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ISRAEL – The People Choose God

29 Feb

Israeli media figures and local Messianic leaders respond to a recent poll that showed a huge majority of Israelis believe in God, but are not so sure Messiah is still coming

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 | Aviel Schneider – israeltoday

Ben believes that the Zionist Christians are the only ones who understand Israel’s spiritual mission: “These Christians understand that the formation of the State of Israel was a divinely ordained rebirth. We forgot this a long time ago.” He wrote that just as the Muslims base their political agenda on their religion, Israel too should do the same.

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Eight out of ten Jews in Israel believe in God; 72 percent believe in the power of prayer; 67 percent believe that the Jews are the Chosen People; and 56 percent believe in life after death. These are the results of a survey by the Guttman Center of the Israel Democracy Institute, which questioned Israeli Jews over a three-year period, from 2009 to 2012.

This intriguing survey is the latest evidence of how the issues of God, faith and religion continue to impact the Israel of today as they did in ancient times. While the separation of religion and state is seen as a democratic value, spiritual issues are a dominant factor in Israeli politics and society.

The reason is obvious: Israel’s very existence is founded on biblical principles and history. This is why the Bible and, in turn, God Himself play a prominent role in the Jewish nation and the broader Middle East conflict.

The Oslo Accords, signed between Israel and the Palestinians nearly 20 years ago, ultimately achieved nothing. The Israeli left and right wing basically agree that this is the case, leading to frustration and pessimism. Israelis have come to believe that there is virtually no chance of achieving peace by political means. Therefore, the people have started looking for answers elsewhere; though the government sticks to a strict separation between religion and politics.

“In contrast to the 80 percent of Jews who believe in God, we have the ignorance of Israel’s leaders and this is becoming a strategic problem in a world that is becoming more and more religious,” wrote poet and journalist Menachem Ben in the Israeli daily Maariv. “They no longer mention God and the Bible…Political Israel knows nothing of the religious core of the conflict, and the dangers that face the nation.”

Ben believes that the Zionist Christians are the only ones who understand Israel’s spiritual mission: “These Christians understand that the formation of the State of Israel was a divinely ordained rebirth. We forgot this a long time ago.” He wrote that just as the Muslims base their political agenda on their religion, Israel too should do the same.

“Secular Majority Is an Illusion”

The survey prompted a lively debate in the media.

“In spite of the constant harassment of religious Jews [by secular Israelis], the number of religious Jews has risen over the last decade,” Israel Cohen wrote on the ultra-Orthodox website Kikar Shabbat. “The majority of the people believe in the Almighty.”

This is a sea change from the fiercely secular, and even atheistic, Zionists who established the country.

“Once there was a secular majority. No more,” wrote Assaf Inbari in the leftwing daily Ha’aretz. “The illusion of a ‘secular majority’ has been with us for many years, sabotaging the prospect of forging a pluralistic Jewish melting pot in Israel. The reason this did not happen is that atheists who believe they constitute a majority are as domineering as the ultra-Orthodox. It will happen only if we understand that it’s not atheism—which is shared by ever-declining numbers of Israeli Jews—but pluralism, which is still shared by the majority, that is the basis for a democratic Jewish state.”

Blogger Uri Sagiv is among the 20 percent who do not believe in the existence of God. “Most Israelis only believe in God because they have not been presented with a better alternative,” he wrote.

Messianic Jewish journalist Tsvi Sadan said it is hard for the secular media to be objective on this issue. “The media in Israel is characterized by anti-religious sentiment,” Sadan told Israel Today. “Even though Israel is depicted as a secular state, the broad majority believe in the God of Israel.”

Messianic evangelist Yaakov Damkani has a different take. “Those who maintain that they believe in God often do not even know who their God is,” he said. “They do indeed believe in God, but their God is the God of the Pharisees and the rabbis.”

God Yes, Orthodoxy No

Though the majority of Israelis believe in God, the survey found that they do not necessarily keep Jewish Law in the Orthodox sense. While 72 percent of Jewish families keep kosher and 68 percent fast on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), 65 percent watch TV on Shabbat (the Sabbath) and 52 percent surf the Internet on the holy day of rest.

Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up 22 percent of the population, do not turn on electrical devices on the Sabbath, but the rest of the population is much more liberal. The 32 percent who identify themselves as “traditional Jews” see no contradiction between believing in God and turning on a light on Shabbat. Furthermore, a strong majority favor opening these things on the Sabbath: movie theaters and restaurants (68 percent); sporting events (64 percent); public transportation (59 percent); and shopping centers (58 percent).

Nevertheless, Sabbath tradition remains important to the average Israeli. Some 84 percent try to spend time with family on the Sabbath Eve; two-thirds of households light the Shabbat candles and 60 percent celebrate the Sabbath meal with the blessings over bread and wine.

With regard to a possible conflict between democracy and Halacha (Orthodox Jewish Law), 44 percent of Israeli Jews said democracy takes precedence, 20 percent Halacha, and 36 percent were undecided.

“If 72 percent believe in a higher power, then it seems to me that the majority do not understand what a personal God can be for them,” said Messianic congregational leader Meno Kalisher. “About 40 percent of these are religious Jews, and the rest only remember God during the holidays or in an emergency. However this should not stop us from continuing to evangelize.”

While the people of Israel may not believe in God according to Messianic or Christian thinking, the survey reveals a special relationship between the Jewish nation and the God of the Bible.

Is the Messiah Still Coming?

Even though 80 percent of Israelis believe in God, just 51 percent believe in the coming of the Messiah. Apparently, many people have run out of patience after millennia of waiting; or amid the constant threat of terror and war and a failed peace process, people have simply given up hope that the Messiah will turn up one day to bring peace and save the world.

Orthodox Jews believe that there is a “potential” messiah living in every generation, while Messianic Jews await the return of the Messiah and hope that all Israel will acknowledge Yeshua (Jesus).

Even if there are sometimes more and sometimes fewer Jews who believe in the God of Israel, His covenant with His people remains constant and valid.

As in biblical times, the people’s faithfulness may ebb and flow but God’s faithfulness is unwavering and eternal. And He will keep His promises to display His power, and reveal Himself, through tiny Israel.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on 29. February 2012 in Bible, Christian life, Israel, Jahve, Middleeast, Torah, Yeshua

 

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One response to “ISRAEL – The People Choose God

  1. Steve

    11. April 2012 at 20:23

    Please don’t confuse Zionist Christians with Christian Zionists. They are quite different. See here: Zionist Christians and Christian Zionists | Khanya

     

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