If you have ever been a fan of American Idol, you may enjoy this story about a Jewish woman, Birgitta Veksler, who finished eighth in Israel’s version of the program, ‘Kochav Nolad’ (Pop Idol).
Birgitta was born to a Jewish family in Sweden and lived much of her early life in Estonia before her family decided to move to Israel when she was 12.
But before she left, Birgitta had believed in Jesus for her salvation. However, when her family joined Israel’s Jewish community, Birgitta quickly learned that Jesus was an unacceptable, even taboo, topic, and quickly quit talking about her relationship with Christ.
She became famous in Israel at the age of 17, when she finished in the top ten in the country’s equivalent of the American Idol. As her popularity grew, she was drawn into the partying scene of alcohol and boys, which left her feeling empty.
But things would soon change for Birgitta.
Israel has compulsory military service and at the age of 18, young men and women are drafted into Israel’s Defence Force (IDF). The government requires men to serve a minimum of 30 months and women 24 months.
Birgitta’s fame followed her into the army, where she became the lead singer for the military band.
But an incident towards the end of her conscription changed her life.
She was camping with friends in the Jordan Valley when the group decided to go for a night swim, and she stepped on what she thought was a branch.
It turned out to be a snake, and its bite nearly killed Birgitta. In an interview with One for Israel, Birgitta said she was terrified and was convinced she was going to die:
“I couldn’t breathe. I only see black, and I feel that I’m losing control of my body.”
She described the blackness as “the most frightening feeling imaginable.”
She was in a coma for two days and when she awakened hooked up to a ventilator and feeding tubes, she asked her mother for a piece of paper, on which she wrote in Hebrew, “I have sinned.”
After she recovered, Birgitta renewed her faith in Christ and is a popular gospel singer in Israel, ministering with King of King Worship. Now married, she, her husband, and child live as Messianic Jews in Jerusalem.
Protection vs testing?
Birgitta’s story reminds me of a similar incident that happened to the Apostle Paul after a storm sank their ship and he and the crew ended up on the island of Malta.
Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and was bitten by a poisonous snake as he threw the wood on the fire. People expected him to die, but God miraculously intervened (Acts 28:1-10).
But there are Christians who take this story, and a verse in Mark, out of context, that talks about people taking up snakes and not being killed (Mark 16:18).
They actually handle poisonous snakes during church services as a sign of their faith.
I did a story in 2014 on how Pastor Jamie Coots died after being bitten by a snake during one such service. Pastor Coots had gained some notoriety after being featured on National Geographic’s program, Snake Salvation.
While the Bible speaks of saving people from snake bites, this must be taken in the context of other warnings.
During the Lord’s temptation, Satan told Jesus to prove He was the Son of God by throwing Himself off the pinnacle of the temple and quoted two Old Testament verses stating that God would protect Christ (Matthew 4:1-11).
But Jesus balanced this by citing Deuteronomy 6:16, where we are warned not to test God.
The simple difference is that we should not purposefully put ourselves in danger by handling snakes to see if God would protect us, compared to encountering danger while doing other tasks and ministry.