Traitor or Faithful Servant by Jacob and Elisheva Damkani
Webmaster Note: We've been receiving updates on Jacob and Elisheva's ministry to the Jewish people, Trumpet of Salvation to Israel, for about ten years. In July of 2009, I read one of his articles that I could not help but share with our readers (uploaded March 2010). It addresses many pressing questions such as "Are those who share their faith in Yeshua (Jesus) with their fellow Jews being traitors or faithful servants?" and "Do those who accept Yeshua as their Savior lose their Jewish identity?" We encourage everyone to visit their website for more information on this great ministry.
Traitor or Faithful Servant
The word ‘traitor’ is only one word 'stupid', 'fool', 'idiot', 'idol worship-among many we have heard over the per'… These represent only a few years. We have been called: 'killer words from a large selection of curses of Jews and Judaism', 'missionaries', and expressions that I hear daily. 'mumar' (one who has betrayed his family, religion and Israel to cross During one of our campaigns last over to the enemy - Christianity) 'me-year, a group of religious people, 'shumad' (one who is utterly ruined), who are well structured to fight us, confronted us with great zeal, managed to corner all 48 of us preventing us from marching and distributing books and tracts. I don’t want to describe their violence, the accusations they had written on posters which they paraded before our faces and also before the crowd of Israelis gathered around us, warning them about us, nor do I want to focus on the harsh, painful words they screamed through their megaphones. (It’s a good thing most of the Trumpet campaigners don’t speak Hebrew).
Instead I want to draw your attention to one particular and important statement which one religious man kept shouting at the Israelis watching this unusual scene. “Yehudim, (Jewish people) be careful! These Christians want to exclude you and remove you from the house of Israel!”
I have heard that accusation before, but now I ask myself, the Lord, and you, my beloved true friends and co-workers in our Lord’s vineyard: is this true? Is that what I want? Is that what I am doing?
Am I supporting, with my conduct, the church’s replacement theology which I teach against? A close and honest look at the growing church (Messianic movement) in Israel is raising some important questions and no small division over the direction being taken by the body of our Lord in the Land of Israel.
Do you want to come with me on my search?
Recently one of my nephews married the woman whom he dearly loves. They were adamant in refusing to hold their wedding in an elegant hall of the kind where almost all Jewish people get married. Instead, in the Judean hills not far from where David killed Goliath, ten minutes drive from the main highway, deep into the woods, the wedding took place under the canopy of heaven.
During the last four years, this dear couple has became part of a community of 25 families who are living humbly, in true simplicity, in little homes and caravans on the outskirts of Jerusalem. In oneness of heart and spirit, they all pitched tents in the woods as one little tribe and for four days they fellowshipped while they prepared for the wedding. Over 400 people arrived that Friday afternoon.
On a small wooden bridge over a little dry ditch, the parents of the bride and groom stood and welcomed all the guests. In a special tent the bride was sitting with only women, mostly her close friends. About 100 meters away in the open field, the groom was sitting while his friends stood around him, singing and praising God in the words of the psalms and the prophets. The guests enjoyed their drinks and appetizers while moving between the bride’s tent and the groom. The sound of the shofar (ram’s horn) was heard from time to time.
At 2.00 pm the wedding took place. The ceremony was conducted not by a rabbi but by one member of the community with a guitar in his hands. The ketuba (the Jewish contract for the marriage) was declared before all present, the seven blessings were prayed, there were worship songs, more prayers, words of encouragement and exhortation, the blessing over the wine, a brief kiss, the ring on the bride’s finger only, the glass was stamped on and broken…
No company was hired to set up the sound system, decorate the tables, cook and serve the food, offer drinks and clean up. Everything, including the live music, was put together by friends of the couple. In fact, no hired company could ever have brought such a great atmosphere, blessing and joy to this unique and glorious wedding.
By 7.00 pm most of the guests had left, but the community and some of their friends, a total of about 80 adults and 30 children, remained in the woods for the night. A few men made a fire in the middle of the camp, some continued cleaning up, while others prepared light food for Kabbalat Shabbat. After the blessing over the wine and bread, eating and fellowshipping while sitting on the ground around the beautiful fire, great worship songs from the Bible (Old Testament) were sung to God.
I was overwhelmed when I realized that most of their songs were taken from Isaiah: songs of hope and victory for Israel over her pain, shame and suffering. Tears flowed down my cheeks and fell on the Promised Land as I thought of my forefathers who received such great promises from God. As I looked closely at this newly-formed group of people and listened attentively to their songs, observing their heart and spirit demonstrated in all their actions, I could not help but cry and rejoice deep inside.
Show me the right way to testify of the hope in me!
Should I stand up and silence them all so that I might speak into their hearts about Yeshua? Should I declare the Gospel of truth and the hope of resurrection? I know that all they are hoping and yearning for is alive and burning deep within me. Is there anything about me to assure them that they, who with all their hearts have decided to obey God as Jews, should listen to me?
If I were to present clearly to them salvation through faith and if God were to pour out His Holy Spirit, clothe them with the garment of salvation and wrap them in a robe of righteousness, what then? Would they be able to apply and make this relevant to the life of their people Israel, or would they withdraw from Israel and isolate themselves in the church? Would they be wrapped in righteousness yet in exchange have no sense of belonging to the Jewish people? Being Jewish and maintaining their identity is so very important to almost all Jews even when their appearance and behavior are secular and Godless.
Do we allow the Jews to keep their identity?
Remember, at the start of my letter, I drew your attention to one particular and important statement which one religious man kept shouting: “Yehudim, be careful! These Christians want to exclude you and remove you from the house of Israel!”
Recently we went to a big New Age festival in order to converse with young Israelis who are earnestly seeking the truth. We met religious Jews trying to convert secular Jews to orthodoxy. I told one of the young, zealously religious Jewish men: “I am a Messianic Jew; I believe Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah!” He quickly replied: “If Yeshua came here today He would surely come to pray with us, not with the Messianics.”
Could this be true? Could it be that Yeshua has more in common with those people who zealously fight for the truth they find in the Torah than with us who claim to be free from everything? Where did we go wrong? Where did we miss the mark? Are we truly pleasing God? Why do so many believers in Israel stop going to the organized church, the messianic congregations?
The singing stopped, and to my astonishment, the man who had performed the wedding ceremony called me up and said to all who were sitting around the fire: “I know what you all think of Yakov Damkani” - for they all knew me and my belief -“I see his heart and his eyes which are full of faith, I hear him speak of God and I don’t care what you think of him. Yakov, I want to invite you to speak to our hearts.” I was really taken by surprise. As I lifted up a short prayer, the Lord clearly whispered into my heart Joshua 1:10. “Prepare provisions… three days… cross this Jordan… possess the land...” “Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you, to possess it.’”
As I expended on this passage time rapidly moved on and close to midnight people went into their tents. I had not intended spending the night in the woods, so I borrowed a sleeping bag and remained on the ground next to the dying fire. Looking up to heaven, remembering the promise of God to Abraham in the stars, and full of excitement about Christ who is alive in me, I fell asleep.
As the sun started rising and the light made its way between the trees and on to my face, I rose and sat up, as I have done since 1977, with a grateful heart, full of joy and deep confidence in the love of God for me, which is in Christ Jesus. With a new, silent song in my heart, I slipped out of my smelly sleeping bag and looked around listening to the sound of the birds. Most of the camp was still asleep; the fire was dead. Nearby, next to the trunk of a tall tree on a few rocks there remained the lifeless candles, which the women had lit the previous night to welcome the Shabbat. With their lighting of the candles, in their hearts they had silently lifted up prayer to God.
What is the Capacity of our heart for God?
I was surprised by a woman alerting me to a string tied between trees: “This string shows you our 'tchum Shabbat',’’ she said. (That is the distance permitted to walk on Shabbat). I asked her: “Do you all obey this restriction so that no-one walks past the limit of this string?” She gave me a strange look and said: “Everyone according to the capacity of his heart for God. My love for God will not allow me to pass this limit.”
There on the rock next to the candles was a Siddur, the Jewish prayer book. I picked it up and went for a long walk - with my still painful foot - into the woods. I hardly ever use the Jewish prayer book, but on that Shabbat morning I was so joyful that I prayed out loud from the book.
Far from the camp, I stood on some rocks overlooking the valley of Elah, the exact place where David smote Goliath, and there I poured out my heart to God. I was in awe at the selection of psalms, the portion of the prophets, the Torah and the writings of the rabbis. As I prayed for the salvation of Israel, the Holy Spirit took hold of me with a strong sensation of goose-bumps.
I wonder why some believers are so firmly against the use of such a powerful prayer book. Is it because we hold the rabbis responsible for Christ’s crucifixion and Israel’s blindness? But isn’t it true that the death and resurrection of Christ and the blindness of Israel came by God, in order to reveal His wisdom and might, so as to shame and nullify the wise, strong and noble thereby bringing salvation to the Gentiles? It dawned on me that the opposition against anything Jewish is unjust, brings shame to our Lord and hinders the Gospel. And as for using the prayer book: is the repetition in the Siddur any different from the way we as believers repeat ourselves when we pray?
After a long time of prayer, I walked deeper into the woods. There I met a Jewish shepherd with a flock of goats. I spent some time with him and Yeshua naturally became the subject of our talk.
Returning to the camp, I put the Siddur back on the rock by the candles. Everybody was up by now. Some were exercising to keep fit for the battle of life, others were playing music, preparing a late breakfast, cleaning the camp or sitting around the fire which now had returned to life. I could feel and smell Shabbat in the air. I went to the big tent where they were preparing food, a cup of coffee a six-year-old girl had given me in my hand. Offering my help, they put me in charge of the garlic. A woman who saw the amount of garlic that I cut into the techina (sesame sauce) spoke her mind saying that not all the women liked to eat such a large amount of garlic, so we made two separate pots of great, homemade techina.
My radar was attuned to the whole camp, closely observing and detecting the spirit of this community! The fellowship, friendship and community living were real, true and deep. Surely this was so close to the way the Lord lived with His disciples.
The people of the Book
To my amazement, two men lifted out of an open wooden cabinet a Torah scroll, wrapped in blue silk. Carefully they arranged a table facing Jerusalem and put the Torah on it, then placed some 30 chairs and another table next to a tree for prayer books and prayer shawls - and there was their synagogue.
Someone blew the shofar, and slowly a few of the men gathered. Those playing music stopped and some of the women came to sit close by. As long as the prayer was being read from the Siddur we were only a few, but as soon as the reading from the Torah scroll began, more men and women joined us. What moved them to bring the Torah scroll here? Why was it important to them to read the Word of God, I asked myself? God has put a sense of belonging into the hearts of the Jews. They know the importance of God’s Word, and being the chosen people of God, is so important to them. Most of the Jews are proud about their election even while they are deep in sin and don’t care about God in their daily life. But what good is it to be elected by God and yet dead in your sin? Yes, they must hear the Gospel from which comes faith, but there needs to be a more powerful and meaningful way to convince them that the Messianic movement is relevant to them.
Someone joked that payment had to be made now for all who were coming up to read from the Torah (read all about that in chapter 2 of my book, “Why Me?”). My nephew went up for the last reading of the Torah and everyone got excited and threw candies at him with much singing.
As all the reading and praying came to an end, a long table with good, simple food was brought out, followed by more worship songs, the blessing over the wine and bread and great fellowship. Young girls, five to nine years old, did everything possible to entice us all who were sitting on the ground to take more coffee, tea or cookies. All they wanted to do was to serve. Families looked after each other’s children, single men and women giving them a hand. Having watched this community closely from the hour I arrived, I could see so very clearly the spirit of humility, love and servanthood. I don’t think I could ever describe the peace, joy and beauty of their faith expressed in good work.
Observing this community, which is only one among several that are rising up in Israel, not to mention the many religious (not black-dressed) communities throughout the Land, I believe that their oneness of heart and spirit derives from their strong conviction that they are God’s elect, they are the instruments of God for His kingdom to come and they must look after each other. This is the same truth and principle that we are to live out as born-again believers. “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith’’ (Galatians 6:10).
The faith in Yeshua was in the hands of the Gentile church for 2000 years. We all know that we have to be thankful to the church which kept the Gospel all that time. As more Gentiles came to faith and politics made it impossible for a Jew to believe in the Jewish Messiah and still remain a Jew, those few Jews who did believe simply became part of the church and forgot about being Jewish.
After all, in Him there is no Jew, no Gentile, we are all the same before God. This is true - Elisheva and I also are one, but still we are two different persons; we have different gifts, characters and callings. As believers, we know we are all one family, but in many if not most families, individuals differ in their attitudes and practices.
Where do we belong?
Certainly the importance of the body of Christ - our identity in Christ, our life in the cross - far surpasses the importance of Israel. Nevertheless, we must remember and take to heart the fact that Israel is the apple of God’s eye and His instrument to bring about the day of the Lord. Israel is a living witness before the world for the existence of God. “You are my witnesses,” says Isaiah and as such, can the Jewish believers find their way back to the church that started in Jerusalem?
Now as this faith has returned to its homeland, the Jewish believers forming the Messianic movement have been nurtured by the mothers and fathers in the faith, by believers from the nations, whom you could call the 'mother church'. Yes, we needed teaching, and we still need to be nurtured. But as we grow up, we need to find our own identity and it is this that is so hard.
To my sorrow, some Jewish believers have given up the search and stopped going to any congregation because they could not find their identity in the Messianic movement. Others have accepted the status quo and decided to remain with their parents - the 'mother church'-to stay with the teaching they received from the beginning of their walk with the Lord. Although good, this Christian teaching is not altogether sensitive to the heart of Christ concerning Israel. Many more are still struggling in the hope that they can find their God-given identity in Christ as Jews.
In Acts 15, the only question was: what are we to do with the Gentiles? Today the question has become: what are we to do with the Jewish people? So what has changed since the days of the Apostles?
I remember our worship in the early days of the Messianic movement in Israel. We would sing the songs David sang and read the promises from the prophets taken from the Bible that Yeshua read. Today we are singing many of the songs from the “mother church” with modern words set to contemporary music. Most of the time, the worship is led by women whose dress and body language are more like that of a secular band, far from the modesty we see in Jewish religious women.
Are the English worship songs we sing in Hebrew translation, focusing on Jesus and all that we can get out of Him, giving no glory to God the Father, any better than the prayer and worship from the Jewish prayer book? Perhaps that kind of worship is one of the main reasons why many Jewish believers are choosing to disconnect themselves from the church in Israel.
Do our lives as believers have to be so in tune with our 'mother church'? Why are we believers often so far from our people Israel and hated because we are perceived to be strange and un-Jewish?
Do we have to be so different from them, other than being more holy, more joyful, more peaceful and more righteous? We native Jewish believers have to take our legal place; we have to be part of the people of Israel with our true faith in Yeshua.
In Acts 15, we see clear understanding by the apostles of the issues facing Jewish and Gentile believers. They established order and gave guidance to the Gentiles who by faith had become partakers of God’s promises to Israel. The Gentiles were instructed to obey four specific rules, but as for the Jewish believers there was no question that they were called to remain distinct as a witness of God to the world within the framework of their God-given Law.
In his Epistle to the Galatians, Paul maintains the guidelines of Acts 15 and explains that circumcision is not necessary for Gentiles. He challenges Peter, accusing him of forcing Gentiles to follow Jewish customs. As a corollary to this, we might ask why Jews today should feel obligated to follow Gentile customs. Gradually in order to be accepted into the body of Christ, Jews had to forsake their God-given Law which Yeshua and the early church had kept. Ever since that development in the history of the church, theologians have taught that there are three streams in scripture. “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (1Cor 10:32). The first stream refers to the Jews, the second to the Greeks who represent the world, and finally the church which is the body of Christ. Much of the way in which Messianic Jews live and worship, in accordance with the influence and teaching of our 'mother church' is very offensive to Jewish custom and practice. The church will do all that it takes to avoid offending its own members or the world, but I dearly wish there was the same reluctance offending the Jews. Sadly, I see too often that this is not the case. May Christ only offend them and not our life!
The rejection of Christ is a very solemn business with eternal consequences, especially for the Jewish people. Our history since we rejected our Lord has been written in blood and tears; however, no Gentile should read Acts 13:46-48 without ten thousand blushes. Although the greatest blessing came to the world through us, our treatment by the church for the most part has been evil. Never should the 'mother church' forget that her Redeemer is of the seed of Israel.
Now that the Gentiles love Him and desire to lead us, the first-born, back to Him, must they impose Him on us in the style and dress of a Gentile?
Just because the Lord speaks to the Gentiles in their own mother tongues doesn’t mean that He can’t speak to us in Hebrew. Although we stumble over Him whom we made naked, whose body we smashed to blood, whom we mocked with a crown of thorns and sent to the cross for your and our salvation, it is thanks to our 'mother church' that our eyes are now open as if we had never been blind. We have not forgotten that He walked among us as one of us and as such we want Him back - then and only then shall Israel see Him as He is.
Please, allow us to live our faith our way!
So my plea to the ‘mother church' is: please allow us to keep the Law without believing we have fallen from grace, to pray from the Siddur without thinking we are less spiritual than you, to dress as He dressed without judging us, to keep the Sabbath as He did without criticizing us, to abstain from pork while you eat all you want, and to worship God as He did without expecting us to have female worship leaders whose body language is unacceptable to Jewish people.
With all my love, I want you to understand that none of the Jewish believers who develop a conscience for the Law believe that keeping the Law ushers them into salvation or makes them more holy or righteous. Neither do they want to divide the body, for we are one with all of the redeemed – one new man in Christ. They simply want to return to the pattern of the early church with a heart cry not to offend the Jewish people. For them, keeping the Law does not negate the truth of the Gospel but fulfills the heart desire of God.
Both 'camps' in the Jewish Messianic movement know that the best-instructed Jew could not find eternal salvation apart from putting his trust in Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Both 'camps' know that Christ is the only Rock in whom we find rest - the one foundation laid for us to build upon. Both camps put their trust in Christ, yet they are so divided, and that breaks my heart.
As for me, beloved, as always I want to be subject to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I have a great love, respect, admiration and understanding for all those who want to keep the Law and be Jews to the Jews (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). I ask you please to pray for the unity of the saints in Israel, that pride and self-righteous attitudes on both sides might be broken.
Do we have a message for those, who take the Word of God, His law seriously and who are committed to obey it?
Please pray for unity!
Too many are sitting on the Lord’s throne and passing judgment - one man sitting on that throne is one too many. I pray God might forgive us all and mould us into vessels of honor not shame.
Finally, be strong and very courageous, beloved, rejoice and again I say rejoice, let your heart sing a new song day in and day out, may your life be full of trust in Him with thanksgiving, praise and true worship; our all mighty and all sufficient God is at work, the coming day of our Lord is at hand and all that we are going through is for the good of our lives which are hidden in Christ Jesus to the glory of God our Father.
As for the conflict in the body of our Lord in Israel: “Why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
One camp sees Him coming back as the 'mother church' sees Him, and the other camp believes that they have received a new sight of Him. Either way, we all must learn to trust and obey for there is no other way!
Thank you so much for all your love and prayer. My leg is 75% better: soon I shall start running! The Trumpet and Gilgal team, Elisheva and I love you dearly and are awaiting your visit.
With much love, prayer and a thankful heart for your standing with us in this crucial time,
Jacob & Elisheva Damkani
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