LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) — When Esther and Yaacov Horesh describe their faith in Christ, it's a rich blend of their strong Jewish roots and the influence of Baptist missionaries to Israel.
“Jesus was Jewish and the first believers were Jewish,” Esther noted. “Jesus is my Messiah and this is my life.”
Yaacov, the son of Holocaust survivors, candidly acknowledged, “I hated to be a Jew, but I hated also Christians because they persecuted me.”
But the consistent love of missionaries serving at Israel's Baptist Village ministry complex eventually helped draw him to faith in Christ.
“Hatred and being rejected is a terrible feeling that doesn't fade away just instantly,” Yaacov explained. “It's a process. Hatred can be only healed by love.
“When I came to Baptist Village, I was so overwhelmed with this warmth of being accepted, I didn't know what to do with it. … I had no theological problems with Jesus. I had emotional problems [caused by cultural and political hurdles].”
The Horeshes, both professional musicians, are sharing their faith journey through music and testimony during a six-month visit to the United States. Esther, who sang several years with the New Israeli Opera, performs songs ranging from classical religious pieces and Jewish synagogue music to Israeli folk songs. Yaacov, a composer and music instructor, arranges his wife's music and accompanies her on the piano.
Since many of the Southern Baptist missionaries who influenced their lives have strong Kentucky Baptist ties, Louisville is serving as the couple's home base during their first trip to the States. Norman and Martha Lytle, former missionaries to Israel, are hosting the Horeshes.
“When you've spent half your life overseas and then you leave and come back [to the States], all of these people who have been a part of your life are not with us anymore,” Norman Lytle said. “The thing that hit me is how seldom it is that we're able to introduce people who have had an impact on our lives.”
Noting that “Esther and Yaacov have blessed us richly,” Lytle recalled that during their years in Israel together, “We would go to their house for Hanukkah and Passover and they would come to our home for Christmas and Easter. … This is an opportunity for us to share this friendship with people here.”
The Horeshes are scheduled to visit churches in several states from California to Georgia and Ohio to Texas.
Affirming sharing their music and faith with fellow believers, Yaacov said, “I found many times tears in my eyes as I accompanied [Esther] because it was a witness to me.”
Robert Blackburn, pastor of Beechwood Baptist Church in Louisville, said his congregation enjoyed the opportunity to host the Horeshes for a recent concert. “The people here at Beechwood absolutely loved it,” he said. “It was music our people had never heard before. She sang a lot of Hebrew and Aramaic.”
During their visit, the Horeshes were able to renew friendships with several former missionaries they knew in Israel.
“The reason we are here is because of these missionaries,” Esther emphasized. “I came to know the Lord because of the love of the Lord in these people. You can do anything and everything, but you will not win a Jew to come to know the Lord unless you really have the love of the Lord in you.”
After more than 35 years as a follower of Christ, she added, “This is what I am. This is what I love. I really wish this is what I could do from now on — just to sing and share for the Lord.”