Blessings Poured Out at Messianic Festival
Sunday, May 19, 2013 |
This year the Messianic Jewish Shavuot Ingathering experienced a welcome and unexpected blessing. As the dawn broke on the early morning hours of the day of festival the heavens opened up and poured down abundant “latter rains” over the entire country. Accompanied by roaring thunder and hair-raising lighting, Israel experienced one of the best spring storms in her modern history, adding even more waters to the rising Sea of Galilee.
Groups from Beersheva in the Negev and the northern Galilee called organizers earlier to find out if the annual Messianic Festival in the Judean Mountains had been cancelled. “No way,” they were told. “If ever there was a joyful time to go up to Jerusalem it is right now.” Over 2,000 believers made their way up to the yearly festival and the blessings of abundant rains over the nation added an extra portion of joy to all.
With perfectly choreographed timing, as worshippers began the ascent into the Judean steppes, the ever present Middle East sun broke through and presented one of the most brilliant and refreshing days of the year for all to enjoy.
For thousands of years Israelis have made this annual journey up to Jerusalem for Shavuot. It has always been and continues to be a unique and special time of bonding for the whole family. Mom and dad, uncles and aunts, children and cousins all proudly carry the golden sheaves of the annual wheat harvest on the long trek up the rocky hills to offer their First Fruits unto the Lord. In similar fashion, the Messianic Jews of Israel also came bearing a wide variety of gifts to honor their Lord and Messiah Yeshua.
Walking through the hills of the pine tree forests participants were greeted to the sounds of vibrant Hebrew music. Messianic worship teams from around the country set the tone throughout the day offering praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. A special treat was the children’s choir made up of some 20 young vocalists together with violins, flute and cello. Proud parents together with the entire assembly were deeply moved listening to the pure and simple voices of these 5-12 year olds singing popular Hebrew songs such as, “You are so wonderful Lord Yeshua. We give you thanks and we love you so much.”
Activities for children included a Bible guessing game, face painting and tables of children’s books, music, videos and popcorn. Popular with all the children and adults was a large table with hundreds of brightly colored seasonal flowers open for all to make the traditional Shavuot bouquet garland. These traditional headdresses added beauty, fun and smiles to the whole celebration.
The annual gathering organized by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel includes an open-air fair of local Messianic ministries, arts and crafts. Throughout the day folks walked among the many stalls to learn about recent activities and offerings from the local believers. Here are a few samples:
Hachotam: a local publishing house printing Messianic materials in Hebrew for children, youth and adults.
Netivyah: a national youth center with activities, camps and conferences.
Lech L’cha: equipping young Israeli believers for life and ministry including a 3-month discipleship school and a unique program for Messianic high school graduates to prepare them for their compulsory army service.
Medallion: offering a wealth of materials in Hebrew for the local congregations’ Shabbat School teachers and children.
The Bible Society in Israel: offering new editions of Hebrew Bibles and study materials.
Yuval: a Messianic school for the arts.
Most of the ministries, materials and programs offered were designed to encourage and train young Messianic believers. The emphasis on youth and youth ministries is an encouraging sign within the Messianic movement in Israel.
As with all Israeli holiday celebrations there was plenty of food to go around as people spread out blankets filled with traditional cheese cakes and dairy products. But perhaps the most delightful and significant part of these gatherings is the rich fellowship. Grandparents proudly showing off their new grandchildren, parents hoisting little ones up on shoulders to see over the crowds and Messianic brothers and sisters greeting one another with hugs and smiles make this yearly event feel like a family reunion. For many this is the only opportunity they have to renew friendships and pray for one another until next year in Jerusalem.
Canada: West needs to be more supportive of Israel
Sunday, May 19, 2013 |
Israel Today Staff
Canada last week once again demonstrated its unequivocal support for and friendship with Israel when Prime Minister Stephen Harper took other Western leaders to task for not backing the Jewish state sufficiently enough.
"There's nothing more shortsighted in Western capitals in our time than the softening of support we've seen for Israel around the globe," the Associated Press quoted Harper as saying during a visit to New York City last week.
The Canadian leader said that at a time of such turmoil, Israel has demonstrated that it is the "one stable, democratic ally" that the West can count on in the Middle East.
Harper went on to counsel "extraordinary caution" when considering whether or not the West should arm Syrian rebel groups. Echoing Israel's own concerns, Harper noted that many of the groups making up the Syrian Free Army are themselves extremists "whose objectives we don't understand."
Syria aims its missiles at Israel
Sunday, May 19, 2013 |
Syria has aimed its considerable ballistic missile arsenal at Israel's heavily populated Greater Tel Aviv area, according to Middle East sources cited by London's Sunday Times.
According to the report, the regime of embattled Syrian dictator Bashar Assad will launch the missiles at Israel should the Jewish state carry out one more aerial strike inside Syria.
Earlier this month, two military facilities in Damascus that were purportedly preparing to transfer advanced weapons to Lebanon's Hezbollah terrorist militia were suddenly destroyed in pinpoint aerial strikes.
Israel refused to officially comment on either strike, but it is widely assumed the Jewish state was behind both attacks. Jerusalem has repeatedly insisted that it will not allow Hezbollah to take possession of Syrian weapons, especially chemical warheads. Assad has said that if his regime reaches the brink of collapse, he will send everything to his Lebanese terrorist allies.
At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the latest threats out of Syria will not deter the Jewish state from doing what must be done to protect its people in the long-run.
"The Israeli government has acted responsibly and prudently to ensure the security of Israeli citizens and to prevent advanced weapons from reaching Hezbollah and [other] terrorist organizations... and we will do so in the future," said Netanyahu.
Israel has thus far tried to avoid directly threatening Assad so as to not pressure him into feeling that he must retaliate. At the same time, the prevailing view is that Assad will not under any circumstances actually launch a missile attack on Israel, knowing full well that the resulting Israeli retaliation would certainly spell the end of his regime.
However, both Assad and his Iranian allies could respond by unleashing Hezbollah, which already possesses tens of thousands of missiles and at least some of Syria's unconventional warheads. The likelihood of "chemical terrorism" in the near future is very high, warned Israeli military officials.
Israel struggles with high poverty rating
Friday, May 17, 2013 |
Israel Today Staff
Despite Israel's overall economic resilience and strong global market presence, which we have written on numerous times in the past, the Jewish state continues to struggle with high poverty levels.
A survey published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Wednesday revealed that Israel has the highest rate of poverty among all developed nations.
Nearly 21 percent of all Israelis live below the poverty line. That's even higher than the poverty rate of Mexico, which stands at 20.4 percent.
Israel scored a little better when it came to the gap between rich and poor, placing fifth behind Chile, Mexico, Turkey and the USA.
The results of the survey came at a terrible time for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government, which is trying to cut the national deficit by increasing taxes and slashing spending on welfare programs.
In today's current economic climate, those who are considered "middle class" Israelis live from paycheck-to-paycheck, and can no longer afford to buy a home. Those who live at a lower economic level are obviously much worse off, and many of the welfare programs they rely on are facing what Finance Minister Yair Lapid calls "necessary cuts" to get Israel back on track fiscally.
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Israel's Messianic Jews celebrate Shavuot
Thursday, May 16, 2013 |
Israel Today Staff
Israeli Messianic believers in Yeshua from across the country gathered in the Jerusalem-area village of Yad Hashmonah on Wednesday to mark the biblical festival of Shavuot.
Shavuot is one of Israel's most revered biblical holidays, as it commemorates, among other things, the giving of God's Word at Mt. Sinai. The holiday has entered the Christian calendar as Pentecost, the day of the outpouring of God's spirit on the local body of Yeshua's followers in Jerusalem. So, for Israeli believers, Shavuot is doubly important.
As with every year, hundreds of Messianic Jews and Christians living in Israel made their way to Yad Hashmonah for the festive event. Among those addressing the gathering was a Ugandan pastor who two years ago had acid poured over his head by an angry Muslim gang. He is currently living in Israel to undergo treatment in Tel Aviv.
The African visitor said he was raised a Muslim who hated the Jewish state, but after finding the Bible realized that every passage made clear that the God of Israel is the one and only true God.
Women in Prayer Shawls - Equality, or National Threat?
Thursday, May 16, 2013 |
A small group of about 50 women from the group "Women of the Wall" caused an uproar at Jerusalem's Western Wall last Friday. The group had chosen this day to protest for what they called "equality" by wearing prayer shawls and reading from Torah scrolls (activities traditionally reserved for men) while praying at the holy site.
The first day of a new Hebrew month, which last Friday was, is traditionally seen as a holiday more important to women, the choice of day made sense. But this, so it seems, was the only point of contact with tradition.
As the group's website states, Women of the Wall is a movement of Jewish women "from around the world who strive to achieve the right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem, Israel. The Western Wall is Judaism's most sacred holy site and the principal symbol of Jewish people-hood and sovereignty, and Women of the Wall works to make it a holy site where women can pray freely."
More clearly, Women of the Wall want to change tradition so that any Jewish group will be allowed to pray at the Kotel as they see fit. Women of the Wall want to pray as men do, with prayer shawls and reading from the Torah, and they want to pray without the current separation of men from women. Every aspect of the group's aim stands against Jewish tradition. Customs honored for millennia are now being challenged.
When religious authorities initially prevented the Women of the Wall from worshiping as they wanted, the case was brought before Israel's Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled that a special area be designated for Jews who insist on worshiping in ways contrary to tradition. That ruling, as could be expected, did not change most people's minds regarding this topic, and when Women of the Wall persisted with praying at the Western Wall in their own way, riots ensued.
Media coverage of this saga almost unanimously sides with Women of the Wall as defenders of progress and freedom. The fact that an identifiable majority of Israelis, both religious and secular, do not support the group's goals makes little difference. Thousands turned out to counter-protest the 50 Women of the Wall, yet the majority was condemned in the name of democracy and the right of people to do whatever they want.
One of the greatest achievements in the history of Judaism was the successful unification of warring Jewish factions by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. From a Jewish perspective, it was the baseless hatred amongst Jewish factions at the time that almost resulted in Israel's total annihilation.
If Judaism is to avoid once again being broken down into little factions that hate one another, maybe, for the greater good of Israel, this march toward Western liberalism and even some of its more admirable values should be shelved for now.