Who are we?
Shavei Tzion is a Messianic Jewish congregation. For those who have never heard what this actually means, probably the best way to describe it would be to draw a parallel with the New Testament’s description of the followers of the Messiah, namely an assembly of the Jewish believers in the first century. Back then it was called an ecclesia in Latin or the Hebrew equivalent kahal, which means a community of people united by the same belief.
Why we prefer to be identified as Messianic Jews?
Some may ask why we prefer to be identified as Messianic Jews, and do not call ourselves Christians. What is the difference between the two? Well, if we look at the New Covenant, the first mention of Christians we find is in the book of Acts. This is what the Gentile followers of Yeshua (or Jesus in Greek) who lived in Antioch were called by the local people. This is not surprising, as the term itself has its origin in the name Christ (or Messiah in Hebrew). Moreover, for the Gentiles of that time to believe in a Jewish Messiah and in the God of Israel was something new. In fact, it was a radical transformation, as they had to turn away from their pagan ways of life. Jews, on the other hand, who have accepted their Messiah have never stopped being Jews. They were simply following the Law of Moses, believing in the prophet like Moses who had been raised from among their brothers (Deut. 18:18), with their lives undergoing a major transformation following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The first Jewish believers were actually called anshei derech (the people of the Way), for their leader proclaimed that He was “the way, the truth and the life.”
Two thousand years later, we, the modern Messianic Jewish believers, are seeking the restoration of the faith of our forefathers, the Jews of the first century. We practice our faith by participating in all the aspects of today’s life in Israel – in our work places, in the army and at school. We live our faith out by bringing light and the goodness of God to all the people. In our congregation you would be able to see the elements of the traditional aspects of the Jewish fellowship and the liturgy that are revealed as we celebrate the Lord’s feasts and His Sabbaths, which He established for Israel to be observed forever. Therefore, our faith in the Messiah and the New Covenant is represented as a natural extension of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures) and our worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This is who we are, and the model of the fellowship of the first century is the one we aspire to live out here in Israel.
The name of our congregation – “Return to Zion”
The name of our congregation, when translated from Hebrew, means Return to Zion. It actually reflects the character of our fellowship, as God has returned the majority of our members to Zion. In doing so, He has been fulfilling His promise that was spoken through the prophets thousands of years ago. There are those among us who came to faith in the God of Israel and His Messiah a while ago and were prompted to move to Israel. These are the people about whom the Scripture testifies, “… the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.” (Deut. 30:4)
However, we also have people in our fellowship who have found God and faith in His Messiah here, in Israel, as it has been written: “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:24-27)
And this is what we are witnessing today. The God of our fathers is bringing home those who have been scattered in different countries for centuries. For this reason, one of our key aims as a congregation is to help those who are returning to Israel, and to revive the desire of those who are still living abroad in the diaspora to move to the Promised Land.
What are we doing?
In addition to meeting in our fellowship throughout the week, worshipping and praising God, we also dedicate our time and efforts to help those who are in need. At the same time, we study the Word in its original language and context, taking into consideration the traditions of those times. Essentially, by God’s grace, we have become one large family that continues to grow, spiritually as well as physically.
Even though modern fellowships are quite different from what they were two thousand years ago, when people lived in small communities that sometimes would include only a couple of families, the fundamentals of the faith remain the same. We, as well as our ancestors, are driven by the unity of faith and, most importantly, by our relationships with the living God – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and His Messiah Yeshua. It is important to remember that for the first believers, it was absolutely natural and very Jewish to believe in the Saviour of Israel, who came to redeem his people. And this is exactly what we are seeing today. After almost two thousand years, God is restoring faith in Yeshua among the Jewish people.
We are those who have already accepted the call and have been reaching out to our people with the message of the Messiah.
Together with our daughter congregation in Nazareth, and the fellowships in Kiriat Yam, Akko and Puriya Illit, we are part of the Tents of Mercy Ministry Network.