The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Jesus-Believing Israelis: Exploring Messianic Fellowships

A presentation of a research done in 2018-2021 of the Jesus-believing messianic fellowships in Israel (including structure, theology, opposition, demography, statistics and numbers).

To understand the phenomenon of sabras and Jews worldwide turning to what is widely understood by mainstream Jewry as a turning away from one’s Jewishness it is crucial to look at the development, growth and theology of this minority group. In 1999 Dr. Kai Kjær-Hansen and Bodil Skjøtt published their groundbreaking survey of the messianic congregations in Israel, but since then, there have been no reliable source for the overall development and growth of the Jewish believers in Jesus and their fellowships in Israel. Research on the matter has focused on various details from Rucks (2014) ‘Messianische Juden: Geschichte und Theologie der Bewegung in Israel’, Winapple (2020) ‘Response of the State of Israel and NGOs to Christian Missionary Activity, 1948-2008’ to focusing on details like Kaplan (2015) research on the Amharic-speaking fellowships or Steiner and Lundberg (2018) ‘Loving Violent Arabs: A Study of Radicalism Within the Israeli Messianic Movement’ or Warshavsky (2008) ‘Returning to Their Own Borders: A Social Anthropological Study of Contemporary Messianic Jewish Identity in Israel’ and many other.

In my proposed presentation I will present my conclusions and analysis from interviews with Israeli pastors in 2018-2020 representing about 300 fellowships in Israel and from an online survey among the Jesus-Believing Israelis conducted in September-November 2020. These conclusions relate to figures, demographics, theological views, structure and language. I will share what seems to be the challenges for the messianic Jews in relation to acceptance in Israeli soceity, and relation to larger Christendom. It could be seen as not just an update but an expansion of Kjær-Hansen and Skjøtt (1999). At the end of the presentation the participants will have a greater knowledge of the current state of the unique phenomena of Jesus-Believing Israelis and of the movement in Israel today.