It was 20 years ago that I walked into a congregation in Tel Aviv and understood nothing! We had just moved to Israel, and I would soon embark on my mission to learn Hebrew. Despite my lack of understanding of what they were saying, tears flowed down my face because, even in my lingual ignorance, I understood that I was witnessing prophetic history.
I was in a room of mostly native-born Israelis, and they were worshiping Yeshua in Hebrew. Hebrew was a dead language in the 1880s. It was for prayer, not speaking. Eliezer ben Yehuda came to Israel from Lithuania with one goal: Make Hebrew the spoken language of the “Yishuv” (The Jewish community in Palestine). The rabbis were outraged and excommunicated him. “Hebrew is a holy language,” they proclaimed, “not a language for secular affairs.” But he didn’t give up, and eventually, it became the native tongue of the new nation of Israel.
Messianic Ben Yehuda
The body of believers went through a similar experience. Congregations operated in English, Russian, and even Spanish for a long time. Some translated from those languages to Hebrew, and others translated from Hebrew to other languages. But there was no such thing as a Spirit-filled, Hebrew-only congregation. That was the dream of Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram in 1995 when they birthed Tiferet Yeshua (The Splendor of Jesus). Together, they were the Messianic “ben Yehuda.” Tiferet Yeshua became a true, culturally Israeli, prophetic congregational experience.
Having already been a pastor, I had an offer when I moved to Israel to come on the staff of another congregation. “You can function in English,” they told me. Instead, I sat in the back of a congregation that offered me no position but was willing to invest in helping me acquire Hebrew. In fact, it was a good year before anyone even knew that I was a preacher.
A New Challenge
Fast forward ten years to 2013. I had the privilege of becoming the lead pastor as Ari and Shira gave their focus to Maoz Israel—the ministry they led. That was an exciting and challenging time. When you learn a second language as an adult, you never stop learning. For me, to lead a congregation in Hebrew meant I had to preach in Hebrew, lead staff and elders’ meetings in Hebrew, and respond to WhatsApp messages in Hebrew. It was a glorious challenge.
Three years later, Gil Afriat became the lead pastor in my place. I never thought I was a long-term solution for the congregation but a bridge to a native-born Israeli. I remain an elder at Tiferet Yeshua, and we continue to support the congregation. And by we, I mean you and me.
Tiferet Yeshua is a lighthouse in one of the darkest cities in Israel, but that is where the light shines the brightest. When the Tel Aviv-based congregation opened again after COVID, I attended the first service. While worldwide, there were reports of congregations shrinking dramatically in the post-COVID world; it was standing room only at Tiferet Yeshua. Apparently, many people had joined the congregation online and were now excited to fellowship in person. And God continues to help people find the congregation.
Every year Messiah’s Mandate gives roughly $50,000 to Tiferet. And this summer, we need to believe God for that $50,000. Welcome to the Summer of Splendor, when we focus on the splendor of Yeshua and what he is doing in Tel Aviv. I'm asking you to make a three-month commitment, or even a one-time gift, over and above what you normally give to Messiah’s Mandate. And if you are not a donor, here's an opportunity to bless and invest in a Hebrew-speaking, gospel-preaching, homeless-feeding congregation in the heart of Tel Aviv!
Tel Aviv was recently declared the most expensive city in the world. But we are not going to abandon the people of this city because it's pricy. We're going to believe God for every agurah (penny) needed.
Over the summer, we will be sharing with you about the mission of Tiferet Yeshua. We will share testimonies from Feed Tel Aviv, our food outreach to the homeless, prostitutes, and drug addicts, as well as stories of those Israelis who have come to faith through Tiferet Yeshua. I hope that you will adopt our congregation in your heart, as together, “we are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing tiferet (splendor)” (2 Cor. 3:18b).
And God is doing something very special now at Tiferet Yeshua. Some of the past few services have been so full of the Holy Spirit you could almost cut the atmosphere with a knife.
More than anything, can I ask you to commit to praying for our congregation that the Holy Spirit would be poured out more and more and that the lost would come in more and more and find salvation in Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah?
Thank you so much!