23 Feb


No president in the history of the United States has given as much power and influence to Evangelical Christians than President Donald Trump. The decadent playboy from New York has steadily appointed self-described devout Christians, such as Mike Pence, Nikki Haley and Rex Tillerson, to the most influential positions in the US government, almost – some would say – to the complete exclusion of non-Evangelicals.

Many people struggle to understand the relationship between these strange bedfellows. It does not appear the president has undergone some sort of personal religious conversion over the past few years. It is more likely that Trump simply recognizes that these hard-core conservative Christians were some of the only serious leaders who refused to join the “Never Trump” movement within the Republican establishment during the elections. In other words, he may not have had a choice, forced to choose from the only qualified candidates left standing in his pool of potential appointees.

The effect of Evangelical Christians on President Trump’s Middle East policy cannot be overstated. It is clearly evident that his declaration to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was not due to pressure from American Jewish community or even Israel’s Foreign Ministry. This bold step to break with a 50-year-old status quo is due to one reality alone: the president’s desire to make good on his campaign promise to the crowd of his most staunch supporters.

The support of the Evangelical Christian community has always been helpful to Israel. During the intifada years, when tourism was at its lowest, the Evangelical tour buses kept Israel’s tourism economy alive. They have literally donated billions of dollars over the past decade to social and humanitarian projects, through organizations such as the International Christian Embassy and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. There is no question that the socioeconomic resilience of the State of Israel would be quite weaker without its faithful Christian friends.

It is important to recognize that with the new power enjoyed by Evangelicals on Capitol Hill, they are no longer just helpful for Israel’s economic prosperity. They are essential for its security. From UN ambassador Haley’s insistence on treating Israel with equanimity at the UN, including her willingness to use her veto powers at the Security Council, to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s vigilance in scrutinizing the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement, Israel is very fortunate its Christian friends are fulfilling such positions today.

Not surprisingly, the strongest allies and best friends of Evangelical Christians in Israel are Israel’s Messianic Jews – Jews who, contrary to popular opinion, insist that one can believe in Jesus and still remain Jewish. In fact, these two communities are virtually inseparable. It would be quite challenging to find any significant business or NGO in Israel that is funded by Christians, which does not have local Messianic Jews in its executive leadership. This would include Christian television networks such as TBN, CBN and GodTV, which broadcast content from Israel every day to billions of viewers worldwide. Go to any large gathering of Evangelical tourists in Israel, and you are likely to find Israeli Messianic Jews both on stage and in the crowd.

It is interesting to note that even in the White House, Messianic Jews have made their way into President Trump’s inner circle along with their Evangelical friends. The president’s personal lawyer and trusted confidant, Jay Sekulow, is a Messianic Jew who became famous in Evangelical circles for defending the freedom of expression of Jews for Jesus before the Supreme Court of the United States.

It would behoove the Israeli government to recognize that the small Messianic Jewish community in Israel, which apparently numbers less than 20,000 people, has become, since the election of Donald Trump, disproportionately influential and important to Israel’s security and diplomatic standing. Unfortunately, it appears that neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nor anyone in his Cabinet, fully understands this new reality.

Indeed, the Interior Ministry still seems to take pride in preventing Messianic Jews from immigrating to Israel. In the recent well-known case of Rebecca Floer, a Jewish daughter of Holocaust survivors was prevented from immigrating under the Law of Return because the ministry claimed it had reason to believe she was affiliated with the Messianic Jewish community.

In view of the deep relationship between Evangelical Christians and the Messianic community, perhaps the government of Israel should start viewing Messianic Jews as diplomatic assets rather than a religious threat.

When any descendant of Jews submits an immigration request to the Interior Ministry today, assuming that they have provided the basic documents required, including proof of their Jewish heritage, their file is immediately transferred to the Aliya Department of the Jewish Agency. The Jewish Agency then proceeds to carry out an in-depth background search, including investigating the applicant’s Google profile up to its 200th page, and if any connection is found between them and Messianic Judaism or Christianity, their aliya request is summarily denied. This practice has already been noted and critiqued by the annual Freedom of Religion Report of the US State Department. The question is if this procedure is really necessary. Apparently, it is not implemented against any other Jewish immigrants including those who may adhere to Reform Judaism, Atheism, Buddhism, Scientology or Hinduism.

I believe that by embracing the Evangelical community on one hand, and stabbing their Messianic Jewish friends in the back with the other, the Israeli government is playing with fire. Will the discriminatory practice of Israel toward Messianic Jews ever harm its relationship with the Evangelical Christians? Perhaps not, but do we really want to take that chance?

The author is director general of Rav Tikshoret. He was formerly a journalist for Yediot Aharonot and a spokesman of the Labor Party.

ITZHAK RABIHIYA in Jerusalem Post

12 Feb


For the first time in the history of modern Israel, a faith-based film on Yeshua the Messiah has been produced and premiered in theaters across Israel. “A New Spirit” tells the true story of Yacov Damkani, once a local gangster from a poverty-stricken town in Israel, who fled to the United States and was introduced to Yeshua as his Messiah.

Damkani was discipled in singer Keith Green’s community in the 70’s and his life was turned completely upside down. He returned home and became Israel’s pioneer messenger on the streets of Israel, boldly preaching the Good News to curious onlookers and furious ultra-Orthodox Jews … and does so to this day.

The movie premiered in December 2017 at the famous Tel Aviv Cinematheque to an audience of hundreds of enthusiastic movie-goers. Many billboards and posters displaying “A New Spirit” were plastered on the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and surrounding cities. In addition, the most popular Israeli evening news program dedicated over 13 minutes of prime time to cover the movie.

The film has already won Best Actor and Cinematography awards in the Boston International Festival and Best Actor in the Madrid Film Festival—each with about 200 film entries. The Israel Press Council gave the film an “inspirational acting” award.

Doron Eran, who produced and directed the movie, is a well-known Israeli filmmaker in the business for 25 years. He has made some sixty films, including features, TV dramas, and documentaries.

Link to order DVD


Three years ago, he met Yacov Damkani when asked to do a forty-minute documentary on the Messianic Community in Israel. He interviewed ten Israelis, and one of them was Yacov. The interview lasted only a few minutes, but then Yacov gave him the book of his life story called “Why Me?” When Doron read it, he said to himself, “This is a Hollywood movie!”

Doron admits he did not anticipate the strong backlash he would receive from fellow Israelis. He explains that he has always made films of a controversial nature.

“I am used to dealing with tough subjects. I want to wake up society. One of the most-viewed movies I made was about the circumcision of girls in the Israeli Bedouin community. In fact, most of my films deal with social subjects. Many are afraid to say anything—even when they see blatant injustice.”

But this film about Yacov’s discovery of Yeshua is a plunge into controversy deeper than anything this film producer had ever done. “When people on the street recognize me,” says Doron, “they are extremely critical of this film. They tell me that the film is great—but that’s the problem! It is dangerous for Jewish people to see,” he relates.


Doron continues, “They shout at me, ‘You are not a Jew anymore! You are a Christian! You are a missionary! You have betrayed your own people!’ When I answer them that Yeshua was a Jew, they don’t like it at all,” he says.

“This has been the weirdest experience I have ever had.” He explains, “Our present government has been very wise in dealing with all the diplomatic and military traps set to bring our nation down.” “But,” he says, “internally I have watched the government allow the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) to take control of the soul of our nation. I feel the dictatorship of the Haredim.”

“It is a religious dictatorship. They are brainwashing our nation. Now I am called a missionary. I am no longer a Jew. It is scary and I am disappointed. I was born a Jew and I will die a Jew.”


Instead of letting the rejection discourage him, he shows his strength of character by looking into the future. “Israel is going to need ten films about Yeshua before they begin to absorb the truth!” he concludes.

“I got a call from someone who saw the film, and he told me, ‘You are before your time,’” Doron remarked. Nevertheless, he believes this movie must be seen by Israelis. “Everyone who views this film will have the opportunity to see things from a completely different point of view. They just have to see it!”

Before he met Yacov, Doron acknowledges he didn’t know anything about Yeshua. In school he did learn Yeshua was born a Jew, but that was it. Doron explains, “I didn’t know that He lived as a Jew and died as a Jew. I was told He was a Christian. We didn’t talk about him as ‘our Yeshua the Jew,’ but ‘their (the gentiles’) Jesus Christ.’”

“It has been for me a three-year process. I am reading the New Testament; I am going deep into the learning process. I’m a student!” Doron confirms.

I reminded him that in Hebrew the word student is talmid. Talmid [pronounced talMEED] is the word Yeshua used for his followers. In the New Testament talmid is the word for disciple.


Doron related a conversation he encountered the day before in a thirty-minute radio interview: “They asked me, ‘Why did you need to make a film about Yeshua? Why put him in our religious mix?’”

“My answer was this: The Habad movement around the world is very popular. They are ultra-Orthodox Jews who are usually happy and kind, and they offer a lot of humanitarian help to Jews around the world. They are well thought of.

“Yet when their Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, died in 1994, they buried him in a grave in Queens, New York. The site is visited by some 50,000 Jews a year. However, many of his followers absolutely believe he is not in that grave. His body is no longer there. One day, they say, he will come ‘back to Israel and reign as messiah’—even though his feet never touched the Holy Land while he was alive.

“This is a very strange belief for most Israelis, but it’s OK, they think. But when it comes to Yeshua, there is a total double standard. They declare you cannot be a Jew and believe in Yeshua.”

Even the actors in the film have had lengthy conversations with each other and with Doron. They said to him, “Didn’t you know that people would be angry with you?”

The lead actor, Imri Biton, has also found himself in an unusual position. He is often verbally attacked, and queried if he is now a Christian. He responds, “Look what Yeshua did for Yacov. He was a gangster. When he believed in Yeshua, he became a new person. These Messianic Jews are telling their own Truth. As a professional actor, I can join them.”

Imri added that as a professional actor he was ready to do the film because he believed in the integrity of the people he was working with. He believed in Doron his producer, and in Yacov Damkani.


Doron Eran, Producer and Director of “A New Spirit.”

Doron admits many Israelis see him as naïve. “But,” he responds, “I am a director who deeply believes that film is the most powerful instrument invented in the last 100 years and is able to change the world’s thinking.”

“Hollywood changed everything,” he says. “They can sell anything. I want to utilize this medium to change peoples’ thinking.” He continues, “One day I was walking down Dizzengoff Street (in Tel Aviv) and a couple of owners of a coffee house came out and said, ‘We have been talking about this film for three days!’ This is what I want to hear!”

“I have followed the fights on Facebook as a result of this movie. I estimate 70% of the posts are negative and 30% positive. Again, my aim is to convince people to think.”


Doron truly laments the corruption and greed for power that he sees everywhere. “As I study the New Testament, I think about the Jerusalem of Yeshua’s time on earth. The politicians were corrupt. The religious leaders were corrupt. Yeshua was determined to challenge that corruption.

“Today it is the same. If Yeshua were in Jerusalem today, he would be confronting the evil that exists with our leaders.”

Doron speaks of the original goals of the early pioneers who came to Israel to build an honest and principled new nation. “My father was one of two people who established Kibbutz Manara on the Lebanese border. He would never have dreamed that in this new state for Jewish people, the Prime Minister would one day be imprisoned for corruption. A President would be imprisoned for rape. The Minister of Finance would go to jail for stealing money that belonged to Holocaust survivors. The Communications Minister would also be put in jail for thievery.

“Even today,” this film maker says softly, “our government is buried in corruption investigations. It’s the same as it was in Yeshua’s time on earth.”

There is no mistake in acknowledging that Doron Eran is Israel’s most unusual film producer/director in Israel today. And he is certainly the most courageous voice among those in the Israeli film industry—by far.


Link to order DVD

04 Feb



Yes, it is not a path of roses to believe in the Jewish Messiah here in Israel, but we can only praise God for doing mighty things in our midst, giving us opportunities to share His glorious Gospel in ways we could not even dream of a few years ago, opening the eyes of many, revealing Himself to the elect and giving His disciples the strength and courage to endure. Please pray for more boldness, more courage… more genuine love for our Lord and Saviour, King of Kings – Yeshua!

The now internationally recognized “World Watch List” calls out the worst 50 countries for persecuting followers of Jesus each year. It should be no surprise that the top spot is held by North Korea, the same as it has been for the last seventeen years. Open Doors, the organization that compiles the list, says,

“Each year, the World Watch List provides a searing glimpse into the 50 places around the world where it costs the most to be a Christian. In some countries, familial and social pressure make it terribly difficult to follow Jesus, while in other places, faith in Christ is threatened by daily risk of violence and physical oppression.”

Israel is barely visible on the World Watch List map of persecution, which marks countries from yellow to red indicating increasing levels of severity and danger.

Zooming into the Middle East, you can just make out a thin, grey strip surrounded by a sea of orange. As the only democracy with freedom of religion and freedom of speech, Israel is, by and large, a safe place for the disciples of Yeshua. However, this is only in comparison to nations where Christians are regularly experiencing violence and death for their faith. But it would be wrong to think that there is no cost to following Yeshua in Israel. There certainly is.

Though we are not killed for our faith in Israel, and very rarely physically hurt, opposition through social, political, judicial and economic means puts believers under great pressure.

The religious leaders of Israel are just as threatened by Yeshua today as they were when He walked among them two thousand years ago.

We received a message from believers who have recently opened a “Walk-In House” ministry center in the south of Israel. This is a first-hand account of what persecution in Israel looks like:

“From the first day we felt the tension, which increased every day. This week a group of demonstrators gathered in front of our “ Walk-in House”, summoned by the rabbis.

Our windows were smeared, we were photographed and filmed. The rabbis screamed, “You are Amalek! Haman! And they must be killed!”  We were called the representative of satan… and much more. We were provoked and the name of Jesus was blasphemed. The rabbis incited the people against us. One rabbi started a slander campaign. Yesterday, someone from an anti-missionary organization stood in front of the door, trying to intimidate us the whole time.

The police were called by bystanders who were supporting us. The police officers told us that we had to follow them to the police station to write a statement. They escorted us to their police car. We have been four times at the police station this week, and every time we had to tell the whole story to a different police officer. This coming Sunday we will have a meeting with the head officer of the police station.

Some shop owners went to the mayor to asked him to stop this ‘’stupid’’ behaviour of those rabbis, but they told them that’s it’s now a case between the rabbinate of Dimona and the police.”

Sadly, these believers are not the only ones to experience this kind of harassment. The situation today is far better than it has been in previous decades, but believers especially in southern cities have experienced considerable trouble. I know of one couple who are surrounded by crowds of Orthodox Jews every week when they walk to their Messianic congregation. They are shouted at, cursed and spat upon. Their infant daughter was called a rat by a shrieking protester, yelling into her buggy. There have been break ins and vandalism, and the judicial system will rarely decide in favor of the Messianic Jews, who tend to come out of the ordeal with huge bills to pay and no compensation or redress.

There are Israeli believers who have been fired from their jobs, Messianic businesses shut down, and on extremely rare occasions, there have been firebombs thrown into buildings. I know a man who was thrown down stone stairs for talking about Yeshua, and of course if an Orthodox Jew comes to faith they will more than likely be cut off completely from their family, and ostracized from their community. A funeral is held for them, and they are considered dead.

It is against this reality that it is all the more remarkable that the body of Messiah just continues to grow and grow in Israel, and that more and more people are coming out in support of believers.

Messianic believers have hit the mainstream media several times in the last couple of years, with varying degrees of acceptance. News channels have done media segments about our faith, before being unceremoniously pulled due to threats from religious leaders. The other year we were approached by the largest news channel in Israel who produced a short series about Messianic Jews with Erez and Eitan. When these videos and adjoining articles were published weekly, a huge uproar came about from the ‘anti-missionaries’, and eventually the news company crumbled to the pressure and removed the videos. There have been a number of very gifted Messianic singers on national talent spotting television shows being quite open about their faith, and recently a Messianic wedding was covered in an Israeli website, including details about what the couple believed. The article explained in a positive way how their wedding ceremony combined elements of traditional Jewish wedding along with their faith in Yeshua. Generally speaking, society is still quite hostile to the idea that a Jew can believe in Yeshua, but the news is spreading more and more all the time, that whether they are accepted or not, tens of thousands of Israeli Jews do, in fact, follow Yeshua as their Messiah.

The brother serving in the south added in his report,

“All the negative attention and riots cause people to come and ask questions and they are so brave to come in and show their solidarity towards us! The wall painting with the text from Psalm 42:1 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God”, attracts the attention of many, both friends and foes!

We would like to ask you to struggle with us in praying for a breakthrough. It is a battle of lies and truth, darkness and light. The love of God overcomes the darkness! Please pray that the Kingdom of God will become visible here in south Israel. May all of us be able to stand firm in His victorious power! Praise the Lord for He is good, His goodness endures forever!

”Righteousness lifts up a nation, but sin is a disgrace in any society”. (Proverbs 14:34)

Righteousness… That is we want to see this in our society.”

Amen to that.