Come with me to Tel Aviv, to the 12th floor of a tall sky scraper and look out over this modern city, home to almost 4 million people representing half the population of Israel. It is then amazing to realise that just over a 100 years ago, Tel Aviv as a city did not exist – the area was covered in sand dunes – the people in those days lived in neighbouring Jaffa. However, at the beginning of the 19th century, 66 Jewish families decided to leave the overcrowded confines of Jaffa and build a new city – and that’s exactly what they did. I met Avi Mizrachi on the 12th floor of the sky scraper – he is the pastor of a congregation in Tel Aviv and as we looked out over the modern city of today, he reflected on the story that is Tel Aviv.
On the programme today, the story of an American teenage Jew who found himself living in Israel. Imagine leaving the freedom of life in America to move to the Middle East where religious identity defines who you are and where you are expected to conform to Israeli life, which for an 18 year old means entering the Israeli army. I met Benjamin, not his real name, in Tel Aviv recently and he shared his story.
My guest today is Itzhak Mor Haim. A few years ago he had a dream to open a music school in Israel where people could come and learn how to play an instrument of their choice and also where musicians could come and play music together. The dream was inspired by King David who played a harp and wrote many Psalms which he set to music. Itzhak believes David’s skill as a harpist was not just about playing wonderful music, it was also a powerful emotional and spiritual tool.
My guest today is Itzhak Mor Haim. A few years ago he had a dream to open a music school in Israel. Today that dream has become a reality and as I sat with Itzhak in the foyer of his music school, he explained how the dream unfolded.
Recently, stories of Muslims who have become followers of Jesus have emerged. In the West Bank, where Palestinians live, the towns and villages are entirely Islamic. One man who took it upon himself to take Bibles into these villages is called David Ortiz. Originally from Puerto Rico, he married Leah, a Jew, and they moved from the United States to live in Israel in 1989 and eventually settled in Ariel, in the centre of Israel, in 1985.
Recently I visited the town of Ariel in central Israel to meet Leah Ortiz. From an American Jewish family, Leah and her husband David came to live in Israel in 1989. In 2008 their son Ami was seriously injured when a bomb hidden in a basket of fruit by their door exploded in his face. Thankfully he survived, but for David and Leah this was a defining moment in their lives… should they leave the work they had started and return to America, or stay in Israel?
My guest today is called Rita. A few years ago she would never have dreamt that one day she would be running a shelter in Israel for abused women … but that’s exactly what happened.
The news is frequently dominated by stories of terror and conflict from the region and hopes for peace seem impossible. But what about the believers who live there – is there any coming together of Arab and Jewish believers? Evan Thomas is a Messianic Jewish pastor in Israel. He has always had a desire for strong relationships with Israeli Arab and Palestinian Christians and has gone out of his way to achieve this.
The subject of Israel and the Middle East invokes strong reactions! How important it is therefore to understand, as Christians who believe the Bible, what God is doing there. It can come as a surprise to hear how few believers there are in Israel and the West Bank… their numbers represent a tiny percentage of the population. Yet, in the past 40 years those numbers have grown from a handful to several thousand today – so something is going on!
My guest today is Rod Powell. He and his wife Margi were missionaries in Russia for many years. They left Russia not by choice but because the authorities threw them out of the country as you will hear.
They found themselves in Israel… listen now as Rod shares his story…