Once again, it’s time to hear from our sister in Jerusalem about what she is witnessing there as a believer in Yeshua. Put your prayer shawls on and pray for Israel and Sister J. Now here she is …
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:16-18)
Blessings to you from quiet, subdued Jerusalem. May The Lord give us His Light into all that will glorify Him.
We had incurred some ‘city hall’ issues that needed to be attended to, and being my day off I needed to go down to city hall to see if they were open during their usual hours or if they were closed for the tisha b’av fast.
Things like that change every year. One year it will be open, and another close. One year everyone will seem to be fasting, and another not. One year I will hear weeping and prayer through the night and another not. This year, our city hall was closed and, interestingly, so were most of the shops on Jaffa Road.
The law states that restaurants and places of entertainment should be closed but other stores do as they wish, so in the past I had only seen restaurants or stores with religious owners closed. Being that so many were closed, I did not have to maneuver the crowds and had ample opportunity to observe. It surprised me how many cafes were open. I understand that there must be service for tourists, but this year I did not see many closed. Many tourists were, in fact, on the streets and some of them were obviously wondering what had happened.
Grocery stores, the shuk, public transportation, and so forth all function as normal on tisha b’av and it has been an individual choice for the 19 years that we have been here: to work or not to work. The train was blissfully, well, not ‘empty’, but there were some seats at times and no pushing. So it struck my funny bone to watch a family of tourists from Europe, armed with maps and plenty of food, having succeeded (with the help of passerby) at buying tickets in the automated booth, observe the bright yellow ‘IN-OUT ‘arrows painted on the sidewalks. I told you about our unsuccessful campaign to teach locals to ‘let the crowds off of the train BEFORE you rush on’.
I was reminded just how different life is here as I watched the dad of the visiting family observe the arrows, instruct his family where to stand, push one of the teenagers further back on the arrow, and wait for the train. It was so, well, ‘neat, orderly, and EASY’. Why can’t we do that? Cultural differences can be glaring and humerous and I have found that my response is a test of my walk with The Lord, one I don’t always pass. Yet, He is patient to help me learn.
There are other interesting things. Since it is also Ramadan, Moslems are also fasting during the day hours, and Jaffa Road was full of Moslem Arabs, as well as Jews, strolling along the street. The religious or observant men who are fasting today are obvious. The tradition is not to cut your hair or shave from Shavuot (Pentecost, the feast of weeks) to lag b’omer (the ‘bon fire’ night) when you can cut your hair and shave for one day. Then it begins again until tisha b’av, so, by now the fasting men are obvious not only because they look quite ‘holy’, serious, hungry and sad, but because they are also very shaggy.
It started me thinking even more about fasting and what it is for and WHO it is for.
Probably many of you have read the old book, God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis, but even if you haven’t, or if you have read others, my favorite text simply came from the scripture mentioned above in Matthew 6, which I interpreted this way:
‘Fast unto ME…secretly…tell only ME…and I will search your heart’s motives and either set them straight (my heart’s motives) or change them. Do NOT appear unto men to fast.’
To me, that seemed simple enough. So in my life, and maybe yours, there have been ‘seasons of fasting’ and ‘choices to fast’, times of regularly scheduled fasting and other times when it seems woefully impossible to fast and even failed attempts. Among the faces that I see around me today there are some whom I am sure are really seeking God. I heard that there were many many thousands at the western wall last night for prayer and reading of the book of Lamentations as well as full synagogues all over the city.
During the news broadcasts there is time given to a rabbi to share a devotional explaining tisha b’av, and since I listen to the news in English I can only hope that what is shared on the Hebrew news is deeper, somehow more meaningful. In my readings of the prophets the reason for the fast rings loud and clear. It is NOT to mourn the destruction of the temples and the dispersion, NOR hatred between brothers, but to REPENT FOR THE SIN that turns our faces away from our God toward other things and other gods and causes our hearts to harden and REQUIRES punishment. The fast itself accomplishes nothing without the heart, eh? And I’m thankful that God can turn our hearts and open the eyes of every hungry heart. I am praying that He will appear to hungry hearts today.
But the grave events that have historically impacted the Jewish people on tisha b’av did not stop today. We were shocked to receive today’s news (article below is part of an article from ynet just now):
EU bans contracts between member states, settlements
New decree restricts any Israeli entity beyond 1967 lines from EU funding, prizes, grants. Housing Minister Ariel: Decision reminiscent of Holocaust
The European Union has decreed that contracts between EU member states and Israel must include a clause stating that east Jerusalem and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) are not part of the State of Israel and therefore not part of the contract, it was reported on Tuesday. (*Please note that they also included the Golan Heights)
The decree, which will go into effect Friday, will forbid any cooperation, awarding of grants, prizes and funding for any Israeli entity in the specified areas.
The EU’s funding, direct and indirect, of Israel bodies which operate in the settlements has long drawn fire from various organizations within the Union. The EU is severely opposed to Israeli construction beyond the 1967 lines and has acted repeatedly to draw a clear line between Israel and its settlements in the West Bank.
The latest decree resulted from the EU Foreign Affairs Council’s directives of December 2012, which stated that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”
However, the directive will not harm funding for research institutes, such as the Hebrew University, which employs settlers in their staff. Government ministries, which have offices in east Jerusalem, such as the Justice Ministry, will still enjoy the EU’s cooperation as well.
An EU official said on Tuesday that Israel should not be surprised with the directive, as the issue has been repeatedly addressed and forewarned by EU officials.
The new directive, said the official, is in line with opinions in the EU which have been prevalent for several years.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office MK Ofir Akunis said in response: “It’s a wrong and regrettable decision. Such steps – even before the Palestinians announced they are even ready to return to the negotiation table – are pushing the peace talks away, not drawing them closer.”
“Let them know even in Europe – Judea and Samaria are not ‘occupied,’ they’re the homeland of the Jewish nation.”
Housing Minister Uri Ariel said in response to the decree: “This decision is tainted by racism and discrimination against the Jewish people which is reminiscent of the bans against Jews in Europe over 66 years ago,”
Minister Ariel added, “The Israeli government must not, under any condition, be a part of any future agreement which includes a clause that Judea and Samaria are not a part of the sovereign State of Israel.”
The Yesha Council stated that “To our regret, in Tisha B’av Europe has returned to a policy of boycott and segregation against the State of Israel. Europe’s unrestrained support of the Palestinian Authority has turned it into a non-neutral element.
“The Israeli government must instruct the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry to immediately halt all European projects in Judea and Samaria until this unilateral decision is aborted.”
So, the day is drawing toward a close and our landlord just came and told us that she is looking into selling the apartment that we live in and asked if we want to buy it. Thankfully, she told us that we would be able to sign another one-year lease so I have another ‘issue’ to help learn the stance of faith vs. doubt (fear, worry, sin) Again I have not heard more from our younger daughter but I have been overwhelmed with the loving prayerful response on her behalf. God bless you!
I must go so will sign off quickly.
your sis J