A Jewish synagogue is not primarily a place of worship but rather a “house of gathering.” If the Temple was the place of worship, the synagogue was where Jews could meet to study the Scriptures, fellowship and talk about what was happening in the community, and deliberate those matters.
Does the “land flowing with milk and honey” have anything to do with cows? Yes. Does it have anything to do with bees? No. To clarify, this phrase references not the honey that comes from a beehive but that which comes from the sweet dates that grow on the palm trees in the region.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a church that houses a literal “stone that the builders rejected” when constructing the city of Jerusalem, and it does not contain the body of Jesus Christ. To believe that Christians venerate this church because it is the tomb of Christ is non-sensical, seeing that Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead and is alive.
If you do not understand Jewish worship you won’t grasp the synagogue’s purpose. If you do not understand the agricultural region of Jerusalem you won’t fully comprehend scripture. And if you do not understand what Christians believe you won’t appreciate the value of many holy sites.
Not everyone will have the opportunity to visit Israel, but everyone who preaches or teaches on Judeo-Christian culture and beliefs can shed more light and add more depth to their sermons and lessons if we make a strong effort to understand the geographical, cultural, and theological contexts we are learning from.
I must admit that I experienced a paradigm shifting moment when I learned about the City of David and the archeological work being done to unearth, perhaps, the original palace and city of David. The same occurred when I realized just how recent Israel’s independence and territories were won when I learned that Moshe Dayan was the first born son of the Kibbutz that arrived in Israel. A final pause of reflection moved through me when I heard my guide and Dr. Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., describe that the birth of the idea of a Palestinian state came about only after the 1967 Six-Day War.
Tomorrow I will hear the Palestinian side of the story, but for now the facts proclaim that the Palestinians were technically either Arabs who lived in East Jerusalem and Arabs who lived in Gaza. After the war, for whatever reasons I have yet to learn, the two Arab nations of Jordan and Egypt wanted nothing to do with the two groups of Arabs from East Jerusalem and Gaza. In a newly formed Israel, with only a small voice through the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and rejected by the Arab nations, the East Jerusalem and Gaza Arabs all of a sudden declared themselves to be their own separate state, a Palestinian state, though this was something they never once called for under Jordanian rule.
The point is there is information about the Middle East, even if only learned from one perspective, that if never learned will keep us ignorant. Additionally, there are details that if learned can enlighten the way we understand the Middle East and sharpen the way we discuss foreign policy in this region. I anticipate someone will read the facts I give in this short blog and say, “Wow, I never knew that.” And I hope and pray that there will be at least one other reader who will not only object to what I write but will remark, “Thanks, but have you considered these other facts?” This is discussion and deliberation. This is what prepares us to make more informed conclusions and recommendations that can get into the hands of decision-makers. We must learn. We must debate. Not so that one may win, but so that all may win.