In this Q&A interview, Reuven Berger, who together with his brother Benjamin, leads a Hebrew-speaking Messianic Jewish congregation near the Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem shares insights on the conflict raging in Israel and on the Kingdom calling of Messianic believers in this season.
What is your perspective on the recent sharp rise in ethnic and religious tensions and rioting in your area and beyond?
It is clear that all of these tensions have various provocative factors. The Ramadan Fast was at its end when the events began to take place and we all know that this is the most provocative time of the year as far as the danger of Islam raising its aggressive self to fulfil its purposes against the God of Israel and His People. That is why so many believers are interceding every year at this time.
The fact that the end of the Ramadan and the days of the celebrations of Eid al Fitr that follow led into Jerusalem Day when Israel celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, again challenges the foundations of Islam and provokes the spirits of hatred to rise up, threaten and attack.
There are various other factors, such as the provocations of Hamas to reach Israeli cities where Jews and Arabs have been living in peace together for many years and to incite Israeli Arabs towards violence to identify with their Palestinian brethren in Gaza and the West Bank. This has been the most dangerous part of all that has happened during this conflict between Jews and Arabs — the increased antagonism between Jews and Arabs in the cities of Israel.
The US, under the Biden Administration, is opening up relationships with Iran that were closed during the Trump Administration and Iran is the great force behind the Hamas in Gaza. The weakness of the present US government towards Iran and its refinancing of Palestinians through UNRWA after this channel of support was stopped by President Trump, has all encouraged the Hamas to take action against Israel.
We have not yet been personally affected even though our congregation meets at Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem at Jaffa Gate. We have only begun to regather there after a year of meeting on Zoom because of the Corona crisis. Jaffa Gate has been perfectly quiet during all this time, though other parts of the small Old City has been targets of this dark warfare.
On Jerusalem Day, the day that Israel commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control of the Old City after the 6-day War in 1967, Hamas launched a barrage of rocket attacks on Israel — including an unprecedented direct assault on Jerusalem. How have you and your congregation been affected by the Jerusalem Day attacks and the aftermath?
As I said, we were not been affected by the short bombardment of rockets that took place on Jerusalem Day. The rockets didn’t actually enter the City of Jerusalem but hit various places in the neighbouring towns of Jerusalem. We could clearly hear the explosions which were happening not far from our home in Ein Kerem. Of course, the fact that the rockets fell so close to Jerusalem was alarming for us and a warning of that which could easily be if the Lord would not hinder such events from further happening.
What role do you believe your congregation, Messianic Jews and Christians in Israel can play — and are playing — in this season? What can and should Christ followers in the nations do?
The Messianic Community is obviously taking a priestly position in all of this spiritual warfare and is joining hearts with Arab believers in the Land so that we can stand in the Spirit as one and recognise the great spiritual battle behind the physical one.
We have a great responsibility to intercede for our people Israel, for the Body of Messiah in the land that it does not divide and become partial over these issues but that we stand in the place of intercession for both the Jews and Arabs in Israel and for the salvation of the Arabs in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria.
We do recognise that Israel is in great need of God’s grace, as are the Arabs, for there is great sin in the Land and our government is an expression of the many divisions within the Jewish population. God’s holy purposes for Israel will of course be fulfilled and we stand before heaven and the spiritual world for the fulfilment of God’s covenantal promises to Israel and through Israel to the nations.
Christ followers in the nations should be very cautious about judging Israel but stand with God for the fulfilment of His holy purposes for Israel. South Africans should, of course, repent for the continuous negative stand of its government towards Israel which hinders God’s blessing from coming upon that nation. The Church should be well rooted in the Word of God, come out of Replacement Theology, and recognise the signs of the times – of which the physical and spiritual restoration of Israel are at the centre and stand with Israel against the forces of darkness which are clearly out to destroy Israel.
The original Abrahamic promise holds today concerning those who will bless or curse Israel. God is faithful to His covenants with Israel and will fulfil them whether the Church stands with Israel or not. But those who stand with the Lord will be included in His end-time plans of restoration which cannot be fulfilled without Israel. Those who miss it, will place themselves outside of this blessing and will totally miss what God is wanting to fulfill in these end-times.
I had the privilege of interviewing you and your brother, Benjamin, in Jerusalem in September 2019. At the time you spoke of the steady growth of the Messianic movement in Israel and the challenges of discipling young people who were growing up in Messianic communities. A lot has happened in Israel and the world since I last spoke to you — not least of all the Covid-19 pandemic. How has the Messianic movement been faring?
The Messianic Community is just coming out of a peculiar year of Corona when we were forced to meet almost exclusively through Zoom or electronic streaming, except for some small group meetings. This has affected different believers in different ways. For some, it has been extremely difficult in several different respects and for others, despite the sufferings, it has been a time of renewal of relationships within the family and with the Lord. It has given many believers the time to draw near to the Lord, to consider where are we going and to become much more conscious of a serious change of season — the entrance into a new time which will no longer be like what was!
The approach of the Israeli government to this time has either provoked many questions amongst believers in the land or has done the opposite, where believers have simply related to all as coming from God and the government serving God’s purposes. The Gospel continues to go forth through the Internet and there is definitely an increasing interest to listen and consider the subject of Yeshua [Jesus]. The last two catastrophic events have also caused a real shaking in the Orthodox Jewish community and more questioning that is surely necessary. The Messianic Community is being prepared for the harvest to come!
Israel went through a longer period of pandemic lockdown than any other country in the world — including the first Pesach under lockdown since the first Passover in Egypt some 4 000 years ago. How did this affect your community and other Messianic communities in Israel?
I have partially answered this question. It was very peculiar for us not to be able to celebrate all of the feasts of the Lord together as we normally do. The feasts and particularly the Passover are central to our Messianic celebrations. We received this situation as from the Lord and realised that there was a deep speaking of God in terms of a wake-up call for now and for the future and not to expect life to continue anymore as it was and to allow ourselves to be ready for serious changes and for serious adjustments.
Of course, we did meet over Zoom, discuss these things, pray about them and shared the Word concerning the significance of the feasts. All of this has been a kind of spiritual vaccination to prepare us for what is coming as we move into much darker days and at the same time, times of great expectancy.
What is your hope for Israel going ahead and what is the Lord emphasising to you in this season?
This is a new season and we cannot cling to the past or to the present. We must go on with the Lord, rather than just building our individual congregations. This is very important, especially now, as we are transitioning towards the return of the Lord. We are going into difficult times for Israel but there will be great spiritual breakthroughs in this land.
Israel is called to be a Kingdom of priests and as priests, for Israel to fulfil her calling, the Messianic community must reveal in herself the reality of the priestly Kingdom and pave the way for its coming. Most believers only know the Gospel of salvation; few understand what is the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus preached to Israel and was demonstrated by the first Jewish believers in the first century Messianic community. We need to understand what this new wineskin is in order to contain the fresh wine of the Kingdom — Cana wine, the wedding wine, the best wine kept for the end which will reveal the glory of the Lord. We must be baptised together much more fully into His death that we can rise up together in Him, where He is all in all! These are not just beautiful words but the great reality of the Kingdom!
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