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June 2010

Greetings from Jerusalem,

As the hot, dry summer descends upon Israel, we count among our blessings the winter rains that God has given us this year. Unlike other parts of the world, Israel only receives rain one time a year—during the four month winter season. Over the rest of the year, it is rare to see a cloud, much less a drop of rain. The population of Israel and the Palestinian Territories has increased more than 50% over the last twenty years, but the water supply has not. While Israel is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, and it is already trying to use its ingenuity to overcome this most difficult obstacle, the task is daunting. Similarly, this crowded, arid land’s thirst for water is like this region’s neverending political conundrum that thirsts for justice, security, and peace. Most recently the situation has been exacerbated by the Gaza Flotilla Incident.

You might ask, “how can I make sense of what is going on over there?” “What can I do in such an impossibly complicated conflict?” Though you might not be able to influence and change the policy of governments and political organizations, you can impact the life of one person, one child, or even a family. While the nightly news is featuring the latest explosive event in Israel, we at JCF are looking for that one lost, thirsty sheep. Join us with your prayers and support as we invest in one life at a time here in this desert land.

Charity Report

The Plight of the Messianic Ethiopian Jews

By Dania Minor

The Ethiopian community is one of the poorest in Israel. Today, more than 120,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel after being rescued from persecution in Ethiopia during the 1980’s and 1990’s. These immigrants have largely struggled to adapt to Israeli life and culture, leaving them few options for work. Many of the older generation have had difficulty learning the local languages, and, with little or no education, have ended up working in very low paying cleaning and maintenance jobs. The income from such positions, even when earned by both parents, is usually not enough to cover a family’s monthly needs. Sadly, there are many single-parent families within the Ethiopian community, meaning the financial and emotional strain is almost unbearable. As if these hardships were not enough, Ethiopian Jews believing in Jesus must also deal with the rejection of their own Ethiopian community, and often suffer even more.

During recent years, JCF has sought to establish relationships with various leaders from within the believing Ethiopian community in order to work with them and help alleviate their suffering. More specifically, we have had the privilege to work alongside one of the local Ethiopian congregations, Beit-El, which meets in Jerusalem. We have reached out to help specific individuals and families within that congregation who have had immediate needs.

Over the past three years Beit-El has doubled in size, but their finances have not followed suit due to the poverty of the community. For example, the faithful pastor of the congregation, Tal Shiferau, does not receive a salary as a result of Beit-El’s financial situation. Another instance is the congregation is in need of larger facilities that will enable them to cater to their many families—there are now more than thirty children within the congregation. One more difficulty this church faces is the ability to pay their growing monthly utility bills. Beit-El is now facing many practical hurdles due to the blessing and burden of their increasing membership.

Pastor Tal and his congregation are a living testament to what trust in God’s faithfulness can do in the face of real need. Their faith is strong, and yet, we at JCF recognize that Beit-El needs our support, both in prayer and in practical financial assistance. This congregation is a beacon of light to Ethiopians living in Jerusalem, many of whom suffer despair as a result of their dire situation. Beit El exemplifies that life in Christ is the only way to true internal peace. He alone is the Great Physician and Healer, the One in whom is all hope. Let us stand together with our Ethiopian brothers and sisters in spreading this message to the poorest of communities in Israel. Let us give where we are able.

Biblical Pearl

Shavuot: Marriage of Ruth and Boaz

By Gary Alley

Last month, Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks (Ex 34:22; Deut 16:10), was celebrated here in Israel. According to the Bible, the feast of Shavuot completes the counting of seven “weeks” from Passover to the time of the new grain offering to the Lord (Lev 23:15-16). This offering was a way to thank God for His abundant blessing during the completion of the wheat harvest. Even more, the people were to demonstrate their gratefulness by allowing the poor and foreign immigrants to glean from the outskirts of their fields (Lev 23:22-23).

In Jewish tradition, the book of Ruth is read every year during the Feast of Weeks. Ruth is a Moabite woman who has immigrated to Israel with her mother-in-law, Naomi, after both of their husbands have died. Ruth has chosen by faith to leave her family, culture, and religion, to join the people and God of Israel. The two women return to Naomi’s hometown, Bethlehem, seeking to survive during these depressing and dangerous days for widows. To make ends meet, Ruth begins picking up leftover grain in the fields of Boaz, Naomi’s kin, during the barley harvest, and she continues through the wheat harvest (Ruth 1:22; 2:23). The story happily ends with Boaz, an Israelite, and Ruth, a Moabitess, marrying and birthing a son, Obed. The crux of the story of Ruth, is that this son, Obed, from this most unlikely, unorthodox union is the grandfather of King David. In later biblical and Jewish history, all messianic ideas for the ideal and perfect ruler who would usher in the latter days, are rooted in this David, a once and yet, future king.

For Christians, Shavuot is probably the most fundamental of the biblical feasts for our faith. Besides the Hebrew name, Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks is known in Greek as Pentecost, which is based on the “fifty days” of counting from Passover to Shavuot. Pentecost or Shavuot is when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Jewish disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem (Acts 2). That day around three thousand, probably all Jews, accepted the good news of Jesus. These Jewish believers demonstrated their gratefulness to God on this “new Shavuot” by sharing their possessions and giving to those in need (Acts 2:41-45).

As the book of Acts continues, we watch God’s salvation spread to all nations and ethnicities, first when Peter preaches to the Roman centurion, Cornelius, and his entire Gentile house is filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-46). Later, Paul travels into Asia Minor and Europe finding many non-Jews who are hungry for and receptive to the things of God. On his last journey, Paul returns to Jerusalem one final time to celebrate Shavuot (Acts 20:16). At this point in his ministry, Paul has come to be known as the missionary to the Gentiles and because of this, he is suspected of having compromised and denied his Jewishness (Acts 21:20-26). In order to refute these rumors, Paul enters the Temple area to pay for purification rites according to the Jewish Law. But with his entrance to the Temple he is attacked by a mob, arrested, and ultimately shipped off to Rome for trial.

Shavuot in the book of Acts is a fitting summation of God’s good news to humanity. Beginning with the first Shavuot in Acts 2, we see the Holy Spirit working initially among God’s people, the Jews. As Acts continues, the Holy Spirit spreads to the other nations—the Gentiles. Paul’s last Shavuot in Jerusalem is a testimony to the universality of the gospel for both Jew and Gentile. The birth of the Church on Shavuot, where Jew and Gentile are mysteriously and ultimately united in Christ through the Holy Spirit, reminds us of the union of Ruth, the Moabitess, and Boaz, the Israelite, which would bring forth this reconciling Redeemer.

Education Report

Living Biblical Hebrew Classes in Israel, and now, in Fresno

For the 13th straight year, the Biblical Language Center (BLC) will run its annual Living Biblical Hebrew summer session in Israel. Courses on Jonah, Genesis, and Samson will be taught at Kibbutz Tzuba in the Judean Hills by the BLC staff. New this year will be a beginning Hebrew course offered at Fresno Pacific University in California. BLC’s courses are taught by immersing a student in the language so they can learn to think, act, and speak in Biblical Hebrew. BLC’s goal is for everyone to be able to read their Bibles in the original languages.

Classes this Summer will be held

  • June 6-July 16 in Fresno, CA
  • June 20-July 30 in Israel

For more information see www.biblicalulpan.org

Announcements

This past spring in the Nazareth Village Synagogue: Randall Buth, Biblical Language Center's director, reading the Isaiah scroll from Luke 4:17-19 during a ten day intensive Koine Greek immersion course, reading the Gospels in Greek around the Galilee.

Prayer Requests

  • Beit-El Ethiopian Congregation. Specifically for their children’s program, a single elderly woman that Israel is trying to force out of the country, and a young couple that is struggling to make ends meet.
  • Biblical Language Center’s Summer Hebrew Courses in Israel and Fresno.
  • Yoni Gerrish and his family will be traveling through the United States this summer (June 26-Aug 29).
  • The current situation in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and the Middle East. May followers of Jesus here and abroad shine the light of the gospel despite political, religious, and social pressures.