Will I ever be enough for you, Israel?
Somewhere in the prophets, just before God talks about the terrible things that happen when Israel is attacked in the Last Days and Messiah comes in the nick of time, there is this promise of restoration:
“I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them back, because I have had compassion on them; and they will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them. Ephraim will be like a mighty man, and their heart will be glad as if from wine; indeed, their children will see it and be glad, their heart will rejoice in the Lord. I will whistle for them to gather them together, for I have redeemed them; and they will be as numerous as they were before. When I scatter them among the peoples, they will remember Me in far countries, and they with their children will live and come back. I will bring them back from the land of Egypt and gather them from Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon until no room can be found for them. And they will pass through the sea of distress and He will strike the waves in the sea, so that all the depths of the Nile will dry up; and the pride of Assyria will be brought down and the scepter of Egypt will depart. And I will strengthen them in the Lord, and in His name they will walk,” declares the Lord. (Zechariah 10:6-12 NASB)
What are we to make of this? It sounds like a prophecy about Israel, but the word Israel does not appear in this passage. In fact, Israel is not named at all in Zechariah 10. Unless we know that Judah and Joseph and Ephraim are all parts of Israel, we would have no clue who is the subject of this chapter.
But then we know that Judah and Joseph and Ephraim are all parts of Israel, do we not?
Or do we?
Ask an average person that question and the answer may be a shoulder shrug, a blank look, and words like, “The Jews are Israel.” The assumption is that “Israel” and “Jewish people” are synonyms. They mean the same thing. Israel is Jewish and the Jews are Israel. Period. Anyone who claims to be Israel must either be Jewish or be in the process of becoming Jewish. That is the consistent understanding of Christians and Jews and Muslims and anyone else who cares to offer an opinion.
But that consistent understanding is consistently incorrect.
Until now the only part of Israel that the world could recognize has been the Jewish people. There is a reason for that. As this passage from Zechariah indicates, and as many, many other passages from the Bible verify, the rest of the Israelite nation suffered national death because they rejected YHVH and refused the terms of His covenant. Yet because of His Name’s sake, He will restore the entire nation, both the Jewish part and the non-Jewish part.
This is a paradigm-shattering concept that Christians and Jews especially need to understand. The sooner we do, the sooner we arrive at Messiah’s coming in power and great glory to finish this work of redemption and restoration.
Why is this important? Because the Torah Awakening among Christians in the past generation has resulted in a global population of Messianic/Hebrew Roots believers in Yeshua (Jesus) who know they are connected to the Ten Tribes of Israel in some way, and that someday they will return to the land of their ancestors. They know their return will be as Hebrews, but not as Jews. They know also that they do not replace Jews, nor in any way displace them, but rather join with Jews to complete this nation. They will not convert to Judaism, nor leave Yeshua of Nazareth their Messiah, because to do either would be to cease being part of the House of Joseph and become part of the House of Judah. Should that happen, then the nation remains incomplete. It would continue to be only Jewish, nothing more.
And the word of God would not be fulfilled.
And the Name of the Lord would not be vindicated and glorified.
Yet as the present reality now dictates, these emerging Israelites cannot make Aliyah; they cannot immigrate to Israel because they are not Jewish. Thus they face a dilemma: either exchange their faith in Yeshua for a Jewish identity and Israeli citizenship, or stay true to the Messiah Who redeemed them and remain in exile indefinitely.
This is the dilemma expressed dramatically by Virag Gulyas, a Hungarian Christian who desires strongly to become an Israeli. I knew nothing of Virag before reading her blog post recently published in The Times of Israel. Even now I do not know what kind of Christian she is. Of the few Hungarians I have known, one was strongly Evangelical, one was nominally Catholic, and most were staunchly secular. I cannot judge whether Virag’s attachment to Yeshua is of the same order as mine. She may be a far stronger believer than I, or perhaps she merely wears the label of “Christian” because it simply means “not Jewish” or “not Muslim” or “not agnostic”. Until we meet and talk I have no way of knowing. However, there is something I do know about her thanks to this article. Both of us share a deep love of Israel, both of us admire and in many ways identify with the Jewish people, and both of us feel the tension of wanting to be Israeli but not wanting to become Jewish.
Whether she knows it or not, Virag and I share the identity of awakening Ephraimite Hebrews of the House of Joseph. One day the tension we experience will be resolved, but it will take the dismantling of many obstacles before that happens. Most of those obstacles exist in the minds of people who believe it is impossible to be Israeli and not be Jewish, and that makes them the most difficult of obstacles to overcome.
But with God, nothing is impossible.
Originally published in The Times of Israel, April 15, 2016
I am scrambling eggs on Shlomo Artzi. I am cutting tomato on Rita. I am rinsing the pasta on Avram Tal. Galgalatz is on full volume. (Even if sometimes I wonder who my neighbours are. Not really because of the volume. But because I am listening to Hebrew songs).
Ah yes, I live in the heart of Brussels. I think I need to mention this here.
I know most of the songs by heart. Well, after a while it comes easy as Galgalatz makes sure songs are coming in a diligent rotation. But still, I sing in Hebrew. I am loud. And I only have a shower-voice. You know, the one that sounds good only within a closed area — usually with a strong water flow. But I sing in Hebrew full-heartedly. And you would be bought by the shows I put up sometimes. What if I would even understand the words I am saying?
Ah yes, I do not speak any Hebrew. I think I also need to mention this here.
I am standing in front of the Israeli section at the local Delhaize. The flag – indicating at which international section I am – is once again missing. I am staring at the shelves. It’s me against the silence. And I hate what I am seeing. I hate that they get money from each and every Israeli product, and yet they take off the sign because…
Well, we all know why.
I am standing a bit more there hoping people would pass by and see that yes, I AM going to buy that Israeli wine. And yes, those pickles, too.
There are colorful post-it stickers all over my home. One on the window, one on each door, one on my office table, one on the mirror, one on the milk in the fridge and several others within the wardrobes. It’s not because I am suffering from memory loss. (Not yet at least). I am learning Hebrew words. I am now confident with the stickers on the misrad, halon, delet, halav, but I keep forgetting the washing machine, the dishwasher, and the fridge. I never liked machines anyway.
I developed impeccable skills to spot Israelis. I became extremely sensitive to the smallest resonation of one’s face when I say Israel. I can easily tell if, after my first intimation of Israel, the person in front of me will still keep talking to me. So far, it’s half-half.
I am getting familiar with the political parties. I start to formulate a firm opinion on why I don’t believe in the two-state solution. Of course, you are welcome to challenge me.
I am damn mad at the EU whenever it slaps Israel. As if…as if it has the moral right to do so. And I am equally damn proud of Hungary each time it stands with Israel, just like we did when we said no to the labelling of products.
Ah yes, I am Hungarian. I think I might need to mention this, too, here.
I have two big dreams: to live in New York City (only the city matters) and then to live in Israel (only the country matters).
All this should come in this order.
First, to learn the brazen American confidence and check if I can make it there. And if so, then perhaps I will be ready for the intimidating confidence of Israel.
You guys are truly intimidating. Both of you. And I love it. But I am scared.
The first time I went to Israel it was 2012. I knew one or two words. Both were curses. OK, I knew shalom plus two curses.
I was holding a parking place on that narrow street in Jerusalem when a woman drives up and starts yelling at me. Obviously, I sensed that she was not admiring my new dress. Pity, because I was really pretty that day. It was my debut in the Holy City.
I heard the two curse words, so I figured I needed to react. I said: shalom plus the two curses. She left. I can’t say I was polite but hey who is polite in Israel, right? Later on, I learned that this scene just officially lifted me up from being a ‘fraier’.
I fell in love with Israel right there. I loved that she yelled at me. I loved that I could yell back. And I loved that it was all ok. And I knew if we would meet tomorrow we could be best friends also. Because we just did what we needed to do. Not to be a fraier.
My boyfriend was watching me from afar. He was speechless. “This is fascinating: I was running away from Israeli girls, and then I get a prototype in you?” He said as he gave me a neshika ktana.
Ah yes, I am in love with an Israeli, have I not mentioned it yet?
I go to Shabbat dinners. All types of Shabbat dinners. Orthodox, and less conservative ones. And though I enjoy them a lot, I am so focussed. I am always just so focused not to do something disrespectful. Last time, in the midst of all this concentration, I asked a question. But I asked the question at the wrong time. It was all about the timing. I was embarrassed. But then I thought: hey, I am a Christian, and I am trying hard.
Yes, if I would write a news article here, I most probably should have started with something like this:
Virag, a Hungarian Christian (who), living in Belgium (where), dreams to move to Israel (what) soon (when) because she is in love with the country and all that (to be cut by the editor)
This would have been my lede.
And the headline could be:
A pro-Israeli Christian torn between two worlds
Because after all, this is my story here:
During the past four years, my stand with Israel has taken over much of my life. I found myself working with pro-Israeli artists and people who want to liberate art and go against BDS. My firm stand got me more and more visibility. And it was not until recently that I realized how much I am torn between two worlds:
I am never going to be Israeli (or Jewish) enough, but I am already pro-Israeli enough to piss off the rest of the population.
On one hand, I meet Jewish people whose first question is if ima sheli Jewish? If not — which, by now, you know is not — I get a cold shower. No need to say anything, I feel it.
On the other hand, when I say my boyfriend is from Israel I get this: “ah just wait until the ring is on your finger — the whole family will be on you to convert”. Or “how can you go there, don’t you feel bad for those kids in Palestine?” (Sounds cliché, I know. But it is cliché for a reason: people do ask this)
Then I read all the stories of the ‘Olim Hadashim’ who can’t find a job in Israel. Then I hear all about how life is hard in Israel, and that real estate prices are skyrocketing. (Not that it would be any different anywhere else. Just sayin’). Then I see virtual friends leaving Israel for a ‘better life.’
All business as usual.
And then I open the real estate page and start looking for a flat in Israel. Because I still believe I can make it. Because I’ve already proven that I am not fraier.
I am wearing long-sleeves for Shabbat dinners, but I want to scream out that I am a Christian, and I have no idea if I am doing something that offends you.
I am working with Jewish clients, and I am ready to say adieu to people from my life because I choose to stand with Israel, but I want to scream that I am scared that I won’t be enough once I move there.
I am learning Hebrew, but I want to scream that I know you won’t give me a job because there are thousands of others with broken Hebrew and good English (better and much better English), who are even closer to you because they are Jewish.
I went to a lawyer in Israel to ask all the questions you can ask before moving. I pestered her for long minutes. I told her I am a Christian and I have no idea if converting to Judaism is on my agenda in the future. I asked her, in random order: What are my rights? Can I get a job? Will society cast me out because I am not Jewish? What kind of schools can my kids can go to? What will happen to me if my Israeli husband decides to leave me? Can I stay? Can I keep the kids? Can I keep my furniture? (This last bit, of course, is an exaggeration, everything is else isn’t. But it shows the desperate line of questions I made her answer.)
I am in love with your country; I stand up for you in places where perhaps I should not; I want to understand your culture; I want to learn your language; I am singing your songs; I am in love with one of you; I want to tell you that I feel lucky to have met you.
But will I ever be enough? Or will I always be the one who is just not one of you enough?
Virag is a Christian Hungarian living in Brussels sharing her life with a charming Israeli; a former ballet dancer, who changed directions and served as a diplomat in Brussels; currently runs her e-zine, MissCareerLess, works as a communications coordinator, and freelance creative project manager. When she is not penning her next piece or drafting her next workshop, she is teaching Pilates or sits in lotus on her Yoga mat.