How come nobody told me before ? I mean my family, my neighbors, my friends, my people… nobody knows! Nobody tells us. It’s the best-kept secret among the Jewish people. I was born to a Sephardic Jewish family, my family are Babylonian Jews on my mom’s side and Sephardic Jews, from Spain on my dad’s side. My mom would try to drag my brothers and me to synagogue. Maybe he had something to do with our people thousands of years ago but God was very very far away. In school we would study the Old Testament from 1st grade to 12th grade. We study it as the history of people, as wisdom literature, something that one just needs to know being Jewish but not as the word of God. After my military service, like a lot of Israelis, I decided to travel the world. Initially in Southeast Asia – a lot of Israelis are going there for the mysticism trail and the drug trail. I wanted to understand what they believe and so I was exposed to some Hindu and some Buddhist literature. I got to realize that there is a spiritual reality but that spiritual reality I saw was very very scary. It was negative, it was dark, but it was very real. I ended up in Amsterdam, Holland and I came there with merchandise to sell because I ran out of money.
It was there that I met a group of very enthusiastic young believers in Jesus and I said, “Well, I’m Jewish and we don’t believe in Jesus”. and they said “Why? Jesus is Jewish!” And I said, “I’m not sure why… but I’m sure we don’t believe in Jesus”. As I got to know them, I noticed two things that really drew my attention and made me curious. One was what they called “Personal relationship with God”. I couldn’t understand it. I mean I could see it. I could see how it works out in their lives. They would pray for one another, they would talk to God like one talks to a friend… it’s very foreign to a Jewish mindset. So this friend said, “Well would you like to pray?” I said, “I don’t know how to pray”, you know in my bar mitzvah they gave me a page, I read it. Give me a page, I’ll read it!
And the second thing that was even more shocking than that was that some of them were familiar with passages in the Hebrew scriptures that I wasn’t very well familiar with. In school we would study certain chapters, and we would skip over a lot of the other passages but they referred me to passages that they called “prophetic” or “Messianic”, that talk about the Messiah, and I was amazed! I said “How come you guys know the Hebrew Scripture. I mean, this is ours!” And they said “No, it’s the whole bible, it’s one book” and I said well, “I have a bible at home, and I’ve never seen the New Testament”. I decided to check it out so I read the Hebrew scriptures, and I saw it was the same one as we had. I had one in Hebrew and those passages were right in there, telling when the Messiah will be born, what he will do, how we’re going to recognize him. Reading this, I became very curious and I said to myself, “I have to read the New Testament”. So I actually got one in Hebrew, then every morning I would kind of just look at it, and then look away I’d go about doing my things, and finally I said to myself “Well, Erez, you’re a hypocrite” “because you would read Hindu writings and Buddhist writings and whatever” “but when it comes to Jesus, you know, you avoid”.
And I started reading. I was very surprised. First of all, it took place in Israel, in places I’ve been to many many times. Growing up in Israel, I’ve never ever heard anything about Jesus of Nazareth. I’ve never met a Christian person. I’ve never seen a New Testament. I had absolutely no idea what it meant. It is particularly ridiculous because I had a first generation family living on the shores of the sea of Galilee and throughout my childhood we would visit them several times a year, swim, fish… but I had no idea that Jesus or his disciples, you know, ever existed. We refer to this phenomenon as Jesus being the best-kept secret among the Jewish people. As I read about all the religious institutions, they’re still very much with us among the Jewish people to this day But Yeshua was different. I felt very drawn to him. He did not try to do things to win men’s favor and so I started a process of comparing the prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures about the Messiah and how we’re gonna recognize him, and the fulfillment in Yeshua in the New Testament. And to my amazement, it matched. I became convinced, first in my head, then in my heart, that Yeshua is indeed the promised Messiah of our people.
Shortly after that I started noticing changes in myself. I had a great hunger to read the word of God, the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. So thinking that I am the first Jewish person since the time of Paul the Apostle whom I read about in the New Testament, I felt that God is calling me to go back to Israel, and tell my family, tell my friends, tell my neighbors, my people, and everybody else that I meet about this great discovery that Yeshua is not just the messiah of the gentiles. He’s also our Messiah.
After becoming a follower of Yeshua I became overwhelmed with a sense of joy on the one hand but also urgency because I said, “How come nobody told me before?” I mean my family, my neighbors, my friends, my people… nobody knows – nobody tells us and I felt very strongly that I need to go and tell my people. I decided to surprise my family. My dad was there and I told him that I believe in Yeshua the Messiah. The consensus was that in some way or fashion I’d lost my mind. My dad’s family arranged for me a meeting with the chief psychiatrist in our city and he actually formally declared me to be sane. I should have asked for that in writing. My mom’s family arranged for me a meeting with the rabbi and the rabbi promised my mom that he would prove to me that Yeshua is not the Messiah. The day before our meeting the rabbi called my mom, and he cancelled the meeting. To my great joy, I discovered there were other believers! I discovered there was a congregation of Jewish believers, and I started going there and so I told them I want to study the word of God. Is there any Bible school or Bible college or something like that I can go and invest some time and just study the bible? They said well no, there’s nothing and I completed my doctoral studies in the US after that, with my wife and young children, we came back to Israel. I knew that God has called me to serve him, but I didn’t know exactly where. I remember very vividly how it felt coming to know Yeshua and having a deep desire to study the scriptures and not knowing how to do it and I felt very strongly that I need to go and provide this opportunity for Israeli believers both Jewish and Arab to study the word of God, in Hebrew, right where it happened. And to that, I dedicate my life.