Christmas in Israel
The biggest Christmas tree in the entire Middle East at the moment is apparently in Israel! Ambassador Dani Dayan is proud of the fact that Israel allows such freedom to its Christian population, and has published this to the world.1 You may take it for granted that Christmas day is a holiday from work and school, or that you are free to put up trees and decorations, but celebrating Christmas is not so easy in some countries. Even in Israel, it can cause a bit of friction.
Christmas day is a regular working day for most of the population. Israel is a Jewish state, but 20% of our citizens are not Jewish – mostly Muslim and Christian Arabs – and they need to be considered too. However, some city municipalities embrace the diversity more than others.
The Mayors who stole Christmas!
A Christmas tree displayed a shopping mall in Ashdod caused great controversy recently. The deputy mayor was outraged and insisted that the “disgrace must be removed”.2 There can be great opposition from more religious Jewish people to any hint of Christmas, which they equate with idol worship. Additionally, the Muslim mayor of Nazareth declared Christmas was cancelled last year. His ban did not last long, however, and he soon recanted from his harsh decision.
Today, there are lights and Christmas celebrations a-plenty in Nazareth, Jerusalem, Haifa, Shfaram, and other cities around Israel. It may be controversial, but it is definitely not cancelled this year!
Even some Messianic Jews struggle with the extra-biblical aspects of the holiday (Why do Some Messianic Jews Object to Christmas?). However, as the Jewish and Arab communities are coming together in unity more and more, we are learning how to honor both traditions – with all the sensitivities – in the way that we mark the birth of the Messiah.
Undeterred and unabashed by such concerns that arise each year, Christchurch in Jerusalem makes the most of Jewish Israeli curiosity about Christmas. They hold special events at the church by the Jaffa Gate and throw “a big birthday party for Jesus”, opening their gates and inviting the entire city to come and celebrate.3 They decorate their compound with a huge tree and offer traditional food, along with music, special services, and explanations about the profound meaning behind the celebrations. And they take care to do so in such a way that makes sense to the many Jewish visitors who come each year.
What’s worse: Exclusion or inclusion of everything?
The northern city of Haifa, in contrast to Ashdod, is proudly displaying the symbols of the three faiths together: the Hanukkah menorah, a Christmas tree, and the Muslim crescent and star all right next to each other. It’s hard to decide what is worse – utter rejection of all things connected to the birth of Jesus, or fuzzy acceptance of anything and everything.
Most Israelis will tell you, “Each has their own path”. The verse in Habakkuk that says, “The righteous shall live by his faith” (2:4) has been twisted to mean, “Each according to their own belief”. This leads to a fairly workable coexistence, which is good, but the truth of the matter is, there is only one way to the Father, and it is through Yeshua, the Messiah.
It is good that to some degree at least, Israel accepts other faiths and traditions – there is tolerance and freedom – but as believers, we don’t accept the idea that all faiths are basically the same.
Jewish and Arab believers in Haifa, unfazed by the uncomfortable juxtaposition, make the most of the golden opportunity to share with the thousands of Israelis who come to see the joint festival of faiths called the “Holiday of Holidays”.
Both Arab and Jewish believers from many different congregations will go out to share the Gospel together in the weekends leading up to Christmas. There are book tables with literature in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and English, free face-painting and portraits, worship songs and carols, and even a life-sized nativity scene! Their message? God loves you, unconditionally! And Yeshua the Messiah has made a way for you to know Him personally, so that you can experience His love.
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people.
And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. (Zechariah 2:10-11)
This article originally appeared on One for Israel and is reposted with permission.
ONE FOR ISRAEL strives to be the leading organization in sharing the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah with Israeli Jews and Arabs in the Hebrew language. Our staff is comprised of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the shared belief that true peace in the Middle East can only come into existence under Yeshua.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. – Deuteronomy 32:8
And God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. – Genesis 1:4
We are all created with borders. Our borders are covered with skin equipped with sensors to perceive any unwanted intruder. Beneath that skin is a complex immigration system, vetting all that would immigrate into our closed system. It is comprised of specialists in border security trained to discern if the would-be immigrant is beneficial or detrimental to our bodies. If indeed a foreign intruder with bad intentions succeeds in breaking through the guardians, troops are immediately called in to defeat the threat before damage is caused. It is called the immune system.
Our created systems are formed to produce families, and those to dwell safely in housing protecting them from the elements and unwanted intrusions. Families are formed into societies with laws for mutual protection and survival. A healthy society grows into a nation of laws ordering the boundaries of behavior, and a military force protecting its borders from unwanted intrusion detrimental to its interests and survival. Thus is the natural positive dynamic for a healthy relation between different individuals and differing nations, who may thus trade for mutual benefit and cultural exchange in safety and security.
When the immune system in a body breaks down, all are welcome in without discriminating discernment, which is the fatal disease called AIDS. It is the same for a nation when border security and immigration breaks down. Without a fixed standard of measurement all things become equal and the same – there is no right or wrong, beneficial or detrimental, good or evil- and chaos soon occurs and runs rampant, destroying both individuals and nations. Borders and boundaries and laws are a vital necessity for the benefit of both healthy individuals and nations.
In what is called the navel (tabor) of the Land of Israel is Jerusalem, and at the center of Jerusalem stood the temple of YHVH, constructed after the heavenly pattern shown to Moses. That universal pattern could be the picture of Everyman. Its structure and courts are designed with clearly defined boundaries, defining who may enter, and who may not to each area. Though the entire area is holy for all, borders are ordered for each where smaller numbers may enter for each service rendered therein, until in the Holy of Holies only the High Priest was permitted entry. At that most holy inner sanctum, where God would take up residence to communicate with humankind, is also our own most inner being, where only those few deemed most worthy of trust are allowed to enter and share intimacy. Yes, borders and boundaries and laws are a vital necessity for the benefit of both healthy individuals and nations, and Heaven itself, as our Creator is a divider, separating light from dark, holy from profane, good from evil, and time from eternity.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
Saved by the Law
I often hear people talking and saying statements such as “The Law cannot save anyone” or “No one has ever been saved by the Law.” However, these and other statements like them are incorrect and untrue. I am about to share with you an example straight out of the Bible that shows someone being saved by the Law. Not only that but the example I will use comes not from the Tanakh or Old Testament but from the New Covenant writings. I know some of you are concerned, and others have already clicked to another page or article angry at me and proclaiming I am a legalist or worse. But for those who continue reading, I think you will find not only a real blessing in this article but also hope and promise that will encourage you.
Let’s take a look at Scripture together and see what we find.
In John 8:3-5 we read:
The Torah scholars and Pharisees bring in a woman who had been caught in adultery. After putting her in the middle, 4 they say to Yeshua, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the Torah, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?”
Now for the sake of this article let’s set aside all of the peripheral issues like. Where is the man? If they were able to catch them in the act, why wouldn’t the people stop them before the began sinning? Instead let us focus on the woman, the accusers and Yeshua (Jesus). There are many teachers that present these verses as proof that Yeshua was showing us that His love was more powerful than the Law. They will point at this event and say “look, Grace, is more powerful than Law.”They will say Yeshua forgave her and that His forgiveness did away with her punishment.
However, none of these statements are Biblically accurate. Rather what we find here is one example of a person being saved by the Law. Stick with me here. The woman was caught in sin. She didn’t deny her sin nor try to justify her actions. She is brought before Yeshua by Torah Scholars and Pharisees to test if Yeshua would violate the Law. But Yeshua does not. Instead, he does what we read in John 8: 6-9:
Now they were saying this to trap Him, so that they would have grounds to accuse Him.But Yeshua knelt down and started writing in the dirt with His finger. When they kept asking Him, He stood up and said, “The sinless one among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then He knelt down again and continued writing on the ground. Now when they heard, they began to leave, one by one, the oldest ones first, until Yeshua was left alone with the woman in the middle.
As we read above Yeshua began to write on the ground with His finger. We don’t know what He wrote but whatever it was it causes every one of the woman’s accusers to leave. After everyone else was gone, Yeshua spoke to the woman and said the famous statement. In John 8:10-11:
Straightening up, Yeshua said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” “No one, Sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Yeshua said. “Go, and sin no more.”
Yeshua asks, “where are they? Did no one condemn you? The woman responds “No one, Sir” At this point, Yeshua says “Neither do I condemn you” “Go and sin no more.” It is from these words that preachers conclude Yeshua overturned the Law and forgave without punishment. But this is not a Biblical conclusion. Why? Because The Law itself proclaimed this woman free from the punishment of the death penalty. The Torah in Deuteronomy 17: 5-7 says:
Then you are to bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and stone that man or woman with stones to death. By the word of two or three witnesses, the one who is to die is to be put to death. No one is to be put to death by the word of one witness. The hand of the witnesses is to be first to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you are to purge the evil from your midst.
Notice that in order for someone to be put to death as punishment for a sin there had to be two or three witnesses and that those witnesses had to be the first to stone them. Once Yeshua finished writing in the dirt, there were no witnesses to condemn the woman. The only thing Yeshua could do at that point was to tell her He doesn’t condemn her and to encourage her not to sin anymore. Because He was not a witness and because even if He were there had to be a second witness present to condemn to death and to participate first in the stoning. Yeshua followed the Torah to the letter in his actions. The truth is that this woman was saved by the Law.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, #ManWisdom, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians, God Has No Plan "B", and his most recent book Galatians in Context.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
New Year’s resolutions worth making
The year 2018 according to the Gregorian calendar is almost over and the New Year is fast approaching. It’s a time when many people make what’s called “New Year’s Resolutions” meaning they want to make a big change in their lives starting on the first day of January. The idea is to make a new start in the new year. Of course, most people don’t stick to their resolutions very long, but just the same, the start of a new calendar year is a good time to try and make a positive change.
There’s two resolutions I’d like to suggest that we all make in the new calendar year, the first being to spend more time becoming familiar with the Word of God and the second to becoming more physically healthy and fit.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says; “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Every single human being walking this Earth’s surface has work to do, something God has specifically called them to do. It is by reading the Word that we become trained and equipped to do that work.
A tool I’ve discovered that helps me maintain a habit of daily Bible reading is the “One Year Bible.”
I’m so old-fashioned that I actually have a paper version of the One Year Bible that I read every day but for those who have made the leap to an all-digital lifestyle there’s the “One Year Bible” app, as well as many other options including an email with the daily reading in it and even the possibility to order an old-fashioned paper Bible if that’s what you’re into. It’s all available at this website.
Whichever option you prefer, now is a great time to take advantage of it because as the 1st day of the new calendar year approaches, it’s the perfect time to start the “One Year Bible” journey which will, as the name implies, take you through the entire Bible in a single year.
The second resolution, to “get in shape” is something that the Bible has a lot to say about, for example;
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says; “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
Romans 12:1 “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship”
God gave me and you a body so that we would be able to do the work He has called us to do in this world, and it’s our responsibility to keep our bodies in good working order so that we can do that work in the best possible way. As a bonus, keeping ourselves healthy and fit will allow us to enjoy nearly everything about life more than we will if we don’t take care of our bodies. It will also allow us to live longer and therefore take advantages of more opportunities to serve Him, help each other and care for our own families and communities.
The best system I’ve found for taking care of my physical health and fitness is HASfit. It’s literally a “mom and pop” website run by a man named Joshua Kozak and his wife Claudia, who take users through aerobic and weight training workouts of varying lengths and intensity. It is a family-friendly, highly flexible and varied system suitable for anyone from the age of six to one hundred and six. All you need to do is watch the youtube videos and do what the Kozak’s are doing. They explain everything and take you through each step.
The link to the Hasfit website can be accessed HERE.
As Yogi Berra famously said “predictions are hard, especially about the future.”
That having been said, it’s safe to say that in 2019 and beyond, it’ll be very important for Believers to be familiar with the Scriptures and physically healthy and fit. I hope you’ll join me in resolving to make pursuing these goals a priority in the New Year.
Aaron is a member of Jerusalem Assembly, House of Redemption.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
Living in the Holy City
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17
Not too long ago I drove somewhere with a colleague. Every time we encountered a bothersome driver along the 30-minute drive he would bless them. He would say a quick prayer over them & their family and pray that they’d arrive at their destination safely. I was inspired.
You see, Jerusalem might be the Holy City but just like in any big city around the world, traffic can be a nightmare. Their roads are simply not wide enough for the number of cars. It is a real problem & the city is working hard to solve this. Road construction is going on everywhere, which makes things worse before it gets any better.
What makes dealing with traffic in Jerusalem even more stressful are the Jerusalem drivers! Living in the Holy City does not automatically make one holy. All around the Mediterranean Sea live is lived more passionately and it influences the driving style. It is more ‘intense’. Add to that the stress of living in a country under the constant threat of terror & war and you start to get an idea of how it is to drive in the Middle East.
One of the things I love to do when driving is listening to worship music. When I am alone I love to sing along. Life is busy and having a moment to praise the Lord uninterrupted is a real blessing
So there I would be, singing along, praising the Lord, and suddenly someone would cut me off. Now I have never been one to use rude language or curse, but I would interrupt my worship to honk my horn and yell at the other driver (who could not even hear me, because they’d be in a different car). And instead of arriving at my destination with the peace in my heart that comes from praising the Lord, I’d arrive bothered & frustrated.
For a while, I would just blame the situation, if only there wasn’t traffic if only the other drivers would be calmer, if only…. But my inability to take control of the situation kept bothering me. I didn’t want to let this get to me. I wanted my commute to be a moment of spiritual refreshing. I wanted to change. And while God can change anyone and anything, even Jerusalem drivers, the only one I could change was me. I just didn’t really know how.
God answered my prayers by having my colleague show me a different way to deal with my frustration at the traffic. Instead of yelling and letting it steal my joy, I too could bless the other driver. I could interrupt my singing with a prayer. I could defuse my frustration by seeing the other driver as a person worthy of God’s love.
And while there continues to be traffic in the Holy city, my commute has become a whole lot better, because God used someone else to help change me.
This article originally appeared on CBN Israel, December 12, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Since its establishment in March 2012 CBN Israel has helped thousands of people through its various operations. As the foundation of Project Light Shine, CBN Israel gives help to the community through three avenues; Humanitarian aid, education and economic development. CBN Israel serves with a spirit of humility and love. Their mission is to prepare the Land and the people of Israel for the coming of Messiah Yeshua and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The vision of their work is to see the hungry fed, the needs of the needy met, businesses established and to improve the spiritual, physical and financial situation of the local body.