“He said to me, “What do you see?” And I answered, “I see a menorah all of gold, with a bowl above it. The lamps on it are seven in number, and the lamps above it have seven pipes;” Zechariah 4:2 (The Israel Bible™)
A small group of Christians’ remarkable act of faith has ambitious aspirations: to fix the theft of the golden menorah from the Temple by Titus in 70 CE. In addition, they are seeking to return some of the Divine love that has sustained Germany despite the horrific crimes perpetrated on the Jews in the Holocaust.
This ambition is embodied in a 265-pound gold menorah set to land in Israel in time for the country’s 71st Independence Day and encapsulated by the story of the men behind the project.
Alexander Dietz is a German Christian who has been volunteering in Israel for over three years. Dietz was raised in a secular home with no religious affiliations. He became deeply troubled as a young man and was living a lifestyle that was unhealthy for him physically and spiritually. The situation became dire and he had what he called a “spiritual crisis.” His search led him first to Zen Buddhism and to relocate to Dresden. He came under the care of a physiotherapist, a 55-year-old woman he described as “mommy.”
“She made soup for me and listened to my stories,” Dietz told Breaking Israel News. “One time, she said, ‘God can heal you.’’ I didn’t believe her but she was so nice that when she invited me to a church, I went with her. It was very strange but I went again and even again. I stayed friends with her. I helped her around the house and she continued to make really yummy soup. One night, I was having a real crisis and she and a friend prayed for me. I can’t explain it but I felt the heavens open. Something fell away from my heart and I realized that God was a true healer.”
He fixed me but I realized right away that it meant that my journey was just starting. I left everything at the age of 28. All I had was a room and a Bible but I was the happiest I had ever been.
Dietz is a devout Christian and has a strong belief in Jesus but, through his Bible study, he realized that this necessarily connected him to the Jews.
“It hit me that here I was, reading the Torah of the Jewish People. I was reading about the Jewish fathers and mothers, Israel, and Jerusalem. I realized the Moshiach is the Moshiach for everyone. The Jewish people are waiting for the Moshiach so there must be something for me to find there. Of course, there is a lot of talk about whether he already came but we are all still waiting for Moshiach. Whether it is the first time or the second time, this idea of Moshiach should be what brings Christians and Jews together. We need to join forces to prepare for Moshiach. We each have a different part in God’s redemption plan for the whole world but we have to remember that but God is One.”
This renewed journey led Dietz to his soulmate and their honeymoon in the Holy Land. His return to the Church led him to discover the damage replacement theology had wreaked on Christianity.
“Replacement theology is the basis of antisemitism and is bad for the Jews,” Dietz said. “But it is much worse for the Christians. It affected our faith in Jesus. Demonic influences entered the Church. I always ask Hashem why he allowed this.”
Dietz prayed for and received an answer. He noted that the changes he had witnessed in recent years, the growing connection between faith-based Zionism among Christians and Jews showed him that we are at a pivotal point in history when a great change is developing for both religions.
“It wasn’t yet time to remove replacement theology from the world,” he said. “Now is the time for Christianity to move away from replacement theology and to move back to connecting with Israel.”
Dietz joined with 11 friends in a group called ‘Reforma-Tzion’. The name is a play on words based on the Protestant Reformation, which was begun by Martin Luther in 1516, exactly 500 years prior to the formation of their group.
“We needed a new reformation, one that was based on Zion,” Dietz said. “Martin Luther had some of the Holy Spirit, a real encounter with God. But at the end of his life, he became antisemitic because the Jews refused to accept Jesus. Hitler based his antisemitism on Martin Luther. We needed to fix that. Christians don’t need to reform Israel. We need to fix ourselves, to bring into Christianity a revelation of Israel, where the Bible started.”
While volunteering, Dietz discovered that there were approximately 150,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel. Dietz also discovered that he had a personal connection to the Holocaust.
“My grandfather was very old,” Dietz said. “We knew that like all Germans his age he had fought in the war. But he never spoke about it. When he was sick and it was clear that he was going to be leaving the world, he suddenly pulled out a box full of medals including some Nazi medals. It was a major thing in his life but he refused to speak about it. But for us, the Holocaust suddenly became very personal.”
A Jewish-Israeli friend help Dietz put this into a different perspective.
“The worst enemies of Israel have the greatest opportunity now to be Israel’s closest friends,” Dietz said. “In Christianity, we call it ‘Grace’ but in Hebrew, you call it Chesed. Chesed is why I even exist. Clearly, the only reason Germany still exists in God’s world is because of Chesed.”
“If you are the recipient of such love, you have to return it,” Dietz said. “And the only way to do that toward God is to pass it along to your fellow man.”
Studies have shown that Holocaust survivors suffer from a prevalence of social, economic, and health problems and Dietz decided to become an active part of helping with these difficulties. He engages in a wide range of volunteer activities but much of his focus is on activities that bring joy to Holocaust survivors through the Yad L’Ezra organization.
Dietz and his wife also connect with German Christian groups who come to Israel.
“I tell them, ‘Shut up and shine’,” Dietz said. “This isn’t about theology. We need to serve and let God’s light give the message.”
Dietz noted that the number of Holocaust survivors is dropping each year as their generation fades away, but the lesson is becoming more important. He pointed to disturbing political developments in Europe and America, in which hate, extremism, and rejection of God seem to be getting stronger.
“The only way not to be deceived again, the only way to recognize an evil ruler like Haman or Hitler, is by relying on what the Bible calls the ‘pupil of God’s eye.’”
Dietz was, of course, referring Israel as is referred to throughout the Bible, most notably in the Book of Zechariah.
For thus said the lord of Hosts—He who sent me after glory—concerning the nations that have taken you as spoil: “Whoever touches you touches the pupil of his own eye. Zechariah 2:12
He explained his interpretation of the phrase, noting that history requires a greater-than-human perspective spanning many generations.
“The only way for the nations not to be deceived by bad rulership, to see current events from God’s perspective, is to connect to God through the people who are connected to Hashem, through His values and His truth.”
Dietz noted that any nation that has treated Israel and the Jews badly, including Germany, has suffered in return.
“Even today, Germany has confused who is the enemy,” Dietz said. “Germany is turning their back on Israel yet again.”
“Israel is, like other nations, full of good and bad,” Dietz explained. “But siding with Israel is not a matter of judging. We aren’t glorifying Israel for its own sake. Our Bible identifies God as the God of Israel. It is the identity of Hashem as Christians see him in the Bible. Christians and Jews, we need each other.”
Dietz is now involved in a most remarkable project. While in Israel, he encountered Bart Repko, a Dutch Christian who had taken it upon himself to enact the prophecy of praying for the peace of Jerusalem by praying at the Kotel (Western Wall) every day. As a student of history, Repko was aware of the many injustices perpetrated against the Jews in the name of religion.
“He longed to fix the injustices by praying but also through acts,” Dietz said. “He had a revelation that we needed to fix the theft of the Menorah, God’s light, by Titus.”
Repko has since passed away but the small Reforma-Tzion group has made his ambitions a reality. The Menorah Project required €120,000 in private donations and 18 months to create but they succeeded: a 265-pound gold-plated duplicate of the menorah depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome is now on its way to Israel. Like the menorah of Titus, the replica was made with several of the branches broken.
“We want the menorah to stand as a reminder to Christians that we broke something,” Dietz said. “This can be a sign of our repentance. The Jews have returned but the Christians need to fix what we broke, to return what we stole.”
“We saw that the stealing of the menorah in 70 CE was not just stealing of gold,” Dietz said. “After stealing the menorah, Rome declared themselves as the city of God, the true Israel. God never left Israel but we need to return what was stolen. Everything needs to return to the source, where it began.”
The menorah is being returned along the same route that it was stolen away. Last Wednesday, the menorah from Germany stood in front of the Arch of Titus. It is currently on its way from Greece to Haifa where it will be received in a joyous ceremony. On Tuesday, it will be received in Jerusalem in time for Israel’s Independence day which begins on Wednesday evening.