I'm sorry almost a week has gone since I last updated, the week has been very good but without good Wifi, so I gave up and decided to do a big catch-up when I returned. So here goes!
On Monday, I was in the office mailing out minutes, and doing other administrative stuff.
On Tuesday, I left Jerusalem behind to go to the Galilee to attend a seminar on a most fantastic Bible study computer programme! The seminar was led by Roy and Helen Brown, the originators of the programme which is called Accordance 10 - just Google Accordancebible.com and you will find it. The programme is suitable for people who want to study the Bible from the very beginner stage right through to Hebrew, Greek, ancient documents which are difficult to find, etc., etc. It is used by university professors as well as students and congregation members. What makes it so exceptional is that it is multilayered, easy to use, and provides instant results. All the major commentaries, writers and so on are included as well as maps, photographs, timeline, and so much more. I was totally impressed and would recommend it; the basic programme can be purchased and then extended according to requirements. It appealed to me that their latest addition is ALL the writings of Deitrich Bonhoffeur - wow! Anyway that's the classroom stuff, and very good too.
I stayed at a CMJ retreat house, Be'it Bracha, at Migdal. Overlooking the Sea of Galilee it was so full of G-d's peace, just beyond this time and place. It's staffed by a management team, Ted and Linda, and lots of volunteers, mainly young people but some older ones too, from all around the world. You're getting the picture now, aren't you, it's heavenly! To top it off, all the people who were staying, and I guess most who ever stay, were people of faith, several of whom were called to come to Israel. One family, with five boys, come regularly from America to minister, to evangelize mainly to the Jews. Having just flown in the night I met them, they stayed only one night and then moved on to the village in which they would minister, to look at five potential houses/apartments to decide immediately which one to move into One son was still in the States at college, the others travel with their parents.
The day at Be'it Bracha begins with a reading and prayer in the dining room at 8 a.m. at the start of breakfast so all eat together. On Thursday, when I had a free day, I was also invited to Devotions at around 10 a.m. Worship was a combination of English and Hebrew worship songs, followed by a reading from Ruth 1 and from Joshua 14. This was led to a reflection from a man named Andrew who spoke about the commitment, faithfulness and determination of Ruth and Caleb. Andrew was accompanied by an older man named Tony, both live in Israel now and both were on a mission to the Druze. This could be quite a dangerous ministry.
'The Druze community in Israel is officially recognized as a separate religious entity with its own courts (with jurisdiction in matters of personal status - marriage, divorce, maintenance and adoption) and spiritual leadership. Their culture is Arab and their language Arabic but they opted against mainstream Arab nationalism in 1948 and have since served (first as volunteers, later within the draft system) in the Israel Defense Forces and the Border Police.
Worldwide there are probably about one million Druze living mainly in Syria and Lebanon, with 104,000 in Israel, including about 18,000 in the Golan (which came under Israeli rule in 1967) and several thousands who emigrated to Europe and North and South America.
The Druze community in Israel has a special standing among the country's minority groups, and members of the community have attained high-level positions in the political, public and military spheres.' The Druze by Dr Naim Aridi from The Jewish Virtual Library
Much more about the Druze and their faith has been written by Dr Naim Aridis and is available in The Jewish Virtual Library so if you want to know more, please visit there.
Besides Andrew's message which I felt was particularly pertinent to me, the reason I write about him is that he had a recognisable UK west country accent, and when I spoke with him afterwards, he told me he was originally from Henlade, east of Taunton, and has been in Israel for about 20 years, having prayed for Israel for some years before. Andrew was accompanied by an older man, Tony, who spoke also of his divine calling to sell up and move from the UK to The Land. They now live in neighbouring villages and share in this ministry to the Druze. Another true divine calling to be here, a calling which they faithfully obeyed.
All this and the Sea of Galilee, and then Tabgha the site of the miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes.
At one point, sitting on a rock, right on the shore of the sea, surrounded by peace and the haunting sound of a recorder being played close by, the sound echoing around, how I felt the player must have had some special connection as he gently played Amazing Grace, How great Thou art, Ave Maria and Memories! If you know me well, you will perhaps understand what a special time that was........
Then back to Jerusalem on Friday for Erev Shabbat but too late for synagogue.
As I write this, Shabbat has ended, time has been spent with G-d not just because it's commanded but because it's good, it draws us closer to G-d, enables us to put all else aside and be with Him, and so we are renewed for another week. As I end this post with a prayer of thanks for Shabbat from the Mishkan T'fillah (A Reform Siddur) the city traffic has stared up again and people are going out to celebrate the start of a new week.
We give thanks to You, O G-d, for this Shabbat day,
which unites us as a community of faith and hope.
For the holiness of Shabbat, which can lead us to fulfill
the best that is in us, we give thanks.
For the memories of Shabbat, enriched by generations of our people
who observed it and from it drew courage to face hardship,
and light to banish darkness, we are grateful.
We offer thanks for the peace of Shabbat,
the day consecrated to family love.
O G-d, our turning to You exalts our humanity.
You are the joy of our life,
the Source of its greatness, its power and its beauty.
Help us O G-d, to find inspiration for the coming week;
help us to find peace within ourselves and one another.
Watch out for tomorrow's post, there will be something special from morning worship.