Monthly Archives: October 2006

Final post

A beautiful last day in Israel. Warm sun and cold breeze.

Walked the three blocks up the street to the Haas Promenade to get a final look at the city and say “goodbye”. Then I bought my final Israeli chocolate ice cream bar and ate a lunch of one last humus sandwich (all the yummy things that I can’t find in Tennessee).

Spent most of the day hanging around and relaxing. Scott was off helping someone fix her broken shutters, so Theresa and I watched the movie, Princess Diary. I had never seen it and enjoyed it a lot. A good laugh (and a little tear, too).

When Yossi drove me to Jerusalem Thursday night, we spent over two hours talking about the difference between Judaism and Christianity. Yossi brought up the subject and had a lot of questions. I told him it meant a lot to me that he should want to know these things. In my opinion, friendship is based on three things: trust, a real desire to know the other person at their deepest level and, of course, a natural desire to spend time together. Although I have spent years trying to get to know Yossi and Danny by asking them a thousand questions, neither of them has ever asked about my relationship with the Lord, which is my most basic “driver”. So, the questions Yossi was asking me allowed me to share what I believed and why, and why those things mattered. I have no desire to evangelize Yossi at all. But, we did talk about some really deep issues and his questions were very probing.

Scott returned and he and Theresa and I took one last drive east from Jerusalem to Jericho, which is the world’s oldest continually inhabited town and is also located in the lowest place on earth. It was after dark, or I would have taken some pictures. It was pretty at night. Then we stopped at a little roadside cafe for a final dinner.

Right now it’s 9:30PM and my plane leaves at 4:30 tomorrow morning. I have to be at the airport at midnight due to the security in this country. By this time tomorrow night, I’ll be back in Tennessee after a very interesting 3 months. Someday I may be able to digest all that I’ve learned.

Thanks to all of you who have shown an interest in my continuing to write. You can probably tell that I’ve enjoyed doing it. I hope it’s been worthwhile from time to time. I look forward to seeing some of you very soon.

In Him,

Chris

Final week & a little traveling

This has been my final week in the land. Danny and Yossi prevailed upon me to join a tour they were leading as a sort of “thank you” for my work with them. The group was made up mostly of women as well as two husbands and six children. As they traveled around the country they gave Hebrew dance performances in the various communities they visited.

So, Monday morning I took the bus downtown and met with the group who had been staying in a hotel in downtown Jerusalem. We boarded a tour bus and headed west toward the coast.

Our first stop was a winery where we were given a tour and then a taste of the produce. From there we drove along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Caesarea, the amazing city built by King Herod in honor of his Roman patron, Caesar Augustus. Herod’s theater was the site of lots of plays and gladitorial games and the ladies decided they would dance on the stage with their banners. This place is huge. In the center of the seating you can see a place marked off by some railing (right behind where our people are sitting). This is where Festus, King Agrippa and his wife, Bernice, sat and listened to the apostle Paul defend himself against Jews from Jerusalem who were wanting the King to put Paul to death. You can read about this in the book of Acts, chapters 23-26. 

This is the aqueduct King Herod had built on the shore to bring water 12 miles from the mountains to his new city.

We left Caesarea and drove up to the top of Mount Carmel, where the prophet, Elijah had his face-off with King Ahab and the prophets of Baal. From the mountaintop you look down on the peaceful Valley of Armageddon.

We then went to Mount Tabor, where Deborah, the Judge, fought and defeated  Sisera (see the Book of Judges). The view from the top of this mountain was beautiful. This is also considered by some to be the Mount of Transfiguration where Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah.

After this, we visited a military base and saw some of the tanks used in the recent war with Lebanon. At first, we were told we could take pictures as long as we didn’t publish them; but, then they relented and said it was OK. We talked with the 29 year old Major who had the responsibility of protecting Israeli’s northern border which was only a couple of miles away.

Then it was on to Caesarea Phillipi and the waterfall there. We all commented on how much this area looked like the mountains of eastern Tennessee.

I had to take a picture of this bush. When Yossi and I walked past it, he said, “Did you know this is the same kind of bush that God caused to grow up over Jonah when Jonah got so mad at God? Yes, read about it in the last chapter of the Book of Jonah. And here is the same kind of bush.”

Finally, we drove to the east coast of the Sea of Galilee just as they sun was setting over the Sea behind the western mountains.

We left the rest of the group here to take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Yossi had to attend a wedding in Jerusalem, so he took me back to the apartment. On the way we spent a couple of hours discussing the difference between Christianity and Orthodox Judaism. We hugged each other “goodbye until next year”.

One last article

Some of you might be interested in a conversation I had with Yossi recently. Yossi and I had been standing on his balcony overlooking a beautiful valley beneath Ma’ale Levona. Here is a picture of Yossi standing on his balcony. Notice the nicely cultivated valley below.

Yossi told me that when Ma’ale Levona was recognized by the government as a viable settlement, a lot of surrounding land was given to the settlers and this included the valley where they could grow their crops. Soon people began to move into the settlement and eveyone was busy trying to get their houses built while still working their day jobs. No one paid much attention to the valley below.

From time to time an Arab family would build a home near the valley, but no one really took notice of it. Then, without warning, Arabs began to cultivate the valley. At that very minute, the valley became Arab property. The Israeli law of possession says that he who is first to plant (crops or a dwelling) owns the land. That is how Ma’ale Levona lost their beautiful valley.

I already knew that Israel has no constitution and have tried to imagine any country, especially the U.S., not having a constitution. The Federal Government and the Supreme Court would then be free to make decisions based on their own, personal beliefs or political leanings since they don’t have to worry about violating any national document. Of course, the Bible is that document for the religious Jew, but these are only a minority in Israel.

So I asked Yossi what it would take for the government of Israel to draw a “line in the sand” and say to the Palestinians, “You have gone too far. What you are doing now is something we can’t allow.”

This question was prompted by something I have been thinking concerning the Temple Mount, Judiasm’s most holy site. I couldn’t understand how the government would allow Arabs to desecrate the Temple Mount by using bulldozers and backhoes to clear out hundreds of truckloads of ancient dirt from underneath the Mount so they could build a mosque. Then to take all this precious dirt and throw it into their landfill.

Whenever I ask Yossi a question like this, he always looks pained. And he usually begins all his answers with the phrase, “You’ve got to understand…”

This time was no different.

“You’ve got to understand,” he began.

“For 2,000 years, Jews have been praying the same prayer which has never been answered. Suddenly the answer comes from out of nowhere. What do they do? Nothing. They don’t respond.

“At the end of the First World War Palestine became open to anyone who wanted to come here. In fact, the newly created country of Jordan had a king who actually begged Jews to come to Palestine. Why? because this whole area was nothing more than desert and empty space. The king of Jordan knew that if he could entice the Jews to return, the economy of the whole area would increase rapidly.

“But the Jews didn’t want to come. They were no longer required to live in the walled-in “Jewish Only” ghettos in every European town. They were now accepted in society. They were the bankers and merchants. Life was good. Why would they want to come and live in such a hard place?

“So God raised up a group of radical, energetic, young, non-religious dreamers who decided they would come to the Land.”

At this point, I interrupted Yossi to ask something about his last point which I have never understood: “Why would God allow a group of athiestic, communists and socialists to settle Israel instead of the religious Jews?”

Yossi responded, “Now that’s a really important question. But, if you think about it, you can guess the answer yourself. If you are prosperous, and well established, and accepted in a society which had rejected you for generations, would you give that up to come here?

“There is a joke that says a man from the government of Israel traveled to America to find out why more Jews weren’t coming to Israel. After several months another man went to America to find out what had happened to the first guy. When the second man found the first one, he asked him,

‘Are you coming back to Israel?’

‘Of course,’ he answered.

‘OK. when?’

‘When my son graduates from college.’

‘How long will that be?’

Oh, he was just born…’

“If it had been left up to religious Jews, we would still be living in Europe, or in Ghana, where our religious leaders wanted to establish the Homeland in the first place.

“It doesn’t bother God to use whatever raw materials are available when He is ready to answer prayers. It just so happens that the only people available were mostly non-religious people.

“Do you know who are the greatest anti-semitic people today? Jews living in Israel who don’t want Israel to be Jewish.

“But, God gets whatever He wants even if others don’t want it. Take, for instance, the Six Day War. At the end of that war, Israel had in her hands all the land that contained virtually every one of its ancient religious sites. What to do with them? The government didn’t want religious sites, but we couldn’t find anyone to give all this land back to!

“Suddenly the Temple Mount was in our hands. So, the day after Jersulam had been taken from the Jordanians, Moshe Dyan, who was the Minister of Defense (and had also been one of Israel’s most famous generals) handed the keys to the Temple Mount back to the Arabs and told them, ‘Here, you take this back and we will not come here without your permission.’ He did the same thing with Judaism’s second most holy site, the Cave of the Patriarchs.”

Yossi sighed, “Now do you understand?”

A Bedouin woman must be totally clothed in black because she lives in the desert. Bedouin women do all the work in the household, including shepherd the sheep. This means she is often alone in the desert. Wearing all black allows her to be seen from far away against the white background of the desert and no one can accidentally stumble upon her. If a Bedouin woman is spoken to by someone who is not of her own family, both she and the one who spoke to her must be put to death because she has been defiled.  This is why she wears black–and stifles in the desert heat.

Now a question from Charles Newbold: Which servant of God was the most flagrant lawbreaker in the Bible?

Sukkot

Friday morning I had some time and, since I’m leaving soon and don’t know when I’ll have time to do things, I decided to visit the Old City again. I am now pretty familiar with the locations of places in Israel; am somewhat familiar with the city of Jerusalem, itself; and have become very familiar with the Old City. There is no way to describe the sights, smells and sounds of the Old City. I am a people-watcher. Since I was blessed to be alive when Jerusalem was returned to her people, I enjoy seeing how they live now that they are “back”.

The bus dropped me off and I walked toward the Old City. The Old City is really old (in the background of this picture you can see the Mount of Olives). Part of the elevation of the city has to do with the many civilizations that have built the city layer upon layer, leaving their personal signatures as they built. Even if Jesus is no more than a historical figure to you, being in the city in which He spent so much time, and watching the Jewish people go about their routine lives as they have for thousands of years, is a special treat. At least for me.

Since Friday night begins the week-long “Feast of Tabernacles”, every restaurant has to construct a booth outside on the sidewalk so that its religious customers will be able to obey the law and eat in a booth. The Bible actually says that Jews are supposed to LIVE in their booths, but most of them only eat in them. Here is a picture of the booth belonging to the family living in the apartment below us.

Anyway, in the Old City I came across a lady who had been on my first tour in 2001. Then I ran into a family from Texas who has sold their home and moved to Jordan.

Every time I visit Israel I run into Christians who believe they have received a special “word” from the Lord to come here and do something for the Jews. Some are individuals and some are entire families.

The family I met expects that 300 other familiies will join them in creating an agricultural community, on both sides of the Jordan River (read: on both sides of the border), which will eventually be in place to take care of the Jews when they flee Jerusalem during the end times. The wife explained that their particular “word” comes from Revelation, chapter 12. A lot of Christians here point to the book of Revelation as the source of their decision to be here at this time.

Some Christians here also consider themselves “Messianic Jews” even though they have never been Jewish. Their logic is that their love for the Jewish people, and for the land of Israel, must be due to the fact that they have Judaism somewhere in their ancestry. I don’t want to judge anyone’s motives, or that God has or hasn’t spoken to some of them; however, I do think a lot of Christians are bored with institutional Christianity and they find in Judaism more than the “Root” spoken of by the apostle, Paul. Judaism just seems a lot more “fun”. The food and wine here are wonderful and Jews do know how to have a good time. And, I have to admit that institutional Christianity can be pretty dull.

I also believe that God is moving the hearts of many Christians to show favor to Israel and the Jewish people. I think it’s also possible that Christians may eventually be the only ones who aren’t actually against these people. Having said this, I don’t think that when Paul was writing to the Jewish Christians in Rome he had in mind that gentile Christians should become Jewish Christians. Paul writes that Jews have been given many advantages over other peoples. He even names these advantages. (And says we had better not be arrogant toward them, but be willing to learn from them). However, to be given advantages is not the same thing as saying that, in God’s eyes, it is advantageous to BE Jewish. Americans have many advantages, but God doesn’t consider an American better than other nationalities. Wow. Enough preaching!

So I wandered around the Old City and spent some time in our favorite store in Israel, Shorashim, talking to the twins who own the place. Then (and this is for you, Paula Melton, if you are reading this), I ate at our favorite little sidewalk cafe where you and I used to always eat lunches of pita and humus. That’s where I ran into Carol Berry.

Tonight I stayed at the apartment while my hosts went to the opening celebration of the Christian Embassy in the wilderness of Ein Gedi. I wanted to show you a picture of the full moon as it rose over the Jordan Valley, but that didn’t come out.

Yesterday I was walking through the Central Bus Station and saw something that is SO Israel, I just had to show you. She saw me taking the picture, but didn’t seem to mind.

Answer to last Jewish question: A very tiny percentage of Orthodox Jews are trained to write Torah scrolls on parchment with a special kind of ink. They use the quill of one kind of bird and the quill has to be sharpened to just the right thickness. The invention that helped them sharpen their quill was the razor blade. This product was eventually used by people all over the world to shave the beard, something an Orthodox Jewish man is not allowed to do.

New question: If black is the worst color to wear in the desert sun, why do the desert Bedouin require their women to be completely covered in black?

Everyone have a great week. Blessings on all of you who have emailed (or sent comments through this blog) and kept me updated on yourselves and/or families.

Atonement

It’s been interesting watching the people these past week or so as they come to their most holy day of the year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The 10 days leading up to this day are called the “Ten Days of Awe” which means you have 10 days to seriously search your life to see if you know of anyone you have offended during the past year, or, alternately, if you have failed to forgive someone for an offense.

To a Jew, no atonement is available to someone who doesn’t have a clear conscience. So you have 10 days to get your conscience clear. I wonder if it was this practice during the time of Peter and Paul, which caused both of them to have so much to say about having a clear conscience.

Throughout Jerusalem the sirens began their mournful wailing this afternoon earlier than they would on a typical Friday afternoon, telling all of Jerusalem that Yom Kippur would begin soon. Most stores already closed by noon.

Like Easter for Christians, a large percentage of non-religious Jews attend synagogue early this evening.

But, after supper, an interesting phenomenon begins: Since no one would dare drive a car tonight (the Ultra Orthodox gather rocks to stone any car seen on the road), entire communities turn out to take a stroll. Children are everywhere, zooming up and down the empty streets on their bikes, while parents push strollers or just watch their children play in the street. The noise of happy children can be heard until very late–long after I go to bed.

Of course, unlike the Jewish Day of Atonement, which must be repeated every 12 months, our atonement was already made for us by God, Himself, once and for all, for those who accept His sacrifice: the gift of His son.

Tomorrow is a full day of doing nothing which will end at sundown with much celebration when stores, bars and nightclubs again open and people begin their New Year.

Jewish question of the day: A man invented a product to help a very small group of Orthodox Jewish men in their work. Eventually, it was discovered that this product was useful for a different purpose and, now, nearly everyone in the world uses it for this new purpose. The problem is that it is illegal for Orthodox Jewish men to use the product in the way it is used by everyone else. What is the product and what was its originally intended usage? 

Answer to last Jewish question: In the Book of Job, God shows His deep concern for people who do not even believe in Him. On the Day of Atonement, Jews read this story to see how deeply God cares for all people and what lengths He will go to bring them to a place where they can have a clear conscience.