Back to Jerusalem?

Dear coworkers,

When this picture was taken just before the start of the Sabbath, I didn’t realize we may be looking at the next Shevet Achim base in Jerusalem:

jerusalem erev shabbat

What caught my eye at first was the Russian Church of the Ascension, at top left, the highest point on the Mount of Olives, with a cross that blazes like a beacon over the city as it reflects the setting sun. What an urgent reminder that Jesus is returning, just as he was taken from this same mount.

But only an hour earlier I’d been inspecting premises for rent in the large red-roofed building in the center left of the picture. And the more I’ve reflected since then, the more I believe that we must prayerfully consider whether it is time to reestablish a Shevet base in Jerusalem.

The day before I met with the director of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, and it appears that this storied institution may be willing to join in giving a discount of greater than 50% for heart surgeries for children from Gaza, Iraq and Syria. We’re exploring Hadassah because several times this year our other partners haven’t had space to admit emergency transfers from the Gaza Strip–it happened again just this week.

We would also love to give the families staying in our Jaffa base time to adequately explore David’s city, and take in its holy history, before returning to their own countries. Right now we can give them a day; how much better if we could offer them a week? Tomorrow is the turn of Wareen and Zhya; earlier this week it was Taman and mother who found that the tomb is still empty:

taman at the tomb

A Jerusalem base will also give us greater opportunities to meet both visiting Israelis and tourists. The available space is in a mainly religious neighborhood, and right next door to an orthodox synagogue.

And finally our spacious Jaffa base is bursting with families (12 as I write), and soon will run out of space for volunteers as well. A restored Jerusalem base, after 2.5 years solely in Jaffa, could be a godsend. This week we’ve held off on bringing new families whose visas to Israel are approved, just because the number already on hand is straining our resources:

day at the park

Tomorrow we’ll gather our community and pray and listen to our Lord about this. Would you pray with us, and also share any word or counsel that you may receive by God’s spirit?

It’s already beyond our understanding how we will cover all the costs this year (as it is every year). But I was reminded in conversation with Alena today of the DNA of this little community: don’t limit what our great God can do, by attempting only what we can understand.

This week’s Torah portion contained the one commandment that traditionally even Solomon couldn’t understand: the necessity of the sacrifice of a red heifer, to be slain outside the camp, whose ashes would make the priest impure even as the people were purified. In the absence of a red heifer in modern times, all Israel is now considered ritually impure. Reading through lengthy commentary on purification reminded me just how many New Testament stories turned on this very issue: the argument over why Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating; Peter’s reluctance to enter the home of Cornelius; Paul rebuking Peter for withdrawing from eating with Gentiles. In each case I believe it was an expansive rabbinic interpretation of purification requirements that provoked controversy, not the plain command of the Torah. 

The former chief rabbi of the IDF drew the wrath of the secular gods down on his head yesterday, for daring to refer to the plain command of the Torah and suggest that anyone could successfully turn away from same-sex attraction. It’s a sign of how far the political culture in Israel, like many of our home cultures, is becoming removed from the word of God. How then will this people, or any of us for that matter, keep our rendezvous with the bridegroom when he returns to that Mount of Olives?

I’d like to end with the encouraging song “Zion” shared this week by a friend. It’s all drawn from the scriptures: God’s promise to regather his people, to purify them, and to finally reveal himself to them as they look on the one who they have pierced:


Jonathan for Shevet Achim

“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133).