Trip Start Jan 08, 2008
Trip End Mar 18, 2008

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Flag of Israel  ,
Friday, February 1, 2008

Dear friends and family,
This is our 4th Friday in Jerusalem - which means our 4th. Sabbath. The Sabbath is from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.  Businesses begin to shut down about 3:00 on Friday and reopen about 6:00 on Saturday. It is a good idea to have a day of rest when a good part of that day is spent sleeping. At the end of Sabbath the shops and restaurants open up and you can go out.  A number of Jewish families go to a hotel to eat on Friday evenings.  After 6:00 on Friday and all day Saturday it is very quiet on the streets.  We did not realize how used we were to the stores being open all the time until we found ourselves in a place where they actually close for a day.
In the first century the Romans and Greeks made fun of the Jews for taking a day to do nothing.  Some Roman writers claimed they were lazy and so they took a day off from work.  Some writers wondered how they could waste so much of their life resting.  The Romans & Greeks mostly thought the Jewish religious customs were something odd and something to laugh at.  As a side note, when the Christians began to be noticed the Romans accused them of being "atheists" because they did not believe in all the gods.   That would make a great title for a book -"The Christians are Atheists".  I am not a Sabbath scholar, but I do believe the idea of taking significant time in our life to pray and reflect on God is good for the soul.  Whether it is a whole day or parts of a day is not important, but that we take the time to give thanks to God for creation.
Last Friday we walked around the outside of the Old City walls.  It is about a 2 miles to go completely around.  We noticed on that day that most of the gates into the city were closed off by the police force and Israeli soldiers. We discovered later that the shop keepers in the Moslem Quarter had shut down for the day in sympathy with the Palestinians in Gaza who are suffering because of lack of food.  I guess the authorities were worried that the demonstrating might lead to something bigger.  It did not and the Old City was open up later in the day.  It was a sacrifice to give up a days business, but the shop keepers felt strongly enough about the suffering of others to, in a small way, join them in their suffering. 
Another thought before we leave this day is regarding the Temple Mount.  It has not been a place of veneration by Christians.  Even when Constantine was building churches in Jerusalem in the 320's, he never thought of doing anything with the Temple Mount.  Christians in the early days wanted it to stay a ruin because of what Jesus said about causing the Temple to be  destroyed.  Jesus did a lot of preaching on the Temple Mount and went there a number of times as a child.  What Jesus saw there was the best and worst in doing honor to God.  The building was to show the world how much the Jews loved their God, but at the same time it was used by people (priests and others) for purposes that dishonored God .  I think that Jesus enjoyed coming to the Temple because that was where he could see people from all over the world.  They were all Jews, but from many different regions and nationalities.  I think Jesus felt he was speaking to the world when He preached on the Temple Mount.  In the pictures today you will see one that looks to the Temple Mount and one that looks out from it.  The Temple Mount is now sacred to those of the Moslem faith but it is still the place were Jesus met the world.  I hope we in the Church will always welcome others of the world and share with them the Good News that God loves us all.
In Christ,
Michael & Jolene
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