Covering Testimony: Elizabeth Wiser
|Name: Elizabeth Wiser||Age: 26||Location: Beer Sheva, Israel||Started Covering: July 2011|
1) Introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m a second year American medical student studying abroad in Israel. Apparently choosing to study in Israel and not being Jewish is considered an unusual decision by both people back home and here in the land. But my school focuses on global health and gives us opportunities to work with Bedouins, African refugees, and Jewish immigrants from all over the world in addition to a global clerkship: which is perfect for me since I want to do medical missions in the future. Why should I wait another 5 or 10 years to learn how to thrive in a foreign culture where I don’t know the language and don’t have any contacts when I can learn now? If you’re still confused and shocked by my choice, just remember that I’m living in the same city in which Abraham lived. And every time the Bible talks about the south, or the wilderness, or the Negev, I can just look out my window, and I know exactly what it looks and feels like.
2) Where do you attend church? Tell us a little bit about it.
I worship with the only church that has English translation in Beer Sheva. It also has Spanish and Russian translation which makes it a beautiful picture of the gathering of Gentiles and Jews together to worship God in the name of Jesus. The only downside is that my conversations are limited to “how are you?” and “Have a good week!” for the majority of the congregation. The community here is amazing, so many of the Jewish believers have been ex-communicated from their families when they came to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. And baptism means something since orthodox Jews have rioted the congregation when word got out that we were having a baptismal service. (For a Jew to get baptized is to be de-Jewed.) Being a member of the minority religion I’ve learned so much about intentionally living out my faith instead of culture.
3) What led you to start covering?
I grew up in a fundamental Bible church where longer hair was considered a sufficient covering. When I went to college in a different state, I decided to visit my aunt’s church. Now my aunt’s church practiced head covering, so to prepare my heart for an auditorium half filled with hats she told me of a conversation she had once with a friend about head covering. She had asked the friend if the Lord were to show her that the passage was talking about head coverings, would that friend be willing to change. The friend wasn’t willing to change. My aunt pressed on me to have a soft heart toward God and to be willing to change as I learned more about Him and His will. About two years into attending services there during a Wednesday evening prayer meeting in which I was the only female without a heading covering, the pastor took a short rabbit trail to explain that long hair was a woman’s glory and no one should glory in God’s presence. It was the first time I heard a compelling argument that countered my own. However, I wasn’t going to change just because everyone around me did something different. Over the next two years in which I was part of that congregation, I heard one other sermon on the topic during my senior year of college. But I wanted to study out the passage for myself, so after graduation, I used my time between undergrad and graduate school to form an opinion on the passage. The Lord brought me to believe that the passage was talking about a hat or scarf and that the church today should practice it.
4) What was that first Sunday like when you showed up in a covering?
The first Sunday that I wore a head covering to church I was visiting a new church near my grad school. God was gracious enough to provide one other woman who wore a head covering which was exactly the support that I needed. The hardest time I ever had to put a scarf on before worship was when I was visiting home for the weekend and going to the church from my childhood. Thankfully no one said anything, and I was able to join in worship without having to defend my new belief. I praise God for leading me to this position because it has opened doors for me to talk about the beauty of submission to God with my friends.
5) Could you tell us about the practice of head covering in Israel Churches? Is it a majority or minority practice?
In my Israeli congregation, about a third of the married women cover their heads while worshipping. Most of these women are from a Russian or Eastern Orthodox background. The non-Russian women who cover their heads tend to be from a religious Jewish background where custom has married women appear in public with some sort of hat or scarf or wig because of rabbinical teaching on Rebecca’s practice of covering herself before she met Isaac.
Other congregations practice head covering with up to 75-80% of the women covering, but these tend to be more conservative or orthodox congregations. I haven’t met anyone from an Evangelical-Arab background that practices head coverings, but I have limited exposure to that community.
6) What counsel can you give to women that do not cover out of fear?
I’m probably not the most sympathetic person when it comes to fearing others. But I know the value of worship God with a pure and humble heart. It is worth all the scorn of man to have a deeper fellowship with God. But on the practical side, I used to mock hat wearers when I was in high school. So as a former mocker I can say that you’ll get fewer second glances and jeers if you pick a hat or scarf that’s in fashion. It’s not more spiritual to dress from the 80s. The goal is to keep angels and people from being distracted by the beauty of your hair or the oddity of your hat so that they can worship God without disturbance.
7) What would you say is the best and the most difficult aspect about head covering?
The hardest thing here in Israel is getting confused for a married, religious Jewish woman. Jewish women glare at me for carrying a purse on Shabbat. Arab youths taunt me when I walk by. And recently I was told to go die by a secular Jew. And I’m not even suffering for the name of Christ–just a mistaken identity.
But the best part is sitting in church with a clear conscience, living in a way that testifies to an undying affection for the scriptures, and humbling myself before God so that He is able to use me.
8) What kind of covering(s) do you use? Where did you get them?
I just use hats or scarfs that I find in stores like Target, Kohls, and Walmart. If you want to learn some fun ways to tie head scarfs, look up Tichel (Jewish head covering) tying on youtube. However most of the time I wear a newsy cap since it doubles as a visor under the desert sun.