Today we ventured to the Mount of Olives for the second time since our arrival in Jerusalem. Our first day here on the top of the Mount of Olives was somewhat surreal. From our perspective, you could sense the very tangible presence of YHWH. We walked around as we prayed over the city whose panoramic view was very clear to the naked eye, from this area. It was also a blessing to be able to look across and survey the land and see just how & where the Temple would sit according to the Historical writings of Josephus and the multitude of evidence presented by Dr. Ernest L. Martin. I freely wept and rejoiced with great awe during the time we were near the top of this Mountain – knowing that it was the area that my Savior was crucified and that His feet will set upon at His return.
It is super windy today – almost as if the winds of war are blowing fiercely all around. The peaceful and serene atmosphere that we experienced on our first day here has seemingly disappeared into the noisy winds and the sound of loud sirens echoing in the distance.
The Mount of Olives is situated in the Arab territory of East Jerusalem. It is no secret that since the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948, war has been a constant threat. This time for us however, the experience is different. We are not just reading a headline about a land half a world away. We are experiencing the atmosphere of this boiling kettle and begin to understand much more clearly why Israel is so frustrated with the world’s media, which is always twisting the truth and painting them as the perpetrators of violence, enemies of peace and unwelcome intruders here in their own land.
The most recent bouts of violence began as the Yehudim (Jews) were ending 7 days of the feast of Tabernacles (Succoth – Lev 23) and Shemini Atzeret which literally means “the assembly of the eighth (day)” followed by Simchat Torah which means “Rejoicing in the Torah.” This holiday marks the completion of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings. Each week in synagogue they publicly read a few chapters from the Torah, starting with Genesis Ch. 1 and working through to Deuteronomy 34. On Simchat Torah, the last Torah portion is read and then they proceed immediately to the first chapter of Genesis which is a reminder that the Torah is a circle that never ends.
This completion of the readings is a time of great celebration. There are processions around the synagogue carrying Torah scrolls and plenty of high-spirited singing and dancing in the synagogue, at the Kotel (where the Western Wall is located) and all around the city of Jerusalem in the public squares. As many people as possible are given the honor of reciting a blessing over the Torah reading, even children are called on to participate in Simchat Torah. In addition, as many people as possible are given the honor of carrying a Torah scroll during these processions.
It is supposed to be the time of our great joy! This year was no exception. However, great measures were taken by IDF under the direction of Prime Minister Netanyahu to ensure that the holidays would end as joyfully as possible. For the first time since 1967, when Israel regained control of Jerusalem, there was an order given to ban all Palestinians who do not live in the Old City from entering in. This decision came directly after a young Jewish couple was shot to death in the west bank while their 4 children (10 and under) were also in the car with them. This terrorist event was immediately followed by the stabbing deaths of two men (one being a Rabbi) and the serious injury inflicted on his wife and 2 year old child.
The Rabbi has left behind 7 children who will now have to grow up without their father and 4 children who were orphaned due to the vicious and cowardice nature of this attack. These precious people were doing nothing whatsoever to provoke such an attack. It is no wonder the police and IDF soldiers had to work overtime following these attacks – just to make sure that no Israeli groups – who are rightfully indignant concerning the latest acts of senseless violence – would retaliate out of their anger.
The violence did not stop the ongoing festivities (although it became noticeably much quieter than in past years, according to others whom we talked to). Robert & I freely walked to the Old City a couple different times and never once felt threatened or afraid. There were many more IDF soldiers and police present in the Old City than were present before the attacks. It is clear to any visitor that the Israel Defence Forces of Israel are taking any and all measures the government feels are necessary to make Jerusalem (and all of Israel) a safe and peaceable place for all (including Palestinians) and that they have a zero tolerance for violence of any kind – even from Israel’s Jewish citizenry! The media often doesn’t portray this picture. The media often portrays Israel and the Yehudim as the instigators of the on-going conflict; however, as eye-witness visitors in the land my husband and I can honestly report to you that, that is NOT the truth!
Today as we returned to the Mount of Olives (after over a week of continual attacks around Israel and especially here in Jerusalem) I found myself conflicted in my heart as I watched my husband take out his Tahlit and shofar and prayers of the Amidah from his back pack. I think to myself, “Is this man crazy or is he just absolutely assured of the Father’s messengers guarding us all around.” I sensed a responsibility as his warrior bride to stand and make sure that no one would attempt to harm him as he prayed to YHWH. Eventually, I chose to return to the car, because of the fierce gusting winds – fully trusting Abba for His protection over him. Praise Abba, as He was faithful and we managed to spend several hours praying and interceding for the shalom (peace) of Jerusalem.
As we left, we were approached by a young man who extended his hand in friendship and introduction. We both shook his hand in response to his friendly greeting. He then proceeded to open the driver’s side car door where Robert was sitting. While extending an olive branch, he then reached over Robert to place it in the cup holder of our rental car. For a few seconds we were both kind of shocked and perplexed as to what was happening, and then I realized that he was reaching for our telephone, which was sitting right in that very place. I then pushed his hands back and firmly told him, “No, thank you.”
Thankfully, Rob managed to quickly push the man out of the car and get the door shut and the vehicle secured and locked. As he began rolling up the window the young man kept asking for shekels (money) and we repeatedly said, “No!” Undeterred, he then proceeded around the car and tried to open the back passenger door where our backpack was sitting and unsuccessfully tried to open my door. Thankfully, Robert had already locked the doors and he was unable to open them.
We were able to leave this man and his unwelcome intrusion into our lives without any further incident. We both marvelled at just how quickly something as simple as a handshake can turn into something far more dangerous. Baruch haShem YHWH (Blessed be the name of Yahweh) for His protection over us, as we continue to go wherever He leads. Abba willing, we will return to the Mount of Olives each day, to pray and intercede for the shalom of Jerusalem, trusting that His hand will lead us and guide us every step – according to the promises of His Word.
Please join us in praying for the shalom (peace) of Jerusalem and for the continued safety of all residents and visitors here in the land of Israel. Please share the truth of what is really happening here in Jerusalem to all that will listen and please keep sending us your prayer requests.
Much love and shalom from the beautiful land of our soon coming King, Yahoshua – Robert & Jenn McDuffie
PS. For those who have ever been in the land then you know how the air is polluted several times a day by the Muslim calls of prayer to their false god, Allah. Here is a short clip of a courageous man who wanted all the inhabitants of Jerusalem to know what a true call of prayer sounds like. Hope you enjoy.