One For Israel ministries, who run the Israel College of the Bible in Netanya, has set up a new department for Messianic soldiers in the Israeli army, called “Tzofen”—the code. Their vision is to strengthen, support and disciple Messianic youth during their military service.
So far they have published one introductory video on their Facebook page and YouTube channel, but they promise new videos every week with teaching tailored to the Messianic soldiers, to help soldiers be strong and rooted in their faith. The first devotional video is already up on the YouTube channel—”How to persevere in prayer during busy and stressful times.”
Military service is an integral part of Israeli society, which all citizens do, except the Arabs and the ultra-orthodox. It gives all Israelis a common point of reference, and it creates a camaraderie where people from different backgrounds and classes eat the same food and wear the same clothes.
On the one hand, this creates a strong togetherness and teaches Israelis to put differences aside and work together to protect our country. On the other hand, this is where the secular majority can influence religious minorities, such as Messianic Jews. Most Messianic soldiers are the only believers in their units, and they must stand up to tremendous pressures. Most of them can’t go home every Shabbat, so they miss out on congregation. A high percentage of Messianic youth lose their faith during their army service. Put another way—if they lose their faith at any time in life, they are most likely to do so during the army.
Tzofen declares that they wish to strengthen, teach, and build Messianic soldiers’ faith through biblical teachings. As for soldiers who are about to finish their service, Tzofen will strive to equip them for integration into Israeli civil society and into a local Messianic congregation.
Besides this, they will try to be a bridge between Messianic soldiers serving in different units in the army, or in sherut leumi (the civilian alternative), and to encourage them to be involved, influence and take initiatives in their local congregations, in the army, and in Israeli society.
In the introductory video, three young guys present the ministry in a light hearted humorous way. One suggests that they should make military videos where pastors from all over the country fight aliens with the sword of the spirit. “And also add some dinosaurs who worship God.”
After dismissing that idea, they promise short new devotional videos once every week intended to help soldiers in their daily walk with the spirit. “Things we ourselves learned during our military service which we think will encourage you and challenge you to walk with Yeshua.”
At the end of the video they stress: “This is not an alternative to a local congregation. It can’t replace full length sermons, nor your time alone with the Lord. We only intend it to strengthen your faith during this phase of life.”
Matan Ohana, one of the three who appear in the video, says to Kehila News that the goal of this new department is to disciple the Messianic soldiers. This will be done directly through this media channel and by organizing conferences. But it will also be done indirectly by equipping and teaching youth leaders in Israeli congregations how to engage with soldiers, targeting the specific challenges that soldiers face.
The first large conference for Israeli Messianic soldiers will take place in February 2020.