When Christians seek to live, as best they can, according to the Torah, how should Jewish people react? And does it have any implications for the ultimate redemption?
This inspiring new phenomenon is found today all over the globe. In Aqaba, Jordan, a community of approximately 70 non-Jews is striving to live a Bible-oriented life. Like thousands of Christians around the world, members of this community believe, based on DNA evidence and family name searches among other things, that they are the physical descendants of the residents of the Northern Kingdom who were exiled from Israel by the Assyrians in the 8th century BCE.
There is no official name for the movement of which the 70 people in Aqaba are part. They are variously called Ephraimites, Ten Tribers, Hebrew Roots, B’ney Yosef, or Torah-observant gentiles.
One thing is certain. They know that they are not Jews.
Valerie Parham, who has been living in Aqaba since 2005, told Breaking Israel News that the members of her community “love Israel, love the people, love keeping Torah as we can understand it. We personally feel much more affinity with Judaism than Christianity.” At the same time, converting to Judaism is not a goal.
Why are they living in Jordan? “We believe that Jordan is part of the greater Promised Land and that is part of the reason our Father made this place for us,” Parham said. “Our single greatest pleasure in being able to be here has to do with the fact that we can afford to go up to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage feasts. We have been there for all the [Biblical pilgrimage festivals] for 11 years now.”
Though many of them would like to live in Israel, Parham acknowledged, “We can’t make aliyah (become citizens of Israel) because, for one thing, we won’t give up our personally held belief that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah.”
The Jordanian community is not the only group of non-Jews seeking to grow closer to their Jewish roots. America is host to a significant number of such communities. Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel and Rabbi Ari Abramowitz, co-hosts of Israel Inspired on the Land of Israel radio Network, recorded a show last week about their experiences in America interacting with members of this community. During the show, Gimpel spoke about “The soul connection that I felt with these people that are not Jewish, that are living in a Biblical rhythm, that are living by the Torah to the best of their ability.”
Most Jews have no idea that there are gentiles who live what Hanoch Young, an Israeli tour guide and informal Jewish liaison to this group, calls a “Biblically-oriented lifestyle.”
Young told Breaking Israel News, “The focus in dealing with people like these, whom I believe are our lost brothers and sisters, is to build a relationship with each other – getting to know each other as people, not as representatives of some ideological or theological positions. We need to focus on those things we have in common, rather than those points that could potentially divide us.
According to Young, that commonality is Israel. “We need to help connect them to the Land of Israel (which is why I became a tour guide, by the way), because it is here, in Israel, that all of our people will return to – and what we pray for on a daily basis. The way to form relationships with people in this movement is only through mutual respect.”
Abramowitz spoke to Breaking Israel News about the connection between the Jewish people and those Christians who are pursuing a Torah lifestyle. “Historically Jews have tried to stay away from too many interfaith encounters… But times are different. We have now returned to our homeland and we are no longer at the mercy and whims of the nations around us. And as we return home, there are spiritual tectonic shifts of historic magnitude happening both within the Jewish people as well as the world around us.
“One of the most shocking and curious of these shifts is happening within Christianity, as hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world are connecting to the Jewish roots of their faith, keeping many of the Biblical holidays, Torah commandments, and Jewish rituals.”
Abramowitz addressed Jewish criticism of the movement. “While many Jews write off this phenomenon as a duplicitous Christian strategy to blur the lines between our two faiths in order to accomplish their age old goal of converting us all to Christianity, I have encountered too many Christians who are thirsty, even parched, to learn Torah from the Jewish people, to dismiss this spiritual movement in one fell swoop,” he said.
Are non-Jews reaching out to learn about the Torah from Jews a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy? Zechariah speaks about a time, in the End of Days, when ten non-Jews will grab ahold of the garment of a Jew and ask to be taken along.
Thus saith Hashem of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all the languages of the nations shall even take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew saying: We will go with you for we have heard that God is with you. Zechariah 8:23
Parham said, “We would love to continue to develop loving relationships with our brothers in the Land and need to be taught the things we still do not know. We welcome teaching…We are so happy to see that the walls are coming down so that we can have discussions now, those without fear of each other. We would love to welcome any rabbi that wanted, to come and join us down here to teach us. We haven’t found one to agree.”
Are non-Jews pursuing a Torah-based lifestyle while maintaining a belief in Jesus a reflection of the Messianic process? Hanoch Young thinks so. He asked Breaking Israel News, “What greater sign of the impending geula (redemption) than thousands of people across the world embracing the Torah?”