IMG In Depth – Interview: Pastor Meno Kalisher
If you’re like us here at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, when you go or hope of going to Israel you want to spend time walking where Jesus walked and learning all you can about Jewish culture and customs. But have you ever thought about what it is like to live in Israel? This week we are taking a deeper look into our most recent issue of Israel My Glory magazine. We’re talking to Meno Kalisher, Zvi Kalisher’s son who is the pastor of a congregation in Jerusalem.
Meno will share what it’s like being a believer in Jesus living in Israel. We think you’ll be surprised at what Meno shares about the hardships but also the joy living in the Holy Land. We’ll also learn about Christians in the Israeli military as well as Christians uniting throughout Israel in the name of Jesus. Please be praying for our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ as they are living and walking where Jesus walked!
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Meno Kalisher: The Word of God is eternal. Jesus is God. And the way of salvation is by faith in Christ Jesus. Pray for us that we will not think that anything compares to Him. That we would love and die for our identity in Christ, and no any other earthly identity will be greater than this.
Steve Conover: This is the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is Chris Katulka. And on this episode we've brought in a special guest to discuss a recent feature in the latest issue of our magazine, Israel My Glory. Chris who's with us?
Chris Katulka: I'm really excited for all of our listeners who love Zvi Kalisher, his son Meno Kalisher, who's the pastor of the Jerusalem House of Redemption's going to be on the show with us. We're actually going to be talking about an article that he answered a lot of questions about what it's like to be a believer in Jesus living in Israel, and helped to define some of the details of what it's like to be an Israeli citizen. It's going to be a great, great program.
Steve Conover: We look forward to that conversation. In the news, twice a year, in the summer and winter, the young Israel Philharmonic Orchestra plays to a packed out crowd in three of Israel's largest cities. The Young Israel Philharmonic is made up of 123 young musicians between the ages of 11 and 18. They come from all over Israel. These are the best youth musicians Israel has to offer, and they play together as one symphony, despite their cultural differences.
Chris Katulka: Steve, the Jewish community really understands that art is such an integral part of life. Jewish art actually goes back to biblical times, because really it's a reflection of the image of God in all of us. In fact, 12 years before Israel was even a nation, the Jewish people were already at work establishing a philharmonic orchestra in Tel Aviv. See the Jewish people, they didn't need a nation to know the importance of art and culture.
Today we're talking all about our latest issue of Israel My Glory. It's called a Slice of Life in Israel, A look at Israeli politics, the military, and what life is like for believers in Jesus the Messiah in Israel. And there's no better person to talk to about this issue, I'm convinced, than Meno Kalisher. Meno great to have you on the program.
Meno Kalisher: Well, thank you.
Chris Katulka: Meno, I want to jump right in here. You mentioned in the article, you did a Q&A style article, where we asked you questions, and you answered some great answers to what life is like in Israel. It's called A Look at Life in Israel. That's what this article is all about. And the perception of being a Jewish believer in Jesus has changed over the years, you wrote. You mentioned some of the changes that happen between the time that you were a kid growing up in a Christian household in Jerusalem, compared to the Jerusalem that you live in today has changed a little bit. Can you elaborate on what's changed over the years?
Meno Kalisher: Well, I will try. Yes, thank you. About 40 years ago, or even more, I'm right now almost 57, so let's say 50 years ago. Okay, let's turn back to the time that I can clearly remember each event. I remember that anyone who knew that we are believers would persecute us. It's spitting, it's excommunicating you. Really, it's no fun. As a kid, it's really a nightmare. Don't forget that the size of the church was tiny, about 200 families in all Israel. In all of Israel. Israeli born again believers in Jesus. This the size. And many people during that time still were young holocaust survivors.
Many people who know anything about Christianity, all they knew is that it is just Catholicism. And what did history due to Jews under Catholicism? The inquisition, in Germany, the Nazis, and for them, all of them were Christians. So to be a Jew and to believe in Jesus, it's like to be a traitor, to be brainwashed, to be stupid. I mean, enemy of the nation. You choose it, it goes.
Chris Katulka: When we hear about the difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Tel Aviv is a more secular city, Jerusalem is a more religious city in Israel. Was there an extra level of pressure growing up in Jerusalem as a Bible believing Christian?
Meno Kalisher: Absolutely, yes. But that does not mean that in Tel Aviv people will promote you and love you. But of course they're in Tel Aviv there was less religious pressure, but that does not mean that people will just open and like it. But I lived in Jerusalem, I can give a testimony of what it is in Jerusalem, and if Jerusalem is the house of the power, so just reduce few percentage of it and you'll get the rest of the country.
Chris Katulka: Meno, I often get a question from Christians here in North America, and I was just in Vancouver and I got this question when I was speaking at a gathering. And the question is how much freedom do you have to share the gospel as a Jewish believer in Jesus? Is there freedom? What are some of the freedoms you have? What are some of the restrictions that you have as well?
Meno Kalisher: It's a democracy. Okay. So generally speaking, it's comfortable and I thank God for that. There is no law really against us. The only law against missionary activity is as follows. It has two paragraphs, one of them, you cannot pay anyone to exchange his religion. I cannot give you any benefits in exchange of your religion. So you're changing your religion. Let's say promised you a job, promise you money, or any benefits if you will come to be a believer in Jesus. This is one. And same goes for it. If your soul is for sale, no one needs it.
Chris Katulka: That's right.
Meno Kalisher: Number two is, I cannot share the gospel with minors, kids under 18. This is against the law. Frankly, I understand it's a bad. Of course, everyone needs Christ Jesus for salvation. But what do we do with that? We educate our children to stand fast for their faith, and when they're at school and people ask, they share the gospel. That's number one. Number two, children from second or third grade are already playing through the computers and are way advanced their parents on that. If there is any question they need or ask, they go to Google, they ask father YouTube to know this.
So they search the web, and they are looking at all the information, good or bad. We as the church have all our information on the website as well. So I know that many kids are looking at it, though we ask them, if you're under 18 you are not allowed to. So if they use their parent's computer, then Google knows they are above 18, and are free to do whatever they want. If they use their computer then Google blocks them, or if they say that they are above 18, then they are free to answer and to check everything.
Chris Katulka: I mean the only restrictions that you're saying is somebody can't give a benefit to you to convince you to become a believer. And like you said that you know that wouldn't be right at all to begin with. But the other one, the other restriction is that person has to be over the age of 18.
Meno Kalisher: That is correct. So if I am above 18, I cannot share the gospel with anyone who is under 18.
Chris Katulka: Right.
Meno Kalisher: So our kids who can explain the Gospel, can share it with their friends when both of them are under 18.
Chris Katulka: That's amazing. I mean, it's amazing the freedom. I think a lot of people think that there isn't freedom in Israel to share the gospel. But like you said, Israel is a democracy and you have the freedom to share your faith with people. I know we've gone over it with our, I mean our ORIGINS program and we've had the freedom to share who we are and what we do all throughout Israel, which is an amazing experience. In the article that is in the magazine, Meno, you say that spiritually there has always kind of been an attack on the Lordship of Christ Jesus.
You say that not every evangelical church in Israel accepts the Trinity and believes that Jesus is God or that he wasn't created. How does this affect how you fellowship with other churches? And is this a growing trend that you see?
Meno Kalisher: Well as the church grows, everything grows, the good and the bad. And it's a fact. I know that there are some churches, if you come and say The Trinity, some people feel as if you throw garbage at them. It's hard to believe. It's really hard to believe. When you come some people, if you say Jesus, and you didn't say Yeshua, they quench their face.
Chris Katulka: Right.
Meno Kalisher: I mean for me, those who behave like this, I'll say straight forward, I'm not politically correct, and I couldn't care less what people think about it. If someone has a problem when they hear the word Jesus, this person has a problem with God. Period.
Chris Katulka: Yeah.
Meno Kalisher: That's to start with. The Bible does not have the world Trinity, but the Bible teaches that there are three persons, beings in this oneness of God. That's what the Bible is teaching. So if you have a problem with that, that means you are not submitting to what the Bible is saying. Usually, it's amongst people who admire their Jewish identity above anything else. As if you'll agree to Trinity. The word trinity, or you said Jesus, as if you are less of a Jew. As if someone rob you from something, which is eternally important. It's sickening.
I say straightforward. I do believe when someone says Jesus and God, this should be appreciated than anything earthly, anything earthly. Nothing comes or compares to that. And if you have a problem with this, I mean what does that mean according to Hebrews 13, to be away from the camp? What does this means to die for Christ? Does anyone think that earthly citizenship is better than a heavenly one? It's really the more I know Christ, the more I'm happy to know him. And you know what, you can take anything else I have.
Chris Katulka: It's interesting that you say in connecting with the idea of connecting more with the Judaism, people, they kind of shed the Trinitarian aspect of who Jesus is. But like you said that's a dangerous road to go down when it comes to, I think, how churches fellowship with one another, anywhere, not just in Israel.
Meno Kalisher: That is correct. So if there will be a church that their issue with the Lordship of Christ is not clear. They are not happy with that or whatever. Absolutely. Absolutely. It will affect our fellowship with them. I will always ever doubt if they’re saved at all.
Chris Katulka: We are speaking with Pastor Meno Kalisher of the Jerusalem House of Redemption in Jerusalem. Meno's calling in. He's taken some time to speak to us about a recent article that was written in our magazine, Israel My Glory that really Meno answers a lot of questions I think maybe you have about what it's like to be a believer in Jesus living in Israel, growing up in Israel, engaging in the culture of Israel. So we're going to take a quick break. We're going to have Meno come back with us and we're going to talk a little bit about what it's like to be a believer in the Israeli military today. So be sure to stick around.
Steve, years ago when I lived in Dallas, I met a woman who loved Israel My Glory magazine. And actually, she would use the articles in the magazine to teach her Sunday school class. In fact, she loved Israel My Glory so much that she bound all of her issues from the 1970s together, and even cataloged all of the articles. Now, a lot has changed since the 1970s. A lot has changed since those days of physically archiving past issues.
Steve Conover: It has Chris. Today, all our issues and articles can be found online. You, our listeners, can access our award-winning magazine on your phone, your tablet, your computer. Wherever you are, you can read the latest Israel My Glory issue, as well as archived past issues. Whether you're a pastor preparing your next message, or simply interested in understanding Jewish culture and customs, biblical prophecy, news surrounding Israel in the Middle East. We want to invite you to subscribe to Israel My Glory digital today. Visit FOIRadio.org. You'll find a link to sign up for access to digital Israel My Glory. That's FOIradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everyone. We are speaking with pastor Meno Kalisher. He is in Jerusalem right now. We've been talking a little bit about what it's like to be a believer in Israel, how you share your faith, some of the issues that you're dealing with in the church in Israel today. Can you share with our listeners, what is it like for these young adults who come up in the church, Meno, and then all of a sudden at 18 they're not going away to college just yet, they're going away to the military, can you share a little bit about that and what that does to their faith?
Meno Kalisher: Yes. Everyone needs to go to the army, unless you're unfit medically. So let's say if you are okay, you go to the army. And of course, the army and you negotiate sometimes before you go through your last year at school, to the kind of profession or areas you may better fit to serve in the army. So many kids have the opportunity to choose, or at least have options that the service will fit their abilities. And this is very nice. In my time it was a bit different. This is number one. Number two, when believers are going to the army, don't forget that we are still a minority in Israel. The best number, the highest number I've heard about the number of believers in Israel including those who maybe are staying at home and do not fellowship, it's about 30,000. So let's say, let's say that this super, super positive number is correct.
Still, you are a very small minority, it's .47% of the total population. So the idea is that many of our kids, or even all of them in any units they will go to, they will be the only believers. As such, there will be a lot of pressure on them. They are the weird ones. They are the one who are not like the others. And usually, religious people or non-religious, even secular, they don't think about their relationship with God. But the moment they speak with a believer, and he come and prove to them, some proof about Jesus Messiahship a Lordship in the Old Testament. Oh, immediately, everyone needs to think that he is the defender of Judaism.
Really. That's what happened. So to make it short, many of our kids enter to the army, don't forget they're 18. Some of them are not spiritually mature as we wish them to be. Some of them are young believers from families who just recently came to the church. So not all of them have been grew up in a believing family. Well, we need to remember that. So for them to be away from fellowship, for good time and to be under influence of the world, some of them, and it's not a small number, some of them are drifting away. So it's hard. It's really sad. We pray for them. In order for them to go through these three years without drift away. We invest a lot in our church, in our kids, all the church activities for the kids, from zero to 18 is free, totally free.
We send them to all the conferences. The church pays all the bills. None of the kids can come and say, "My parents can't do it, cannot afford it. Therefore, I do not go." We took these reasons away from them, excused, and we pay the bill. So really, when statistically you look at this, our church youth, when they go to the church, in our church a smaller number drifts away. It breaks the heart for each one of them, but still it's a smaller number statistically.
Chris Katulka: Can I just say, your church is investing in the lives of these young adults before they go off to the army to really disciple them and to, I'm guessing, prepare them for what's ahead as they're about to go into service. Probably some of the dangers that they're going to deal with on a spiritual level, but also many ways that they can minister to the people around them as well.
Meno Kalisher: Absolutely. For example, about an hour ago, one of the boys came in, he just finished high school, and he said, "Meno, I want to go to [inaudible 00:18:49], and [inaudible 00:18:50]." Those are two kinds of conferences, Christian conferences. Well, it's tailor made for young kids before going to the army, in order to boost their understanding about Christ and spiritual maturity, so they will be able to better go through these three years in the army, and stay tuned to Christ. I know that he cannot afford it. Before he even opened his mouth, I gave him a paper. I told him, "Sign your name and I will walk out, that your scholarship will be covered. Go to register your name."
Chris Katulka: Praise God.
Meno Kalisher: This is how we work.
Chris Katulka: Meno, listen, we've only got about three, four minutes left. I want to ask you something because you wrote in the article that there's a relationship between the Israeli Jewish believers and the Christian Arab believers in Jesus, that has kind of had some issues. It's been a rocky road but it's slowly improving. First, can you share briefly why there was a separation between these believers? And how is it getting better?
Meno Kalisher: Okay. When you look at the past, it was like a big wall between us. And I'm talking about mainly in Jerusalem. In the north of Israel it was a bit better. I'm talking right now around Jerusalem area. Most of the Arab, or if all the Arab churches here, they held for replacement theology. That mean's God finished with Israel, Israel as a state, as a nation has no more place with God. And it's like any other nation and this nation is unrighteous and therefore is good for all the punishments that God has in his catalog.
I mean, of course I generalize the issue, so please understand for the sake of time.
Chris Katulka: Yes.
Meno Kalisher: We decided yes, even though we have different views on that, we should fit. We should try to see how we overcome things. So we had a few meetings in Germany, in Israel, where we promise really to study, to love one another, to pray one for another, to have patience one with another, to be able to say good words about, to really build relationships, and then to study together and to see what does the Bible say about it. So yes, again, it's first stages, but I thank God for them.
Chris Katulka: Yes.
Meno Kalisher: It's a small group. It's only about 13, or five sitting together, 50, 50 Jews and Arabs in order really to trying to do things better so the next generation will not need to inherit our garbage bag.
Chris Katulka: What great spiritual maturity there to say, "You know what? We understand we disagree doctrinally on some issues, but let's start in the areas we do agree on. And one thing that we can probably all agree on is the issue of reconciliation that's found in Christ Jesus." As we close our time out here, Meno, I want you to tell our listeners and myself, how can we be praying for the church in Israel? How can we be praying for you, for your congregation, for the church in general in Israel? How can we effectively pray?
Meno Kalisher: Pray that we'll continue to be focused on Christ. Pray that we will not be people who think that God changes his mind through time. God is not after fashion. The Word of God is eternal. Jesus is God and the way of salvation is by faith in Christ Jesus. Pray for us that we will not think that anything compares to him. That we would love and die for our identity in Christ, and no any other earthly identity will be greater than this. Yes, God has a plan for Israel. Absolutely, this is great, everything is wonderful. But when it comes to salvation, it's only Christ and nothing can take it.
Chris Katulka: Amen.
Meno Kalisher: So pray for us that we will speak to the Word of God and stick to Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Chris Katulka: I want to thank pastor Meno Kalisher. Folks, listen, I hope you enjoyed this interview. This has been fantastic to hear from Meno to connect with the church in Israel. And that's why I want to encourage you, if you do not get Israel My Glory yet, if it's not coming to you, you can sign up online by going to FOIRadio.org and we will send you the issue, A Slice of Life in Israel. It has Meno's interview in there. A lot more was written down that we didn't get a chance to talk about in this interview. You can sign up and get a one year free subscription. That's six issues that will come right to your house by simply going to FOIRadio.org. I want to thank you, Meno. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.
Meno Kalisher: Well, thank you. God bless you.
Steve Conover: Thanks for joining us today. Chris, I love when we have Meno on the program. And if our listeners wanted to read his feature in the latest issue of Israel My Glory where he talks about life in Israel, is it too late for them to subscribe?
Chris Katulka: No. In fact, I want to encourage our listeners, they can go to FOIRadio.org, and they can go right to our website and subscribe to receive a one year free subscription to our magazine, Israel My Glory. And you will get either digitally or in a print edition, A Slice of Life in Israel. And it has all of Meno's answers to the questions that we were able to ask him about life in Israel. So I encourage our listeners, FOIRadio.org to subscribe.
Steve Conover: Thank you, Chris. We rely on the support of our listeners to keep this program on the air. Please consider going to FOIRadio.org and supporting us with a donation. Chris Katulka is our host and teacher. Tom Gallione produced today's program. It was co-written by Sarah Fern. Jeremy Strong composed our theme and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry, communicating biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
Israel My Glory Magazine
Hard-hitting, accurate, up-to-date analysis of Israel and the Middle East. Thought-provoking examination of God’s Word. Answers about the end-times. The truth behind today’s headlines. Immediate access to the latest books and resources. People who want to be informed—and have a heart for God’s Chosen People—rely on Israel My Glory.
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The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.