When I was twenty years old, I made the decision to immigrate to Israel by myself. As a young Jewish woman growing up in Argentina, I considered myself a Zionist and was very active in the Jewish community in Buenos Aries. For me it was a goal to get to where my grandfather and my father were not able to, to Israel. Even in the nineties, people in the Jewish community experienced antisemitism in Argentina.
Deborah during her bat mitzvah ceremony in Argentina
On the eve of my immigration to Israel, there was a massive terrorist attack against the Jewish Community center in Buenos Aries. This traumatic event strengthened me in the knowledge that I was doing the right thing. As an only child, it was difficult to leave my parents and the culture and language I had grown up with, but I knew that I was going into the unknown for the benefit of my future family.
All Alone in a New Country
The first year for new immigrants in Israel is particularly challenging. The hardest part for me as a new immigrant was Shabbat (the Sabbath). I was living in the dorms at the university, and I felt especially lonely when everyone left to go have Sabbath dinner with their families. It was a hard time for me, but eventually I found my place. I wanted to belong somewhere, so I joined a Reform synagogue in Tel Aviv which helped me greatly with the loneliness I was feeling and gave me a sense of connection.
Living the Dream
Even though I attended synagogue, being a Zionist was my main identity, and I became active working for political parties in Israel connecting the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking diaspora with the Jewish Agency. I eventually became the national absorption coordinator for Jewish immigration from Latin America. It was through this work that I met my future husband, and at twenty-eight I was married. A year later I had my first daughter. I was on cloud nine: my job was interesting and important, I was married and had started a family. I was living the dream.
Immune to the Gospel
I devoted myself entirely to my family, to my parents who had immigrated to Israel after my first daughter was born, and to our family business: my husband and I started a tourist agency for Spanish-speaking Christian and Jewish pilgrims to Israel. Through our work, I was constantly hearing the gospel. However, I considered myself immune to “Yeshu” (the derogatory Hebrew name for Yeshua). I told myself and my family: He is for the gentiles, but we can connect with the Christians in worshipping the Father.
In 2014, a group contracted with our tour agency that wanted to worship at every site they visited. I was intrigued: what is this worship they want to do? At my synagogue we barely had a cantor to lead us in singing the prayers, and there were never musical instruments. I told my husband: I have to go with this group—I have to see what this worship thing is.
The first day I was with them, I thought, “They are so insolent! Don’t they have any respect for God and His holiness?” But very quickly my impression changed, and I found that I was deeply impacted by their worship. They praised God with such joy and freedom, and I could see they were experiencing a closeness to God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. I was torn: I wanted what they had, but I also did not want it because I was Jewish and what they were doing was Christian.
Worship – the evangelist that unlocked my heart
In 2015, my father became very ill. During the eight-month period I cared for my Father, I found myself constantly listening to a worship disc that was given to me by the “worship” tour group. It was the only thing that brought me comfort in that dark time: I would sing along with the songs, but instead of saying “Jesus” in Spanish, I would say “Luz” which sounds similar but means light—that way I wouldn’t have to say His name! I felt close to God when I worshipped with that disc, and I could feel His voice speaking inside of me in response.
Questioning Religion and Tradition
After my father passed away, I observed the traditional time of mourning for thirty days. According to Jewish tradition, you are not allowed to do many things in the first year after the death of a parent, including travel. I was a good Jew, and I wanted to honor my father by mourning him according to the traditions, but I also needed to travel for my business. A voice inside me said, “Where is it written that you cannot travel the first year after parent’s death?” This question bothered me, and I started searching. Where was it written? Was it in the Bible?
Eighteen years I attended the synagogue, but I never once read the Bible. I started searching in the Bible and quickly discovered my Judaism was like a layer covering the Bible, a man-made layer that doesn’t belong. Slowly, as I started asking questions, one thing after another broke away, allowing me to seek the truth more freely.
Three months after my father passed away, I traveled to Peru for work where I also attended a worship conference. At this conference, I experienced the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit for the first time, and I head God’s voice speaking to my heart clearly: “I know you want to worship Me. I will show you how to do it.” Still, despite these powerful experiences and my deepening questions about rabbinic Judaism, I could not let Yeshua into my heart—I was so afraid that I would be betraying my forefathers, my heritage. I wasn’t ready to believe in Yeshua until I knew that I would not automatically become a Christian and stop being a Jew. I asked God for confirmation, and He graciously obliged in surprising and powerful ways!
An Amazing Discovery
During this time, I asked my mother if we had Judaica (Jewish liturgical or ceremonial objects) from our family that I could give to my youngest daughter for her bat mitzvah. My grandfather’s prayer book (Siddur) we had already given to my oldest daughter for her bat mitzvah. My mother said that there was one more book in Hebrew from my grandparents that she brought from Argentina which she could give me.
My mother does not read or speak Hebrew, so she had no idea what it was. I looked at the book and recognized right away that it was Yiddish—I opened it and realized it was a copy of the New Testament…in Yiddish! My first thought was:
This can’t be. Someone tried to proselytize them before they left Poland and put this in their belongings.
Then I saw on the inside cover a mark from the Argentinian postal service: clearly my grandparents had ordered this New Testament from Europe when they were already in Argentina.
Was it possible that my Jewish grandparents were believers? It was a powerful moment of revelation from God: instead of betraying my grandparents for believing in Yeshua, I would be entering into the completed faith they had already entered into as Jews. Amazingly, despite this message from God, I still wasn’t there all the way…I still felt torn.
The Final Confirmation – A Sign in the Desert
During that time, I experienced a serious crisis in my marriage. I had devoted myself to so many things in my life: to Zionism, to my career, to my marriage…which was now coming apart. I wanted to devote myself to the right thing, and I felt that it was Yeshua, but I asked God for one last confirmation.
I felt God tell me: “Meet me in the desert.” I had become very attuned to and obedient to His voice that I had been hearing in my heart. So, I took a friend and went down to Timnah Park in the Araba desert where there is a replica of the Tabernacle. We parked and started walking in the direction of the Tabernacle replica, but I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “Stop right here.” I stopped and looked around me. What was there for me to see? Desert landscape all around me. “God wanted to meet with me here?”, I asked myself. But then not very far off, I saw a vibrant green bush that brilliantly stood out in the monochrome desert landscape.
My friend and I started walking toward the bush. As I got closer, I saw the name of Yeshua written out in stones in English across the ground next to the bush. My skeptic self rebelled and I wondered, “Why is His name written in English?” But the moment I thought that, I saw that above the name “Jesus” the Hebrew word chai (חי) was written out which means “lives”. Jesus lives!
There in the desert, I devoted myself completely to Yeshua. From that moment, He has taken me on an amazing journey of healing and a new life of freedom in my devotion to Him. Today I live to worship Him, and in Him I have my complete identity as a Jewish follower of the Jewish Messiah!
(Deborah serves faithfully at Tiferet Yeshua directing the children’s ministry and volunteer coordination. Deborah also runs a tour ministry for Spanish-speakers called Fundacion HALEL)