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The Twelve Tribes of Modern Israel

Excerpts from a message delivered at the 2018 Feast of Tabernacles

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16 Nov 2018 (All day)
The Twelve Tribes of Modern Israel

The first Feast night in Jerusalem literally started with a blast as the shofar sounded from the main stage in Pais Arena, calling God’s assembly to attention. The audience was ready to celebrate, and each nation was excited to see its particular national flag ascend to the main stage. A loud, collective cheer sounded when Israel’s flag joined the host of nations, demonstrating the powerful Christian love and support that the ICEJ draws upon in its work for the Jewish people.

Powerful Changes

Following the parade of nations and celebratory worship, ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler took to the stage to address the Feast pilgrims. In an expert manner, he drove home two powerful points—namely the amazing reality God has brought about in Israel over the past 70 years and how diverse and multifaceted Israeli society is today.

Based on Exodus 28, Dr. Bühler gave a profound yet accessible introduction to the mosaic of modern-day Israel. Using the priestly breastplate as a model for Israel’s 12 tribes, the audience was introduced to 12 contemporary population groups, each unique in its own way and spanning an astonishingly broad spectrum in terms of religion, ethnicity, and social class. Dr. Bühler suggested that Christians adopt one of these modern-day “tribes” and intercede for its people in prayer.

“Now we don’t have the twelve tribes anymore today,” Dr. Bühler said, “but let me suggest . . . 12 contemporary 'tribes' of Israel—12 tribes that need your prayer, 12 tribes the Lord asks you to put on your heart, to put . . . on your shoulders, and to bring . . . before God.”

He used Scripture, along with ancient and contemporary history, to give a highly effective lesson on where and what Israel is today.

The following descriptions include five of those 12 modern-day “tribes,” adapted from Dr. Bühler’s message at the Feast.

Value-Driven Ultra-Orthodox

The first tribe in Israel is the Ultra-Orthodox community. They are easily recognized by how they dress. They make up approximately 12 percent of the population and have many different traditions, but they have a united voice against immorality. . . . Recall that one of the greatest apostles in the Bible came out of this community, a young man in Jerusalem named Saul . . . After he had an encounter with Jesus, he became the main force in the New Testament church and took the gospel to the nations.

Secular Faith

[Another tribe] lies on the exact opposite side of the spectrum, the secular people here in this land, many of who are atheists. However, atheists in the Land of Israel are different from those in other countries. Just a few days ago we honored the day of Yom Kippur. I was surprised to find out that more than 40 percent of the secular community was fasting, too. Israeli atheist Amos Oz has said, “We are atheists of the book. We read the Bible because it is our history book; it gives us identity.” Interestingly enough, it was from among those people Jesus found the most followers when he walked here in Israel.

Voices for the Future

[A third] group I want to introduce to you are Holocaust Survivors. They are a group that is becoming smaller each day. Today there are over 180,000 Holocaust Survivors left. Every year, an estimated 25,000 Holocaust Survivors pass away. Their dreams are sometimes nightmares. They still wake up in the middle of the night, and they hear the barking of the German guard dogs, corralling them into the gas chambers. But the dreams that they have for the future can be summed up by the following: They tell me, “Jürgen, I hope that when we die, that our memories will stay alive, that people will always remember what we have been through.”

And, ladies and gentlemen, that is why we have a Home for Holocaust Survivors in Haifa. We can take care of those people and also ensure that their memory will pass on to the next generation. Time is running out to help these people. Every day, Holocaust Survivors pass away, and I believe we are called to bless them.

The Russian Jews

[Another tribe] is the Russian Jews. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1989, more than one million Jews came rushing to the Land of Israel . . . They are an integral part of Israeli society. They serve in the army . . . they even have their own political party in the Knesset, and they can be found among the staff at the Christian Embassy. Over the last 20 years, the ICEJ has helped more than 120,000 Russian Jews make their way back to the Land of Israel. These are the people about whom the Bible says, “Behold, I will speak to the north country and I will tell it, let my people go” (cf. Isaiah 43:6), and God answered those prayers. They have returned back to the Land of Israel.

The Heart of the Start-Up Nation

The last tribe is the academic science/high-tech tribe, accounting for more than 70 percent of Israel’s economic volume. Israel is the only nation that already had a university before the nation was established, and today some of the greatest scientists come from this land. Their dreams are quite literal, like making the lame walk. [One] company called ReWalk actually helps people walk again. Others are working through science to get people’s eyesight back, and still others to heal cancer and other diseases. If you ask those folks, “Why are you doing this?” they say, “Because we want to be a blessing to the nations.”

Pray for the ultra-orthodox, the secular, Holocaust Survivors, Russian Jews, academics, and the rest of the 12 “tribes” of modern Israel.

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