Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category
They stood with others solemnly by
saluting the fallen and the brave
risking life and limb to bring about a promised peace.
Listening to the strains of, “Amazing Grace,”
flag draped coffins are carried under a guarded sky
across cemetery lawns to their final resting place.
Eulogies and names; so many to honor, too short a time,
families of victims pray their loved one’s story lives to remain
a memory, not forgotten, and why they gather today
because of terror unleashed like the rampant spread of disease.
Eloquent words gracing memorial walls and stones
don’t bring closure nor adequately explain
to those suffering loss with unfathomable pain
why a tragedy of this kind strikes with evil intent,
leaving more unanswered questions that remain.
How can there be those who choose
to live with such prejudice, and hate
towards others whose lives they count not
worthy of grace, mercy and love,
but think it better they not live at all.
In a world broken, where strife and anger exists,
rising animosity and distrust is given to believe
there is no hope, and people succumb
to the chaos and confusion that rises up like an ugly fist.
Joyce E. Johnson 2017
Footnotes; The story above is fictional, but the situation is real every day, here and elsewhere. There will always be hate and evil that rears its ugly head, even as we think things will, or might improve. The increased anti-Semitism and hatred towards groups in our country and others continues, even while our president works to set in place measures to stop that. Two years ago I posted fictional stories under the title, “Acid Rain” about two brothers, both having the same mother but different fathers. One brother took the path of a terrorist, and the other an officer with the Israeli Defense Forces. You can find their stories here under the Acid Rain fiction heading in the menu on my site. The prequel to this story series began with Brothers Divided. Their stories are fictional, but the one of Isaac and Ishmael are not which I used as inspiration for the stories of Sam, and Gamal. The recent events of increased vandalism and terror threats to the Jewish Community centers in our country and increased anti-Semitism throughout the world prompted the poetic fictional story above.
The Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Israel, May, 2001, Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson
Nothing but chaos, crowds and noise
greeted the young couple, desperate to find
a quiet place, warm and dry
for the birth of their child, the newborn king.
Foretold and promised generations ago,
news of his birth was heard throughout the lands,
and the star in the east that lit up the sky
guided men of wisdom across desert sands.
Shepherds fled their flocks
frightened by angels that came nigh
announcing the news of Jesus’s birth.
To the king they hurried, and in haste found
the tiny babe chosen to rule and reign
lying in a feeding trough upon a cold bare ground.
Hope and redemption was born that night
where cattle grazed, and sheep and goats brayed.
No throne or palace was awarded this king,
yet people came from all around
seeking the savior born that day.
Now in a world where chaos, crowds and noise
leaves hearts searching and seeking one to follow,
where joy, comfort and peace
is eternal, lasting and hallow,
there waits the savior born that day
to reign in hearts that just believe.
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14 NIV, New Testament Bible.
I would like to take this time to thank all of my blogger friends, followers and visitors who have visited my blog site through 2016, and wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year of peace and joy in 2017. The amazing friends and opportunities I have, and the positive comments received are what makes blogging fun, rewarding, and an inspiration to my writing. Blessings to all. JEJ
Shimon Peres. 1923-2016
A man of valor, brave and bold, he served
with fortitude and grace
governing his country
with formidable strength.
He took a determined course of action,
with a promise to protect and defend its rights
by peaceful means and firm resolve,
never wavering, or cowering to enemies,
but upholding honor to the Jewish state
he passes peacefully, and like his past
won’t be forgotten, but laid to rest.
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
The Garden Tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, Israel: photo taken May, 2001 while on tour of Israel.
He did not come to guarantee
that your life would not know pain,
but that you would have joy,
and from the clutch of sin be free.
He did not die to be remembered
as one wronged, then crucified,
but one raised up and resurrected,
and be crowned King of Kings.
Joyce E. Johnson © 2016
The story of Jesus’s death and resurrection can be found in chapters 19 & 20 of the book of John in the New Testament Bible, NIV.
I wish you all a happy, blessed Easter filled with hope, peace and love.
Hagar approached Abraham’s tent, Ishmael following after his mother with little concern for what was coming. Abraham had no choice if he wanted to keep Sarah happy. Hagar and his first-born son, Ishmael would be cast out, homeless and destitute in the desert of Beersheba with no promise of a future, and certainly none of the coveted inheritance. It would come through Isaac, Abraham’s second son, born to Sarah. He would receive God’s covenant blessing and favor, and all future generations of the Jewish nation after him. But, the God of Abraham did not turn away from Hagar and Ishmael. He heard her cry, and saw her distress. He would spare them both, provide for them, and through Ismael many nations would be born. (Paraphrased; Genesis, chapter 21 in the Old Testament Bible NIV.)
The above story is true. When I read about Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, Ismael and Isaac I think about the division, hate, and turmoil in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians, and people and cultures of other Middle Eastern countries with the ongoing conflict. One might think that what was written centuries ago and recorded of stories like Abraham’s might be of little consequence to us today. But, what was written back then by those who lived and recorded their stories is relevant to our lives today. It comes back, bigger, more profound. The two most basic things we need most are love and acceptance. They can unite and bind us, but. if we have neither only divide and separate us. The characters in the story below are fictional, but their situation and circumstances could be real. It is not just their story, but one in places all over the world.
Tel Aviv, Israel – present day
“Why did you wait till now to tell me?”
“Gamal, your father deserted us. I never saw him again after that. I felt shamed, as if it was all my fault. So I left, moved closer to the settlements and just tried to blend in.”
“Like a Jew.”
“I had to find work, to support us…even though…” Sahar said, through her tears.
“Even though you were pregnant with a bastard’s son.”
Sahar shook her head, overcome with the emotion coursing through her like a hot iron.
“What about Sam’s father?”
“I was working in Jerusalem at a shop on Haifa Street when I met him. He was serving in the Israeli army then…At first I wanted nothing to do with him. He was Jewish. He came in often, was kind, and gentle…”
“And he married you.”
“Yes. We were married by a clergyman from another faith, because the Jews would not accept me, nor my people him.”
“So he captivates the pretty damsel, and off they ride into the sunset with her bastard son in tow.”
Sahar screamed at him. “Stop calling yourself that. You’re not! I never thought of you like that.”
“No? But, I was the curse that came with the shame of a sordid love affair with a man from Gaza…”
“We were a family. I tried to raise you both the same. I loved you. I never told Sam’s father anything…about your birth, or father. He accepted you and was willing to raise you as his own. He was not Orthodox so my past was not an issue with him. Then, one day…while on duty…with the military, rockets came. He was out there, trying to pull people from that carnage, but there were…Palestinians out there, shooting at them, and he was hit. He died, soon after.” Sahar’s shoulders shook, her cry intensified with every breath.
“And Sam? What does he know?”
“He only knows about his own father, how we met, how he died. Nothing about yours.”
“Then why tell me now, mother, after thirty years, making me believe I was Jewish, instead of…the son of a Palestinian?”
“Because your ties with Israel’s enemies affect your relationship with Sam, and his position in the army. You are brothers for God’s sake.”
“For God’s sake?” He laughed, sarcastically. “Your God does not care about us.”
“Gamal! What are you saying? The God of Abraham and Isaac is our God! We have no other. He is God to all.”
“We come from different people, mother. Or have you forgotten that?”
“I don’t serve Allah!”
“But, I do!” He said, his eyes glaring at her, cold and dark. “Goodbye, mother.”
“Gamal!“ She yelled after him, but he did not listen. He was gone, slamming the door behind him, shutting himself off from her, Sam, and all that he knew.
Joyce E. Johnson © 2016
Footnotes: Last year I posted short fictional stories under the title, Acid Rain, the first one under the title of Brothers Divided where Sam, a Jewish Israeli defense officer comes against those in the Arab nations set on destroying the Jewish people and the country of Israel. You can find those stories here. The above story is fiction also, and the prequel to Acid Rain.
The Sea of Galilee in Israel; Photo taken May, 2001 while touring Israel just four months before the 9/11 attack on the U.S. Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson
The shepherd struggled to his feet. Smoke rose into the sky as winds carried the smell of death and destruction of Bethlehem to the hillside.
The annual pilgrimage of thousands who came each year to see the place where the Christ child was believed born was only a trickle this year in the wake of all the terrorist attacks.
They are the smart ones, who stay away. The Palestinians did not fear the Jews, or their retaliation to the missiles and suicide bombs, but instead the much darker force of evil who controlled the region destroying and desecrating all historic or religious sites. Like a plague of death their victims fell to their swords, and their black flag now flew over Gaza.
Hassan heard a soft bleat.
One has survived.
He made his way through the carnage to the sound growing weaker with every step and found him half buried under rock and debris carried by the blast. Bleeding, legs broken, but alive his eyes pleaded with silent cries.
As the night grew dark, and now quiet the shepherd tended after the lamb. He supposed the rest of his flock was now dead, or scattered. Like all the nights before when the stars came out he looked up, searching, studying those that never failed to shine their bright light upon the hills of Bethlehem.
A glow penetrated the cave dwelling. A star has fallen!
“Hassan! It is I.”
He shook with fear. Where did that come from!?
“Hassan, you alone have survived. Don’t be afraid. I will be with you. Worship me, Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ sent to save the world from its sin. I came so that you may have eternal life. Believe only in me, and you will be saved.”
He had no understanding or comprehension of what had just happened, or what he had heard. Yet, a calm came over him, seeping into his very soul. Food and water appeared mysteriously before him. Provisions?
He ate. Taking the lamb he rose and walked to where the destroyed grotto now lay in ruins.
It is only a shrine.
Lifting his voice toward the heavens he cried out. “If I stand alone to tell my story I will tell how you came to save me, and that I live to worship You.”
One by one the scattered sheep came back, compelled by the sound of their shepherd’s voice.
It mattered not that he alone survived the attack, but that he was no longer alone. His time remaining he did not know. He was alive. He had this moment now.
Footnotes: The above story is only fiction. Thank heaven for that. Literally. 🙂 Bethlehem was one of the places we visited while on our tour of Israel in May, 2001. Although the U.S. has seen much of its own terrorism (the 9/11 attack and the one most recently in San Bernardino, Ca.) and those in Paris and elsewhere I remain very thankful I live in a free country, and can still worship the living Savior who came to this world born of a virgin, went to the cross to die for the sins of this world, and was buried and resurrected so we can have eternal life. The real story (a much happier one) of the shepherds and Jesus’s birth can be found in Matthew and Luke, chapter 2 of the New Testament Bible.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46 (NIV)
Joyce E. Johnson (2015)
She was hated by one, yet loved by another; the God of the father of her illegitimate child. The Egyptian maidservant approached his tent with trepidation.
Abraham didn’t want to do it, but he had no choice if he wanted to keep Sarah happy. Hagar and Ishmael would be cast out, homeless and destitute, they set out alone in the barren wilderness with no promise of a future, and certainly none of the ‘promised inheritance.’ That was reserved for Isaac, Abraham’s legitimate son and rightful heir to the Jewish nation of God’s chosen to inherit His coveted blessings.
Hagar could not bear to watch Ishmael die, the first-born son of a Jewish father. There was not enough food to sustain them both, so she chose to die, so he could live.
Was it an omen of things to come, a future not yet prophesied? She gave him what was left of the rationed bread, then walked away alone to die. But, the God of Abraham did not walk away from her. He heard her cry, and saw her tears. He spared them both, and the Palestinian nation was born. But, their God was not the God of Abraham.
This story is not fiction, but true. The bible does not give the date and time of this historical event which separated two brothers, and divided a family. Yet, each of these two boys would lead their own to the creation of two cultures and two nations living side by side. It was hate then that sent her away, and it is hate today that divides them still.
But, although Abraham and Sarah made mistakes then there were other decisive moments later that proved and tested the faith and strength of a man obedient to God who was willing to sacrifice his beloved legitimate son, Isaac on an altar to God. But, God stayed his hand in time before Isaac was slain. A transition and period of time in between events shows Abraham’s strong character and maturity changing forever the direction of his life, his descendants’ lives and ultimately the destiny of Israel’s.
Today, centuries later we see still the turmoil and unrest in the Middle East as reports come almost daily of terrorist’s acts, missiles and rockets fired at Israel, and new threats of war as tensions rise and Iran promising the destruction of Israel, a country blessed by God since its creation. There is no ‘deal’ or treaty that will work to stay the hand of a country like Iran that seeks to destroy another.
It is not just the prophetic events that unfold before our eyes, but the same hatred and animosity that has prevailed since Abraham’s time. We can pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the Middle East, even the world, but unless the tide of hate turns, and evil is eradicated completely there will always be those who bear the kind of hate and evilness that wishes only to destroy life, not preserve it.
You can find the stories of Abraham in Genesis, chapters 21: 1-20, and 22:1-14. of the Old Testament, NIV
Joyce E. Johnson (2015)