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Review of ‘A Future for Israel’

Julia Fisher draws on eight testimonies mostly from Arab pastors who love Jewish people and who recognise that God has a plan for Israel and the nations that is rooted in the Scriptures and that God is working to unite Jewish people and Gentiles through Messiah. Throughout this book it is evident that God has a better plan than political solutions and there is a sure and certain hope for Israel, Egypt, and Assyria to be united, because it was prophesied in Isaiah 19:18-25. Though this is in the main still future, there have been some early signs bringing great encouragement.

“In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear by the Lord of hosts; one will be called the City of Destruction. 19 In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. 20 And it will be for a sign and for a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty One, and He will deliver them. 21 Then the Lord will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day, and will make sacrifice and offering; yes, they will make a vow to the Lord and perform it. 22 And the Lord will strike Egypt, He will strike and heal it; they will return to the Lord, and He will be entreated by them and heal them. 23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. 24 In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, 25 whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:18-25)

Tom Hess

Like others in this book, it was hearing Isaiah’s prophesy that made him think again. Like many others, Tom saw the error of replacement theology (the idea that the church has replaced Israel and finished with Israel) but also came to live in Israel. He lived in the centre of an Arab community though was able to minister to Arabs and Jews and through the Lord’s help bring reconciliation.  Tom paid great attention to prayer and worship and reconciling Jewish and Arab leaders. He held convocations including Messianic leaders from Israel and Christian leaders from Egypt.

Tom has seen many former Muslims come to faith in Jesus the Messiah who have also recognised God’s covenant with Abraham including the land. This has changed their attitudes towards Jewish people and that has resulted in both reconciliation and Jewish folk coming to faith. Largely speaking, the church in the west needs the revelation of God’s covenant with Israel and the Middle East to start working with the Lord, in this respect, rather than against Him.

Joseph Haddad

Meet a Lebanese pastor with a Jewish heart. Haifa is a fascinating part of Israel since there is a high degree of mixed neighbourhoods. There are also some encouraging signs of unity between Arabs and Jews through Yeshua. Joseph went to a Catholic school though he had a variety of friends from the respective neighbourhoods. Following a visit to a Baptist Church in Haifa, his life took on a whole new direction. The transformation in his life concerning the way that he treated his family and now asked for their forgiveness for the way he had treated them, spoke volumes. Both Jews and Arabs were astonished by the sincere change in his behaviour and wanted to know more.

Joseph started reading the Bible intensively and went to Bible School in Haifa. Joseph entered pastoral work and ministered to people’s practical needs and also taught them from the Bible. Surprisingly, Jewish people started attending their Lebanese congregation. Joseph explained that he could not love Jewish people before he came to faith, but God changed his heart. For those who still follow replacement theology, Joseph implores them to read Romans 9, 10 and 11 to see how Paul writes that God’s gift and calling for the Jews are irrevocable.

George Kazoura

Like Joseph Haddad, George Kazoura was raised in a Catholic Arab family. His story is one from communism to compassion. He went with a group of friends to a revival meeting, not from a desire to be changed but to disrupt it and he made every effort to do so! Right at the end of the meeting, the missionary asked some soul- searching questions about having peace with God, his family, and about eternal matters. An inner war raged, and he felt compelled to leave.

His mother could see that Joseph looked miserable and she showed him from the scriptures how he could have his sins forgiven and be purified from all unrighteousness (Isaiah 1:18-20; 1 John 1:9). George started reading the Bible daily and read though the whole of it and realised he needed to bless the Jewish people (Genesis 12:3).  George is insistent on teaching the whole Bible and teaching his Arab congregation to love the Jewish people and to bless Israel.  He recognises that fighting with God is futile and that there is no place for Palestinian theology or replacement theology and God has His reasons for choosing Israel and He has revealed Himself through Jesus.

Labib Madanat

Labib worked for the Palestinian Bible Society and also worked closely with the Israeli office. What a witness! Labib was born into a Jordanian family and his father was a pastor in Jerusalem so although he spent most of his time with Palestinians, he held an Israeli ID card and spoke Arabic, Hebrew and English and was well travelled. Labib was successful in his studies and wanted to work in agriculture and was considering a doctorate. However he sensed a calling on his life to work where God could use him for His purposes.

Whilst he was in Israel God moved his heart to love the Muslim people and he was deeply saddened to see Muslims killing each other in the Iran and Iraq war. When Labib came to Jerusalem, he began sharing about Yeshua (Jesus) with Israeli soldiers. He came to a deeper biblical understanding of love and forgiveness and recognised that if he is in union with the Lord then He ought to have a love for all people.  His motivation is absolute love for lost souls. Being able to talk with Jewish people in Hebrew was also well received.  Labib is keenly aware that for Arab Christians to take on board this biblical rather political perspective, it is key to unlocking God’s purposes in this part of the world.

Yousef Dakwar

Yousef saw growth in his church which started from humble beginnings and he also set up a radio station for outreach. Formerly though, his village lay in ruins and they had lost their land. He had hatred towards Jewish people and the Jewish nation. This was confounded further through a Catholic background which blamed Jews for killing Jesus that had shaped his understanding.

In 1987, Yousef went to a youth conference that would change the course of his life. For three days he wept and asked the Lord to forgive him. Yousef wanted fellowship with real believers and realised that he had deep hatred to the Jewish people and nation. Having read Ephesians 2, he recognised that the enmity in his heart needed to be dealt with. In doing so he was thrown out of his house and faced persecution. However, Yousef began praying for the salvation of Jewish people and came to pastor a Messianic congregation.

Yousef is insistent that we need to take the Bible seriously and we cannot negotiate with God’s word. Many Arabs were afraid to talk openly so radio via the internet enabled him to reach them. He also notes that if God has finished with Israel then He is finished with everyone. He also notes the problems with replacement theology though equally; being Jewish is not enough for salvation since we must acknowledge the Son as well as the Father (1 John 2:23).

Emil Boutros Boktor

Emil’s father was a Pentecostal pastor. Though at school he was taught to hate the Jews, at Sunday school and through his dad’s preaching he was taught that the Jewish people were chosen by God. Emil studied theology in Belgium for his Masters and the University of Minnesota for his doctorate. One of his professors despised and hated him for being Egyptian and humiliated him in front of others which was painful.

During the six-day war he became separated from the other troops since he was serving in the Egyptian army. Then suddenly he had a vision to tell the people of Egypt and the whole world of God’s love. Although he had been a pastor for nine years, he never preached from the Tanakh (Old Testament). The Holy Spirit brought conviction of the hatred in his heart towards Jewish people and he knew he could not overcome that in his own strength. He met an Israeli Messianic pastor, no words needed to be exchanged, they just hugged one- another; and every trace of hatred was removed from his heart. Yeshua had broken the wall of his hostility between Jews and Gentiles.

Emil loves Jerusalem and the Lord has given him a love for Jewish people, Muslims, and Egyptians. Emil believes in Isaiah 19:23-25 and he will keep ministering until Arabs, Jews and other nations of the world unite to worship Yeshua as their Saviour and King.

Naim Khoury

Naim Khoury ministered in the West Bank and also pastored in Bethlehem and saw much opposition and persecution in his work. In his church in Bethlehem 90% of the congregation were without work. Khoury is a biblical scholar and is more than aware of the coming troubles in Israel. His parents gave him a hard time leaving the Orthodox Church.  He studied theology in America and life there was appealing though he wanted to serve in Bethlehem since there was no real witness in the city.

Amazingly the church has grown numerically though not without complicated pressures. Khoury is resolved that everything depends on the word of God in both the Old and New Testament. He avoids politics and maintains a biblical focus. He explains that if you do not know the word of God you will not recognise the Jews returning to the land and the deserts blooming.  His stand against replacement theology puts him in a distinct minority within the Palestinian Christian community. He implores pastors to go deeper into the word of God and shift the focus from politics to the Bible. His objective is true and noble; that Arabs and Jews would come to faith in Jesus as Messiah.  

Shmuel Awedia

Shmuel Awedia came to be an Arab pastor of a Messianic Jewish congregation in Haifa. Thankfully from his youth Shmuel was grounded in good teaching from the whole Bible. Although Arabic is his mother tongue, Hebrew is his main language. He is wary of replacement theology but equally those who are fascinated and enthusiastic about Israel though sadly they will do anything except sharing the gospel with Israel.

Beit Eliahu (House of Elijah) is in some ways like history repeating itself. Elijah had to confront the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and Shmuel is all too aware that New Age, Buddhism and Kabbalah are flourishing in Israel. Old ideas and philosophies have been repackaged. They are sending believers to the New Age festivals to share the gospel with the Israelis that are so spiritually hungry. He wants Christians in the west to read and take note of Romans 9-11 and what Paul did, preaching from place to place and going to the synagogues first. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and that Jewish people may discover their Messiah, who is the Saviour of all.