Make a Joyful Noise
Make a Joyful Noise – Yeshua Israel Report
by Shani Ferguson
When I was pregnant with my first child over a decade ago, a huge scandal erupted in Israel. A mainstream baby formula brand was being blamed for accidentally neglecting to include vitamins crucial to brain development. This was discovered when several babies, confirmed to have been fed exclusively that brand of formula, were not developing properly.
I thought of this scandal when I considered Israel’s present dysfunctional spiritual state. Looking at Israeli culture today, it’s as if something is not developing right. In the early years of Israel’s rebirth as a nation, there was a general sense of awe and recognition of God’s hand in preserving the Jewish people and bringing them home. As the years and decades passed, the religious sector, claiming to have a monopoly on God, imposed an ever-growing list of rabbinical rules and regulations on society at large. As a result, the secular sector indignantly and vengefully rejected God, flaunting moral debauchery and provoking anyone to criticize.
The condition of both the religious and secular sectors in Israel are symptomatic of severe spiritual malnourishment – a condition that can only be remedied when the Word of God is common knowledge and worship of Him is common practice. Unfortunately, there is currently little appetite in Israel for piety or the Word of God. Even in the religious sector, there is greater attention given to rabbinical commentary of the Scriptures rather than the original Scriptures themselves. There is, however, still a open window, the insatiable appetite for music in Israel opens a wide door for both worship and the declaration of God’s Word in lyric form.
In my recent article, “When the Levites Return to Their Posts,” I addressed the issue of Israel’s spiritual health. When the Israelites returned to rebuild Jerusalem in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Levites were designated to provide a constant stream of worship to welcome the presence of God into their midst. Like vitamins critical for the body’s growth, the presence of God is a crucial factor in the development of Israel’s newly emerging society. (For more on that, read the full article at www.YeshuaIsrael.com.)
How We Got Here
The 20th century was a tumultuous time for the survival and definition of Jewish identity worldwide. During this time, the United States served as a haven for countless refugees fleeing Europe (my grandparents included). In the first 40 years of the 20th century, the Jewish population in America ballooned from 400,000 to well over 4,000,000.
The late 1960s and early 1970s brought about unprecedented cultural change. Long established ideologies were challenged, and new thoughts previously considered preposterous were openly debated. Previously taboo subjects such as Jews accepting Yeshua as their Messiah came to the forefront as a result of the “Jesus Movement” (a spiritual revival in the United States that followed the counterculture revolution of the late 1960s). The idea that a Jew would consider Yeshua as anything other than the source of thousands of years of Jewish suffering was at best ignorant. And yet, here they were – hundreds if not thousands of Jews breaking from centuries of tradition and embracing the New Covenant.
A surprising number of these Jewish believers in Yeshua were skilled – and adventurous – musicians and songwriters (including Keith Green). Some were so adventurous they decided to return to the home of their savior and the land of their forefathers – Israel.
While only a handful of known Jewish believers existed in Israel in the late 1960s, this number substantially grew in the 1970s. In fact, most of the leaders of Messianic Jewish congregations in Israel today accepted Yeshua as their Messiah during the Jesus Movement and immigrated soon after. They were pioneers as they established a community of believers, learned the language and adopted the culture. These leaders would also subsequently raise the first generation of native-born believing Jews since the fall of Jerusalem two thousand years ago.
The 1970s were a difficult time for those already living in Israel, let alone for newcomers. Israel was still digging ditches and building roads and basic infrastructure for new communities. Laws and precedents were being established. Few people had their own cars, and it wasn’t unusual to see donkeys or horses being used as a form of transportation. Even in the 1980s, basic items such as disposable diapers were luxuries and thus a very appreciated gift from overseas visitors.
You would think the many challenges of a new life in a new land would discourage believers from investing long hours writing music in their newly learned Hebrew language. However, something in the heart of these pioneers understood that worship was historically a core part of Jewish culture and therefore an essential element for getting properly established in the land.
Eli Ben-Moshe recording Alan Serruya in the Ashira studio
Israel Worship Initiative
Born and raised in Israel, I grew up singing their Hebrew worship songs. We danced in circles and beat on darbukas (a Middle Eastern drum) and tambourines to the rhythm of the guitarist or pianist (a full band was a rare luxury back then).
However, times have changed and demand new songs with a new sound for the younger generation. Yet, while the number of Jewish believers has blossomed, the number of skilled songwriters and musicians has remained small. In addition, the lack of resources and effective distribution have been the greatest barriers to the spread of new, Israeli-written worship music. A simple album can cost over $30,000, and with just a handful of small bookstores scattered across the country, there are very few venues to sell such albums in order to recoup costs.
A decade ago, we put together a talented band that led outreach at a New Age Festival on the Sea of Galilee. We were able to minister to many secular Israelis. It was, however, the team of believers who came along on the outreach who pushed us to record our music. What began with a simple music gathering grew into a realization of how hungry Israeli believers were for recorded worship music in their native Hebrew tongue.
Since then, we’ve spent years praying into what we call the Israel Worship Initiative – the overall vision of Yeshua Israel to produce music that will connect the hearts of Israel with God and connect the hearts of the Gentile church with Israel. We’ve put out several albums ourselves but are always searching for talented musicians, singers, and especially songwriters to produce additional Hebrew worship music. We wanted to make music, but just as importantly, we wanted to see these music makers mature into true worshippers.
Musicians are often put out on stage for their gifts but left out to dry when it comes to caring for their needs as a person. That is why a crucial part of the Israel Worship Initiative is discipling and mentoring the singers, songwriters, and musicians involved in our projects. The Israel Worship Initiative is ultimately about building a nationwide network of artists from different congregations to create music, encourage each other and serve the Body at large – in Israel and around the world.
Ashira – I Will Sing
Last year, intending to take advantage of our remaining free moments before our fifth child would be born and diapers and toys would once again clutter our floors, we drove down to spend a week in Eilat. While walking the promenade along the Red Sea, we bumped into Eli and Vanessa Ben-Moshe, our friends from northern Israel. Eli is the son of Marc Chopinsky, one of the musically talented and adventurous American Jews who returned to his homeland in the wake of the Jesus Movement. Before we knew it, we were in full-blown conversation about our mutual desire to streamline and fast track the creation of original Israeli worship music.
Eli had just begun the Ashira Project (Hebrew for “I will sing”), which seeks to record and distribute Israeli worship music for free. The idea is to remove the cost and distribution barriers to encourage young, talented musicians to get their music out to congregations and even Israeli society at large.
While a good and noble idea, not charging for music that takes hundreds of hours to record would make it tough for Eli and Vanessa to support their family (they were expecting their third child a week after we were due to have our fifth!). To make ends meet, Eli worked side jobs, which slowed down the progress of Ashira albums.
The Ashira Project fit like a glove into our vision for the Israel Worship Initiative. With our network of partners and background in music production and Eli’s incredible work ethic, technical skills and already available studio space, it was literally a match made in heaven. We’ve been working on the details for months and are excited Ashira is now an official part of Yeshua Israel, and Eli now works full time on the music projects!
After completing the first album called Bo’u Elav (Come to Him) for a previously unknown worship leader Eli Haitov, word got out about Ashira. Hearing that we were searching for songs, Shlomo Intrater, the eldest son of Israeli believer and pioneer Asher Intrater, sent us material he had written but didn’t have plans to record. Using Shlomo’s songs and local Israeli believing musicians and singers, we completed the second album called El Ne’eman (Faithful God). Both albums are available for free download at www.YeshuaIsrael.com.
Make More Music
We have streamlined our music production to allow us to get a large amount of music out quickly. For years we’ve prayed for the manpower and resources and they have now become available to us.We’ve already completed two albums on a shoestring budget and have more skilled people waiting to come on board as funds for the project increase. Word is getting out to young Israelis who’ve never been able to record their music, and we already have four more albums on a waiting list.
But it’s not just about the music! The subsequent relationships that will develop during the long hours it takes to create music are part of the strategy for building a fellowship of artists across the country who can not only create beautiful music but also strengthen and encourage each other in their pursuit of God.
The Israel Worship Initiative is funded entirely by partners like you. Your monthly gift of any amount will help us produce music on a continual basis. The music we’ve already recorded is available for free download at YeshuaIsrael.com – and there is more on the way. You can also give online, by mail or phone and rejoice with us as we are able to spread the sounds of our Heavenly Father worshiped in the language of the Bible.
Would you help us spread Hebrew worship music throughout the land of Israel and the world? 100% of the gifts you give towards the Israel Worship Initiate will go towards filling the Promised Land with sounds of praise and worship. You are a critical part of our team as your partnership enables us to create music that glorifies God and nourishes the spiritual state of the Jewish people.
We are excited to announce these new singles should be released February 2017!
Please consider giving a donation to help finish these projects.
The vision our Lord has given us to reach Israel is unique and exciting, but simply put, we can’t do it without you! We invite you to join us on this adventure to make an impact here in Israel for our Lord. (Click Here to Read more about How We Reach Israel).
We are located in Jerusalem, Israel and we have an administrative office in the U.S.
You can also give mail. Send check to our U.S. office:
PO Box 270208
Flower Mound, TX 75027-0208