The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

News from Israel: Old and New

I thought it might be interesting to share a few recent news items out of Israel -- some relate to current events while others touch on the nation's ancient roots. The first item says much about the attitude of the United Nations with regard to the state of Israel.

UNRWA School in Gaza
UN Schools Teach Palestinian Children to Hate Israel and Jews. In the West Bank and Gaza the United Nations operates a number of schools attended mainly by Palestinian children. These schools, which receive funding from the United Nations' Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), use textbooks provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Education. As you might imagine, these textbooks are strongly anti-Israel. They purposely do not recognize the existence of Israel, even excluding the country from maps of the region. Equally disturbing, the books claim that the holy sites in Israel are exclusively Muslim sites, fail to mention their Jewish origins, and even accuse the Jews of trying to control them illegally. The books also contain no historical reference to the Jews or the Hebrew language. In effect these UN schools simply continue the racism and antisemitism that typify the official Palestinian position. Is it any wonder that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is so illusive since one side refuses to accept the existence of the other? It also explains the recent anti-Israel resolution passed by the UN, a resolution which the Obama administration supported by its refusal to exercise its veto.

Gaza-based Jihadist: Ban Christmas. If you're a Jihadist (aka, a terrorist) a good place to hang out is in Gaza where you will be well protected by the Palestinian authorities. You'll also have access to some cool textbooks. Anyway, one of these jokers, who's been given the label of "Senior Islamic State Jihadist," goes by the name of Abu Omar Almaqdesi. (Let's just call him Abe.) It seems Abe has been very vocal of late. Discussing recent terrorism in Turkey, Germany, and Jordan, he announced that such attacks are "the price these states must pay for positioning themselves as part of the Crusader Coalition of infidel countries fighting against Islam." Just a thought, but I suspect the German. Turkish, and Jordanian governments (or, for that matter, the US government) do not consider themselves as part of a Crusader Coalition. Too bad. If they did we might actually get somewhere in our misnamed war on terror. 

Abe also added a few seasonal comments relating to Christmas: "If somewhere there are Christians who insist on celebrating Christmas with the support of the heretic authorities, one must unleash upon them all one's might and deploy all the available means." He went on to explain that "all methods are admissible when it comes to preventing blasphemy against Allah and his commandments. Yes, including killing and blowing up." Then, apparently getting into the Christmas spirit, Abe added, "But...we believe that first you should act politely and explain that living in Islamic countries is conditioned on accepting Sharia and refrain from openly practicing rituals other than Islam." I guess after you've been polite, you can go ahead and blow them up. Don't you just love these guys? Abe sounds like a prime candidate for an extended vacation at Gitmo.

Having been promised by God to Abraham about 4,000 years ago, the Holy Land is a remarkable treasure trove for archaeologists. Like much of the Middle East, modern day Israel has lots of interesting stuff beneath its surface just waiting to be uncovered. Here are a couple of cool stories I found particularly interesting.

Egyptian Slab -- Ancient Hebrew? Inscriptions
Hebrew is #1. A Canadian archaeologist, Douglas Petrovich, has generated a whole lot of controversy among his colleagues by claiming that the Hebrew alphabet might just be the world's oldest. One can only assume his claims will not be well-received in Gaza. Petrovich believes that the Hebrews, when they were in Egypt, converted the local hieroglyphics into their own alphabet so they could express their Hebrew language in written form. He dates this alphabet to almost 4,000 years ago. He also claims to have found specific Biblical references from Genesis and Exodus -- to Moses, Ahisamach and Asenath -- as he translated various inscriptions. He's taking a lot of heat from the skeptics, but who knows? He might be right. After all, we know God was partial to Hebrew.

One of the many Temple Floor Tiles recovered
Second Temple Floor Tiles Discovered. Jerusalem's
second Temple, the one started by Herod and destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., is now covered by a Muslim shrine. This makes excavations a bit tense since the Muslims do not want Jewish access to this holy site. The second Temple is also the Temple of the Gospels at which Jesus and his disciples worshiped. As a result of excavations that began in 2005, over 600 of the Temple's floor tiles have been found and many have been restored. These are the only known physical elements of the Temple so they are considered extremely important. They are also of interest to Christians since Jesus quite possibly walked on many of these floor tiles.

I find it amazing that today, thousands of years after these events, we continue to discover such wondrous things. And so often these finds support the Biblical narrative that so many have considered unreliable at best. It would seem that God delights in leading us to that which magnifies His Word.

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