Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Bread of Affliction




by Zev Porat

Last month we carried the testimony of Zev Porat, born into an ultra-Orthodox family in Israel. By a chance Internet conversation in a chat room, Zev met Todd from California who proceeded to explain the Old Testament Scriptures to Zev over a four-year period. At the same time Zev visited 32 Israeli rabbis and asked them to explain the meaning of the Messianic Scriptures. When they were unable to give Zev any logical explanation, he became convinced that Yeshua is the Messiah. He finally gave Himself completely to the God of Israel and His Son Yeshua after a supernatural visitation.  (See Part I in January 2011 issue in the archives of Maoz Israel Report). Here is the rest of Zev’s story. (editor)

After the incredible experience I had in the night hearing the voice of God, I was on fire! I wanted to tell everybody. I picked up the phone and told my mother. Her response was anguish and fury.
“Your father is twisting and turning in his grave because of what you have done! You are blaspheming the name of your family. You are supposed to be a rabbi. You are supposed to continue our tradition. How can you do this to us?”
I tried to tell her, “But Mom, it’s in the Jewish Bible. Let me sit with you and I’ll show you. You bring your Bible and I’ll show you that Yeshua is the Messiah. It is He, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth. This is the Messiah of Israel!”

She said, “Go be a missionary! But don’t share with me!” But then she relented and said, “I will talk with you only in the presence of a rabbi.”

She took me to Rabbi Stigletz in Netanya who was a deprogrammer – one that tries to help parents explain to children that have begun to believe in Yeshua, that this is against the Old Testament and against Judaism.
He began by explaining to me that Yeshua Himself did not fully trust God. The proof was that he cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

I explained to the good rabbi that Yeshua prayed that prayer because as God’s Lamb He took all the sins of the world upon Himself and therefore God who is righteous and pure could not look at Him while He was on the cross.
“Besides,” I said, “Yeshua was quoting the prayer that King David had written in Psalm 22.” It seemed to me the rabbi was taken by surprise. I’m not sure that he even knew this prayer was in the Psalms.
Anyway, the rabbi turned to my mother and said, “He’s brainwashed. He’s finished. I can’t help him.”
For two years she wouldn’t talk to me. But you know... a mother’s heart. She finally said she would see me as long as I wouldn’t talk to her about the Bible.

I also have a sister whose husband is a rabbi. I had one opportunity to sit down with her and share my faith.
After that she and her husband went to the rabbinical court and filed an injunction against me that I must keep 100 meters away from their seven children.

The rabbis demanded that I appear before their court. I wrote them a letter saying that I would not appear as I am not under their authority.

Zev, far right, as a child held by aunt Hannah. At the head of the table is Zev's Grandfather,
and to his right is his wife, Zev's grandmother, along with other family members.
There are many other pictures - such as his Bar Mitzvah photos, but Zev's mother has denied access to them.
Yet it is very sad for me; today if you ask my sister about me, she won’t say that I believe in Messiah Yeshua. She will say that I died. And every six months they renew the injunction against me.
I am praying for their salvation.

I have an aunt – my father’s sister – who lives in L.A. six months of the year and in Israel the other half. I was close to her when my family lived in California. She came to visit me.
Trying to encourage me she said, “Your family shouldn’t reject you because you are sick. Here are funds for a psychiatrist.” When I said, “No thank you,” she left.

Zev stands behind his grandfather, Rabbi Pinhas Porat, aunt Hannah (who offered to send him to a psychiatries
after he accepted Yeshua) and grandmother Porat...
This picture was taken after Zev's army days
when he became a secular Jew.
I had to tell my grandfather who I loved more than you can know. By this time he was very frail. But when I told him that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel, he suddenly stood up, opened the glass cabinet behind me and started to shout, “Goy (gentile)! Traitor! Get out of here!”

He started throwing plates at me and hit me in the head. My shirt was torn and my head bloody when I ran out of his home.

I had to go straight to the hospital to get stitches and until today I have a scar on my forehead. But I idn’t feel the physical pain because of the overwhelming pain I felt from my grandfather’s rejection. He was a father to me.
This was the last time I ever saw him. I tried to phone him several times, but he always said, “Deny Yeshua or don’t call.”

When I went to my grandfather’s funeral I found two security guards on hand – something that is not common at a funeral. When I walked into the Ponowich Cemetery these unusually large guards came up to me and told me I couldn’t attend the funeral.

I protested, “This is my grandfather’s funeral.” They answered, “You are not coming in here; the family says you don’t belong to them any more. You have betrayed your own family. You have backstabbed your people.”
I didn’t want to leave, but these two guys picked me up physically and put me out of the cemetery. It was very difficult for me to be thrown out of my own grandfather’s funeral.

Soon after, my grandfather’s lawyer contacted me and invited me to his office. Because I was the oldest son of my immediate family, my grandfather left me the part of the inheritance that would have gone to my father who had died some years before.

I walked into the office, which was also in our Orthodox town of Bnei-Brak, and he said, “Your grandfather left you four million shekels (which was then about one million dollars) and he left you land and a part of the house on condition that you sign right here that you don’t believe in Yeshua.”

I said, “I won’t do it.” The lawyer looked at me and said, “Nobody’s here, just sign the paper, take the four million and do what you want.”

I turned to the lawyer and said, “God is here.”

He said, “If you don’t sign this paper, that money will be transferred to your family.”

I answered, “If that’s God’s will, so be it, but tell them Yeshua gave them the money!” And I left.

But the money that I gave up was not half as painful as having lost my grandfather. My own father had passed away when I was 16. I am praying for the salvation of Israel, and very specifically for the rest of my family.

Yes, I would do it all over again – and again – because it is nothing compared to what Yeshua did for me!

Zev standing by his grandfather Porat's grave


I had been working in a company called Granoflex for fourteen years. It was a medical company and by this time I was managing 37 workers.

After work, I would share Yeshua with everyone. My wife Lin and I were living in Tel Aviv while my office was in nearby Herzliya.

After about a year and 10 months of being a Messianic believer, I received a call from the CEO of the company asking me to come to his office.

I had never been to his office – in fact, I had never seen him before. I had only seen his signature on papers and emails.

When I walked in I noticed that he had a knitted skullcap which signifies he is a religious Jew.

He said, “Zev, sit down. I’ve been hearing things about you.”
I asked, “What kind of things?”

“You’ve been talking about Yeshu (the pronunciation a non-believer uses for Yeshua). You’d better stop this. You’re going to turn this place into a cult!”

I said, “First of all, Mr. Hamo, if I’ve been doing anything to jeopardize my job please tell me. I don’t speak about Yeshua at work; I do it after work.”

He responded, “I don’t want you to do it.”

I said, “Well, Moshe or David talk about football or basketball after work. What’s the difference?”

He answered, “You’re brain-washing the people. I won’t allow it. Come back in the morning to talk to me.”

I was really scared now. The only believers we knew were a small group in northern Israel. We had not been going to a regular Messianic congregation because the ones I knew about were Charismatic and Todd, my Internet friend who had mentored me in the Bible for four years, had warned me against them.

I came back the next morning to Rafi Hamos’ office and sat down. He looked at me and said, "What’s it going to be?”

I looked straight at him and said,  “Are you asking me to deny the Lord Yeshua?”
He answered, “Yes I am.”

I told him that I would never deny the Lord Yeshua.

He said, “Then you’re out of here,” and he terminated fourteen and a half years of work just like that, in two minutes. He said, “Go back to your office, clear your desk, return your car keys. You’re leaving, no compensation, no salary, that’s it.”

I went back to the office. I had been a believer for less than two years and except for my wife, I felt quite alone in my faith.

I told my colleagues at work what had happened. They were amazed and sad. They said, “He can’t do this! This isn’t legal. He can’t fire you without compensation! It’s wrong.” Of course I knew they were right.

I left crying and was still crying when I got home to Lin. Not knowing what to do I prayed for two days. Then the Lord led me to the Scripture, “Vengeance is mine.” I knew right there that God was telling me to leave my boss alone.

God would take care of him. I prayed for him; I prayed for his salvation and let it go. I had no salary, no compensation after fourteen and a half years of work. I would do it again for Yeshua.

Zev sharing with an ultra-Orthodox Jew
about the truth found in the Old Testament
Now I had a different problem. I started looking for a new job in the field that I knew – management.

But I had no resumé, no one to recommend me. The friends I had before I was a believer drifted away from me when I no longer went to the bars with them. Others left me because of my faith in Yeshua.

I went from place to place and submitted my resumé. I wrote that I worked as a manager in another place for fourteen and a half years and was fired for my faith in Yeshua.

I added  that I would work for free six or seven days to prove myself; if I’m not good, don’t hire me, and don’t pay me.

The people would tell me, “No problem. We don’t care what you believe. We’ll call you.” No one ever
called.

Five six, ten, eleven months went by. One day I read the Scripture: “If a man doesn’t work, he shall not eat.”

I understood God was telling me, “If you can’t find the job that you want, if you can’t find a job in management, you take any job, because any job is a blessing.”

I found a job where no one cared what I believe: I became a dishwasher.

In my managerial job I had made a very good salary and Lin was also working as a chef. We had bought an apartment and were paying on a mortgage – and were living a fairly high lifestyle.

But now having been out of work for 11 months with no unemployment compensation, we had used up all of our savings and found ourselves unable to keep our apartment.

With the debt we had, Lin’s job and my dishwashing job were not enough to even rent the smallest apartment in Tel Aviv.


WATER FRONT LIVING

I went out and bought an old clunker and we put everything we could inside the car – and headed for the beach. We put a tent up on the beach, and like my days in the army, we each took threehour guard duty while the other slept – guarding our belongings at night.

It wasn’t very safe because of the prostitutes, drug addicts and drunks walking around. We took cold showers on the beach at night.

One night Lin turned to me and said, “You know, we believe in Yeshua. Doesn’t the Bible say that God will take care of us? Doesn’t the Bible say that we are blessed?”

I thought about it a little and said, “You know, God has a blessing for us; God has a plan for us. God is not the one who put us here on the beach. God is not the author of evil, but God has allowed it. We will be blessed.”

PREACHING ON THE BEACH

One day, I felt the Lord saying to me, “I never challenged you to preach the Gospel only when you live in a hotel or a penthouse. I told you to preach the Gospel in season and out of season.”

So after my dishwashing hours, I would go out on the beach and share the Good News with people.
One night I was sharing with a religious man, and out of the blue he slugged me in the eye. Since he was an older man, people who saw the commotion thought I had hit the old man.

The police came and handcuffed me while I was trying to explain to them that I’m the one with the black eye. I told the officer I was sharing the Bible with this guy here and he hit me.

The police asked him, “Did you hit this man?” He answered, “Yes! He’s a goy (a Gentile)! Get him out of here! He’s a traitor!”

The police turned to me and asked where I live. I told him, “Right here on the beach.”

He said, “OK, why don’t you come down with me to the police station right now. This guy has just admitted to assaulting you. Fill out the forms and maybe you can sue this guy. You live on the street; maybe you can get some money out it.”

I turned to the police officer and said, “God bless this man; he doesn’t know what he was doing. I’m not pressing any charges against him.”

The police officer looked at me and said, “You’re crazy!” and left.

So here I am, a Messianic Jew, living on the beach with my wife, working as a dishwasher – and now with a black eye – and still looking for a job.




A VISIT FROM THE RABBIS

From time to time, I would speak to my mother and wish her “Shabbat Shalom” at the beginning of the Sabbath evening. I was her firstborn and she still appreciated my calling her to wish her a good Sabbath rest.
So one Friday evening I called her and said, “Mom, Shabbat Shalom!” She said, “Where are you? You haven’t called me for several weeks!”

I had to tell her, “Mom, we’re living on the beach; we don’t have a home anymore.”

My mother said to me, “This is what you deserve! I told you not to believe in that Yeshu guy! This is punishment from God! I warned you about this, and now you have lost everything. You lost your friends, you lost your job, you lost your home, you lost everything!”

I said, “Mom, God is going to bless me. God has a blessing for me.”

My mother’s response: “Meshuga! Crazy! This is a blessing?” And she hung up on me.

A day later at 11:00 p.m. we were sitting in our tent when seven ultra-Orthodox Jews – most of whom were from the famous anti-Messianic Yad L’Achim organization, together with two other rabbinical political officials whom I recognized from television – came into the tent.

I knew my mother had sent them and I was sure they had come to break my legs.

They came up to me and said, “Zev, we are not here to fight with you; we are here to talk with you. You made a mistake, Zev. You are supposed to be a rabbi. We forgive you. Come with us; we’ll put you back in a yeshiva (rabbinical school); we’ll get you a place to live,” and they pulled out a check in
shekels – equivalent to $25,000. They said, “Take this and come with us!”

By now we had been living almost three months on the beach. I turned to them and said, “Thank you and may God bless you, but I will never deny the Lord Yeshua!”

They spat on me, turned away and cursed our Savior and left.


The next day I took a bus to Jerusalem and went to the Garden Tomb. I just sat there praying and crying, praying and crying.

Usually, I have my Hebrew Bible with me, but this time I had taken the English Bible that Todd had sent me from California – a study Bible. There was no indication that I was a Messianic Jew.

As I was sitting in the garden with my English Bible, this man from Australia walked up to me and asked, “Are you a Messianic Jew?”

“I am. Yes I am.”

He said, “The Holy Spirit just told me to come and talk and pray with you.”

I told him why I had a black eye and what my situation was. I shared everything and we both broke into tears.
He looked at me and said, “The Lord Yeshua is going to bless you. The Lord Yeshua is going to bless you!”

We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. I shook his hand and left.
Three days later I received a phone call from an insurance company; they said they had been looking for me for some time.

“We have a check for 35,000 shekels (about $10,000) that has actually been sitting here for 10 years and belongs to you. That same day Lin and I got the money and that evening, believe it or not, we found an apartment for rent.
The very next day, we got another phone call from the family where my wife was working, doing banquets. Their father had left for the States and he left a bonus for Lin of $12,000. Incredible.

Since we did not yet have a congregation, we sowed a tithe into the Garden Tomb ministry in Jerusalem.
Next day – another phone call. The person said, “Mr. Porat you were here looking for a job.” (I had applied there eleven months ago.) “Are you still looking for a job?”

“Yes!” I told him.

It was from the Ministry of Defense, working for the army. It was a very good job in management. So within a few days God gave us finances, a place to live and a good job – blessing after blessing!

And then finally, a week after the man had prayed with me in the Garden Tomb, we got a phone call from someone inviting us to a Messianic Congregation. While in that congregation, I received teaching and love – and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.


We visited Messianic congregations around the country and finally the Lord brought us to Tiferet Yeshua (the Glory of Yeshua) in Tel Aviv, with Pastor Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram.

Now we really feel we have found a home in this congregation.

My calling is to share Yeshua everywhere. I love street evangelism, and I spend time witnessing with my friends.
I visit Holocaust survivors, blessing them with food. I disciple new believers, bringing them into
congregations – wherever they live. I pray for people in hospitals and I meet regularly with Yad L’Achim zealots – those whose life work is to come against the Messianic Jewish believers of Israel.

I am part of the worship team at Tiferet Yeshua Congregation.

Most of all, Lin and I have found the Pearl of great price.

2 comments:

  1. Zev, your testimony really touched me! I was an Eastern ultra-orthodox Christian and when I came to faith in Yeshua, resigning from the orthodox church, removing the icons and crosses from my house, neck, repenting and stopping all the rituals which were in fact, witchcraft, idolatry, necromancy i had the hell of my life! The Orthodox Church and its leaders and my family, gave me an evil hard time! I had so many trials and tribulations, even being homeless like you. I am at peace with God, now after 5 years of trials and tribulations, all glory to Him!

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  2. I taught the gospel of Yeshua to a religious Jewish man. He had previously read the New Testment cover-to-cover. He asked me all kinds of questions. I could answer the questions he had about the scriptures, because God had been preparing me for this encounter for years. He was amazed at the answers about Yeshua that I could support from the Torah and the prophets. I also gained insight at why Jews don't see Yeshua clearly, what holds up their thinking. Jews, strangely enough, are discouraged from studying the prophets, and they are discouraged from even studying the Torah directly. They simply study what different rabbis comment on the Torah. They often have no idea what the scriptures actually say. This helped me understand how to approach different obstacles to the Jews' faith. When I pointed out what the scriptures said, he had to agree with me. He was excited about what he learned, and I think he was really starting to believe in Yeshua. Then a rabbi discouraged him from studying and I find my own faith being tested severely. Pray for my faith, so I can continue to teach the gospel of Yeshua. I hope I have Zev's strength. And pray for this man's faith, so he will believe in Yeshua. I did get a book written by a Jewish Christian, called "From Sinai to Calvary" by Stephen D. Eckstein, first copyrighted in 1959. Stephen D. Eckstein has been dead for many years now, but I believe he has sons still living.

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