Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) had no problem turning water into wine, but turning a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jew into a staunch Zionist is quite another story. For many streams of Haredi Judaism, Zionism is a dirty word, and last week's Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Independence Day) was just another bad day. But such was no longer the case for Chava (not her real name), a 23-year-old Haradi Jewess who recently accepted Yeshua as Messiah.
"This was my first Yom Ha'Atzmaut," says Chava. "In our family, we were forbidden to even mention it. We were told by our parents to close the shutters so that we could not see what the abominable Goyim (derogatory word for Gentiles) were doing in the streets. We call it 'Tzibele' (onion) day in Yiddish." For many Haredi Jews, Yom Ha'Azmaut is foul, dirty and pagan.
"We hated Israel," Chava admits. "Our parents did not want us to be Israeli at all. My father wanted to take us all to America."
Now a believer in Yeshua, all of that changed for Chava forever. "When I heard the siren sound in memorial for the fallen soldiers who had given their lives for this nation, I stood up, and my heart stood still," she said. "I understood for the first time how much the people of Israel, my people, had sacrificed to bring us back to this land and make a nation and a home for us, the Jewish people."
Chava feels embarrassed that her whole life she never honored the brave men and woman who had given their lives to secure a homeland for the Jewish people. She admits that she even despised and hated them. "I give thanks to Yeshua who opened my eyes. He has given me a right spirit and a whole new understanding," she says.
In Israel, Memorial Day flows directly into the Yom Ha'Azamut celebrations. Independence can only be celebrated while remembering those who have gave their lives to make it happen, while the joy of nationhood can sweeten some of the painful memories of those who have fallen.
"I understand now how important it is to show respect and honor for the people of this land who have sacrificed so much for me, for my family and for Jewish people around the world," says Chava about her first Memorial Day and Yom Ha'Atzmaut.
"I feel proud to be an Israeli now," she says. "I am glad that I can live here and be a part of our people. God loves our people, all of our people, secular, religious, Arab and Jew. He loves us all," she smiles.
PHOTO: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish anti-Zionists burn Israeli flags as the rest of the country celebrates Independence Day.