Igor Barbanel

I grew up in a family of Jewish atheists. My father and older brother graduated from the Higher Military Academy and were military officers. My mother had a higher technical and musical education. She played piano and accordion. Although we did not believe in God, my parents celebrated such Jewish holidays like Passover and Yom Kippur. For Passover we did not eat the products with leaven and bread for the whole week. Instead of bread we ate matzos. Before the day of Yom Kippur my parents would reconcile with their relatives and friends and clean the flat. My mom told me that Yom Kippur was the Judgment Day but I did not understand the meaning of these holidays then.

From early childhood I wanted to know two things: 1) Why do people treat Jewish people differently from Russians and Ukrainians, why nobody loves them and why are they scattered around the world? 2) Why does man die? Does everything end with the coming of death? I asked my parents about it but they said, “This is our Jewish luck, son”. It was not a satisfying answer. I realized that a Creator made me and gave me my mind. The Creator was some place far away from me and had nothing to do with me, as I thought then. On the other hand, I understood that there must be some meaning in this life. Is a man born only to make the first step towards death? A person goes to school, gets education and profession, gets married and buys things, gives birth to children and then dies. This is absurd; it makes no sense. I found no answers to my questions.

My life went on. I served in the army. There I met believers for the first time. They were Baptists and did not want to take guns into their hands for the ceremony of swearing allegiance. The army command threatened to send them to the military tribunal but these guys were strong in their convictions. I remember thinking then: what a strong faith they have! It was a good example for me but I did not understand that it was also an answer to my question of the meaning of life. So we just continued to serve together with them and some time later I was transferred to a different unit.

After the army I began to read various spiritual literature, including Mark Klizevsky and Rerich. I had no doubts that the higher mind exists but how could I find it? Again I found no answers to my questions. I had irritation, anxiety and offence against the whole world in my heart. I had a wife, a flat, word, and friends. My life and I received spiritual food by going to the theaters, concerts, films, etc. But I still had no internal moral satisfaction. Emptiness remained in my heart and I could not fill it.

In 1990, the new American film “Jesus” was first shown in our city. It told the Gospel of Luke. My wife Galya and I went to see this film. I liked it very much. I believed that Jesus was a real historical Figure. Jesus possessed some supernatural abilities, like an extrasensory individual. The actor who played Jesus Christ did a very good job. Later, I learned that he comes from a family of believers and that after playing in this film he quit cinematograph. I knew that Jesus was Jewish and that He came to help people and establish peace on the earth. Maybe we Jews are disliked because we crucified Jesus? Maybe that’s why we suffer so much, I thought. The filmed moved me to learn more about the personality of Jesus Christ. So my house was filled with Christian literature, including the trilogy of the Jewish Christian Orthodox priest Alexander Men “Light Shines in the Darkness”, “Good News”, and “The Son of Man”. After reading these books, especially “The Son of Man”, I realized that Jesus Christ was not extrasensory but sent by God to this earth to die for the sins of all people and rise again from the dead. With my mind, I understood that Jesus was the answer to all of my questions, but my heart was silent. God was already knocking at my heart but I was still not prepared to receive Him.

Some time later I found literature from the Jews for Jesus mission in my mailbox. I was surprised. I never gave my address to unknown people in the street nor took free advertisement leaflets from distributors. But it was nice to receive literature from “my own”. To be honest, I still don’t know how the literature from Jews for Jesus found its way to my mailbox. It was obviously God’s plan for my salvation. I read the book of Jewish author Stan Telchin “Betrayed”. It says about how Stan’s daughter came to believe in Y’shua as the promised Messiah of Israel. Her father was so surprised with this betrayal of his daughter that he decided to prove to her that Y’shua was not the Messiah. In order to do so, he began reading the Bible. He read it day and night. Finally he realized it was all true and repented of his sins, receiving Y’shua as his Messiah and Savior. I liked the book immensely. It was written by a Jewish man and I have never considered myself a saint. I knew I had sins, bad habits, vices, and defects.

We got invitations to the Jewish holidays and Shabbats. It was every interesting but I always found an excuse not to go there. Some time later two young guys in white shirts approached me in the street. They had badges with their names. They called themselves “Mormons” and asked me what I thought about Jesus. I said I had read some Christian literature about Jesus. They suggested that I also read the Book of Mormon, but for that I had to meet with them. I did not give them my address, just my phone number. They called me and we met at our house. One of them was called Elder Gabriel. I remember very well how Gabriel explained God’s plan of salvation to me. He drew two rocks with a gap between them and wrote – “sin”. A man stood on one rock and God stood on another. There was no bridge, and sin hindered the man’s passing to God. Then he drew a bridge and wrote “Jesus Christ”. He said the only way to God was through Jesus. They left the Book of Mormon for us to read. At that time I did not read the Bible yet, we did not even have it at home. Galya and I did not want to buy a Bible. We thought it was bad to pay money for such a book. If God wants, He will give us the Bible, we thought. We covered six studies with the Mormons and they invited us to their church to be baptized. My wife and I said we don’t want to go to their church and stopped meeting with them at all.

Here’s when I remembered Jews for Jesus. Why should my wife and I go to the Mormons if we can go to our own – the Jews”, I thought. We had been receiving literature and invitations from Jews for Jesus for three years then. We decided to attend their Shabbat, but we always had reasons preventing us: too cold weather, too late work, too serious disease of our kids. Later, we understood that it was our adversary, Satan, who did not want us to come to God. Finally, we went to Shabbat but the doors were closed. We asked the janitor but she did not know anything. Then suddenly an elderly woman appeared in front of us. “Are you looking for Jews for Jesus?” she asked. “Their Shabbat has been moved to 11:00 on Saturday”. The woman disappeared immediately. I thought it was God sending us an angel in the form of this woman. So next Saturday we went to Shabbat again. It was Christmas time. The preacher read a passage from the Bible that remained in my heart, Luke 2:9-12. He said that Jesus was the Kind and Savior for whom there was no place in the inn. He had to be born in a barn where animals are kept. A barn is a dirty place, but my thoughts and my heart can be even dirtier, I thought. Mud and uncleanness are inside me and I could not get rid of it. Only Jesus could cleanse me from my sins and sanctify me with His true Light. At that moment I realized that Jesus died for my sins personally at the Calvary cross and rose again for my justification. I understood it not only with my mind, but with all my heart. I repented of my sins and received Y’shua in my heart as the promised Messiah of Israel.

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After the service a Jewish woman by the name of Liza came to talk to us. She gave us two Bibles: one for me and one for my wife. Our desire came true, we got the Bible through this Jewish believer. Liza told us to read first Deuteronomy 28. After reading this chapter I understood why Jewish people are scattered and why we suffer – because we disobeyed God and instead of God’s blessing we got His curse. It was one reason. Another reason was that many Jewish people have not received Jesus as their Messiah yet. If we all do not received our Messiah Jesus Christ, or Y’shua haMashiach, we will always lack something even when other people treat us nicely. I also understood what God chose my Jewish nation for.

Now I carry this B’Sorah Tova, this Good News, to my Jewish people, telling them that Y’shua haMashiach died for the sins of all people and rose again from the dead. I received forgiveness of sins, found the meaning of life, hope, real joy, internal moral satisfaction, and the best gifts of all – eternal life with my God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Now I know that my life will not end with my death, but I will go to my Messiah.

May God bless each person who reads this testimony. You can also turn to the living God, receive Jesus Christ in your heart and learn about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.