Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mary Gardner

The woman killed in the recent Jerusalem bombing was Mary Gardner. Most news media are reporting she was a British tourist or student. That's not quite the whole story.

Mary Gardner was a Scottish believer who served with Wycliffe Bible Translators doing Bible translation in Togo. She was in Jerusalem studying at the Home for Bible Translators & Scholars founded by Halvor and Mirja Ronning, wonderful believers whom I first met in 1984. Mary was studying in their program, offered in cooperation with Hebrew University, to gain greater proficiency in Hebrew. She was dedicated to providing the most accurate translation of God's Word for the people of Togo.

In the language of the day, Mary Gardner was "collateral damage" of a bomb intended to kill and wound Jews. Because she was living in Jerusalem she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or that's how it might seem to those who don't believe God is sovereign. Mary's death was not a surprise to God.

This side of eternity we will not fully understand why God would choose to take His servant home before she had completed her translation. These are the times when we must walk by faith and trust that God can indeed cause all things to work for good, even when we struggle to discover what that good might be.

This is a time for followers of Christ to unite in prayer. Pray for Mary's parents who must deal with the tragic loss of their daughter. Pray for Mary's colleagues at Wycliffe who are also grieving. Pray for the people of Togo, and ask God to raise up someone to take her place and complete this translation of His Word. Pray for the people of Jerusalem who have been impacted by the bombing, and ask God to use the story of Mary's life to point others to Him.

And pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Ask God to thwart the plans of those seeking to take innocent life in the name of false religious beliefs.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Disruption in Jerusalem

Most people reading the title of my post might wonder if another terrorist incident might have taken place. It has not!

But today, our group--along with hundreds of others--struggled through a severe disruption in Jerusalem. And the cause? The Jerusalem marathon!

The municipality laid out a course that took thousands of runners through some of the most historic parts of Jerusalem. The only problem was that the circuit produced a large area within the center of the city that was totally closed to traffic. Any buses or taxis inside the circuit were trapped from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. They couldn't leave!

Our driver was very smart. He drove his bus outside the race route last night. We had to walk to the Old City for our morning tour, but we connected with our driver at St. Stephen's Gate for our afternoon tour to the south of the city. A friend of mine was not as fortunate. His driver had received word that the part of the route near their hotel would not close until 7 a.m. Unfortunately, that information was incorrect. Their bus was trapped, and they were forced to "improvise" for much of the day.

I took the picture above showing the marathon in progress. This was taken just inside Jaffa Gate and shows the runners as they entered the Old City of Jerusalem.

Another amazing day!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vandalism at Khirbet Midras

On February 5 I posted a blog about a new archaeological discovery in Israel. A church was found that could mark the burial site of the prophet Zechariah. Last week the group I was with was able to visit the site, and it was amazing. This picture to the left is one I took while I was there. You can see some of the mosaics on the church floor that were uncovered during the excavation.

This morning an article appeared in an Israeli newspaper reporting that vandals destroyed the floor's mosaic. This is an absolute tragedy. The archaeologists had planned to cover the site until preparations could be made to guard and protect it. Sadly, they didn't get it covered in time.

Our group might have some of the last pictures taken at the site before it's destruction.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bombing update

This photo, from the Arutz Sheva website, shows the telephone booth where the terrorist bomb was planted. The name of the store in the picture, which is by the bus station, is "Blast of a Kiosk." It was given this name after it had been destroyed in a 1993 bomb blast.

A man at the kiosk noticed the suspicious package and told people to stay away. He then contacted police to report the package, which blew up while he was talking with them. His alert action very likely saved additional lives. It also points out the continual vigilance of the citizens of Israel.

Sadly, a 59-year-old woman was killed in the attack, and at least three others were seriously injured by the explosion. An additional 36 people were lightly or moderately injured by the explosion and by the shrapnel packed in the bomb. Earlier reports said the woman killed was an American. This might still be true. But if it is, it's not currently being reported by the news sources here in Israel.

As a result of the attack, security in Jerusalem and throughout Israel has been beefed up. The doormen at hotels are again carefully searching the bags of everyone entering, including our group. Restaurants, malls, and other public areas have also increased their screening process. Sadly, Israel knows how to do security well because they have had some much hands-on experience over the years.

But everyone on our trip is thankful Israel does take security so seriously!

Report from Jerusalem

I just returned to my hotel after a day of touring in Jerusalem. Our group was at Yad Vashem--Israel's Holocaust museum--when we received news of the first bus bombing to take place in Jerusalem in seven years. We had spent the afternoon in West Jerusalem, the general area where the bombing occurred, but we did not hear the bomb go off. The news, however, spread very quickly via mobile phone, so we were aware of what had happened within a few minutes of the attack itself. The most immediate impact on our group was the rapid increase in security at Yad Vashem and on the streets...and the traffic jam in Jerusalem that resulted as the police searched for the bomber.

For family and friends, let me also add some additional details to help you look beyond the media coverage of this event to more accurately understand the current situation here in Israel. The bombing took place near the convention center at a public bus stop. It was specifically intended to target Israelis using public transportation.

As I write this post, the news being reported is that one person was killed and about thirty-five wounded. One preliminary report said the woman killed might be an American citizen. If this is true, it's possible she was a resident of Jerusalem since few tourists use public transportation. Police are still searching for the bomber who may have placed the bomb at the bus stop and then detonated it remotely, possibly with a cell phone. Reports are still sketchy since the event happened just a few hours ago.

Do I still feel safe here in Jerusalem with our group? Yes I do. The incident, as horrible as it is, was specifically designed to target Israelis. The bomb was detonated at a public bus stop used by local riders of the Egged bus system. Tourist sites--and tourist buses--were not the target.

Will this incident impact tours? It probably will...but not in ways you might expect. We have already changed the touring schedule for our current Moody trip for the next two days. The basic change is that we have dropped our planned visit to Bethlehem. I personally would have no problem traveling to Bethlehem, but as a tour leader I will always err on the side of caution. Until the current situation settles down, we will not be visiting Palestinian-controlled areas.

Will Israel respond? Almost certainly they will. There are already reports of Palestinians being arrested in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank. Israel will do everything possible to find and punish those responsible for this attack. Much like the U.S. response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Israel will do whatever is necessary to protect the safety and security of its citizens.

I'll report back as new details come available.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Who killed Jesus?

In a forthcoming book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, Pope Benedict states that the Jews do not bear collective guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus. Instead, he places ultimate responsibility for the death of Jesus on the sin of humanity. I've not yet seen the book, but I agree with this statement.

But how can this be reconciled with John 18:28-32; 19:4-6, and 12-15 which says it was the Jews who took Jesus to Pilate to have Him put to death...who accused Him of sedition...and who demanded His crucifixion? Pope Benedict offers a very thoughtful answer.
Now we must ask: Who exactly were Jesus' accusers? Who insisted that he be condemned to death? We must take note of the different answers that the Gospels give to this question. According to John it was simply "the Jews". But John's use of this expression does not in any way indicate — as the modern reader might suppose — the people of Israel in general, even less is it "racist" in character. After all, John himself was ethnically a Jew, as were Jesus and all his followers. The entire early Christian community was made up of Jews. In John's Gospel this word has a precise and clearly defined meaning: he is referring to the Temple aristocracy. So the circle of accusers who instigate Jesus' death is precisely indicated in the Fourth Gospel and clearly limited: it is the Temple aristocracy — and not without certain exceptions, as the reference to Nicodemus (7:50–52) shows.
The distinction being made by Pope Benedict is important because throughout much of church history the church has charged the Jewish people collectively with the sin of killing Jesus, based in part on a misreading of the Gospel of John. And this has been the basis for anti-Semitic persecution of the Jews by those claiming to be followers of Jesus.

So who is ultimately responsible for the death of Jesus? As Pope Benedict rightly concludes, the Bible says each of us is ultimately responsible for His death because He died to pay the penalty for our sin. Isaiah described it this way, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:5-6).

Forty years ago Mickey Holiday wrote a song that puts the reality of our responsibility for Jesus' death in perspective. Here are the words to that song:

Who Killed Jesus?

Who killed Jesus many years ago
Who is guilty of a crime so low
Why did He have to die
What is the reason why
Who killed Jesus
I would like to know

Was it Roman soldiers
With their tools of war
Driving nails thru hands that did no wrong
Mocking and abusing
Crowning Him with thorns
All the evidence is very strong

Was it Pontius Pilate
He was governor
Trying to decide the case that day
Finding that the Savior
Had no fault His own
Was he guilty when he turned away

Was it Hebrew children
Proud of who they were
Shouting crucify Him at their King
Trading their Messiah
For a common thief
Turning down the kingdom He could bring

When I think of Jesus
And the way He died
How upon Him all my sin was laid
All the other people
Fade away from view
It's for me the sacrifice was made

I no long wonder anymore
I have found what I've been searching for
My sin demanded hell
On Him the judgment fell
I am guilty
Now it's plain to see
That it was really me

© 1970 New Spring
Mickey Holiday