By Corine Gatti
What is it that a person, a Jewish believer in Yeshua, would uproot themselves to move to the Middle East? That could be easily answered, a passion for the Holy Land and belief that Israel is the place of the Messiah’s return. There is another question; would these believers be embraced by the Jewish community?
“This is a very complicated question,” said Paul Sherbow of Come to Zion Ministries Israel. His ministry feeds the poor, pays bills for the elderly, and operates an internet radio station running 24/7 with music and teachings in Kiryat Yam north of Haifa.
“There is a bias against Messianic believers here because of history. The Christians have been preaching to the Jews for 1900 years you can leave Torah behind and just believe in Jesus. Many, many Jews have been forced to convert or be killed over this time. The religious Jews see Messianic as people trying to derail Jews from Torah which is the Word of God. Even the State of Israel in a supreme court case said that a Jew who believes in Jesus is no longer a Jew in the eyes of the state and not entitled to immigrate to Israel under the law of return because that person has gone over to our “historical” enemy.”
David Ortiz originally from Brooklyn, New York, a dental technician by trade, is the pastor of a congregation of 25 inside the Jewish settlement of Ariel, north of Jerusalem—he and his family are considered an enemy of the Jews, by extremist. Fliers of Ortiz said he was “Baptizing Jews into Christianity," which were wallpapered on bus depots, cars, and shopping centers in the area with images of the pastor and his address. Ortiz has been physically attacked at least on one occasion by Palestinians from a neighboring village handing out Bibles, The Jerusalem Post reported on March, 25, 2008. He also had Molotov cocktail thrown at his car.
The pastor found the lengths that an extremist would go through to delver a message, kill if they don't bend. In March 2008, there was an attempted murder on Ortiz’s son Ami, who was then 15. Ami opened a Purim basket dropped off by suspect Jack Teitel who immigrated to Israel from the US. On the Ortiz’s apartment surveillance video, Teitel allegedly delivered a package filled with candies and chocolate during the Purim holiday. When the youth picked out a chocolate, it triggered a bomb that blew out the apartment windows and blasting nails and other deadly objects into the boy’s body. Doctors told the family that Ami was “anush,” which means incurable.
After 14 operations and told by doctors that his son would never see again. Ami made a miraculous recovery and will be playing college basketball this fall. The hardship didn’t end as the family sued police and paid to collect the video officials obtained as evidence. The video shows Teitel leaving a package after walking upstairs to the apartment. Ortiz said that Teitel could have been involved in the counter-missionary organization Yad L'Achim, which main focus is counter-missionary opposition to efforts to convert Jews to Christianity or to accepting Jesus as savior. The terrorist was suspected of recruiting other members and lived in a nearby settlement. According reports, Teitel was responsible for killing Palestinian taxi driver Samir Bablisi in 1997. Bablisi was found with a bullet to his head. He is linked to shooting a Palestinian shepherd Isa Jabarin that year. Israel's Secret Service said Teitel has confessed to most of his crimes.
“I heard you were going to leave?” teachers and neighbors asked Ortiz. “I said quite the opposite. I’m going to stay.” Ami (center playing basketball) has forgiven his attacker,” said Ortiz, whose son will need more plastic surgery. “He has been a wonder within my own eyes. How could anyone who went through so much be so peaceful?”
Ortiz is still under constant death threats, needing armed guards and the need to check daily for bombs under his car, especially during church meetings to protect the lives of others. He remains steadfast in preaching the Gospel and his congregation keeps growing that started with four members. Thousands of people, including Muslims have accepted Christ since the early 2000s.
“It’s not the work of mankind,” Ortiz said. “It’s God himself.”
Palestinians were inspired by the Ortiz family’s forgiveness towards their attacker that they could forgive. Muslims called Ortiz offering blood for transfusions for Ami, according to reports and Compass Direct News. Orthodox Jews asked forgiveness for their hatred toward Messianic Jews. Other Messianic started to speak up after the attack, which also led to an important victory in Israeli court.
"This is yet another battle won in our war to establish equality in Israel for the Messianic Jewish community just like every other legitimate stream of faith within the Jewish world," said Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice in a 2008 CBN interview.