Vol: 81 Issue: 2 Monday, June 2, 2008
An issue of Die Welt, published August 15, 1902 contained an article by a highly educated and highly religious Christian pastor entitled, The Reestablishment of the Jewish People. The article, translated by Ines Weber, argued:
Neither Christians nor Jews should have by now the slightest doubt that the Jewish nation will once again be established. Should this event however not occur, so would this be without a doubt the result of disastrous faith, which shakes the faith in Moses and the Prophets. Whether one believes it or not, it will regardless take place. Why? Because God wills it so! .
God s will was fulfilled forty-six years later with the reestablishment of the State of Israel. It is fascinating the way the Lord has brought Israel’s history full circle. Since it is a place we’re now all much too familiar with, let’s look at Iraq.
In a sense, Iraq is the birthplace of Judaism in the same sense that Israel is the birthplace of Christianity. Abraham was an idol-maker in Ur, in Southern Iraq, before being called by God to follow Him to a land I will show you.
Later, God sent the prophet Jonah to testify to the king of Nineveh, which is today in Northern Iraq. Mosul is the provincial capital of Nineveh province. The prophets Daniel and Ezekiel prophesied from captivity in Babylon.
The prophet Ezekiel s tomb, inscribed in Hebrew, is located just outside Babylon, about eighty miles south of Baghdad. Fifty years ago, the Jews of Iraq numbered more than 130,000.
The 1936 Iraq Directory listed the Jewish community at 120,000, and is numbered among Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and Sabean.
In 1936, Hebrew was among Iraq s six principal languages and the directory describes Iraq as being a place where the mosque stands beside the church and the synagogue.
The last synagogue in Iraq closed in 2003 it requires ten Jews for a minyan the minimum number of Jewish men necessary for synagogue worship.
It is estimated that there aren t that many Jews left in the whole country. The Jewish Agency in Israel puts the Iraqi Jewish population at seven. (That s not a typo. Seven, as in one more than six and one less than eight.)
That is not enough to read the Torah in public, (if there were anywhere in public they would dare to read it,) and too few to recite a proper Kaddish for the dead.
Most of Iraq s Jews fled Iraq in the years immediately following the reestablishment of Israel in 1948 during Operation Ezra and Nehemiah named for the Jewish leaders who rebuilt Jerusalem and the Temple after the Babylonian Exile.
The rest were either killed or they fled during Saddam s reign of terror, or in the Islamic uprising the followed.
Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by My Name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. . . Thus saith the LORD, Your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships. (Isaiah 43:5-7,14)
Iraq once boasted one of the largest Jewish communities in the Arab world. Today, it doesn t have enough Jews to form a minyan.
The ingathering of Jews continues as the clock continues to tick down to the end of this age. The nation of Israel exists for the first time in more than twenty-five hundred years.
It took the Holocaust to force the reestablishment of the State a statement many find offensive, but nonetheless, both an historically obvious fact and completely in line with both Jewish and Christian theology.
As Jewish radio talk show host Dennis Prager noted recently: the notion that God willed the Holocaust is neither anti-Jewish nor even un-Jewish. There are, after all, only two possible explanations regarding God and the Holocaust:
1. God allowed it but did not will it. 2. God willed it. This is simple logic.
In either case, God played a role in the Holocaust. Any third option removes God from the equation. That is not to say the Holocaust was a punishment inflicted on the Jews, or a judgment against them. But it is part of His overall Plan or else He was on vacation for twelve years.
I don t claim to be privy to the Mind of God, but I have faith that He knows what He is doing. He said He would force the ingathering of the Jews at the appointed time, and the Holocaust forced the ingathering.
The Holocaust was immeasurably evil, and that is where my sense of understanding starts to jam up. Its victims were innocent many, many were children. They were destroyed in the most cruel and vicious manner imaginable, for the crime of being God s Chosen People.
I confess that, while I try to trust the Lord with all my heart and try not to lean on my own understanding, I want to understand the Holocaust and the role it played in the restoration of Israel and the fulfillment of the prophecies of the last days.
And I have prayed that the Lord would grant me the wisdom and understanding necessary to communicate it. Enter Ines Weber and Don Weitz.
Don Weitz is a friend of mine whom I met when he was working with Zion Oil some time back. I liked him immediately, and we’ve since become good friends. Don is the son of a Holocaust survivor, as is Ines. Ines is a university professor in Prague who organizes educational tours for her students about the Holocaust.
Don phoned me a couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, and asked if I might be interested in leading such a tour, customized for the Omega Letter.
First, here is the proposal in a nutshell: A ten-day tour beginning with a visit to the death camp memorial at Aucshwitz outside Krakow, Poland.
The itinerary includes three full days in Poland before flying to Israel. In Israel, we d land at Tel Aviv, and then overnight at a kibbutz hotel along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
We ll take a cruise on the Sea of Galilee, visit Capernaum, Tabgha, the Mount of the Beatitudes, and have an opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River. We d visit Nazareth Village, a recreation of how Nazareth would have looked in Jesus time.
We d travel up the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem, visiting the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb, the Western Wall, Via Dolorosa (the way of the Cross) the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, and a bus tour of Jerusalem.
We finish with a visit to Qumron (site of the Dead Sea Scrolls), ascend to Herod s summer palace atop Masada, and have lunch and a swim in the Dead Sea.
We would then return to Jerusalem for Shabbot before returning home. In total, it is an eleven-day trip. These are just the high points it is a very comprehensive tour. Hotels, guides, transportation and all meals are included.
At first, I wasn t really that interested. But the Lord seemed to have other plans.
I ve mentioned in the past that I don t find it that easy to tell the difference between the Lord s voice and mine in my head, they sound the same. Generally, I can tell the difference because when its my voice, it s something I really wanted to do.
When it is the Lord, it s something that would never have occurred to me. I believe that there is a diminishing window of opportunity to visit the Holy Land before the Lord does. This may be our last opportunity in this lifetime.
There is, of course, the political situation and the ever-present possibility of war. I was particularly concerned about what would happen if war were to break out and cause the trip to be canceled.
It s an expensive trip, so what happens to the deposit if we can t go? The tour company has trip cancellation insurance it carries, plus there is an optional cancellation insurance package that provides even more protection in such an event.
What if war breaks out while we are in the Holy Land? Fair question for which I don t have much of an answer — I’m trusting the Lord on that one.
But there are worse places from which to depart this earth than the place the Lord chose to effect its redemption. (Frankly, I think it would be a GREAT place to be Raptured from.)
As I said, the trip would be expensive mainly because of the price of fuel. The all-inclusive price for the eleven-day trip (based on double occupancy rooms) is roughly $4,130 per person, including roundtrip airfare from New York.
When the Lord told Gideon to assemble a tiny force of three hundred men to deliver Israel from her enemies, Gideon, (whom the Bible says was something of a coward) wanted to make sure. He proposed putting out a fleece of sheepskin overnight.
Gideon said unto God, If Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not Thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray Thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground”. (Judges 6:36-40)
So I am putting out a fleece regarding the possibility of leading a tour to Israel next March. We ve posted a poll question to see how much interest there is among the OL membership for such a trip.
So let us know what you think, and we’ll take it from there.