22 December 2012

Songs From The Wasteland

Psalm 137:4-6 (Msg)  “Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?”

This was the question Ahuva* had an answer to as she watched the group of secular and Orthodox Jewish women, all terror victims, pray together during the Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year) celebration a few months ago.

“Bless us all with a year of peace.”


“Bless our children that they might come and go in safety.”


“Bless us that this year we will learn to love the Arabs and not hate them.”

And all gathered echoed another hearty, “Amen!!”

This is not the kind of exchange one would expect to hear from those whose lives have been changed forever by personally experiencing a terrorist act.  Yet this is the kind of response Ahuva is beginning to see with the women she works with in Israel.

Orthodox women praying at the Kotel
Ahuva runs an organisation dedicated to helping terror victims recover from their traumatic experiences.  She reaches out to this broken group of people and gently, with the compassionate love of God, helps them to take steps towards regaining some sense of normality and healing in their lives.  This year, Ahuva was able to provide special events for these ladies during the fairly long Feast and celebration season which is part of the Jewish calendar.  It was her delight to report, “We have been awed to stand on the side lines over the past weeks and watch the kindness of God, drawing these women back to the land of the living.  Those, who even last year wept with loss and grief, who went to ‘sleep’ for a month to avoid appearing before God with joy during the Feasts, have this year been singing a new song!”

07 December 2012

Do You Believe In Miracles?

“What did you learn in Sunday School today?”

“We learnt all about how the Israelites escaped from Egypt!  Dad, it was great!  Pharaoh wanted to kill all the Hebrews, but there was a huge airplane that came down and picked them all up, just as the Egyptians were coming to get them.  Then the Egyptians got in their planes to chase them but just as they were catching up, there was a big storm and all their planes crashed in the ocean and they drowned.  And the Israelites escaped to the desert!”

“Wow!  Did your Sunday School teacher really say that?”

“Well, not exactly.  But you’d never believe me if I told you what she really said!”

How well we know the stories of the Bible told to us in Sunday School classes, illustrated in children’s Bible versions, and shared at family devotion times when we were young.  But stories of incredible miracles can sometimes become a little common place over the years, and we can forget the amazing and incredulous aspects of God at work!

Perhaps, this is where we can learn a little from the Jewish tradition of Feasts and celebrations.  In the biblical account of the Exodus, God instructed the people to recount this miraculous event each year with special traditions and the Feast of Passover.  It was a principle learned well, evidenced by the Jewish people instituting similar instructions for annual celebrations, reminding them of other ‘nation saving’ events each year like Purim (the story of Esther) and Hanukah, when the Maccabees defeated the Greek-Syrian army and rededicated the temple.

Hanukah is an 8 day celebration, this year starting on the evening of 8th Dec, and concluding on the 16th.  There are several miracles remembered: The miracle of a small band of Jewish men defeating an army; the miracle of courage, of those who dared to stand for their beliefs against the flow of society; the miracle of a little cruse of oil burning for eight days, when it should have lasted for only one.  Jewish people around the world will light candles on the ‘hanukiah’ each night: on the first night, one candle; on the second night, two candles; and so forth, until the eighth night when the whole hanukiah is ablaze!  They are proclaiming the miracle from centuries ago and praising God for all the miracles He has done.  Games are played with a dreidel (spinning top), carrying the phrase ‘A Great Miracle happened There’.  Traditional songs are sung recounting Israel’s victories from her ancient enemies.  And of course, as with most Jewish Feasts, there is special food to eat, this time cooked in oil, like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (donuts).

01 December 2012

This Year Was Different

We love to hear about opportunities the Lord opens up to share the truth with those we meet. This report from Adonai Roi Messianic Congregation in Tel Aviv, shares about a recent encounter with University students from overseas.

"For the third year in a row, our Associate Pastor, Shmuel, was asked to address a group of students visiting Israel from a major university in the United States about Messianic Judaism and the persecution that Messianic Jews face in Israel.  Two professors, an Orthodox Jew and a Quaker, led this group whose purpose is to expose the students to the various minority groups in Israel.  Shmuel shared about the history of Messianic Judaism, going far back into history to explain how the rift between Judaism and Christianity developed, even though Christianity began as a Jewish sect in the first Century.

What made this year unique from previous years was the direction our conversation with the students took.