Messianic Jews in Israel triple in 20 years

A new study from the Caspari Center shows that the Messianic movement in Israel has more than tripled in the last 20 years. Messianic fellowships still consist largely of Jews not born in the country – almost half of them hold their main worship service in Russian, with Hebrew in second place.

In 1999, 5,000 believers worshiped in Messianic congregations in Israel. Numbers of believers are 3.1 times higher today, says Alec Goldberg (right) and David Sterner in their new book. Photo: Caspari center

David Serner, director of international studies, and Alec Goldberg, director of the Caspari Center, conducted the survey of messianic churches in Israel helped by the Covid pandemic to complete the work faster than expected!
– When the world was locking down and almost everything else in our ministry was put on hold, our schedules were released and we could focus on compiling data, says David Serner in an interview posted on the organization’s website.
Serner and Goldberg approached all the fellowship leaders they could find, a total of 280 people, of whom 273 responded. Most of them were happy about participating in the survey.
Because the survey is based on personal conversations with pastors, the figures and information gathered are from first-hand sources.
– We made it abundantly clear to the interviewees that our goal was to obtain realistic figures and we are gratified by the trust the leaders showed us, emphasizes David Serner.

Just over three times as many

The number of Israeli Messianic believers in 2020 stood at 15,323 people based on the collected data, of which Russian-speaking fellowships comprise the biggest group with their 136 congregations.
Hebrew-speaking groups came in second, with 83 congregations. Other languages were Amharic (spoken in Ethiopia, 30 groups), English (16), Spanish (6) and Romanian (2). Only 17 percent of the fellowships had leaders who were native-born Israelis.
– The movement has grown, says Alec Goldberg on the organization’s website
– Although the total number of messianic believers may not seem so striking, the encouraging truth is that they have grown proportionately more than the general population.
David Serner notes that in 1999 there were 5,000 believers who worshiped in messianic congregations in Israel and that the number of believers is 3.1 times greater today.

Secret believers

The obvious causes of growth are immigration and natural increase among messianic families. David Serner states that evangelism is an extremely sensitive topic in Israel. Believers and congregations still face opposition and discrimination in Jewish society. The most secretive, invisible sector of Jewish believers is made up of those who live as Orthodox Jews and who worship in synagogues.
Goldberg and Serner didn’t get in touch with more than a few of them so it is impossible to estimate how many there are, as these secret believers have very limited contact with other followers of Jesus. The number might be around 100 but can potentially be much higher.
In their study, Alec Goldberg and David Serner describe the Messianic movement in Israel as “eschatological restoration.” While the present-day state of Israel is not considered flawless, it is seen as a fulfilment of biblical prophecies of physical and spiritual end-time restoration, which are yet to be fulfilled.