Jews for Jesus, a ministry committed to sharing the Gospel with Jewish people all over the world, has said that hostility and anti-Christian, anti-Messianic Jew sentiments among the Orthodox Jewish population in Israel remains very strong, with only small numbers turning toward Jesus Christ.
Kehila News Israel, a news portal on the Messianic Jewish community in Israel, claimed in analysis back in June that some in the Ultra-Orthodox community in Israel were experiencing a "spiritual meltdown of historic proportions."
The observations, which reflected on a Hebrew-language article published on MyNet, the city of Petach Tikva's news site, stated that some in the Haredi community were being drawn to read Gospel material:
"These people, who literally spend all their waking hours in Torah learning, are so starved for the real Word of the LORD that hundreds are willing to read 'forbidden' material in order to find Him," Kehila News Israel said.
Dan Sered, who is the Israel director for Jews for Jesus, told The Christian Post in a phone interview, however, that resistance to the Gospel among the Haredi remains very strong.
"The Orthodox community, which are a minority, they are very hostile, they are very against it. Have I seen Orthodox Jews coming to faith in my 20 years of ministry in Israel? Sure. But it's just been one, two, three — you're not seeing a massive turn of Orthodox Jews towards Jesus. They are the ones who oppose, they are the ones who hate us," Sered told CP.
He said that those who would be described as Ultra-Orthodox have "even more hostility and hatred toward Jesus and against Messianic Jews and against Christians."
Sered said although there has been some growth in terms of people turning to Jesus in Israel, for the most part, Israelis remain unreached for the Gospel.
"Even the most optimistic estimation of how many Jewish people in Israel believe in Jesus [would] only make about 20,000 Jewish people. That's out of 6.2 to 6.5 million Jewish people. Right away you see this is a very small minority."
He offered that in reality, there might be far fewer than 20,000, specifically Jewish people, who believe in Jesus in Israel.
"Maybe there are 20,000 people who believe, but not 20,000 Jewish people who believe. I think if you look at the Jewish population, if you ask me how many evangelical Jews are there in Israel, or Messianic Jews, I would tell you that 20,000 is a huge exaggeration. I think there are maybe 6,000 Jewish people who believe in Jesus in Israel," he said.
"I think that is less than 0.1 percent of the Jewish population."
Sered insisted, however, that he believes "God is on the move," and that faith in Christ in Israel is growing and developing, but emphasized that it is "not a huge revival — we are not seeing thousands of Israelis professing faith in Jesus and getting baptized."
The Jews for Jesus Israel director noted that surveys in the late-1990s counted about 3,500 Jewish people who believe in Jesus, and so that number has roughly doubled in the past 20 years.
"I do see some sort of growth, but it is very small in terms of the number," he added.
As for Orthodox Jews in particular, he said they are also a minority in Israel.
"Out of the 6.2 million Jews, only about 15-20 percent are Orthodox. Most Jewish people are not Orthodox, they are secular," he pointed out.
Sered noted that because of the hostility many display toward followers of Christ, it means that whenever someone comes to faith, "it is a big party, it's big news."
The Hebrew-language MyNet article reported on Orthodox concerns with a Jehovah's Witnesses gathering in Petach Tikva, though Sered explained that many in the Orthodox community are so unaware about Christianity that they do not think there are any differences between evangelical believers of Jesus and Jehovah's Witnesses.
Jews for Jesus' efforts in Israel are focused on educating the public about the Gospel, however, and have created different ministry teams to reach out to different pockets of the population.
Sered said that there are some teams focused only on the Russian speaking community; then other teams on the typical Hebrew speaking section; and then separate teams ministering to youth and the young adult community.
"In everything that we do, we want to share the Gospel," he said.
He noted that the 1.2 million Russian speaking Jewish population, most of whom arrived after the fall of the Soviet Union, is the group most open to hearing the Gospel:
"Again, very small numbers are coming to the Lord, one by one, little by little, but out of anybody, that has been the biggest growth that we have seen, among the Russian speaking Jewish community."
The Jews for Jesus website provides further information on outreach events and ways to get involved in spreading the Gospel in Israel.