Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Some Reflections on Israel Trip, #1

There are so many things I could say about our recent trip to Israel.  I loved it.  It was a "bucket-list" trip.  I had my eyes opened to so many things I did not realize.  I saw things that I've read in scripture over the last forty years and it made me wonder, appreciate, ponder and learn.

Over the next few posts I want to share some of the more interesting things I saw, or observed.

Let's start with this:  Israel is a country of complexity.  One cannot just jump into a car, cab, or bus and go north to south or west to east without to go through checkpoints.

There are multiple checkpoints.  Why?
Because Israel is a divided country with different sections relegated to Palestinian Arabs and the general Jewish population.

It does not mean that Arabs and Jews don't live together.  They do in many different areas - city and rural.
Yet those areas of joint living are all under Israeli control.  The areas that are completely under the control of the Palestinian authority are still under Israel's Defense Forces oversight.  And, those that live in Palestinian controlled areas are often restricted in their ability to travel to those areas under Israel's control.

For example, we stayed in Bethlehem - the historic village where Jesus was born, and where David ruled Judah for the first 7 years of his rule, and where Boaz and Ruth were wed.  Yet, an average Arab, whether the predominant Muslim, or the minority Christian, cannot travel to Jerusalem.  They are restricted to move only within the territories designated for their population - in this case, it's Area A.

Israel is divided into three different zones for the sake of movement, government, and control.  Area A is under Palestinian control - except for national defense - and those living in it need special permits to travel to any Israeli controlled area -  which is Area C.

Area B is areas of Palestinian control also, but under Israeli military control.

If it sounds confusing, it is.  It's complex and yet it is the situation on the ground.
What complicates things more is that Israeli settlers have moved into Palestinian areas - both A & B - in order to establish Jewish presence.  The settlement areas are often small rural farms, but sometimes they are large - one even achieving the status of a city with over 18,000 inhabitants.  They are also connected at times with "holy" sites - places in Palestinian areas that are biblically important to orthodox Jews.

It's'll read in the media that the settlements are illegal.  To Palestinians I talked with - both Muslim and Christian - they are hated.  There is a certain disdain for the settlers as they are viewed as stealing Palestinian lands.  Yet, the fact remains, that Palestinians in general think Israel has stolen all of the land and the only solution among some radical factions is the complete destruction of Israel.

Lastly, Israel controls the movements through the building of the walls that separate Jewish areas from Palestinian.  The walls did not exist until the most recent Intifada.  In 2000 a Palestinian uprising began.  By the time it ended in 2005 over a thousand Israelis died and several thousand Palestinians died.  The walls were built to stop the incursion of Palestinian suicide bombers who were blowing themselves up in Jerusalem.  The Walls have been built over much of the land to separate the Palestinian population from the Israeli Jewish population.

In one conversation I had, a young Palestinian man told me that the Intifada was a huge mistake and that Palestinians are now much more worse of than they were before.  The solution is not Political, or Military...

Israel is complex!

Monday, April 27, 2015

A beautiful summary

Hi my friends,
It's been a while since I've posted, and the fact is it was a welcome break.
Sometimes I feel compelled to write, and love that; but there are other times when I feel the duty to write and it becomes a task - often dry and stale. 
So forgive me for the lack of posting and accept this as a "glad to be back here and sharing again."

I continue to read through Calvin's "Institutes of Christian Religion" - a massive exposition of Christian doctrine, now 550+ years old, but still timeless in depth and truth.  I've come to the end of book two, which means there are still two more books to do.  This last book dealt with the person and work of Christ, and in an interesting fashion the last part of book two was an exposition of the Apostle's Creed.

Don't know if you remember the creed, but it's worth memorizing.
    I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

In Calvin's Institutes he wrote extensively on the person and work of Jesus.  I love his ability to take the short statements on themes of the cross, death, resurrection, ascension and bring it all together in one complete summary.  Here's Calvin's ending paragraph.

"When we see that the whole sum of our salvation, and every single part of it, are comprehended in Christ, we must beware of deriving even the minutes portion of it from any other quarter. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that he possesses it; if we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, we shall find them in his unction; strength in his government; purity in his conception; indulgence in his nativity, in which he was made like us in all respects, in order that he might learn to sympathise with us: if we seek redemption, we shall find it in his passion; acquittal in his condemnation; remission of the curse in his cross; satisfaction in his sacrifice; purification in his blood; reconciliation in his descent to hell; mortification of the flesh in his sepulchre; newness of life in his resurrection; immortality also in his resurrection; the inheritance of a celestial kingdom in his entrance into heaven; protection, security, and the abundant supply of all blessings, in his kingdom; secure anticipation of judgment in the power of judging committed to him. In fine, since in him all kinds of blessings are treasured up, let us draw a full supply from him, and none from any other quarter. Those who, not satisfied with him alone, entertain various hopes from others, though they may continue to look to him chiefly, deviate from the right path by the simple fact, that some portion of their thought takes a different direction. No distrust of this description can arise when once the abundance of his blessings is properly known."