Whatever is good, pure, true...think on these things.
For us, our Lord’s Day began quite differently than usual. We all received our wake up calls at 6 AM. Then after a wonderful breakfast set before us by the chefs and staff of our Israeli hosts, here at the Dan Panorama Hotel we prepared our hearts and minds for the exciting day ahead. Richard is out of the hospital, for which we all praise the Lord, and the missing luggage has finally caught up Katalin so, at the moment, everything seems to be running smoothly.
I am excited about today’s agenda which begins at Israel’s Knesset. The Knesset is Israel’s Parliament. We will also be visiting the Herzl Museum and Yad Vashem.
This morning’s devotions is from Pastor Bill. He read to us John 14:27. He focused on peace and the account of David vs. Goliath, Elijah and the prophets of Baal, and all the many other places and stories from the Bible that we have experience throughout this week. What an encouragement to all of us. Whatever is good, pure, true...think on these things.
The word “Knesset” means gathering or assembly. Miriam shared with us what to expect regarding security and entering the Israeli parliament. We stopped and saw the Menorah outside and across the street from the Knesset entrance, which was a gift from Great Britain. The original Menorah, the lamp stand was taken to Rome after 70 AD as seen on the Arch of Titus in Rome. The original Menorah has been lost but the foundation of the New State of Israel was like the light returning.
Our guide inside the Knesset told us that the winter session starts today and the first general meeting will be tomorrow. This is the only political body voted on by the people. There are120 members of the Knesset. The Prime Minister’s Office, Supreme Court, and several museums are all located in this area of Jerusalem.
We began our tour in the Chagall State Hall. This is the main reception area for meeting and greeting dignitaries. The artwork here began in 1960 by Marc Chagall and was finished by 1968. The right tapestry, looks toward the future, the center tapestry represents the past, and the left represents the present. The center seems to be a summary history of the Jewish people. There is a Menorah on the wall that is made of stone except for yellow glass which when the light hits it appears to light up. There are also mosaics located on the floor throughout the room.
We were shown a facsimile of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. We learned the Jewish Agency helped draw up this crucial document and Ben Gurion was the head of this agency. Israel declared the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The British mandate was to end on May 15th of the same year. The declaration restated the Jewish connection with and to the land. The Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917 was the first recorded political identification with this land for the Jewish people. The Declaration set forth the Law of Return and declared Israel a democratic state. Twenty percent of the Knesset is Muslim.
The governmental system they adhere to is fascinating and quite different than the United States. There are ten parties in the Knesset. The votes are cast for parties, not candidates. Twenty-five parties can run but only the top ten actually become members. Elections are every four years. After the election Knesset members are sworn in then they work to form a government, which happens via forming a coalition government. To become the Prime Minister there must be at least sixty-one seats supporting them. The current Knesset has thirty-eight female members and also includes Druze.
We visited the Plenary Hall or the Mason Meeting Room where they meet. The lower part of the room is for the members. Left is coalition, right is opposition. The Prime Minister has one vote. All the meetings of the Knesset are televised (like C-Span). Presidents Bush, Clinton and Carter have addressed the Knesset. The room is laid out to form a menorah. The second tier is for guests and news media. The final rows are for the public behind soundproof and bulletproof glass. Israel has a president they are representative no power.
A model of Jerusalem is found outside the Shrine of the Book museum. The scale of the city is 1 x 50. It was originally at the Holy Land Hotel. This model was built in the 1960’s. Miriam also pointed out the pool of Siloam, the western wall, the Antonia Fortress. My big takeaway from the model of Jerusalem was that the Eastern Gate of Jesus’ day lined up exactly with the Temple entrance. When anyone entered through that gate they were facing the Temple. Currently, the Eastern Gate is closed but if it were open it would not lead you directly into the Dome of the Rock. This, to me is clear that the Dome of Rock is not sitting in the location of the original Temple.
Inside the Shrine of the Book museum was wonderful. Seeing all the artifacts from Qumran and the ancient Dead Sea scrolls was amazing. I was shocked at how clear most of the text was. We were not allowed to take any pictures, but the Shrine of the Book is a beautiful building holding some incredible information from Israel’s past.
We enjoyed lunch at Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust Museum) in their beautiful cafeteria. After lunch we were escorted to a special ceremony where The Friends of Israel was honored for its support and financial contributions to the Holocaust Education Program. Our Jewish friends in the Holocaust education program will be reading Genesis 12 this week focusing on the call of Abraham and a blessing on those who bless them. The Nazi’s tried to destroy and make sure there were no Jewish people in the world. Yad Vashem is a testimony to their failure.
After the unveiling of the plaque from Yad Vashem, we were given a private tour of the museum, which was extremely enlightening. In a very real sense, the Holocaust was a Christian event. There were “Christian Soldiers” that carried out the orders of extermination. Liz, our guide, has been working here for 11 years. She reminds us that in a few short years there will be no survivors of the Holocaust left. She works here six days a week and take tours to Poland.
The museum is on Mount Herzl and was created to enable people to have a place to mourn. Righteous people are Christians who placed their lives on the line to help the Jewish people. Yad Vashem honors 26,000 righteous people. They are honored by a carob tree.
We begin with how the six million Jewish people lived not how they died. We saw a film of precious little children singing Hativkah, Israel’s national anthem. It was very hard to watch those beautiful children who never saw what they were singing about, the land of Israel.
The museum is set up taking people through the timeline of the Holocaust. We had to travel through the Nazi horror in order to get to the liberation. The Nazi’s burned books of any one who thought differently. Hitler came to power in 1933. He’s was a failed artist, never held a job, but by 33 he wrangled the German people into accepting his message of hatred. He presented himself as a savior. The Jewish people were presented as a bug not human. Hitler’s state church said the Bible was dirty. It needed to be cleansed because of all its Jewish references. 70,000 German citizens were murdered because they were considered useless. German they hated Jews, Gypsy’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses, communists, trade unionists, etc. Jewish people tried to leave, but no one would take them.
January 1939 Poland had 3.3 million Jews. Germany only had 200,000.
2 million Jews were murdered (shot) at the beginning of the Holocaust (this was prior to the death camps). The Germans complained how hard it was to keep killing people every day this lead to the establishment of six concentration camps. The Jewish people were considered insects to be exterminated 1942. Being Jewish was their only crime. The revenge against the Nazis are the Jewish children. Israel doesn’t come into existence because of the Holocaust but in spite of it!
One and a half million Jewish children died in the Holocaust. This tour hurt my heart and my soul. Seeing all the beautiful children’s faces, looking into the eyes of those who perished simply because they existed broke my heart. It was so hard not to cry.
After we left Yad Vashem, Jim Showers split our tour group in half. Half of us went and visited the Herzl Museum to visit how the state of Israel began and the other half walked into the National Cemetery on Mt Herzl to visit the grave of lone soldier (a soldier that comes from outside of Israel) Michael Levine who fought and was killed in Israel’s 2007 Second Lebanon War. Michael grew up in Philadelphia, PA.
Jim explained at Michael’s grave that it’s easy for us as American and Canadian Christians to say we must do whatever it takes to hold on to every inch of Israeli soil. It’s not our kids who are called on to die. Many of us were moved to tears as Jim shared Michael’s story. From here we walked back to the Herzl Museum and then the group that visited the museum first visited the gravesite.
Theodor Herzl wrote the famous book The Jewish State. He spoke Yiddish and German. He was not a successful playwright but he was a successful journalist. Herzl covered the infamous Alfred Dreyfus trial as I mentioned previously in the tour. Captain Dreyfus was a French Jewish artillery officer whose trial and conviction in 1894 on charges of treason seriously impacted Herzl and led him to realize that the Jewish people needed a homeland they could call their own.
He traveled the world seeking financial aid and much needed support to establish a home for the Jewish people in what was then known as Palestine. He wanted the Jewish people to be able to come home. Theodor Herzl called the First Zionist Conference in Switzerland in 1897. There was be a total of six such congresses all working toward finding a land for the Jewish people to call home. The museum is extremely interesting and easy to follow. It is like a movie within a movie and the information presented is quite heart wrenching. This has been the most emotionally draining day so far in Israel.