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It’s time Israel stops denying citizenship to Messianic Jews amidst wave of antisemitism

Israeli identification card on a flag (Photo: Shutterstock)

I just returned home from my twenty-third trip to Israel, but this trip was unique. A few of my fellow Evangelical pastors from Southern California and I traveled to Israel to demonstrate solidarity and support for Israel in the context of October 7 and to draw attention to the fact that the very reality of Israel’s existence today presents both a moral and theological test that every Christian throughout the world must pass at such a time as this.

TWO TESTS EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE ABLE TO PASS

The moral test is that Israel is on the front lines against evil ideologies that seek to destroy Western civilization and replace it with an Islamic extremist new world order.

Hitler believed in a superior race. The Iranian leadership believes in a superior faith. It is a demonic ideology which is the enemy of humanity.

To remain silent in the face of evil is to be complicit, because evil by nature is like a cancer that works silently in order to destroy.

Every Christian should have the courage to expose evil and confront it—to be a kind of Churchill and Bonhoeffer in our day.

In addition, every Christian should pass the theological test, which is that God’s unfolding plan from eternity past to eternity future runs through Israel, and particularly in regards to the central figure of God’s unfolding plan, the Messiah of Israel: Yeshua, the Davidic King, the Savior of the world, who is the Lord.

This is the One who at His second coming will sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem and will establish the kingdom of God while restoring planet earth to wholeness, with Israel at the center.

Standing with Israel today means standing with the unfolding plan of God for Israel’s existence.

Those who try to destroy Israel are in opposition to the very purposes of God.

WITH ANTISEMITISM GROWING, NO JEW SHOULD BE DENIED RIGHT TO BECOME CITIZEN OF ISRAEL

But it was on this trip, in the unique context of the times in which we now live after the tragic and evil massacre on Oct. 7, that my eyes began to see something more clearly than I ever had before.

Jews who embrace Jesus as the Jewish Messiah are now no longer considered Jewish enough to become Israeli citizens.

Despite this dangerous time of growing antisemitism throughout the world, the door to their ancient Jewish homeland and this safe shelter in modern times is shut to them.

For example, it was on this trip that I was made aware of the following stories, which are real and ongoing (although the names have been changed to protect their privacy).

INEXCUSABLE EXAMPLES OF DISCRIMINATION

Dan Blumfeld came to Israel almost ten years ago with the dream of immigrating to his ancestral homeland.

Although both his parents had already obtained Israeli citizenship as Jews years before, Dan had the misfortune of falling upon a clerk who decided to send his application to a committee to further investigate his ethnic background.

Once the investigation revealed that his parents were Messianic Jews, he was denied citizenship. It didn’t matter what he personally believed—he was tainted by the beliefs of his family.

Even though the Interior Ministry no longer considers Dan’s parents Jews because of their faith, his grandparents were not believers, but traditional Jews.

According to the Law of Return, that makes Dan eligible for citizenship regardless of his own beliefs.

Nonetheless, a judge has ruled against him in district court, and now his only option is taking it to the top.

After hiring a lawyer and fighting a case that has cost him over $50,000 and still left him without status, his only recourse is to spend an additional $30,000 to take it to the Supreme Court.

If he succeeds, he will have put out close to $100,000, money which could have gone toward a down payment on a house but which instead was needed to secure citizenship that rightly belongs to him under Israeli law.

Phil Goldman and his wife, Sharon, are both in their eighties. They came to Israel some fifteen years ago and also ran into difficulty once it was discovered that they believed in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus).

Due to their advanced age, no one has tried to deport them.

But they have lived with virtually no rights, benefits, or even the ability to drive since they have no way of presenting any documents to the Department of Motor Vehicles that would issue them a license.

It goes without saying that this has made life extremely difficult for an elderly couple who just wanted to live out their golden years in the land they love and to which they ethnically belong.

Ironically, their Jewish nonbelieving granddaughter immigrated with no problem whatsoever.

Marvin Friedman and his wife, Sarah, are the Jewish parents of Isaac, who has lived in the country for over twenty years and is married to Mira, an Israeli-born woman.

Isaac’s parents, also in their eighties, would like to live out their final years close to their grandchildren but have also run into a bureaucratic nightmare of delays and roadblocks.

These cases involve families who are being prevented from reuniting with their loved ones already in Israel.

In each of these circumstances, children, parents, or grandchildren already have citizenship as Jews, but these disenfranchised family members are unable to likewise be recognized as equally Jewish.

RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN THESE TIMES IS DANGEROUS

There is something terribly wrong with this picture.

Such moves by Israeli authorities smack of blatant religious discrimination based on one’s personal faith convictions, which do not nullify their ethnicity.

They are also putting Jewish lives in danger.

Because of the very perilous times in which we live, every Jewish person should be free to make Aliyah and become a citizen of Israel, regardless of their personal religious views.

Americans live in a country where many cities are now embracing a wave of antisemitism in the form of turning against Israel and Jews by association. Since most of the U.S. Jewish population lives in major cities, they now have to adapt themselves to a new reality that threatens to harm them even if they have no ties to the Jewish homeland whatsoever.

We’ve seen it happen on campuses to Jewish students, and we’ve seen it almost daily as anti-Israel protests foment hatred and call for Jewish genocide.

This has caused many American Jews to wonder where or to whom they can turn for help.

This is also happening to Jews around the world, where often the danger to Jews is much worse.

At no time in recent history have these kinds of anti-Jewish sentiments been more serious than since the harrowing days of the Holocaust, which snuffed out the lives of six million Jews.

Until Oct. 7, the concept that Jews were abhorrent or loathsome as a people was not heard on the lips of any respectable figure, public or private, in most Western countries because to express such feelings would only result in being labeled an antisemite.

But today, all that has changed.

MANY JEWS DISAGREE WITH EACH OTHER THEOLOGICALLY

Not only is it acceptable to group all Jews as oppressors and killers but it has actually become a fashionable trend for young people who want in on a popular cause so that they, too, can be card-carrying members of the social-justice-warrior mob.

But in the heat of the moment, does that mob really care what a Jew thinks or believes about Jesus?

No.

That’s been one of the ironies in this shocking three-month-old development. Liberal Jews—and that accounts for the vast majority of them—have had to confront the fact that their woke, gay, and minority companions, for whose rights they fought all their adult lives, have not only abandoned them but have bitterly turned against them as a people. They see them only as Jews and persecute them with vitriol.

It's not 1990.

The context of our times is witnessing a growing antisemitism throughout the world, with so many of our Jewish friends feeling increasingly vulnerable and under threat—even the threat of being killed.

Messianic Jews are facing discrimination for believing the biblical accounts of the Messiah’s identity rather than adopting the rabbinic positions, which widely differ depending upon the particular stream of Judaism.

Some Chabad Jews, for example, believe that the late Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was the promised Messiah.

Other Orthodox Jews disagree.

Yet neither group face opposition – both are warmly welcomed as Israeli citizens despite the obvious discrepancy.

In truth, most Israeli citizens would have no qualms in granting citizenship to American Jews of other faiths or no faith at all.

They respect any American who has left their comfortable culture, with all the perks it offers, knowing the hardships they will have to face in learning a whole new language and functioning despite the many disadvantages of not being familiar with the Israeli system or Middle Eastern customs.

Most importantly, denying any Jew citizenship in their country is anti-biblical and goes against the many prophecies that call for all Jews to return to the homeland that God gave to them.

In effect, government bureaucrats are lining up against the Scriptures, which do not advocate for a selection process of traditional Jews on the right and other Jews on the left.

HOW CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

What can we do? 

Quite a bit, actually.

First, let us pray for Israel and the leadership of Israel, which are under the heavy burden of confronting the evil of our time. Let us stand with Israel in support and love.

Second, let us also pray that Israel afresh recaptures the vision of Ben Gurion’s Declaration of Independence speech of May 14, 1948, which said, “By reestablishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew…. The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the holy places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the charter of the United Nations.”

Third, followers of Jesus can turn the lights on this blind spot of blatant injustice in order to help Israel’s leadership bring about a much-needed course correction so Israel is even stronger. Israel must not turn anyone born Jewish away from entrance into their ancestral homeland.

Fourth, let us be a voice in public and private to say that “all Jewish lives matter” and deserve the right to return to their ancestral home of Israel.

A Jew is a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—period.

As the lyric of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem reads, “As long as in the heart, within, The Jewish soul yearns, And towards the ends of the east, an eye gazes toward Zion, Our hope is not yet lost, The hope of two thousand years, To be a free nation in our own land, The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Fifth, if you are burdened by this, you can take a moment to write to leaders in Israel to explain the problem and express that you stand with “all Jewish lives.” Ask leaders them to follow the Law of Return for all grandchildren of Jews, without being required to declare their personal religious beliefs. Considering the dangerous times in which we live, request that the government of Israel adopt a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy regarding a Jewish Aliyah applicant’s personal religious beliefs because this will save the lives of any Jews seeking refuge from the growing onslaught of antisemitism in their countries, regardless of their religious orientation.

Perhaps at such a time as this, the Lord could use you to help facilitate the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and make Israel even stronger.

“Then they will live on their own soil” (Jeremiah 23:8).

Here are the email addresses to contact about this urgent request.

In these dangerous times, may every follower of Yeshua the Messiah throughout the world commit to praying for and protecting all Jews and fight against the insanity and demonic delusion of antisemitism, radical Islamism, replacement theology, and other attacks on Israel and the Jewish people.

And may we lovingly, prayerfully, and firmly press Israel to welcome all Jews as new and loyal and faithful citizens, regardless of their personal religious beliefs.

For the Lord Himself is watching.

“As you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).

Greg Denham is the Senior Pastor of Rise Church in San Marcos, Ca. He is the founder of “The Context Movement” and spearheads yearly “Friends of Israel Weekends” to fight anti-Semitism and champion friendships between Christians and Jews. He is the author of the new book, “Rediscovering the Original Jesus Movement (How 1st Century Context Clarifies God’s Will & Course-Corrects the Church Today!).

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