The Shuk in Jerusalem
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 —
BLESSINGS, dear brothers and sisters, In The precious Name of our Lord Yeshua h’meshiach, Jesus Christ. May you be blessed and encouraged and may the Lord alone be glorified and may He be blessed.
I am sorry that I have been unable to write and remind some of you in a timely manner of the Purim festival that is JUST NOW ENDING. Purim, the celebration of the book of Esther (the book is called the Megillah) has evolved into a 3-day event here, so schools have been closed already since this past Tuesday.
Tuesday night at sundown began the one day “Esther fast.” (It seems to me that fewer and fewer people participate in the fast over the passing years.) And at sundown on Wednesday when the fast ends, the partying begins in un-walled cities. The entire small book of Esther is read out loud by numerous readers and studied. Noise is made at every mention of Haman the Aggagite. Costumes are donned to represent the fact that the day determined for the Jews to be annihilated was turned instead into a day of deliverance.
Things are not always what they appear to be. There are parades and parties all over the country but not in Jerusalem until THURSDAY night wince walled cities are celebrated the SECOND day of Purim. Jerusalem corresponds to Shushan, the citadel. Jerusalem, being far less secular than most other places in Israel, has a better representation of Queen Esthers and Mordechais.
When I was a child I loved dressing up as the beautiful Queen Esther who was given the anointing to intercede for the people of Israel. These days, as I have shared before, Purim has taken on much of a “Halloween” air and it saddens me. None the less, as I traveled home from work today, the streets were full of festive children bringing mishloach mannot or “sent portions,” baskets of goodies to family, neighbors and the poor.
There was singing and dancing and small tents set up to encourage people to study the book of Esther. I heard a number of times” “And how many times did you hear the book of Esther this Purim?” Maybe it’s funny, but perhaps my favorite part of the book of Esther is found in Chapter 2 verse 15:
Now when the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his daughter, to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what Hegai the king’s eunuch, the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her.
She requested NOTHING but what she was advised…
That line always stops me and I think about the submissive, gentle character of this one who could be used in such an act of intercession. She did not try to figure it out, but submitted to the one who advised her. How unlike her my nature is, but He can change it, right?
I ran into the shuk yesterday to get some nuts and sweets and fruits for my own mishloach mannot baskets to be given out. There they were – the very first telltale sign of approaching Passover. HUGE BOXES OF FRESH GARLICS. The first garlic harvest has begun and the rich fragrance fills the air.
“Oh no! Time to start Pesach cleaning ALREADY!”
Now THAT was probably not the most godly response, but it really was my first thought. I was pleasantly surprised however, when I went to pay for my tomatoes and kishueem (a light green Israeli zucchini). The stall owner weighted my bags and told me, “Seva vhetzi shekelim.“(7 and a half shekels).
I handed them back. “I think you made a mistake. You said 7 and a half.”
He smiled and said, “See how warm it is? The price went way down today.”
Wow! Lovely, although ominous. Our winter HAS been economical, warm and very little rain. The worldwide climate changes are everywhere . So for us it handed us a warm and another too-dry winter. Meanwhile, our daughter in London is enjoying the snow. I guess we all hang on for the ride.
Challenges. They come in all forms and our directions are to look up and take our instructions from The Lord. He allows challenges, but the choices are ours. Will it be HIS way?
My husband faced a challenge the other night that was specific to immigrants and my heart went out to him. He has suffered increasingly severe hearing damage and we are thankful that our Israeli plan covers hearing aids.
It was time for another hearing test. The woman giving the test this year was new to us, but I could tell right away that the level of her voice was not in the range that he hears well. Yet worse than that, when I told her that he does not speak much Hebrew, she was a bit alarmed and said that she would try to speak in English. I watched my husband through the glass in his sound proof room with his earphones. As I heard the words being spoken I was pretty clueless as to what the English words were that she was trying to pronounce. My hearing is relatively good.
Oy! I realized that she wasn’t using any “r” sounds (the “r” is soft in Hebrew). Oh well, He definitely qualifies for new hearing aids so it won’t really hurt anything. It just highlighted again some of the more subtle frustrations of immigration.
Somehow, in my naiveté, I did not expect the immigrant challenges to be lifelong, but they are, and aging actually magnifies the differences.
Rachel Margalit came to my desk to ask me to make out her prescriptions. She and her actor husband are very secular and worldly, but thoughtful. I enjoy talking to them. She likes to practice her English on me as they enjoy traveling.
When I answered a question she commented, ”English is such a rich language with so many possibilities. Hebrew, on the other hand, is so limited! I prefer English.”
Now this was a discussion that I had had before and thought much about. I have heard other secular Israelis make similar statements. I said, “Oh Rachel. I feel quite the opposite Yes, English has so many more words to describe things, but I feel as if English is a line drawing, two-dimensional. Whereas Hebrew is a sculpture, three- dimensional. I had her attention. “One word in Hebrew, opens a window on so much description. So rich. Each word is a world of its own evoking ancient history as well as future events, just from one word. It is so incredibly rich – a sculpture.”
She looked as if a light went on and said excitedly, “That is because each word comes from a shorish (3-letter root) so you are right. Every word is rooted in so much meaning.”
She understood and that blessed me as I added, “Yes, and it is all ancient and is all rooted in the Bible, ancient. Our entire history weighs in on each word.”
In many ways the disdain for the Hebrew language and the embracing of the English go hand in hand with a rejection of God and His Word. HIS WORD IS the first dictionary of the Hebrew language, and even now, every word is rooted in the Bible, except some technical ones. So you see, even the LANGUAGE becomes a spiritual battle.
Speaking of spiritual battles: the media!
Perhaps you heard of the three-day closure (strike really) of the Church of The Holy Sepulcher? (A Church shared by Catholic, Russian and Greek Orthodox denominations.)
It is one of the numerous sights here that could possibly have held Jesus’ tomb. Protestants believe that the tomb was in what is now the Garden Tomb, but most of the world’s orthodox religions go with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It attracts MANY tourists.
Perhaps some of you have been there. The Orthodox religions (the three above and several others) own a GREAT deal of property in Jerusalem and much of Israel. A small amount is covered by churches and religious places of study, but much of it is used commercially as hotels, restaurants, shops and rental property. “Church (owned) property” has not been taxed here in the past 70 years. Out of frustration over millions of shekels of unpaid water and electric bills and the recent sale by the Churches of some of this property, the Jerusalem mayor decided to tax Church owned NON-CHURCH INCOME EARNING PROPERTIES (ie: hotels, restaurants etc.)
The response astounded me. It drew a perfect picture of what is happening here on all levels. The denominations decided to close the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in protest. The Moslem key-keeper was called and he was told to use the ancient key and LOCK THE DOORS.
Tourists were horrified. Frankly I was horrified. THEY locked the Church while the foreign media proclaimed loud and clear that Israel had barred entry to the Church. The U.N. was appealed to. “YOU CAN NOT TAX CHURCHES. THIS IS RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION. YOU ARE UPSETTING THE STATUS QUO.”
The media poured it on.
I watched some man on the street interviews with some sad looking tourists. “We saved for our entire lives to come here on pilgrimage and we have been told that the Church is closed!”
The news man asked, “Have you been told WHY it is closed?”
They nod. “Oh yes! Israel has started to tax the Churches! In the whole world NO ONE TAXES CHURCHES. How could they do that?”
Tourist after tourist repeated what they had been told. Mayor Barkat withdrew the legislation to tax the profit producing businesses on Church owned land [NOT taxing Churches].
The media campaign won. Again. It is incredibly frustrating. And it was a sad witness to a nation needing Him who does not know the difference between one denomination or another, one Church or another. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is open again: business as usual.
I got on the bus the other morning and it looked different. It is bus replacement time and once again we have another new design.
Everyone was commenting, looking around, shaking their heads, trying out different seats. It’s kind of funny to watch, like kids getting into their parent’s new car, opening the ash tray, rolling the windows go up and down, bounceing on the seats. Well, we have no ash trays and our windows don’t really open, BUT WE HAVE LITTLE BLUE LIGHTS BY EVERY SEAT WITH AN OUTLET TO CHARGE YOU SMART PHONE OR COMPUTER.
Do YOU have phone chargers on YOUR busses? If I used a smart phone I would have taken a picture of it for you as it tickled my funny bone. It has definitely become a common sight to see people running around with a cord looking for a place to plug in and charge. It is often the first thing that patients do when they arrive at the office where I work. “Where can I plug in my phone?”
Now I can tell them to take the bus.
I am deeply thankful for the many of you who see this email and have a heart to pray for this nation and her people! Most of you whom I hear from are those whom I have never met. That is humbling. You represent so many countries and backgrounds. Yet each one has been touched by the eternal merciful Hand of God and has responded by turning your life over to Him and now we walk side by side.
And we are walking side by side in probably the most dangerous days of this planet’s history, the days of deception. And yet for every deception that we face, there are HIS PROMISES.
I have been asked numerous times about how to pray for Israel. I take that question with fear and trembling. How can anyone answer ANYTHING concerning God lightly? As I searched my heart in His and His in mine, something that I feel is from Him came to me:
ISRAEL IS A TRIAL TO THE CHURCH. If we DON’T look PAST the physical evidence to the PROMISES AND PURPOSES OF GOD TOWARD ISRAEL AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE, we will stumble. We cannot take those promises and purposes out of context, but there are just no short cuts. We must see Israel and the Jews THROUGH HIS perspective, through HIS EYES AND PURPOSES.
ISRAEL IS A TRIAL TO THE CHRISTIANS WHO CARE ABOUT THEIR OWN NATIONS. Yes, that sounds but what I mean is that The Lord Himself may have taught you how to pray for your own nation and shown you many things. BUT IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THAT IS TO ALSO APPLY TO ISRAEL. When we embrace a truth for our own nation it can be very difficult, even blinding, to realize that it may NOT be what He is doing/saying about Israel.
ISRAEL IS A TRIAL TO THE WORLD. Does anyone doubt that we are living in the day of judgment? Judgment is narrow and is that thing that says the time is NOW and no longer later. Throughout the prophets we see that the unsaved world – the nations – were also judged by HOW THEY TREATED ISRAEL WHEN GOD WAS USING THEM TO BRING ABOUT HIS JUDGMENT. This is heavy and cuts to the heart.
Again and again God says, “I was using you to judge my people and you went beyond Me and hated them and showed no mercy.” One quick example that comes to mind is Ezekiel 35. Each nation is in the midst, to one degree or another, of lifting the heavy stone spoken of by Zechariah.
ISRAEL IS TIRED…IT HAS BEEN A WAR OF ATTRITION WITH TRIAL BY MEDIA. Many of you have spoken of the frustration in your own nations, concerning polarized factions – truth and lies and an upside down world. But I am not speaking of the media in our nation as much as the world media, the world governments and the U.N.
ISRAEL IS A PEOPLE WHO NEEDS TO KNOW HER GOD AND HIS PLANS FOR HER. And since you KNOW that, I repeat, that I am SO THANKFUL for each of you and for your prayers, mighty and small! He hears.
MAY THE LORD KEEP YOU AND LEAD YOU AND EMBRACE YOU WITH HIS PEACE. MAY HE LEAD US ALL INTO ALL TRUTH THAT IS HIS, FOR HIS GLORY ALONE.
your sister J