JERUSALEM, Israel – One goal of the millions of Christians taking part in the May 7-28 Isaiah 62 Global Fast and Prayer is seeing God fulfill prophecies that Israel will be a light and bring salvation to the world. An Israeli Jewish man and Canadian Christian woman have joined forces to try to make sure that destiny happens.
Some people ask if a true believer in God can have a real and profitable relationship with someone of another faith. That’s what Gil Pentzak, who is Jewish, and Ruth Fazal, who is Christian, are discovering in the land of Israel.
Fazal is a Canadian concert violinist who felt God call her to get much more involved with His holy land and His chosen people. She came to Israel and began learning Hebrew from Gil Pentzak, a deeply religious Orthodox Jewish man and Hebrew instructor at Ulpan Aviv.
“Gil would always try to make me talk about the things that were close to my heart,” Ruth told CBN News. “So I guess God came into the picture very quickly; and then I realized that that was the same for Gil.”
Gil added, “It was very obvious that God was very much in Ruth’s heart.
That initially baffled Gil, who would think, concerning Ruth,”‘I’ve just had this interesting conversation about prayer with a woman who wasn’t even Jewish. “I mean, how could she know anything about prayer…faith…belief…God’s presence…and she’s not even Jewish? How could she know?'”
Meanwhile, Gil’s deep love of God changed Ruth’s prejudices.
She admitted, “What I was finding out was that all my preconceptions about religious Jews – they were all wrong. They were SO wrong, and I wanted to put those things right, and I wanted to be able to introduce people to someone where God is right in the center of their life, someone who really loves God.”
It became a mission of this duo to shake Christians up by getting them into Israel so they could be close to Jewish lovers of God…like Gil.
As Ruth put it: “For the groups who say, ‘Oh, I love Israel. I love the Jewish people.’ Well, you know, actually have you ever met one? Or talked to one? And especially a religious one?”
Gil explained, “We started to host groups here for a week.”
It’s called “No Ordinary Week in Jerusalem,” now an annual deep dive into worship, the Word and Israeli Jewish culture.
At first, Gil wasn’t sure he should even be fellowshipping with these visiting Christian groups.
He said,”I came to serious questions as an Orthodox Jew, is this okay? Is this okay to be in such relationship? To come that close…to points when we are there worshipping together…praying? Do we pray to the same God?”
Gil spoke of how he slowly, but surely, adjusted: “It was like stepping into a pool with cold water. And you take, like a step, and another step and another step until you get used to it, and you understand, ‘Okay. It’s okay for me to be here. And if God put me here, probably there is a reason for that.'”
His initial discomfort working so closely with Christians is something fellow Jews can easily understand, after facing centuries of exiles, massacres, pogroms and even the Holocaust, at the hands of Gentiles.
Many Christians don’t realize how much damage supposedly-Christian nations and believers have done over past millennia to Jewish people.
“Even the image of the Cross gave me the chill as an Orthodox Jew,” Gil recalled. “I totally respect and I totally understand what it means for Christians, but for me, it was all about persecutions and blood libels and bad history with a lot of pain involved.”
God, though, has shown Gil and Ruth they truly are a brother and sister in the Lord, something they pray many more Christians and Jews will come to realize.
Now, to be clear, this doesn’t minimize in any way the supreme, crucial role of Jesus Christ in Christians’ lives.
But as Gil says of the Jewish and Christian faiths, “The more we are in this journey, the more we discover that we have so much in common…so much. And we share so much. Why should we focus on the differences when we can focus on the things that can bring us together?”
There certainly are large areas of common ground between Christians and Jews. For instance, both call upon Our Father God.
As Ruth and Gil do.
Gil explained, “Two worlds meet. Two children of the same Father meet and finally begin to think, how are we going to do this together?'”
“Ruth added, “The prayer that Jesus taught when His disciples said ‘teach us how to pray’ – what did He say? He said ‘our Father. That’s who to address when you pray.’ You know, there’s absolutely nothing in that prayer that Gil wouldn’t feel comfortable praying.””
Then, there’s the question of Messiah. Both are waiting for Him.
“Obviously, I believe we’re waiting for the same person,” Ruth stated.
Ruth and Gil sing a song that says of the Messiah, “Even though He delays, I still wait for Him every day to come.”
Gil told CBN News, “And I genuinely believe we are waiting for Mashiach (Hebrew for ‘Messiah’) to come. That’s definitely common ground that we can both stand on together.”
Gil continued, “All the technicalities: ‘When is it going to be? Where is it going to be? Who is it going to be?’ We can leave that to the time when He comes, and we can ask Him all those questions. But at least, I think that nowadays it’s all about connections. We have to be able to find more, wider, common ground that we can stand on together. And there is a lot.”
Ruth’s praying Christians will stand together with their Jewish brothers and sisters, because too often they haven’t.
As Ruth said to Gil during this CBN interview, “Why haven’t we been here for you? Why have we not stood by you? Why have we not honored you?'”
If Christians will pour out love, care and honor on God’s chosen people, Gil believes it could provoke Jews to recall what God called them to be in Isaiah 49:6 – “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Gil added, “The whole reason why we were chosen from the beginning is in order to bring some sort of light to the nations, to the world.”
It’s a desire Ruth and Gil believe could be re-ignited as Christians and Jews like those involved in Not an Ordinary Week in Jerusalem come together to serve their Father God and worship him.
“The worship is awesome,” Ruth exclaimed. “I just feel God’s presence so much when we worship together.”
Gil concluded, “And I just wish we could bring everybody together and say ‘Please get along. It will make our Father very happy.'”
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