Jewish Remnant in the Land of Israel
This week we finish our series on the backgrounds of the Jewish people. We’ve studied the Ashkenazi, Sehpardic, and Mizrahi backgrounds, and these three make up much of the Diaspora—Jewish people who live outside the Promised Land. But this final group’s claim to fame is something the other backgrounds do not share: a native presence in the land of Israel.
Chris walks us through history to show us how the Jewish people have miraculously managed to maintain an unbroken residency in Israel. Their journey tells the story not only of how the Jewish people endured in their land but how Israel came to be reborn as a modern nation and the impact that the rise of kibbutzim had on it. Find out why the city of Petah Tikva is such an important piece of the history of this background, and see how God’s faithfulness is shown through the constant presence of Jewish people in the land of Israel!
If you missed the previous shows of this series, you can Listen Now in our archives.
Chris Katulka: Let me ask you a question. Are you intimidated by the Book of Revelation, or have questions about what the future holds, especially today? If so, I have good news for you. You're not alone. Join us March 5th through the seventh for our online Look Up Virtual Conference titled The Ultimate Ending, where you're going to see your future unfold through the Book of Revelation. The Ultimate Ending is a free online conference where you're going to hear incredible teaching about important prophecies and truths in the Book of Revelation. You'll hear from our Friends of Israel teachers, Dr. Jim Showers, Dr. Mike Stallard, Steve Herzig and myself, Chris Katulka. I'm also the host of the online conference and I know our team has been working really hard to make this an encouraging and uplifting series on the Book of Revelation. You can register right now at lookup.foi.org. Again, that's lookup.foi.org. And when you register, you're going to receive free access to the first chapter of our video teaching series that took place in Israel called The Common Thread.
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today, I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. We're so glad you chose to join us today. Chris, we're in a series covering the different Jewish cultures and ethnicities. And in earlier episodes, we talked about the Ashkenazi Jewish community, the Sephardic community. Last week was the Mizrahi community. What are we talking about today?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, so we looked at those different groups of ethnicities of Jewish people in the diaspora. Those are Jewish people that are spread all throughout the world. A diaspora Jew is somebody that lives outside of the Land of Israel. But what's been amazing is that God has always preserved a Jewish remnant, if you will, in the Land for the last 2,000 years. And we're going to talk about those Jewish people that have lived in the Land of Israel.
Now for our listeners, I want to encourage our radio and podcast listeners to be sure to visit our website foiradio.org.
Steve Conover: Yes, we have all of Chris's teachings about the scripture, Israel, and the Jewish people. Plus interviews with our field workers, both locally and internationally. You'll hear about all the amazing ministry Friends of Israel is doing around the world. And don't forget while you're there, you can support our ministry if you like what you're hearing, by clicking on the Donate button to help us continue teaching biblical truth about Israel and the Jewish people. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Well, we've arrived at the end of our four-part series on the various Jewish ethnicities, cultures and even subcultures. And I've been saying over the past three weeks that, since the Jewish people are a minority in the world. Remember Jewish people make up less than 1% of the world's population. There are almost 8 billion in the world, and they're only 15 million Jewish people. So Jewish people are a minority among the world ethnicities, cultures and religions. So it's typical for minorities anywhere in the world to be seen as one group of people to act and to think, and to even look alike. We can just lump them into one group. And this is why I wanted to do this on the radio. I wanted to be able to highlight the various groups of Jewish people so that you can see that they aren't all the same. That they don't all act, look, think or even worship the same.
Now, in the beginning of our series, we looked at the Ashkenazi Jewish people who come from Germany, Northern France, Eastern Europe. Ashkenazi's created the Yiddish language and they are the predominant Jewish ethnicity in the world, especially in Western society. Ashkenazi Jews suffered severe antisemitism for thousands of years, even up to the Holocaust in the 20th century. The Ashkenazi culture is the one people in the West probably most associated with Judaism and Jewish culture.
And then we studied the Sephardic Jewish people. Those who are Jewish people who immigrated from Israel 2,500 years ago to the Iberian peninsula, that's Spain and Portugal. The Sephardic Jewish community helped create one of Europe's most advanced civilizations during the medieval period with the Muslims who controlled the area. But then over time, the Muslim and church community who control the Iberian peninsula would eventually come to persecute the Jewish people. This eventually became known as the church completely took over the Iberian peninsula. This eventually became known as the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. Sephardic Jews scattered to Northern Africa and then to Turkey, which eventually became the Ottoman Empire.
And then last week we looked at the Mizrahi Jews who come from the Middle East. And again, these are Jewish people that have lived in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and other Arab Muslim countries. They spoke Arabic and they've lived in these countries for 2,500 years as well. They share a lot of similarities with the Sephardic community, and they've also suffered persecution throughout the ages. But recently, with the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, they were kicked out of their land and forced to leave the countries that they lived in for millennia, left only as refugees and the only place that would ever take them in is the Land of Israel. The modern State of Israel.
These are the three primary ethnicities and cultures of the Jewish people that exist outside of the Land of Israel. But I want to highlight one more group of Jewish people who probably would identify themselves as Sephardic or even Mizrahi Jews. Those are the Jewish people who never left the Land of Israel. As we talked about Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahi Jews, we're talking about Jewish people who created a life, a culture, a world for themselves outside of the Land of Israel. And these are called diaspora Jews. Jewish people who live outside of the Land of Israel.
But you know, since the Jewish people were kicked out of the land in 135 AD, there have always been a contingent of Jews who remained in the Land. This is vital. This is vital to know. As Jewish people were scattered into the nations, a remnant always remained in the Land of Israel to preserve that unique and divine connection to the Land. Cities like Tiberias, Safed, and Jerusalem maintained a rich Jewish heritage throughout the millennia of Jewish diaspora, and for that reason, these cities have been considered some of Israel's most holy.
So let's start with Tiberias. It's actually the largest city on the Sea of Galilee. The city lights illuminate the western side of the lake at night, the Sea of Galilee. One of my favorite moments in Israel is when we stay at Kibbutz Ein Gev on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, and as the sun is setting to the west, right over the city of Tiberias, it's this beautiful sunset. And then once that sun goes down, the lights of the city light up the Sea of Galilee, it's just amazing, just beautiful.
Now, after the second Jewish revolt around 135 AD, the religious and political leaders of the Jewish people who remained, moved from Jerusalem north to Tiberias. And Tiberias was home to 800 years, think about this, 800 years of Jewish scholarship. Actually a group of scribal scholars called Masoretes created a system of pronunciation to the Hebrew text for the Jewish communities living outside of the Land of Israel, to be able to uphold that proper Hebrew pronunciation when they would be reading the text. They added vowel pointing so that they could read the Hebrew properly.
Now prior, think about this, prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, the oldest complete Hebrew Bible was the Masoretic Aleppo codex, they call it, which is a complete book, which was copied in Tiberias around the 10th century AD. So through Christian and Muslim and Ottoman and British rule, a Jewish presence, very significant Jewish presence, remained in Tiberias.
Almost directly north, let's move to another city. Almost directly north of Tiberias, in upper Galilee, is an elevated city called Safed. Some people call it Safad. In biblical times the city of Safed is remembered actually as one of Israel's five designated cities that lit signal fires to announce to the Israelites that a new moon was approaching. So before text messages and calendars and notifications and loudspeakers, Israelites would light fires to announce upcoming events that they needed to know about, and Safed was the place that they did that one of the five places that they did that.
Safed didn't really gain any religious notoriety until it was settled by Jews who fled Spain after the expulsion in 1492. See how that there is that unique connection there, from what we've been learning. Sephardic Jews didn't really have much to their name and possessions when they arrived in Safed, but they did import something very interesting. They imported a form of mystical Judaism, that you might know the name of, you might've heard it before, that actually originated in Spain, and it's called Kabbalah. Safed produced some of the most influential cobblistic teachers like Rabbi Isaac Ben Solomon Luria. Safed in the 16th century and onward remained a home to a Jewish community. And even today, Safed is remembered as a very holy city.
By the end of the second century AD, not long after Hadrian, think about this. Not long after Hadrian expulsion of the Jewish people, Jews were actually permitted to return to their ancient capital, Jerusalem. Jerusalem saw a population decline that was incredibly drastic during the Middle Ages. However, the numbers increased during the Ottoman rule starting in 1517. Jewish immigration to the Holy Land grew by the mid-19th century. Just listen to some of these numbers as we're looking at Israel, Jerusalem. Think about this. In 1517, when the Ottoman Empire was established, there were 5,000 Jewish people living in the Holy Land. From what I could find, the last recorded number of Jewish people in the Holy Land goes back to the 1530s, with again, about 5,000 Jewish people in the Land.
The next census record dates to 1882, when the Ottoman's still controlled the Land of Israel and records show that the number ticked up from 5,000 to 24,000 Jewish people in the Land. The Ottoman Empire was not against Jewish people in the Holy Land. In fact, by the late 1800s, the land had become derelict because of high taxation levied by the Ottomans, but that didn't stop Jewish people from immigrating back to the Land. They bought malaria-infested land and transformed it into something beautiful. This brought an influx actually of Arab Muslims from various parts of the Ottoman Empire and Egypt to actually come to the Land to find work. And by the end of the Ottoman empire in 1918, the British took control of the Land of Israel. And there were 60,000 Jewish people that lived in the Land.
And listen to this, in 1948, just 30 years later, when Israel finally became an independent Jewish state, the Jewish population jumped from 60,000 to 800,000. In 1948, 12% of the global Jewish population lived in Israel. Today, nearly 45% of the world's Jewish population lives in the Holy Land today. That's amazing. And it's vital to know this. Especially as we defend Israel against those who believe Jewish people stole the Land from the Palestinians. That not only do Jewish people have a biblical and legal precedent to be in the Land, but they also have a continual presence in the Land throughout the ages. The population of Jewish people may have gone up and down, but God has always preserved His people in the Land that he promised them.
Here's another thing to think about as Jewish people scattered around the world, adapting to cultures around them, yet maintaining their unique identity. One thing that's always linked them together was the hope of returning to their homeland, Israel. Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and the Mizrahi Jews of Spain to the Sahara, all prayed the same prayer. You know what that prayer is? “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
Okay. So when we return, I want to connect you with one of Israel's earliest Jewish settlements when the Ottoman Turks controlled the Land. It's a fascinating story. But first, I want to connect you with a resource that we have. We've been talking about it over the past few weeks. It's Steve Herzig's Jewish Culture and Customs. We've been talking about the Ashkenazi, the Sephardic, the Mizrahi Jews and all the different cultures that they have and all the different foods they eat and the way they worship. If you want a more in-depth, deep study of Jewish culture and customs, I want to encourage you to get Steve Herzig's book. It will enlighten you into the various ways that Jewish people live life, how they worship and how they connect with one another. It will only give you a deeper understanding of God's chosen people. Steve, can you share with our listeners how they can get a copy of Jewish Culture and Customs?
Steve Conover: Yeah, Chris. We invite you, our listeners, to purchase your copy of Jewish Culture and Customs by visiting foiradio.org. That's foiradio.org. Or you can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940. Most of you, we know, are listening on the weekend, so someone will return your call during our regular business hours. That's (888) 343-6940. To order in Canada, call (888) 664-2584. Again, in Canada, to order Jewish Culture and Customs by Steve Herzig, that's (888) 664-2584.
Chris Katulka: Okay. Over the past four weeks, we've been talking about the various ethnicities of the Jewish people who have lived in diaspora. That means Jewish people who lived outside the Land. As the Jewish people scattered throughout the world over the past 2,000 years, they grew into different ethnicities and cultures. But as the Jewish people were scattered all throughout the world, it's vital to remember that there has always been a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. In the 1880s, as Jewish people were immigrating back to the Holy Land, a group of religious pioneers sought to set up a unique Jewish village. They wanted to call it Petah Tikva, which means the opening of hope or the door of hope. And the name was chosen from the prophecy of Hosea, in Hosea 2:15, when the prophet Hosea writes, "And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope." That's where these religious pioneers got the name Petah Tikva, the door of hope.
The settlers of this new Jewish village actually intended to establish the new settlement in the Valley of Achor, near Jericho, as the prophecy predicted. So they purchased some land there, but the Turkish Sultan actually put an end to the purchase, forbidding the Jewish people to settle in that area.
So the founders transitioned. They retained that name of the village, Petah Tikva. For them it became a symbol of their desire to build a unique Jewish village. And in 1878, the founders learned of the availability of land northeast of Jaffa, which is today Tel Aviv. And this property was large. It was 3,500 dunams, which is about 865 acres of land. And here was the catch though. The land sat next to the swamp of the Yarkon Valley. And the founders of Petah Tikva purchased the land on July 30th, 1878. Another 2,000 acres was bought when another group of settlers came to the area a year later, the Ottoman Sultan actually approved the purchase of this land because of the poor quality of it. It sat right next to that swamp land.
Sadly, a malaria epidemic broke out in the 1880s, forcing the abandonment of the settlement. Only a few years later though, Petah Tikva was reoccupied by immigrants in 1883 from Russia. They were called the Bilu'im. Bilu is a Hebrew acronym based on a verse from the Book of Isaiah in chapter two, verse five, which says, "House of Jacob, let's go up." So Bilu founders that moved into Petah Tikva believed that the time had come for Jewish people to not just return to the Land of Israel to live in it, but also to make their living there as well. So the Bilu'im were strongly influenced, this is interesting, by the Bible and Karl Marx. That's right. They were socialists and socialism drove them. And they established these farming cooperatives throughout Israel, which became known as kibbutzes. Yes, kibbutz, maybe you've heard of a kibbutz. These were incredibly instrumental in the establishment of the State of Israel.
14 ex-university students made up the first group of Bilu'im. And for them, farming was a completely different change of lifestyle because actually as Jews, they were forbidden to own land in Russia. The country was devoid of Jewish farmers. But when the Bilu'im arrived from Russia into Israel, they had plenty of energy and optimism, but very little money and experience and they found life very difficult as they were farming. Eventually some of the original families that started Petah Tikva before that malaria outbreak, they came back because they found funding to drain the swamp from Baron Edmond Rothschild, and so the village eventually became more stable.
Many settlers from the first and second waves of Jewish immigration found their way to Petah Tikva where they would come to establish the foundations of the Israeli labor movement. It's so interesting. But when you travel through Petah Tikva today, you can still see remnants of the old village and the agricultural roots. However, the city is actually in its modern era, one of Israel's largest industrial centers. This all happened because a group of Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia believed God was calling them home to the Land that God promised them from the scriptures.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: First, I want to give you the happy news that my wife recently gave birth to our second son. We're going to call him Victor after Victor Buksbazen, the first director of the Friends of Israel. We are pleased that he has joined his oldest sister and brother, Ruth and Meno. I was called up for military service recently, and this time it was a miracle that I came home alive. I thank God that I was saved from this boiling pot, which is impossible to describe, but it is like a volcano that erupts every few months. By now I've become used to it.
After this trip, I visited a family whose two oldest children had recently married. Now there are only six children left at home, the oldest being 14, and the youngest three. I visited their home in the company of my commanding officer and they received us courteously. This officer treats me very well, although he knows that I'm a believer. A year ago, he took my New Testament from my rucksack, and we're now great friends. Because of his position, he has to be very careful. The authorities cannot do anything to me, but he has a rank and could get himself into trouble. We were able to discuss the things of Christ in the home of the family we visited. We prayed together and they thanked me for visiting them again
When I returned to my work, my fellow laborers could not believe that I had come back. One of them said, "Agoy has luck." They called me Agoy, Gentile, because I believe in Jesus. He said, "Couldn't you have gotten killed instead of one of our own?" I answered, "Is it perhaps because the Lord has a plan for me to proclaim his gospel, that he saved me?" I'm sure of this. And this is not the first time that the Lord has saved me. I have been in similar situations before, but as you can see, I'm safe and sound. Is it not a miracle?
My foreman stood on the sidelines listening to our conversation. At the end, he came to me and said, "If you do not stop these communications about the gospel, I will dismiss you." I answered, "If you wish, you can do so immediately. But I will say what I want to say. And no one can forbid me. I'm not employed here as a high official, but as a hard-working construction man. What is your decision?" He thought for a moment and then said, "Stay." "I take it then," I said, "That you really enjoy hearing my testimony and that I am permitted to say what I stand for?"
This incident gave me greater courage to bear witness every time I can, whenever I can, and wherever I can. Most of the people with whom I work are from Kurdistan and Iraq and have never before heard about the Lord Jesus. And that's why the foreman was so afraid of my testimony. But whether he likes it or not, he hears about the Lord. I do my work well, and he can find no fault with me. I said to him, "The day will come when you will implore the Lord in the name of Jesus to forgive you." "There are no heroes before God," he replied. "Enough of the lesson for today." Then remarked, "I would like you not only to learn the lesson, but to do some homework." And for the first time he laughed. And now the men who work with me are very interested and ask me many questions.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us for this episode of The Friends of Israel Today. We hope you've enjoyed this series on Jewish backgrounds and cultures. All four episodes are available on our website. That's foiradio.org. Chris, where are we headed next week?
Chris Katulka: Yeah. We're going to be doing a little theology next week. We're going to be looking at the scriptures and we're going to be studying for the next two weeks, angels and demons from the Bible. We're going to look at the biblical understanding of the angels, the angelic realm, and also those fallen angels as well. So I hope our listeners come back next week.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. And I'm Steve Conover, executive producer.
Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099.
And one last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org.
The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
Jewish Culture and Customs
By Steve Herzig
You may love the Jewish people, but what do you know about their culture? Do you know about their symbolic customs that date back thousands of years and the special meaning they hold?
Enjoy a front-row seat to the colorful traditions and lifestyles of the Jewish people with Jewish Culture and Customs! Order your copy of Steve Herzig’s personal and entertaining book today!
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Apples of Gold: Sitting on Top of a Volcano
Zvi returns to work after another harrowing stretch of military service. His co-workers are shocked that he has survived. To which he replies, “Is it perhaps because the Lord has a plan for me—to proclaim His gospel—that He saved me? I am sure of this. And this is not the first time that the Lord has saved me. I have been in similar situations before, but, as you can see, I am safe and sound. Is it not a miracle?”
Zvi’s unique story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s biography, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available in our online store.
A compilation of Zvi’s stories are also available in the book, “The Best of Zvi,” available in our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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