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July 2017

Tonight, Monday, July 31st, begins the 25 hour Jewish fast of Tisha b’Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) which commemorates the destructions of Jerusalem’s Temple, first in 586 BC by the Babylonians, and then again, by the Romans in 70 A.D.  The book of Eicha (Lamentations), is read in synagogues as part of its commemoration.

When God's Home Was Destroyed

By GARY ALLEY 

The writer of Lamentations sits astonished.  The unbelievable has happened.  It is the 6th century B.C. and the holy city of Jerusalem is no more, and its temple—the House of God—is razed.  The city of the Judean kings is plundered and left bare.  David’s descendants have been murdered, raped, and enslaved.  Bodies of old and young lie in the road; like an apocalyptic nightmare, the famished survivors wander the ravaged streets like zombies, even eating their children.  The last king of Judah, Zedekiah, watched his sons slain before his eyes; then, with that last cruel image burnt on to his retinas, his eyes are taken out. He is then led to Babylon as prisoner to suffer his remaining days in darkness and haunted memory. 

So too, the eyes of the writer of Lamentations cannot comprehend what he is witnessing.  His dirge for Jerusalem resounds in anguish and incredulity.  How could this have happened?  His pain raw, and his feelings uncensored, his transparent testimony is preserved for us nearly 2,600 years later.

My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within;
my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed,
because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.

“Look, Lord, and consider: Whom have you ever treated like this?
Should women eat their offspring, the children they have cared for?
Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord?

“In the day of the Lord’s anger no one escaped or survived;
those I cared for and reared, my enemy has destroyed.”  

Lam 2:11, 20, 22

Just like the ruins of the Lord’s Temple, the faith of the writer lies smoldering.  In the depths of the writer’s despair, life’s discordance dictates his words. 

Jerusalem has sinned greatly…
[BUT]
let all my enemy’s wickedness come before you; deal with them as you have dealt with me.

The Lord is like an enemy—He has swallowed up Israel…
[BUT]
because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed.

You, Lord, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation…
[BUT]
Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?

Lam 1:8,22; Lam 2:5; 3:22; Lam 5:19-20

Lamentations even ambiguously ends with…

Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old
unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure. 

Lam 5:21-22

Yet, despite the senseless tragedy of the moment, this was a watershed moment for the offspring of Abraham.  Those who were enslaved for 400 years in Egypt, those who survived forty years in Sinai, those who defeated the nations of Canaan, those who had outlasted the Assyrian Empire, were now prostrate and utterly crushed before the feet of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.  And the Lord’s Temple, His home, was decimated.

This event for God’s people was quite different from those adversities of the past.  The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, Israel’s religious nerve center since the days of David and Solomon, was shocking and other-worldly.  Yet, from the ashes of this unbelief, during the exile east, a new nation would be born, a Jewish nation, and more importantly, late biblical thought would begin recalibrating its understanding of God’s character.

Just as blessing and prosperity could be signs of God’s favor upon the righteous, so too, suffering and punishment could be understood as a similar display of that favor.  As a father corrects his son, so the Lord chastises His people.  If the Lord allowed a son of David, wicked King Zedekiah, to be tortured for sins committed, how much more in our unjust world could a righteous one suffer for the sins of his people?  If God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, would not defend His home—the Holy Temple—from invasion, humiliation, and annihilation by the unrighteous Gentiles, how could Second Temple Jewish sages not entertain fresh thoughts on the God of their fathers with less pretense and more paradox? 

The destruction of the Lord’s Temple by Babylon was a defining moment where the human issue of injustice was overshadowed by the hope of divine mystery.  Suffering was not just a consequence of a sin but also a reality of life.  Suffering always invokes more questions than there are answers.  What developed in later biblical thought because of Jerusalem’s devastation was that when God’s people suffer, whether rightly or wrongly, He suffers with them.  That is a demonstration of His faithful love.  With that knowledge, there is hope for all who struggle in this life while seeking the Lord.  While we may seek a rationale for suffering, often, it is difficult to find.  For those who cast their affliction upon the Lord, suffering is not the focus nor the end; God’s faithful love is.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him.
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.

 Lam 3:19-25

Charity Report: Your Gifts Helped these Ministries, Individuals, and Families during May and June 2017

Lisa is from an Arab Christian family living in Bethlehem.  JCF gave $250 to cover part of her family's utilities which were extremely high due to an unknown leak.

Bonnie is from an Arab Christian family living in Jericho. JCF helped cover part of her children’s school tuition ($500).

Eden is an Ethiopian Jew that immigrated to Israel in 2004. She did not finish high school or go to the army.  She works in the storage room of a local retail store. She is currently in her eighth month of pregnancy. The father of her unborn child has left.  Eden's mother has married a second time and Eden does not get along with her stepfather.  Because of this situation, Eden has left her home and will not receive any help from her mother after the birth of the baby. Eden is currently staying at a friend’s house but needs to find an apartment for herself and her baby. JCF is helping cover part of the first month of rent. She is in the process of applying for housing help from the government ($583).

There are about 7000 residents under the age of 14 in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.  From these, 820 of them are “at risk children.”  Many of these kids are exposed to dangerous situations, especially during the summer months.  JCF donated $160 towards educational lectures hosted by Israeli Social Services to increase awareness among the families ($160).

Sicilia is from an Arab Christian family living in the Old City of Jerusalem.  JCF contributed $292 towards her daughter’s dental treatment which the family is currently unable to pay.

News in Israel

Two Israeli Police Officers Killed at the Temple Mount.  On July 14th, two Israeli Druze police officers were shot and killed, and a third wounded, by three Israeli-Arab residents from Umm al-Fahm in the Haifa District.  After the Israeli government set up metal detectors at all entrances to the holy site, there was unrest surrounding the Temple Mount, ensuing in a Muslim boycott.  The metal detectors were removed on July 25th.  During that time, an Israeli security guard shot and killed two Jordanians in Amman, after being attacked by one with a screwdriver on July 23rd.  The Israeli guard, Ziv Moyal, was returned to Israel after intense negotiations between the Israelis and the Jordanians, who are demanding an investigation into Moyal’s actions.  Israeli-Jordanian relations have been shaken by these recent events.

Searching for Bethsaida.  The last two summers, Dr. R. Steven Notley, director of Nyack College’s Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins (AJCO) graduate degree program, has spearheaded excavations at El-Araj in Israel in search of evidence for the fishing village of Bethsaida, well-known from the Jesus stories in the gospels. Over the last century, Et-Tell has been assumed by many to be Bethsaida, yet without vigorous proof.  Here is Notley’s article from Near Eastern Archaeology explaining the history and evidence needed for classifying the real site of Bethsaida.  Here is a report from this summer's excavations.

Never-before-seen Hebrew inscriptions found on First Temple-era Arad Letters using an innovative technique discovered by Israeli researchers.  More.

Tel Gezer reveals 3,200-year-old bodies of two adults and a child who died during the Egyptian destruction of the city nearly 200 years prior to King David.  Several other cities in the area, Jaffa, Gerisa, and Aphek were also destroyed during Canaan’s rebellion against their Egyptian overlords.  More.

Archaeologists Find Destruction Left by Babylonian Conquest of Jerusalem.  A thick destruction layer featuring storage jars with marks typical of sixth century B.C.E., and a remarkable ivory statuette of a nude woman, were unearthed on the eastern slope of the City of David. More.

What Happened to the Canaanites?  New evidence suggests that the Lebanese are predominately descendants of the Canaanites.  Findings say ninety percent of Lebanese DNA is Canaanite.  More.

Ancient Rome’s Mystery Recipe for Sea Wall Concrete Discovered.  Researchers have unlocked the chemistry of Roman concrete which has resisted ocean water for thousands of years.  Israel’s Caesarea port, which was built by Herod the Great, also utilized this unique concrete.  More.

The Ninth Annual Jerusalem Light Festival (June 28-July 6) Illuminates the Old City. More.

The 20th Maccabiah Games were held in Israel this July.  Around 10,000 Jewish athletes from around the world competed in 45 sports on behalf of 85 countries.  More.

Come See the Land of the Bible with
Yoni Gerrish and JCF Biblical Study Tours

  • Tour with Dr. Larry Ehrlich from San Francisco and Chicago (Oct 28 – Nov 11, 2017)
  • Tour with Tom and Eliza Henderson from Denver (Nov 11 – 22, 2017)
  • Tour with Pastor David Tarkington from either Orlando or Newark (Jan 26-Feb 10, 2018)

 For more information on how you can join one of these tours, here.

 

Biblical Language Center's 2017 Summer Biblical Hebrew Courses are happening now

This summer, the Biblical Language Center (BLC) is hosting both a four-week beginners course (June 18-July 14) and a four-week intermediate course (July 16-August 11) for Biblical Hebrew at Jerusalem Hills Inn in Israel.  Classes have averaged 24 participants who hail from many different parts of the world—China, Malaysia, Singapore, Ghana, South Africa, Switzerland, Canada, the Philippines, Australia, India, and the United States.  The beginners class read through the book of Jonah, while the intermediate group is currently reading through a healthy array of biblical texts.  This summer’s program is especially unique because it is running in conjunction with the Institute for Biblical Languages and Translation (IBLT)’s inaugural eight-month Hebrew immersion course for Bible Translators, of which Randall Buth is director.  For more information, here.

 
There are approximately twelve needy and very lonely Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem who have been receiving loving care and companionship from an aid organization with whom we partner.   These Survivors receive monthly checks to support them economically and receive regular volunteer visitors, which is also very important to them.  A very nice program was begun to link boys from a local institution for disadvantaged children and youth, to some of these Holocaust Survivors.  This has greatly benefited both the teenage boys and the elderly survivors.
 
Loneliness is a huge problem to people who have lost all their family and often their spouse.  Visiting some of these Jerusalem Survivors regularly ourselves, we know how important this program is which supplies both financial and emotional support.  
 
The donations of JCF have been used in part with help to maintain the ongoing expense of supporting these survivors in Jerusalem with monthly help in form of coupons for food items.  The other part has been used to cover maintenance problems in their homes. For example, when our staff visited a 90 year old Survivor, her small, modest apartment was quite dark owing to a broken slatted shutter which could not be raised and had been like this for more than a week.   Having received the gift from JCF, we were in a position to immediately arrange its replacement.  One of hermost  terrible memories is from her home town of Yasi in Romania where she suffered terribly from violence and terror.  She lost most of her family and witnessed people being pulled out of their homes and killed.  She finds it very difficult to talk about those memories. She is suffering from many health problems, does not have children, and lost her husband many years ago.  Visits from Christians like us mean the world to her.