My interaction with 3 Arab youth in Nazareth

Star of David at the entrance to Nazareth Illit
The top of the hill in Nazareth Illit, snapped during my recent stay in Israel

 

We had been chatting for almost an hour before the otherwise-friendly Arab youth asked,

"You know Hitler?"

I suspected where he was going with this, but, hoping I was mistaken, I responded,

"Of course...why do you ask?"

His answer was the sad but unsurprising,

"Because Hebrewi is Hitler."

 

That about sums up my interaction with 3 Arab Israeli youth on Mt. Precipice, Nazareth.

I had been out exploring Nazareth that evening. A real tale of two cities, Nazareth: there's old biblical Nazareth -- Jesus' hometown -- now an Arab town with garbage-lined, tightly-packed streets.

Then there’s Nazareth Illit, the Jewish town, clean and modern and situated on the hill overlooking old Nazareth.

I took my wife and kids to a restaurant in old Nazareth the week prior -- our first visit to the old biblical town. I don't know about you fine Kineti readers, but my mind's eye had a picture of Nazareth like this: a nice little town rich in biblical history, maybe some churches and otherwise unremarkable.

But the reality was kind of sad. There's a smell along some of the inner city streets due to the garbage. Seemingly poor, largely Arab, largely Muslim town. My wife mentioned she didn't feel particularly safe as we walked through that night. Left a bad taste in the mouth.

Telling about the ugly state of old Nazareth to my coworkers the next day, one of them mentioned he lived in Nazareth Illit (hi Grisha!) and that it was actually a nice place, nothing like what I was describing.

So I ventured back some days later to check out Nazareth Illit. And he was right: it’s clean, modern, commercial. Snapped a few photos from the hill, overlooking old Nazareth:

A picture of the entrance to Nazareth, taken from the hill in Nazareth Illit

After some exploring and a nice dinner, I headed back to my apartment in Caesarea.

As I’m in my car heading out of Nazareth, I see a sign:

Mt. Precipice

By now it was almost midnight, but hey, who knows when I’ll be back in Israel? (Exploring the beautiful land of Israel was my most enjoyable experience I had during the trip; more than visiting the famous sites, which sometimes feels a bit tourist-y.)

I turn right and head up the mountain.

At midnight, there are zero cars on the mountain; no people in sight. I figure I have the mountain to myself. Smile

I made it to the top. Parked my car on the side of the road, walked over to a lower ledge overlooking Nazareth and miles and miles of Israel.

WP_20140902_022

(I later learned this is traditionally the location recorded in the gospels where the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus’ messianic claims and tried to throw him off the above cliff.)

Real serene place. With nobody on the mountain, beautiful night sky above, I took it all in. Overlooking miles of holy land, no one in sight, I stood there thanked God aloud, lifted my hands thanking God for the privilege to be in the Land.

Some 30 minutes later, I hear something behind me. I turn around and see 3 silhouettes approaching the ledge where I’m standing.

“Shalom! Ma nishma?” I said.

Nothing.

“Hi there, how are you doing?”, I said, thinking maybe they’re tourists out late.

Still nothing.

It’s so dark I can’t see their faces until they’re about 10 feet from me. I see they’re older teens, and they’re speaking Arabic.

Right then in my mind, I had a moment of fight-or-flight. Smile The war was still going on in Israel, and it was sparked by the the kidnapping and murder of 3 Jews. I could easily be overpowered, kidnapped, and murdered by these 3 guys! So I thought to myself right then, “Ok, if they try anything, I’ll dart through those trees and wrap around to my car and high tail it out of here!”

Thankfully, I played it cool. Smile I see the 3 youth had brought a bottle of something, some Coca-Cola, cigarettes, and and a bag of some munchies. There were just there to have a good time.

One of them finally comes over with some broken English and asks,

“Want some?” pointing at the bottle. I declined – my mind still wondering if it was a trick to knock me out or something (yeah, paranoid, I know…)

Two of the Arab youth speak almost no English, besides a little profanity. Sh*t this, mother f**ing that.

But the oldest one comes over again and strikes up a conversation.

“Where you from?”, he asks.

“United States. You guys?”,

“We are from Nazareth.”

“Ah. I was exploring Nazareth tonight…”

“United States. Hebrewi hate you.”

Jews hate me?”, I ask.

“Hebrewi say they love American. They no love you. Hebrewi hate you.”

I laughed a little bit. I explain it’s simply not true. Israelis have shown me so much hospitality and kindness, heck, more than I receive in the US. But he persisted.

“You see this land?”, he asks as we overlook the Jezreel Valley.

“Man, it’s beautiful, isn’t it?”, I respond.

“This land is Philistina.”

“Haha. You mean all of Nazareth here belongs to Palestine?”, I clarify.

“No, no. All this land Philistina.”

I challenge him a bit, “You know, this is the homeland of Jewish people. What would you do with all the Jews who live here?”.

“They can live. But it is Philistina.”

I asked him about his life in Nazareth. Does he live a good life, is he happy.

“It is good life. But not for Hamas.”, as he brings it back to the conflict.

Pushing back, I respond, “Hamas is doing evil. They are killing any Israeli they can, even civilians.”

“Hamas no evil”, he adds, “you know Hamas only from CNN. You know CNN?”

“Sure.”

“CNN is Hebrewi.”, he says, lighting up another cigarette and pouring himself another cup.

CNN is controlled by the Jews, he says.

(For those outside the US, CNN is not particularly pro-Israel, in fact, I would argue it’s more BDS than Bibi.)

I’m shaking my head at this point.

And that’s when he throws in the Hitler into the mix. (Godwin’s law in the real world!)

“You know Hitler? Hebrewi is Hitler.”

“Ha! How can you say that, man? It’s not true.”

“I go to Nazareth Illit, they kill me.”, he says.

“Nope, I was just there tonight. I even saw some Arabs there, it’s no problem.”, I respond.

“Maybe they not kill you. But they kill me.”

We talked for a good hour altogether. It wasn’t all bad: he told me Da’ash (ISIS/ISIL army) is evil; at least we agreed about that. Perhaps trying to smooth things over a bit and try to find common ground with me, he told me, “I pray to Allah, to Jesus, and to Muhammed.” Disappointed smile

And he explained to me why all Shia Muslims are evil, and only Sunni Muslims (the variety found in Israel) are the good guys.

“Shia no real Muslim. Shia say Muhammed no big man. Shia say drinking OK. Shia say smoking OK…”, he continues.

I interrupt, “But wait, you’re drinking and smoking right now!”

The young man explains, “See…I no very good Muslim.”

Beit HaMikdash, sacrifice, and Messiah: Meditations on 1 John 2

My children, I am writing you these things so that you won’t sin. But if anyone does sin, we have Yeshua the Messiah, the Tzaddik, who pleads our cause with the Father.

Writing these things so you don’t sin. John is encouraging the believers to keep following the Lord. Reading later in this passage, some of the community he was writing to was in apostasy, denying God’s Messiah but clinging to God – perhaps converts to Judaism.

Everyone who denies the Son is also without the Father, but the person who acknowledges the Son has the Father as well.

John calls this a form of apostasy in which such people have neither God nor Messiah. It’s a brash view, but one that may actually line up with the rest of the Scriptures and biblical history. For example, if ancient Israel rejected one of God’s prophets, say Jeremiah, were they not also opposing God? How much more, then, for God’s messianic son?

This warning against sin, apostasy in particular, may be one of the reasons for his letter.

Also, he is the kapparah for our sins — and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.

The kapparah, a Hebrew term for sacrifice, is used here by the translator – David H. Stern, a Jewish luminary of the Messianic world – to highlight the link between Messiah’s death and the sacrificial system of Judaism.

Quite fitting to read this today, at the beginning of the 10 days of awe leading up to Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

Messiah’s death is the sacrifice for sin. The was also the understanding of numerous authors of the New Testament, I’m thinking in particular those of the gospels (“in Yeshua’s name is repentance leading to the forgiveness of sins…”) and again in Acts.

It aligns with the messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53 – shared in numerous circles of Judaism – in which the suffering servant’s death will bear the sins of humanity:

After this ordeal, he will see satisfaction.
“By his knowing [pain and sacrifice],
my righteous servant makes many righteous;
it is for their sins that he suffers.
Therefore I will assign him a share with the great,
he will divide the spoil with the mighty,
for having exposed himself to death
and being counted among the sinners,
while actually bearing the sin of many
and interceding for the offenders.”

Messiah’s death-as-sacrifice-for-sins, has been abused to create anti-Jewish ideas inside Christianity, seeing Messiah replacing the Biblical sacrificial system. Indeed, many interpret the book of Hebrews as pushing this very idea.

Is it possible to interpret Messiah’s death as something besides replacing Judaism’s sacrificial system? I feel we as Messianic believers need a clear answer to this. Is Messiah’s death a once-and-for-all sacrifice? Or is it for the 2000 year absence of the sacrifices? Is Messiah’s death a replacement for or an addition to the sacrifices? Does Messiah’s death atone for the sins covered by the Levitical sacrifices, or ones not covered by that system? These questions the Messianic movement needs clear answers to.

More interesting still is the timing of Messiah’s death. His death occurred roughly 35 years before the destruction of the Temple – and with it, Judaism’s sacrificial system. Nearly 2000 years later, this same Temple and sacrifice system have never been reinstituted.

This has 2 interesting effects today.

First, it strengthens the argument for Messiah’s death as atonement. Acting in lieu of sacrifices and unable to consider Yeshua, Judaism has had to reinvent its own theology about atonement, reworking itself as a Temple-less exile religion. (This is well-known by Christians, so much so that the Jewish Q&A site Mi Yodea has several canned answers for this often-posed challenge to Judaism.)

And while Judaism certainly has answers to the question of atonement-without-sacrifices, these are later inventions and not authentic to ancient Judaism. Such uncertainty and scrambling for an answer points to the rightness of a more certain and divine answer: Messiah’s death is the atonement for sin, done at just the right time in history, for a purpose that, in its fruition, has seen billions of non-Jews embrace the Tenakh as their own Scriptures, the God of Israel as their own God.

I do wonder whether this Temple-destruction event is what Messiah had in mind when he said,

“Jerusalem, see your house is left to you desolate. You will not see me again until you say, baruch haba b’shem Adonai.”

In this verse, “your house” may refer to the Temple, and desolation to the coming destruction of Jerusalem, finally occurring some 35 years after these words were spoken.

The second effect it has had is, once again, to strengthen the idea of Christianity replacing Judaism, creating the ill-effects of anti-Jewish theology in the Christian world. It does this by saying the Temple and Jerusalem (and thereby all Israel and Judaism) are now left desolate and ignored, while Messiah is glorified in the nations. Jews and Israel and Jerusalem don’t matter – or rather, aren’t exalted any longer – now that the multi-national Messiah has arrived.

One can see quite easily how we have arrived at the status quo, where Christianity is very much separate from Judaism, where Christianity has at times been a vehicle of anti-semitism, and where Jews consider Christianity completely foreign and idolatrous.

This is indeed one area where Messianic believers are called in service to God: to repair this damage. We have a great deal of work ahead.

In the next verse, John urges his audience to obey God’s commandments. We’ll look at that in the next post.

Shalom Aleichem in the Old City of Jerusalem

As I was walking from the Kotel, I came across an old man sitting on the street with his clarinet who seemed to speak only Yiddish.

I gave him some shekels and said, “Shalom Aleichem.”

Here is the result. :-)