“Your ancient ruins shall be REBUILT, you shall RAISE UP the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the REPAIRER of the breach, the RESTORER of streets to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:12
The Lord promised that Israel would become an agent of restoration. Israel, once restored, would repair broken things, rebuild ancient foundations, and prepare a dwelling place for many – and ultimately, for the Lord Himself.
This covenant promise is at the heart of Congregation Return to Zion (Hebrew: Shavei Tzion).
Launched in 2001, Return to Zion embraces the bold vision to “restore faith in Yeshua in Israel in our days”. They are a Messianic community of faith firmly established on the foundations of God’s word, intentionally raising up the next generation, and restoring dignity and hope to many.
The very essence of His name resounds from the foundations of this beautiful land, its people, and history. Yet still, less than 1% of Israel’s population profess faith in the name of Yeshua. They remain, statistically, an unreached people. Yet, they long for a Messiah they do not know.
Restoring faith in Yeshua is indeed the greatest need in Israel today.
A Vision to Return to Zion
Pastor Leon Mazin, the energetic and visionary leader of Return to Zion, is brimming with compassion for people and passion for God. He was 21 years old when he immigrated to Israel with his parents. It was a season of mass migration from the former Soviet Union, when thousands of Russian Jews uprooted their lives and came home – to Israel.
Here he met his wife Nina. Together with their family and a growing faith community, they are paving a pathway towards restored hope for many in Haifa and throughout Israel.
In the beginning, Return to Zion consisted mostly of new Russian-speaking immigrants, struggling to make ends meet and integrate into a new culture and society. Today, the Messianic congregation reflects Haifa’s panoply of diversity. They are a variegated group of Hebrew and Russian-speakers who converge over faith in Yeshua and the shared vision to see countless more come to know Him.
As a community of many former immigrants, they are well acquainted with the abundant challenges of making Israel home. And so, they help to prepare a safe dwelling place for many. It is no wonder that people feel at home in the congregation.
Return to Zion helps new immigrants navigate the practical first steps of securing basic life needs such as subsistence, safety, security, and belonging. They provide humanitarian aid and genuine care and compassion to needy families, refugees arriving from Ukraine, and Holocaust Survivors.
The Long Journey Towards Restoration
Restoring faith in the name of Yeshua in Israel can be tedious and results often tarry, especially among Holocaust Survivors. The Jewish people have experienced so much antisemitism throughout history, sadly, from many who claimed the name of Jesus (Yeshua).
There are still so many barriers.
Once Pastor Mazin asked a Holocaust Survivor if he believed in God. The reply? “My God died in Auschwitz.”
Restoring the honor and beauty of His name, to even help them see that Yeshua was Jewish, takes faithful love, much prayer, and time.
“In Israel, you cannot be proud of numbers,” says Mazin. “Many of the measuring gauges of success simply don’t translate here. It’s slow work.”
“Evangelistic campaigns are absolutely different here. If you want to speak about the Bible you should understand how Jewish people speak about the Scriptures. If you want to speak about the deity of Messiah, you should know how to show it from a Hebrew perspective. You have to know the Hebrew Scriptures and something about the Jewish perspective.”
But slowly slowly, they are seeing fruit. The loving community of believers at Return to Zion helps to bridge the gap – to repair the breach.
Raising the Foundations of Many Generations
They are a Spirit-empowered community, rooted in the beautiful traditions of a Jewish lifestyle, imbued in the light of Yeshua’s saving work.
“You shall call your walls salvation and your gates praise.” Isaiah 60:18
Part of raising the “foundations of many generations” involves building intentionally today in order to secure a strong future tomorrow. Return to Zion is actively empowering the next generation, helping them lay a strong foundation of faith and excel in their God-granted giftings.
The Rainbow of Sounds, a professional worship and arts school launched by Return to Zion, reaches hundreds of children and families within the secular communities of Haifa each week. They are actively raising up a generation of skilled musicians, worshippers, and creative artists to glorify God.
Being a young adult in this generation is hard enough without the added stress of compulsory military service. Sadly, the challenges, temptations, and trauma that many young believers face during their 2-3 years in the Israeli army provoke many to leave the faith.
Return to Zion addresses these needs directly through intentional discipleship, pastoral care, and equipping initiatives.
Through Eagle Project, a ministry to soldiers, Return to Zion actively keeps the pipeline of faith flowing from generation to generation. And through Haifa Theological Institute, they build upon the solid foundation of truth to raise up a new generation of leaders in Israel.
Hope For the Task Remaining
The work of restoring the name of Yeshua is not always easy. Israel is very secular, and there are many challenges. With an air of humor, Mazin says, “The main difficulty in pastoral work is people. The Lord told Ezekiel that He would gather us from among the nations and bring us into our own land, that He would cleanse us from filthiness and idols” (Ezekiel 36:24-25).
Amen. But that takes work, and time.
As a pioneer and first generation Israeli, Mazin is no stranger to hard work. And he has great faith in the arising generation of Israeli believers. They are genuinely making an impact on their generation. They are well-equipped for the task at hand.
By the grace of God, our children will see many return to Zion and restored faith in the name of Yeshua in Israel today. To this we say, “Yes and Amen!”
This article originally appeared on FIRM and is reposted with permission.