By Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram
You don’t hear a whole lot from the media about what “The Passion” is currently doing in the Arab countries. But we keep receiving reports from Christians in various countries that “the Passion” is reaching into the Muslim world with the Gospel, unprecedented in the history of Islam.
Nearly all Muslim nations ban the showing of any Biblical prophet recognized by Islam. For example, “Prince of Egypt” was banned by Egyptian censors because, “ Islam reveres Moses as a prophet, and many Muslims recoil at seeing their prophets as flesh-and-blood characters.”
But accusations that “The Passion” is anti-Semitic have actually sparked great Arab interest in seeing it, according to a Christian in Qatar. He wrote, “How interesting that God is using this film to communicate the Gospel through the very opposite spirit that might be motivating them to go and see it.” “The message to love your enemies, and Jesus praying for them to be forgiven while on the cross, would hit the Muslim theatergoer in a powerful way.”
Even Al Jazeera, the “Arab CNN” that is usually very anti-Western, reports that “‘The Passion of the Christ’ received an exceptionally warm welcome in the mainly Muslim Arab world, drawing large audiences in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. One Christian reported that to everyone’s shock and surprise, “The Passion” was released in Qatar. “In two short hours, more Qataris heard the Gospel than I have been able to reach in nearly five years of living here,” said one Western leader. He added, “The Arabic subtitles were completely accurate - they didn’t water anything down or change any language that the Muslims might not agree with.” Qatar newspapers reported 66,321 tickets sold in the first three days, in a land of only 730,000 citizens. “The Passion” has drawn large crowds also in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait..Even in Saudi Arabia, which has no theaters, pirated DVDs are “selling like hotcakes,” as they are in all Arab countries.
Now think about this! It is reported that teachers in Amman have been taking their pupils to see the movie - something that would never be allowed in the West. Parts of the film have been shown on Arabian TV followed by panel discussions with Muslim scholars. (assistnews.net)
According to eye witnesses, Arab audiences are deeply moved by Christ’s suffering. Street vendors are offering pirate copies; DVDs and videos are proliferating throughout the Arab world according to the British information service Ekklesia. (Ibid)
Let us look with strategic eyes. Notice that even Rabbi Lapin (see his article) foresees the possibility of a Christian revival among Moslems. God is stirring Himself among the Arab people. Since a song will be sung in heaven with the words, “You are worthy…for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…,” (Revelation 5:9) there must also be revival among the Muslims.
A few weeks ago we were invited to meet with a searching Muslim Israeli college student. We were struck by the very open spirit he had as he listened to us tell him about Yeshua.
He knew his Koran well and had great respect for the prophet Mohammed. He also highly respected Yeshua. But Satan neutralized Yeshua in the Koran by giving Mohammed the “revelation” that Yeshua did not die on the cross (and, therefore, could not take away our sins through His blood.) Mohammed claimed that someone else was substituted for Yeshua on the cross!
Only Satan could make such a hodgepodge out of the Gospel. But now, the Lord has seen to it that Mel Gibson’s film, which is strictly about the crucifixion, is being seen throughout the Arab world! God is letting us know that He loves the Arab people and He is giving them a chance to know the truth! We are convinced that there will be many Arabs who, after seeing “the Passion” will have visions and dreams that will bring them to salvation. Others will simply believe in their hearts that Yeshua died for their sins.
Today is Iraq’s opportunity. Which way will she ultimately go? Let us strengthen our prayers for Iraq that there will be great freedom to preach the Gospel under the new government. Let us pray for the born-again Christian Arabs and workers throughout the Arab world. Satan has tried and continues to try to destroy the whole Arab race through Islam. But God has a plan to rescue Ishmael, also the son of Abraham.
The “Passion of Christ” in Jordan
By Jonathan Miles
This week I saw “The Passion of the Christ” in Amman, Jordan. I had already seen the film in Colorado, and found it moving, but I wept much more watching it in a theater filled with Muslims.
Media reports say “The Passion” has become the biggest blockbuster film ever in the Arab world, surpassing the previous record holder Titanic. Multiple screen complexes are showing it on several screens, dozens of times a day. Bootlegged copies of DVDs are everywhere.
I wept because the film portrays so powerfully and beautifully just what Muslims have been taught to reject: the crucifixion. They say that God would not allow his prophet to suffer in such a way, and refer to a Koranic verse which implies that a substitute was put in the place of Jesus on the cross. Yet now they sit transfixed as the crucifixion is reenacted before their eyes, and from the film’s opening verse from Isaiah 53, the struggle at Gethsemane, and multiple flashbacks to Jesus’ words at his last Passover meal, we understand so clearly why Jesus chose to lay down his life.
Most amazing is that Muslims are queuing up and paying to see this message, spurred on in the wisdom of God by the claims of the film’s anti-Semitism. It changes the whole dynamic of the message when it is one that the viewer seeks out himself, and comes from a source Hollywood which sad to say is viewed with more credibility than the church.
In sum, I don’t believe there has ever been a more powerful presentation of the gospel to the Arab world. We’re seeing something unprecedented here.
The anointing of the Holy Spirit is evident both in the writing, acting, and production of the film, and in the opening of hearts to receive it. Let our faith be increased that God is at work in the Arab world, and let us get behind what he is doing in prayer and in our own availability to serve.
In a few minutes I will be leaving for the Gaza Strip, carrying my own copy of “The Passion” to share with some of our closest friends there. Would you pray with me that here too the Spirit of God will be at work?
Reprinted with permission. Jonathan Miles’ organization, Shevet Achim, is building bridges between Israel and the Arab states by bringing Arab children with severe heart malfunctions to Israeli hospitals for surgery. http://www.shevet.org/
GOD IS MOVING AMONG THE ARABS!
An Arab pastor reports on his Arab-Israeli congregation: By Joseph Haddad
Just four years ago last May, nearly 8,000 Lebanese fighters and their families fled helter-skelter across the southern border of Lebanon to Israel. They fled because the Israeli army was leaving southern Lebanon for good, and these Lebanese, who were mostly of Christian background Marnonite and Catholic by culture had fought side by side with Israel for 25 years. They had allied themselves with Israel because the Palestinian terrorist organizations operating in Lebanon not only wanted to destroy Israel, but also aspired to wipe out any trace of Christianity in the areas they controlled namely southern Lebanon.
No one in the whole world cared about these Christian Lebanese not the West, certainly not the U.N. But because Israel and the Christian Lebanese both had the same deadly Islamic enemies, they allied themselves together, and the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA) fought along side the Israeli soldiers for 25 years.
But when Israel retreated from Lebanon, these Lebanese allies were given a few hours’ notice to flee with just the clothes on their backs. If they had stayed behind in Lebanon, they risked death, or at best long jail sentences would have been their fate. Nevertheless, as time has passed, almost 6,000 have trickled back into Lebanon, many of them serving jail sentences. Those who have stayed here in Israel believe that it is too dangerous for them to go back to their homeland. A large number of these are living in Nahariya, Israel, where we started our Lebanese-Arab congregation. For these precious Lebanese who are still with us and have lost their land, houses and property, God is now moving strongly among them. God has a destiny for these Lebanese. It is not a coincidence that they crossed the borders on that day. God brought them to Israel to reveal his son Yeshua as their personal Lord and Savior, to fill them with his precious Holy Spirit. He brought them here to set them free from their old bondages as they were caught up in different types of false worship which as nominal Christians, they had inherited from their forefathers.
I believe the reason that they are here is because the God of Israel has not forgotten His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He has promised Abraham in Genesis 12:3 “ I will bless those who bless thee.” These precious Lebanese laid down their lives to defend the northern Israeli borders from constant terror attacks. They suffered many casualties and losses to defend Israel from her wicked enemies, and I believe God has written that in His book. The time has come for these remaining Lebanese to be rewarded by our faithful God for blessing Israel and casting their lot with the Jewish people. He has provided for them a city of refuge in Israel and now He is revealing His Son Yeshua to them as their Lord and Savior. What a great reward for their firm decision to remain a friend of Israel! Hallelujah!
Now, in return, Israel is reaping God’s favor from these born-again Lebanese! Local Jews from Nahariya who were invited to our services by their Lebanese neighbors are now finding Yeshua the Messiah of Israel! He is using our Lebanese believers to provoke the Jews to jealousy!
The first Jewish person who came to know Yeshua in our congregation is called Yacov. Yacov was one of the underground Jewish fighters with Menachem Begin (who later became Prime Minister) as they fought against the British in the 40’s to establish the State of Israel. Last year, he was invited by a Lebanese neighbor to our congregation and there he met the Messiah of Israel at the age of 72!
Two weeks after Yacov’s salvation, he had a severe heart attack while alone at home. The last thing he remembers before he collapsed was knocking at the neighbor’s door and saying, “Yeshua, I commit my soul into your hands.” He was immediately taken to the intensive care, but when he arrived, he was declared clinically dead. After several electric shocks, his heart started beating again. For three days he was unconscious. The doctors considered it a miracle when he opened his eyes on the fourth day. He literally came back from the dead.
He told me later that during those three days he saw Yeshua dressed in a white robe, and radiating with a marvelous light. Yeshua held his hand and took him on a trip through heaven. He showed him the beauty of heavenly Jerusalem where we will spend all eternity with Him. As a new believer, Yacov hadn’t read the Book of Revelation yet, but the description that he shared fits exactly with the one found in Revelation 21:10-27.
Yacov said to me, “ One thing I regret…” I asked him, “What is that thing?” He answered, “That I didn’t have a camera to videotape all that amazing beauty of the heavenly Jerusalem!”
There is no doubt that the enemy tried to get rid of this precious brother but the Lord turned all this for good! He came out of this experience with more love and steadfastness in his faith in Yeshua, being certain that eternal life is a reality. In fact, He expressed his disappointment of coming back to this planet. He would have preferred to stay there with Yeshua. God has preserved him as the first fruit Jewish believer at our Lebanese congregation since many other local Jews are destined for salvation through faith in Yeshua HaMashiach in the city of Nahariya. Already, several other Jews have begun to attend the congregation. And it stirs my heart to see precious Jews worshipping Yeshua at our Lebanese congregation.
Another wonderful experience is to see Hassan, an ex-fanatic Moslem from Lebanon who received Yeshua at our congregation, holding Ya’acov’s hand and praising the Savior. It is a vivid picture of the one new man in Messiah. Eph 2:14 There is hope for the long term conflict in the Middle East. The solution is found in Yeshua. He is the only One Who can make the two one.
Just Wait Till the Muslims See It
By Rabbi Daniel Lapin
(Radio talk show host, Rabbi Lapin, is president of Toward Tradition, The American Alliance of Jews and Christians)
With perhaps one in five Americans already having seen it, The Passion continues to rack up attendance records. Would you like to hear an amazing statistic? In spite of dire warnings by some Jewish groups, no American Jews wending their way homewards from the synagogue have been set upon by crucifix-wielding Christians intent on wreaking revenge for the death of Jesus.
I am not being sarcastic. This truly is an amazing statistic. According to Boston police reports, the Oliver Stone-Quentin Tarantino 1994 Natural Born Killers inspired several imitation murders including a firefighter killed by a man who claimed to be fascinated by the film.
Nathaniel White claimed that Robocop showed him how to kill five women and one girl in a year-long murder spree. Four young gunmen embarked on a killing spree, murdering four after watching the TV movie Helter Skelter, a film about the Manson murders. The annals of American crime are filled with instances of the unbalanced and the demented acting out silver screen slashing extravaganzas.
Back in February, when The Passion was released, would anyone have been willing to guarantee that out of millions of theater-goers, not one lunatic would emerge with mayhem on his mind? I would have offered no such guarantee. Yet, nothing of the sort happened. What did happen is that several criminals were inspired to confess their crimes and submit to trial and incarceration after experiencing The Passion.
Even the most hostile critic must concede that just as depraved films stimulate degenerate imitation, so do uplifting films stimulate noble behavior. That is certainly what has been happening with The Passion. Wouldn’t it be uplifting and even noble were the Jewish groups who earlier had insulted The Passion, its maker, the Gospels that inspired it, and indeed all Christians, now to issue an apology?
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if those who earlier warned of anti-Jewish violence because “Gibson is spouting classic anti-Semitism” would now say contritely, “We were just plain wrong?” How about a “We’re sorry” from those who threatened, “Mel Gibson’s mouth has turned into a lethal weapon.” Instead, what they are now saying is, “Just wait till those Muslims see The Passion.”
What exactly can we expect now that a few Moslem communities are screening the film? It seems to me that we can anticipate only three possible outcomes.
Possible outcome number one is that Moslem viewers decry the movie for at least two of its premises that flatly contradict Koranic doctrine. The first is that Jesus was crucified. According to the Koran, Jesus was merely a prophet and was certainly never crucified, nor did he rise from the grave. The second is the movie’s stubborn depiction of a temple in Jerusalem. Islamic propaganda vehemently denies that any Jewish presence ever existed upon the Temple Mount. It is chiefly for these reasons that the movie is not gaining wide exposure among the world’s Moslems. Those that do see it are quite likely to denounce it as sheer fabrication. [NOTE: “The Passion” is being widely viewed in the Arab world since Rabbi Lapin wrote this article. See pages one and two in this issue. Ed.]
Possible outcome number two is that Moslem viewers react to The Passion by waving their arms, shooting their Kalashnikovs into the air and yelling, “Yes! We knew it! Those Jews are just no good. Did you see this? They are even implicated in the death of Jesus.” Presumably the consequence of this discovery would be that Moslem audiences then shake their heads sadly and say, “Okay, that’s it! No more mister nice guy!” Does anyone seriously suggest that Moslems in the Middle East were just about to denounce homicide bombings until they saw The Passion? Or would all those studious Islamic poets and software architects see the movie, abandon their work and sally into the streets of Marseilles and Islamabad to attack Jews? How could Mel Gibson’s movie possibly add to the already frenzied Islamic anti-Semitism?
Finally, we must confront possible outcome number three. Moslems experience The Passion, find it profoundly moving, and in large numbers convert to Christianity. Many would consider this outcome to be rather improbable but they could be the same people who were also wrong in their predictions of how The Passion would impact American audiences. In any event Moslem authorities are not quite as sanguine which is precisely why so few are allowing The Passion into their societies in the first place.
And, should one billion Moslems convert to Christianity, does anyone really believe that the world would be a worse place?
Reprinted with permission: (April 21, 2004) Toward Tradition is a bridge-building organization providing a voice for all Americans who defend the Judeo-Christian values vital for our nation’s survival. http://www.towardtradition.org/
Update on Tiferet Yeshua Congregation
By Eddie & Jackie Santoro
As our congregation approaches 200 people, establishing personal relationships between the brothers and sisters has become more challenging. One of the methods that we are endeavoring to use to facilitate this process is the expansion of our small groups. When you receive this Maoz Israel Report, we will be in the middle of our two-week trip with 28 congregational members for training in small groups, youth and children's ministry.
We ask you to please be in prayer for this very special time of intensive training for this group. Pray that by God’s grace these men and women will return significantly empowered in their giftings and callings.
Another area of ongoing prayer is for the establishment of a new generation of Israeli leaders.
It is to this end that we labor and we are seeing some real fruit in our efforts. One of our young brothers who we have been discipling over the years, Ze'ev, again shared at our Shabbat meeting. As a "father" in the Lord, I can only say that I was deeply impressed as I sat back and enjoyed the obvious anointing and grace that was resting on this man as he shared. Pray for Ze'ev. He is an elder in the making and destined to impact Israel in a mighty way. We are going to start including him and several other members in a monthly leadership meeting.
Another promising and anointed young sister, Suzie will be teaching this week in our Wednesday young adults meeting. This is not just about young believers learning to move in their giftings, but these people are native-born Israelis that are taking upon themselves the mantle of sacrifice and service that will lead this nation into the coming revival. Even now we are seeing a steady flow of new believers coming to faith. In the last two weeks, four Israelis confessed their faith in our Messiah! We are grateful for the tens that we are seeing saved but we long for the day when hundreds and thousands will be drawn into the Kingdom here in Israel. The anointing that these young men and women are learning to move in will play a large part in bringing that day closer.
He who promised is faithful and one day we will see its glorious fulfillment. Thank you for partnering with us for Israel’s salvation.
Eddie Santoro is an elder of Tiferet Yeshua Congregation, Tel Aviv You may receive their Zion’s Glory prayer letter at email@example.com
Dear Maoz Partner,
The Israeli Arabs hold a unique place in the world today. They are part of the great Arab community; most of them give allegiance to the Muslim religion and sympathize with Palestinian aspirations.
But when it comes right down to it, Israeli Arabs prefer to live in Israel where they enjoy democracy, however imperfect it might be towards its Arab citizens. According to a 2003 survey of Professor Sammy Smooha of the University of Haifa, a large minority of Arabs (37.7) accept the Zionist principle of Israel’s right to preserve a Jewish majority.
The survey further revealed that only 13.4 per cent of Israeli Arabs would be prepared to live in a future Palestinian state! (Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2004)
The born-again Israeli Arabs have thus been placed in a very strategic position. They have more freedom than any where else in the Middle East to preach the Gospel to the 1,000,000 Israeli Muslim citizens. Here in Israel no one gets his head cut off for preaching to Muslims although in Palestinian-controlled areas, the Arab believers’ lives are at risk by the Muslim authorities.
(We have just given through our istandwithisrael.com fund 10,000NIS ($2,150) to help pay for bypass surgery (done in Israel) for a former Muslim who is now one of the main Christian leaders in the Palestinian areas, and who has suffered greatly because of his testimony and work.)
We have been supporting Joseph Haddad and his work in Nahariya, Israel, for the last two years. We are doing so because Joseph is a true pioneer. It is an act of God that he has been able to establish a church where Lebanese, Jews and Israeli Arabs all worship together the One True God.
We wish to continue to bless him and his congregation with monthly support. Every penny we receive from you for Joseph and his congregation will go directly to him.
It would appear to us that the greatest enemy of God in the coming years of this century will be Islam and its sympathizers, especially among the atheistic nations. Can we then understand the strategic importance of Arab Christians, citizens of Israel, who have the Arabic language and the freedom to preach the Gospel to Muslims and even to Jews?
Joseph Haddad has proven himself to be a man with perseverance, a man of vision and of integrity, with a good name among the believers in Israel.
We welcome you to be a partner with us to help Joseph and his flock reach out with Yeshua, the only Answer the people of the Middle East will ever have!
For salvation among the Arab peoples,
Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram
“What are you going to use this for?”
By Ari Sorko-Ram
When the Israeli customs department telephoned us that our DVD/CD duplicator had arrived, they asked me to come into their office to answer some questions. When I arrived, a customs investigator was on hand to greet me. He told me he must investigate because there was some possibility of criminal activity. I realized immediately that he was suspicious as to why we had purchased the DVD/CD duplicator because a very large percentage of DVDs and CDs in Israel are black market copies.
When he asked me what the machine was for, I told him about our Messianic Jewish congregation, Tiferet Yeshua, and about Maoz Ministries which had purchased this DVD /CD duplicator for our Bible courses and for the messages that are preached on the Sabbath.
The customs investigator had heard of Messianic Judaism and then he recognized me from an educational TV series which I had done for grades 5-7 for their English courses a series that must have run for 10 years!
He asked me to explain to him exactly what Messianic Jews believe, and for 30 minutes,
I was able to tell him about Yeshua the Messiah and the reason we receive salvation from Him. I explained that through Yeshua we have a personal relationship with our Father in heaven, just as did our forefathers in the Bible. I pointed out to him the difference between religion and knowing God. Of course, he signed for the release of our DVD/CD duplicator, and he said he might just show up at our congregation!