From the outside, HaOgen Cafe looks a lot like the many other espresso spots that line the streets of Tel Aviv.

Located just north of the central Dizengoff Square, it has floor-to-ceiling windows and a colorful chalkboard sidewalk easel that, on a recent weekday, advertised breakfast sandwiches and an upcoming acoustic concert. Inside, a crowd of 20- and 30-somethings sit at tables, typing away at laptops. It’s decorated with string lights and floor plants, with upbeat quotes and doodles scribbled in marker on the opaque windows in the back.

But HaOgen also offers something its neighborhood competitors do not — the gospel of Jesus Christ.
According to the website of Dugit, a Messianic Jewish organization based in Tel Aviv whose name means “small boat,” HaOgen is an “outreach coffee shop” that’s “staffed with evangelists ready to share the good news with every guest that comes in.

“Thanks to this trendy location the ministry gained access to a whole new group of people in their city who are in great need of a Savior,” reads a 2019 blog post on the website of the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries, a Messianic organization that describes HaOgen as a member of the fellowship.

The coffee shop’s deep ties to Dugit and Messianic Judaism, a movement that believes in the divinity of Jesus while claiming to practice Judaism, are not immediately detectable to patrons. A bookshelf at the back of the cafe is stocked with Hebrew copies of the New Testament and stacks of pamphlets about “the Messiah,” and the cafe’s logo is an anchor, a historical symbol of Christianity.

Yet no signage inside or outside indicates any ties between HaOgen and any organization or religious movement. Nor does the cafe’s website mention its affiliation with Dugit or any religious mission.

“I didn’t know it was owned by missionaries,” said Jessica Arnovitz, a Jewish American immigrant to Israel who lives near the cafe. “I’ve been before, and it’s a nice place.”

Messianic Judaism, some of whose followers were known in the past as “Jews for Jesus,” appears to be growing in Israel. Messianic Jews refer to Jesus as “Yeshua” and use Christian holy books, such as the New Testament, that have been translated to Hebrew. Messianic Jewish groups often have ties to explicitly Christian organizations, and none of the mainstream Jewish movements consider them Jewish.

As with many mainstream Christian denominations, missionary work is part of Messianic practice. READ MORE

At this Tel Aviv cafe, baristas will serve you espresso — and let you know about Jesus.

Josh Toupos

This post was originally published on this site