Israel
State of Israel
July 3-4
Asia


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GEOGRAPHY

Area 20,700 sq.km. A further 7,540 sq.km. of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights have been controlled by Israel since 1967.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 5,121,683 +2.55% 247 per sq. km.
2010 6,017,886 +1.40% 291 per sq. km.
2025 6,926,755 +0.80% 335 per sq. km.

This includes Israelis in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. By including Israelis living in West Bank settlements in the section on the Palestine Authority (p.**), no political statement is intended – it is simply to indicate the geo-political realities of 2000 for readers to better understand.

Capital Jerusalem 670,000; but not recognized internationally. Other major city: Tel Aviv conurbation 2.7 mill. Urbanites 91%.

PEOPLES

Jews 80.7%. 'Aliyah' are immigrants from 102 countries numbering 2.8m since 1947. The largest component now Russian-Ukrainian (1m.), other components being: Askenazim (European), Sephardim (Middle Eastern), Ethiopian (Falasha), Kochin (South Asian).

Arabs 15.6%. Israeli Arab 800,000 (including 60-150,000 Bedouin).

Other 3.7%. Druze 99,000; Adygey (Circassian) 3,500; Greek 3,000; Samaritan 600.

Migrant Labour May be 300,000 mainly Romanian, Chinese, Filipino, African. About half are in the country illegally.

Literacy 98%. Official languages Hebrew, Arabic. Numerous immigrant languages from all over the world are spoken. Languages with Scriptures 7Bi 2por 1w.i.p.

ECONOMY

Modern, sophisticated industrial state. Heavy defence expenditure, cost of absorbing new immigrants and the growing crisis of lack of water are all brakes on further growth. Unemployment 8.6%. HDI 0.883, 23rd/174. Public debt 27% of GNP. Income/person $16,180 (51% of USA).

POLITICS

The founding of Israel in 1948 ended 1,900 years of exile for the Jews. Five wars, in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982-85 with surrounding states have kept the country on a war footing. Military setbacks in Lebanon then withdrawal in 2000, and the rising pressure of Palestinians in civil unrest, the intifada and acts of terrorism by Islamist groups (Hamas and Hizbollah) have sapped Israeli stamina. Israeli society is deeply divided on the peace process, the future of Jewish settlements in Arab lands, the future of Jerusalem and of the Golan Heights. Holding the balance of power in successive coalition governments, the ultra-orthodox Jewish Haredi minority further polarizes society. Strenuous efforts by the USA, UN and others to engineer a peace deal have met with only limited success in a few areas of contention but all had collapsed in early 2001 in the violence of renewed intifada. Many fear another Arab-Israeli war is likely.

RELIGION

All religions are free to minister within their own communities. Jews who believe in Messiah Jesus are denied legal standing as a religious body. The Haredi (extreme Orthodox Jews) hold the nation to ransom by push their agenda through their small parties thus holding the balance of power in coalition governments. This results in marginalizing Reformed and Conservative Jews, applying constant pressure to limit freedom of religion with anti-conversion laws and persecuting Messianic Jews. Many of them refuse to participate in the military but expect large grants of government money to finance their institutions. Persecution Index 65th in the world.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Jewish 80.65 4,130,637 +2.4%
Muslim 14.60 747,766 +2.7%
Other 2.50 128,042 +5.2%
Christian 2.25 115,238 +2.8%

The Jewish population is approximately 25% religious and 75% secular/humanistic.

Christians Denom. Affil. % ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 58 0.09 5 +4.3%
Independent 2 0.12 6 +2.8%
Anglican 1 0.01 0 -2.0%
Catholic 3 1.56 80 -0.9%
Orthodox 5 0.45 23 -0.5%
Marginal 2 0.02 1 +9.0%

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic (5 rites) [3] C 56 47,337 80,000
Greek Orthodox O 11 12,500 22,000
Messianic Assemblies I 60 3,300 5,800
Assoc of Baptist Chs P 13 1,000 1,800
Jehovah's Witnesses M 5 240 800
Seventh-day Adventist P 9 420 650
Episcopal A 2 300 450
Coptic Orthodox O 2 220 300
Assemblies of God P 5 80 200
Christian Brethren [3] P 3 125 200
Other denoms [58]   29 1,685 3,208
Total Christians [72]   197 67,227 115,000

Trans-bloc Groupings pop.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 0.2 11 +2.5%
Pentecostal & Charismatic 0.2 9 +1.1%

Missionaries from Israel
P,I,A 30 in 7 agencies to 5 countries: Israel 24.

Missionaries to Israel
P,I,A 338 in 64 agencies from 23 countries: USA 135, UK 67, Germany 30, Finland 28.



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Answers to Prayer

1 The increase in the number of born-again believers among Jews. Messianic Jews have increased from 250 in 1967 to possibly 7,000 in 2000, and are beginning to be recognized by many as an acceptable part of Israeli society. There has also been a steady increase in the number of Arab believers and new churches in the last 20 years.

2 Globally there has been a significant response among the 15 million Jews; around 132,000 are linked with Messianic congregations and a further 200,000 with Gentile churches. Most of these believers are in North America, and also in Russia-Ukraine and the UK.

Challenges for Prayer

1 The return of Jews to Israel accelerated after the collapse of Communism in East Europe and Ethiopia. Although many see this as a fulfilment of prophecy (Ezekiel 20:32-34; 36:16-24), most have returned to their ancient land in unbelief. Pray for the nation's spiritual restoration through Messiah Jesus (Romans 11:25-31).

2 The intense half-century of conflict between Arabs and Israelis urgently needs resolution. Both sides lay claim to the land. Pray for a just, lasting and adequately guaranteed settlement.

3 Animosity against Christianity is a barrier to be overcome in Jewish minds. 'Christian' nations are seen to be destroyers of the Jewish nation whether by persecution (as in the Holocaust) or by proselytization. Pray that the gospel may be understood as a fulfilment of their Jewish heritage and that a widespread turning to their Messiah might come. Pray also that all attempts to limit freedom of religion and to deny the Jewish identity of Messianic believers may fail.

4 The Christian Church in Israel is fragmented and declining in numbers through emigration. It comprises about 80% Arab, 15% expatriate (Egyptian, Ethiopian Greek, Russian, Armenian, Italian, etc.) and 5% Jewish background. There are Catholics (five rites), Orthodox (nine traditions), and Protestants (17 denominations and over 100 mission agencies). Pray for spiritual unity that transcends history, ethnic conflict, national origins, eschatology and secondary areas of theology. Pray that many more Jews and Muslims might meet with the Risen Lord Jesus as true Messiah and Prophet.

5 Israeli Evangelicals are largely Messianic Jews, and Arabs who are Israeli citizens. There are about 11,000 evangelical believers in Israel of which 3,000 are Russian-origin and 500 Amharic-speaking. There are over 70 Hebrew-speaking congregations and 53 house churches. In addition to this are another 30 Russian-speaking groups and 6 Amharic-speaking (Ethiopian) congregations. Israeli-born Messianic Jews are nearly 1,000. There are about 3,500 Arab believers in 50 churches. Pray for:

a) Boldness in witness despite difficulties. The Haredi regard them as subversive and a threat to Judaism so malign and occasionally harass them.

b) Full legal rights of immigration and social acceptance in the face of national, social and family pressures. Atheist Jews are welcomed, but not Jewish Christians since a ruling in 1989 denied them entry under the Law of Return.

c) Clarity of teaching and understanding about their Jewishness. There needs to be a cultural identity without compromise of New Testament truth.

d) Effective leadership – There is a need for growth in maturity of pastoral leadership, depth and anointing in the preaching of the Word and a rising above feelings of jealousy, pride and inferiority. The latter are fuelled by the pressures of pioneering in a hostile spiritual environment. Pray for breakthroughs in these areas.

e) Unity. There have been the beginnings of meaningful fellowship between the various groups and between Hebrew- and Arabic-speaking believers in recent years. The inter-congregational Fellowship of Hebrew-speaking Congregations is becoming a point of fellowship, and the National Evangelism Committee for outreach, but meaningful working together is limited.

f) Arab Evangelicals are more numerous in Baptist, Assemblies of God, Brethren and Anglican congregations. There are only a few dozen Muslim-background believers known. Fellowship with Hebrew-speaking Evangelicals is limited and needs to be greatly increased.

6 Major outreach challenges:

a) The ultra-Orthodox Haredi are only 10% of the population, yet have more political leverage than the 83% who are secular Jews. They are culturally isolated, pursuing their own agenda, and also very legalistic. Pray that many of these modern Pharisees may become like Nicodemus.

b) The Russian and Ukrainian Jews are now the largest component of the population and are half of the former Jewish population of the USSR. They have changed Israel and are more receptive to the gospel.

c) The Ethiopian Jews (Falasha) have become a disillusioned, largely impoverished underclass since their immigration to Israel a decade ago. There are about 500 Christians among them, but they are enduring considerable persecution.

d) The Arabs – 97% are Muslim. Few are actively seeking to reach them. There is an urgent need for a new initiative in evangelism and house church planting in the Muslim community.

e) The Druze community (99,000) in Israel as well as the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

f) Guest workers. There are a total of about 1,500 evangelical Christians among them. There is outreach to Mainland Chinese with hundreds of baptisms, and several evangelical churches among Romanians.

7 The Protestant missionary force is estimated at around 1,000, but many Christians have entered as individuals to serve the Lord. Some of the larger agencies are IMB-SBC (50), CMJ (34), Finnish Lutherans (24), Church of Scotland (12), CWI (10) and AoG (6). Years of seed-sowing and breaking down of long-held prejudices against Christianity are now bearing fruit, but missionary work can be frustrating and discouraging. Many come with exotic ideas about Israel and unrealistic visions, and find little fulfilment or identification with local believers. Pray that all called of God may find viable ministries, effective means of contact with non-Christians and sweet fellowship with local believers. Friendship evangelism, literature distribution and encouragement of believers are the major means of service.

8 The Jews of the dispersion (those outside Israel) are declining in numbers through a lower birth rate, mixed marriages, secularism, emigration to Israel and conversions to other religions. There are now an estimated 9 million outside Israel. The largest concentrations are in the USA (5.6m), former USSR (1m), France (600,000); Canada (360,000); Britain (300,000); and Argentina (230,000). There are 2 million Jews in New York. In the USA there is much openness, elsewhere less so. Pray for the ministry of JFJ, MT, CWI, CMJ, etc. The work involves long hours of loving, patient ministry to individuals and families. Pray for a greater sensitivity on the part of Gentile churches towards problems of Jewish survival and for the Jewish remnant within the Church. Little is being done for Jews in France and Argentina.

9 Supportive ministries:

a) Literature is of great importance for the spread of the gospel due to the multiplicity of languages and paucity of Christians who witness. Pray for The Bible Society, the two Christian publishing houses, the production of an increasing selection of Hebrew and Arabic Christian literature, and the nine Christian bookshops. There are 3 Messianic Jewish periodicals, some having a readership beyond the Messianic Jewish community. Too few believers are engaged in distribution. Pray that Jews may read the NT and find the Living Word. Many homes have a NT.

b) Student work is in its infancy. There are five groups with about 200 believers of Arab and Jewish background linked with IFES. Leadership is the key prayer target.

c) The JESUS film has been shown on prime-time TV in both Israel and the Palestine Authority in Arabic or Hebrew, and video tapes have been distributed to over 100,000 homes.

d) Radio. TWR broadcasts 5 hrs/week in Hebrew.

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