invitations from people to come over and have a coffee with them. We had at least six times an opportunity to explain to a rabbi why we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, (as a result of the question to us: Why do you belief that Jesus is the Messiah?). Please pray that God will reveal Himself to the people with whom we are in contact and that they will come to believe in Yeshua the true Messiah.
KNI: Was this sort of reaction something that you were expecting? How did you prepare for it?
On the one hand we did not expect this. During the past years we have build up a good relationship with the people of Dimona. They know who we are. Actually that has never been a problem.
On the other hand we did expect it. We know that our Lord did not promise us a “picnic” here on earth but he said: In this world you will suffer persecution, but be of good cheer, for I have conquered/ overcome the world.” And actually it cannot be otherwise: where (the) light meets (the) darkness, there will be resistance.
Concerning the preparation: we did not really prepare ourselves for this. But God Himself in His great mercy prepared us. One day before these difficulties started, the Lord spoke to us in a special way through His word. His Word really is “ living and powerful”!
KNI: Has there been any physical harm or damage done to people or property?
As I told you before, some windows were broken and some damage was done to our house. And because we bent down at the right moment we were not hit by stones thrown at us. But apart from this damage there was also psychological trauma to one of the families in Dimona. Due to the demonstrations and also because their house was damaged by stones. But also through bullying etc., their two young daughters were traumatized by what had happened and they needed psychological help.
KNI: How can the body of Messiah support you in this?
We are happy with the support we have received until now from brothers and sisters who encourage us with e-mail and/or who come to visit us.
Prayer remains the most important. Pray for the politics. The Apostle Paul writes that we should pray for “kings and all who are in authority, so that we may have a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” Pray that justice will be done in Dimona, in the Negev and throughout the whole country. Pray also for the spiritual leaders. That those who now scoff and smear the Name of the Lord Jesus will open their hearts and confess Him.
The prophet Isaiah says: “I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants and My blessing on your offspring.” Please pray for the fulfilling of these words! God is good and we want to follow Him in what HE has for us here in Dimona. Pray without ceasing and thank God in everything and “pray on our behalf, that utterance may be given to us in the opening of our mouth, to make known the mystery of the gospel with boldness for which we are ambassadors in ‘chains.’” (Eph. 6:19)
KNI: Anything you like to add?
First of all, nobody knows what the near future will look like. It is important to be prepared for what is to come. As Paul writes: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armour of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of darkness.”
Another important thing is: Do not be focused overtly on the demonstrations, throwing of stones, abusive words. Before we realize it we lose our “Focus.” Let us be focused on Jesus the Apostle and High Priest of our confession (Hebrews 3).
Our Father in Heaven will fulfill His plan. Against all odds He will also cause Jews to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord.
And last but not least: pray for the persecuted Church. In several countries churches were burned down in the past year, brothers and sisters were persecuted because of their faith. At least 3,000 people were killed last year for their faith in Jesus. We would like to say to everybody; Whatever circumstances we are in, through whatever difficulties we have to go through, “Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the One who laid the foundation of our faith: the author and perfecter of our faith: Thinking about the joy that was laid before Him, He was not deterred by the shame of the cross.” (Hebrews 12).