The Peruvian Villager Who Led Hundreds of His Countrymen to Judaism and Israel

Aug. 22 2022

Zerubbabel Tzidkiya, born Segundo Villanueva in 1927 in the Andean village of Rodacocha, died in 2008 and was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. While his story, and those of the hundreds of his fellow Peruvians whom he led to Judaism, has been told before, Graciela Mochkofsky contends that it has often been gotten wrong—including, she admits, by herself. In a new edition of her 2006 book on the subject, she hopes to set the record straight. Renee Ghert-Zand writes in her review:

The story . . . began with Villanueva, at the time a young carpenter, reading the Bible and gathering groups of people around him to read and discuss it with him. Villanueva’s questions and desire to comprehend the true meaning of the word of God were ceaseless. He would engage anyone willing to study. He reached out to local religious scholars and leaders at the Protestant congregations that were cropping up for the first time in Cajamarca, where he lived.

But when he started to ask challenging questions, doors were closed in his face. Taking the Bible in a very literal sense, Villanueva could not understand why the Christians he knew observed the Sabbath on Sunday, in contradiction to what was written in the Five Books of Moses. He eventually joined a church that not only made sense to him but was also welcoming: the Seventh-Day Adventist Reform Movement.

But after some time, Villanueva still didn’t feel right about where he was. So, in 1962, he founded his own church, Israel of God. . . . Still identifying as Christians, members of Israel of God set up congregations in several locations in central-northern Peru, including a small settlement they build themselves in the Amazon in 1967 that they named Hebron.

It wasn’t until Villanueva was able to access a religious bookstore in Peru that sold a variety of translations of the Bible that he realized that translation by default involves errors and interpretations. . . . Ultimately he concluded that Jesus was not the messiah and that he and his flock must become Jews. They would be known as the Bnei Moshe. . . . Then began the complicated politics of the Bnei Moshe’s conversion to Judaism and aliyah to Israel.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Aliyah, Conversion, Latin America

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror