In early December 2015, Israel’s second-largest internet website portal, Walla! began posting compelling testimonies of Jewish believers in Jesus produced by Israel’s College of the Bible (ICB).
The testimonies are entertaining, professionally-produced, first-person interviews with Jewish people primarily from Israel and the United States. Walla! posted some of the videos on the front page of their popular internet web-portal, lending the testimonies maximum exposure to Israel’s web-surfers. Topics which are being discussed on the website include the question of “Who are these Messianic Jews?” and discussions about the distinction between Messianic Judaism and Christianity.
This is great news. Israeli society is being exposed to the idea of Messianic Jews in a positive way. It doesn’t happen very often. There’s an old marketing axiom that says all publicity is good publicity, and it definitely applies in this situation. The featured videos have been widely hailed as a major win for Jewish evangelism.
While the videos are compelling, persuasive, and captivating in their argument for Yeshua, I cannot help but wish that they also presented a more traditionalist approach to Messianic Judaism. Many of the testimonies are offered by American Jewish believers in Jesus from within a mainstream Jewish-Christian perspective or missionary-oriented Messianic Jewish expression. The viewer is sometimes given the impression that Messianic Jews need to leave Judaism and Jewish practice behind them when they discover Yeshua and the New Testament. In the videos, Judaism tends to be presented only as an obstacle to Yeshua. In this way, some of these beautiful testimonies unintentionally perpetuate the old stereotypes that place faith in Yeshua in antithesis to Torah and traditional Jewish practice.
The videos were originally created for the ICB outreach website OneforIsrael.org by Eitan Bar, director of media and evangelism, and they appear on a dedicated website titled imetmessiah.com. Eitan Bar recently co-authored a book with Seth Postell titled, The Torah’s Goal (2015) in which he lays out his theology regarding the Torah and Messianic Judaism. Bar believes that the Torah’s only purpose was to create the need for Messiah and that once a Jew discovers the Messiah, he fulfills the Torah by being a believer in Yeshua. According to the idea of the book, the laws in the Torah were never meant to be literally kept but only to show the path to Messiah who is “the Torah’s goal.” It’s a creative way of saying that faith in Yeshua renders the Torah’s laws irrelevant. On top of that, the book strongly criticizes Jewish tradition and authority, depicting Judaism as a form of apostasy from the Torah’s original intention.
In light of Eitan Bar’s theological views, it’s hardly a surprise that many of the testimonies he has selected for the OneforIsrael.org website feature Jewish believers in Jesus speaking from outside of the stream of traditional Judaism and far removed from the ideas of a postmissionary Messianic perspective. But Eitan Bar can’t take all the credit for that impression. The videos accurately depict the majority sentiment of most Messianic Jews in America and Israel who see Judaism primarily as an obstacle to New Testament faith.
Messianic Judaism in Israel is still waiting to find itself. It’s still strongly occupied by Jewish missions and evangelism, and the theology and practice of Messianic Jews in Israel reflects that. The oneforisrael.org video testimonies indicate how desperately Israeli Yeshua-followers need quality resources and education opportunities that can introduce them to a pro-Torah kingdom perspective. That’s why First Fruits of Zion’s Bram Center in Jerusalem is so critically needed. We want to give Messianic Judaism in Israel a chance to grow.