Monday, August 29, 2011

A "Seven Species" Oil Lamp

During our devotional time on The Land and the Book I've been doing a series on the seven species of plants named by Moses in Deuteronomy 8. And so I was more than a little interested when I received the latest edition of Biblical Archaeology Review magazine had discovered an article on an unusual olive oil lamp. The lamp, carved from stone rather than molded from clay, contains seven spouts plus a handle. And carved on top is a relief of the temple menorah...along with carvings of the seven species of plants mentioned in Deuteronomy 8!

The lamp was discovered several years ago, but it has been surrounded in controversy since that time. It wasn't uncovered in a controlled archaeological dig, and that raised suspicions about its date...and even its authenticity. According to the article, a group of scientists studied the object and have apparently now validated its authenticity. The article suggests the lamp might date back to the time of the Second Temple period, putting it around the time of Jesus. Unfortunately, since specific details on where the object was found are not known, any attempt to date the object more precisely is impossible.

If you would like to read a summary of the BAR article, click here. And then keep listening each weekend as we continue our study of the seven species of the land!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Demonizing of Glenn Beck

Yesterday marked the end of Glenn Beck's "Restoring Courage" campaign in Israel. The level of news coverage was so light that many Americans might not even realize the final rally took place. News editors certainly gave it far less coverage than Kim Kardashian's event that, from the level of coverage it received, appears to have been more significant than virtually anything else taking place!

Let me say at the beginning of this post that as an evangelical I have serious disagreements with Glenn Beck's Mormon theology. But having said that, I'm upset with the media's attempts to silence Glenn Beck by ignoring him or, even worse, demonizing him. Character assassination should have no place in any media outlet committed to journalistic integrity.

So what did Glenn Beck say at his "Restoring Courage" rally? If you were to read the article in today's online edition of Haaretz, you would assume the entire event was a cross between a snake-handling tent meeting and an Arian gathering at some beer hall in Germany. The author described the event as a "circus," and compared Glenn Beck to "Joe McCarthy." He went on to call Beck's followers "anti-Semites" and "wachos" who are evidently too stupid to realize their own anti-Semitism...but who were really in Israel promoting a "white, Aryan" agenda. But is this reporter's coverage accurate or true?

I read Glenn Beck's speech online, and I would challenge you to do the same. While I personally would have made some editorial changes in the speech, those changes are relatively minor. On the whole, the speech rises to the level of being quite profound and inspiring--not in the biblical sense of coming from the hand of God but in the sense of crystalizing issues and issuing a compelling call for listeners to respond. After hearing so much drivel from modern-day politicians, this speech rises to the level of some of the great speeches of Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Kennedy.

Read Beck's speech...and then read the Haaretz article. By demonizing Beck the article uses the power of negative stereotypes to delegitimize the messenger rather than focusing on the actual message. Sadly, the technique does work. But it illustrates two fallacies that are far too prevalent in journalism today.

The first fallacy is bias. Everyone has presuppositions, and all news is selective--from the stories chosen to be covered to the amount of time/space allotted for the actual report. Ideally, a reporter needs to be aware of his or her own personal biases and strive to be as objective as possible. Sadly, we are seeing less and less objectivity in reporting...from all sides!

The second fallacy is the increasing use of argumentum ad hominem. More than 40 years ago I was taught this logical fallacy in debate class. It seeks to negate a statement by attacking the character of the person making it. In essence if Satan is the father of lies, all I need to do is convince others you are Satan...and then I don't need to deal with the merits of the arguments you are making--since we can assume they are lies. This is fallacious reasoning, but there has been an alarming increase in "character assassination" in the media. (And I'm referring to attacks being made against people on all sides of the political and religious spectrum...from Barak Obama to Sarah Palin!)

So what can you do? First, pay close attention to the arguments being used by the media in their stories. Do they have an obvious bias? Are they seeking to present both sides of an issue? Are they focusing on what individuals are actually saying...or are they simply attacking the person saying it?

Second, look carefully at any visuals being used in a report. Do those visuals present a positive or negative picture of the person being highlighted in the story? Is the media outlet using the visual images to inject bias into the report?

Third, take time to read original sources. The internet gives you direct access to a wealth of information. If you have questions about a report, go online and try to find the complete text of the speech or the event being reported. Become your own media critic!

Finally, be willing to share your informed thoughts and opinions with others. Write a letter to the editor if you see clear evidence of biased reporting. Let them know that you are paying attention...and that you want accurate, unbiased coverage...without resorting to character assassination. Cite specific examples! And if they refuse to change, vote with your feet and your pocketbook. Change channels...and subscriptions. Media is a business, and you can reward financially those media outlets that are committed to being as accurate and unbiased as possible.

I might not agree with all that Glenn Beck says or does, but I think he deserved more honest coverage--and we deserved more accurate reporting--on the event itself!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Israel's Latest Hero

Benny Belevsky, a 60-year-old bus driver, became Israel's latest hero. Belevsky was driving the Egged bus from Beersheba to Eilat that was attacked by three terrorists on Thursday.

So what makes Belevsky a hero?

Put yourself in his place. What would you do if, in the middle of an otherwise uneventful trip, the windows around you suddenly shattered as bullets zipped past your head? I think an individual's first reaction might be to hit the brakes and duck for cover. And that's likely what the terrorists were hoping would happen. With rifles and antitank missiles at the ready, a stationary bus filled with people would make an excellent target.

But Belevsky didn't react that way. Instead, he accelerated...driving through the hail of gunfire and refusing to stop until he reached the nearest military checkpoint. In an interview with Ynet News, Belevsky explained what happened...and why he responded as he did. "The bullets hit the bus and two of them shattered the window near me, passed just above my head and hit the ceiling. I am experienced enough to know that I should keep driving and that I mustn't stop so that the damage doesn't get worse."

It's the quick reaction of ordinary people like Belevsky that helps make Israel such a remarkable country. Thank you, Benny Belevsky, for responding with such wisdom and courage under fire! You really are one of Israel's many unsung heroes!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hercules Statue in Jezreel Valley

The Israel Antiquities Authority issued a press release today announcing the discovery of a statue of Hercules uncovered during a dig in the Jezreel Valley. The statue dates from the second century A.D. and was evidently part of the decoration of a bathhouse/pool at a Roman villa in the valley.

If you would like to read the full report on the discovery, click on the following link to the Israel Antiquities Authority. And make sure you download the high-resolution photographs of the statue that are also available at the site!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Sword and the Menorah

These three images are from an Associated Press article reporting on today's announcement about the latest archaeological finds in Jerusalem. I'll be talking more about this discovery on Saturday's program, but I thought you might enjoy seeing these pictures now. The one picture shows the drainage tunnel that has now been uncovered in Jerusalem. It ran along the street that extended from the Temple Mount down to the Pool of Siloam. The other pictures show the sketch of the menorah on a piece of stone as well as the remains of a Roman sword, still in its leather scabbard. These were both found in this tunnel. They are the latest in a string of amazing discoveries still being made in Jerusalem!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Overrun by Coneys!

A BBC report on "coneys" makes for good Friday reading! The coney (also called a hyrax, rock badger, or rock rabbit) is described in the Bible as an animal that makes its home in the rocky crags (Prov. 30:26). But it seems the animal is becoming something of a pest in Israel as it moves into villages and tears up gardens.

A study was done to determine why the problem was becoming more severe, and it turned out the real problem is...people! As land is cleared for new homes in Israel, the rocks and boulders are scraped to the side and piled up. This creates additional "rocky crags" for the coneys, who have been taking up residence in their new "homes."

God created the coneys to live in the rocks, and humans have been creating new piles of rocks for the coneys to call home!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Absolutely Absurd!

Why did America come so close to defaulting on its debt? Was it overspending? Was it the prolonged recession? Was it Congressional gridlock?

Not according to the PakTribune. They have concluded it's all the fault of the Jews!

In a blatant, antisemitic rant a recent article in the PakTribune blames the Jews for the problems facing the United States...and the rest of the world. Here's an excerpt from the article--just as it appeared online!
Zionist elements always influenced the political, CIA and military top brass and shaped the U.S. regional and global political, economical, defence and other local nature of policies in the larger interest of Israel.

It is worth mentioning here that these 2% Jews inhabitants are controlling 82% Christians of U.S. They are playing their negative role in media, prominent institutions, Intelligence agencies since followers of Judaism has faith of ruling the world by hook and crock at all cost. It is added here that many Jews pressure groups are operating in America and world over.
Such propaganda would also be laughable were it not for the fact that many who live in Muslim countries believe the statements are true. And it's that false perception that is behind much of Islam's conflict with the West. But isn't this just a case where you have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to mine?

Daniel Patrick Moynihan is said to have quipped, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." And whether or not Moynihan is the first to have made that statement, the truth of what he said is crucial to any proper evaluation of the article's assertion that the Jews somehow control the world.

The write of the article may feel as if the Jews are in control of the world, but that is only his opinion. It is not grounded in hard, objective facts. While it might be true that the Jews have had an influence on the world that is disproportionately greater than the size of its population, this doesn't prove there is a secret Jewish conspiracy to control the world. Their focus on study, education, and hard work--coupled with God's promise to bless the descendants of Abraham--are far more compelling reasons for the extent of their influence.

If America is in decline, it's because our country has drifted away from the Judeo-Christian values that once made it strong. These values include hard work, personal responsibility, and moral values grounded in the truth of the Bible. To blame the Jewish people for problems caused by our own irresponsibility and poor choices is absurd.

This writer is entitled to his opinion. But until he is willing to accept the fact that his opinion is wrong--and that each individual (and country) needs to accept responsibility for its own problems and failures--he will be incapable of making the hard choices necessary to move forward.

And that's sad!