Well, it’s been four years since we said goodbye to our congregation in Virginia and to all our good friends to make the move to Israel in obedience to God’s call. On the anniversary of our move, I recalled the day we left our house and traveled to our former synagogue. There, a number of congregants and good friends gathered to escort us to the airport. It was a painful and sad day. I must admit I still miss many of them. Change is hard, and our integration into our new life has been challenging. I remember speaking to the family of Russian friends in Richmond, who said despite being in the US for over 20 years, they still didn’t feel at home. Ouch! That’s sobering.
The Torah portions over the past few weeks have been about Joseph. Joseph, of course, was forcibly transplanted to another land, and then underwent terrible experiences before God used all of them to put him into the position to which God called him. Nothing that we’ve been through is comparable. However, the transplantation to a new country, land, culture and language is traumatic. Fortunately for Joseph, his relocation occurred at a young age. According to the story, he fully embraced Egyptian life after his ascension to a government minister. It’s seen in the naming of his children – Manasseh, likely derived from the Hebrew for forget, as he states, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household,” and Ephraim, likely meaning twice fruitful, as Joseph states, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
For us, of course, the relocation occurred at a much older age, making full integration more difficult. Nevertheless, as has been noted in previous updates, progress is being made. One of our goals was to worship God through Yeshua in distinctly Jewish ways. Most of the congregations in Israel are closer to Hebrew speaking churches. Consequently, we started a small group (Adonai Shamah) in our house that meets every other week, in the beginning comprised mostly of former congregants who moved to Israel. Over the past two years a few other couples have joined us, and now we meet in at least three locations around the country. We actually had a nice sized group last Shabbat in Netanya (one of our locations) for a late afternoon service (mincha) and a Hanukkah celebration and dinner. We hope to see this group grow, especially with younger families.
Another goal was to be near to our children and be a blessing to them. We’ve always been a close family, but for many years lived in different countries. That changed with our move and then our middle daughter’s move with her family back to Israel a few months ago. All three of our girls are married, and two have children. For our daughter who lives close to us, we often watch her kids. I recently thought how strange it was that each member of our family immigrated to Israel separately and independently of the other, and now we’re all together in a completely different country from where we started. It’s a huge blessing and close to unique among most of our friends who have also immigrated to Israel.
To survive here our goal was integration into Israeli life, primarily by entering the job market. For me, it is the practice of law; for Stacy, teaching. As some may recall, the biggest obstacle to practicing law was the requirement of passing the Israeli Bar exam in Hebrew. While I idealistically hoped I could manage such a thing, after struggling with the language, honestly, that was a pipe dream. However, three months after we moved here, the Israeli government passed a law allowing foreign lawyers to practice here as long as they passed an ethics exam, given in English. Eight months later, I became a licensed foreign lawyer in Israel. A few months after that I opened a law practice with two other believers, Cohen, Pex, Brosh Law Offices.
The practice grew slowly at first but now is pretty well known. My practice areas are US immigration law, US tax law and Social Security. As a foreign lawyer, I am limited to practice the law of my original country. The other two lawyers are full Israeli lawyers and practice immigration to Israel, business, real estate, administrative and constitutional law. Because most of my clients want to move to the US, most speak English (thank God), and, if they don’t, my partners translate for me. If you googled immigration to the US in Hebrew, our firm shows up three times on the first page of Google. Pretty amazing!
In the next few weeks we are moving offices to a very nice facility, where we will share offices with numerous other Israelis. This should open opportunities for more business and also hopefully provide opportunities for our office mates to learn about our faith. Up to now we’ve been sequestered in a small space of a rundown facility, which I’ve written about extensively.
Stacy continues to improve in Hebrew. Some neighbors speak exclusively to her in Hebrew – quite an accomplishment. She also has several students in both English and piano. For most of them, she travels around the north of the country, including Nazareth. At some point we will need a second car. Cars in Israel are taxed at over 100%, and insurance and gas are much more expensive than in the US. So, two car ownership is financially taxing, although most in our neighborhood have two cars, not sure how though.
The last goal was to be involved in Israeli politics. I grew up in a political home. My father worked for President Nixon. In my early work years, I worked in the US Congress. When I entered the ministry, I left the political world behind but not my love for politics. I have always followed it closely. Before immigrating, I believed God wanted me to assist the Messianic Jewish community in the Israeli political world. Messianic Jews historically have been marginalized in Israel, and are the one group of Jews that legally are barred from immigration.
A few months ago I contacted a leader in the Yesh Atid party (a centrist party) about getting involved. Approximately, a month ago I attended a party meeting of English speakers. They wanted us to organize meetings of English speakers to which the party would send a Member of the Knesset to speak. The goal obviously is to increase the support of the party. I am now in the process of setting up three different meetings in different parts of the country, largely to be comprised of Messianic Jews. Just today I contacted the party with plans for two specific meetings and mentioned that most in attendance would be Messianic Jews. I wanted them to know so that whatever Knesset member comes, he or she would not be blindsided and be prepared to answer questions about discrimination.
While Joseph in the Bible saw his fortunes change in one day, our experience probably is more typical, slowly, step by step. It’s still strange and uncomfortable, but God has been faithful to accomplish what I believe His will for our lives is to be. To those who have prayed, encouraged through notes and given financially, a huge thank you. I don’t know where we would be without the support at all levels.