How come nobody told me before? My family, my neighbors, my friends, my people, nobody knows. Nobody tells us. The best-kept secret among the Jewish people.
I was born to a Sephardic Jewish family. My family is 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 the synagogue. Maybe it 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 studied it as the history of our 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 Buddist literature. I got to realize that there is some 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. 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. I said, “well, I’m Jewish and we don’t believe in Jesus.” They said, “why? Jesus is Jewish.” 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 a personal relationship with God. I couldn’t understand it. 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, “would you like to pray?” I said, “I don’t know how to pray. In my Bar Mitzva, they gave me a page and I read it. Give me a page and I will read it.” 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”. They talked about the Messiah and I was amazed. I said, “how come you guys know the Hebrew scripture? This is ours.” They said, “no, the whole Bible is one book.” I said, “well, I have a Bible at home and I have never seen the New Testament.” I decided to check it out. I read the Hebrew scriptures. I saw it was the same one we had. I had one in Hebrew. Those passages were right in there telling when the Messiah will be born. What he will do. How we are going to recognize Him. From 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 and every morning I would kind of look at it and then look away and go about doing my things. Finally, I said to myself, “Erez, you are a hypocrite, because you would read Hindu writings, Buddist writings and whatever but when it comes to Jesus you avoid.” I started reading. I was very surprised. First of all, it took place in Israel and places I have been to many, many times. Growing up in Israel, I have never heard anything about Jesus of Nazareth. I have never met a Christian person. I have never seen a New Testament. I had absolutely no idea what it meant. It is particularly ridiculous because I had a first-degree family living on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Throughout my childhood, we would visit them several times a year. We would swim and fish, but I had no idea that Jesus and His disciples 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 are still very much with us among the Jewish people to this day. Yeshua was different. I felt very drawn to Him. He did not try to do things to win man's favor. So I started a process of comparing the prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures about the Messiah and how we are going to recognize Him and the fulfillment of Yeshua in the New Testament. 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, tell my people and everybody else that I meet about this great discovery. Yeshua is not just the Messiah of the gentiles, He is 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. 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 have 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 a Rabbi. 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 canceled 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. So, I told them, “I want to study the Word of God. Is there any Bible school or Bible college or something like that where I can go, invest some time and just study the Bible?” They said, “well, no. There is nothing.” I completed my doctoral studies in the United States. 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. 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. To that, I dedicate my life.