Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ, Story #5

This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Five, a female from Nablus. Feel free to interact in the comments or Download my dissertation as a free PDF!

The following is ©2014 University of Pretoria and Craig Dunning, and if used elsewhere, should be cited as:

Dunning, CA (2014) Palestinian Muslims converting to Christianity: effective evangelistic methods in the West Bank. Pretoria, South Africa: University of Pretoria, PhD thesis, pp. 317-319.

Respondent Five – female – Nablus

Respondent Five’s testimony is intimately connected to the conversion process of her husband, Respondent Four. Their daughter had an eye problem that required corrective surgery. A family friend directed their attention to some Christian men who had been in their area, suggesting that those men could help the respondents’ daughter get the needed surgery at a Jerusalem hospital. As it turned out, the men did not have any direct connections to the eye hospital, but promised to do what they could to secure some help.

Before leaving, the Christian men also gave the respondent’s husband an Arabic tract with the following headline: “John 14:6 – I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man can come to the Father but by me.” At the time, the tract was not important to the respondent or her husband; they simply wanted help getting their daughter’s eyes corrected. However, while they did not understand the tract to be important, it was one of the instruments God used to get her husband’s attention, which resulted in them inviting the Christian men to visit and talk about spiritual matters.

As a result of her husband’s interest in, or sometimes consternation with the things the Christian men were telling them, the men were asked to return on multiple occasions to explain more about their beliefs. The invitations were not always open, though. At times, the respondent’s husband would forbid them to come to the home anymore. Alternately, he would revise his decision and allow them to resume their visits.

Although she never told her husband, the respondent enjoyed hearing the men talk about Jesus and the Bible and was always sad when they left. In many ways, she was the opposite of her husband as they each moved toward conversion. He was always troubled by the men’s visit; she never was. He respected Islam and enjoyed being at the mosque; she had internal conflicts with Islam and did not enjoy going to the mosque. And, while her conversion was intimately associated with her husband’s, she had her own personal experience, which involved dreams, Christian broadcasting on satellite television, a miracle, and personal dissatisfaction with Islam.

Prior to considering Christianity, the respondent had issues with Islam that had to do with the life of the prophet and the lives of Muslims. Muhammad had been presented to her as a model of how to live. Yet, he had a child bride. When the respondent gave some thought to the issue of a child bride, she began to question a number of things. For example, allowing men to have up to four wives was impossible in her mind, particularly for her personally. She also felt like Islam demanded that its adherents not think outside Islam, which means blindly accepting anything Islamic tradition or leaders teach and disregarding anything positive that was said about other religions. She thought this was an attempt to hide “the bad side of Islam.”

As a result of things the Christian men had said during their visits, the respondent asked God to give her a sign, a dream that would confirm the things she was hearing from the visitors. On three occasions she had the same dream of three wooden crosses descending from the sky. The only thing she could conclude from these dreams was that they were confirming what she had heard from the Christian men about Jesus dying on the cross between two thieves. However, even though they appeared to be God’s response to her request for a sign, she was not yet convinced.

In addition to the respondent’s personal reading of the New Testament and visits with the Christian men over an almost two-year period, the most persuasive influence in her decision to convert came through watching Christian broadcasting via satellite. Though she watched English broadcasts, too, she primarily watched Arabic language broadcasts, which were fairly charismatic in style and theology.

The turning point in the respondent’s decision to convert came while watching an Arabic language Christian broadcast during which, the television pastor said he wanted to pray for those viewers who were sick. The respondent had, for some time, had a tumor in her stomach that had not been helped through Muslim prayers for healing. In response to the television pastor’s message, the respondent touched the television and prayed for healing. She was surprised when she heard the pastor call her name and age, but believed that, like the dreams, this was a sign from God. Two days later, the tumor was gone and she “completely believed in Jesus.”

Due to her husband’s ongoing struggles between Islam and Christianity, the respondent did not tell him of her healing or conversion for about a week. And that occurred in conjunction with him telling her that he had converted.

Themes that emerged in this interview: Personal Bible reading, formal Bible studies, doubts about Islam/Qur’an, the kindness of Christians, prayer, dreams, crisis, family/group conversion, Christian broadcasting, gospel tracts, and pastoral/evangelistic visits.

NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #6

Download my dissertation as a free PDF!


 

Israel Tour Highlight #137010: Repost

Beniko Gihon #137010

Beniko Gihon #137010

In honor of International Holocaust Day, I re-post this Israel tour highlight.

Working with tour groups in Israel is [almost] always a blessing. It’s exciting to see visitors’ faces when, as they say in Hebrew, “the coin falls.” In other words, when “the light comes on” or the connection between a certain event and place happens. I love to see the joy of discovery, especially as it relates to the Bible. But my groups generally have modern cultural and historical interests, too. Every group is different, and I’m regularly on the look out for things out of the ordinary, not on the itinerary that will make my group’s visit to Israel more special than it might already be. For this group, I found that special historical gem in the breakfast line.

As I approached the special-order egg line, I noticed the tattoo on his arm, 137010. Immediately, I knew he was a holocaust survivor because I’ve seen these tattoos in the museum, and probably a dozen times in person. However, I never had the nerve to ask the bearer to share his/her story; I just imagined what it might have been.

This time was different. I took a deep breath and asked the elderly gentleman a) if he spoke Hebrew, and b) if I could ask a question. “Yes,” he answered to both questions. I was hesitant, but I proceeded to ask if he would tell me the story of the numeric tattoo that appeared on his left forearm. I was afraid he would be embarrassed, but he wasn’t. In fact, he seemed pleased that I asked.

Beniko Gihon #137010

Beniko Gihon #137010

Interacting with my inquiry about his tattoo, he said, “My name is Beniko Gihon; in Germany my name was changed to 137010. I am a Jew originally from Greece.” He continued with a moving, two-minute version of his story. His family had been rounded up in Thessaloniki, and he was the only survivor. Over the course of five years, he was systematically transferred to/from Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Warsaw Ghetto, and Dachau. He had a variety of jobs, but mainly focused on his work in the crematoria.

I was translating his story for a man from my group and noticed that others had started to lean in closer to listen in on our conversation, which indicated that they found this interesting, too. After a couple minutes, his eggs and mine were ready, so, unfortunately, we had to bring this encounter to a close. I thanked him for sharing his story, we shook hands, and parted ways.

I found a table near my group and sat down by myself. To say that his story was gut wrenching would be an exaggerated understatement. But, his story wasn’t the thing that affected me the most. It was the question he posed: “Why were the Christians so quiet?”

I wanted my group to hear Beniko’s story, but I wondered if that would be asking too much. As I ate my breakfast, I kept an eye on him from across the room and wondered whether I should ask him to speak on the bus. Since he didn’t seem to mind my initial inquiry, I decided to go for it, and the outcome was just what I had hoped.

After my group boarded the bus, I brought them up to speed on what was about to happen, then I introduced Mr. Beniko. He climbed the stairs and stood proudly in the front of the bus and began to share his story.

Beniko, which is the Greek version of Benjamin, started with some details of his family and how the Nazis came to Greece and killed so many. The rest were taken to the labor and death camps in Germany and Poland, which is where he learned to speak German, and where his name was changed to 137010.

His story lasted longer than I had given him, which I knew it would. But, seeing him standing in the front of the bus and hearing his biography was worth every minute.

Some specific details that pierced my heart:

“I saw, with my own eyes, the soldiers toss little children in the air and shoot them like birds.”

“As people were herded off the trains near the crematoria, they pleaded with the soldiers to know where their children or parents were. The soldiers would point to the smoke rising out of the crematoria and say, ‘there they are.’”

“The people were packed so tightly into the ‘showers’ that when the Zyklon B gas was released they all died standing, and only fell to the ground when the doors were opened. As we removed the bodies, we could see the scratches on the walls where those on the outer edges were trying to claw their way out.”

As a worker at the crematoria, “I collected the fat that came from the bodies as they were burned. The Nazis used the fat to make soap for us prisoners, and I bathed with soap that may have been made from the remains of my parents and other family members.”

Beniko’s story, made the horrors of the Holocaust real and personal for us, impacting each in a slightly different way. I tried to give some current perspective to his presentation because the easy thing would be to say, “I wasn’t there” because none of us were. I reminded the group of the words of James 1:27 that pure religion is to care for the widows and orphans, which I understand to mean “take care of those who can’t take care of themselves.” I also think that being born again demands that Christians have an active interest in “the least of these” (Mt 25).

 

Tragic and Ironic: Israel Expands Abortion in 2014

This article from Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper ends the year on a downer for me.

Beginning in 2014, Israel will fund all abortions for women 20-33. While such news isn’t surprising for me, it is certainly heartbreaking and tragic. The “progressive” attitude of Israelis toward abortion is ironic in at least four ways:

1. The expansion of abortion in Israel contradicts a very famous Jewish dictum sourced from the Talmud:

“Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he has destroyed a whole world. And whoever saves a life it is considered as if he saved a whole world. ” – Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:8 (37a)

Adam was created alone, some suggest, to demonstrate the value and potential of a single human life.

According to the article, because of the new rule “another 6,300 additional women are expected to have state-funded abortions next year.” Therefore, in Talmudic terms, the expansion of abortion in Israel will destroy the whole world an estimated 6,300 additional times in 2014.

2. The expansion of abortion in Israel contradicts the Israeli mantra “never again.” One outcome of the holocaust in which some 6,000,000 Jews were murdered is a social/national/military commitment “never again” to allow others to come close to destroying the Jewish people. Yet, Israeli Jews are doing it to themselves.

If this number of additional abortions weren’t bad enough, state health officials say “they hope to make eligibility for state funding universal in the future.”

3. The expansion of abortion in Israel contradicts the demographic concerns of Israeli Jews. It is common knowledge that many Israeli Jews are concerned about the low Jewish birth rate as it compares to a relatively higher Arab birth rate in Israel because of the democratic nature of the government of Israel. In other words, if Jews continue to kill their children in increasing numbers before they are born, the Arab population will continue to inch forward as a result of a higher birth rate, and theoretically could surpass the number of Israeli Jews. And thus, endanger the existence of the only Jewish state in the world.

4. The expansion of abortion in Israel contradicts the Jewish principle of Tikun Olam (“repairing the world”), which is appropriately credited as a motivating factor for the many positive contributions of Jews to the betterment of the world (see Michael Ordman’s Good News From Israel for examples).

Of these additional 6,300 children who are expected to be killed through abortion in 2014, how many would have become educators? Scientists? Doctors? Good neighbors? I wonder how many children those 6,300 children would have had, and among that generation, how many would have been educators, scientists, doctors, and good neighbors? Of course that 2nd unborn generation would also have had children. How many is impossible to know, but I wonder how many of them would have contributed to Tikun Olam. That question can be extrapolated out endlessly as is explained in point 1 above . . . saving a life equals saving the world.

To this point, I have only considered those babies that are expected to be killed in 2014. What about those killed through abortion in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, . . . and their generations of descendents?

This decision may appear to some to be both generous and an expansion of women’s rights and protections. However, a quick scratch of the surface reveals that it is only fool’s gold.

Rabbi Elyashiv dies at age 102

 Israel National News is reporting the death of 102 years old Rabbi Elyashiv in Jerusalem. See the story here. The Jerusalem Post’s report can be read here.

During my time in Israel, I had a single occasion to be near the venerated rabbi. I wrote about that event here.

Israel’s VAT Tax [fraud]

In Israel, one of the powerful sales techniques used among higher-end souvenir shops is telling the tourist they will receive a “VAT refund at the airport.”

VAT stands for Value Added Tax, which currently is 16%. The VAT is what most of my readers would know as sales tax, and is added to every transaction that involves money.  However, certain services and items related to tourists are exempt from VAT, if the proper procedures are followed.

In the tourist trade, vendors who are appropriately recognized by the government offer a special receipt that allows the buyer to “get [their] VAT back” for each item they take out of the country. However, this only occurs if:

  1. a certain purchase threshold is met, and 
  2. if the shop is certified, and
  3. if the shop actually provides the appropriate form to the buyer, and
  4. the buyer shows the item at the VAT desk at the airport.

Up to this point, everything seems more or less reasonable. It’s a hassle, and some buyers don’t know the rules, or don’t receive the proper form, but it’s pretty nice to get 16% of the purchase price back.

The process is as follows:

  1. Shop in properly certified shops, which will have a green VAT REFUND logo.
  2. Purchase enough goods at the same time to meet the spending threshold. (I’ve heard different numbers, beginning at $100.)
  3. Get the proper form and keep the receipts.
  4. Do not pack the Duty Free item until it is presented to the VAT clerk located inside the departure hall, prior to the first security checkpoint. After the clerk verifies the item and stamps the form, the item may be packed in checked luggage or hand carried. Jewelry is verified only beyond passport control at the Change Place VAT desk in Duty Free. 
  5. After passing all security checks and passport control, present VAT refund forms at the Change Place VAT desk in the Duty Free hall.
  6. Receive a 16% rebate on your purchase(s) in dollars or shekels. I’ve been told that you can receive the refund via credit card also, but it takes up to three months.
  7. Fly home happy with your purchase(s) and the extra money in your pocket.

Sounds easy enough. And it is, as long as you follow the procedure exactly. However, there is one catch: At step 6, don’t expect to get 16% as you were told by the sales clerk because there is a hefty commission of 20%, which brings the actual refund to 12.8%.

I’ve been told there is a sliding commission scale, depending on how much VAT has been paid. Unfortunately, the Change Place website provides no such information. So, BUYER BEWARE! If you’re budget is dependent upon the VAT REFUND, you need to recalculate what you can afford to spend.

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