The Berlin Wall, or what’s left of it, has been in the news recently as we remembered how 20 years ago the wall fell. It all happened so quickly – there one minute and seemingly gone the next. Watching Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor (who came from East Germany) make that symbolic crossing, surrounded by a jubilant crowd that almost drowned her, showed once again that these things can happen very suddenly, when we have all but given up hope and when we least expect it.
I saw another ‘wall’ on the news this week. A fence built by America to keep Mexicans out. Some Mexicans manage to cross through a hole in the fence from Nogales, Sonora [Mexico], to Nogales, Arizona. Others, I heard, use the local sewage system and risk their lives crawling through filthy drains to emerge on the other side in America. It makes you realise what lengths desperate men are prepared to go to.
Not all walls are physical. Some are spiritual. Others are cultural. I heard another story this week from Jerusalem. It involved Schmuel Birlie, son of Belay Birlie a Messianic Jewish pastor responsible for five growing Messianic Ethiopian congregations situated across Israel. Before I tell you the story, I have to tell you a little about Schmuel. Now in his early thirties, he struggled being an Ethiopian growing up in Israel. He struggled with his father being a pastor who believed in Yeshua. And he struggled with drug addiction. But today he’s one of the hottest evangelists in Israel I know. Every time I meet him he has another story to tell. His testimony is always up to date. I’ve never heard him tell the same story twice because every day he is experiencing the miraculous.
When he finally became a believer five years ago, after completing his army training and travelling the world for a couple of years, it was, as his father was heard to say quietly under his breath, ‘a miracle!’ Recently I was in Israel with a group of supporters of the Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund and we met Schmuel and his father at their centre in Tel Aviv. We listened as Belay told us how encouraged he was that so many Ethiopians were becoming believers in Yeshua. They are seeing the power of God as people are healed – and I’m talking about the blind receiving their sight and the lame walking! These people have nothing but they have faith. Listening to them is like reading the book of Acts.
Schmuel then shared with us. He always begins by asking if we would like to ask him a question! He’s master of the understatement! While he waited quietly for a response, my husband whispered to the person next to him, ‘Ask him how he became a believer.’ Schmuel’s face broke into a huge grin! And he was off.
‘I have to tell them,’ he said, ‘if I don’t tell them they’ll die and go to hell.’ And just as Phillip (Acts 8) listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit and found himself alongside the Ethiopian riding home in his carriage after visiting the Temple in Jerusalem unable to understand what he was reading in the book of Isaiah, so Schmuel listens to the voice of the Holy Spirit and because he is so in tune, finds himself in some interesting situations.
‘The other night the Holy Spirit told me to leave the house and go to the bus station. So I went. It was late and I immediately saw an old man struggling to carry his bags. I asked if I could help him and he let me carry his bags back to his house for him. When we arrived he invited me in for a glass of water. I accepted and followed him into the house. I looked around the room. It was full of pictures of rabbis. I asked him if he knew about Yeshua. That name is not popular with Orthodox Jews but he was very interested. I told him I believed in Yeshua and explained to him from the Scriptures how Yeshua was the Messiah. After a little while, he prayed and asked Yeshua to forgive his sins and accepted Him as His Saviour. I’ve since put him in touch with other former Orthodox Jews who have become believers living in his neighbourhood – there are a growing number of them.’
Schumel wasn’t in the least surprised at this event because these days it happens to him all the time. He expects it to happen. Schmuel and his father are typical of other Messianic believers who believe the walls are coming down. Walls that have separated Jewish people, especially religious people, from accepting Yeshua is their Messiah for centuries. Walls that seem impenetrable. Walls that have caused much hostility – and still do.
Then this week I received an email from Belay Birlie, written in his broken English:
Shalom in the name of Yeshua. We are so blessed by you in many times. Let the God of Israel bless you. We are so thankful to God for His wonderful love for us.
We are one family in Yeshua and one kingdom with the same goal. God is doing wonderful things among us. Our son Schmuel started a prayer house in Jerusalem and he started to disciple a new believer. He start by faith and rented a house and now many needy people are coming. In the past two weeks one Rabbi fell and cut his head and they came to Schmuel to ask for help. He went to pray for the man and the bleeding stopped and the family asked him to tell them about the love of Yeshua. Now they want to receive Yeshua. Give thanks to Yeshua!
We need your prayer for the prayer house.
Our people do not have enough income for transport to come to the congregation on Shabbat – we need prayers for transportation.
Our old car motor is broken. We pray for another car because I travel many places – Netanya, Ashdod, Tel Aviv and sometimes Beersheba. So we need prayer.
God bless you .Let the God of Israel bless you
Your brother in Yeshua, Belay Birlie
The Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund is committed to helping Belay and Schmuel Birlie. Will you help us? These two men are seeing the dividing walls of hostility come down between Jewish people! For an Orthodox Jew to accept Yeshua is a huge step, and a brave one because of the negative reaction they receive from the Orthodox community. We don’t know exactly how many Orthodox Jews are now believers in Yeshua, we only know it’s happening.
We also know that walls between Jew and Gentile are coming down. Those of us who run the Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund take very seriously the words of Paul in Ephesians 2 : 14-22 … “For Christ Himself has made peace between us Jews and you Gentiles by making us all one people. He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us. By his death he ended the whole system of Jewish law that excluded the Gentiles. His purpose was to make peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new person from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He has brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and to us Jews who were near. Now all of us, both Jews and Gentiles may come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. We are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We who believe are carefully joined together, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also joined together as part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.”
For Jewish believers in Jesus (Messianic Jews) and Arab/Palestinian Christians living in Israel or the West Bank today, those verses from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians cut right through to the heart of the matter.
In a land occupied by two hurting peoples – Jews and Palestinians – both of whom claim to be the rightful occupier, where conflict and division, hatred and hopelessness are the norm; where physical barriers exist to keep these two people apart; where a political solution cannot be reached – do these words of Paul in Ephesians chapter 2 have any relevance today, and even if they are relevant is there the remotest chance that reconciliation between Jew and Palestinian is happening? Indeed, does anybody have the heart for it?
The answer is a resounding yes! Please visit our web site to read more stories of reconciliation taking place in Israel and the PA today, reconciliation between man and God, and between ‘enemies’. The walls are coming down; this is at the heart of what God is doing in Israel today and the repercussions will travel around the world.
As Avi Schneider , the European Director of Jews for Jesus said recently, “If you love Israel and the Jewish people, then understand we were chosen to be a light to the nations. The best way for the church to interfere with the process of world evangelization is to keep the gospel away from us Jews, and not to pray for the people who bring the gospel to the Jewish people and believe the lie that Jews don’t need Jesus (Y’shua) to be saved. But give us the gospel and pray for the salvation of Israel and pray for those of us who bring the gospel to our people, and we’ll bring the gospel to everybody we meet, because that’s why we were created!”
And what about the Muslims? Labib Madanat, Executive Director of Bible Society work in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza told me, “Muslims need to taste how good the Lord is because they are tired of deferred hopes. And what about the Jewish people? It is a unique position for an Arab going to a Jew to talk to him about the Jewish Jesus. I assure you we can get their full attention! I would say to the church in the west, be in tune with the heartbeat of the Father. Do not be distracted by politics. You can never change the heart of God from being a Father’s heart. He will always love Arabs and Jews the same and he wants the Church to carry the same heart.”
If you would like to send a donation to support Schmuel Belay, you can donate on line at www.olivetreefund.org or by sending a cheque (made out to ‘The Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund’) to Julia Fisher, Director, Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund, PO Box 850, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 9GA, UK. For more information about the OTRF, our books and tours, and to sign up to receive our newsletter please visit www.olivetreefund.org or write to me at the above address or by email firstname.lastname@example.org