Incredible Teaching, a Museum Tour, Meeting New Friends, and Celebrating Shabbat

Welcome back friends!  If you missed yesterday’s post, let me put things in context.  I have gathered with about 200 fellow graduates of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem’s Leadership Conference held in Jerusalem.  This reunion/refresher provides an opportunity to fellowship with classmates, and network with new people from other classes (between 2010-2017).

Yesterday’s sessions were amazing, but time and space do not allow me to give you all the details, so here are some highlights:

  • Shaya Ben Yahuda led us through “Leaders and Leadership in Times of Crisis,” using heroic leaders from the Holocaust as examples. For example, Dr Janusz Korczak lived in Poland and wanted to help re-build Zion (Israel).  However, he could not leave his family, including two orphanages full of children, to go to Israel.  So, one of the orphanages became a Jewish children’s orphanage in the Krakow ghetto.  He refused to leave “his” children when the Nazis came for them, so he went to the concentration camp with them, and later met his demise.  A survivor later stated that his years in the orphanage were the best years of his life.  Despite hardships in life, Dr Korczak showed real leadership by not abandoning his people.  Rather, he motivated them to live life to the fullest, in spite of the circumstances.
  • Stephanie Kaye, one of Yad Vashem’s most highly-esteemed educators, then shared about the art and artists of the Holocaust. It is well-documented that “life went on” in the ghettos and concentration camps that imprisoned Jews.  When taken from their homes, and limited on what they were allowed to take, Jews had the foresight to think about what things would be helpful in continuing to live life.  Many took art supplies, musical instruments, and even school supplies in order to make life as “ordinary” as possible in the most extraordinarily evil places humanly imaginable.  Life went on, and many clung to the hope that brought.  We were told that when a person is born and when they die is destiny…you have very little say in the matter.  However, how you live in between makes all the difference.  Many of those headed for gas chambers chose LIFE until their final breath.  These were real people, with real faces, who lived to the end.
  • Ephraim Kaye, Director of International Seminars, then shared the “back story” of bringing together an American Jewish fighter pilot with survivors from Auschwitz, following liberation. We then saw the newly-completed documentary about the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, in which that American Jewish fighter pilot was part of a ceremony in Poland where an Israeli F-15 fighter group “fly over” put the exclamation point on that victory.  It was a moving story.  (I’ll share the video link once I have it.)

Yesterday afternoon we were blessed to spend two hours on a “behind the scenes” tour of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC.  Scheduled to open later this year, the museum is one of the most high-tech in the world.  Rather than describe the technology, I’ll let you see for yourself.  Visit Museum of the Bible for a look at the God-honoring museum that stands only blocks from the Capital building.

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Cary Summers Leading Tour of Museum of the Bible (to open later this year)

As noted previously, Museum of the Bible co-sponsors these Yad Vashem conferences, and Cary Summers (President of Museum of the Bible) has been with us all weekend.  (Word is that next year’s reunion will take place in the conference space at Museum of the Bible!)  Mr Summers has one of the most incredible resumes on the planet when it comes to designing Bible-based museums and entertainment venues.  If you are familiar with Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, you know of his design work!  In fact, if you are familiar with Silver Dollar City, Bass Pro Shop, or Nazareth Village (in Israel), you have seen his work.  Yesterday, Cary himself guided us through the Museum of the Bible!  I encourage you to find out more about the museum, and make plans to visit.  Believe it or not, admission to the museum will be a $15 “suggested donation!”  (ie – anyone who cannot afford admission gets in anyway)  How do you put a value on the Word of God!?!

On a personal, though very much related note, I finally connected with a young Jewish woman with whom I was introduce several months ago.  Talya lives here in Washington DC and was gracious enough to meet me for lunch yesterday.  It was a meeting of kindred hearts.  Our time was limited, but we shared our appreciation of Jewish-Christian relations and the need to develop them further.  It was a blessed time!  Talya is VP of Development & Strategic Partnerships for Haym Salomon Center, a journalistic organization putting Jewish causes at the forefront of the news (where “traditional” news outlets won’t).

Finally, it is Shabbat, you know!  We ended our evening last night with Shabbat dinner, including a conversation with Holocaust survivor, Luna Kaufman.  Nothing better than 200 or so Israel-loving believers sharing a most precious celebration with our Jewish friends from Israel!  Praise God for the opportunity!

Blessings to all…and Shabbat Shalom!

Brief Report from Christian Leadership Refresher

Jam packed days!  Those are the words that describe Christian Leadership Seminars led by Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Research Center!  If you missed yesterday’s post, I am in Washington DC, where I have joined with over 100 other graduates of Leadership Seminars that were held over the past 6 years in Jerusalem.  What a time we are having!

I can’t begin to give you adequate details of what we have seen, heard and felt.  What I can tell you is that we all have a heart on fire for Christian-Jewish relationships, and we grow to love one another and the Jewish people more and more every time we gather like this.  It is absolutely phenomenal how the Lord has called each of us to slightly different things, yet all with the intent of understanding our Jewish roots more deeply.

So, to summarize…

Susan Michael (Director, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem-US Branch) opened Friday morning with a devotional time, focusing on God’s covenant with Israel being an everlasting one.  Then we moved right into a teaching time where we were reminded that to understand Jewish-Christian relations today, we must understand the past.  The good news is that Jewish-Christian relations have come a very long way in a very short time.  Hallelujah!  The bad new is that there is a long way to go, particularly given the rampant growth in churches of Replacement Theology.  That false theology goes something like this: the Jews rejected God, so God rejected the Jews and now the church is the new Israel.  All the covenants are transferred to the church (or are already somehow fulfilled).

Think about it.  If that is true, then:

  • God doesn’t know what He’s doing and had to come up with “Plan B.”  Wrong!  Check out Ephesians 1:4-6!  His plan has been in place since before the foundation of the world!
  • God is unfaithful and doesn’t keep His covenants.  Wrong again!  See Psalm 89:34 and Jeremiah 33:20-21.  (What hope, then, does John 3:16 bring us then, if God is unfaithful to His promises!?!)
  • If the Abrahamic Covenant now applies to the church, what about the promise of land that God gave to Abraham and his descendents in that covenant?  Is that the church’s land now?
  • If people fail God, He will reject them.  Once again…wrong!  Hebrews 6:11-20, Romans 11:29, Psalm 89:30-37

That was followed by the incomparable teachings of Stephanie and Efraim Kaye (Directors of the Yad Vashem International School for Holocaust Studies).  A supreme story-teller, Stephanie walked us through “Goodness Leaves us Grasping,” detailing stories of goodness in those who risked their lives to save the Jews during the Holocaust. Efraim blessed us by sharing what Yad Vashem is doing to preserve survivor testimonies, now that Holocaust survivors are reaching their 90’s and will soon leave a void of first-hand testimony.

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Rendering of Museum of the Bible once it is complete.

In the afternoon we donned hard hats and safety glasses to tour the soon-to-open Museum of the Bible.  All we could say was “WOW!”  This 430,000 square foot museum is larger than the aerospace museum only a block away.  (To put it in perspective, the aerospace museum was built to house spacecraft such as the space shuttle and space exploration vehicles.)  Not only is the place going to be huge, it will also be the most technologically advanced museum in the world.  It would take pages to describe it, so I won’t even try.  But, you MUST see this $500 million museum once it opens in November 2017.

BTW, the folks at Museum of the Bible fully understand that without Judaism, there is no Bible!  Thus, they have signed an agreement to work closely with Yad Vashem, not only to present the Jewish roots of our Bible, but also in research and educational programs.  (They are one of the major sponsors of these Christian Leadership Seminars.)  You will undoubtedly hear more and more about the Museum of the Bible!  It is beyond incredible, and will be a monument in Washington DC…only 3 blocks from the Capitol building…to the veracity of God’s Word!  Pray for those dear folks as they complete the project!

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Shaya Ben Yehuda teaching from the Torah

It is Shabbat (Friday sundown – Saturday sundown), thus Shaya Ben Yehuda (Managing Director of the International Relations Division of Yad Vashem) led us in a festive Shabbat Seder to kick off the Sabbath.  What an wonderful time of celebration with our Jewish friends.

I only scratched the surface…and we’ve got the rest of the weekend to go!  There is no way I can pack it all in writing, but much of it will end up in a Bible study I am currently writing.  My heart longs to spread the truth about our Jewish roots as Christians.  We must understand it if we are to understand today’s events, and if we are to be faithful to God’s Word.  Stay tuned as I invite you into my experiences in the next couple days!

Hanukkah in Jerusalem

Menorah at Jaffa Gate

Happy Lord’s Day!  Oh friends, what a day to rejoice in all the Lord has done for us!

Here in Israel Jews are celebrating Hanukkah.  The streets are adorned with menorahs and there is great joy in the city of Jerusalem.  It is much like Christmas in terms of lights and God-given cheer, but Hanukkah has nothing to do with Christmas.  It is the celebration of the cleansing and rededication of the Second Temple.

After Alexander the Great conquered surrounding land, Greek culture took root in and around Israel.  When Antiochus IV came to rule, Jews began to be openly persecuted, study of the Torah became illegal, and the altar was desecrated.  Finally, in about 165 AD Judah Maccabee organized a revolt and the Temple was liberated and rededicated.  The menorah which was to burn continually in the Temple was re-lit, but had only enough oil to last one day.  However, the Lord performed a miracle by causing that oil to last for 8 days until new oil could be prepared.

Thus, the menorah has 8 candles (plus the center “servant” candle) and Hanukkah lasts for 8 days.  The Jews celebrate the rededication of the Temple by lighting one additional light each night of Hanukkah.  Families play the Dreidel game, which usually includes treats for the kids.  (Thus, in some contemporary Jewish homes, particularly outside Israel, families give gifts to their children on these 8 days.)  In Jerusalem today, they have begun the eight-day celebration and there is great joy in Israel!

After wrapping up our seminar, we attended King of Kings Community (a Messianic congregation in the heart of Jerusalem).  We sang Hebrew songs, celebrated the lighting of the menorah, and heard a message relating to Hanukkah and a “miraculous month.”  After dinner, I tuned in online to my home church to hear my pastor teach about Hanukkah.  Even on the other side of the world, we join in the great Jewish celebrations!  (Click here for more about Hanukkah.)

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Christian Leaders Seminar Leadership Team

As our “Antisemitism, the Holocaust, and Israel” seminar came to a close, we were reminded of the threats in our world today.  Some deny the holocaust, so we were given hard data in which to share as we teach what we’ve learned.  We also heard from a former Israeli Ambassador.  He is fluent in Arabic and is an expert in Islamic teachings.  We learned about the threats to Israel, and the truth about what inspires Islamic ideology.  (Jihadist theology!)

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Dr Susanna Kokkonen

Finally, we heard a very impassioned “charge” from Dr Susanna Kokkonen, Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, and our seminar director.  We were exhorted to understand and share that Israel, and indeed the world, are in big trouble today.  Why?  Because there is a vacuum in the Middle East where no one wants to step up and take leadership.  Thus, Sharia law is spreading faster than most of us are aware.  In addition, the BDS Movement that is gaining so much steam right now, has one single goal: the destruction of Israel.

I don’t have words to explain, and there is way too much to teach in the medium of a blog post.  However, I am stirred to share what I have learned because the world MUST know, and I have a voice.  Those who know me well, know that my calling is to be a watchman (woman!) on the wall.  The idea comes from Ezekiel 33:1-6:

And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head.  He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’”

Lord have mercy if I see the sword coming but do not blow the trumpet to warn others.  I don’t know what the Lord will do with what I have spent over a week in Israel studying, but I am sure there is something!  Will you pray for the Lord to make clear to me His message and how to impart it?  There is much to process and assimilate and I need your prayers!

I’ll spend a couple more days in Jerusalem making strategic connections with people and organizations before I make the long journey home.  I’ll also visit the new Friends of Zion Museum (only blocks from my hotel). More about that tomorrow, Lord willing!

Blessings to you all, and thanks for your prayers.  Happy Lord’s Day…and shalom from Jerusalem!

The Final Solution

In my last post I shared a bit about the resistance of the Jews during the holocaust.  That’s because I wanted to highlight the Jews determination to live life to the fullest, even in the darkest circumstances.  Now, I want to share just a bit more of the sinister aspect of the holocaust.

Ephraim Kaye, a holocaust historian (who also guided our tour through the Holocaust Museum), talked to us today about “The Decision to Kill the Jews – The Final Solution and its Implementation.”  He rattled off extensive dates and details in answering these three questions:

  1. Who gave the order to kill the Jews?
  2. When was this order given?
  3. Who participated in the mass murders?

To fill in the details would take volumes beyond what this blog is intended.  Thus, I will do my best to give you the very short version of those answers.  Let me say first of all, though, that there are references on top of references substantiating these details.  The documentation contained at Yad Vashem is incredibly thorough, and the process by which they accept data as factual is beyond impressive.

First, who gave the order to kill the Jews?  The fact is that no written order exists.  However, without a doubt, Hitler was the motivating force.  His obsession with the Jews was insatiable.  In fact, Hitler committed suicide once the Russians had him surrounded, but not without leaving a last will (written only hours before his death), stating emphatically his desire to exterminate the Jews.  No doubt he had a circle of evil men leading, guiding, and directing the action, but Hitler himself was the driving force.

Secondly, when was the order given?  The ideology might be traced back to the 1920’s when the Nazi party was established in Germany.  Darwinian theory regarding human evolution fit hand-in-glove with Hitler’s desire for supremacy, and the idea of exterminating inferior people logically followed.  Discussion in 1939 between Hitler and his cronies yielded an idea called “The Final Solution.”  By the fall of 1940, ideology and implementation began to merge, and in 1941, Germany began training specialized  units (such as the SS) for the purpose of killing the Jews.

Finally, who was involved?  Initially, the SS developed tasks forces called Einsatzgruppen.  Their task: kill Jews.  Four forces of less than 1000 men each went into action in June 1941.  By December 600,000 to 700,000 Jews had been killed.  How in the world did only 3000 Einsatzgruppen kill that many Jews in so little time?  They had help!

Einsatzgruppen couldn’t logistically carry out the plan, so the German police got involved.  These were regular police forces who patrolled the streets, wrote citations, and directed traffic…only now 60,000 of them were asked to track down and murder Jews.  Thus, providing additional manpower to the SS and Einsatzgruppen.

One very difficult pill to swallow is the fact that none of these troops were forced to kill.  Based on “perpetrator testimony” (including handwritten letters and other documents from the killers themselves), they were given the option (without punishment) to opt out of the assignment to kill Jews.  In one unit of 500, only about 10-15 said no.  As we zoomed in on this unit (Unit 101 from Hamburg) in our studies, we learned that that single unit of less than 500 men killed 38,000 Jews in one year.  There were 60,000 Einsatzgruppen…all of whom had the opportunity to opt out of the assignment without punishment.  Yet they chose to brutally kill over 6 million Jews.

We also heard from an expert on Auschwitz-Birkenau who showed us graphically what the death camps looked like, how Jews were brought in, the process of gassing 3500 Jews at a time, and how Jewish slaves were made to transfer dead bodies from the gas chambers to the crematories.  I will spare you the detail here, but suffice it to say it is worse than any picture you can conjure up in your mind.

Yet, I take you back to my last post.  Even then, Jews always looked for life.  They constantly focused on things that would give them one more day or one more hour to live, and they made the most of it.  Interestingly, each memorial at Yad Vashem intentionally forces every visitor to exit in a direction which leaves you looking at the vibrant life of Israel.

I’m deeply struck by this: Jews know how to live life to the fullest, and they serve as a testimony to us all that what the enemy intends for evil, God intends for good (Genesis 50:20).  There is a lesson there for all of us!

Shalom, my friends!