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Israel liveblog: Mt. of Olives, Islamic Stifling, Messiah’s Gate, and David H. Stern

I hiked with Jonathan out to the Mt. of Olives today. It’s really something to see, and is a place of great significance for Jews and Christians: In the Hebrew Bible, it’s prophesied that God will set his feet down on the Mt. of Olives and the mount will split:

Then Adonai will go out
and fight against those nations,
fighting as on a day of battle.
On that day his feet will stand
on the Mount of Olives,
which lies to the east of Yerushalayim;
and the Mount of Olives will be split in half
from east to west, to make a huge valley.
Half of the mountain will move toward the north,
and half of it toward the south.

-Zechariah 14:3-4

Here’s what the Mt. of Olives looks like from afar:


That whole white area with few olive trees? Those are graves. So many graves, in fact, that there’s hardly any olive trees remaining on the Mt. of Olives:


Jews believe that the prophecy in Zechariah is true: that God will actually come down and set his feet on this mountain. Hence, many dead wish to be buried there where God will come down and raise the dead.

For Christians likewise, the Mt. of Olives has great significance. Not only because Christians are in agreement with Jews about the Lord coming to Mt. of Olives, but also because Yeshua ascended into heaven at the Mt. of Olives.

While most of the graves you see above are Jewish, there are some Christian graves at the foot of the mountain:


As you can see, at the base of the Mt. of Olives is a bit more beautiful, fewer graves, more olive trees.

I suppose there is some melancholy beauty in the dead awaiting Messiah’s arrival on the Mount. Even so, it’s hard to beat the Mt. of Olives at ground level, with the numerous olive groves:


Oh, and see that wall on the top left of the photo? There lies the Golden Gate, also called the Gate of Mercy. In Jewish tradition, the Shekeenah, God’s Divine presence used to appear there, and will appear again when Messiah comes through this gate:


You’ll notice the gate is sealed. It was sealed in the 1500s by the Islamic Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. Magnificent sealing job, no? Jewish tradition suggests it was done to prevent the Jewish Messiah from ever appearing.

If it’s true, it’s one of those WTF moments in religion. “I don’t believe this other guy’s religion, but I’m going to make sure this prophesied future king of his religion never shows up, so I’ll shut the door through which he’s supposed to pass.”

The Islamic silliness doesn’t end there:


Notice the Muslim graves in front of the Messiah’s Gate? Yeah. That’s deliberate as well. The idea is, if Elijah is going to announce the coming of the Jewish Messiah, then let’s make it impossible for him to do so by building a cemetery (Elijah theoretically being a priest, would be unable to go through a cemetery).

So there you have it, folks: if Messiah really is going to set foot on the Mt. of Olives, he’ll be greeted by thousands of Jewish and Christian dead awaiting his arrival, then walk a few minutes to the Golden Gate, at which point he’ll have to do something with these Muslim graves intending to obstruct his path. Then unseal the gate that has been sealed for some 500 years.

Then, if Jewish tradition holds, God’s presence appears at this gate. And if Christian Scripture holds, the dead in Messiah will rise out of the graves.


(No, that’s the Shekeenah overhead, unfortunately!)

One other thing before signing off, Kineti readers: I attended King of Kings Congregation in Jerusalem. It’s basically an evangelical church, the most well-known in the Holy Land. The worship was sincere and uplifting – old hymns with violin and guitar and bongos.

I was a bit disappointed in one thing: there was barely lip service to the fact that – hey, we’re in Jerusalem, and this is Israel, with God’s precious people here. It was most certainly a Church with a Christian service, not a Messianic congregation. They recited the Sh’ma and the read the Torah portion, but did so in speed reader mode and spent maybe a total of 5 minutes on the whole thing. They spent more time talking and praying about the offering.

Perhaps the issue was that they were pressed for time, as they had a special guest speaker: Christian Jewish author Joel Rosenberg. Rosenberg’s cup of tea is prophecy and apocalypse. (His books usually revolve around theoretical fulfillments of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation.) He spoke about Israel and Egypt, how Egypt has been an ally – albeit an uneasy one – since the peace agreement in the 1970s, but is now under a ruler who hates Israel and wishes to militarily conquer Jerusalem for the Islamic world. He tied this back to Scripture warning Israel against leaning on Egypt for safety, and suggested the audience rely only on the Lord for our own battles.

After the service, Jonathan introduced me to Teddy Chadwick of Yerubilee, the Messianic reggae group I’ve blogged about before. Cool guy. We’ve interacted online a few times, so we knew of each other, but it was great talking to him. He has a heart for the Lord, a desire for Torah. He’s an articulate guy who has been through much in his years here in Israel. He’s a big believer in the Aramaic English New Testament (hi Jesse), a distributor even. We talked about Yeshua, the divinity of Yeshua in the Aramaic, and more.

Moments later, an old couple came up the stairs. The man looked especially old, hunched over and speaking rather quietly. When Teddy introduced me to him, the man said his name was David Stern.

I was in a bit of disbelief. I asked if this was David H. Stern, of the Complete Jewish Bible fame. Sure enough, the old man was Stern indeed! Stern is one of the pioneers of modern Messianic Judaism. He’s contributed much to the Messianic Jewish world, including the Complete Jewish Bible, the Jewish New Testament, the Messianic Jewish Manifesto, and more. That man is a legend. It was an honor to meet him.

Stern and Teddy discussed the Aramaic New Testament, the meaning of 1 Philippians, what Messiah meant when he said, “My God, what have you forsaken me?”, and more. Stern was sharp. Just listening to his back-and-forth with Teddy, you got the sense that he’s thought his theology through carefully, and can articulate it simply and quickly.

Stern joked with us about mathematics and time calculations. “How long did you work on the Complete Jewish Bible?”, one of us asked. 1462 days, was his answer (best I can recall, anyways, ha.)

I wanted to get my picture with Stern, but a woman ran up and got a picture with him first. I saw that Stern wasn’t too thrilled about getting his picture taken. So I chickened out and didn’t bother him for another. When it came time to part, I looked David H. Stern in the eye and said,

Mr. Stern, thank you so much for your contribution to the Messianic world. Your Complete Jewish Bible has blessed me and my friends and my congregation. Thank you, sincerely.

He replied with something to the effect of, “And it’s good to know my work is appreciated.”

After Mr. Stern and his wife left, the rest of us headed out to an Yemeni restaurant in Jerusalem, eating outdoors. It was positively lovely:


That’s sad-faced Jonathan on the left (maybe he’s getting sick of me? Smile), myself top left, and Yerubilee’s Teddy Chadwick bottom right. The Christian couple from the United States were Lynne in the photo, and her husband taking the photo.

Ah. Much more to share with you guys: Zechariah’s tomb, the Pillar of Absalom, walking the walls of Jerusalem, the Aramean quarter, Tetris Church, and more. But for those, you’ll have to view all my photos on Facebook.

Shalom from Zion.

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