I read it through the Grapevine

In the past you may have heard that many people who immigrated to Israel from the Former Soviet Union displayed a genuine openness to the gospel. Many of them came to faith while in Israel and, together with others, reshaped the church here by causing it to grow considerably. Our own congregation, Grace &Truth, grew from 40 to more than 300 people within a few years. Today it is almost impossible to find congregations where there are no Russian-speaking people in attendance and in some you will find that they are in the majority. While there is still an observable interest in the gospel among these folk, not to mention ongoing conversions, we are no longer experiencing the same wonderful phenomenon that we witnessed in the early 90s.

In the last few years, however, we have seen something else fresh and wonderful taking place. Young Israelis who are not only interested in the gospel, but are coming to faith in greater numbers than they have done in the past.

We have seen the evidence of this growing interest in a variety of different forms. In the last three months we have participated in two baptisms where four young people between the ages of fourteen and seventeen from different congregations were baptized in the Mediterranean Sea. The ceremony was attended by hundreds of believers from a variety of congregations. Also, about a month ago two young girls from our town in Rishon Letsion called and wanted to talk about the gospel. Last week they visited the office to collect a selection of our books. On Christmas Eve, hundreds of Israelis – young and old – walked through the gates of Christ Church at the Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. They not only heard the story of that place, but also the story of Jesus of Nazareth. Many walked away with copies of the New Testament in Hebrew.

Another evidence of this growth can be found in our own congregation, Grace & Truth. The last time that we held a baptismal ceremony five people were baptized, three of them between the ages of eleven and seventeen. In February we began another baptismal class with seven people, five of whom are under the age of sixteen. Two of the candidates are Maayan and Hadas, our two daughters. Maayan our eldest was converted the day before her fifteenth birthday. We have seen a real change in their lives and it has been a great joy to observe how the Holy Spirit is working in them.

Last weekend nine girls from different congregations in Israel stayed at our home for the weekend. Eti and I were amazed to see their levels of maturity and how these teenagers have a deep understanding of spiritual matters and life. All of them come from believing homes and it is wonderful to see the second and third generations of the body here in Israel developing.

In addition, it is interesting to see how the internet has become a useful source of information about the Messiah of Israel, particularly for the younger generation. For example the word Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) is Googled on average 25,000 times a month. At the last count the word God was being searched about 71,000 times a month and Messiah 96,000 times, as well as New Testament with 5,300 searches. Is there a paradigm shift in the openness of Israelis to the gospel? It appears there may be. Who knows how many of these hits are from orthodox Jews who might be sitting in the corner of their room and reading the New Testament or some other "forbidden" books?

A report released in December 2011 by an American internet marketing research company called ComScore indicates that Israelis use the internet and social networks far more than any other country. Israelis spend an average of 11.1 hours a month on the web whereas the world average is 5.7 hours (in comparison UK users spend 7 hours and USA users 6.9 hours). Also 94% of Israeli internet users are active on social networks!

Putting all of these figures and data together, it is certainly encouraging to see the change in the attitude of Israelis towards our faith. In light of these developments we at HaGefen Publishing have decided not only to redesign our website, which will enable people to download and read our books, but also to make some of our books available in audio format. We will also be increasing our presence on Facebook, offering our books through this channel as well. Please pray for us, that we will be able to face these challenges and take advantage of the great opportunities to bring the glorious gospel to our people.

This article was first published in the Spring Herald 2012

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