Anastasia Okhrimenko, a Jewish Girl who read Isaiah 53 became a follower of Jesus.
Arabs are the enemy! That was the reality I was born into, I grew up in. I was raised in a small religious settlement somewhere in the West Bank, surrounded by olive trees and Arab villages. I was forcefully thrown into a complex political struggle from a very young age. It was all around me. It was in the schools. It was on the news, in kindergarten, it was at home. And you just can’t get away from it.
Children who grow up in those places are never sheltered from this harsh reality of war and death. It is all around us. And in your childlike view of a safe world is just completely gone. I want to share with you a little bit about how I felt coming close to Arab people when I was a kid. I was terrified. I remember when we would drive through Arab villages, I would stare out the window and I would look at the signs.
They were written in this curled language that I didn’t understand, but had a very scary connotation for me. But the thing that scared me the most was the Arab language when I heard it. It reminded me of shootings and rocks flying and people I knew and got killed.
But all that was about to change, and that’s what I want to share with you today.
One thing that didn’t make any sense to me growing up in a religious little place was the contradictory way that I would read and meet the God of the Bible and then the way that the rabbis would present God when we would study in their rabbinic literature.
On one hand, you have this very loyal, strong, loving warrior king, the God of Israel in the Bible. But on the other hand, the rabbis painted a picture of a very cold and distant God, almost robot-like. A type of God that wouldn’t think twice before he would strike you down with a lightning bolt if you dared to tear a little piece of toilet paper on Saturday, which is forbidden completely in Judaism. I admired the God of the Bible with all my heart as a kid.
I wanted to follow him as Abraham did. I wanted to charge into the battlefield in his name, like David. I wanted to proclaim his righteousness like the prophets. But at the same time, I was so angry at the God that the rabbis painted. I thought to myself, how can he expect me to do all these laws and rituals that are written in that I have to perform without knowing how it feels like to be a human being, without knowing how it feels like to be trapped inside this body and inside this rotten, fallen world.
Now, Jesus was a completely foreign idea to me. I had no idea who He was. It’s a different culture. It’s crosses, crusades, and popes. We never learn about him in school. We kind of forcefully ignore his existence in a way. We never acknowledge him as one of our own.
So we moved out of the little settlement I lived in and I realized that I don’t want to live in this fake little game that I was playing, pretending that everything was OK and I was fulfilling the law. So, as a teenager, I decided that to respect God too much and I fear him too much and I was just going to leave religion. But God was still there somewhere as this distinct character or, you know, a name you call out in times of trouble.
So, I’m so back to the idea of Jesus in a Jewish mind, we would never even consider following him because for us it will feel like a betrayal of the God of the Bible, the God of Israel. Even though is kind of distant from us at the moment, it still has this really strong grip in every Jewish heart. And this weird, paradoxical loyalty that we feel towards him creates this barrier between Jesus and his people. Now, that same exact barrier crashed down to the ground with me the first time I opened Chapter fifty-three in the Book of Isaiah.
We call it the forbidden chapter. We’re not allowed to talk about it or to ask questions about it. We just skip it. The first time I read it, something happened. I recognized him, I saw him and all my questions were answered at that same second, and I realized that he knew what it was like to be a human. He knew exactly and he made a way for us to get to him because we couldn’t do it by ourselves.
Yeah, in that moment when it happened, I started seeing the world through Jesus’s eyes. Everything was different, like a blank page, my life just completely changed and I wanted to know more. I wanted to learn more about him. And so I signed up to study at the One for Israel Bible College we have. This is what I want to share with you. The first time I sat in the chapel, they had a worship service and they started singing a song in Arabic.
I sat there and I remember every note that they played took off layers and layers of fear, hate, pain, wore everything that was just choking me. Every note they played and every word they said in that same language terrified me to death a few years before. I that moment it sounded like the most beautiful thing in the world to me. And that, my friends, is the power of the gospel. It has the power to clean and heal and make us new again.
Today, I am a part of the small media team in Natanya, in the One for Israel, and what we do is we produce videos and we share them with everybody. We have our testimonials. I don’t know if you guys heard about them. It’s the videos where we have Jewish people just sharing their experience in finding God. We also have some Israeli testimonies. They sit there, they tell their story. It’s not easy to come out.
We call it coming out of the messianic closet. It’s not easy. You get a lot of bad reactions from people in the street, but people do it. We started doing it. And we also have a series of apologetic videos in which we take arguments that rabbis make against Jesus and we just tear them apart from one by one. We do it from a biblical perspective. We take some atheistic claims as well, and we just explain God’s existence, creation versus evolution in the Hebrew language.
Now, what’s so special about it are not just videos for me at least, it’s a beginning of a revolution. And that’s what I want to share with you guys today, because you see, for the last 2000 years, we had these gatekeepers. That’s how we call them, the Jewish religious leaders. They get the final word and they decide what goes in the Jewish communities. It is very easy for them to stop the gospel from coming in because they decided and it was very easy for them to do so. In the last two millennia, a lot of people who claimed to be followers of Jesus did some very horrible things to our people.
It’s easy to paint Jesus as a traitor as, you know, this forbidden name you can’t even pronounce they don’t even say his name, Yeshua. What they say is Yasue, which is a curse word. And so that was their ground. But there is one thing that the rabbis have no control over whatsoever. And that, my friends, is the Internet. That’s it! This is the neutral battleground and we leave the gate keepers completely powerless.
The Internet is the land of its own. I call it the outermost place of Earth. And Israelis, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, walking down the streets, but they’re constantly on their phones, their faces stuck to their phone. They are online 24/7. They don’t notice what goes around them. We are one of the leading nations in using social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and so on. This is the place where we go and we place the gospel and they can’t ignore it.
It’s on their news feeds. It’s in their mailboxes. It’s everywhere. They have to face us now. And all these forbidden secret chapters are no longer secret. They all know what Isaiah 53 is, and they’re all going to read it for themselves, if that’s that’s the truth or not. And it’s happening. They come to faith in huge numbers. We get messages every single day. Now, I look back at what God did with me through the gospel.
I come from a very radical mindset, very, very radical. And if God was able to change my point of view today, I love my Arab brothers and sisters. I pray for Muslims for their salvation. Every single day I see them through Jesus’s eyes. And I believe that if we bring the Israelis to faith if they will see the world through Jesus’ eyes, they would love the Arabs as well. We believe that the best way to bless Israel is with the gospel.
That’s what we do. I want to share with you, you know, first of all, it’s not easy to say these things to the Israelis. They’re pretty mad at us. The leaders, the religious leaders want to stop us every way they can. So, what do they do? They would tell their followers that we are blasphemers, that we try to steal Jewish souls. That’s our purpose. And they would send death threats to us and to our families.
We don’t consider them the enemy, even though they consider me and us and the whole team the enemy. We see them as broken, lost people that simply need the love of Yeshua in their life. And once they will find Jesus, they will find this peace, and that will be the same peace that would finally break this barrier, like the veil that was ripped between Jews and between Arabs. So that’s our mission and what we’re doing. But some of the reactions are good.
You would not believe some of the people actually like us. We want to share with you this really short story. One time we got a message from this Israeli guy. He wrote down, “Please come and pray for my kid. He’s dying.” We never got that type of message before. It’s usually cursed. And so apparently this guy, an Israeli guy, used to watch her videos for a while. He wasn’t a believer yet and his son was dying of cancer.
His son’s name is a cute little three-year-old kid. And the treatments caused a flesh-eating bug to hurt his eyesight. He was completely blind. And the doctor said that you have to do this operation on the kid or else he dies. But the father wanted to put his faith in God, and he didn’t go forth with the operation. He called a lot of rabbis to come to help him and pray for the kid. Most of them turned him down.
They didn’t want to go or they asked for these really huge sums of money that he didn’t possess. So, when he contacted us, me and Morty, the three people you’ll see in the videos, we went down to the hospital and we prayed with them and their families and his family. And I got to play a little bit with little Utah. We became friends, you know, he couldn’t see. But apparently, you don’t need eyes to play.
It’s like this universal language. And that was it. Then we left. Three days later, the doctors called in the family and they said that the cancer was gone and that no operation was needed. But that is only the beginning of the miracle. That’s just the small part because what happened later was his brother, Jacob, who used to be really much against us. He would argue with him about our videos and how bad they are.
He came to faith and then their sister came to faith and their mother and the whole family dedicated their lives to Jesus. And after that, we called Jacob and asked him to record his testimony. You can actually watch it. It was one of our most successful testimonies. It got more than half a million views in total.
And just so you grasp the numbers. Israel has eight million citizens, plus or minus. Our Hebrew speaking videos got more than 18 million views in total. All around the world, we have more than sixty-eight million views. So people are watching the stuff. Things are happening. Today, Jacob is one of the leaders in a congregation in Ashdod. So, I get to witness from the front row how, you know, God is transforming the Israeli people. I even get to take part in it, take an active part.
And that is an experience that leaves a wretch like me completely humbled. Even just standing here tonight before you guys, as you can see, I was pretty nervous, but I really wanted to share this with you. So, you know what’s happening because it is hopeful and things are happening. This is what we talk about during prayer all the time. I have a prayer request from you guys. I ask you to pray for a true spiritual revival in this country with the Israelis, with the Arabs, and I just ask that the name Yeshua will no longer be a curse word on the Jewish tongue, but it will be said in the same breath as the God of Israel who He is.
Yeshua is making Aliya OK. He’s no longer a foreign idea and his name is Yeshua again.