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Some Thoughts on Aliyah at this time by Aaron Hecht

 


A group of new immigrants arrive in Israel (Wikipedia)

I made Aliyah to Israel right in the middle of what was already being called the "Second Intifada." Buses were being blown up by suicide bombers in Tel Aviv, tourist venues in Jerusalem were being targeted, and the economy was in very bad shape. Over 250,000 people were unemployed and a fairly large number of people were leaving the country, while a tiny number were moving here.

I was one of that tiny number, and from the first moment I got here, everyone I met expressed their disbelief that I was coming at a time when they wanted so badly to leave. I mean, literally, the first conversation I had along those lines was with the cab driver who drove me from the airport to my hotel where I spent my first night here.

His name was Yitzhak, he was in his late fifties, a veteran of the Yom Kippur War, and he spoke to me in the tone of a concerned uncle, saying in as many words that I was young and foolish and making a terrible mistake. He even offered to turn the cab around and drive me back to the airport so I could get back on a plane and go home, and he wasn't joking. When he dropped me off at my hotel, he gave me his card, which had the number of his cell phone (a somewhat new technology at the time that was just beginning to be commonly available in Israel) and told me that if I changed my mind I should call him and he'd come get me and make sure I got back to the airport.

I still have that card, and I even called the number a few years later to say hi and let him know I was okay and still in Israel. He was glad to hear from me and told me to stay in touch, but I kind of got the feeling that it would be awkward if I did, so I didn't call him again.

In any case, Yitzhak might have been the first Israeli I met who expressed incredulity that a young American would be coming to Israel at a time when so many veteran Israelis would have liked to leave, but he wasn't the last.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, there would be many more well-meaning people who said similar things to me when I informed them that I'd decided to make Aliyah at that time. They sometimes also expressed respect for my courage and idealism, but to my surprise (I was VERY naive back then) many of them also expressed high-octane cynicism about this country and sometimes I even felt like people resented me for what I was doing.

But the years passed, the Second Intifada came to an end, and conditions in Israel improved. Eventually, the expressions of disbelief that I would choose to stay in Israel when I had the option of leaving and going to live in America became less frequent.

But now, with Israel embroiled in a seemingly endless war that threatens to rapidly intensify into something much worse at any moment, I'm once again being asked more frequently if I'd consider going back to the US. But this time, it isn't my fellow Israelis making these well-meaning but incredibly annoying suggestions, but old friends from the US who have been watching too many "news" reports and assume that I'm in imminent, mortal danger.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as I probably don't have to explain to readers of this blog. In fact, as difficult as things are in Israel right now, with a multi-front military conflict, tough economic times, a deeply dysfunctional government, and an increasingly dysfunctional civil society, I still feel much more comfortable here than I would back in the Old Country.

That's because the America I grew up in is almost entirely gone, having been replaced by something I never thought it was even possible that it would become. Things are happening in the United States that would have been literally unthinkable just a few short years ago, and it makes me very grateful I live in Israel, even with all our problems.

An anecdotal example of this came to me in the form of an article this week in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, telling a story about an incident in the small town of Woodstock in upstate New York. This small town of 6,000 people has just a few Jewish families in it, but a bunch of anti-Israel thugs decided that was a good enough reason to go there a few days ago and take part in a demonstration that included screaming abuse at the Jewish elementary school students as they attempted to ride past in their school bus.

The mother of two of these terrified children went to rescue them and she came under verbal attack from the protesters as well. But she said that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was that some of her neighbors came out of their homes to shout encouragement at the protesters.

This anecdotal incident is demonstrative of a VERY widespread phenomenon.

It might be a hackneyed cliche to say "The world is losing its mind" but there is an ever-growing list of anecdotal incidents that point to the conclusion that in this season of history, the world really is losing its mind, and this hackneyed cliche is becoming an actual, undeniable fact.

I have written before in these blogs about how we're in the so-called "post-truth world" in which everyone feels entitled to their own opinion AND their own facts and having the actual, objective truth on your side won't help you much. Many people are still acting rationally, but many more have stopped even trying.

Another anecdote that demonstrates this came across my desk this week. It was a report about how the massive floods that recently struck Brazil have given rise to truly astounding conspiracy theories.

Instead of accepting that sometimes bad weather just happens, many people are expressing their belief in ludicrously absurd rumors about how the torrential rains that caused these floods were caused by weather monitoring towers in Alaska, vapor trails seeded in the clouds by airplanes sent up by some mysterious/sinister cabal of evil bad guys, etc.

Brothers and sisters, some of you might be wondering what a bunch of looney toon conspiracy theories about extreme weather in Brazil have to do with Israel, Jews, or Aliyah.

The answer is, EVERYTHING!

When bad times come, and they always do sooner or later, people always get scared and worried. They worry about what'll happen to them and their families, they worry about where they'll get enough money to pay for all the things they need, they worry about whether the things they think they need will even be available and what will happen to them if they're not.

When people get worried about these things, it leads to them being angry, and it leads to a weakening of their ability to think rationally and/or their willingness to listen to reason. It leads to them being less willing, or even able, to believe the truth when they hear it. It leads to them being willing to believe lies that, if they weren't so afraid, they'd realize were utterly absurd. Last but certainly not least, it leads to them looking for something or someone to blame for everything that's going wrong all around them.

The Jewish people have been victims of this toxic brew of absurd, hysterical nonsense many times over the past 2,000 years, and NOTHING is stopping this pattern from repeating itself again.

As Voltaire said, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

We can already see that large numbers of people all over the Western world, including the United States, have been talked into believing the absurd lies that Hamas and its supporters are peddling. It's caused them to voice their approval for the atrocities that Hamas committed on October 7th, and it is a VERY short step from voicing approval for such atrocities that someone else committed and committing atrocities yourself.

In summary friends, there is a kind of madness sweeping this world, and it's making everything more and more dysfunctional. The huge rise in anti-Semitism all over the world is only part of a larger problem of a massive and unprecedented rise in sheer insanity of every imaginable kind. Demonic spiritual forces are obviously part of what's driving this madness, as has been the case in the past.

I believe that many things are near a breaking point, and unprecedented upheaval and chaos are just around the corner. Because of this, every day that goes by it will get more dangerous for Jewish people, whether they live in big cities like Paris, London, and Los Angeles, or small towns like Woodstock, New York. 

With all of this in mind, making Aliyah at this time might seem like a huge risk, but the fact is that despite the ongoing war and all the other problems, there is no safer place for Jewish people in the entire world right now.

The United Methodist Church Goes Full Woke


Last week the United Methodist Church General Conference gathered for what became a watershed moment: to redefine the Methodist denomination as a progressive, woke, quasi-religious group that embraces sexual immorality, rejects the world's only Jewish state, and champions the killing of the unborn.

In this video from the conference, United Methodists add new lyrics to an old hymn, praising God Diversity and asserting that all paths lead to God:

This conference formalized what has long been happening in the mainstream Protestant world: a forced adoption of progressive politics resulting in a divided, broken church with dwindling attendance and increasing irrelevance to a dying world.

Methodists have now split into two distinct groups: United Methodists (new progressive woke quasi-religion) and Global Methodists (traditional Methodist values). 

Global Methodist minister Chris Ritter documented the changes outlined from the conference:

  • Marriage is redefined from a man and a woman to any two adults of consenting age.
  • Restrictions on LGBT clergy are removed.
  • Same-sex weddings in United Methodist churches are permitted.
  • Non-binary gender categories are embraced.
  • Clergy sexual misconduct no longer includes adultery, sex outside of marriage, or homosexuality.
  • Abortion is now affirmed, with the United Methodist Church declaring solidary with those seeking it.
  • Church funds can be used to promote homosexuality. The conference announced the formation of a new Center for LGBTQ+ United Methodist Heritage, using church funds.
  • Sexual orientation becomes a mandated diversity category on church boards.
  • Removed previous protections for traditional Methodist liberties on these issues.
  • Divestment from Israel. Calls on the US government to end aid to Israel.
  • New resolutions to introduce more intersectional ideology within Methodism.
  • New changes to prevent conservative global Methodist regions from affecting US-based rules. (Likely needed because African Methodists hold to the Bible and oppose these new political directions.)
  • No exit pathways to leave the United Methodist Church. If a local church wants to leave, they will not able to keep their buildings or property.
Nearly everything there is tangential to redefining sexual immorality...except abortion and Israel.

Why is that?

It reveals something unique about Israel, doesn't it? It reveals something about one's spiritual condition if you oppose what Apostle Paul calls the natural branches, and by extension, the world's only Jewish nation. Antisemitism reveals demonic depravity; the United Methodists embracing it is a sure sign there is something rotten in the hearts of its leadership.

As for abortion, we know from early Christian writings such as the Didache that the early Christians considered it a grave sin. This further demonstrates that the United Methodist Church is straying from historical Christianity.

Given the United Methodists General Conference voted against these progressive policies in 2019, how did it turn out so badly now in 2024? Pastor Ritter explains,

In the fallout of a special General Conference in 2019 where the traditional understanding of marriage and human sexuality was upheld, U.S. progressives organized opposition with cooperation from certain U.S. bishops. Progressive slates of delegates were elected to represent several U.S. conferences. Amid this fallout, a high-profile plan, the Separation Protocol, was negotiated to divide the denomination. The General Conference set to approve separation was delayed twice due to COVID-19 and without controversy. A third delay until 2024 was viewed by traditionalists as unnecessary and shrewdly calculated. The Global Methodist Church announced plans to form in May 2022 and traditionalists began to disaffiliate under a provision approved at GC2019 (but only applied to US churches). A quarter of the 30,000 UMC churches in the USA exited. Meanwhile, the UM Commission on the General Conference styled the 2024 meeting a “delayed General Conference 2020.” This allowed the US the same delegate as before the exodus. African delegates, already disenfranchised from their new majority status, suffered further setbacks when a quarter of their delegates were unable to attend due to travel visa issues. All these factors created a ”boomerang effect” from the stated positions of the church in 2019.

It's not at all clear to me if now the United Methodist Church is any different at all from universal unitarians. Or from secular culture, for that matter. It's not clear to me they remain Christian: if Jesus Christ isn't required for salvation, and if Biblical ethics and morality are discarded, can it still be called 'Christian'?

Already the United Methodist Church has seen thousands of churches leave: since 2019, over 7,000 churches have left the United Methodists, with membership in decline between 3-5% each year. More than half of those have joined the Global Methodist Church, comprised of the original non-woke Methodists.

In the last two decades, we've seen other major Protestant denominations taken over by ideologically-motivated members who act in contradiction to the original purpose of the denomination and its founder. When this has happened, these churches slowly die out. Because people don't want churches that are indistinguishable from secular culture and ethics. 

If history is any indication, the United Methodist Church will continue to decline in churches and membership. It has embraced sexual immorality, boasted over the natural branches of the Jewish people, and championed killing the unborn.

Perhaps this can be a lesson for us in the Messianic Jewish movement. We must be on guard against politicizing our faith. But it's more specific than that. When political movements go beyond, or even against, the morality of the Bible, we must fight tooth and nail to hold onto what is good. The ever-changing morality of modern culture is weak and feeble compared to the solid rock foundation of the Word of God.

Some Thoughts on Liberation Theology by Aaron Hecht


Everyone in the Hebrew Roots, Messianic Jewish, and Christian Zionist movements loves to hate Replacement Theology, and rightfully so. This false teaching that the Gentile followers of Christ have "replaced" the Jewish People in God's redemptive plans and purposes for the Human Race and that all the promises to the Jewish People that are found throughout both the Old and New Testament are now imputed to "the Church" is indeed flatly repudiated by Scripture. 

The best and perhaps most explicit example of this repudiation is found in Romans 9-11, and everyone involved in any of the movements mentioned above should be well acquainted with these passages so that they can show anyone who calls themself a Christian but who adheres to Replacement Theology their error. I have also found it helpful to open up the Book of Revelation, which is the last part of the Bible and tells the story about what will happen at the very END of this Age, with the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, specifically the city of Jerusalem, playing a starring role in it all. Asking people who adhere to Replacement Theology to explain that can be fun and also very fruitful, as well as sparking discussions about all kinds of other highly relevant topics.

But the commitment to Replacement Theology is often pretty shallow, having been absorbed over time rather than being accepted as a well-defined package at some point. So pointing to the Scripture passages that repudiate it is sometimes all one needs to do to help a fellow Believer understand the need to reject this false teaching.

As I've said before, there is another false teaching that is just as toxic as Replacement Theology and that's Dual Covenant Theology. This false teaching holds that Jewish people who are "Torah Observant" and live a lifestyle that's proscribed by the Orthodox Rabbis have their own path to God which makes accepting the Gospel message unnecessary. 

Once again, there are a number of passages in the New Testament (including the very words of Jesus Himself) that flatly repudiate this false teaching, my personal favorite being I John 2:22; Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.

There is much more I could say about this topic, but others have already said it all much better than I ever could.

In this blog, I want to talk about another false teaching that we don't hear as much about as we used to, and that's Liberation Theology.

What is Liberation Theology?

Liberation Theology, like many other false teachings, takes a handful of things Jesus said and ignores everything else He said. It has some things in common with Replacement Theology, but most of what it incorporates comes from secular sources including Marxist/Communist teachings and what has come to be known in recent times as the "Social Justice" and/or "Woke" movements.

The things Jesus said that adherents of Liberation Theology like the most can be found in Luke 4:18; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

I'm sure I don't have to explain why these words of Jesus are so precious to the "social justice" crowd. But like I said, this crowd completely ignores almost everything else Jesus said, especially the parts about how sin separates humans from a Holy God, how people need to repent and save themselves from being sent to Hell by a Holy God by accepting the free gift of His atoning sacrifice on the Cross, how this is the ONLY WAY to salvation and last but certainly not least, how He's coming back someday to judge the world for its sins. 

You've never seen incandescent rage until you bring up that part of the narrative with a Liberation Theologian.

Where are we likely to find Liberation Theology?

Nearly any individual, organization, church, denomination, etc. which describes itself as "liberal" or "ecumenical" or participating in "inter-faith dialogue" will almost always be on a spectrum of Liberation Theology. 

They really like those parts of the Gospel where Jesus shows compassion to the poor, minorities, and women, to those who are downtrodden in one way or another. They also really like those parts where He calls the religious authority figures out for their hypocrisy and for being judgmental and self-righteous. They also like the parts where He challenges the secular authority figures, especially those "oppressive" Romans.

If you want to confuse an adherent of Liberation Theology, just read those passages where He speaks kindly to Roman soldiers and/or rich people, or where He acknowledges that the religious and even secular authority figures DO actually have some legitimate authority that is imputed to them by none other than God Himself. You can also make a point by asking why they have such a low view of Scripture when Jesus is always quoting it.

But that's kind of the whole point isn't it?

The common thread that ties all this together is a rejection of the authority of Scripture in favor of secular humanistic philosophy, which takes God off His Throne and puts "mankind" on that Throne instead.

On a side note, Liberation Theology is very popular among African-American churches in the US and in many parts of Africa. The reason it's particularly appropriate to talk about this subject right now is because we're in the Passover season and the Passover story plays a central role in the African-American version of Liberation Theology.

Y'know, God sent Moses to set slaves free from their oppressive taskmasters, using supernatural power to humiliate those oppressors and force them to "Let my people go."

Of course, the rest of the story about God punishing the very people he'd brought out of slavery in Egypt and causing them to wander in the desert for 40 years until that generation died off because they disobeyed Him is much less popular with pretty much everyone. But I digress.

The point is that Liberation Theology is a false narrative that takes one feature of the God described in the Bible (and sometimes just one story about one thing that He did) and ignores pretty much everything else the Bible has to say.

Be that as it may, Liberation Theology is a phenomenon that all of us need to be familiar with for the very simple reason that there are hundreds of thousands of Arab Christians in Israel, the Palestinian Authority-administered areas, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt who are adherents to this idea.

How did this happen?

This might surprise you, but Arab Nationalism in general and Palestinian Nationalism in particular were largely products of Arab Christians. Long before this movement was taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic fundamentalist organizations, its foundations were built by Arab Christian journalists, academics, and intellectuals. 

In the Ottoman Period just before the First World War, there were large numbers of Arab Christians in several cities all over the Middle East, including Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut (they were a majority in the region that would later become the country of Lebanon) and of course, they also made up a large portion of the population of cities here in the Holy Land, including Nazareth, Jerusalem, Jaffa and Bethlehem.

Since there had been Catholic and Orthodox Christian schools and universities operating in the region for many centuries, these communities tended to be better educated than their Muslim neighbors. This meant that they were better prepared for the modern professions of law, medicine, education, engineering, etc. Since these professions were more lucrative than agriculture and most forms of commerce, these Christian families also had more money, which often meant they had smaller numbers of children, and the best and brightest of these children were sent to study at universities in Istanbul, Paris, London, etc. It was in those places that they discovered Nationalism and the idea of organized Nation-States that would be above clan, tribe, and family. They brought those ideas back to the Middle East with them, and thus Arab Nationalism was born.

That was a long time ago, of course, and kind of a lot has happened since then. 

Arab Christians have become a tiny minority in the Middle East, including all those cities where they were once a majority. This happened for several different reasons, starting with the simple fact that, as previously stated, Arab Christians tended to be members of families that had a higher level of education and wealth than their Muslim neighbors. They were (and still are) also more likely to have friends, relatives, and business contacts in Europe (mostly France) and North America. So when war came to the Middle East in 1917 and the Ottoman Empire fell apart, the resulting chaos pushed many of these people to use these advantages they had to move to other countries. Subsequent wars, economic hardships and social/political upheavals in the region would see more and more Arab Christians leaving.

Another factor in the depopulation of Arab Christians from this region is the fact that, again as previously stated, these families tended to have fewer children than Muslim families, for all kinds of reasons. So, over the decades, the demographic arithmetic did what it always does and brought us to the point we're at now.

Last but certainly not least, with the rise in popularity of Islamic Fundamentalism, Arab Christians found themselves on the receiving end of abuse by their Muslim neighbors. I've heard stories of Arab Christians and Arab Muslims getting along perfectly well before the Zionists showed up in this country around the turn of the 20th century. But whatever fragments of truth there might be to those stories, this communal amity has long disappeared, and harassment/persecution of Arab Christians by Arab Muslims is a very widespread and well-documented phenomenon.

But that's not the narrative that Liberation Theology likes to peddle.

According to the Liberation Theology narrative, "the Jews" or "the Zionists" are examples of "white colonialism" and are thus solely responsible for all the problems and hardships that Arab Christians in Bethlehem, Nazareth, and throughout the Middle East, are suffering from. In this narrative, the 8 million or so Jews living in Israel are "white colonists" who have no business living in a region that has been populated by "people of color" for hundreds of years.

In addition to that, this narrative casts "the Jews" as agents of Western colonial powers (primarily Britain and France) who were forced out of the Middle East themselves after the Second World War and so they hired "the Jews" to stay here and armed them to the teeth so they would keep the Arabs in line, keep the oil flowing, etc.

According to this narrative, the existence of this "colonial entity" has caused Arab regimes in the region to go down the road of tyranny and oppression despite themselves. They had no moral agency themselves, being the victims of brutalizing influences from Western colonists which forced them onto these trajectories. That part of the narrative dispenses with any animosity that Arab Christians might be expected to have for the actions these regimes, not to mention non-state actors such as the Muslim Brotherhood, are taking against them.

There is more to the story of how Liberation Theology came to be so popular among Arab Christians, particularly in the Holy Land, but these are some of the main points. Nearly every prominent leader of the traditional churches in the Holy Land, and even some of the prominent voices in the Evangelical Protestant churches here, are vigorous and often outspoken adherents of Liberation Theology, as well as Replacement Theology.

In Conclusion...

I hope reading this blog has given you a greater awareness of Liberation Theology and the relevance it has in regard to the modern Middle East in general and Israel in particular. If you are (as I assume most readers of this blog are) a member of the Hebrew Roots, Messianic Jewish, and/or Christian Zionist movements, it is especially important for you to be at least as familiar with it as you are with Replacement Theology, because it's just as big of a problem.

In fact, I'd say it's an even bigger (and certainly more complicated) problem.

That's because much of the time, those who adhere to Replacement Theology can be convinced of the error they've made simply by pointing out the relevant passages of Scripture that refute it. Very often, they've never read those passages or if they did, they didn't think about them very much.

But those who adhere to Liberation Theology often have this idea as part of their cultural/tribal DNA. So when you tell them that Liberation Theology is an error you're not just challenging a bad idea they have, you're telling them there's a flaw in their very identity.

That's a MUCH more difficult problem to solve, and I don't have any really good advice about how we can solve it. I certainly can't say I've ever convinced someone that it's an error, although I have engaged in conversations with some who adhere to Liberation Theology. If anyone who read this far has any advice, please feel free to tell us in the comments section below.

Appending "You might like" to each post.