Israel Update

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A few things I wanted to comment on today, as I think about all that is going on in Israel.

First, I want to ask for prayer.  Tarku Take, an older woman from I believe Eritrea, has gone missing from Ashdod, Israel.  PLEASE pray that she will be located safe and sound very soon.

There is a group of 1500 Ugandan Jews who have been waiting years for approval to immigrate to Israel.  The Ministry of Interior dragged its feet for a long time and just today ruled that they cannot immigrate to Israel.  There are some leaders who want to fight this and we must pray that they are successful.  There is a terrible famine and these people are only eating one meal a day.

Since the barrage of rockets 2 days ago, we have had quiet.  These attacks were the worst since 2014.

Recently, a bike path in the Carob Forest in Israel was dedicated to the memory of renowned Italian cyclist Gino Bartali.  His efforts during the Holocaust led to the saving of many Jewish lives.  Not only did he transport false papers for many Jews, he even hid a Jewish family in his home.  None of this was known until 2010, when diaries of another man were found which told about Mr. Bartali’s heroic efforts.  You can read about him on Wikipedia and other places.

Your prayers are so needed for Israel.  We have defense issues, social issues and religious issues which distract and cause discourse amongst the citizens.  Please pray for unity, for the people to turn to the L-rd and for love and compassion for one another’s neighbour to really come through.

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Rockets and Mortars Hitting Israel

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The beautiful Flame Tree, which is prevalent in Israel.

Today there have numerous rockets shot into Israel from Gaza.  Sirens have been sounding in the towns close to the border. Three soldiers have been hurt there.  The other day, and Israeli soldier was killed in Ramallah.

Also today, a rocket landed in a kindergarten, but fortunately it was before children had started arriving.

It seems that things are heating up here once again.  There have been quite a few planes flying over our home, as we are on the flight path of one of the Air Force bases.

As I am writing this, 70+ rockets have been shot into Israel.  Many of them come from so close to the border that there is not time to shoot them down with the Iron Dome.  In these areas, residents are being told to stay within 15 seconds of a bomb shelter!  No rockets have fallen in our city as of yet.  They are reporting that things are escalating, so it will be interesting to see if the night is quiet or not!

Jonah

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This stone marks the spot where tradition has it where the grave of Jonah the prophet is located.

Today we had the opportunity to take some friends to visit the “traditional” grave of Jonah.  It is located on a 53-meter high hill overlooking the city of Ashdod.  The site is indicated on the famous 6th century Medba map, with the heading, in Greek, “The holy Jonah.”  On top of the hill is a lighthouse facing the port that sends a beam of light out for a distance of 27 kilometres.

During the Mandate, British officers used this as a lookout point to prevent Jewish immigrants from entering the Land.

It was a beautiful view of the Mediterranean and the port.  Ashdod is the busiest port in Israel, receiving 60% of imports.

G-d Equips

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Pretty landscaping seen today.

Last night at our study center, Michael talked about how the Jewish people are the only people group in the world to have been scattered throughout the world, had their land taken from them, been the focus of persecution and threats of annihilation and yet we exist and thrive back in our homeland.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I was out for my walk.  Several planes flew overhead during that time (and some flew last night as well).  We are a tiny country.  We are surrounded by our enemies.  It is unfortunate how much of Israel’s budget  needs to be spent on defence.  But, what is even more amazing, is that Israel has the best pilots in the world and produces so much of the technology which increases the effectiveness of military equipment for us and our allies around the world.

Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 881 individuals, of whom 197 – 22.4% – were Jewish or people of Jewish descent, although Jews and people of Jewish descent comprise less than 0.2% of the world’s population.

Jews or people of Jewish descent have been recipients of all six awards, including 41% of economics, 28% of medicine, 26% of physics, 19% of chemistry, 13% of literature and 9% of all peace awards.

G-d equipped the Jewish people to preserve and keep His Word and to be a light to the nations.  The Word of G-d was entrusted to the Jewish people to write down and keep throughout the centuries.  Their meticulous reverence for these precious writings has resulted in parchments which were reproduced with such accuracy that has never been matched.

G-d has equipped the Jewish people to thrive and be a light to the nations.  Unfortunately, we have not fulfilled that task.  We need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the Jewish people to turn to Yeshua.

All of this applies to YOU as well, no matter who you are IN HIM.  G-d equips you for your task.  The ministry He has for you.  G-d gives us everything we need to serve Him and to do His will.  We must be confident IN HIM, because it is only through Him that we can do His will.

Let’s pray for G-d to reveal to each of us His will for our lives and what our ministry is!

Shabbat Shalom – Parashat Nasso

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In this week’s Torah portion, we learn a very important aspect of the Biblical word “holy”. In the English language, when one hears the word holy, it conjures up thoughts of purity, goodness, sacredness, etc. Such words do indeed relate to holiness, but there is another aspect of holiness that is often overlooked by Western culture. This aspect is that of purpose. There is always a purpose to that which is holy, i.e., that which is sanctified. In this week’s parashah, the Nazirite vow is discussed. In this section (Numbers chapter 6), one reads,

All the days of the Nazirite vow, holy is he to HaShem.” Numbers 6:8

Does this verse reveal that just because one has taken the Nazirite vow and is abstaining from products connected to grapes, not cutting his hair, and not coming in contact with the dead; that this person is holy? Certainly this person could be behaving in other activities that would have a defiling influence. So why does verse 8 state that the one under the Nazirite vow is holy all the days he is abstaining from these things?

The intent of the word “holy” in this verse is not to convey to the reader about his spiritual condition, rather only that by maintaining the terms of the Nazirite vow, he is set a part for the purpose of the vow. Refraining from sin is always incumbent upon all individuals, but when one also adds to a moral and ethical lifestyle the conditions of the Nazirite vow, he or she enters a new state of intimacy before G-d. Although there is much debate concerning the reasons or motivation for taking upon oneself the Nazirite vow, most authorities agree that the Nazir (the one under this vow) wanted to draw closer to HaShem.

Our verse simply is teaching that all the time that the Nazir is abstaining, he is set apart for the purpose of the vow. This means that the objective for making the vow is still in force. Once he violates the conditions previously mentioned, or ends the vow in the manner described in Numbers chapter 6, he returns to the previous status. In other words, the purpose for making the vow is no longer in effect. This certainly does not mean that the individual no longer wants to be close to G-d; rather that the time this one uniquely devoted to G-d has come to an end.

Although no specific time is mentioned in Numbers chapter 6 for the length of this vow, with the exception of Samson, Judaism understood this to be a short-term commitment, i.e. less than thirty days. It is important for one to know that when the New Covenant speaks about Yeshua being a Nazarene, it is not referring to this vow, but another Hebrew word, which relates to the city of Nazareth. Hence, the term in the New Covenant only conveys that Yeshua was from Nazareth. This fact may also relate to a prophecy concerning this word and its meaning in its verbal form. In addition to this, in the Biblical languages the city of Nazareth is derived from a word that has a “tz” sound instead of a “z” sound. Hence Yeshua should not be depicted with long hair as frequently is seen in many renditions of art.

The commandment of the Nazirite vow is a good example of a Torah commandment that is impossible to keep today without the Temple, but the truth of this vow can certainly be applied in a spiritual manner by believers.

Zedekiah’s Cave/King Solomon’s Quarries

There is a site in Jerusalem which is not visited by many people.  Zedekiah’s Cave was discovered in 1854 when a man (Dr. James Barclay, an American Bible scholar) and his son were looking for their dog.

This cave is not a natural one, but rather a man-made cave as a result of quarrying tons of stone for building projects in Jerusalem.

As you walk through the cave, you are walking underneath the Old City of Jerusalem.  There are crude columns throughout which are used to shore up the ceiling from the weight above.

In I Kings 5:29-31, we read that King Solomon had 80,000 quarriers.  “The king ordered huge blocks of choice stone to be quarried, so that the foundations of the house might be laid with hewn stones.”

These verses caused scholars to suggest that this was the quarry site, due to its proximity to the Temple Mount and the Ophel (the area connecting the Temple Mount and the City of David).

Others believe it was the escape path of King Zedekiah, who was caught near Jericho.  The account of this king, the Last King of Israel, can be found in Jeremiah chapter 52.  It is surmised that the quarry ceased to be used during the period of Suleiman the Magnificent when he built Jerusalem’s city walls (1535-1538).

Torah Dedication

Baruch was one of the featured speakers.  The man next to Baruch was translating into French.  There was also Russian translation. Oleg Hazan, the congregation’s leader, with their new Torah Scroll.

This past Saturday began Shavuot.  It is traditional to study all night and we did that last year at our study center.  This year, we were invited to participate in a time of praise, worship, study and dedication of a Torah Scroll.

The service began at 8:00 pm and ended around 2:00 am.  Tzachi Shapira, of Ahavat Ammi, was there.  His organization donated the Torah Scroll.  We were very happy to participate in this exciting event.

Approximately 80 Africans from South Africa, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and other countries were there as well.  They wanted to participate in this joyous occasion and added so much to the service.  One man translated from Hebrew into French.  You can see him in the photo above.

That evening, two men invited us to come to their countries for Baruch to teach.  We will be looking into adding India to an existing trip and also Cameroon.  Please pray as we continue to discern G-d’s will for all of our travel and meetings.  We want to make our first trip to Africa, as our television program is broadcast throughout the continent on Faith Broadcasting, GOD TV and Daystar.