30 July 2014

Is it a joke or what?

The umbrella body of the Jewish community in Sydney threatened to take action against a major newspaper for publishing a cartoon about Gaza that it claims “racially vilifies” Jews.

Yair Miller, president of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, wrote to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday claiming that the cartoon by Glen Le Lievre in the July 26 edition was in breach of the Anti-Discrimination Act.

“In our view this is racial vilification, not only in the sense of offending, insulting, humiliating and intimidating Jews as a group, but also in the sense of inciting third parties to hatred of Jews,” Miller wrote.

The cartoon, published alongside a virulently anti-Israel article by columnist Mike Carlton, showed a yarmulke-wearing Jew sitting in an armchair etched with a Star of David, using a remote control to detonate a collection of buildings, presumably in Gaza.

The Anti-Defamation Commission of the B’nai B’rith also lodged a formal protest against the “anti-Semitic” image.

“This is the venomous propaganda of Der Stumer recycled for a modern-day audience,” fumed commission chair Dr. Dvir Abramovich. “The cartoon portrays not just Israelis, but all Jews, as heartless, cold-blooded murderers.”

The furor comes as an Islamic leader called for a ban on Australians who join the Israeli army. Samir Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, claimed that Australians who fight in Iraq and Syria face prosecution whereas those who fight for Israel do not.

“It’s hard when you say something to one side and they look and say ‘how come we’re not being treated the same’ – it’s not fair,” he told the Australian Associated Press this week.

But Dr. Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, told JTA: “The law is to prevent
 Australians from going to fight for proscribed groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., who are trying to undermine established states or commit terrorist acts.”

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/203018/does-australia-gaza-war-cartoon-vilify-jews/#ixzz38wDMTOND

28 July 2014

Choices

The poem by Robert Frost is one of those I had to memorize in high school, and therefore despised then. Who wants to learn only for the sake of examination? But this one, The Road Less Taken, has been so instructive, and so pivotal in my life, that I read it with measured frequency and today share it with you.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,    

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

What stands out to you in first reading? In second reading?

I really like "no step had trodden black." I had to make my own way. I'm not going to follow whatever is out there; I'm responsible for making 'my own way" Frost seems to be saying.

For me today however, the "knowing how way leads on to way" speaks. My choices from last month precipitate today's options. I can try to retreat to that month-ago option, but rarely make it back, as Frost says. What does that tell me? That what I do today will impact tomorrow. What I do this afternoon will actually limit the options I have next week. I am continually met with choices: people, time, resources to spend or not to spend. Events, activities, expenditures, sport, reading, writing, ... what are my choices? What are my options?

In the New American Standard Bible the word 'choice' appears 55 times. The word chosen 112 times. Chose 29 times. Choose 47 times. It's a big issue in Bible terms. For instance in Deut. 33.16 "And with the choice things of the earth and its fullness." This meaning is most often found in the Older Testament and carries the idea of 'best.'  In the Newer Testament the idea of election or option is most clearly seen in Romans 9-11. For instance, in Rom. 11.5 "In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice." Here the Apostle Paul is saying that when God chose the Jewish people (Genesis 12), and again in the time of his life (about 50 AD) when Jewish believers in Jesus like himself are present, that those folks are the remnant and that God chose them as well. Doubly chosen, I suppose. His choice of Abraham in Genesis impacted His choice of Jewish believers in Jesus ( Messianic Jews ) in Paul's day.

The 2nd choice, Jews to become followers of Messiah Yeshua, does not override God's first choice. All Jews are still God's chosen people. Paul says that later in Romans 11. "From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers." (verse 28) God's choice of Abraham continued to require the title 'chosen' on Jewish people in Paul's day, even if they rejected Paul's message of salvation in Yeshua. Because of God's love for Abraham and His choosing him back in about 2,000 BC, and because of God's loyalty to His own promises, Jewish people who reject our message of eternal life in Messiah are still chosen.

Why am I writing this today? Two reasons. One, I love Frost and want to remember that choices today impact tomorrow. And as a result I want to make very good and godly choices today. Second, I'm weary of the supersessionist viewpoints of some who tell me that the Church is God's new chosen people and thus, He is done with His promises to the Jews. If God were so cavalier to opt out of His choices and say, "Never mind" to all He has said before, then on what basis do we trust Him for tomorrow?

Make good choices. Today. Later today. Each one helps determine your life.

26 July 2014

Thoughts on Israel/ Gaza Peace: A conversation

I thought I would put in one compilation things I've written or others have written that may help in the conversation viz Israel and Gaza war 2014. Follow the links, come back here, follow more links, and then comment. I almost always (99% of the time) publish what others comment. I want to hear from you. That's truth. And truth matters. Let's discuss...

You might have to copy and paste some of these URLs. Sorry about that.

Civil tragedy.  21 July 2014  Civil?

Where is real peace?  19 July 2014 Real peace

A video from Dennis Prager, American talk show host. A calm evaluation

After three teens were killed Pain and grief

Israeli ambassador on weapons depots on CNN Weapons depots
Not about Middle East, but Senseless shootings

My Facebook updates:
#pray4jfjisrael Praying from Australia for the healing of a nation and the people of Israel and Gaza. Especially JFJ there. (26 July)

My friend Matt Darvas wrote this piece today. What is your response? http://mattdarvas.com/2014/07/24/israel-vs-palestine/ (25 July)

After FAA went back to normalcy? FAA (25 July)

J Hirsch writes (Tablet Mag) "Israel’s operation in #Gaza is not causing deep-seated prejudices, it is revealing them." (24 July)

Would you board the same airplane (as M Bloomberg)  (23 July)

After FAA cancelled flights to Israel,
Not an easy time for global travel, or for anyone with sanity to get near the Hamas-driven regime in Gaza. (23 July)
I'm all for peace; let's be realistic about the costs involved. (16 July)

 At a time when tensions and bombs are heightening, this is good news indeed. (a repost of Israel ) (11 July)

Bob Mendelsohn shared ‎Benjamin Netanyahu - בנימין נתניהו‎'s status. From the Prime Minister of Israel. (9 July)

 

21 July 2014

Civilians and human tragedy

The word 'civil' is an adjective and has the following meanings: 1) relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns, as distinct from military or ecclesiastical matters (such as 'civil aviation' or 'civil marriage ceremony.' This could also include conflicts occurring between citizens of the same country such as the "Civil War" in Yugoslavia. 2) It can also mean (in Law) relating to private relations between members of a community which are not criminal like the phrase 'civil action.'

There is another meaning 3) which sounds courteous and polite, urbane, polished, cultured and cordial. And maybe that's where the problem of human shields and shooting of civilians is having a hard-sell in the public of late. Let me explain.

The word's origin appears to be from the Latin 'civis' which is the word for 'citizen'. So the assumption to most in the West where I live is that civil people should behave more properly towards citizens;  we should be cordial with fellow citizens. I always had a hard time with the phrase of the conflict in the US in 1861-1865 titled 'Civil War.' How could you possibly title it 'civil' if you are killing your brothers just because they are wearing the other uniform?

(For more info see Civil War pain

Words are powerful in all their meanings and when the definitions conflict, so too do ideas about them. That's what we are seeing and experiencing in the current crises in Ukraine and in the Jewish state of Israel. Civilians are being murdered and a part of our conscience cries out 'NO!" to that un-civil activity. Think about the 298 people on board Malaysian flight MH17 which left The Netherlands last week bound for Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. AIDS workers, parents, grandfathers, kids, 3 babies, a flight crew... all kinds of people from Australia, Holland, and around the world were murdered on Thursday.

A nun, a teacher, a husband-and-wife pair of doctors, a businessman and his three grandchildren are just some of the Australian lives cut short by the attack on MH17. The Australian ambassador to the UN's Security Council drafted a resolution.  United Nations Security Council is considering this resolution to condemn the "shooting down" of the Malaysian passenger plane, demand armed groups allow access to the crash site, and call on states in the region to cooperate with an international investigation.

Australia, which lost 37 citizens and residents in the attack, circulated a draft text to the 15-member Security Council late on Saturday and diplomats said it could be put to a vote as early as Monday. The draft resolution "demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability."

We don't understand war, and we certainly don't understand the role of the armed guards near Donetsk, Ukraine, who are the only governing body over the area of the fatalities. Wait, why are we skirting the verb/ gerund which mostly applies? The 298 were not shot down only. They were murdered. And casualties of a war about which most are completely ignorant. They were civilians, after all, and not Russian or Ukrainians at all. The pain in our insides is severe. The pain for the families is unbearable.

The other locale of global interest these days is Israel. There Hamas-driven military action is using human shields and shooting from civilian areas to self-protect. It's so odd. The media campaign by certain Arab peoples like Mossawa in Haifa are not moderate at all.  On their website today is a call for 'civility.' "We, the undersigned organizations, express extreme concern at the rapidly deteriorating situation within the Gaza Strip and urge the international community to take immediate action to halt the deadly aggression being waged against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. We also urge the UN to initiate a fact-finding mission to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity."

We don't understand war in general, and if you don't live in the Middle East, you will probably never understand these kinds of war-statements at all. And taking a simplistic "Us vs. Them" kind of stance will not be very helpful in civil conversation, I've learned. That said, when the Hamas government uses children as weapon bearers as they have increased to do this weekend, or send missiles from neighborhoods and not from military venues, they put their own citizens in harm's way. From what I've read, that's considered a war crime.

I can only imagine what it would be like to live in trauma each day from missiles fired into my neighborhood. I was in Israel in November, 2012, when the last bombing by Hamas/ Gaza was taking place. It was a daily annoyance, but ducking into a bomb shelter for a few minutes over six days is much different to what children and families are being put through the last 12 days in Israel, especially in S'derot and the South Shore. It's psychologically dampening and harmful. It's wrong. It's un-civil.

Mostly, from here in Australia, I reckon we can use the word 'tragic' to title both of these trouble spots in the world just now. And we can hope for calm minds, wise decisions, civil action, and bearable pain. In the meantime, we pray for our leaders to make those wise decisions and trust the Almighty to lead people in His way.

19 July 2014

Peace, peace, when there is no peace

Ezekiel was a Jewish prophet and priest who lived between 622 BCE and well into the 6th Century BCE. He was among a few thousand Jewish people who were taken into captivity in Babylon, when he was about 25 years old or so and he prophesied for a couple decades along with a contemporary named Jeremiah.  His words then are useful today, so his prophecies were not only for then, they can be helpful to us who want to know the signs of the times and the times of the signs. (By the way, many churches 'celebrate' Ezekiel's life and ministry around 21 July which is Monday.

In what we title "Ezekiel chapter 13" (he didn't break his writings into chapters and verses; we do that), he wrote: “Thus I will spend My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it over with whitewash; and I will say to you, ‘The wall is gone and its plasterers are gone, along with the prophets of Israel who prophesy to Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’ declares the Lord GOD." (13.15-16)

Peace, peace, when there is no peace.

Jeremiah lived at the same time, and some Jewish scholars say that Ezekiel is the son of Jeremiah. Jeremiah said something similar four times in his prophecy, “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,  Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
But there is no peace."  (6.14)

Again in Jer. 8.11 “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially,  Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace."

Then in chapter 12, verse 12 “On all the bare heights in the wilderness destroyers have come, for a sword of the LORD is devouring from one end of the land even to the other;  There is no peace for anyone."  And finally we read in Jer. 30.5 “For thus says the LORD, 'I have heard a sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace."

This weekend I watched the news for hours. Different newscasts; different presenters; different scenes and the same hope. I was hoping that the cease-fire would be real in Israel and Gaza. I was hoping that the battle, the iron dome, the missiles, the bombing would be over. I was hoping that no more civilians would be used as human shields. I hoped that the infantry, now up to over 60,000 Israeli troops would be able to go home and have Shabbat like I was having. I hoped that the Hamas-driven government in Gaza would not conscript any more children and strap weapons on them, sending them into the fray of war. I was hoping for peace.

I was hoping that the commentators would announce that peace was real, and available, and everyone wanted peace. And they wanted it right now.

When I was in Russia last month, I heard the sabre rattling of Vladimir Putin in relation to gas delivery and the debt Ukraine owes Russia. The people were indifferent, but the political and economic people were worried. Crimea was already done, and the takeover/ vote. Now comes the Malaysian Airline MH17 and the obvious shooting by a military surface-to-air missile from a Russian-influenced war site. What will Mr Putin do?

Dr John Blaxland from the Australian National University said the MH-17 tragedy could trigger an even deeper conflict in Ukraine.

“Putin may choose not to back down. He has a lot invested in Ukraine and if he takes that course it won’t be good,’ Dr Blaxland said. “The Russian Army is poised on the Ukraine border.”

Peace, peace, when there is no peace.

So we return to Ezekiel and to chapter 13. He said, "“It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace. And when anyone builds a wall, behold, they plaster it over with whitewash." 

This may sound silly, and Ezekiel is highlighting the silliness, and the inefficacy of the wall which is no wall at all. Just as the peace which some demand (put down your weapons Israel) is useless and won't be real at all. A plaster wall is no wall in the fields, and in war. That peace which comes is no peace at all. The Word Biblical Commentary says, "This is a rough stone wall, a terrace wall of loose, unmortared stones. What the prophets had done was tantamount to plastering over such a dry wall, giving the impression of a solid, substantial structure."

What do we usually call this? Hypocrisy. Phoniness. Pretention. A lie.

God was not happy with prophets who predicted and told fortunes of peace, when the Jewish people were destined for troubles and no peace at all. Our Temple in 586 would be knocked down. Our lives would be massively disturbed because of our own sins and prophesying, "Peace" when there was no real peace at all was tantamount to saying 'wall' when there was no wall at all.  
So my hopes for peace in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine, are they wasted? Is there no hope for peace?

I believe there is hope for peace. But not in a handshake and not in a treaty, cease-fire, or CNN-inspired deal.

Yeshua, the Jewish messiah, son of David, said, "Peace I leave with you. Not as the world gives do I give to you... These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have troubles, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."   (recorded in John 14.27 and John 16.33)

Real peace comes from the real Messiah who really cares about Ukrainians, about Dutch children, about Gaza youth and Israeli pedestrians. He cares about you and about me, no matter our views of gas and oil, and our views of justice. He wants us to know Him personally and to live without hypocrisy, without fake walls, without fake peace. 

Real peace comes from the Prince of Peace. Will you dare to get to know Him? Will you dare to ask the Almighty if Yeshua is really the Messiah? Don't buy the peace process. Don't buy the prophets' messages of 'she'll be right, mate.' Only in God is there real life. Trust Him. 


13 July 2014

Behind enemy lines


Don't be confused. This is not a movie review of the 2001 Gene Hackman/ Owen Wilson debacle so titled.  For the review of that sad piece of Hollywood read Roger Ebert's review here. No, for me this is about traveling to Russia in June and pondering it after returning to Sydney a couple weeks ago.

When I was born in 1951, the embers of World War II were long cooled. Before I turned 3, Josef Stalin died. He defined much of what I understood in my primary school days as Russia or the USSR. Under Stalin's rule, the concept of "socialism in one country" became a central tenet of Soviet society. He replaced the New Economic Policy introduced by Lenin in the early 1920s with a highly-centralized command economy, launching a period of industrialization and collectivization that resulted in the rapid transformation of the USSR from an agrarian society into an industrial power. However, the economic changes coincided with the imprisonment of millions of people in correctional labor camps and the deportation of many others to remote areas.  Stalin was not good for the Jews. He was not good for most of Russia.

But I didn't know much about the real Stalin until I was much older. My earliest introduction to Russia was Nikita Khrushchev and Rocket J Squirrel. Every war gives so many images to a young boy, and the Cold War was no exception. Maxwell Smart, created by Mel Brooks, and the Ian Fleming series of James Bond's 007 were central to my education about Russia and its people. The cartoons of Rocky and Bullwinkle with their archnemesis of Boris Badenov with his sidekick Natasha Fatale, were formative in my 'understanding' of the Russian mentality and the hostility of the Cold War. Fun history of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

The real Boris' life took place in the 16th Century and was dramatized by the founder of Russian literature, Alexander Pushkin, in his play Boris Godunov (1831), which was inspired by Shakespeare's Henry IV.  Mussorgsky based his opera Boris Godunov on Pushkin's play. Sergei Prokofiev later wrote incidental music for Pushkin's drama. In 1997, the score of a 1710 baroque opera based on the reign of Boris by German composer Johann Mattheson was rediscovered in Armenia and returned to Hamburg, Germany.

Back to my own story. After N Khrushchev threw his shoe and banged it on the podium at the United Nations in 1960, the enemy had clarified himself.  Khrushchev was my enemy and his people were collectively the same.

When I was about 10, in Hebrew and otherwise Jewish school each week, we too, learned about Russia. Ian Fleming wrote a popular book From Russia with love, and United Artists made this sequel to Dr No into a great success. I'm sure I saw that movie and again the enemy was clarified. At the same time I was learning at Hebrew school about the plight of millions of Jewish people who were not allowed to practice our religion. Atheism was the state religion under Communism and Jews were forced to amend their religion completely to survive. (for more facts and evaluation read Identities in Flux, 2003)

When our teachers at Kehilath Israel synagogue and others in the Jewish community of Kansas City heard about this, they decided to conduct rallies in support of the Russian Jewish people. Perhaps many had fled from there and still had relatives in the Former Soviet Union.  For whatever reasons, we marched and stood outside the Jewish community center on 82nd and Holmes and held placards reading, "Free Soviet Jewry." I was about 11 at the time. Even then I knew that Russia was our enemy.

When I was asked by the leaders of Jews for Jesus in Moscow to come this year and be the chaplain for the campaign we would conduct in June, I was reluctant. I don't know the Russian language. I wasn't sure I could learn to read the language in time. But honestly, and I was not even aware of this myself, I didn't want to go 'behind enemy lines.'  They were the bad guys after all. What evil lurked behind cosmonaut statues and Pushkin arts' displays?

After some personal prodding and God's overwhelming clarity, I went there and spent three weeks in the Russia about which I'd heard, both in Moscow and St Petersburg. It was a great experience and I valued being there to participate in the campaign/ outreach and to see a very beautiful and massive city and country.

This week I pondered being 'behind enemy lines' and the reality of being there. The enemy of course is not Mr Putin or Russia itself. Even Cyrillic was not as difficult as I imagined. As a result, I was less inclined to see the people of Russia as objects of scorn. In fact, I realized how lonely, how lost, how sad they really were. That realization, not because of the advent of 1991's form of capitalism, but because of systemic emptiness was in sharp contrast to our campaigners' proclamations. We wanted everyone to experience eternal life, and that's only found in Yeshua. He alone could give hope. He alone could give life. He alone was the answer to the questions raised by Soviet inefficacy.

I was seriously behind enemy lines. But the enemy was wrongly identified. And maybe you are also behind enemy lines in Topeka or Toulouse or in Toorak. The enemy is not your family or the HSC. The enemy is not the KGB or the CIA or the IRS. The enemy is Satan and the answer to overcoming him is in Yeshua. He already has triumphed over sin and death in his dying on the cross in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

"This is the victory, even our faith," says John the apostle.
"The thief is come to steal, to kill and to destroy, but I (Jesus said) am come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly."

You can win, even behind enemy lines. And so can many others if they will listen.

Are you listening?