In memory of Hanan Lukatz: ‘A shepherd with a great heart for the flock of the Messiah’

Hanan Lukatz (Photo courtesy)

Hanan Lukatz, a beloved leader in the Messianic Body of the Messiah in Israel, has gone to be with the Lord at the age of 74. He was the director of the MJAI, the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel, an elder in the congregation “Beit Chesda” in Haifa, and he was on the committee of many Messianic organizations and ministries, and dearly beloved by all. He leaves behind a wife, seven adult children and eleven grandchildren.

As the director of the MJAI he initiated and arranged conferences for pastors and leaders which enabled a general cooperation among congregations in Israel. Since there are no local denominations among the Messianic congregations in Israel, and the country is small, the cooperation and the connections that this organization enabled were vital for the healthy development and enrichment of the Body of the Messiah. It helped many small congregations to not having to reinvent the wheel and to establish contact with the wider body.

“He will be remembered as a shepherd with a great heart for the flock of the Messiah. Many testified that Hanan was like a father to them,” Johnny Khoury, one of the elders of Beit Chesda congregation, told KNI. “Some of his work was public and in daylight, but a lot of his work was done alone in prayer far from the public eye. He was a man of prayer. He also had great courage. He took initiatives for large projects, which he dared to do because of his strong faith and prayer life. I really learned from him that faith also requires courage.”

Under Lukatz’ direction, the MJAI established a charity fund for believers in economic distress, and another fund which provides low-interest loans for Israeli believers for mortgages. Many believers got “off their feet” economically and could stay in Israel thanks to Lukatz’ efforts.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in Israel who touched more lives than he,” said Shmuel Aweida, pastor of Beit Eliyahu congregation in Haifa.

Hanan Lukatz took the initiative to turn the old British military cemetery in Haifa into a Messianic cemetery, open for anyone from the Messianic community in Haifa who has gone to be with the Lord. He is now buried in that very cemetery. “He established the non-profit that keeps the cemetery, and it’s such a blessing and an asset for the Body,” Aweida said. “With a heavy heart, I had to lead his funeral, after having arranged many funerals together with him.”

Hanan Lukatz (Photo courtesy)

Lukatz’ parents were Holocaust survivors from Poland, and he was born in Italy while they were fleeing through Europe on their way to Israel. He also died unexpectedly in Italy while on vacation with his sons-in-law. It was the first time he visited Italy since his birth in 1948.

“It was a Shabbat, and they called me first,” Aweida recalled. “It was just 30 minutes before our service was supposed to start, and one of his daughters was practicing with the worship team and his youngest daughter just arrived. I had to give them the difficult news, and ask someone else to take over leading the service while we brought the sad news to their mother and siblings.”

Many people and leaders are still in shock and miss him immensely. “We used to have a prayer meeting every Wednesday, and now it’s without him,” Aweida said. “His corner on the sofa in my office is still vacant.”

“He was a dear friend, a man of God. We know he is in a better place, but we will miss him a lot,” Avi Mizrachi, director of Dugit Messianic Outreach Center and pastor of Kehilat Adonai Roi, told KNI.

“He expressed his love for God and his word through practical deeds,” Khoury told KNI. “He cared for peoples’ needs and took initiatives on how to help practically. In the early 90s he had a special heart for the new immigrants from the former Soviet, and arranged for employment for them, and direct practical help for their needs. He was an example of always visiting people’s homes and calling people asking how they were doing. He cared for his flock.”

In Khoury’s eulogy for Lukatz, he compared him to Nehemia. “He was a practical man. He made things happen. He initiated, fundraised, and worked to execute projects on a national level. Hanan contributed to the cooperation we see today among the different congregations. The projects he was involved in are still blessing the Body of the Messiah in Israel, both personally, like the funds for economic help, and generally, like the MJAI conferences. Many of us remember these conferences as special and unifying, like the Shavuot conferences, the music conferences which enriched our worship repertoire, and the festivals which many of us looked forward to. These events contributed in so many ways to congregational cooperation at large, and created opportunities for brothers and sisters in the Messiah to meet which might never have met one another otherwise. It also gave a stage to the talents with which God has blessed our congregations with.”

A great pillar of the Body of the Messiah has thus gone to be with the Lord. But we rejoice knowing he is with him, and that we will see him again.

“As believers, we are all in a race,” Khoury said, “but we never know when our finish line will appear. Sometimes it’s just behind the corner. So what is important is to finish it with full vigor, with the head up, towards heaven. Not to get the fastest time, but the best service within the time God has given us. Hanan did everything in his might to use his time to serve, and there is no doubt he has now received the crown that will last forever. He truly loved God with all his heart, and for him, ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted from the world.’” (James 1:27)

I want to finish with two quotes by Lukatz from a speech he gave to a pastors’ conference arranged by the MJAI in 2004:

“We are children of Abraham in faith, and children of Abraham in the flesh. This uniqueness ought not to fill us with pride, but humility and fear of God.”

“We are not to see our own people as an enemy or threat against us because of the resistance in Israel against Yeshua and the gospel. No, we must see them as the Lord saw them: As a field ready for harvest, as chicks which the hen wants to gather under her wings, as the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”