Ed. This article appeared in The Hebrew Catholic #79 Winter 2004.
Born in Israel, Became Catholic
My name is S. R., I’m a 47 year old native Israeli (Sabra), born in the north of Israel.
After 40 years of being Roman Catholic in secret and going to Church, I felt the time had came to share some of my experiences concerning my conversion, or may I say, my Jewish faith as a whole. I hope that in this act, we can encourage one another to be stronger, especially in those hard days for Israel, the Middle East and the entire world. Also, in this opportunity, I also want to say a prayer for the Arabs and the enemies of Israel, may they allow the Lord to convert their hearts!
I was born in Israel in a Kibbutz. Both my parents are non-observing Jews, but they are good Zionists and Israelis. They identified themselves with the Jewish heritage and culture, and they are still living in Israel.
In my early childhood, because of my father’s work, we moved for a while to South America. When I was about 7 years old, a new Roman Catholic maid came to live with us, and from her I learned about Catholicism. Every day she used to escort me back and forth to school. On our way, we used to pass through the Parish Church, where we stopped to say a short prayer while kneeling down in front of the Holy Virgin. I loved doing so, although I couldn’t explain why.
Once, my maid took me on her free day to a pilgrimage of the shrine of the Virgin. I was very impressed there, especially about the holy atmosphere and the quietness and peacefulness. I still remember praying there, as it would be today!
When I was 10 years old we had to return to Israel, and before doing so, my maid took me for the last time to Church, where we used to go nearly every day, and offered to baptize me. This unusual step came, since she was afraid that in Israel I won’t be going much to Church and will forget the Holy Faith. I agreed to be baptized, in spite I knew I was a Jew. I guess I agreed to it, because I hoped my parents wouldn’t mind. However, to be in the safe side, I didn’t tell them a word until I was 23 y/o and out of their house.
From the age of 10 to 23 years old I hardly went to Church. I did it only in very rare occasions, sneaking in and hiding, as I felt embarrassed doing it and was afraid of my parent’s reaction. I also didn’t know what to answer if the Arabs, etc. will ask what a Jewish child is doing there alone.
When I was 23 years old I became independent from my parents and felt free to come back to Church. This happened while passing through a personal crisis, which involved a disappointed relation with a man.
Many questions then rose on my mind. I was asking myself – why in Israel we still are suffering from war and terror acts (and I speak in the late 70s)… Why my mother had to pass the Shoa (Holocaust) and concentration Camps while losing her parents and her brother… Why some friends of mine died (whether in war or in terror acts, etc.)… And why I couldn’t experience love…
I remember, when I was 18 years old, reading the famous book of Victor Frankl “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I didn’t realize then how close he was to our faith, but I did feel then a very strong attractiveness to our Lord Jesus Christ.
When people ask me why I am Catholic, I always quote Pascal: “It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason”; and “If God does not exist, one will lose nothing by believing in him, while if he does exist, one will lose everything by not believing.”
I believe that human beings are not only a “Social” animal, but also a “Religious” one. From the beginning of history (or may I say, from my early childhood), I always searched for a meaning of life, for the spiritual meaning. I do believe that because I was made by the Image of God, I always will search for His Image. I believe God is inside of all of us. We only have to open ourselves to Him.
In the Roman Catholic traditional Church I feel at home. I believe that our Lord Jesus Christ gave the Key of Faith to Petrus, our First Pope. Jesus ordered Petrus to build His Church. For me the Catholic Church has the genuine faith and it is source of it. For me the Church is the one that has been guarding the True Faith for the last 2000 years. I want to be close to the roots of faith, and for me they are in the Catholic Church. I do remember what our Lord said to Petrus: “What you will forbid on earth, it will be forbidden in heaven”, so I believe in the authority of the Holy Father.
David Moss once said to me: “If Christ is not the Christ of the Jews, he is not the Christ of anyone.”
So, I don’t forget that “Salvation is from the Jews” (St. John, chapter 4), and I do pray for my Jewish sisters and brothers to come back to our Lord.
What makes me very sad is the devil. Whenever people in Israel start to be interested about our Holy Faith, the devil disturbs by making terror, anti-Semitism, etc., and when these things happen, the Israelis (and Jews in the Diaspora), become busy defending themselves and their heart closes to our Lord and the message of Salvation.
However it is not for me to judge others and their religion. But because the Good News of our Lord has been a real blessing for me, I’m always open to share it with others.
My faith brought me lots of happiness but also I have to admit it is not easy. Even today, not everyone understands it. My family and close friends know about it, but my family is not very supporting.
And I’m still alone, because I always looked for a “Man of the World” and not a “Worldly Man”, and it seems that in Israel they all disappeared.
Also the Church in Israel is extremely small and also they are not always very supportive. So, in Israel, to be a real Catholic – you really have to rely ONLY on God! And God does help those who believe in Him and act!
About my studies, I did some in the Hebrew University (a General BA), mainly in Literature, Bible and Art – fields that I love very much. I believe God is also in Art, Beauty and Literature. Maybe some day, I’ll go again to the university. That is my dream. I love to read – and now I’m finishing a beautiful and very inspiring book “The Letters and Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941-1943”, that speaks about a young intellectual Jewish woman of Holland and her soul’s journey to faith, which occurs in the Second War World.
About my work, I work mainly from home doing layout and proofreading and also editing and correcting Hebrew texts – working for all kind of associations and private clients. I also worked a very short time as a Tour Guide for pilgrimages and worked in tourism as well. However now I’m in the process of changing jobs. One field is going to be in Import-Export. Another field is going to be working for the Department of Public Relations in Hadassah Hospital. Maybe I’ll be able to combine both of them together. However lots of prayer and faith is needed, and lots of support from friends, etc. is needed too. But also we have to remember that everything is in the hands of our Lord and with Him, everything is possible.
Christ is The King.