Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Israel Update: Part 1 . . . Uncommon new Israeli friends + learning Israeli culture + Israel study tours + praying for Jerusalem

All is safe and well since my arrival in Israel on May 8. After volunteering and touring in mostly northern Israel (Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights, Mediterranean coast) for a month, on June 8 I settled in at my 1-2 year volunteer position at Christ Church Guest House in Jerusalem's Old City.

My 3-weeks (May 10-28) of volunteering with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)-affiliated Sar-El was an experience of a lifetime. Started in 1982 and receiving over 4,000 volunteers per year, Sar-El is called Volunteers For Israel in the U.S./Canada/Europe. VFI's mission “is to connect Americans to Israel through volunteer service. They achieve this goal by partnering with military and civilian organizations that enable volunteers to work side-by-side with Israelis. They promote solidarity and good will among Israelis, American Jews and other friends of Israel.”

Above is a sampling of some newly made uncommon Israeli friends from Haifa, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Shomera and Tzfat (Safed). By meeting native Israelis and reading books such as Culture Smart's Israel: A Quick Guide to Customs & Culture (2007), I'm learning much about the Israeli culture, especially the youth and young adult culture.

Though English is spoken widely here, and with a background of studying Biblical Hebrew in seminary, I'm beginning to teach myself modern Hebrew. The revival of the Hebrew language as a mother tongue and spoken language was initiated by the efforts of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (אליעזר בן–יהודה) (1858-1922). Many major streets in Israel are named in honor of Ben-Yehuda, including one in downtown Jerusalem and not far from where I live and work.

A good option for those wanting to visit Israel is the Shoresh Study Tours. Begun in 1986 by Christ Church (the oldest Protestant church [Anglican] in the Middle East, built 1849), the 1-3 week Shoresh Study Tours provide in-depth teaching on the Jewish/Hebraic roots of the Christian faith while touring Israel. "Shoresh" means "root" in Hebrew.
--> NOTE: Christ Church, Christ Church Guest House and Shoresh Study Tours are all members of the Anglican-run CMJ (the Church's Ministry among the Jewish people), with chapters in Israel, U.S., U.K., Ireland and South Africa.

Join with me in praying regularly for the peace of Jerusalem. The annual and international Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem (est. 2002) is every first Sunday in October.

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!" (Psalm 122:6-7)

"As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore." (Psalm 125:2)

"Blessed be the LORD from Zion, he who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the LORD!" (Psalm 135:21)

"If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!"
(Psalm 137:5-6)