An interview with Shaul and Talya
In a meeting, where Shaul told a lie, he came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A while later his wife Talya also became a believer. Shaul was Talya’s second husband, her first husband was killed through an accident with his his weapon when was serving in the army in Israel. Talya has known many times of total despair, but eventually she also got to know Israel’s Messiah.
Shaul and Talya assist new immigrants who have been left to fend for themselves. Some get into problems and Shaul and Talya do their best to help them. “We have compassion for these people, who often come from countries where they have endured much misery. In Israel it is difficult for them to adapt and they end up getting into debt and awful poverty. Besides practical help and all kinds of advice, we can often tell them of Jesus the Messiah. Your bilingual New Testaments are a great help” they say.
Do you have a religious background, Shaul?
“Yes, but not only that. For twelve years I was a member of an ultra-orthodox movement. My passion for religion was so great that I made a kind of pilgrimage to New York, where I met our legendary rabbi, Menachem Schneerson.” Shaul shows a photograph of himself standing next to the rabbi. “All these years of religious life, with its many commandments and laws became a great burden for me. I had hoped that a strict religious life would bring me closer to God – a longing that had filled my heart since I was four years old. Instead of becoming conscious of God’s blessed nearness, this strict religious life, with its intensive studies, just made me sick. I felt that I was up against a wall.”
Did you say goodbye to your religious life?
“Yes, after twelve years I gave up and plunged myself into the business world. With much difficulty I began a trade in all kinds of candles. I got the opportunity to have a stand at a Christian conference in London, where, to my amazement some three to four thousand people met together. Although I was really there on business, I was touched by the love and beautiful music. What really moved me was the love for Israel, but love didn’t really fit into my picture of Christians.”
“My mother once told me that a neighbor had run after her with a hayfork when she was ten. He kept screaming at her, “You murdered our Jesus!” What did she know about Jesus? Nothing, except that she hadn’t murdered Him.”
“I was utterly convinced that anything that had to do with Jesus was a kind of blasphemy. To my great amazement there I was, sitting at this conference and talking peacefully with Christians without feeling disturbed. Instead I enjoyed the warm and friendly atmosphere.”
After that conference did you often have contact with believers?
“One of my customers was a Messianic Jew. He told me that he would be coming to Israel for his granddaughter’s birthday. I still remember the date and the time when we met in a restaurant. I really had a business contract in mind through which I would manage to get a good number of orders. Instead of talking business, however, he began telling me about the Messiah. I decided to politely and patiently await the end of his story, but when he was still talking three hours later, I began to give up all hope. It was quite clear that this endless account would not get me any orders.”
“Suddenly I decided to cut it short. I made up a little lie to get rid of him. “I’m expected at a meeting in Akko,” I said, as cool as a cucumber, “ so if you don’t mind, I must go now.” “Oh, that’s wonderful,” he said, “then I’ll go along with you to Akko.” That was an unexpected answer and so we went on our way to Akko, where no one was expecting me. On the way, he continued his story about the Messiah.”
“In Akko I made it look like I was going to the meeting. In the meantime he said that he would wait for me in the car. Ten minutes later I returned. “Nobody turned up,” I said, “so I’ll just go back home.” “My son lives in Akko, shall we go to him on a short visit?” he proposed. Why I don’t know, but I let him talk me into it. A little later we were visiting his son. In the meantime he continued his story. At 8 p.m. he had been talking to me for eleven hours. Gradually my indifference ebbed away and I began to really listen. “That is not a text from the Old Testament,” I interrupted him. “What you are now saying is a citation from the New Testament,” I reacted sharply. I knew the Old Testament very well. “Here is a Hebrew Bible,” he said, “read it with me.” Deuteronomy 18:15: ‘The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him he shall hearken.’ This text touched my heart.”
Did you then go to investigate it yourself?
“Yes, but on my way home that text kept turning over in my head. Once at home, I consulted my own trustworthy Hebrew Bible. Perhaps it would be different there but no, it was exactly the same. Who was he then, that prophet? When did He come? Did we not recognize Him? There was also something else that had been in my thoughts for some time. Was God with our people after the destruction of the temple? I just could not find an answer to this. I did not go first, as usual, to the rabbi, but instead I prayed to God about it. For me that was a gigantic step. The rabbi was always the appointed person to explain Scripture. To my amazement God answered my prayers. Every time that I asked the Lord for insight, He gave me just that.”
“After studying the Old Testament for four days, I had the feeling that I wanted to also read my brother’s book, the New Testament. My brother, who lives in Siberia, had believed for years that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah. Slowly I realized that I was a sinner, who in my stained garment was far away from a Holy God. Five long days past, until I called on the Lord Jesus and said, “If You are here, prove that to me in Your own way.” The Lord answered in such an amazing way, that I not only became convinced of His existence, but also of His presence.”
How did your family react to your change of heart?
“The same day I sent a text message with only three words to my brother ‘He is Lord.’ The same night my brother couldn’t get to sleep. He had prayed for many years for me and was filled with joy at this news, his prayer had been heard. From that moment on, God pointed out many things in the New Testament to me. I also started to talk with my wife about the New Testament and took her to meetings in the Messianic congregation, but she wasn’t up to that yet. That was the beginning of a difficult period for us. Slowly our relationship deteriorated. One day I asked God why I had so many problems. Without all these problems, life as a believer would be much easier. The Lord pointed out to me the story of Joseph who, with God’s permission and guidance, had to endure many tribulations.”
“Then the day came when my wife wanted to leave me because she said that I loved the Lord Jesus more than I loved her. She was angry because I read the Bible a lot and really lived in a different world than she did. I, in fact, remained very calm and prayed for her, as did many people in our congregation. All the prayers seemed, alas, to be in vain. I talked to my leader about this problem. It looked like there was no other option than to give in to her and separate from each other.”
You two don’t seem so unhappy
“That is true! A miracle happened. In that period I had to go to England and when I was at the airport something special happened. It was as if God said to me, “You were not any better than she was and I gave you a chance.” I was startled at these words. In a few minutes I had to board the plane so I phoned Talya quickly and said, “Think again about your decision to separate, then I will do the same. Talk about it with the leader.” She promised to do that and then I phoned the leader and told him what God had made clear to me and I asked him to contact Talya. With mixed feelings I travelled to England and two days later I called her from there. Something had happened. I noticed by her first words that she spoke in a different tone. God had touched her heart, she had become a believer in the Lord Jesus. When I returned to Israel it was as if a different woman was waiting for me at the airport. Someone who, just as I, had learned to know the Lord Jesus. As much as she was first opposed to my reading the Bible, now she can’t go to sleep without having read her Bible!”
(Names have been changed)