My parents immigrated to Israel, (then called Palestine) in 1934. My father came from Sofia, the capitol of Bulgaria; and my mother from Poland. My mother’s parents, two of her sisters, and two brothers who preferred to stay in Poland, were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust – a family disaster my mother has never recovered from and was the source of her unbelief in God.
Both my parents were members of a Jewish youth movement in Europe, which encouraged the young Jews to come up (immigrate) to the Land of Israel as part of the vision and ideology to turn the wet places into fertile Kibbutzim (communal farms).
My parents were among the core group of pioneers who started Kibbutz Kfar Menachem in 1939. They lived a simple but fulfilling life. With joy and hard work they established the new reality in the Land.
I was born into the Kibbutz life in 1949, the third and last child in my family. My childhood memories are those of joyous friendships, fun and games, school trips and swimming in the Kibbutz pool. From birth we lived in a communal children facility and were raised by childcare takers. We would visit the parent’s home daily for quality time; I missed the normal family unit life. (Eventually the Kibbutzim changed this system and today parents raise their children in their own homes).
Most Kibbutz members are secular atheists. Jewish culture and holiday celebrations did not include God. The life style of my parents was also secular, and like them, I did not believe in the existence of God, even though in times of trouble and frustrations I uttered His name and asked for help, but with no faith in my heart.
My school years were great and full of happiness. I loved the scene of sports and competitions. In high school I got involved in music, which later on became a significant area in my life.
Growing up on a Kibbutz made me believe that a good life was, being faithful to the vision of building up the Land of Israel. In 1967, during the Six Day War, all of us 11th graders helped with pride and a sense of importance and maturity; sustain the Kibbutz while the soldiers were fighting in the battlefield by doing their work.
At the age 18 I was enlisted into the Israeli Army and served as a Tank Commander from 1968-1971. During my Army service I continued on the same road I grew up with, remaining spiritually closed off to God.
After finishing my Army service, I went back to live on the Kibbutz and worked in the fields. I resumed my interest in music and playing the trumpet. In those years, the early 70’s, we had among the many volunteers who came to work in the Kibbutz; mostly from western countries, some “hippies”, with a very free life style, carefree and very different from my view on life.
My inner emptiness, natural curiosity and longing for social life drew me to the hippie life style, and as a result I plunged into it with my whole heart.
A whole new horizon and way of thinking opened up to me because of my new social life, reading books on eastern philosophy, yoga practice and smoking hash – I was ready to explore new ideas without prejudice.
After a year on the Kibbutz, I went down to Eilat, the most southern city that was a kind of haven to many of us with an unconventional life style. I got a job, with living arrangements, at the city’s Sea Port, unloading cargo. I continued my searching for a more meaningful life by reading on eastern philosophies and doing whatever I saw fit to explore my inner self.
Just then, when my head was “in the clouds” with new ideas and my heart excited with all the new directions I was headed towards, including a more pacifistic attitude, Israel was attacked by our enemies and the unexpected Yom Kippur War broke out.
On Friday, October 1973 I was called along with many others to fight with the reserve force for the defense of Israel against the Egyptians who had crossed the Suetz Canal and advanced into the Sinai Peninsula that was at that time in the hands of Israel after winning the Six Day War. The fighting lasted for eighteen days, and our army was able to intercept the Egyptian forces and drive them back. We also crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt to surround their armies.
During the 18 days of fighting, after the ceasefire, still in the Sinai, I found myself bothered and frustrated with many questions going through my mind about life and war: “What am I doing here? What would happen if I am killed?” I was scared of dying and did not believe that there is life after the physical death – war was complete madness – tanks in my battalion were hit and burned, many of my fellow soldiers were killed or wounded, this shook me up to the core of my being, my mind was occupied with questions about the meaning of life, death, faith in God and so on.
I was glad to be freed from my army service after the war, and tried getting back to my former way of life, but the war changed me and filled me with questions and frustrations:
“What is the meaning of this life?” And again, “What would have happened if I was killed in the battle field?”
Friends I knew in the army, soldiers in my unit who fought next to me in the war and guys from the Kibbutz I knew, were not so fortunate to come back home alive, as I was. “Is this life all there is?” Along with all those questions, I started having doubts about my unbelief in the existence of God: “Maybe I was wrong in believing that there is no God”. I thought I should investigate the subject.
Back at the Eilat Sea Port I had a roommate named Abraham who was also my co-worker. He told me about his faith in the God of Israel according to the Tanach (the Old Testament) and also the New Testament and that it is actually one book, the Word of God, the Bible, and in Hebrew – the Holy Scriptures. “According to the word of God,” said Abraham, “the promised Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the whole world is Yeshua”.
In the Kibbutz school I had a Bible in Hebrew including the New Testament, but because of prejudice I had never read the New Testament part.
Curiosity arose in me to know what is written in the New Testament, but I had put this inquiry on hold for a few years, because in September 1974, I went on a tour visiting some countries around the world; first to the Fareast – to India, Nepal, Burma and Thailand, to Australia, England and to the USA. I decided to settle down in West Virginia, where I settled to establish a family life.
I worked for a while in Westinghouse, where I met some Gentile believers in Jesus (Yeshua) who told me they believed in the God of Israel as well. They were surprised to find out that as an Israeli and a Jew I did not believe in the God of Israel, according to His Word in the Tanach. They continually urged me to read the Bible and check it out for myself.
After years of being a “Hippy”, searching and going through different experiments, I was still empty inside, not finding what I was looking for. Testimonies I had heard and things I read about the God of Israel and Yeshua, according to the writings of the Bible, aroused my curiosity and I felt a need to quench my spiritual thirst that grew to a deep void inside of me that needed to be filled. I knew the only way was to find the missing part that would fit the big hole inside of me.
When I read Jeremiah 29: 13 where it says: “And you will search and find me, when you search for me with all your heart”, I realized it was the Word of God; the One who was talking was the God of Israel Himself! I started believing in Him, and in depth began to seek Him with all my heart. I read in Jeremiah 31:31 about the New Covenant promise that the God of Israel had made with His people Israel, so I thought it wise to read the New Testament for myself – that was certainly an eye opener for me to say the least – I understood who Yeshua was. Many prophecies of the Old Covenant were of Yeshua’s life, death and resurrection. This started to establish a solid foundation of my faith in Him. His simple yet perfect genius, coupled with His teachings, messages and parables won my heart. As I was reading in the Gospel of John 14: 6 where Yeshua says: “I am the Truth, the Way and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through me“, I realized what faith in Him is, it’s to go in the Way that Yeshua talks about, to understand the Truth, and to receive Life.
At that time in my life, in 1978, I started to realize that I was “not right” with God (the Bible calls this condition sin). I realized I was not living according to the standards I was reading about in Gods Word. Suddenly I saw myself, my inner self, as if through a magnifying glass. I was a wretched sinner in need of forgiveness and salvation. All the information I had gathered from reading the Bible and tracts I had received from believers, from watching religious programs on TV and talking to believers, prepared me to receive our Father who is in Heaven and to surrender to His guiding hand. Slowly but surely I realized I needed a new beginning, according to John 3: 3 where Yeshua taught that we must be “Born Again” from above – from the Spirit, so we can see the Kingdom of God and enter in. Right there, in my living room I found myself kneeling on the floor, and from the depth of my soul cried out to the God of Israel with all the strength that was within me:
“I am returning to You, my Heavenly Father, forgive me of my sins, according to your Word. I receive the sacrifice of Yeshua for the forgiveness of my sins, I believe that you can and will give me a new heart and a new beginning with You”.
As I started walking after Yeshua in my new life, like a new born baby, my life started to change. Gone were the hippy days and life style, I was a “New Creation”. I felt like a new immigrant in the Promised Land, with a guiding map in my hand – the Holy Scriptures. But along with the blessings and excitement, came difficulties and challenges; most of my people I belonged to, family and Israeli friends did not believe in Yeshua and were mostly apposed to such a belief, so how could I be sure that I had really found the truth?
I found myself at a critical crossroad in my life, and felt it was my duty to find the answer that will take away all my doubts. I went through another period of time of searching in the Scriptures and prayers from the depth of my heart, and as a result, my faith was strengthened and I knew for a fact that I trusted Yeshua with all my heart and that I would follow Him without depending on the approval of others.
How great it is to have this blessed assurance! What a privilege it is to have a personal relationship with our Father in Heaven, with the God of Israel, to know that my sins are forgiven, that I have received eternal life and life in abundance!
THE END – THE BEGINNING!!!