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.”
As I look back, it wasn’t odd that my wife and I, both coming from very secular Jewish backgrounds would end up as we did. Her being raised in reformed Judaism and me as a humanist, meant that neither of us had much consciousness of Israel. Yet, longing to be as authentic as possible, like so many from our generation, we gravitated towards the hippie movement of the 60s.
In an attempt to live as pure and simple as it gets, we joined a commune with three other couples. Interestingly enough, almost all of us were Jewish. Our constant search for truth led us towards New Age, eastern mysticism and nature worship. Life without electricity, plumbing and all of its comforts seemed so perfect until a tragic event occurred, causing me, perhaps for the first time, to really cry out to God with every fiber of my being. A very close friend of mine had been violently murdered, and in my desperation to make sense of it all, God reached down to me after I called out to Him. It was just around the same time that a group of non-Jewish “Jesus freaks” arrived at our mountain commune up and began to share their faith with us. Unbeknownst to me, my wife and another woman, who lived together with us, had secretly prayed to accept their Messiah. It happened when I, along with another one of the members were out of town, doing some agricultural work, and so it wasn’t until we came back that we, too, heard, the way of salvation. At first, it didn’t hit home until they told us that Israel was connected to this message of redemption. This definitely piqued my interest, and, together with another Jewish commune member, we began to discuss the validity of these claims. Strangely enough, at that very moment, I had a vision where I saw a man with hands hanging out from both sides. I immediately knew it was this Jesus of whom I’d heard. He seemed to be in agony, and here I was at eye level, glaring into his eyes which spoke volumes to me. I felt him saying, “I see how desperate you are, how you’re constantly searching for truth, purity and yet coming up empty, failing at each turn. I’m here out of love.” At that moment, that was exactly what I felt – a supernatural type of love I’d never experienced – not in my endless studying, meditations or drug experimentation. This was something else, something new.
Just as I emerged from that vision, I could hear the words being spoken by these visitors, asking if my friend and I were ready to ask the Lord into our hearts. Right there and then, we knelt down on the dirt floor of our hut and accepted Yeshua into our hearts. It was just after that step when I found out that my wife and her friend had already done the same.
From there, we were invited to a Hispanic church whose members had been praying for us each time they saw us come into town from our mountain commune to buy supplies. Although the entire service was in Spanish, we could understand much of what was said since we’d lived in that southwest part of the U.S. for some time.
Two years later, we left the commune and settled in one of the cities in New Mexico where we were visited on a regular basis by a mature Jewish believer who spent time teaching us God’s word, praying with us and mentoring our lives. What a blessing that was!
Little by little, we came to understand the significance of being Jewish – not just as an accident of birth, but what it meant to be the chosen people and to live as God intended – observing His feasts and living out our heritage. A pivotal point for us was a Messianic conference which took place in the mid-70s. There, we heard a speaker from Israel, and I remember feeling in my heart that Israel would be my home, as God was confirming that it, indeed, was my destiny. In fact, I wrote it down alongside my notes.
It was over the course of the next 15-18 years that we would gain so much knowledge and develop the type of godly character which would eventually serve us once we would make that decision to leave and pursue the next chapter of our life.
I remember three events which precipitated our understanding that the time was approaching to finally leave. The first was the birth of our third child and our feeling the importance of his need to be educated in Israel from as early an age as possible. The second factor was coming to a realization of our need for financial support in order to float us for at least a year while I would be studying Hebrew, even though I had already begun to learn the language. The last holdup was waiting for our oldest son to complete his B.S. in civil engineering. Once all those factors came into play, we were off, along with the blessing of our home congregation who did agree to help us financially.
We chose to make our home in Haifa after having spent time there during a few prior visits and developing close relationships with other believers whom we felt would be a good support system for us. I also had heard about a brand new congregation in Mt. Carmel and wanted to be part of that effort.
In retrospect, I have to say that those early days after our move were not easy. There was a lot of struggle, culture deficit and feeling humiliated each time I attempted to speak this new language. Yet, we persevered, knowing that each day would get easier. Just three years later, which I believe is record time, I was able to start my own Hebrew-speaking congregation in an area not far from Haifa, as well as start my own business with another believer. Life was definitely improving, and I am also proud to say that the business was able to hire some Arab believers as well. There was a real feeling of accomplishment as well as solidarity with the Arab believing community.
I totally enjoyed serving as a congregational leader for 25 years but turned over the management to my son-in-law three years ago. These days, I am involved in counseling, teaching, writing and mentoring other congregational leaders. We have been blessed to help birth many other congregations and see the good fruit which has come from those efforts.
While I try to maintain a slightly slower pace these days, at age 72, I still am constantly busy. As the father of four, all of whom married Israelis, and the grandfather of 11, all born in Israel, life remains vibrant and full.
If anyone reading my personal story is contemplating a move to Israel, the best tips I could pass on would be:
- Learn Hebrew before you come. Once here, being able to communicate well in the language of the country is the greatest asset you can have.
- Establish connections and invest in relationships with other believers who can provide you with a good support system and emotional well-being.
- If you have children, try to come while they’re still young enough to make friends and start school at an early age.
- Once you do come, don’t be afraid to immerse yourself into Israeli society, its music, its culture, its celebrations and its people. Staying in an enclave of believers is not always the most effective way to live or feel part of the landscape.
- Have a well-organized financial plan in order to remain solvent and be able to provide well for yourself and/or your family.