Faces of Zion

Article Index

Ishai and Anat Brenner

Ishai and Anat Brenner are dedicated to seeing the salvation of Israel, soul by soul. Ishai can be found daily witnessing on the streets of Israel while Anat fields calls from women considering abortion. The family also has opened their home to unwed, pregnant women who have decided to keep their babies.


The home ministry of Abundant Life was birthed in 2003 after a woman who decided to keep her baby was fired from her job and subsequently evicted from her apartment. "We realized it wasn't enough to persuade them to keep their babies," Anat says.


An entire floor of the Brenner home in Kfar Saba is allotted for unwed pregnant women in dire circumstances. The family accompanies the women through labor and helps them begin life as single moms.
Anat, 47, counsels a spectrum of Jewish and Arab women who have had or are considering having an abortion, and teaches at schools about the consequences of abortion. With an estimated 50,000 abortions performed annually, Israel has a higher abortion ratio than the U.S. and one of the highest abortion rates in the world.


"Israel is a very promiscuous society," says Ishai, who distributes pro-life literature and evangelizes at New Age festivals and in cities rocked by terrorist attacks. "Young people are looking for relationships, and what you see here is the price."


The son of a Holocaust survivor, Ishai, 53, left Israel after serving in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He heard the gospel and was saved in Canada. Anat was born again during her travels in Europe after serving her mandatory military service. Being native Israeli believers who met and married in Israel, Ishai and Anat are naturally passionate about seeing other Jews get saved.
"The Jewish people went away for 2,000 years. Now God is starting to work among the Jewish people," Ishai says. "A quick fix doesn't work here."


Anat says it all comes down to individuals. "God is calling us to remember the widows, the orphans and the aliens," she says. "That is the heart of this work."

Karen Dunham
Amid a sea of colorful Muslim head-scarves in an Arab wedding hall in Jericho is an unveiled American woman from Florida running a most unlikely church beyond a Palestinian checkpoint. That has been the hallmark of Karen Dunham's six years in Israel: unlikely, yet remarkable.
Dunham has earned rare favor with both Palestinian authorities and the Israeli army, who are hostile entities, but it wasn't without paying a high price. "I came here not knowing anything about the land, Arabs or Jews," Dunham says.


Shortly after she arrived in Israel, one conversation set the course of her stay when the words of a Catholic priest burned in her heart: "If you can feed Jericho, you can win the city for Jesus."
Dunham moved with her young son to a squalid refugee camp in the dusty desert city, off-limits to Israelis and avoided by most tourists during the intifada, or Palestinian uprising. Distributing rice to a few families and holding Bible studies, Dunham began her humble ministry while warding off scorpions, car bombs, house fires and, ultimately, death threats.


Dunham did not quit. In fact, she obeyed another radical, divine directive: to rent a hall and start a church.


Some visitors to the weekly services come out of curiosity and some attend for financial aid, but they all hear the gospel. The church has blossomed, and the tense atmosphere in Jericho has eased. Imams, government officials and business leaders all have officially welcomed Dunham.
The transformation was not lost on the Israeli army. Soldiers approached Dunham and asked if she would do the same in the 26 other refugee camps in the Palestinian territories. Living Bread Ministries is now a nongovernmental organization (NGO), and Dunham has visited places where few have had official access-or the mettle-to go.


"The camps are centers of great hostility. They're teaching them there to be enemies of Israel," Dunham says. "If we can link arms with ministries across the country, we can take the land."
She has begun distributing aid and Bibles in two other major Palestinian cities and is convinced that terrorism can fall. Her strategy is, "If you win the refugee camps you can win the city."


Naim Khoury
It is tough being an evangelical Christian Palestinian in a sea of Orthodox Christians and Muslim Arabs. Naim Khoury's preaching about the spiritual significance of supporting Israel has brought him persecution, death threats and even bullets.


The bold, outspoken pastor of First Baptist Church in Bethlehem, the largest evangelical Christian church in the West Bank, has been shot, and his church bombed several times, for his stance on Israel. "We've had all sorts of problems, but no turning back, no turning back," says Khoury.


Khoury's journey toward supporting the Jewish nation began before he accepted Christ, when as an eighth-grader he asked why the Mediterranean Sea was colored red on a map. "Don't you know that one day we'll kill the Jews and throw them in the sea?" the teacher yelled.


"The first week after I got saved the Holy Spirit reminded me of that story," Khoury recalls. "I went and bought an Old Testament. Priests had told us it was rubbish, but the more I studied it, the more God increased a special love in my heart for the Jewish people. I realized that the covenant of God with Abraham is an everlasting covenant."


In a land where politics and religion are the cause of much bloodshed, Khoury has gone against the Palestinian culture. Traditional churches teach replacement theology, and believing Israel is the rightful heir to the land is taken as betrayal.


Khoury comes from a devoted Greek Orthodox family. He was saved as a teenager, and though it took another 27 years, every member of his family, including his nine siblings, came to Christ. His oldest brother was martyred in a Muslim neighborhood in Jerusalem.


Cut off by the concrete security wall and a checkpoint, Palestinian believers feel isolated from their Christian brethren around the world. Out of 200, some 90 percent of the Bethlehem congregants are unemployed, Khoury says. Born-again Palestinians suffer as a minority within a minority in a desperate political and economic situation in the territories.


"The Prince of Peace was born here, and yet there is no peace," Khoury says. "That's our prayer and mission, our desire and hope for Bethlehem."

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