Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Transition from the Pope's Visit to Jerusalem Day

This so-called nativity scene robs the Holy Family of its Jewishness, casting the baby Yeshua and Joseph as Palestinian Arabs (notice the swaddling clothes and headdress) and the Wise Men as Roman Catholic popes! What could be more insulting and blasphemous? The agenda of Pope Francis was carefully orchestrated to "recognize Palestine" and oppose "the occupation." Beware of a wolf in sheep's clothing.

I have a Messianic Jewish friend in Jerusalem who has lived there with her husband many years. She regularly sends out e-mails, describing her everyday-life in Jerusalem. She is a devout lover of Yeshua and has a gift for writing. In her letter, written yesterday on the eve of Jerusalem Day, she gives a moving account of the transition between the Pope's visit and the upcoming celebration. Her perspective is priceless:

“The Pope came and went and it was quite a study in Jewish psychology to see and feel and hear the responses. Yesterday the streets were literally empty in my part of Jerusalem. We went shopping in Talpiot, a neighborhood in the southeast of the city that is usually booming with people, and we just zipped through empty streets and stores. 
“Today, on the other hand, the streets and stores are full and happy. Tonight begins JERUSALEM DAY, marking the anniversary of that mystical, miraculous, wonderful day in 1967 when suddenly Israel found Jerusalem in our hands again for the first time in 2,000 years. And the wonder of it does not cease, although the world tries its best to at least put a damper on the joy. May they not win, but may their eyes be open to come and share in the rejoicing!
“Two other popes have visited us since we have lived here, and in both of those cases there was actually quite a bit of excitement and curiosity within Israel among the Jews. This calls for a very quick, and very inadequate history lesson given by me, not an authority, and only sharing what I know as a Jew and from my own experiences. Even today most Jews do not really know the difference (or think that there is any) between Catholics, Protestants, other orthodox sects and even Mormonism for that matter. The history of relations between Catholics and Jews goes way back…back to the Roman destruction of the temple…the dispersion and the separation of the early Church (about 120 years after its inception, I believe) from the original Jewish believers. Persecution grew and continued growing with the Church of those days establishing that Jews were cursed of God as Christ killers.  (Of course there has always been a remnant who knew and understood the ways of God and sought Him, but I am sharing from the perspective of non-believing Jews.) On came the Inquisition, pogroms, countless banishments and dispersions. When I was a child, I recall being accosted by three of my small girlfriends, Roman Catholics, on their communion day in their white dresses telling me that I had killed Jesus. Let’s put it this way, relations between Catholics and Jews were not good. However, in 1948 with the establishment of the modern State of Israel, a problem was posed - if the Jews were cursed with no chance of redemption, how did this happen? Well, I’m not an authority on the Catholic church nor desire to become one, but there has been since 1948 a roadway of dialogue and reconciliation. 
“This pope is not perceived as someone who ‘likes Israel.’ The other two were. There was a great deal of nervousness on the part of most Israelis about his coming. He was going to Jordan first and then arriving in the Palestinian Authority by way of Beit Lechem (Bethlehem), circumventing Israel. Only after that would he come to Israel. He has an obvious dislike for our Prime Minister and prefers to speak to President Peres, the very liberal figurehead of the country who is not supposed to have any political influence. In the midst of this a growing number of angry Jewish youth from the ‘settlement movement’ on our political right have been carrying out ‘price tag attacks’ and vandalizing Palestinian and Israeli Arab property, often leaving very hurtful graffiti at random every time a Jewish community or home is destroyed as ‘illegal.’ (I suspect that you don’t hear of such things in the press, only the demolition of illegal Arab housing, right?). There have been recent such attacks against some churches, and there was fear that the Pope might be targeted. 
“THIS IS MY POINT: I was touched…shocked…moved by the reaction of the people from my vantage point in Jerusalem during this visit. As I said, streets were deserted. People on the bus or train were all looking downward, and they looked sad.  I asked The Lord ‘What is this?’  As I looked I realized that I was seeing the face of shame! The impression that I got was not that this was the sort of shame that leads to repentance (I wasn’t hearing discussions about Jesus) but the shame that comes from condemnation. I didn’t expect that, but I saw downtrodden souls! I saw a people ashamed that they exist. And I know that feeling.
remember it well.  I am so thankful to be FREE from it, completely, in Yeshua, but I do remember the feeling.  It was a feeling that my very existence, as a Jew, was repulsive to the world and a mistake, that I could do nothing right, and that just when I thought I was doing something right, well, I would wake up and there you are! Wrong! Your fault! The world would be better without you!  
“This is what I saw around me, and the people ‘hid’ in their houses. Oh, you could say that we were warned of traffic jams and told that there would be disruptions, but I have really seen enough of those over the past 20 years to know that it rarely keeps people inside! The pope left and was not injured while he was here, thankfully, and there was a collective sigh of relief.
“But things were ever DIFFERENT this morning on the train! The train was jammed with young people in their 20s, with huge backpacks, sun tanned faces, long walking sticks and smiles. ‘Are you here for Jerusalem Day?’ I asked one of them.  ‘We are walking the Israel Trail, but wanted to be in Jerusalem for the celebrations. Those there have walked from the North for Jerusalem Day.’ A young man smiled, ‘Well, we have only been walking for 2 days,’ he said apologetically. An older man sitting across from me began enjoying them verbally as well. ‘So why are you on the train?? Get out and walk!’ The joy caught on, and I looked around at the people who had fought in the siege of Jerusalem, at those who had heard the shofar sound at the Western Wall, at those who read the Psalm with such wonder, ‘Our feet are standing within your gates O Jerusalem….
Psalm 122
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
Our feet have been standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem!
Jerusalem is built
As a city that is compact together,
Where the tribes go up,
The tribes of the Lord,
To the Testimony of Israel,
To give thanks to the name of the Lord.

For thrones are set there for judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brethren and companions,
I will now say, “Peace be within you.”
Because of the house of the Lord our God
I will seek your good.
Another of the ‘Songs of Ascent’ is Psalm 126 
 When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad….
           In the Psalms, the ‘songs of ascent’ are the Psalms that are (and were) sung as the tribes ‘go up’ to Jerusalem at the appointed times. I understand that in 1967 when it was heard that Jerusalem was in our hands, that the people were told to stay away at first because the war was so difficult and no one knew if it was really over. But the people could not be stopped, and they just began walking, and kept walking. From all over the country and every direction they came…up to Jerusalem, ‘’like those in a dream.’ I love to listen to the stories told of that day among our patients. One lived under the old city wall, (many poor people lived under the wall) but had never been inside the Old City.  Her mother told her ‘Tamima!  Stay down!  Do not go out!’ but she said that she heard the soldiers, OUR soldiers, inside, and she just ran out and followed them. Sari Sapir was a young reporter and followed the troops in. She saw a very large ancient key fall to the ground and picked it up and ran after the Arab who dropped it saying, ‘Sir, sir! You dropped your key!’ But the Lord had put such a fear into them that they ran when they didn’t need to. She showed me the key once when I was at her house, about a foot long…how ancient I do not venture to guess… and we looked at one another with wonder…’as one in a dream.’ 
            Tomorrow there will be dancing. They call it ‘the flag dance,’ as the streets will be full of people dancing with the flag. I love Jerusalem day! I love the feeling of delight at something so much bigger than us, something that God hath done!
            What will be tomorrow? We do not know. Not with this city that the world wants to divide, the stone of stumbling, the rock of offense, the place that God chose to put His Name?  Why?  Because. 

            Jerusalem day approaches!”

Saturday, May 24, 2014

JERUSALEM DAY - May 28, 2014

Israel will celebrate JERUSALEM DAY, the Reunification of Jerusalem, on May 28 this year.
When Israeli soldiers recaptured the Old City on June 7th in the Six Days War of 1967, they could hardly wait to get to the Western Wall! The emotionally-charged scene is described by a soldier who years later would become the Prime Minister of Israel - “I felt truly shaken and stood there murmuring a prayer for peace. Motta Gur’s paratroopers were struggling to reach the Wall and touch it. We stood among a tangle of rugged, battle-weary men who were unable to believe their eyes or restrain their emotions. Their eyes were moist with tears, their speech incoherent. The overwhelming desire was to cling to the Wall, to hold on to that great moment as long as possible.” 
–Chief of Staff Yitzchak Rabin

On this 47th Jerusalem Day, the theme Scripture is the same as it always has been, "Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together" (Psalm 122:3). The city may be physically united, but it is not spiritually united, and that is why we should "Pray for the peace [salvation] of Jerusalem" (Psa. 122:6). The city and the people are one and the same thing, and we are called to intercede for them. "... The present Jerusalem ... is in bondage with her children" (Gal. 4:25). We are to "give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isa. 62:7).

Israeli pastor, Ofer Amitai, and some of his congregation visited a "stronghold" on the southern ridge overlooking the highway to Jerusalem. He said, "In May 1948, Jerusalem’s future lay in the balance. A siege threatened to bring the downfall of the city. Food, water, ammunition, and every other necessity were running dangerously low, and attempts to deliver supplies to the city were fiercely challenged. Ben Gurion, later the prime-minister of Israel, said, 'Jerusalem can exist without the state, but the state cannot exist without Jerusalem.' The battle at that time was being fought over the road to Jerusalem — its very lifeline.  

"At one of the most critical moments, the battle was concentrated on the high hill tops that dominated and thus controlled the way to Jerusalem. Those bare hilltops, covered with rock and little more, became the focus of ferocious fighting. The young men who fought there basically hung on to bare rock, clinging tenaciously with every fiber of their being. 

"We, too, are called to take our stand, and hang on to the ‘strongholds’ — the high ground of our faith — the Word of God. We hang on to Him, who is The Rock, to Him alone, and to what He has uttered. There is a ferocious battle on earth over God’s will being done, and we cannot let go. This is our high place; we must not, we will not let go of it. Israel SHALL be saved, Grace will be poured out. Mercy is coming! His Body in the land will be sanctified, purified, made holy, and filled with the knowledge of the Lord." 

Amen, Pastor Ofer! Let us pray earnestly!