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October 2014

Sukkot 2014 in Jerusalem

“On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)
for seven days to the LORD...
You must live in tabernacles (sukkot) for seven days;
every native citizen in Israel must live in tabernacles (sukkot),
so that your future generations may know that I made the Israelites live in tabernacles (sukkot)
when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’”
                                                                                            Leviticus 23:34, 42-43

Enjoy some of the Sukkot built in Jerusalem this past week.




A Good Land

Israel’s Seven Species: Pomegranate


Deuteronomy is a book of expectations. In this final book of the Pentateuch, God stokes the Israelites’ expectations concerning their entrance into the long-awaited “Promised Land”, while at the same time, He explains the rules that they are expected to follow.  One of these expectations is the agricultural bounty of the land of Canaan, often summed up by the so-called seven species.  During the time of Jesus, only these seven varieties[1] were presented in the Temple at Jerusalem as offerings of the first fruits festival (Ex 34:26).

“For the Lord your God is bringing you to a good land, a land of brooks, springs, and fountains flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, and pomegranates, of olive oil and honey (Dt 8:7-8).”

The POMEGRANATE is a deciduous tree with a deep red, seed-like fruit enclosed in individual pulp kernels.  In Israel its fruit ripens at the end of summer, usually during September and October.  The pomegranate has a long association with biblical agriculture—from Moses’ twelve spies sent to Canaan who bring back pomegranates as proof of Canaan’s productivity (Num 12:23) to the prophets, Joel and Haggai, who both envision a terrible day when Israel’s prolific fruit trees, like the pomegranate, hang barren.[2] 

Because of its plethora of juicy ruby seeds, the pomegranate was often associated with fertility and lovemaking in the ancient world.  In the Bible, the amorous Song of Songs multiple times enlists the pomegranate in poetic imagery which portrays two lovers’ sweet, playful talk.[3] 

Further, the Bible also has a special place of honor for the pomegranate within the world of biblical worship.  Pomegranates hung from the Israelite priests’ garments, and they adorned the Temple’s capitals.[4]  In 1989 the Israel Museum purchased a tiny carved pomegranate made of Hippopotamus bone bearing the inscription “Belonging to the Temp[le of Yahw]eh, holy to the priests.”  For many years, it was a central exhibit of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, being attributed to the time of Solomon’s Temple.  Since 2004, though, it has fallen into a forgery controversy with its origin and, especially, its inscription being questioned.   (For a picture, here.) 

During the First Jewish Revolt (66-73 AD) when the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, silver shekels were minted by the Jewish rebels, some depicting three pomegranates and the Paleo-Hebrew inscription, “Jerusalem the Holy.”  For a picture, here.  These coins were used for the few years of Jewish sovereignty to pay the temple tax.

[1] Mishna Bikkurim 1,3

[2] Joel 1:12; Hag 2:19

[3] Songs 4:3,13; 6:7,11; 7:12; 8:2

[4] Ex 28:31-35; I Kgs 7:8 ; 2 Chr 3:16; Jer 52:22


News in Israel and the Middle East

  • Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, was celebrated this past week.  For more on its practice, here.
  • Since 1980, the longest running annual Christian celebration of Sukkot has been hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).  Thousands of Christians attended this year's event at Jerusalem's new Pais Arena.  For many years, ICEJ's attendees have also led a parade of nations in Jerusalem, that has grown into a city-wide event attracting an estimated 60,000 Jerusalem residents this year.
  • The Hertzl Institute in Jerusalem has received a multi-million dollar grant to help Christians study Jewish thought.  Article here.
  • Bible Readings for 2014-2015. Follow the Parasha (Torah portion) for the Jewish Year 5775 with New Testament sections as well. Download here.

Prayer Requests and Praise Reports

  • Syrian Civil War and the people of the Middle East.  After three and a half years, the death toll nears 200,000, over 3 million are refugees, and over 6 million are displaced.  Recently, a Syrian military photographer defected, bringing with him 55,000 images of the Assad regime's systematic torture and murder.  In the midst of this carnage, the Sunni Islamic extremist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has led a bloody rampage into the center of Iraq, receiving worldwide publicity with its similar brutality.  With ISIS's encirclement of Baghdad and ISIS cells already working in Baghdad, Canon Andrew White, known as the "Vicar of Baghdad" for the Anglican Church, has recently left Iraq due to the security risk he currently presents to himself and his flock.  This war and its consequences are rippling into much of the Middle East, affecting countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, as well as Israel.


JCF has been giving toward Holocaust survivors living Jerusalem.  This is an update from the International Christian Embassy which we have been partnering with.

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.