I had been invited to have lunch with Zvi Randelman at his drug and alcohol rehab centre in Jerusalem. I am deeply interested in work of this kind; anything that snatches people from the jaws of death and self destruction and restores them back to life as they were meant to live it is, to me, nothing short of a miracle. In this case I was to visit a newly founded centre that helps both Jews and Arabs under the same roof!
Zvi not only pastors a congregation called Yeshuat Yisrael (which means Salvation of Israel), he is also the founder and director of Beit Hayeshua a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Jerusalem.
I was introduced to the former drug addicts who were on the first stage of their rehabilitation programme. I say ‘former drug addicts’ because, as I was to hear, this is a centre where drug addicts see their habit of addiction broken amazingly quickly and within a very short time they are re-building their shattered lives.
Lunch was ready and I was shown into the dining room; a simple plain room housing a large table and in the corner a piece of gym equipment.
There were nine of us around that table and of the six former drug addicts, two were Arabs and four were Jewish. Some spoke a little English in addition to their first language of Hebrew, Arabic or Russian. One by one I listened to their stories; of years spent in prison; years spent taking heroin; all from broken families. However, all were off drugs and were looking forward to a future. And all were now believers in Y’shua and filled with the Holy Spirit.
There isn’t space here to tell you Zvi’s life story in detail. You can read that in my latest book, ‘Israel’s New Disciples’(published by Monarch). Suffice to say he was brought up in New Jersey in a traditional Jewish family. But Zvi found Judaism empty and as a teenager he gradually stopped attending synagogue and started experimenting with drugs. Whilst at university, in January 1971, he met some ‘Jesus People’ who told him ‘who’ he was looking for!
“Later that night”, Zvi told me, “the Holy Spirit started speaking to my heart; I sensed those people had something I didn’t have. I was hungry to know the truth. It’s hard for me to explain what happened next – I didn’t pray but suddenly God gave me a revelation. Suddenly I knew that Y’shua was the answer! And as I came to that revelation the Holy Spirit came on me and baptised me with the love of God.”
Zvi never took drugs again.
He continued, “Three or four months after I had that experience of the Lord I began to read in Ezekiel and Jeremiah about God’s plan for Israel, that in the last days God would re-gather the Jewish people from all the nations to which they had been scattered, bring them back to the land of Israel and here He would give us a new heart and put His Spirit in us. And I knew that included me!
In 1974 I felt that it was God’s time for me to move to Israel. I’d left university because I’d only begun studies there to please my father – but now I decided to resume my studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
When I first arrived here in Israel I didn’t know anybody. It was a real step of faith. I gradually started to meet some of the believers in Jerusalem; at that time their numbers were small.
I knew why I was here. I believed that God was restoring Israel both physically and spiritually and that He was going to bring the Israeli people to know Messiah Y’shua. I could see that it wasn’t all that easy but that we were in a process and this process would take time. It’s been a long haul. I’ve been here for over 30 years, and I have to say Israelis are much more open today than they were in 1974. We’re seeing many more Israelis saved. We’re seeing many more congregations starting. A Jewish person coming back to the land is wonderful. But if he doesn’t accept his Messiah he cannot enter into a full relationship with the God of Israel and cannot receive the eternal life which God promises through faith in Y’shua the Messiah. These are the crucial issues of life.”
How did you come to be running a drug rehab centre? I asked.
“I started a Messianic congregation in 1980 called Succat David. After 10 years I felt we were stagnating and we weren’t fulfilling what I felt was my call of reaching the Jewish people with the Gospel. I had reached a personal crisis, and in my discouragement I decided to take some time off. I asked Him about the future of the congregation, and He said, ‘Outreach – that is the future.’ Here in Jerusalem it’s very hard to evangelise and see people come to the Lord. And God showed me that there needed to be some kind of centre where people could be soaked in the Gospel. I asked, ‘What kind of centre?’ Then the Lord began to speak to my heart about the drug addicts and the alcoholics and I became really burdened for these people.
After I heard this call from the Lord, my wife Yaffa and I began to pray about it and after four months of prayer I realised I had to take a step.
By faith we opened Beit Hayeshua. We’re not well publicised. We don’t run fund raising campaigns. It’s a walk of faith. And we found that because we’re dependant on Him for finances, we’re also dependant on Him for everything else. So when someone is sick we pray and expect the Lord to heal. We have seen many manifestations of the healing power of God here. Our best efforts will never make it with the drug addicts and alcoholics that God is bringing here; they need the supernatural power of God.
They know the programme is faith based – we don’t hide that. We tell them we believe the only answer for them is to meet the Messiah, Y’shua. And we tell them that if they give their lives to God, He is able to release them 100%.
When a new man enters the programme we don’t waste any time. We pray over them that the Lord will help them and heal them of the withdrawal symptoms – and I would say 90% of the time God heals them almost totally of the withdrawal symptoms; they may have insomnia or a few cramps but inevitably these are very slight – and I think God does that to show He loves them and He’s real.
From the start they hear strong messages about Y’shua, His love and redemption, His resurrection and the new life He offers to all who will commit their lives to Him 100%.
It happens fast – some accept the Lord the same day; but generally within two or three days they accept the Lord and we like to see them baptised with the Holy Spirit within a few weeks. There’s no way to get free from drugs and stay free without the power of the Holy Spirit. A drug addict who accepts Y’shua cannot be like a regular church goer. A regular church goer who doesn’t come from an addictive background may be able to get away with compromising their faith, although they would be lukewarm, but these guys can’t be like that. They have to be 100% radical for the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit.
For the first two and a half years we only took Jews. We were open to receive Arabs but I think God, in His wisdom, waited until we were more mature, and more recently He brought the first two Arabs into the programme, one from a Muslim background who had been a drug addict for 25 years and came to us in a wheelchair having spent 15 years in prison. Drugs are readily available in the prisons. The other Arab was from a ‘Christian background’ but his family is a family of criminals. He came to us not knowing how to read or write because from an early age, instead of going to school, he was sent on criminal errands. A drug addict since the age of 11, he’s now 31. The one who came from a Moslem background took about two and a half weeks until he had a breakthrough with the Lord – we actually had to remove him from the programme for about a week because he misbehaved, but we felt it right to take him back. Then he had a breakthrough and stepped forward in a meeting and proclaimed Y’shua as his God and the Lord gave him major deliverance from evil spirits, filled him with the Holy Spirit and he’s a changed person. The other Arab also had a breakthrough with the Lord and they have both now been baptised in water and baptised in the Holy Spirit and we see the relationship between them and the Jewish brothers is now very good.
We teach them our first identity is as a child of God. We believe God is restoring Israel but that doesn’t mean the Arabs don’t have a place here. God wants the Arabs to preach the gospel to Jews and Arabs and other nations too. There are no second class citizens in the family of God. God has a specific purpose for Israel but that doesn’t mean the Arabs are left out. So we are helping them all to see they are children of the Most High and that is their most important identity.
What we’ve done here in this centre to date I see as only the beginning. We have a vision for a women’s centre. But everything is in the Lord’s time.”
What do you do when you are a minority group living amongst people who are hostile to your beliefs? How do you develop a heart of compassion towards those who want to silence or even destroy you? This is the challenge facing both Jewish believers living in Israel and evangelical Arab Christians living in the West Bank in places like Bethlehem.
by Julia Fisher
Despite dire reports and media indifference, the Christian church in Israel and the areas of Palestine is growing among both Arab and Jewish communities. As this happens, Arabs and Jews are meeting, being reconciled, and working together.Meet Me at the Olive Tree tells 16 stories of these new Christians and how they find both forgiveness and new hope in their faith. These stories reveal the powerful childhood indoctrination and great social pressure that encourages the enmity we see on the news each night. But they also reveal the reconciliation and peace that is possible through the cross. These stories will stretch your mind and thrill your heart, as you embrace all that God is doing through both Jewish believers and Arab/Palestinian Christians living in Israel and the wider Middle East.