Batya

Jemenites love to worship the Lord

 

 

Her dark brown eyes have fire in them. Her face has tens of expressions and her hands hundreds of them. When Batya talks about the miracles God did in her life the room is almost too small. What else can one expect from a Yemenite, the artistic people from the desert who for 2,000 years, in spite of Islamic opposition, remained faithful to the God of Israel. Batya is from the tribe of Levy, the tribe that had a special call to care for the worship in the Temple. God has opened this fountain of praise in Batya’s heart after she accepted Yeshua as the Messiah. She has composed many songs, and, together with her husband, leads the praise and worship at big conferences. That fountain of worship has been born in her heart out of much suffering. Once, while working at a printer’s shop in Jerusalem, she had to type out an exceptional manuscript. After that she saw a vision and met an angel. At the same time as these miracles of God occurred, a period of painful suffering began. Obedience has a price and Batya has paid that price, but after that she was overwhelmed with blessings.

 

I was born in Jerusalem as the youngest of five children. My father and mother came from Yemen, in the second part of the 1930s. My father had travelled by ship to Egypt and there he took the train to Israel, which was called Palestine at that time. He was an orphan, but had a brother living here in Israel.

My mother came here together with her sister. They were living here in Jerusalem as were most of her family. In the past, Yemenite people lived for 2,000 years in their own community, isolated from the Arabs around them. We loved our traditions and kept the faith in the God of Israel alive through the centuries.

In 1950 ‘Operation Carpet’ took place, during which, in a matter of some days, the whole Jewish community from Yemen was brought ‘home’. Our people were flown in by aeroplanes, but many had never even seen an aeroplane in their lives. Therefore the rabbi explained to them from Isaiah 40:31, that God is bringing us home ‘on the wings of an eagle.’ Some were so primitive that they began to make fires in the aisles to brew tea – they had just come straight from the desert…

My parents were orthodox. I grew up with the Jewish traditions, celebrating all the feasts and of course keeping the Sabbath. The atmosphere at home was warm. My father lived closer to the Bible than to the Talmud, and so he taught us the Bible. We grew up with a love for the Bible and for singing. We sang a lot at home. When we came together as a family and with friends on Sabbath we sang and prayed according to the Yemenite traditions. I still have good memories of that.

I did not doubt the existence of God and believed his word. These two things were very close to my heart during my whole life, God and his word. When I was a small child, my father taught me, ‘Never forget, God exists and if you need him, in whatever problem, then he is always there to help you. Go to him, for he can hear your prayers and knows what you need.’

Every evening we prayed together the, ‘Sjemah Jisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad!’ We did this every evening! So, I knew God and realised that he was near, but I did not know Yeshua. He was a forbidden figure in our home. I did not know anything of the New Testament.

At the Orthodox school for girls we learned about the Messiah, that one day he would come and deliver the Jews. He would come as a conqueror and all the heathen would know that God is the God of Israel. When the Messiah comes, peace will come. That is about all I knew about the Messiah. But when I was twelve years old and went to college, something within me began to change. I rebelled against the protection of my family. For me, the orthodox lifestyle had ended. I did not want anything to do with it. I told my parents, ‘I cannot live like this anymore. I want to respect you for the way you choose to live, but I choose for a different way. If you want lo live like that, okay, but I want to be free. I believe in God, but I cannot live in the orthodox way anymore.’ So I asked permission to go to a secular school. My father said, ‘It is all right, go if it will make you happy. Don’t forget who your God is and where you come from. I will let you go.’

So I made the step to a public school, but in many ways that was not easy. First, I was confronted with a totally different culture. Secondly, the teachers did not believe that the Bible was the word of God. I had always heard that the Bible is trustworthy and is the word of God, but these teachers only saw it as a book written by human beings, as a kind of a fairy tale. One lady teacher was an outspoken atheist. She was exceptionally hard on any student who said he believed in God. There was a boy in the class, who had religious parents and was wearing a kippah. When you wear a kippah in a public school, you are asking for trouble, you will be ridiculed. This teacher said sarcastic things about that boy and ridiculed his religion.

I began to get fed up with this, the school started to disappoint me. After two and a half years, I decided to leave this school and joined a school for self-study. You can get just enough subjects to be allowed to go to the university. You study in a classroom for just a few hours and the rest of the time you study at home. In this way I got through my exams. It was in that time that I began searching. I was at home a lot and could think about a lot of things. I said to myself, ‘I am not religious, because the lifestyle of the orthodox does not appeal to me, but I do love the traditions.’ I held on to the traditions, these were very attractive to me.

I wondered, ‘If keeping the commandments does not bring me closer to God, what will? Who can help me then? What is the true religion? Who is God after all?’ I discovered some philosophy books and began reading them. I began to gain interest in transcendental meditation, but that raised more questions than it answered. I did not find satisfaction there.

In January 1974, when I was eighteen years old I went into the army. It was just after the Yom Kippur war. Many of my friends had come home wounded, and some had died in the war. That raised a desire in me to know more about God and about life after death. I asked questions in all kinds of directions, but did not get any clear answers. I served in the navy for a year and when I came home – I was just nineteen years old – I married Avi. I don’t know what led me to marry so young. It was an impulsive decision. After the war everything was somewhat confused.

Avi was an old friend who I already knew before I went into the army. He was six years older than I and an outspoken atheist. Already after a year our relationship was breaking up and we decided to separate. We had given up all hope that anything could save our marriage. Then my husband had to go by car to Galilee, because he was a press photographer. On the road he had a serious car accident in which his friend was killed and he was seriously injured. It was a miracle that he came out of the wreckage alive. He had received brain damage for which medical science could do nothing. It could only heal by long periods of rest. When he was in hospital I discovered that I was pregnant. After five months my husband came out of hospital and went to live with his mother.

I had to earn my own living and found a part-time job at the Ministry of Finance. My daughter was born and I called her Meytal. She really is a doll, I love her dearly.

At the ministry I became friends with a woman who was deeply involved in TM. She invited me to her meetings and I joined in their activities. She got me so far that I joined a course. When this course was almost finished my friend said, ‘I forgot to tell you, but at the conclusion of the course we have a little ceremony.’ I went to this closing meeting and heard that you were expected to bring a kind of a sacrifice for the Maharishi. I found this an appalling thought. When I realised what it meant, I almost vomited. ‘You said that this was not a religious course,’ I said, ‘and now you come up with that.’ You had to enter a small room where a picture of the Maharishi was placed with a kind of incense around it. Someone stood behind your back to whisper in your ear what you were supposed to do. I had to take fruits or a small piece of white cloth and lay that down as a kind of sacrifice for the Maharishi. It was awful. At first I did not realise it, but then it penetrated my mind, ‘In doing this I am worshipping other gods!’ I went home in despair.

As I was only working part-time at the ministry and also had to provide for a family, I was looking for a second job. A good friend of mine knew somebody who owned a printing shop and they were looking for a typist for typesetting. I said that I was not trained for that. ‘That is not a problem,’ he said, ‘if you accept the job, they will provide training.’ I said, ‘Oh, but then I would like to have it.’ My friend also said that it was a well-paid job. So I was hired to work half-days in that printing shop. I did not know anything about computers, but within three weeks I could handle one.

Soon after that they gave me a manuscript that I was to type out. It was the New Testament in Hebrew! I said, ‘Oh, no! That cannot be true! What kind of a printer is this? Why do they want to print the New Testament? Are these people missionaries?’ I went to the manager and asked him, ‘Don’t you have something else for me to type?’ He said, ‘I am sorry, it is all the work we have for you.’ What else could I do? I had no choice but to accept it. In this way I began typing out the New Testament reading it at the same time. To my amazement it was very interesting. My first discovery was that Jesus was a Jew! The first page of the New Testament showed the genealogy of Jesus. He was the son of Abraham and the son of David! The disciples were Jews! The more I worked on it the more it became clear to me, that this is a Jewish book! ‘What can be wrong with it,’ I thought, ‘Why are the rabbis against it?’ While I was typing all these thoughts were going through my head.

In my thinking many arguments were in conflict. I thought of Jesus as the god of the Christians, but at the same time I saw that this book was thoroughly Jewish and Jesus was a Jew. How was this possible? I read what Jesus said about the heart of man, that all our deeds come out of it, and that your conscience is important and not only your works. That hit me. Then I read what Jesus said about eternal life and I thought, ‘That is the answer. I have been wrestling for years now with questions about eternal life and the Jewish books are all unclear about it, but what Jesus says I can understand immediately.’ So, the words of Jesus were penetrating my heart more and more. Was this the real truth?

I began to watch out for the quotes from the Old Testament and read them, just to see if they fitted. When Jesus quoted a text in the Gospels, I wanted to know if this really was written in the Old Testament. I went into it very deeply. This search for truth lasted some months.

I said to myself, ‘I must ask other people for advice. It is too much for me alone.’ So, I began asking my friends many questions: ‘Who is the Messiah after all? Why has the Messiah not come yet? Why is it not possible for Jesus to be the Messiah?’ All the people that I met I bombarded with these kinds of questions; even people that I hardly knew. I was not ashamed of it and was very open.

I had not let Jesus enter my heart. That thought slowly began to press on me. I still had too much fear to do that. I remained doubtful, and that made me very insecure. Sometimes I had the feeling that I had found a great treasure, but a moment later I rejected it again. This unrest lasted for months.

My husband came back to live with me again. During the time he was recovering I had not seen him at home. His head was almost healed but his legs were still in plaster. After I had typed out the New Testament I had to type in Hebrew The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, and after that Run, Baby, Run, with the story of Nicky Cruz’ conversion. These stories made a deep impression on me. Sometimes, while I was sitting behind the computer, the tears were running down my face. I saw how God’s love had touched people and changed their lives drastically.

I had already been working on these books for eight months and still had difficult questions. Nobody could give me a satisfactory answer. I said, ‘Lord, you must show me now.’ I went into my bedroom and began reading my Bible, as I always did before I went to bed, and I repeated, ‘God, now you must let me know who is the Messiah. I am your servant and if Jesus is really the Messiah I want to serve him, but, if he is not, then I have to stop with this work.’

The answer to my prayer was a vision. I saw the angel of the Lord. I could see his face and the clothes he was wearing and his figure. He had a beard and wore a long white robe. I was very impressed by this. When I came from my job at three o’clock in the afternoon I was waiting for the bus at the bus stop in the King George Street. All at once I saw that same man again who I had seen in the vision the previous day. The angel of the Lord walked in my direction! He had precisely the same face, the same long hair, the same beard and the same clothes. It was the same man. I was shocked and looked left and right to see if the other people at the bus stop could see him too, but nobody was reacting. Then suddenly he disappeared. I thought, ‘This is the sign of the Lord. This tall man with his beard and exactly the same clothes, is the same man as I saw in my vision.’ It cannot be a coincidence, meeting exactly the same man in the street. Nobody knew about my vision. So, I knew that it was an angel! I already believed 95% that Yeshua was the Messiah, but after this sign from God I knew it totally. I still hesitated to surrender fully to him but knew that I was on the right road. This was the turning point.

When I came home, I was so excited about what I had seen, that I called to my husband, ‘Do you know what happened? I saw a vision and after that I saw an angel, and it is from God and Yeshua is the Messiah. I am sure about it!’ My husband was an atheist. He looked at me in disdain and must have been thinking that I had really gone mad. He forbade me to read the New Testament and ridiculed me to his friends in front of everybody. In a sarcastic way, he used to say, ‘Did you hear? Batya saw an angel and now she believes in Jesus.’ I was shocked. He was humiliating me in front of everybody. When we got back home, I said, ‘You are not supposed to do that. This is something personal, something intimate. You cannot ridicule prayers and things that I have experienced with God. This is something between God and me.’

Our relationship became even worse through this and he took me to court. He used my growing faith in Yeshua to get a divorce and take my daughter away from me. I was still very young in faith and very vulnerable. I did not have much inner security, but I still believed more or less in Yeshua. My husband did not allow me to meet other believers and read the Bible. He said, ‘If you continue with this, I will fight you to the highest court and take your daughter away from you.’ He declared that my faith was the cause of our bad relationship. That was mean, for that relationship had been bad from the beginning. He just used this as a weapon against me to get Meytal in his power.

One day I was ordered to appear at the rabbinical court and went. When my husband entered he was carrying a suitcase. I had no idea what was inside it. My lawyer, a religious man, did not know either. When my husband stood before the judge, he opened the suitcase and showed all the books that I had typed, including my New Testament. ‘There are her books,’ he explained, ‘she is a missionary! And I don’t want this woman raising my daughter.’ Because of that the judges decided that I was not allowed to see my daughter any more and I had to leave my own house. I had no choice. With great pain I closed the door of my house behind me, where I had left my little daughter and stood on the streets of Jerusalem, alone! I said to the Lord, ‘This is too much for me to bear. Please help me. If you do not give me strength I cannot bear this.’

I felt like Abraham bringing the sacrifice of his Isaac, but it was easier said than done. There was a sword going through my soul. An elderly couple who are believers, heard about my problems and prayed with me. Together with them I prayed for Yeshua to come into my heart. When I did this, it was as if the Lord had turned a page in my life. A new chapter had begun, a new white page, for I had become a new person. I came out of the tunnel in which I had been walking for so long. I had asked everybody, everywhere for the right way. At last I had found it. I also asked God to deliver me from the influence of TM.

It is now thirteen years ago that I made this choice and I still believe that it was the right choice.

 

From: Hoekendijk Ben, Twelve Jews discover Messiah, New Wine Press, England 1997, pages 92-101

 

 

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