Here in Israel, most people know the Hebrew song “Ani Ma’amin,” or “I Believe.” In English, the lyrics read, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah. I believe.” Recently I visited an ultra-Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem, where people were singing this song with great joy. As soon as they noticed me and saw I was not wearing traditional clothing and did not have a beard, they began to ask me questions. They live by the adage, “Respect him and suspect him.”
“Are you happy?” one of the men asked. “I am,” I answered, “because it is written, ‘Whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he’” (Prov. 16:20).
“Do you believe in the coming of the Messiah?” another asked.
“There is a small difference between us concerning that question,” I replied. “You believe the Messiah will come, but I believe He will return.”
Then they really became suspicious and called for reinforcements. Soon their rabbi arrived. He began to drill me with questions: “From which dirty book have you read this crazy news that the Messiah will return? Who has brainwashed you? We have never heard such idiocy.”
His reaction was not new to me. “There is always a first time to hear news,” I said. They continued with such comments and questions, but I waited patiently for God to show me the right time to share my faith.
“You believe the Messiah will come, but I believe He will return.”The rabbi continued, “Who brainwashed you to believe this? Now is your time to show us from whom you received this false information!”
I opened my Bible to Leviticus and read, “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit” (26:3–4).
I asked them, “Is anything more important than water? We must obey all of the Lord’s commands. Do you agree?”
We must obey all of the Lord’s commands. Do you agree?” “Yes,” one responded. “We must obey. And we do.” “Then why do you boycott the Word of God?” I asked. This comment made them angry. “How are you not ashamed to say something like that?” one demanded.
Quickly I opened my Bible to the chapter they never want to read, Isaiah 53:
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (vv. 5–6).
“I have not read to you from fictitious stories, but from the Holy Bible, which we must obey,” I said.
“How did you find this chapter?” the rabbi asked.
I told him, “It is clearly written in Isaiah 53: ‘The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’ Upon whom did the Lord lay our iniquity? Read the full chapter, and you will know. The Word of the Lord is eternal. You cannot say this is not truth.” “Why did you come here?” one asked.
“Because I believe what is written in the Bible,” I said, “and I try to obey the Lord’s commands. It is written in Psalm 96:2–3, ‘Sing to the LORD, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations.’ I want to declare His glory among the nations; that is why I am here today, telling you of His salvation.”
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They were quiet. No one said a word. “I will come here again.” I told them. “When will you make your decision if you are for the Lord or against Him?”
They did not reply. Finally, one man said, “Our conversation was very interesting.” They have far to go before they can say from their hearts, “Ani Ma’amin.
—The Friends of Israel Archives, February 2005
Zvi Kalisher (1928–2014) was a Holocaust survivor who was known for his unswerving faithfulness to the Lord and his bold witness in Jerusalem. He was with The Friends of Israel for more than 55 years.