Thursday, February 02, 2006

Final Dispatch from Tel Aviv - "If I Forget You Jerusalem . . ."

1 By the rivers of Babylon-there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There we hung up our lyres on the poplar trees, 3 for our captors there asked us for songs, and our tormentors, for rejoicing:"; Sing us one of the songs of Zion."; 4 How can we sing the Lord's song on foreign soil? 5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill]. 6 May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem as my greatest joy! Ps 137:1-6

Ps 137:5 holds a special meaning for Israeli citizens. They have embossed it on plaques, posters, and souvenirs. For them the words speak of a tenacity and a passion for the land of promise. Born of thousands of years of persecution, struggle, pogroms, Holocaust, and "middle east" wars, they do not easily forget their commitment to this land and to the Jewish people.

"Never again" is more than a slogan once recited by tank battalions on the top of rugged Masada (discontinued because of the juxtaposition to un-Jewish notions of suicide in the original Masada struggle). Viewers of Spielberg's "Munich," will have some appreciation for the absolute resolve of the Jewish people which goes beyond any kind of "patriotism" to which I have ever been exposed. In the movie, Spielberg has then Prime Minister Golda Meier say that civilizations must always negotiate compromises with their own values in order to survive. Viewing the current conflict with Hamas and the "Territories" (aka "The West Bank" aka Judea and Samaria), we can see the price which such compromises exact upon the corporate psyche and soul of the Jewish people.

Today Glenn "Durable Data" Layne and Lee Hamby joined me for a conversation with Moshe and Dov of "Shorashim" ("The Biblical Shop") in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. Originally Canadians, they emigrated to Israel as part of their passion for identification with their people. Observant (actually Orthodox) Jews, they are two of the most unusual merchants I have ever met.

As interested in conversation ("schmoozing") as commerce, they will frequently close their store in order to engage in conversation with evangelical Christians. During our visit today, they were fully involved in a theological discussion with a group of evangelical businessmen from the U.S., with our three Baptists, and a room full of Americans (after closing their shop to talk), all within an hour! They see it as their mission to engage Christians (particularly evangelicals) in dialogue about issues of faith and ultimate meaning.

With Moshe and Dov you will find two men absolutely committed to their faith and to the idea of knowing the Word of God and the God of the Word. Conversant with the New Testament, they will challenge even the most biblically literate Christian with their wit, wisdom, and penetrating questions. As far as Dan is from Beersheba they are distant from the cheerfully secularized Jewish guide, Ofer, who led our tour. Ofer professes to observe few if any of Judaism's rituals and traditions. His Judaism is more about a culture and a people than about God or covenants.

What has surprised me and continues to challenge me, however, is what binds Moshe and Dov to Ofer. As polarized in theology as people can be, they both have a passion for being Jews and a love for this special place. The passionate biblicists of Shorashim and the spunkly secularist guide both embody some of the practical reasons why Israel continues to exist in the desert surrounded by its mortal enemies.

Despite their enormous differences among themselves, they cling to an identity as Jews that defies all odds. Yet, while Ofer trusts in the force of arms and Sabra tenacity for his security, Moshe and Dov place their faith in a more original source of confidence: "God is my strength and power: and he makes my way perfect" (2Sa 22:33).

Editor's note:
If you have an opportunity to travel to Israel, do not miss visiting Moshe and Dov at Shorashim in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City (Tiferet Israel 3, Old City, Jerusalem, Israel 97500). In four trips to Jerusalem, I have found their advertising to be true: "As a Biblical Shop, we have endeavored to offer a wide range of gifts and art pieces that are inspired by the timeless verses of the Tanach (the Bible). Every Judaica item, every piece of jewelry and artwork, overflow with meaning." If you cannot dialog with them in person, visit their web site ( for a taste of Israel.

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