CWN.org - In Israel, a resurgence in the number of Jews who believe in Jesus is getting a lot of attention. Many leaders say it's the strongest growth since the time of Jesus and that the Messianic movement could be on the brink of a great revival.
"This is the first time where we've seen Israeli society in general being so open to consider who Yeshua is," said Messianic leader Asher Intrater. "This is a real miracle, and there's beginning to be grace and favor with us in the land."
Although Jesus and the early disciples were Jewish, for nearly 2,000 the gospel has been viewed as a religion mainly for Gentiles. Even the name Jesus or Yeshua has been a forbidden word among many Jews. But in the last few years, Messianic leaders in Israel say something important is happening.
"I believe with all my heart, after we have come back to the land, we are seeing the Lord, the Holy Spirit, is removing the veil from the eyes of the Jews and more and more Jews are realizing," Tel Aviv pastor Avi Mizrachi said.
Although nobody knows for sure how many Messianic Jews live in Israel, it's believed there are about 120 congregations now and 10,000-15,000 Jewish believers in Jesus.
That may not sound like many, given Israel's nearly six million Jews, but it's a far cry from 10 years ago, when there were only about 3,500 Jewish believers and 80 congregations.
A good example is Shemen Sasson in Jerusalem, where attendance has nearly tripled over the past four years. Today, close to 300 people attend the meetings, most of them Jewish or people married to Jews, and salvations are increasing.
Meet the Ronens. Daniel, Ayelet and their 5 children are Israeli believers. Ayelet is an Israeli Jew and Daniel is a Finnish Gentile. But his family has been here since before Israel became a nation. They believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.
"When Jesus came, when Yeshua came, he came to talk to our people," Ayelet Ronen said. "He walked on our land, He spoke our language, He spoke in our synagogues. Really He came for us!
Yad-Hashmona is a beautiful little village about 10 miles outside Jerusalem, and the only one home to just Messianic Jewish believers like the Ronens.
For this family, being Israeli and believing in Jesus is a natural fit. They keep the Jewish feasts, circumcise their sons, keep the Sabbath and serve in the army. And even though they live in a Messianic village, they don't feel secluded from the rest of Israeli society.
"Our kids go with everybody else to school... I go to work outside...Our principle is to go out and be part of society," Daniel Ronen explained.
Their children sometimes face challenges, but have used those occasions to witness.
"My friends started to know I'm a believer and they ask me if I'm a believer...I tell them I'm a believer in Yeshua and it's really good to believe in Him and that maybe you can one day believe in him too," little third grader Adan said.
The Ronens are sometimes accused of being missionaries, a very bad word in Israel, but they insist they are not.
"My point is to share my faith with anyone who wants to hear me and I will gladly share the Good News of my faith," Ayelet said. "I never speak of you should do, and you should change.."
In addition to Israeli-born believers, many are from other countries. American Jews Eddie and Jackie Santoro became believers during the 70s Jesus movement.
They made Aliyah to Israel 11 years ago, learned Hebrew and now lead a growing congregation in Jerusalem.
"Our current congregation, we started almost 2 years ago with about 20 people, today we have over 100," Eddie Santoro explained. "We see salvations here and there, but we feel like there's something yet to come, it's definitely growing."
But being a Jewish believer in Israel isn't easy.
"I think probably the greatest challenge is that you always feel that the rest of society isn't accepting you and so when you meet somebody and you want to talk to them and you want to tell them who you are, there's always that challenge of, 'should I say something,"; Jackie Santoro said.
For the first time, the secular media are saying something, even mentioning Messianic Jews in a more favorable light. A recent wave of persecution, including the bombing of a young Jewish believer, have put Messianic Jews on the front page.
"At least we see that believers are being asked to explain who they are, what they believe in, why they are here...how they can be Israeli and believe in Jesus and be given an opportunity to tell their story and share their testimony," Knut Hoyland of the Caspari Center said.
And what does this movement mean for the Body of Christ?
"If it wasn't for Yeshua, we would be lost," Ayelet said.
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