Saturday, November 14, 2015
Blindfold Games are quite comical and entertaining. Whether it is a children’s game at a party or a team-building exercise at a corporate meeting, blindfolds are used to enhance our other methods of perception. But in the end, there is always an appropriate moment to remove the blindfold and open your eyes. This is such a moment.
When a person straps on a suicide vest, they intend to die. When they fire upon innocent victims, they do not want to make a statement, they want to eliminate all voices but their own. The primary voices of extremist Islamists are not faint, they have screamed aloud as it flew airplanes filled with terrorized passengers into the Twin Towers. Their voices were not muffled as they fired upon allied soldiers present to help them build a future.
The ideological worldview that invoked the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, the murder of Christians, Jews and fellow Muslims throughout the Middle East and the gruesome attack in Paris will not go away when the news stories fade.
But we are not without recourse. We are called upon by Scripture to pray for our governmental leaders.
And remember to exercise your best option to protect your family and pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” PSALM 122:6-8
Sunday, October 4, 2015
It has been quite a while since I blogged on this site. Mostly I have posted small items of interest on Facebook, but recent events in Israel, especially those in Jerusalem, demand more than snippets of information. If you do not read the entire piece, please read the final section entitled, “RAY OF HOPE”.
Having just returned from the Holy Land in the last 24 hours adds additional poignancy to this article. These are the “happy holidays” of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). Sukkot is a time of great happiness for Jews everywhere, but especially when celebrated in Jerusalem. I was in Jerusalem as part of our Israel Allies Foundation's “Chairman’s Conference” held yearly during Feast of Tabernacles. In partnership with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and the World Jewish Congress, we bring parliamentarian representatives from around the world for three days of education, dialogue and deliberation. This year, as always, a declaration was developed and signed by our attending parliamentarians, presented to Israeli Government leaders and taken back to the represented parliaments for action. This year's resolution was a powerful statement against BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanction-BDS is a global campaign attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with the stated goals of the anti-Israel movement).
As I stated earlier, this is the “Happy Holiday” for adherents of Judaism and those who join with them. But instead of happy hearts, singing and dancing in the streets and the smells of holiday meals, there is painful concern. Just this weekend, two terror attacks put the spotlight on growing violence against innocent holiday celebrants.
The first came this past Thursday night. From yesterday’s report in ALJAZEERA: “Eitam and Naama Henkin, both in their 30s, were shot dead while driving on Thursday night between the settlements of Itamar and Elon More, in the north of the Palestinian territory. Their four children, aged between four months and nine years, were found unharmed in the back of the car.”
The family attacked in this horrific incident lived in Neria, north of Ramallah. They leave behind six orphaned children, four of whom – aged 4 months, 4, 7 and 9 years-old, were in the vehicle at the time of the attack. Afterwards, the news of Israelis killed was cause for celebrations in Palestinian neighborhoods across the region, even in Jerusalem. Though I am sure many Palestinians silently sorrowed at the violence, crowds of adults and children alike shot off fireworks and sang in the streets.
In Sukkahs both in Israel and around the world there were quiet prayers, perplexed angst and deep sorrow for this loss of life; the normal happiness of the holiday was tainted with anguish. But there is more.
Yesterday, just as Shabbat was ending, two more Israelis were stabbed to death. The first incident occurred close to the Lion’s Gate in the Old City section of Jerusalem. Aharon Bennett a 21 year-old father visiting Jerusalem with his wife, two-year-old son and baby daughter, was stabbed to death. They were headed to the Western wall for prayer when they were attacked by a 19 year-old Palestinian. The second victim was Rabbi Nechamia Lavi, 41, a rabbi at the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva in the Old City and a father of seven. He too, was killed trying to defend Mr. Bennett’s family. Mr. Bennett's wife was seriously wounded, while their son suffered minor injuries and their baby was unharmed.
The JEWISH TELEGRAPH AGENCY reports: The Islamic Jihad terrorist organization claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the attacker — identified as Muhannad Shafeq Halabi, a law student at Al-Quds University — was a member of its movement. Halabi posted a message on his Facebook page on Friday saying that the third intifada has begun. Hamas applauded what it called the “heroic operation” in a statement, saying: “We support and welcome any resistance activity that harms Israeli soldiers and settlers. Our people in the West Bank are ready to die, to sacrifice themselves to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Just a few hours later, another stabbing took place near where the first attack occurred. In this attack, a 15 year-old Israeli teenager was stabbed by another assailant who is also believed to be a Palestinian terrorist. The teenager was sent to the hospital with wounds to the chest and back. He is expected to recover.
These attacks underscore the rising hatred and violence we see against Jewish people in Israel and around the world. But let me be clear, it is a rising tide of hatred of “People of the Book”, the phrase used by Islamic Fundamentalists to describe Jews and Christians alike. When added to the rising tide of hatred of all things religious, as demonstrated this week in Oregon, it is a clarion call for us to pray as never before. The same hatred connects these two incidents that occurred hemispheres apart. Hatred, whether anti-Semitic or anti-religious, has no bounds. Now is the time for people of faith to stand together.
RAY OF HOPE
You likely remember the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and killed in June of 2014. This event made worldwide headlines as the Israeli government furiously searched for them for 18 days, only to discover they had been killed the very same day they disappeared. One of the teenage boys was 16 year-old Gilad Shaer (also spelled Gil-ad Shaar).
Last week, I sat in the shade of a private sukkah in the Judean/Samarian region listening to Gilad’s mother and father speak about their tragic journey. Two young girls, two of their five remaining children, stood to the side as they spoke of their murdered son, their pain and their hopes for the future. They told of us Gilad’s love for Torah, music and adventure. They talked bout how his loss has impacted so many, especially his younger siblings. They talked about the overwhelming support and love expressed to them from around the world. They talked about their desire to live in the Land in peace. It was very poignant, inspirational and heartrending. However, what struck me most is what they did NOT talk about. They did not talk about Gilad’s murderers. They did not talk about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. They did not talk about hatred for anyone. They talked about life. They talked about humble courage and hope for the future.
This is not a time for people of faith to cower and fear. As with the Shaer family, it is not a time for our own version of circumstantially justified hatred or violence. It is instead, a time for us to give a voice to the martyrs and call upon spiritual, secular and governmental leaders everywhere to stand against this rising tide of hatred and violence.
Jerusalem is a moral test for the world. How we deal with it will either invite the blessing of God upon our lives, nations and world or bring the consequences of His judgment. Please pray for the Shaer family, the families who have just this week suffered so great a loss and for all families who have lost loved ones to religious hatred, whether in Israel, Oregon or anywhere else. And, as always, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Friday, July 31, 2015
It breaks my heart to hear that Jewish Israelis committed a terror attack against Palestinians today. A Palestinian toddler was killed and three members of his family injured in a deadly arson attack on their home by suspected Jewish, far-right extremists. The former ambassador to the U.S., and current Knesset Member Michael Oren stated earlier today: "The hate crime in Duma was an act of terror, The state of Israel is a country of law and works accordingly against anything that goes against our beliefs."
This act of terror will play into the hands of those who hate and vilify Israel. Shame on those who perpetrated this crime or support it in any way.
Jews in Israel are rightly frustrated by the constant Palestinian extremist attacks on their families, friends and citizens. However, to turn to the same evil tactics lowers the value of human life and is directly opposed to Jewish faith. The Jewish Nation is a political state, but above all it is Jewish in character. No army in the world is more careful than the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to protect non-combatants from collateral damage. No nation gives medical care to more of those who call for its destruction than Israel. This terrorist attack, committed by far-right Israelis, is the antithesis of the Jewish State I know and love.
Please pray for the surviving Palestinian family members. Pray for a softening of the heart for the far-right Israelis. And as always, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
A DAY TO REMEMBER
It is “Holocaust Remembrance Day” in Israel. 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 a gentile, as a Christian, I felt I was violating something sacred. My presence was not appropriate as I maneuvered through these icons of horror. As I returned to my hotel I could not get their faces out of my mind. They are now mostly in their 80’s and 90’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, when in Israel I repeatedly walk the hallowed grounds of Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem) and soak in the noble presence and quiet pain of those survivors still among us. I 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.