Messianic believers in the land also have inspiring and even miraculous stories to tell about moving here. Hence we are delighted to present a new feature in Kehila News, “Why I Chose to Make Israel My Home.”
At the end of May, 2020 it will be nine years since my Aliyah to this land. Even after all this time, I find myself catching my breath as I look out at the view behind my apartment. I live in Jerusalem, but, on a clear day, I can see the Dead Sea and the Jordanian mountains. At times, I can just be walking down the street and the miracle of living in the City of our Great King almost knocks me over. It is so absolutely surrealistic!
So how did I choose to come to this beautiful land? Well, I honestly have to say that I didn’t. God chose it for me, but that only happened once I became fully submitted to what the Lord had for me. That meant leaving behind my ideas of what life should look like. For me, that was life in a little cottage, hidden away in a remote area of the United States where deer would wander up to the porch to graze. It certainly wasn’t Israel! Incredibly, as I look back, Israel wasn’t even on my radar.
While I was searching for the perfect, cozy little cottage in which to retire, the Lord began to call me to Israel, but it wasn’t even the beginning.
One day, while reading God’s Word, I found this verse:
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Messiah Yeshua before the world began. . . .” 2 Timothy 1:8-9
Incredible! I wondered who could keep such an awesome secret from someone they loved that long? I’d be bursting to tell them!
About the time I was four, we had moved and my Jewish mother, already a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, visited a new church with me as back in those days there were no Messianic congregations to attend. After the service, she met the pastor on the front steps to shake his hand and to introduce herself. Without encouragement, I boldly proclaimed, “Hi! I’m Jewish!” To which the pastor responded, “Well, of course, you are dear!” I’m sure that by the time he got home, he was still shaking his head in confusion. There wasn’t much talk about Jew and gentile being one in the faith in those days.
The next interesting event occurred while I was still in elementary school. I picked up a penny and another child yelled out, “Jew!” Deep inside, I knew my ethnicity, but, not understanding the meaning, I thought, “Yes, I’m Jewish, so what?”
The third experience was in my early 30’s when I decided to perm my very straight hair. When I arrived home I looked in the mirror and saw that, for the first time, I really looked Jewish.
After moving in the year 2000 from one city to another in California, I began to check out some of the gentile congregations in the area. None of them seemed right for me until I was reminded that there was a Messianic Congregation in Irvine which I had visited with a friend years before. It was there that I first heard about “appointed times of the Lord.”
It was then that I began to re-read the scriptures from a Jewish perspective since, up until then, I’d been taught from a gentile point of view. I began to question things like keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat, wearing a head covering, etc. After much prayer, though, I realized that these things were not necessary for salvation since the New Covenant which God made with us was one of the heart and not one based on tradition. Jeremiah 31:31-33.
It was around this time that my mother died, following the death of my father years before. It was my task to liquidate the estate. While going through the house, I was absolutely astounded when I found a special box tucked away in a corner. The contents contained my father’s Bar Mitzvah items. He was not one to speak about His Jewishness, as he had left Judaism as a young adult and had become secular. But now, neatly packed away in the box I found a velvet bag with my dad’s name embroidered on it in Hebrew.
In addition I found his tallit (prayer shawl), tefillin (the leather straps that men wind around their left arm, closest to their heart and on their foreheads), and finally, his Torah scroll was there as well. As I gazed in shock at these precious items, that I had no clue existed, I felt the Lord speaking very distinctly to my heart, “These are your roots.“
A few months later, I took my son on a trip to the East Coast, and we stopped in Virginia to see a friend and attend his Messianic synagogue. Months later, I read in their newsletter about a group of Messianic Jews from their congregation who had been denied citizenship to Israel because of their faith in Yeshua. As I continued to read, it stated that they appealed the decision, which was then reversed by the Israeli Supreme Court granting them citizenship. Once again I heard the Lord’s voice softly speaking to me. “This is for you.” I’m not sure, however, that I was ready to hear that.
Nonetheless, sensing that the Lord wanted me to check out the land of Israel, I began to pray about it, specifically asking three questions:
- What would I do there?
- How long would I be there?
- Could I be in Jerusalem on my soon-approaching birthday?
Weeks later I heard of a congregational leader from Acco who needed help for his family while he was in the U.S. on a speaking tour. All three of my questions to the Lord were answered. For three and a half weeks I would be able to help out with light housework and picking up the children from school. I would arrive in Acco the day after my birthday. I couldn’t believe how specific the answers were to my prayers! The Lord had also graciously given me an evening and a day in Jerusalem for my birthday and once there, He also provided me with a personal guide – an Orthodox woman who lived in the city whom I had met on the plane. Amazing!
Once I returned home I began to pray and wonder if that had just been a trip to experience Israel and to have a more personal encounter with God or was it a trial run in order to really consider making Aliyah? I came across the scripture in Genesis 12:1 where the Lord tells Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family . . . to a land that I will show you.” In Hebrew “Lech Lecha.” He was clearly speaking to me just as He had to Abram. Yet, I needed another confirmation as this was a really big step! Surprisingly, I began to read about the story of Stephen being stoned in the book of Acts. There, he reiterated the history of the Jews to them and quoted this very same passage (Acts 7:3). I had read that story hundreds of times and never picked up on it, but I still asked for one more confirmation. After receiving it, I was ready to surrender, knowing I’d heard correctly. However, I still had to get all my documents in order to prove my Jewish roots.
My task began with obtaining my grandmother’s death certificate, showing she was buried in a Jewish cemetery. The death certificate had my father’s signature on it, proving he was her Jewish son. I was able to obtain pictures of my grandparents’ headstones. Miraculously, I found a Rabbi who was willing to look at my documents. Coincidentally, his grandparents were buried in the same cemetery as mine. He provided me with a letter attesting to my Jewishness.
Although there was a long delay of several months in getting approved, looking back I know this was a time of testing from the Lord and with His help, I passed. I had to keep reminding myself that if He called me, then He would take care of my approval.
A year after living in Israel I flew back to California to visit friends and family. As I stood in the doorway of my friend’s home, looking out over the magnificently landscaped neighborhood, so different than Jerusalem. I realized, then and there, I had fallen in love with Israel, and it truly was home as well as the desire of my heart, even without the deer.