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Gil Alon

Desperately Seeking Truth

What I am about to tell is quite amazing. Even now, I still find it difficult to grasp the sequence of events that transformed my life. Here is my story . . .

My name is Gil (which in Hebrew means “joy”). I was born in Haifa, Israel on the 3rd February 1963 to a secular middle class family and my parents were of Eastern European Jewish origin. I was raised as a secular Israeli and for me and my family being Jewish meant keeping the “traditions” and nothing else. At school we studied the Bible as an historical book mainly to know and understand the history and traditions of the Jewish people. For me God was an abstract being that existed only in the Bible stories. We all hated the Bible classes as for us they were boring history lessons with no spiritual context. On special occasions we sometimes went to the local synagogue but I could never find God there. I used to watch the people reading from the prayer book but it looked like they were doing it out of habit rather than from a sincere heart.

That Name

My parents have never been religious but they respected traditional values. At home we hardly kept any holidays, not even Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), which is considered very holy even among non-religious people. My dad was a coach driver and tourist guide and in my childhood I used to travel a lot with him to the various places “where Jesus walked”, but although I heard about Jesus I knew little more than that He was born in Bethlehem.

One day, during one of our Bible lessons at school, the teacher was talking about the book of Micah chapter 5:

Now gather yourself in troops, O daughter of troops; He has laid siege against us; They will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on the cheek. But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.

Because I knew Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it immediately sprang to mind: “This must be about Jesus!” I raised my hand and told the teacher and the class with confidence that this passage talks about Jesus. The teacher’s response was very harsh and I was almost thrown out of the class for even mentioning “that name”.

Seeking Enlightenment

Like all Israelis I had to do three years compulsory military service and in the 1982 Lebanon War my unit was deployed around the city of Beirut. I trained as an officer and signed on for an additional two years and in the latter part of my service I worked as a computer programmer in the Tel-Aviv area. At this time I was searching for God but because I could not see a path to God in Judaism, I read a lot about Eastern philosophies, especially Buddhism and Hinduism.

In 1985, while still on active service, I became ill with iron deficiency anaemia, and after two years of seeking a cure through conventional medicine I turned to alternative medicine and was cured (to the amazement of the doctors). This almost miraculous cure convinced me to research alternative medicine and after I had left the army in 1987 I chose to study acupuncture in England.

In my last years at school I had private English tuition by a lady whom I deeply respected and before my departure, I visited her. Before I left she told me she believed that Jesus was the Messiah and gave me some advice: “Gil, you are about to go to a foreign country and may come across many difficulties but whenever you are in trouble or need support ask God to help you in the name of Jesus and wonderful things will happen to you in your life.” Her words became very precious and valuable in the years to come.

The Invisible Hand

I studied in East Grinstead in the beautiful county of West Sussex and my studies included Chinese philosophy, especially Taoism. I discovered that Eastern philosophers talk about a spiritual experience or enlightenment which, when achieved, brings us as close as possible to knowing the “Ultimate” or “Source of all things”. This kind of “Force” is not personal and does not exercise moral judgement. However, in spite of my studies and my New Age activities, I could not find fulfilment and God seemed to be further away than ever. However, there always seemed to be an invisible hand helping me, and every time I was about to give up and go back to Israel, things happened to change the circumstances for the better. I could actually feel that “someone” was looking after me and there was a purpose in my struggle although at the time I could have never even dreamt who that somebody or purpose was.

In the summer of 1990 I moved to the Dunstable area to start my own acupuncture practice but within few months things started to go very wrong; I did not have enough patients and I was in deep debt. In my despair I decided to return to computer programming and contacted various professional computer recruitment agencies, but because I didn’t have a full permit to work in this country none of them would help me. I felt like there was no way out for me and my despair deepened.

Once is happenstance...

One night in early December 1990 I lay in bed thinking about the words of my English teacher: “whenever you are in trouble or need support ask God to help you in the name of Jesus and wonderful things will happen.” Could this be true? Nothing else had  seemed to work, so I decided to give it a try and called to Him in my heart: “God, if you are there, please help me in this difficult time. In the name of Jesus.” Without thinking much about what I had done, I went to sleep. A few days later a recruitment agency called to say they were interested in my technical skills and experience. I thought that because of the problem with my work permit they would not contact me again but within minutes they called to say that their client was willing to issue the required permit. Within four months I had repaid all my debts and had a company car. However, at the time, this sudden change in my life after praying “in the name of Jesus” all seemed to be just “coincidence”.

After eighteen months, at the height of the recession in the early nineties, the company was in great trouble and had serious problems obtaining a work permit for me. I thought my job was secure and bought a new house but after moving into my new home in July 1992, when I returned to the office I was told I no longer had a job. It felt like everything was crumbling down again. I was back to “square one” with no job, no permanent work permit and a mortgage. Having no work permit during a recession stricken economy, there seemed no way out.

Twice is coincidence...

The advice of my English teacher came back to me and again I asked God to help me in the name of Jesus. I did not expect help but after a few days the impossible happened. A recruitment agency called to say that British-Airways wanted to interview me. The interview was a success and my work permit was eventually issued. However, I still refused to believe that this was an answer to my prayer. It was just another lucky coincidence.

During the next couple of years I was involved in a number of key projects within British Airways and found myself in central positions where my technical advice and knowledge were required. By the end of 1994 my work permit needed renewal which is normally very difficult to obtain. My first application was rejected and the situation looked again very bleak and it looked as though I was about to lose everything again.

One evening a friend came to see me and as we talked about life and various philosophical viewpoints the conversation moved to Jesus. I believed that Jesus was a very special person but I could see the relevance of events that happened two thousand years ago to our lives today. My friend Nigel remarked: “Why do don’t you ask God to show you that Jesus is the truth?” Nigel’s words continued to echo in my mind. I tried to get them out of my head but as I lay in bed that night I said: “O God, I have all these problems with my work permit, please show me that Jesus is the truth and help me to solve this problem.”

Three times is...

The very next morning the office phone rang and I heard the voice of my agent: “Gil I have good news for you. We have just received your work permit for another three years.” I was overcome with joy and shocked from the obvious connection to the request I made the night before. For the first time I saw a definite connection between my plea to God and the answer.

Everything in my life seemed to be fine. I had a good job, plenty of money, a new car and a nice house but I did not feel at peace in my heart and I felt the need to find God. I talked to Nigel and his wife Shlomit, who was Israeli, and they showed me very convincing reasons for believing that Jesus was the Messiah. I suddenly had the strange feeling that maybe this was the truth.

But it couldn’t be that simple, I thought. How could I, as a Jew, believe in Jesus? As if to answer my unspoken questions Shlomit handed me a book called Betrayed by Stan Telchin: “This is a story of an American Jewish family who believe Jesus is the Messiah.” In the past Shlomit had offered me the book but each time I had firmly refused. This time my resistance was weak and I heard myself say, “Yes, I will take it.” (Sources close to Shlomit, who prefer to remain anonymous, told me later that Shlomit danced round the kitchen singing: “He took Betrayed! He took Betrayed!”).

Not so good

A week later I started reading the book and did not put it down until I finished reading the last page. I was fascinated but I was afraid to give myself to Him and simply thought that there was no significance apart from accepting the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. I started to feel very uncomfortable with myself. I had visions from the past of all the things I had gone through and all the dreams I had as a kid of making a difference in the world. I started to realise that I was not such a good person after all and that sometimes I had treated many people badly.

One day I thought: “Maybe I need to get a Bible.” but I immediately pushed the thought out of my mind. “What a strange idea.”

Later that month, a friend called to say that she had met a nice Israeli girl called Sarah, who would like to meet me. She commented that Sarah believed in Jesus. I did not care because “everybody was entitled to their own beliefs”. When I met Sarah she talked most of the evening about Jesus and her faith. It felt like Jesus was chasing me. “Why is this happening to me!” I thought.

Haunted

During the following week I tried to contact Sarah as I wanted to see her again. She did not want to see me because, according to her, I was not a believer. In one of the conversations we had over the phone, Sarah kept mentioning her faith in Jesus. I felt really fed up talking to her and was about to slam the phone down when a sharp thought (almost like someone was speaking to me) came into my mind: “Just listen to her!”

I was startled. It felt like I was frozen and could not put the phone down. It was Friday and I felt very tired after a whole week of hectic conversations and was very depressed as it looked like things were not going very well for me. Again, I felt haunted by many things in my past that seemed to be incomplete, especially by the way I treated people and how sometimes I was not totally honest in my relationships. At the time I did not realise that God was convicting me of my past sins. I also started to think about what would happen to me after death. Most of my beliefs were based on the New Age concepts so I thought that we all probably come back for “another chance” after we die. During that week all these foundations had started to shake and I can remember thinking that maybe death was final. What would happen to me? Would I be with God? I felt no certainty of that and began to realise that I might end up in eternal darkness away from God with all the wrong and incomplete things from my past surrounding me. In terror I thought, “No, this cannot be true”. But I felt a great need for forgiveness.

From Minus to Plus

Around noon that Friday I called Nigel and Shlomit and that I must talk to them. I always felt there was something special about Nigel and Shlomit as they were always welcoming to guests and would see anybody at any time. There was a kind of peace in their behaviour which I recognised. As we discussed God and Jesus, I felt something happening inside and I wanted to go home to be on my own.

At home it felt like my life was crumbling around me. I picked up From Minus to Plus booklet that had been delivered two years earlier. Reading through it I decided to say the prayer at the back of the booklet but nothing “happened” so I decided to go to bed and sleep everything away. While in bed I felt a great need to come to God. I remember the great need for forgiveness I felt at the time and I truly wanted to start anew. I also realised that Jesus had died for me and in my mind I could see Jesus on the cross. I started to plead with God from the heart: “O God please forgive me for all the wrong I have done and the way I have treated people in the past. Please take me, I give myself to you completely”.

Then I asked God to accept my plea “in the name of Jesus”.

The next thing I remember was that I felt a kind of a wave or wind, descending on me and going through me. I felt as though a huge heavy stone had been removed from me, and a peace and love that I had never experienced before surrounded me. It felt the presence of Jesus around me. I knew that Jesus was the Truth and although I had not read the Tanakh for fifteen years and had not read the New Testament at all, at that point I “knew” that the Bible was the Word of God. I could feel His pain suffering for me and I wept quietly thanking Jesus for looking after me all these years, for leading me to Himself and for saving me. Suddenly I wanted to know more about Him and almost instantly as the “answer” came to my mind: “Read the New Covenant (New Testament).”

Amazing Grace

A few minutes later, surrounded by his love and serenity, I fell asleep. After one of the most peaceful nights I can recall, I woke up feeling completely different. It was as though I was not the same person anymore. I had a very strong urge to get a Bible and then my mind moved to various issues and beliefs that I held for years which suddenly looked so wrong. I felt like a new person and my heart was full of love, peace and joy. I knew nothing about the  “New Birth”. All I realised at the time was that Jesus was the Truth and the Bible was the Word of God. The first thing I did that morning was to get a Bible and then go to see Nigel and Shlomit who after hearing the news rejoiced with amazement.

I can only say that coming to know Jesus was the most important event of my life and His joy and peace are with me every day wherever I go. I am grateful to the Lord for all He has done for me and I wish my life will be lived and dedicated only for Him and whatever I do or whatever path I take will only be for His ultimate glory and purpose.

I will always feel touched by words of John Newton, that so much speak to me:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

 

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved.

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed


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