Chapter 1 – David Yaniv
They Thought For Themselves, Chapter 1
Paralyzed…”Learn to Live with It!”
by David Yaniv
I was born in Tel Aviv in 1936 to parents who immigrated from Germany. My parents kept up tradition, celebrating Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and other holidays, but they were never really religious.
After the Second World War, when my father found out that two of his sisters and one brother and their families had been killed in Nazi Germany, he took every Bible and everything in our home that was even remotely religious and threw it out. “Where was God?” he would ask. “How could God allow such a thing to happen?” From then on, I was raised in an atheistic home. My father even resisted my having a bar mitzvah. Although he finally allowed it, he refused to set foot in the synagogue.
In 1960 I married a South African girl named Sheila, whom I met when she and her mother came to Israel as tourists. At the time, I was a guide and a bus driver. Her mother, who took two tours with me, one day said, “My baby is waiting for me in Haifa. I want you to meet her.” I thought it was funny that this elderly woman would have a baby. But when I reached Haifa and I saw her “baby,” I realized she was a match maker. Sheila and I went to South Africa on our honeymoon to visit her family—and stayed twelve and one-half years.
I’m a refrigeration and air-conditioning engineer by trade. I did quite well in business in South Africa for a time. Then I undertook a project to air condition a large building. The quantity surveyor I hired to estimate the cost of the job made a mistake and I lost all my money.
My lawyer told me it was useless to sue the surveyor because he wasn’t insured. And even though I was bankrupt, I had to finish the job because I had signed a contract.
The Mistake Paralyzed Me for Life
Afterward, I decided to return to Israel. Moving back was very difficult for my wife, but she realized it was best for us and our two sons, who were 11 and 8 years old. At the time, I spoke Hebrew, but my family did not.
We decided to live on a moshav, which is an agricultural commune similar to a kibbutz.
I thought we would stay there for a short time to allow my family to learn Hebrew and then I would find work in my trade. But when the time came and I said, “All right, let’s move to the big town,” they didn’t want to go. They had come to love life on the moshav. Even if they had agreed, however, it would have been difficult to leave. You can’t build up any savings there because you only receive a small monthly allowance to buy food and supplies. But, if we stayed at the moshav, we were set for life.
The first year on the moshav we had to work in different jobs to allow everyone to get to know us and for us to get to know them. Toward the end of that year I was assigned to milk the cows. I enjoyed it because it was something new and because I knew it was just a temporary assignment.
One day in the cow shed I slipped on a wet spot on the floor and fell flat on my back. My back was in so much pain I went to the hospital to have it checked. The hospital technicians didn’t find anything serious on the x-rays. They said, “You just got a good knock there. Go home, rest, take some pain killers and it will be all right within two weeks.”
Instead of getting better, the pain got worse. The second time I went to the hospital, they x-rayed me again, and again sent me home saying there was nothing wrong. I rested for another two weeks and by that time the pain was excruciating. I had never experienced such pain. The pain killers helped initially, but after a while they lost their effect. I kept increasing the dosage until I was taking 50 pills a day for three years.
I reached a point where every morning when I got out of bed my feet would go numb. I knew something was seriously wrong, but I also knew I couldn’t go back to that same hospital again.
Because of the bureaucracy in Israel it took some connections to be allowed to go to another hospital, but through friends who knew somebody who knew somebody, it was arranged for me to visit another hospital in Tel Aviv. The doctors there did a special x-ray called a mylogram.
After the x-ray, the head of the neurosurgical department himself came to me and said, “You’ve got two slipped discs, one of which is completely compressed and the other one is missing a piece.” He was amazed I had waited so long to get help.
When I asked for his prognosis, he replied, “Well, we’ll have to operate.”
“What does that entail?” I asked, cautiously.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” he said. “Ten days and you’re back home as good as new.”
That sounded wonderful to me, so I said, “Let’s do it.”
When I woke up from the anesthetic in the evening after the operation, I had no feeling from my waist down, so I called for a doctor. The doctor on the evening shift said, “I can’t tell you anything. You will have to wait until the morning when all the surgeons come in for the day shift.”
The next morning the doctor who operated on me came to me and said, “David, I’m terribly sorry. I’ve got some bad news for you.”
Bracing myself, I asked, “What do you mean you’ve got bad news for me?”
He said, “I made a mistake and you will be paralyzed for life.”
Apparently, he had cut too deeply with his scalpel and severed the nerves that were essential for me to walk. I had no feeling in one leg and only partial feeling in the other.
At first I was in shock. Then I began to feel sorry for myself. I thought, What am I going to do now? I had pain before, but at least I could walk. If I could only take time back now, I would rather live with the pain. But I couldn’t go back.
A Broken Man
The doctor’s prognosis for the future was summed up in one cold sentence: “Learn to live with it.” It was very difficult. I hated everybody. I blamed everybody. But, worst of all, I absolutely hated myself. I could not accept what had happened.
From the hospital, I was sent to a convalescent home called Beth-Levinshtein, which helps paralyzed people, mainly soldiers who get wounded in the war. They also take some private cases, such as mine. There I started to feel a little better about myself because everyone around me was either worse off than I was or in the same condition. The staff made iron calipers (braces) for me which were attached to special shoes. With the help of crutches and the calipers, I could make my way around without a wheelchair, although it was very difficult.
Three and one-half months later, I returned to the moshav to find my home rearranged. My friends had made a ramp so I could easily get into the house with my wheelchair. They installed handles in the bathroom and other places around the house where I would need them. I was very grateful.
But now that I was surrounded by healthy, active people, I began to realize how much of an invalid I was. I started feeling sorry for myself again, so much so that I needed psychiatric treatment. Never in a million years would I have ever thought I would need a psychiatrist. I had always been such a strong person. Suddenly, I was a broken man.
Before long, the psychiatrist gave up on me because I wouldn’t stop feeling sorry for myself. I was the most unhappy person imaginable. I couldn’t forgive the doctor. I couldn’t forgive anyone.
My condition was also very difficult for my wife, to the point that I was afraid she might leave me. She never did. In fact, she would try to reassure me, telling me not to worry, that she would stay with me through thick and thin. But the more she told me not to worry, the more I worried.
The moshav gave me an easy job in the office where my coworkers were especially kind. But the nicer they were, the worse I felt. I was sure they were giving me special treatment because of my disabilities.
In the midst of my pity parties, I still had hope that I would some day walk again. I read in the newspaper one day about a man who would put his hand on sick people, sending something that felt like an electric current through their bodies, and they would feel better. The moshav offered to pay my expenses, so I went to him. Nothing happened.
Then I heard about a guru. I went to him with the same result. I believed in each one I went to. When you’re as desperate as I was, you try anything. The moshav even paid for transcendental meditation. Nothing worked.
After seven and one-half years of trying everything the world had to offer, I finally gave up. I finally accepted the expert advice of all the specialists, professors, and neurosurgeons who told me: “Learn to live with it. You are going to remain paralyzed for the rest of your life. Don’t even think of getting better.”
My wife had long since given up hope that my condition would ever improve. She would say, “What are you running after? Accept it. This is how you are going to remain. I’ve accepted it. Why can’t you?”
And, at that point, I really did accept it. I still felt sorry for myself, but I accepted it. I realized that nobody could help me. I determined to go on and try to live as normal a life as I possibly could.
Why Don’t You Pray with Me?
One day, I stayed home from work with the flu and was totally bored. At two o’clock that afternoon I decided to watch television. Since Israeli stations only broadcast in the evening, I started watching a program on Lebanese television called, The 700 Club. I was intrigued by the name, thinking it was an entertainment program.
I soon realized that it was a Christian show. But there was nothing else to do and I was curious, so I kept watching. Still, I felt like I was doing something wrong, so I locked the door. I didn’t want my wife and my children to catch me watching Christian television.
The program held my interest because it featured stories about people who were healed from different sicknesses. The first time I watched, there was an interview with a woman who had been healed of cancer. She showed an x-ray of a tumor the size of an orange. Then she showed an x-ray of the same spot taken three days later. The tumor had disappeared.
I was sure it was phony. These people had to be paid actors. Some of the stories even made me laugh out loud at the absurdity of the claims. Yet, I found myself watching every day at two o’clock—behind locked doors.
After a month of this, I decided to tell my wife. I said, “Sheila, I’ve been watching this Christian program about people who get healed by believing in Jesus and by people praying for them.”
I expected her to be annoyed with me. On the contrary, she said, “If it makes you feel better, keep watching.” She even suggested I record it so we could watch it together in the evening.
During every program there was a time when co-host Ben Kinchlow would say, “Pray with me.” Whenever it came to that part, I switched off the television. I didn’t even want to hear people pray to Jesus. I felt it was wrong.
As I was watching alone one afternoon several months later, it seemed that Ben’s finger stretched out from the television pointing straight at me. He said, “You! Why don’t you pray with me?” I could have sworn he was talking directly to me. I got scared. The next thing I knew, I found myself praying the sinner’s prayer with him. Here I was praying with him to this “Jesus,” who to me had never been more than a dirty name. When that prayer was finished, I couldn’t believe what I had done. I thought to myself, What on earth do I do now?
I immediately told Sheila. Again, she responded more positively than I expected. She said, “If it makes you feel good, you just carry on. But do me a favor. Don’t tell anyone about it. Let it be between us for now.”
I was sure that I was the only Jewish person in the whole world who had ever prayed that prayer. I thought to myself, the first thing I have to do is buy a full Bible. So I went to Nazareth and bought a Bible. At the book store, I saw a map of the city on display and, somehow, the name of a Baptist church caught my eye.
As I started reading my Bible, I soon discovered there was more to it than I had ever imagined. I found that the prophecies from the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament. And I started to wonder why Jewish people throughout the centuries had not believed in Jesus.
You Will Be Healed
following Sunday, I went to the Baptist church at eight o’clock in the morning. I was too early—the doors were locked.
All around me I heard the bells of churches ringing and here this church was locked! I was just about to leave when an Arab man walked up and introduced himself as the pastor. He first spoke to me in Arabic and then English, because he didn’t speak Hebrew. When I told him my story, he was amazed. He said, “We’ve tried to get Jewish people to come to the Lord for years and here you’re walking in yourself. This is the first time since I’ve been a pastor that this has happened.”
The pastor invited me to stay for the service. Being Jewish in an Arab congregation, I thought I would feel out of place, but I didn’t. The love I experienced that day was the love of Jesus.
At the end of the service there was an invitation to come forward to receive the Lord as personal savior. After I came forward, I found myself praying the same prayer I had been praying daily for four and one-half months in front of my television. But this time I did it in front of a whole congregation of witnesses.
This was almost too much for my wife. It was one thing to watch a Christian program or pray a prayer in private. It was quite another to make a public profession of faith in Jesus. She was incensed that I would do such a thing without first consulting her.
However, as the weeks went by and she saw that I was steadfast in my decision, she agreed to come with me to a meeting of Jewish believers. Soon afterward, she accepted Jesus too.
About five months after I became a believer in the Messiah, I was again watching The 700 Club when co-host Danuta Soderman had a word of knowledge. She said, “There is someone,” she didn’t specifically say where, “who has been paralyzed halfway down his body for years,” and with me that was the case, seven and one-half years. She said, “He will feel a warm sensation running through his body and he will be healed.”
I said, “Oh, please, God, let it be me.” I believed it was me, but nothing happened. Still I kept praying because I realized immediately if it wasn’t for me, it must have been for someone else.
That same evening around ten o’clock I was lying in bed reading my Bible, when all of a sudden a feeling like an electric current ran from my spine down to my tiptoes, and my feet started jumping 40 inches at a time.
When people are paralyzed, they get unwanted reflex movements and I thought that was what this was. Some of them were more severe than others, but I couldn’t explain the electric shock. Finally, the movements stopped and I went to sleep.
The next morning when I woke up, I started to assist my legs with my hands as I usually did in order to get them out of bed. As I touched my legs, all of a sudden I realized I had feeling in them! I thought, Wait a minute. This is unusual! I started to touch all the places where I had lost feeling years before. There was feeling in them!
I shouted, “Sheila, for God’s sake, come here! I can feel!”
“Rubbish,” she said. “Lie down.” She took a needle and started pricking me. “Close your eyes. Where am I pricking you?” And she continued pricking me in different places on my legs. Each time she pricked my legs I told her the correct spot. Now she began to share my excitement.
Immediately, I went to the dispensary on our moshav to see the doctor. I put the special shoes back on because I still didn’t know exactly what had happened to me and, after seven and one-half years of paralysis, my legs had no muscles in them. When our moshav doctor was shocked too, I realized a true miracle had occurred.
The moshav doctor sent me to a hospital for an electric test of my reflexes. I had had this test done many times before and, of course, it was always negative. This time my reflexes responded to the test perfectly. The doctor who performed the test asked if I could return the following week.
A week later, I met with about 25 doctors, neurosurgeons, and neurologists from all over the country, including the neurosurgeon who had operated on me. They all examined me, but no one could give a logical explanation for what had happened. They said it was not possible. Some of them even thought I was lying by claiming that the older x-rays were mine. Even today, doctors who examine them cannot believe that I am walking.
At the end of the examination they said to me, “This is a medical miracle.”
I said, “Listen. This is not a medical miracle. This is Yeshua (Jesus).”
Someone asked, “Yeshua who?” Yeshua is a very common name in Israel, so he thought perhaps Yeshua was my physiotherapist, or a friend.
“Yeshua the Messiah,” I responded.
That was too much for these Jewish doctors. They didn’t want to hear another word about this “Jesus.” They refused to believe He could have had anything to do with my healing. We know from the Bible that even when people saw Jesus perform miracles right before their eyes, they didn’t believe. Some even accused Him of being demon possessed.
The doctor said to take off the iron calipers, but to keep using the crutches because my legs were just skin and bones. And slowly, slowly, I took my first steps in seven and one-half years. I knelt down on knees that hadn’t felt anything since the accident and thanked the Lord for the miracle He had done.
But He wasn’t finished yet. The doctors had told me that the muscles in my legs were all dead and that they would never grow back. Over time, God recreated those muscles. Today, my feet are just as normal as anyone else’s.
You Have to Leave
When the members of the moshav saw me walking, they didn’t accept that this was the work of Yeshua any more than the doctors did. Instead, they chose to believe the doctors’ conclusion that it was a “medical miracle.”
It was not long before word had spread around the moshav that I was a believer in Yeshua. The leaders of the moshav called me into their office and said, “We’re terribly sorry, but you have to leave. We do not accept Christians on the moshav.” This moshav is associated with B’nai B’rith in New York and they were worried they would lose their funding if they didn’t expel me.
I said, “I call myself a ‘Messianic Jew’ and I will not go quietly. There is a great big Christian world out there just waiting to hear my story.”
Sensing that the publicity generated by expelling me might be worse than if they let me stay, they said I could remain—if I promised I would not evangelize on the moshav.
That arrangement worked fine until May 1988 when I participated in a major Messianic Jewish event in Jerusalem called “Shavuot ’88”—at that time the largest gathering of Jewish believers in Israel in almost two thousand years. It seemed that every Hebrew-speaking newspaper in Jerusalem covered the miracle of my healing.
When I came home from the meetings, the moshav leaders said, “That’s it. You promised us you would not evangelize. Now your picture is splashed all over the newspapers. B’nai B’rith is going to stop the money flowing to us. You have to leave.”
They voted us out at a general meeting and gave us 10 days in which to leave. Nobody from the moshav, where we had lived for 16 years, even came to help us pack our belongings.
If God had not made a way, we would have been out in the street and penniless. But we serve a living God! At the gathering somebody had handed me an envelope. As I ripped it open, I couldn’t believe my eyes! It contained a scholarship and airline tickets to attend Bible school in Dallas, Texas.
My wife and I graduated in May 1989 and followed the Lord’s leading to Seattle, where we live today. I have been healed for well over a decade and my faith grows deeper every day. Soon we will return to Israel and proclaim the good news about the true Messiah who saves and heals!
Commentary by Sid Roth
I read in the Torah that God heals people. But in 30 years of going to a traditional synagogue I never saw anyone get healed. On television I saw “faith healers” and thought they were all counterfeit. But you can’t have a good counterfeit unless there is the real thing.
The Talmud, as well as the New Testament, records healings that occurred when Jewish believers in Jesus prayed to God. The Talmud also warns traditional Jews not to let Messianic Jews (Jewish believers in Jesus) pray for them (Tosefta Chullin, Chapter 2:2223). This is a backhanded compliment! These rabbis recognized that the Jewish followers of Jesus had power to heal in His Name. And once you experience healing in His Name, you might believe in Him.
Isaiah 53:45 tells us the Messiah would bear away all our diseases.
But only our diseases did he bear himself, and our pains carried: while we indeed esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. Yet he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement for our peace was upon him; and through his bruises was healing granted to us.
The early Messianic Jews, even brand new believers, experienced miracles of healing in His Name. And since He doesn’t change, I too have seen many Jewish people healed in Jesus’ Name. My own mother, before becoming a Messianic Jew, was healed in His Name.