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Sunday, December 2, 2012

...AND THE BEAT GOES ON


“The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday endorsed an upgraded U.N. status for the Palestinian Authority, despite intense opposition from the United States and Israel. The resolution elevates their status from "non-member observer entity" to "non-member observer state," the same category as the Vatican, which Palestinians hope will provide new leverage in their dealings with Israel.” CNN International Edition

So the United Nations violates earlier UN agreements and recognizes the rights of a Palestinian “non-member observer state” while the Palestinian Charter still retains language calling for the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel, a Member State of the United Nations. The timing of this status change could not come at a worse time. It emboldens those who are determined to use terrorist violence to further their cause.

On Saturday, Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Israel  a "terrorist state" while speaking during a Turkish-Arab Forum in Istanbul, AFP reported.

So the constant drumbeat goes on.

What has happened in the last 60 days? Let me mention just a few things that lead me to believe that there is a coordinated effort by Islamist to provoke a war:

·      On October 6, 2012, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) shot down an unmanned drone in Israeli territory. It had entered Israeli airspace from Gaza, having been first tracked by the IDF over the Mediterranean. It was most likely an act of Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon.
·      On November first, Iranian jets fired upon a U.S. unmanned drone over International Airspace over the Persian Gulf.
·      As of November 2012, over 2,256 rockets have been launched at Israel from Gaza by Hamas militants (Iranian allies) since January 2012. While most of the rockets have been fired from Gaza, some have been fired from Egyptian Territory.
·      Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were targeted in defiance of what Binyamin Netanyahu had previously referred to as a “red line.”
·      On November 11, 2012, a mortar was fired into Israel’s Golan Territory by the Syrian Army (Iranian allies). On the 12th, another mortar was fired by the Syrian Army and Israel responded by destroying the mortar battery. On that same day an IDF soldier was shot from the Syrian side. He was not seriously injured.
·      On Sunday, November 25, 2012, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah stated Hezbollah (Iranian allies) “would fire thousands of rockets into Israel in any future war and target cities in the country’s heartland.”
·      On November 29th, the United Nations elevated the status of the Palestinian Authority from "non-member observer entity" to "non-member observer state." The Palestinian Authority and a coalition of 50 Muslim countries and nexus of states whose interests are contrary to the United States and Israel such as Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba and others pushed this status change.

The Worldwide Media continues to frame the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as if these were two grumpy neighbors, but the strongest neighbor (Israel in this case) is always depicted as a bully and over-responds since more Palestinians are killed than Israelis. Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel’s responses are ALWAYS done with extreme care to target the Palestinian terrorists that are attacking them. The Terrorists, however, have innocent families, children, buses, street cafes and synagogues as their primary targets!

There is neither moral equivalence nor “practices” equivalence in the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict and the constant drumbeat of “this side did this and this side did that” plays into the worst nature of those who are anti-Semitic.

As people of faith in God’s sovereignty we must PRAY for peace. As citizens of the world we must ACT for peace. Our actions and prayers must be a contrary drum beat to that of the worldwide media. This beat MUST go on!

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

IMMORAL MORAL EQUIVALENCE


The obvious attempt of the worldwide media to apply moral equivalency to the current conflict in Israel and Gaza is deeply flawed. Syndicated columnist Joel Mowbrey states: "The coverage of the [recent] 'violence'... has largely read like the equivalent of a chess match. Hamas refuses to halt suicide bombs. Israel targets a top Hamas leader. Suicide bombing in Jerusalem kills 16. Israel 'retaliates' with a strike in Gaza. What's at work is probably not anti-Semitism, but a misguided attempt at objectivity. But reporting 'facts' in a moral vacuum is not objectivity; it is, in fact, just the opposite. Absent proper context, the situation can seem as if it is two equally justifiable sides making moves and countermoves, nothing more."

Perhaps he is right that the style of media coverage is not blatant anti-Semitism on the part of the reporters or media outlets, but the constant drumbeat of “this side did this and this side did that” plays into the worst nature of those who ARE anti-Semitic.

Never has a nation been treated with such insolence as has Israel. They are constantly threatened and attacked. While the Israeli government and people are not without flaws, there is no moral equivalence between a rocket fired toward a town with the intent to terrorize innocent people and a retaliatory, precision airstrike of a rocket launcher in Gaza that has purposely and continually been fired toward homes, schools and synagogues.

Claiming the moral high-ground and claiming moral superiority is as human as breathing. We each do it in relationships of all sorts. Only with God’s help can we come to grips with our own failures. Pointing them out in others without the humility of self-evaluation only leads to all-consuming hatred.

While both Israelis and Palestinians must ultimately “examine the man in the mirror”, assess their own positions and find a way to live near one another in peace, the attempt to frame terrorism and military retaliation in defense of one’s nation as morally equivalent must stop.

Innocent lives are being lost, both Israeli and Palestinian. A ground war in Gaza seems imminent. I call upon the worldwide media to halt its efforts to make this a “tit for tat” dispute, making the worst-case scenarios seem more likely.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

IT ALL ADS UP


Add terrorist rockets fired from Egyptian territory to the list. This is not the first time this year that Egyptian territory being used as a base for terrorist attacks. In August 2012, after the election of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, concern rose over the future of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. In direct violation of the terms of the peace treaty, the Egyptian Military sent Tanks into the de-militarized zone without Israeli approval. President Mursi condemned Israeli retaliatory air strikes on the Gaza Strip as unacceptable aggression and ordered Egypt's prime minister to visit the besieged enclave in a show of support for the Palestinians. The fact that Israel had endured well over 1,000 rocket attacks this year alone, including those from Egyptian territory seems to mean nothing. This week’s visit to Gaza to meet with the leadership of Hamas does nothing to allay concerns.

Egypt’s failure to monitor and prevent terrorist activity its northern region places unnecessary pressure on Israel to retaliate within Egyptian territory.

In the meantime, AP (Associated Press) declared: "Air raid sirens wail in Jerusalem, signaling a possible rocket attack aimed at Israel's capital." Within thirty minutes they changed the story. The only difference? Changing the language from “Israel’s capital” to “Israel’s self-declared capital." They had it right the FIRST TIME! Mistakenly of course. The world press is determined to frame this whole circumstance as a result of Israel's policies. As always, it is Israel having to defend itself from worldwide criticism while defending its children from terrorists.

Israel must defend itself...WILL defend itself.

Ultimately, having done all that can be done politically and militarily, the only true hope is that God will change the hearts of men.
Pray, especially for the peace of Jerusalem.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

SUB-HUMAN


Israelis and anyone who knows what they're doing and support it are all Sub-human, Sub-human, Sub-human.” This is a direct quote from a post on a popular web “Answer” sight as the “BEST” comment, “CHOSEN BY VOTERS.”

Sub-human. Where have I heard this before? The term "Untermensch" was utilized repeatedly in writings and speeches directed against the Jews during the time of Hitler. The term “sub-human” has been used throughout history to justify acts of prejudice against a race, gender or class of people.

To ever consider another human as “sub-human” is an attempted slap in the face of God Himself. It is declared in Holy Writ: So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Our U.S. Constitution begins with these immortal words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

The value of a person’s humanity is not up for debate. Yet, there it is: “Sub-human, Sub-human, Sub-human,” the comment voted “best.”

Never doubt it, there are haters in this world. Their pride blinds them. From this deeply rooted arrogance comes the capability of justifying even the most horrendous behaviors. We must be vigilant as individuals and as nations to expunge from our hearts any vestige of hatred.

Defamation of others by generalized categorization must be vehemently opposed and exposed for what it is; it is sin.

Peace will never fill the hating heart. Peace will never fill the hating race. Peace will never fill the hating nation. Peace will never fill the hating city.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

THE RUBBERBAND SNAPS

Just last Monday I posted an article (BACK TO THE FUTURE) in which I pointed out that nearly 1,000 rockets have been fired into Israel since January 2012. What nation can endure this forever? Most of the rocket attacks have been fairly unsophisticated and inaccurate short-range projectiles, but they are deadly. The growing concern in Israel is that more sophisticated rockets are being supplied to Hamas.

Now the Israeli Defense Forces have struck back. Just a few hours ago Israeli warplanes targeted and killed the top military leader of Hamas. The Jerusalem post states: “The IAF (Israeli Air Force) struck and killed Hamas armed wing Izzadin Kassam Brigades commander Ahmed Jabari in central Gaza on Wednesday. The strike marked the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense to target Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations in Gaza, IDF spokesman Yoav Mordechai announced.”

The assassination of Jabari by the Israelis is comparable to the killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. forces last year. Unfortunately, there will be others prepared to take his place.

After killing Jabari the IAF went on to strike over 20 underground rocket launchers belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, primarily targeting their long-range rocket capabilities. This is an ominous but predictable development. Israel does not want a protracted war in Gaza. Hopefully, both sides of this most recent conflict will be sufficiently motivated to call an end to these developments. War is no friend. Children will die. Fathers and mothers will sacrifice their sons and daughters. May God have mercy upon us.

Just a few weeks ago I sat under a sukkah (a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long, joyous, Jewish festival of Sukkot). I was having dinner alone and may have been the only non-Jewish person in the crowded space. I so enjoyed watching the tables slowly fill with families of different Jewish sects. Hats of all descriptions identified the theological or customary differences, but in that moment, on that glad holiday, seated under a sukkah, conflict seemed to be no more than a distant memory. Yet, all the while, young, uniformed men and women with automatic weapons patrolled; war is never very far away for the Israelis.

My heart is sad for the tensions that must now fill the space where I sat so peacefully on that warm October evening, soaking in the happiness of family celebrations. Now, only a month later, family table discussions must be anxious for what may soon come.

Please join with me in prayer for Jewish and Palestinian families and, as always, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

JUDEN


As I write, my incredible wife Sharon is on her way home from doing humanitarian work in the largest “township” in Johannesburg, South Africa. Two weeks of ministry among many churches in two regions of South Africa finishes in a place where desperately poor mothers abandon infants on trash piles. Babies on trash piles. How can our heart turn away from such human tragedy and need?

Since Sharon is gone I watched several episodes of “Band of Brothers” that I recorded long ago. Her tender heart prevents her from seeing the pain of war, even when it is nothing more that a Hollywood depiction, however, I am inspired and challenged to gratefulness for the “Greatest Generation.” The sacrifices and character of the WW2 Generation must never be forgotten.

I just finished episode 8, where Easy Company comes upon a German Death Camp where Jews were systematically murdered. The Nazis had abandoned the camp and upon finding an emaciated prisoner the shocked American officer asks: “why are you in this camp.” The answer: “Juden.” I could not finish the episode.

I have streaming tears as I think about my friend Henry, who survived a death camp, but lost most of his family. He literally walked over a significant area of Europe looking for his twin sister and miraculously found her alive. I will never forget having dinner together; I could not help but repeatedly sneak peaks at the tattooed numbers on their arms; twins by birth and horrendous experience. I think of my dear friends Josh and Rebekah and their three handsome boys. Jenny, Emme, Zander, Sam, Aaron, Enie…how could anyone want to harm, must less, murder beautiful, talented and incredibly gifted people such as these simply because they are “Juden.”  Yet, even in this very moment there are many who still intend to do exactly that.

I am so grateful to God that I now have the opportunity to learn, to experience and to work with and for my Jewish brothers and sisters, especially for the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure borders with Jerusalem as its undivided capital. We cannot change the past, but we can change the future.

It is not enough that Jews and Christians share similar ethics and religious foundation. We must find ways to cooperate on those things we share in common and forgiveness and understanding for where we do not. And all of us must resolve to join the Jewish people in their steadfast declaration: “never again.”

A simple point where we can begin? Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Monday, November 12, 2012

BACK TO THE FUTURE


Over the last two days Israeli Defense Forces have returned fire into Syria after repeated attacks from Syrian mortar launches into Golan. As stated in the Jerusalem Post: “This is the first direct engagement with Syrian military since 1973.”

I have stood atop a mountain in the Golan Heights several times and marveled at how close Damascus, the capital of Syria is to Israel. If having Iran’s closest Middle Eastern ally’s center of government within eyesight is not troublesome enough, now there is a real possibility there is an intentional attempt to draw Israel into the conflict.

Earlier this year, rockets were fired from Egyptian territory into Israel’s southern towns. Additionally, nearly 1,000 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza in 2012!  The day I left Israel on October 6, 2012, the IDF shot down an unmanned drone in Israeli territory. Reported by REUTERS: “The Israeli air force shot down a drone after it crossed into southern Israel on Saturday, the military said, but it remained unclear where the aircraft had come from. The drone was first spotted above the Mediterranean in the area of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to the west of Israel, said military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich. It was kept under surveillance and followed by Israeli air force jets before it was shot down above a forest in an unpopulated area near the border with the occupied West Bank.”

I am often asked whether there will be another Arab/Israeli war. My question is “has it ever stopped?” The United Nations seems content to do nothing to address these unrelenting rocket barrages. The worldwide media only reluctantly offer tidbits of information about these attacks, reporting them without any of the outrage usually attached to stories they relish reporting of a Jewish family building a home in disputed areas. Rockets fired on Jewish families, docile report, home built on disputed land, sensational commentary. What is wrong here is a very unbalanced scale.

Frankly, there are no winners in these ongoing provocations. Innocent families, both Palestinian and Jewish become pawns in senseless hatreds and disputes.

Must the past be repeated? Must war be the only choice? Must the past be the only future? The prayers of Israeli and Arab mothers are surely heard by God. I join them in asking that a miracle of change take place instead of military conflict. I also state that should we reach a point of no return, where war is the only solution, the worldwide community of nations and the international media will be complicit.

As we in America celebrate the honorable military service of our veterans, let us be grateful for their sacrifices and prayerful that greater conflict in the Middle East be avoided.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

NEW TROUBLES FOR ISRAEL


There are very troubling signs of growing anti-Semitism at the highest levels of Egyptian leadership. A video has recently been aired showing Egypt’s new president Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s choice candidate, attending a sermon in the Mediterranean town of Marsa Matruh during which the preacher called for the "destruction and dispersal of the Jews." In one of the responsive prayers, the cleric beseeched God to "destroy the Jews and their supporters and disperse them, rend them asunder." Morsi is then seen continuing to say Amen. This video was broadcasted to the nation.

We are commanded by the God of the Bible to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” The kind of prayers being prayed in Egyptian mosques by its religious and governmental leaders will bring peace to no one.

It is increasingly obvious that the result of removing brutal dictatorships throughout the Middle East now threatens the longest standing democracy in that region, the State of Israel. While millions of lovers of democracy around the world prayerfully, financially and militarily supported the “Arab Spring”, we now face a new choice. Will we sit idly by and accept anti-Semitism simply because a majority population embraces it? Or, will we loudly voice our belief in the moral code that our own democracy was founded upon: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Majority of opinion does not supersede the necessity of Godly morals as we practice true democracy.

U.S. tax dollars by the billions continue to be poured into countries that are calling for the destruction of our best ally in the region. We cannot let our silence give tacit support to the enemies of peace.

Be informed. Speak up. And most importantly, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Friday, October 26, 2012

THE FAULTLINE

Considering the newest developments in the Middle East, I have decided to re-post a commentary I first published last March.

I have been in only one significant earthquake in my life, but it paled in comparison to the one in the 1974 blockbuster movie “EARTHQUAKE.” The fictional disaster film depicts the most catastrophic earthquake of all time tearing through Southern California, leveling Los Angeles and sending shockwaves through the lives of the millions of people who live there. In my mind’s eye I can still conjure up images of the earth being ripped in two. The biggest Fault Line in today’s world is not physical, but spiritual and geopolitical; it runs through Jerusalem.
So what are the two sides? On one side are those who, for spiritual or geopolitical reasons support Israel and on the other, those who oppose it. There is increasing pressure to choose sides. Can’t decide? Prefer the middle? Remember the movie, those who sit precariously on the fault line are the first to perish; neither ignorance nor inattention provides safety.
We must make choices in life and this is one of the really big ones. My advice? Go to Israel and see it for yourself. Don’t depend on casual water-cooler talk or the media to keep you informed.  Educate yourself about the historic and current geopolitical issues. Learn about UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), the One-State Solution or Two-State Solution, Disengagement, Intifada and how many times the idea of swapping land for peace has actually worked in that region. Become familiar with what the Bible says about the Jewish people, the Land of Promise and Biblical Prophesy of the end times.
And lastly, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

NO PEACE IN PIECES


As I began writing this article, Parliamentarians from nations as diverse as Finland and Uruguay were gathered in a location just outside the Jaffa Gate of the Old City in Jerusalem to deliberate the future of the World. These political leaders discussed how conflict between Israel and surrounding Arab States effects the entire international community of nations.  They discussed potential solutions for some of the world’s most difficult issues such as the refugee status of both Palestinians and Jews and the threat of dividing Jerusalem into two capitals instead of one.

Why gather in Jerusalem? It is simple, even a casual perusal of worldwide media reveals that Jerusalem is the epicenter of modern conflict. There is a gathering storm across the globe. Islamic extremism is sweeping the Middle East and emerging in Europe, Asia and the Western Hemisphere. Anti-Semitism is also rising among increasingly secular Western Societies and governments.

As long as the Jews exist as a people, as long as they govern a sovereign nation in the land promised to them in the Bible, Israel’s very existence threatens every social, political or religious viewpoint that does not consider the Bible to be true. Forces as opposed as Secular Humanists and Islamist Extremist find common ground in their determination to deny Israel a right to exist as a State with secure borders with Jerusalem as its undivided capital.

The past provides a road map for the future. There has been human conflict throughout history. Every conceivable way has been tried to bring peace between nations at one time or another and peace has been achieved many times and in many ways. History is also littered with disastrous failures from which we can learn.

One of the most glaring mistakes attempted by peacemakers is the dividing of cities. My childhood was filled with constant exposure to photographs and news clips of the divided cities of Berlin, Beirut and Belfast. “Green Lines” of razor wire, fences, land-mine fields, walls and guard posts become a no-man’s land where prosperity and freedom cannot exist. The last thing that the Jewish people, the Palestinian people and the multitude of other cultures residing in Jerusalem needs is further complication of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is no sustainable peace obtained by dividing a city into pieces.

My take-away from the gathering of Parliamentarians and Government Leaders in Jerusalem this past week is clear: More than ever, we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

LAND OF MIRACLES

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I am filled with anticipation of MIRACLES. Soon, I will be again standing on the stone streets of Old City Jerusalem at the Jaffa Gate. While at first glance it is but a very old place of commerce crowded with traffic and loads of international tourists, a deeper look reveals much more. There is an elderly couple from Ukraine fulfilling a lifelong dream of a religious pilgrimage to the Holy City. Four young Jewish college students from Indiana laugh and playfully jostle one another as they take in the sights on their “Birthright Israel” trip. A young Palestinian Arab works hard to entice passing people into his father’s store filled with colorful scarves. A no-nonsense pair of Israeli solders stand casually to the side, chatting, relaxed, but automatic weapons at ready and eyes moving across the crowd. Religious pilgrims, students, children playing, honking taxis, moneychangers, deliverymen; its all there.

The very existence of a peaceful afternoon in a city where modern world/ancient world, worldwide religions, deeply imbedded prejudices and hatreds, political opponents and a cornucopia of ethnicities collide is a miracle. And perhaps, this miracle offers us all a teachable moment; even when differences collide, if self-interest motivations of those present are strong enough to not want to risk the loss of the opportunity that moment holds, they put aside their differences and focus on the reward.

Israel has many miraculous lessons for us all.

I have seen a nation reborn from the ashes of the Holocaust as Jews gathered from around the world after a 2,000-year Diaspora. I have seen the miracle of “premies” in Assaf Harofeh Hospital where premature babies who would die in any other place are nursed through three wards and returned to their parents healthy and strong. Assaf Harofeh is a center of caring in a region filled with deep prejudices where no concern is given to the ethnic or religious background of the patients or their families. Miraculous. I have seen the deserts bloom with the help of amazingly simple but ingenious technology, providing needed water to dry soil, producing some of the finest fruits and vegetables in the world. I have seen the miracle of sprawling banana plantations, huge groves of fruit trees and abundant wineries on the rocky hills of Galilee.

And what does all of this teach us? Miracles DO happen, and we can be a part of them if we choose.

So, as I wait for my flight, I think of the miraculous place that awaits me and I pray for a miracle, I pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Friday, September 28, 2012

BITTER SOIL


The words of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu are still hanging in the air as I write. He spoke of a past generation’s failure to act in time to save millions of Jews who perished: “Those who opposed fanaticism waited too long.” While patience is a vital element of peace, there can be no delay when dealing with those who have made their destructive intent known and have the capacity to carry out their threats.

My heart longs for the fulfillment of the angelic song announced to shepherds on the hills outside Bethlehem: “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” Those hills and the surrounding lands have since known little peace, especially its close neighbor, Jerusalem. My most constant prayer is for its peace, yet Jerusalem lives under the continual threat of division and devastation. The Israelis do not want war with anyone, but I am deeply concerned that the world continues to allow Iran to plunge both Israel and other nations toward inevitable conflict.

Additional thought-provoking words delivered to the United Nations General Assembly by the Prime Minister were these: “The masses of our people never gave up the dream of returning to our ancient homeland,” he said. “We will never be uprooted again.” Having spent much time with current and past Israeli leaders and citizens in Israel I am absolutely sure they will not be uprooted again. They have the geopolitical standing, military means and conviction of Biblical Promise to hold their ground.

Finally, the Prime Minister spoke of: “The bitter soil of intolerance.” He was speaking of the ground out of which hatred springs. This ground is not physical but rather in the souls of men. It is not on only one side of this conflict. Hatred spreads from heart to heart and becomes the basis on which destructive decisions are made.

This bitterness may only be expunged with God’s help. The political leaders of nations must determine the course of action they will take, but each of us who believe in the power of God must also decide; will we sit idly by or will we pray?

As commanded by God to do, I pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

SAFETY FOR WORSHIPERS


"Six Sikhs killed in Temple. Somewhere between 20 and 30 shot or injured." Whether Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians or worshipers of any type, all people MUST be able to worship in safety. My heart is heavy for the families, friends and fellow worshipers who lost loved ones. All of us of who consider ourselves people of faith must condemn the attack of worshipers. All of us who love freedom must make our voices heard.

I cannot deny that as a deeply committed Christian and strong supporter of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere, when I first heard the news flash of a “Temple” mentioned with “several killed,” I was surprised to learn that it was Sikhs who were attacked. I was sure that it would be a Jewish Temple or a Christian Church. But really, does it matter? Not for those of us who believe in religious freedom. It is claimed that there have been hundreds of attacks against Sikhs sine 9/11/2001. Sikhs don't practice the same religion as Muslims, but their long beards and turbans often cause them to be mistaken for Muslims. Should Sikhs be murdered because they favor Muslims? But does what they look like matter at all? Should Muslim worshippers be attacked? Absolutely not! Under no circumstances should any worshipers, anywhere, ever be attacked as they gather in worship.

I hope that these shootings were not religiously motivated, but even if not, the fact that worshipers of any stripe can be attacked as they gather should provoke all of us to work to keep this from happening.

Now is the time for us to stand up for those who wish to worship in safety and peace. No place in the world faces greater concern for the safety of worshipers than those charged with the care and safety of Jerusalem. No city on earth gathers more religious pilgrims from three major religions than the Holy City. Therefore we must obey the command of God and pray for peace. Peace for worshipers everywhere. Peace for the families and friends of those who suffered loss this day in Wisconsin.

And above all, today let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

IN THOSE DAYS


The Prophet Jeremiah proclaims: “In those days, at that time, declares the Lord, the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the Lord their God.” There are many tears shed in Zion these days, ESPECIALLY THIS WEEK.

A dear Israeli friend shared her anger and sadness recently: “This is one of those weeks when it seems the whole world is out to get us.” My friend is no whiner. Israelis are not whiners. They are brave, stoic and determined people who live in almost incomprehensible complexity and constant threat. But some weeks are worse than others.

While we now mourn our own tragedy unfolding in Colorado, theatergoers attacked by a murderer, we must not forget that it was just a few days ago that Israeli tourists were killed and injured in Bulgaria. For Jews around the world this is far too common. Remember that the bombing in Bulgaria occurred on the 18th anniversary of the fatal bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eighty-five people were killed in the 1994 bombing with hundreds more wounded.

Sadness is increased for Israelis by a couple of events that could be easily missed in this crowded news cycle. First, as the Jerusalem Post reports: “Israel, Germany, Australia and other countries have officially asked the committee to hold a moment of silence, but it has rejected such pleas.” As we approach the 40th Anniversary of eleven murdered Israeli OLYMPIC athletes and coaches, the International Olympic Committee rejects a “moment of silence” to remember the tragedy. Murdered athletes and coaches DURING an Olympic Games! It is not only sad; it is shameful. Secondly, in the same week the BBC publishes: “East Jerusalem” as the “Capital of Palestine,” but leaves the nation of Israel with no mentioned capital. Every other country profile includes a listed capital city. All countries but Israel. Yes, this is a week of sadness in Zion.

And so I join with my Israeli friends in their anger and sadness and I pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

MUST JEWS DIE?


Is it really necessary for Israeli Jews to be murdered in mass while on vacation in Europe for the world to pay attention? At least seven are dead and twenty are injured in a suicide bombing on an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria. On a tour bus! In Bulgaria!

Today marks 18 years since the fatal bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eighty-five people were killed in the 1994 bombing with hundreds more wounded. Both attacks are linked to Iran. How much Jewish blood must be spilled in the streets before the world cares?

Too many people worldwide, including many Christians and Jews, have been taken in by the false narrative that Israel and Iran are equal aggressors. Israel has never threatened to wipe Iran “off the map,” but the president of Iran has said precisely that with regard to Israel. Israel has never attacked a bus filled with tourists or a community center jammed with people anywhere at any time. Iran has and will again if allowed.

No one in their right mind wants another war…no one. Yet, the government of Iran appears to want to provoke a war with Israel and the rest of the world seems content to be drawn in to this disastrous eventuality. We cannot stand idly by.

Our voices must be raised now! Our spiritual and political leaders must be reminded that our silence potentially condemns millions of Israelis and Iranians to death. We too will be condemned by our reticence to speak.

Our voices must be raised to God in prayer. Pray for the families that lost their loved ones. Pray for the leaders of Israel that their response is wise. Pray that the leaders of the world deal with this situation instead of delaying and ignoring the path we are on.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

OBJECT OF LOVE AND PAIN


Sunset, daybreak, the steady hand of God turns the earth through another day. His grip is sturdy, forceful, capable and secure; all peoples of the earth are firmly in His grasp. As “Master Artisan of the Universe,” not one detail is missed as He rotates His object of love in His hand.

He turns it to the only land on earth declared Holy by the Lord Our Maker. There He gazes into the eternal city, nestled in the mountains of Israel. Yet in southern Israel heartbreak is heard from the people of God; the cries of mothers wanting safety for their children are heard.

Since last Monday southern Israel has again been under a barrage of rocket fire originating out of Gaza. Despite a ceasefire, Ashkelon and Sderot were pummeled with over 20 Grad missiles. More than 150 rockets have been fired into the Land of Promise in less than a week; nine Israelis were wounded, when a rocket hit an apartment building in the Western Negev. Tragically, an Israeli-Arab was killed by an explosion. These rockets are being launched from the area Israel disengaged from in order to make peace in 2007. Families were pulled from their homes and bodies out of the ground in hopes for peace and we now have terrorists firing on those same families from where their homes and schools once stood.

Where is the worldwide media outrage? There will be little to none. These attacks have been happening for so long and so often that they have become commonplace, mundane, but not for the families living under their constant barrage. How do we simply ignore this? Since when has human life become so valueless that its constant threat is no longer newsworthy? Or is it simply because those under attack are Israeli Jews? There is but one final authority in these matters and surely we may call upon God to act on behalf of His people. However, there is a call upon all those who consider themselves people of faith to do the same.

Begin now, right now by making a decision to stay informed. Get involved with organizations that are supporting Israel’s right to exist in peace. Contact your spiritual and political leaders regarding these issues.

Say a  prayer for the peace of Jerusalem.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

HOLY SPACE


Any earthly space can become precious. In the case of a Grizzly Bear mother guarding her cubs, any who dare enter the area of safety she determines for her children does so at their own risk. It is precious space. To the returning WW2 veteran, a walk through the grave markers near the cliffs of Normandy is a walk upon hallowed, precious ground. While any turf may become precious, only one place on earth has been chosen to be holy and only God Himself may declare it so.
To the Jewish people the promises made by HaShem to His chosen is an indisputable fact embodied in the Torah. It is the place of their miraculous freedom, having escaped from slavery in Egypt long ago. Forty years of wandering in the desert prepared them for a land of milk and honey. Resident enemies could not stop God’s promises then and will not prevent them now.

A soul needs a body in this life. For two thousand years the Jewish people again wandered in the wilderness of a displaced people, but now they return to the place called Holy. The Holy Land is the physical entity of the soul of a people, a culture; a nation. In fact, the presence of the Jewish people in the Land of Promise is vital to the soul of mankind. If the Bible has any importance in the hearts of believers everywhere then Israel must exist and the Jewish people must inhabit and rule that land.

How strange it is to now see this land divided into an obscure patchwork of territories. Why would the deliberations of a world political body that has little actual impact on global affairs have precedence over the declarations and miraculous works of God Himself? They should not. They must not.

In the final analysis, Israel is not the “Precious Land.” No, it is the Holy Land. Jerusalem cannot be divided. The Holy Land cannot be divided, it is not only precious space…it is Holy Space.

And so, I pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

O JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM


Over the entire history of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel, peace has mostly eluded her. Even the redemptive work of all mankind was momentarily pushed to the side as the Galilean saw the “City of Peace” and had a very Jewish moment: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”

As I write at 30,000 ft and reflect on today's events it is at once encouraging and sobering. I am returning home from the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast on Capital Hill. This year’s event celebrated 45 years of the reunification of a previously divided city into one. The Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by the Israel Allies Caucus Foundation, is dedicated to the support of Jerusalem as the united capital of the State of Israel. I was privileged to participate as one of the plenary speakers along with many congresspersons, rabbis and notable leaders. Benjamin Netanyahu sent a personal aide with a personal greeting.

The encouraging part of the event? The bipartisan involvement of so many of our legislators in support of Israel was heart lifting. The Congress of the United States has a growing and active caucus dedicated to advancing the partnership of our nation and the State of Israel. Many others in the house and senate who are not officially in the Israel Allies Caucus support its goals. Another encouraging aspect is the developing coalition and meaningful cooperation of the faith community, Jewish and Christian alike, working together to advance the "peace of Jerusalem" and the safety and prosperity of Israel.

The sobering part? To hear from those in the highest levels of our Legislative branch of government express deep concerns about our current administration's treatment of our closest ally in the Middle East. The direction our federal government has taken with regard to Israel in the last few years is a significant departure from 64 years of strong support and high regard. While the damage can be repaired, it will take years to unwind the convoluted message that has been spread to the world about our commitment to our allies, especially in the Middle East.

My own concerns are not exclusively geopolitical. If Holy Writ is to be taken seriously, blessings are promised by God Himself to those who stand with the Children of Abraham; curses to those who stand against her. While Christians claim ownership of those same promises made to our common patriarch Abraham, it must be pointed out that we are "grafted in" and that "[we] do not support the root, but the root supports [us]." We cannot stand by and allow the tree upon which we depend to be abandoned or harmed by us as individual Christians or by the nation to which we belong. Quite the contrary, Israel must be nourished, even to its roots.

Prayer for the peace of Jerusalem must be done in faith and action. It must be done. So now I wipe a tear and pray for the peace of Jerusalem,

Sunday, May 6, 2012

THE RIGHT TO EXIST


There are a number of rogue nations that plague today’s world peace. Two in particular, Iran and North Korea, openly threaten other nations, yet we never hear an argument for their total destruction, and rightly so. A sovereign nation has the right to exist, its people the right to live. That is, every nation and every people except Israel and the Jews.

Any casual observer of the Middle East knows that both terrorists and sovereign nations have repeatedly attacked Israel. Many Arab terrorist groups have avowed destruction of the Jewish state. Just a few decades ago the Holocaust had as its goal the complete elimination of all Jews everywhere. The Iranian presidential website stated: "the Zionist Regime of Israel faces a dead-end and will under God's grace be wiped off the map," and "the Zionist Regime that is a usurper and illegitimate regime and a cancerous tumor should be wiped off the map.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad leads a growing sentiment among radical Islamists that not only affects the Middle East, it is fueling anti-Semitism in Europe, Asia and even in North and South America. A worldwide nexus of hatred for the Jews and Israel is growing.

The nation of Israel is treated with such insolence and hatred around the world that it defies reason. This past week I was in Italy. Just inside the entrance to the underground Metro near the Spanish Steps in Rome I saw only one singular graffiti message scrawled on the wall: “F*** Israel!” Please forgive even the suggestion of something so ugly and degrading being included in my article, but this illustrates the constant attack the Jewish state must endure. I could not help but think of visiting Jewish residents or tourists trying to explain the vitriol to their children. This is real.

So why the hatred? Perhaps it is very simple after all. As long as the Jews exist, as long as they govern a sovereign nation in the land promised to them in the Bible, their very existence threatens every political or religious viewpoint that does not consider the Bible to be true. The nation of Israel’s existence after two thousand years of Diaspora of the Jewish people is proof positive that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is truly God. Right to exist? Yes, a right promised, performed and protected by the mighty Hand of God.

I therefore pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Friday, May 4, 2012

THE BIG SURPRISE


A few moments ago, Cardinal Cantalamessa, the personal preacher for both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI declared: "Dialogue is not so much a change of ideas as much as it is an exchange of gifts, entrenched division will only be dislodged by spending time with one another."

As I write I am in the sprawling Roman Catholic Cathedral complex in Assisi, Italy as a guest of the Vatican's Catholic Fraternity and the generous patronage of The Pontifical Council of the Laity. I am here on behalf of the communion of churches to which I belong, specifically in my role as Apostolic Delegate to Israel. Several of the bishops from our communion are attending along with archbishops, bishops and priests and leaders from the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Evangelical Church.

Most of the dialogue has centered around Catholic/Protestant cooperation and understanding, especially among Catholic Charismatics and Pentecostals. The big surprise and blessing for me has been the insertion of the vital role the Jewish people and Israel in these discussions. Prominently imbedded in this gathering of Christian leaders has been a clear message: Israel is a promised place and the Jewish people are still in covenant with God. While these views are common among many Evangelicals and Pentecostals, to hear archbishops and cardinals of the Roman Catholic church openly state such positions is rare and very encouraging.  Truly we live in a historic hour.

There are many obstacles to effective cooperation between the multitude of Christian denominations and plethora of Jewish sects, but new hope is on the horizon. We live in a unique moment in human history which calls for brave steps by willing participants. While many pitfalls exist and intentional mischief abounds, real progress is being made. The hard work and prayers of past generations now demand our best in this generation. Divides must be bridged, wounds healed, new strategies formed.

Dialogue requires a willingness to repent, a confession of the sin of disunity. Repentance creates internal space where new thoughts and goals can form and where people can move forward together. To be cast into the turbulent waters of cooperation between religious sects provokes an internal response like that of Moses in Exodus 4:13..."Please send someone else.” But the immortal words of Mordecai to Esther must win the day..."who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

And so, we take steps, both small and great, both weak and mighty. We pray for unity of hearts and minds in obedience to the command of Holy Script. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Monday, April 23, 2012

THE LAST WORD


Everyone likes to have the last word. In most human conversational traditions speaking last is the position of most respect, reserved for the one with greater or final authority. It was precisely in this tradition that Jacob (Israel) gathered his family around him to speak his last words.  On his deathbed at age 147, he called his twelve sons by their given names and blessed or cursed each one.

His fourth son Judah (Yehudah) was not only blessed by his father, he was given the prophetic name “Gur Aryeh,” a "Young Lion" and told “Judah will rule until Shiloh (The Messiah) comes, and the nations will obey him.” To this day, the lion remains as the symbol of Judah and the emblem of Jerusalem and the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament).

On a trip to Kenya, Africa our group stopped next to a family of lions. Just outside our van window sat a huge male lion; two small lion cubs clumsily played nearby. What a contrast: the powerful adult male with a noble mane framing his face and the two, much smaller cubs. My wife Sharon, on a subsequent visit to South Africa was permitted to pet a lion cub in a protected sanctuary. She noted that although he was much smaller than the adult males, he was already powerful, strong and dominating.

Long ago, under King David, Israel grew into an adult lion, a powerful kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. The modern nation of Israel is more like a young lion, a descendent of a prodigious past. Greatness is present now, but it must be given time to develop. It can at times seem clumsy and messy; maturity is always a bit chaotic. But if given opportunity, modern Israel will grow into a true world leader. Already, it produces amazing technology, leading-edge medical and scientific breakthroughs and so many other world renowned accomplishments. Constantly under threat and defending its very right to exist makes its accomplishments even more profound. It should not be, it cannot be chopped into pieces and divided as so much spoil. No, the young lion must be allowed to develop.

In the final analysis, mankind must realize that God will have the last word. His promises to a nation will not be thwarted. The lion will roar.

So, until Shiloh, “The Peaceful One” comes, we pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

CUT THE BABY IN TWO


Nothing is more shocking than when a mother purposely harms her own child. In the biblical story in 1 Kings where two mothers claim the same child, King Solomon proposed a simple solution: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” Only the one with questionable motives would want to bring disastrous harm by agreeing: “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” Not only a teachable moment for the people of God in that generation, this story sheds light on difficult decisions for this generation.

At this very moment there are those who propose to divide the Holy City in two. Jerusalem is a bustling metroplex that serves as a focal point for billions of religious people around the globe. It is the historic and contemporary capital of Israel, a tourist destination for millions of visitors and a place where over a million residents carry forth their daily lives. In other words, it is a city full of life.

Like a precious child of this planet, Jerusalem must be protected, nurtured and helped, but never divided. While it is complicated to gather such diversity and conflict into one united city, it actually does work. The Old City is a microcosm of the modern metro area of Greater Jerusalem. There, crammed into ancient walls, people from significantly different religious persuasions and cultures find a way to live, be civil, do business, raise families, laugh, play, work…they do life… together.

A house divided cannot stand, nor can a city. While blissful unity seems like an impossible dream, Jerusalem must remain united as one city forever. We cannot cut the baby in two.

So again we arrive to the only real hope of success, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A DAY TO REMEMBER


At sundown today “Holocaust Remembrance Day” begins. While there are many “Remembrance Days” kept in memorial of the Holocaust, none is as poignant as “Yom HaShoah,” the official day of observance in Israel. Flags fly at half-mast, prayers are offered, candles burn, sirens sound across Zion for two minutes, people stand at attention, cars stop where they are; silent tribute to the dead is offered. Throughout the day speeches from the dwindling survivors recall the pain, the pride and the motivation for a motto that leaves no doubt for the future of a nation promised by God Himself: “NEVER AGAIN.”

A few years ago as we exited from a private meeting at the Knesset, the large hall at the entrance of Israel’s parliamentary building was filled with Holocaust survivors. It was Yom HaShoah. I have no words to describe the feelings I experienced as we quietly slipped through the crowded room. As I returned to my hotel I could not get their faces out of my mind. They are now in their 70’s and 80’s; in a few short years they will all be gone. No one will be left who heard the cries. The Holocaust deniers will be emboldened as these living memorials slip away. A void will be left on this planet that never could nor ever should be again filled.

So I must repeatedly walk the hallowed grounds of Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem). I must soak in the noble presence and quiet pain of those survivors still among us. I must contemplate the connections between the Christian faith I hold so dear to the tragedies before, during and after the dark days of the Nazi regime. I must listen to the lessons of Jewish and Christian history and work for understanding between Christians and Jews today. I must stand with the Jewish people and take as my own the commitment to NEVER AGAIN.

In Exodus 3:7 we read: ” The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.” God does not ignore nor forget the cries. He will also enlighten those with a listening ear.

So I will remember…and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

CONFRONTING THE ONE I LOVE


No moment in life is more difficult than the moment in which we must confront the one we love. Proverbs 27:4 states: ” Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” So, I must respectfully disagree with an official of the government of a nation I love as much as my own who has declared that Israel will prevent the entry of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists from Europe and North America this weekend. Public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch said: "The provocateurs will be dealt with in a determined and quick way." "If they arrive to Israel they will be identified, removed from the plane, their entry into Israel will be prevented and they will be moved to a detention facility until they are flown out of Israel."

Do I understand their reluctance to let these protestors on their soil? Absolutely! The intentionally provocative attempt by foreign activists to enter Gaza by an illegal flotilla in May of 2010 ended in bloodshed. Another forced black eye for a country rarely treated fairly in the international press. Yet, this blessed nation of divine promise must stay true to its own moralistic democratic ideals; not an easy task while surrounded by avowed enemies and constantly misrepresented even by its few supporters. My concern? That Israel not fall victim to the hatred and antics of its rivals. Political expediency at the cost of a piece of the nation’s soul would not serve its best interests.

In the final analysis, the opinion of any of us who are not in the daily struggle for life in Israel matters little. So, I pray. I pray that truth will prevail. I pray that no weapon formed against the Land of Promise will succeed. I pray that the leaders of Israel will choose morality over fear. I pray that the forces of darkness will be exposed and defeated. I pray, as always, for the peace and well-being of Jerusalem.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A BLAST FROM THE PAST


It is Good Friday for western Christianity and the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sundown. Passover, or Pesach as the Hebrews call it, celebrates the deliverance from captivity from the Egyptians; four hundred years of hard labor and the indignity of slavery broken by the intervention of God.

Now after years of peace between modern Israel and Egypt, the threat against Israel continues as a rocket was fired yesterday into the resort town of Eilat on the shores of the Red Sea. Thousands of Israeli and foreign tourists had swelled Eilat’s population when an explosion occurred in the usually safe vacation destination. A total of three blasts were heard in the night but debris from only one rocket was found. The rocket was fired from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, which is a continuation of an ominous trend of attacks from Egypt’s territory.

Again, the hand of God protected His people from Egyptian threat at the Red Sea, the rocket landing a mere three hundred yards from a neighborhood, falling into an uninhabited construction site. The Jewish people must never again be made slaves or taken into captivity. NEVER AGAIN. 

On this holy day, please pray for those who are on holiday in Eilat (We have Israeli friends there that my wife Sharon and I dearly love) and for the residents of the resort town. Pray for families across Israel whose fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and adult children must leave their holiday family time and go on military alert at Passover. And above all, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.