Your name is not unknown in Christian circles, but could you briefly tell us how you came to Israel and what prompted you to start writing songs that exalt God?
Well, I've been living in Israel permanently for almost 9 years now. My mother was born and raised in Haifa, Israel. His mother, Ruth Epstein, fled to Israel from the Holocaust in Wroclaw, Poland, and her first child, Mikha, was already born in Jerusalem. My grandmother moved close to Haifa during the War of Independence, around 1947-48, where she gave birth to my mother, just a few months before Israel was reborn after thousands of years. At the age of 11, my mother moved to New York, America, which I jokingly always call the other promised land because so many Jewish people fled and moved there from Europe. There she fell in love with my father, who was a Christian, but only nominally. If you are familiar with Judaism, you will know that this is considered the most reprehensible act. A Jew can be Buddhist, secular, which is tolerated, but if someone becomes a Christian, it is considered as a betrayal. If a person chooses a Christian spouse, it is even worse, because his/her decision will also affect his/her children. Therefore, when my mother married my father, my Orthodox Jewish grandmother was aroused to unseemly anger, but in the end he came to terms with the matter.
A year before I was born, in 1977, my mother was invited to a meeting of all-evangelical businessmen, where a rabbi also spoke. At first, she was confused why the rabbi would speak at a Christian meeting, but she listened to him speak about Jesus in his original, Jewish context. Before that, she had never heard of Jesus in this form, that is, of his original name Jesua, or of his disciples. That night she declared: I did not convert to Christianity, I only completed my Judaism by accepting the greatest Rabbi who ever lived, Yeshua, as my Rabbi and Savior. Not long after, my father also became a follower of Jesus. My siblings and I were raised in this spirit, but my Orthodox grandmother made sure that we did not forget that we were Jews, put on the kippah and keep the holidays. I myself accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior at the age of five and I started singing to him the very next day. They weren't great songs at first but they all came from the heart. I had no idea that this was what my life would be about in the future.
Another interesting element in my family history is the story of my mother and her brother. They were separated during the Revolutionary War, when her brother was three years old and she was just a newborn. My mother searched for her brother for 50 years, until they were finally able to meet again in 1998, on a television program in Tel Aviv. I was also sitting in the audience and that's when I decided to move back home to Israel and continue the Israeli roots of our family with my wife and five children.
I HAVE BEEN SINGING TO GOD FOR 14 YEARS NOW AND I USE THE SONGS TO SHARE WITH OTHERS HOW FANTASTIC IT IS TO MEET AND LIVE WITH JESUS.
I believe that music has great power. Praise is the tool by which I can share God and His salvation with my fellow citizens. That's why I often give concerts at the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem or at the Garden Tomb, and that's why I share the recordings on YouTube, so that people can accidentally hear the good news of Jesus.
We know that praising God in musical form was established in Israel thousands of years ago, in the time of the biblical King David. How do you see the characteristics of authentic praise?
Well, in the Bible, in the New Testament, we find that "the hour is coming, and now is, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is looking for such worshipers." Another of my favorite verses comes from David: verse 3 of Psalm 40, which says: "He has given me a new song: the praise of our God. Many see this, respect and fear the Eternal, and trust in Him!” It is clear from David's psalms that he feared and respected God: yes, there were some unpleasant episodes in his life, but he surrendered everything to God and He set him free.
TRULY GLORIFYING GOD creates THE RESPECT AND TRUST towards HIM.
For this, however, those who participate in it must sing in the spirit of God and in truth, i.e. by living the truth, not just singing about it. I've been to many places where people didn't really think about what they were singing, it was more mechanical, no matter how beautiful it sounded. In other places, however, untrained singers may be singing, a little falsely, but they are doing it from the heart, and their lifestyle is in line with what comes out of their mouths. For us, Messianic Jews, the Bible is extremely important, we sing about it, we don't write songs about emotions. Of course, there is nothing wrong with them, they may fit better in Western culture, but in the Messianic Jewish world we like to stay as close to the original text and its message as possible. We don't forget, and music helps us remember the details and significance of our story. This is also reflected in the great songs of the previous generation by Paul Wilbur, Barry and Batya Segal.
We often receive worrying news about the fact that those Jews who follow Jesus are subjected to negative discrimination and even verbal and physical attacks for their faith. What is your experience in this field?
Well, I decided to raise my children in the same region where Jesus "raised" His 12 disciples. He also spent most of His time in Galilee, and two-thirds of His miracles took place here, in the North. I don't feel much change compared to the conditions 2000 years ago, just as in the time of the Pharisees, there is a spiritually more difficult atmosphere in Jerusalem now. Millions follow my work and service, which is why it is much safer for me to live in the North, where there is less chance of religious extremists attacking me and my family. By the way, this region is mainly inhabited by secular Jews who love their country, but do not like religion because of the extremists. Most of the Orthodox Jews are very kind and loving towards us. However, a small, radical group is unfortunately also present within the Israeli government, and they exert a great influence on, for example, who can become a citizen of the country and who can not, who can marry and who can not. Just like in Jesus' time, a vocal minority causes problems for the rest.
As for me, since my mother is Israeli and I was born Israeli, they cannot dispute my citizenship, so I can publicly admit many things on Youtube. Many immigrants, however, have to be careful about what and how they say things online. If someone is found to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, they are not allowed to immigrate. You can be a Buddhist, but if your grandmother was Jewish, you can immigrate without a problem. The same is true of secular Jews. So, as far as subjugation is concerned, the situation of Christians has worsened.
Thank God, however, we don't suffer much physical violence. When we organized our concert at David's Tower, it was the first Messianic Jewish album recording within the walls of the Old City, so I was a bit nervous, especially since just half a year before, a group of ultra-orthodox Jews broke into the King of Kings Messianic Jewish congregation during a live recording of my dear friends. Some of them feel extremely threatened by the gospel. This was in the modern part of the city. Thanks to God, no atrocities took place at our concert in the Old Town thanks to the police security. But obviously you always have to be careful, not only as a Christian, but also as a Jew, for example during Ramadan.
For example, once, I was "stoned". I just shot a music video on the Mount of Olives. Young Arab guys, around 14 years old, started throwing small stones during filming. I was not injured, but it was a very difficult moment for me. A few years later I returned to that place and suddenly I was surrounded by five Arab men. They were about to beat me because they saw that I was an Israeli Jew (I forgot to take off my kippah). That's when I put on my thickest American accent and pretended to be a tourist. They finally let me go.
Another positive thing that I noticed in the last 20 years in the country was the change in attitude towards the gospel. A few years ago, the Israelis were not willing to talk about Jesus as if He was from there, they did not even recognize his Jewishness. Now, however, most of them proudly accept that He was Jewish, a part of their history. He's not recognized as a Savior, but it's still a big step. Many of my Orthodox friends and I have great conversations about Himself. So something is changing.
THERe HAD BEEN A BAD IMAGE ABOUT CHRISTIANS IN JEWISHNESS FOR A LONG TIME DUE TO HISTORICAL REASONS, WHICH COULD BE THE REASON WHY MY GRANDMOTHER GOT SO ANGRY AND SPIT ON THE GROUND WHEN WE MENTIONED THE NAME OF JESUS IN HER HOUSE.
She fled to Israel from the Holocaust, and she blamed all of the Christianity for that. The crusaders arriving in Jerusalem with crosses and swords did not make a good impression either. Throughout history, Jews have learned that Christians must be taken care of, because they were treated badly. However, these Christians were not real Christians, they misused the name of Jesus. I believe that we are now living in a great era, when Christians turn to their fellow human beings and especially to Jews with the greatest possible love. Slowly but surely, the relationship is turning more and more positive, thank God. I try to build a bridge between Jews and the church through my music.
(Translated by Anett Harmath)
Joshua Aaron is an Israeli-American award-winning Messianic Jewish singer and songwriter. He and his wife, Jeannie, are raising five children in the Galilee. Since the release of his first album, "Bo Yeshua" (2009), which includes songs in Hebrew and English, his fame has grown internationally. Joshua's songs combine many musical styles, including traditional Eastern and Jewish genres, and his music videos regularly feature iconic Israeli landscapes and cities. One of his songs, "You Are Holy", also received a Hungarian lyrics and Hungarian Christians sing it in church services.