A Special Interview

A global phenomenon: Gentiles are thirsty to learn Judaism

The spitting of Jews in front of pilgrims in the Jewish Quarter brought to the fore the attitude we should have towards Gentiles. Gil Pantzek, director of an Ulpan, tries to lower the deep-rooted fear that the Jewish people have of the nations of the world

(Photo: Yoni Meir, Srugim.)

Gil Pantzek, manager of a Hebrew studio (Ulpan), found himself faced with an enormous thirst of Gentiles who want to learn Judaism. He opened a window for them to the Jewish world without giving up his spiritual world and saw in this, the vision of the fulfillment of the prophets to be a "light to the Gentiles". He claims that today, when we have an independent state, it is time to be a beacon for those who want to learn Judaism, because in the end, both Jews and Gentiles will declare "God is one and his name is one"

So where did it all start?

"15 years ago I opened a studio for learning Hebrew in Jerusalem and later also in Tel Aviv and I was waiting for new immigrants to come to learn Hebrew. I was very surprised that most of the inquiries came from non-Jewish people who wanted to learn Hebrew. I grew up in a national religious world, in national religious institutions, no one ever spoke to me on how to approach the nations of the world and what their attitude towards us is, I had to pave a path I didn't know."

Gil describes the gap between what we learn from the sources and what is happening on the ground "All the prophets who prophesy the return of the people of Israel to their land describe the nations coming and going and even having to come here during the Sukkot holiday and we have to let them in. But where will we put them in? Who will they reach out to if we are distant?"

(Photo: Gil Pantzek)

Who are the people contacting you?

"I started receiving inquiries from people outside the Jewish world and I asked everyone what was your motivation to learn Hebrew? The hesitant answer was repeated in every interview: "I felt an inexplicable inner attraction to the Jewish world, I had a dream, etc.'' This is an amazing phenomenon because these are people from different places, from different continents in the world and at different ages. Today I already know the answer and am no longer surprised to hear it over and over again."

Gil points out that learning Hebrew is part of the prophecy "in the future all nations will have "one language", this will be a spiritual language but also a verbal one since language is a means of entering a spiritual place".

He goes on to describe that "there is an awakening in the world of enormous sympathy for the people of Israel as the people of Israel, not out of interest, not to get something, not to influence here but just to accept. They read the Bible and understand the picture and they want to understand the mitzvot, the customs How does it even feel to be under the burden of a commandment and how can you have a relationship with someone who commands you to love him."

There is a very great fear of teaching Gentiles, the Halacha also gives stipulations and exclusions, how does that work out?

Gil unequivocally states that "the fear is justified, there is a reason for this fear, we carry with us thousands of years of history, the need of the communities to protect themselves and the threats they felt in exile caused them to shut down. Today we are in a different place, we are in a place of an independent state, a place of learning Torah profoundly, when were there so many yeshivas of all sects, Jews thirsty to learn, to understand what they were praying for, a place of very high spiritual power. If we choose to remain in the ghetto as was the case in exile, we will miss the privilege of being a light to the Gentiles."

And he adds that the gentiles have a choice to be between those who oppose the Jewish people and between those who support them and clarifies "because either way you will make us come closer to our Father in heaven".

Tell us about a specific story of a gentile who decided to get to know the Jewish people

Gil tells us about "a woman named Ruth Fazel, 70 years old, who was born in England and made her career in Canada, a world-renowned gifted canary, who received as a gift a book of poems written by Jewish children in the Theresienstadt Ghetto in Terezin at the Czech Republic. Ruth had nothing to do with Israel and therefore for years, the book lay idle in her house. Over time, when her children grew up, the book began to attract her more and more, and she wrote an entire symphony based on the songs of the children from the ghetto with verses from the Bible that prophesy the return of the people of Israel to their land."

Ruth played the symphony around the world in concerts and even volunteered to play before Holocaust survivors. In 2005, Ruth was invited to play at the opening event of the Holocaust and Heroism Memorial in Tel Aviv. Since then she has dedicated her life to bringing together the Gentiles who are interested in getting to know who the people of Israel are.

Gil describes that Ruth would pray: "Give me your heart for your people, I want to feel what you feel." Ruth left her musical career and today she travels around the world teaching about the Jewish people to those who are thirsty to learn. Together with Gil, they conduct tours of the country and pass through the hills of Samaria and Mea Shearim and show them how the Jewish people live on their land.

Contrary to popular opinion, these Gentiles believe that the Jewish people are the chosen people, according to them the Creator does not change his mind and if he chose the people of Israel they will pray for his success. The meetings do not come from a position of debate, the study is only from the Jewish angle, we invite them to get to know Judaism and to proclaim that God is one and His name is one, just like in the Rosh Hashanah prayer "And every soul that breathes in its nostrils shall say: The Lord God of Israel is king and his kingdom is in all its glory"

"Not to abolish the walls, but only to lower them a little in order to have a direct view"

Gil concludes with a conciliatory message ahead of the Jerusalem march: gentiles from all over the nations of the world will march and strengthen the Jewish people "We carry a fear of everything that is foreign and unknown, thousands of years of exile and a difficult history, the time has come to take down the walls, I am not in the message of taking down the walls and we are all the same , absolutely not. There are Jews and there are non-Jews, we have 613 mitzvot and they have 7, and that's how it should be, but let's take down the walls so we can look straight at each other"

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