Celebrating Jerusalem’s 50th Year Jubilee
A scene from the film “Dry Bones,” on which I began work in early 1968. Though the film deteriorated before the days of digital, I believe it still packs a powerful message! —SSR
By Shira Sorko-Ram
“You are destined to live in Israel.”
This prophecy was given to me numerous times as a young girl in my early 20’s.
At that time, there were areas of my life not in right standing with God. I had my own plans and goals, and to me, moving to Israel sounded like I was being shipped off to a third-world country like Afghanistan or Siberia.
But on October 15, 1967, 50 years ago, I arrived in Israel for a two-week visit with my parents. Only four months before, the little nation of just over two million Jewish citizens had escaped complete annihilation by the concerted efforts of Syria, Jordan and Egypt along with Iraq, and had achieved a victory that was beyond the imagination of the prime minister, the army chiefs and the whole population of Israel.
The euphoria of the Jewish state was indescribable. To the Orthodox Jews, there was no doubt the Days of Messiah had arrived.
To the secular citizens, an unexplainable miracle had occurred. The Arab armies had been crushed—and surely they had learned their lesson. There would be no more war!
Everyone repeated in joyous rapture, “Jerusalem is once again ours!” It was into these stratospheric heights that my parents and I landed in Israel. And I stayed.
Two scenes I can never forget: When the next Independence Day rolled around in 1968, it was the first one where Israelis could celebrate in the ancient city of Jerusalem. I was standing on an incline looking down at tens of thousands of Israelis surrounding the area of Jaffa Gate (before it was landscaped). Spontaneously, with no microphones or musical instruments, the people began to sing “Jerusalem of Gold,” the song that had been composed only shortly before war, and became the song of the Six Day War.
Later that night, the streets of modern Jerusalem were filled with musicians on balconies with their accordions and clarinets, while soldiers stood their rifles up teepee-style in the middle of circles they formed up and down the streets, while dancing the Hora through the night.
THE EARLIEST MESSIANIC PIONEERS
Quickly I discovered there was only a tiny remnant of Jewish believers in the entire land. For all practical purposes, they didn’t exist. Yes, there was a family here and an individual there. Victor Smadja and his family, immigrants from Tunisia, had established a Messianic Assembly in Jerusalem; and the Heimoff family (now Bar David) that emigrated from Bulgaria, had a small group meeting in a Tel Aviv suburb. Ostrovsky hosted a Bible study in Jaffa. That was about it.
I thought to myself, “How in the world will the Israeli people, with only a tiny handful of believers in the land, ever have the opportunity to hear a clear explanation of salvation, according to the Bible?”
Even though I had no prior plans to remain in Israel, after consulting with my father, I decided to produce a 28-minute documentary on the establishment of the new state of Israel and the recent return of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, exactly as it had been foretold by the prophets.
I felt it was critical for Christians to understand that important portions of Biblical prophecy were unfolding “right now” and Israel needed the prayers of intercessors worldwide. I also began to study the Hebrew language.
CREATING THE “DRY BONES” SCRIPT
Together with my language studies, I spent almost three years working on this film which I called “Dry Bones.” I struggled for months over the script, and then one day I thought to myself, “Why should I try to describe current fulfillment of prophecy? I have the best scriptwriters in the world—Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zachariah, to name a few!” And so I spent many months poring over the books of the entire Old Testament.
Each time I read a verse that foretold the suffering or described the glory of the coming Messiah, or talked about the return of the Jewish people to Israel, or Jerusalem’s restoration, I wrote the Scriptures on a card. In those days there were no computers!
When I was finished, I had a stack of cards four inches tall. Out of those Scriptures I created a script and contracted an Israeli company to produce the film which I directed.
ASSEMBLING THE ARTISTS
During the filming, I had many opportunities to witness to my cinematographer, Adam Greenberg, who went on to be a much sought-after director of photography in Hollywood, filming movies such as “Terminator 2” with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Adam taught me so much with his flowing lyrical camera work!
The only obstacle—and it was a big one—was that Israel was such a young country there was not even a single film lab in the country to develop film. We had to send the film to France, and they ruined a great deal of the original film. We had to re-film a number of sections, much to our dismay. (These were the days before video!) Nevertheless, we persevered.
I had the greatest of privileges to meet two of modern Israel’s founders—giants in Israel’s history: First prime minister David Ben Gurion in 1965 and prime minister Golda Meir in 1971. PM Ben Gurion asked me, “WHEN ARE YOU MOVING TO ISRAEL?”
I met one of Israel’s finest composers and conductors, Noam Sheriff. Having run out of funds to enlist such a world-renowned musician, I asked him if he would compose the music for free. He agreed! I only had to pay for the recording sessions.
I searched for a very expressive voice with an Israeli accent to read the script. I was introduced to Yossi Yadin, a famous actor in Israel, and brother of the celebrated archeologist, Yigael Yadin, who excavated Masada and Megiddo, and who later became Deputy Prime Minister.
Yossi agreed to narrate the film. In order to physically make the script, I simply took a Bible and cut out the Scriptures, one by one, and pasted them on paper. At first Yossi was taken aback, asking if I wasn’t desecrating the Bible by cutting it up. I told him that desecrating the Bible was done by those who did not keep the commandments written in it. He was satisfied with the answer and we recorded the narration.
GOLDA MEIR ASKED TO SEE “DRY BONES”
Yossi talked to Golda Meir, then Prime Minister of Israel, about “Dry Bones.” She told him she wanted to see the film herself. Knowing how busy she was, I wrote her, offering to bring the film to her home. She invited me to show her the film on August 10, 1971.
With great anticipation, this opportunity brought me to much prayer! As a girlfriend and I prayed, I seemed to see Golda Meir on her bed at night, looking up and asking, “Is there really a God?” I also felt there was going to be some type of spiritual opposition to this invitation, and I and my friend began to pray with deep intercession that the Lord would allow me to show her this film without interruption.
The day came for me to take the film to her house and I entered with a large bouquet of flowers. I remember the security people looking carefully through it to make sure there was no bomb planted among the stems. Several aides and family members were also there.
After small talk, the film began. Its theme portrayed Israel in the late sixties as a nation raised out of the ashes just as the prophets had prophesied would come to pass in the latter days. There was also a section where the narrator read Isaiah 53 about the suffering Messiah who would die for the sins of His people.
The images portrayed a Messiah-like figure falling among his sheep in a black and white, heavily overexposed film, giving it a mystical appearance. That scene was interwoven with a sheep being slaughtered on an altar. It ended with the prophets’ call to repentance, and God’s promise in Ezekiel to redeem his sheep from the wolves among the nations.
When the film was finished there was silence. Then Golda asked, “What part of the film was Old Testament and what part was New?” I answered, “The entire narration was only Old Testament.” She sat thoughtfully, and then said, “But why the blood? What significance does it have?”
Of course, that opened up the theme of the priestly office of the Levitical tribe which was commanded to shed the blood of animals in order to pay the price for the sins of the Israelites. I stressed that only after the shedding of blood, could the Cohanim (priests) enter into the presence of God to make supplication for the people.
“That,” I explained, “is why Yeshua had to die and offer his life so we might live. He is the Lamb of God. He is the way to permanent forgiveness of sin for the Jewish people—and, in fact, all who want it. He is the gateway to the presence of the God of Israel.”
“Golda again brought up the scene of Isaiah 53, and said softly, “That was Jesus.” I was amazed at how open her heart seemed to be as she spoke.
Suddenly, another person in the room shouted out rather angrily, “This is idol worship (avodah zarah)! This is against Judaism!”
That ended our conversation. But I had spent almost an hour speaking about the way to salvation with Prime Minister Golda Meir. I felt certain that through our prayers (and others who had been praying for us) the Lord held back the comments of the angry man until the prime minister had had an opportunity to hear the Good News through the prophets’ own words.
I left her residence at midnight, after having spent two hours with her; I felt God had desired that she have opportunity to ask questions of her heart.
The next day I received a phone call from the same aide who had burst out with his comments of idol worship. He told me the prime minister had enjoyed very much the film and the evening. In fact, he told me everyone there had found the evening very interesting.
I heard, after she died in 1983, that she had requested to have a believing doctor care for her in the hospital in her last days. He later wrote me that as a Christian he had the privilege of giving her care, but had not spoken to her about faith. I do know she asked serious questions that night and listened carefully to the Good News of Israel’s ancient prophets.
One day the Good News will permeate this land in such clarity and power that all Israel will be saved. We believers in Israel today are pioneers, knowing that eventful day is coming! And oh, how we long to see it!