A message from the Prime Minister of Israel from the courtyard of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem:
To all of our Christian friends around the world, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I send you these greetings from Jerusalem. I'm standing in the courtyard of this magnificent International Christian Embassy. I'm so proud of our relations with our Christian brothers and sisters. I wonder for many of you if you remember the experience you had when you first visited Israel, when you saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Via Dolorosa or the Sea of Galilee or Nazareth. I'm sure it moved you deeply.
And it moves us deeply to have this bond with you because we all know that this land of Israel is the land of our common heritage. It changed the story of humanity, it changed civilization. What a magnificent heritage it is. Yet, we also know that it is under attack these days, that the forces of intolerance, of barbarism that attack all religions attack Christians with particular vehemence. We stand with you and I'm proud of the fact that in Israel, this is the one place in the Middle East that the Christian community not only survives but thrives and it's no accident. It's because of our commitment to religious freedom; it's because of our embrace of our heritage; it's because of our embrace of our common future.
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.
Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.
And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.
-- Acts 9:32-34
Lod (לוד): Population: 71,060. Election results: Likud 32.77%, Joint Arab List 16.15%, Israel Our Home 10.30%. By group: Nationalist parties 62%, Arab parties 17%, Leftist parties 13%, religious parties 7%.
Beersheba (בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע): Population: 197,270. Election results: Likud 37.69%, Zionist Camp 12.24%, Israel Our Home 12.06%. By group: Nationalist parties 70%, Leftist parties 21%, religious parties 7%, Arab parties 1%.
It doesn't seem to matter how early we start to plan and pack, we can't seem to avoid the last-minute scramble before a trip. The morning of our March 7 departure included a 2 a.m. run to Walgreens for a few items, a visit to the ATM and the post office (to mail some get-well cards), and an unsuccessful attempt at getting the accumulated grit and grime of winter washed off of the car. (March 6 was the first really nice day in weeks, and it seemed like every car wash ran out of soap that day.) I got about a one-hour nap before I got up, got myself ready, then got everyone else up. My mom and dad came by, bringing Whataburger sausage biscuits and coffee and both of their vehicles (the Avalon and the Santamobile) to help get the five of us and all of our stuff to the airport. We weighed bags and rearranged and jettisoned. I shooed everyone out the door and ran through my checklist for closing up the house.
By now, the loyal readers that have bothered to hang around will not be surprised by long gaps between blog entries. Work and family obligations have been preempting time and energy to write for publication here or anywhere
The most recent silence was about family, but much more joy than obligation. The whole family spent the last two weeks on a physically and intellectually demanding study tour of Israel, under the auspices of Augustine Christian Academy and the Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation. The itinerary took us from Dan even unto Beersheba, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, from the lowest point on Earth to the foothills of still snowy Mount Hermon. We saw the country at its greenest, with even the desert in bloom, at the tail end of a wet winter and spring, before the withering heat of summer sets in.
The people and places of the Bible were certainly at the center of the tour, but we covered nearly the entire span of recorded human history, from city gates that Abraham likely passed through over 4000 years ago to the present day. I don't know of any spot on the planet quite like Israel, where nearly every great world empire has left its mark -- Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Mecca, the Umayyids, the Abbasids, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, the Ottomans, Napoleon, the British. (That's us below, in front of a Roman aqueduct near the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea Maritima.)
Over the course of the tour, I managed to fill a small Moleskine notebook with tiny writing, and the five of us took tens of thousands of photos. Although I'm back at work and back to the old grind, I want to spend some time sorting through the notes and images and memories while they're still fresh. So don't expect to see political posts any time soon.