There are no sacred places anymore. If, like me, you grew up in the midst of Western culture and values, perhaps this statement will resonate with you.
Temples lie in ruins; old churches are being demolished or sold and converted; new churches are planted in warehouses and storefronts and abandoned malls. The idea of a sacred place, a place that is special or separate for some spiritual purpose, is no longer a significant part of modern Western cultural currency.
But we lost something important when we lost sacred space.
Consider the stories of the patriarchs in Genesis. How often did God point to a specific place, assigning some meaning, some memory to be preserved there—a sign of his covenant, of his revelation? How many times does God mention in Deuteronomy that he is leading his people to a land, and that there will be a specific place there, a place he will choose for his name to dwell? This place, the Temple in Jerusalem, became so significant that still today the western wall of the courtyard is perhaps the single most significant location in the collective heart of the Jewish people—both religiously and historically.
Places are important. We need them—even just on a psychological level, we need places that are significant to our souls. A house that we grew up in. A university from which we graduated. A place where memories were made with people who formed and shaped us. These places continue to be important to us long after the events that imbued them with importance. Places give us a feeling of security and identity; they remind us of who we are and what we stand for. In Israel I have found many places that Messianic Jews here have inherited and preserved, or else personally established, with a view to serving the community of faith here for generations to come.
Without a place, we are lost. When a place that is important to us is changed beyond recognition or destroyed, we experience pangs of regret—as if some part of our legacy, our tradition, our heritage were gone forever.
Without like-minded people, organizations, communities—entities whose physical footprint takes the form of institutions, buildings, and other memorable places—we feel lost and afraid. This is a particularly real danger for Messianic Jews; so many Jewish believers in Yeshua have suffered and continue to suffer rejection and persecution from all sides. When we discover other Jewish believers, it gives us the confidence and joy to continue to move forward, to carry our faith and spiritual practice further.
A Jewish believer in Yeshua who chooses to adopt traditional expressions of Judaism has surely chosen a narrow path. It is of extraordinary importance that these Messianic Jews have a place of their own, a place that provides them with a sense of legitimacy, a sense of confirmation that they are on the right path, a shared sense of communal hope. Without such a place, these Jews who have chosen to follow Yeshua and observe the Torah will continue to suffer; I have met so many who feel scattered and alone.
Such a place would be a pillar of support to the Messianic Jewish community even far beyond those who could actually see it in person. Just knowing that there would be a place to find father figures, role models, friendship, community, support—this knowledge would be of immense significance to any Jewish believer in Yeshua who dreams of someday immigrating to Israel. It would be of immense significance to young students looking for a place to vent their doubts and skepticism in a safe environment. It would be of immense significance to local Messianic Jewish believers who want to learn about Yeshua as he is revealed in the Torah, and who want to communicate the joy they have found in him to other Jews.
A place to rediscover Yeshua, to find resources and assistance, to provide a theological and communal backbone for Messianic Judaism in Israel: this is the vision of the Bram Center that, with God’s help, my friends and family and I are building here.
For now, it may be merely a place, but places—real places—are important.