Tuesday, November 30, 2010

~ Day 9 ~ On Location ~

The weather is way too warm for this time of year. Shirt sleeves, shorts and flip-flops; little more like summer wear. Usually, by late November, the rains have started and the temperature has dropped. The chilly weather signals that Hanukkah is on its way. But even though it is too warm, there are other telltale signs of the season.  
 Suffganiot  (jelly doughnuts with powdered sugar) are displayed on trays by the dozens~ and have been available in increasing numbers since the last hag (holiday) ~ which was Sukkot. The shops have every hanukiah imaginable for sale. Even in the grocery stores, one can buy all that is needed to kindle the Hanukkah lights~ candles, oil lamps, wicks.... The children have been singing seasonal songs for a few weeks to get ready for the all important Gan Hanukkah party. (Gan = kindergarten). Costumes of Maccabee soldiers, hats that look like sivivon (tops) all make ready for plays about the miracles of Hanukkah~ usually performed under black lights to 
enhance the proud parents' viewing pleasure.

 In the city, there are few decorations ~ usually the 8 foot  Hanukkah menorah standing in significant places around town, lighted menorahs on street light poles. Personal family hanukiah  will be placed outside the front door on the walk-way to share the light with all that pass by. There is shopping but not the gift-buying madness that one may find in other countries this time of year. The contrast is noticeable as the accent of Hanukkah is not on glitzy decor or a glut of gifts.

The accent of Hanukkah is on what the G-d of Israel did for His people so very many years ago and continues to do today. We light the menorah, one light brighter each night, to remember His faithfulness.

There is unsurpassed joy at being in the Land especially at this time of the year. There is an ability to celebrate surrounded by constant reminders and not the pull to assimilate. There is something rich and settling in being 'on location' to the Miracles of Hanukkah. Unlike in the galut (diaspora) we do not say " Nes Gadol Haya Sham" ~ A great miracle happened there.
We have the privilege of proclaiming " Nes Gadol Haya Po"
~ A great miracle happened here~
Click here for a Special Song

Monday, November 29, 2010

~ Day 8 ~ When You Believe ~

Today's post is dedicated to all who have fear. You are uncertain of the reality of making Aliyah. There are many voices~ internal and external~ that tell you that Aliyah is not for you. The security around you of friends and family, finances and  material goods has wrapped you up like a warm blanket on a cold winter's night. What would ever possess you to want to throw that all off? And for what? Or maybe you are not snuggled in a 'warm' Western society. Maybe you are in a country where being Jewish is a deficit~ almost a danger. But yet a fear holds you to that place, which even though uncomfortable, it is familiar. But if you quiet the voices, still yourself long enough, deep inside there is something glimmering. Something calling. A seed of Hope beginning to sprout. What is it?

It was the same spark in Avraham that caused him to leave everything and go to a place which he did not know.  The glimmer is that which lit the way for multitudes of Jews to forsake their country, walk treacherous miles by foot to arrive in the Land. It is the 'call' of Someone that stirred the hearts of thousands to trust enough to take a small step which turned into a giant leap. It is the seed of Hope that gives forth the fruit of your Destiny. You~ in Israel.

Many nights we've prayed
Young Chinese Jews
with no proof anyone could hear           
In our hearts a hopeful song
We barely understood
Now we are not afraid
Although we know there's much to fear
We were moving mountains
Long before we ever knew we could

There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe

In this time of fear
When prayer so often proved in vain
Hope seemed like the summer birds
Too swiftly flown away
Bnei Menashe ~ Jews of India
Yet now I'm standing here                                                
With heart so full I can't explain
Seeking faith and speaking words
I never thought I'd say

There can be miracles when you believe
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe...

 A-shi-ra la-do-nai ki ga-oh ga-ah
(I will sing to the L-rd, for he has triumphed gloriously)
A-shi-ra la-do-nai ki ga-oh ga-ah
(I will sing to the L-rd, for he has triumphed gloriously)
Mi-cha-mo-cha ba-elim adonai
(Who is like You, oh L-rd, among the gods)
Mi-ka-mo-cha ne-dar- ba-ko-desh
(Who is like You, majestic in holiness)
Na-chi-tah v'-chas-d'-cha am zu ga-al-ta
(In Your love, You lead the people You redeemed)
Na-chi-tah v'-chas-d'-cha am zu ga-al-ta
(In Your love, You lead the people You redeemed)
A-shi-ra, a-shi-ra, a-shi-ra...
(I will sing, I will sing, I will sing)

There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
Ethiopian Aliyah
It's hard to kill                                                                 
Who knows what miracles

You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
Now you will
You will when you believe
You will when you believe

Sunday, November 28, 2010

~ Day 7 ~ 10 Years in Israel

What a wonderful Shabbat. Time to rest. Time to study. Time to just 'Be'. We hope all of our readers had a meaningful Shabbat also. 
To get back on track with Aliyah thoughts, we would like to share part of a family's Aliyah story. They have been here 10 years and are adjusted to the life. Embracing the life. Loving the life. They had their rocky road and their initial fears. But we would like you to notice their thoughts about making Aliyah (the last paragraph.)
                                                    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Just weeks after we immigrated to Israel in August 2000, I was summoned to the principal's office of my daughter's elementary school. Two weeks earlier she had entered first grade, another big step on top of the many big steps it took to get us to Israel.

The principal neither spoke nor understood much English, and I neither spoke nor understood much Hebrew. But during our brief meeting, she managed to communicate to me that my daughter would not have as many hours of assistance during the school day as we thought. Also, the teacher was having difficulty teaching a child “fresh off the boat” who could not understand a word of  Hebrew -- though she could read the language perfectly, having learned it in kindergarten at a Cleveland-area day school.

I left the school and began the mile-long trek back to our apartment (we would not buy our first car, which we are still driving, for another six months), when a car pulled up and offered me a ride. The driver was an English-speaking woman with a daughter in my first-grader's class who had made aliyah many years before us.

When she asked how everything was going, I burst into tears and spent the next half hour crying in the front seat of her car as she consoled me and promised that our life in Israel would only get better.

Ten years later, my youngest daughter has just entered first grade. She arrived in the classroom with her pink orthopedic backpack filled with the proper school supplies. Israeli born, she speaks perfect Hebrew and English.

My five children all started school this month with confidence and the proper supplies. This time, we all know what we’re doing. My oldest daughter, now in the 11th grade, speaks, dresses and acts like a native Israeli. Though she remembers the trauma of that first year, she is acing her studies and has a packed social life. And the woman whose front seat I dampened with my tears is now one of my closest friends in Israel.

As my family and I mark our 10th anniversary in Israel, I am overcome with mixed emotions.
It wasn't easy to pack up and leave our family and friends to come here, though we were greeted by both family and friends when we arrived. It was not easy to adjust to a new culture, a new language, a new way of life.

But we knew Israel would be the best place to raise our Jewish children, where they would learn about their Jewish past, participate in their Jewish present and prepare for their Jewish future, and where we would have a front-row seat to Jewish history.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 5 ~ Making Aliyah to IDF ~

The ultimate purpose of The 2 Spies is to encourage those who are eligible, to make Aliyah. Today's post was not written by any  of us but rather it is an article from Ynet News. The article tells of the  decision of  189 young men to leave all and move to Israel, making Aliyah directly into the IDF (Israel's Army). May you be inspired by their courage.
When a young person is in the army with no family in the Land, they are called chayal boded a 'lonely soldier'. Today's post is dedicated to a young man who has the Spirit of Joshua. He came to Israel alone to do his army. He put forth his best effort and became a medic in the paratroopers. He served faithfully and fearlessly during the Intifada. He, like the first 2 spies, knew that the giants would not devour him. He knew it is a pleasant Land, a Land of Milk & Honey. Thank you.
 The original link is here: (click here) Ynet News
Hanan Greenberg

On Monday, 189 soldiers from 30 countries stood in uniform on the parade ground of the Michve Alon military base near Safed.
There were almost no guests in the audience, as most of them are 'lonely soldiers' who parted from their families in order to join the army ranks. 

Recently, the IDF has reported a sharp increase in the enlistment of new olim, who do not speak Hebrew, but insist on serving in combat units. 

More and more youngsters with academic education have been making aliyah in recent years – and despite their poor language skills - want to serve as combat soldiers, even though some may be well over 24 years-old. 

Hours before the graduation ceremony, Base Commander Raz Karni entered the company's dining hall. "Who's going to be a warrior?" he asks the fresh soldiers. Only few hands go up in the air. "Combat. Who's going to combat?" one of the commanders quickly rephrases the question. This time, a slew of hands are waved in the air enthusiastically.
                'Who's going to combat?' Soldiers at ceremony (Photo: Avihu Shapira)

"This exactly shows the nature of this group," explained Major Keren Kamerinski, who commands the olim military course, "This young gang is fueled with motivation, and come here to learn everything from scratch. They hardly speak the language, but do not give up on having a significant military service."

Learning the ABC's 
Some 400 soldiers stood at the base's parade ground. Alongside the new olim were also soldiers from the Harel Company, whose members have been in Israel for up to ten years. They have relatively good command of the Hebrew language, and therefore came for "only" three weeks of training ahead of their military service.
But the newer immigrants have just completed a three-month program, in which they combined practical army training with Hebrew lessons. They also studied about the Israeli mentality and were infused with some zionsm.

                                        Learning about Israeli mentality (Photo: Avihu Shapira)
As part of the program, the soldiers took classes in Jewish identity, the holocaust and Israel's holidays.
More than half of the soldiers in the two companies are considered lonely soldiers and hail from Russia, the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Cuba, Sweden, Brazil and other countries.

One of the program's graduates is 26-year-old Yitzhak Pinhas, who formerly worked for NASA in New Orleans. Pinchas admitted he fulfilled the American dream with "A good job, a house and a dog," but decided to move to Israel and join the army.

                                   Looked for a calling. The young soldiers (Photo: Avihu Shapira)

"I felt I was missing out on something significant. I think it is important to contribute to Israel, in any way possible," he said.

Neumann, 26, was looking for the same calling. He worked for a successful firm in Boston before coming to Michve Alon. He will soon receive his red beret and join the paratroopers unit.

Twenty-four-year-old Ashley Fairfield came from England two years ago, and recently married his girlfriend in Jaffa. He felt it was not enough to volunteer with Zionist organizations in the UK, and decided to move to Israel and join the IDF.

David Ben Ari, 20, already earned his BA in mathematics and physics from Harvard University. "Now I'm taking some time off to serve in the IDF," he explained.

During the graduation ceremony, Lieutenant Colonel Karni addressed the soldiers: "The IDF and the State of Israel are proud of you. You are serving in the army of all people, where there is no distinction between soldiers. It is the army of the Jewish nation, an army that must always remain strong."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 4 ~ The Kotel~

 Jerusalem is the place where G-d chose to put His Name. The Temple Mount is the place in Jerusalem where G-d chose His Divine Presence to rest.  Tradition says that it was in this place that G-d gathered the dust used to create the first man, Adam. On the mount, Avraham bound Isaac and the substitute lamb was provided.  The first and second Temples were built here. A future third Temple will be built  here.  From this location, the Word of the L-rd is to come out to all the nations. (Mich 4:2)The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. It is the place to which we turn to face in prayer. It is the place of utmost significance to G-d himself ~ past, present and future. All eyes are turning and looking in the direction of the Temple Mount in wonder, awe and curiosity.  

The Kotel is a small part of the surrounding wall, the last remaining vestige of the ancient Temple area.  Is there any other place in the world where one can go to pray like the Kotel? To which city did G-d say, “I chose you to rest my Presence”? And to which nation did He promise this special possession, this ability to draw so near? To His People, Israel. The mystery of G-d in this place is beyond total comprehension. But for those who have been there, quieted themselves, and waited, there is a ‘knowing’ that transcends words. When one has been to the Kotel to pray, to praise, to rejoice; one goes away refreshed like never before.

 (click here) The Kotel Live

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 3 ~ He is Everywhere~

Being raised in the West in a country that does allow religious freedom, I didn't realize until I came home to Israel, how not free I was. My faith had a guardedness about it according to the social mores, customs and practices of my birth country. Rather than list what the limitations were, let me share the things that struck me in Israel that I did not experience before.

Daily conversation is pepper with references to G-d.

Someone arrives, the greeting is:
Baruch HaBa (lit. Blessed is he who comes. Loosely translated: welcome)

'How are you?'
'Baruch HaShem'
(lit. Bless The Name~  loosely translated ~ Bless G-d~ More loosely translated~ Praise the L-rd)

This is actually the answer to many questions, leaving the listener to come to their own conclusion.
 'How is your job?'
'Baruch HaShem'
'Has your mother-in-law come to live with you?'
'Baruch HaShem'

 Another phrase that is common, and a good reminder to the speaker:
'Will you be coming to the show tonight'
'B'Ezrat HaShem'  (With G-d's help)

Two weeks into the Land, I was in the shuk (like a farmers' market) It was Yom Shishi morning (Friday) which is a very busy time being right before Shabbat. Lots of vendors shouting out about their wares, people bustling by, a few beggars~ moderate but happy confusion. Suddenly I heard loud music and singing. Beggars? A party? Then I recognized the song. Someone was singing 'Moshiach' and dancing! No beggars. Just some excited young men rejoicing before the Shabbat begins.

I had to stop and 'breathe in' the moment. Looking around me at all that was happening~ people shopping, hurrying, going about their day~ and the music was floating down over us like a sweet mist. In the noise of the market place a reminder of what it's all about. The Holy brought into the mundane. Sigh.
Here is a short clip similar to what I heard: Moshiach

 The other limitation I didn't realize that I had until coming Home was prayer. Granted, in my birth country I could pray all I want. Just not like here. In Israel, there is prayer three times a day. Those who participate are not thought of in any negative way if, in the middle of a task, they say, 'Gotta go daven (pray)'. They go, meet others who are also davening, and then return when they are finished. Sometimes, they daven  where they are. Such as this guard at the Bloomfield Museum yesterday.

 A common, lovely sight is also those who are reading Tehelim (Psalms). On the bus. While waiting in the doctor's office. Sometimes even while walking to a location. Books of Tehelim can be found on a shelf or a table in public places~ the hospital, medical centers, cafes, and even government offices. Our daughter-in-law was pleased to see them in the Misrad HaPanim~ this is the government office for all official identification~ citizenship, passports, recording births. A very difficult place with chest-high red tap, anxiety to match and it's floors could be washed with the many tears of frustration. To see the Books of Tehelim there is a little like the government acknowledging the need from G-d to make it through. (tongue-in-cheek).

 We will close this post with a clip from a song we heard on the radio over the loudspeaker at the Mall while we were shopping. The 2 Spies are continually amazed at how this place where G-d chose to put His name is so totally saturated with that Name. Reminders abound to keep us in remembrance, if we will attune our hearing. 
(The English words are on the clip. The singers are Mordechai Shapiro and Yakov Shweky)
(Click here)  Rachem~ Have Mercy

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 2 ~ Calendar~Another Shin

Life in Israel revolves around G-d in one fashion or another. Seen and unseen. Known and unknown. Acknowledged and ignored. There are daily practices that have their roots in the Torah (Bible) and have become 'just the way we do things'. One of these is our weekly calendar.

In the West, the names of the days of the week ~ Sunday thru Saturday~ are all named after pagan gods. These names have lost their meaning over time and use. Never-the-less, knowing the root, every time we say these names we are in essence giving these gods credence and acknowledgment of  'their' day. This naming of our days after false gods is one of the many byproducts of our assimilation into a Hellenistic culture.

 In Hebrew, the names of the days of the week follow the example in Genesis (בְּרֵאשִׁית). When G-d created the world, it is documented that the days were numbered~ First Day, Second Day, Third Day, Fourth Day, Fifth Day, Sixth Day. The Hebrew calendar is a counting calendar. Counting up to what?  Counting off the days to the reason all the other days exist.  The only day of the week with a proper name. Shabbat! 

In Hebrew, each letter is also a number.   aleph = 1. bet = 2 gimel =3 dalet =4 hay=5 vav=6   When the calendar is abbreviated it looks like this: (remember: Hebrew is read from right-to-left)

א ב ג ד ה ו ש
The seventh letter in this list is representing the first letter in the word Shabbat (ש ב ת)  
The shin.  Once again there is a counting up to Shabbat.  And the wonderful reminder to those who have eyes to see it~ the abbreviation for Shabbat is that lovely shin~ the letter of G-d's Name. In this way we have a reminder that G-d has placed His name on this Day of all Days. The epicenter of our weekly lives. The focus of our labors and efforts. The Shabbat.

Reminders abound in the Land of G-d's great love for His people and His desire to be involved in every aspect of our daily lives.... even to the shin on our calendar.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 1 ~Jerusalem~ The Place of G-d's Name

 (No inspiration comes out of a vacuum. A recent fellow 'Spy' from the States reminded us of something we had learned long ago and forgotten. Toda Raba Liane for the nudge in this direction)

The Israelites miraculously were delivered from Egypt. They were on their way to the 'Promised Land' ~ the land G-d promised to Avraham and then to his son Yitzak and to his grandson Yacov. While still in the desert, the L-rd spoke to Moshe of a place that they would come to one day.The place He was leading them. The place of His choosing. The place that He would put His Name.

 Deuteronomy 12:5
 But you are to seek the place the L-rd your G-d will choose... to put His Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go.

It was not just any place. It was specifically chosen and would play an important part in the continuing relationship between G-d and His people. All of G-d's future plans for His children centered, not just around the Promised Land but more specifically a city. The city that He would mark with His Name. 
That city is Jerusalem.

I Kings 11:36
 I will give one tribe to his son so that David will always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I choose to put my Name.

By practice, we know that when you write your name on an object, you are telling others that it belongs to you. Those who do not know you, may not know to whom the item belongs. If your name is written on your jacket collar , if you should forget it somewhere, someone need only look inside and see your name and know that it belongs to you. So it is with the things of G-d. He is particular about His precious possessions.
He has His own way of  marking what belongs to him~ of placing His Name.
The Name of G-d by which Avraham, Yitzak and Yacov knew Him was Shaddai    
The first letter, the shin, is often used to represent the whole Name of G-d. G-d commanded a special way for the priests of the Temple to put His Name on the people every day:

Numbers 6: 24-27
The L-rd bless you and keep you, the L-rd make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The L-rd lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. And they (the priests) will put my Name on the children of Israel and I will bless them
The priests were commanded to bless the people with the purpose of putting the Name of  G-d on them. As they recited this blessing, they would hold their two hands up high together, making the shape of the shin with their fingers.    (like in the photo above)
Here is a beautiful rendition of this blessing that was chanted over the children of Israel every day, thus putting G-d's name on them every day~ renewing His relationship with them as His special possession:
(Click here)

The name of G-d as represented by the shin is able to be seen written on Jerusalem. As we look at a map of Jerusalem, we see three valleys running north to south.The darker shaded areas to the left of the numbers on the map below show the valleys. #1 is the Hinnom Valley. #2 is the Tyropoeon Valley. #3 is the Kidron Valley.

We won't go into the past and future significance of these valleys at this time.  What we want to notice is the way in which the three valleys relate to each other. As  you can see, geographically the three valleys form the letter shin. 
In an almost hidden and mysterious way, G-d has put His Name on Jerusalem. Just as He said He would. His Name was there before us. His Name was there before Moshe. His Name was there before Avraham. And His Name will be there always. A reminder of His greatness, a testimony to His sovereignty, an immovable sign of His covenant with the children of Israel~ the Jewish people.

The command He gave Moshe still stands for the Jewish people:

 But you are to seek the place the L-rd your G-d will choose... to put His Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Giants in the Land

Tomorrow will begin the 40~day challenge.... posting something positive about Israel everyday for 40 days. The same amount of time the 12 spies sent out by Moshe scouted out the Land. This introductory blog post, with G-d's help, will be the only time we will give any credence to the 'giants' in the Land.

The original account of the 12 spies is in Numbers 13 and 14. When the spies returned, the report they gave Moshe was:

"We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful....we can't attack those people, they are stronger than we." And they spread a bad report about the land they had explored.  They said, " The land we explored devours those living in it. The people we saw there are giants and we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes...."

Joshua and Calev's report:
"The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the L-rd is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them."

Giants in the Land. So big and overwhelming that they looked like grasshoppers in their own eyes. That is intimidation! To make these people forget all the encounters with the Creator, the miracles, the personal deliverance from slavery on their behalf. How mighty these giants must have been to make all these men of valor forget the Living God. Forget him so much so that they spread a bad report about the land. The same Land, the object of G-d's promise to Avraham, the place of their ancestry~ they had no fear in speaking against all of this. Had they have known what the consequences would be, would they have put their hands over their mouths and kept quiet. I wonder.

Two spies saw the same giants and agreed that they were there and that they were fierce. These two spies, however, had not taken their eyes off of G-d nor had his greatness dimmed in their hearts. They knew they could take the land. Because they were mighty? No. They did not trust in horse and chariots. They had seen those of Egypt thrown into the Sea. They trusted in G-d as the keeper of his covenant. The 10 who did not believe~ who rebelled, died in the desert. The two were rewarded. They believed G-d and they entered the land.

The same scenario presents itself to us today who make Aliyah or who are eligible to make Aliyah. There are giants in the Land. We can read about them in the news or experience the giants in our own lives ~ terrorism, political unbalance, religious persecution, poverty, culture shock, a sense of never belonging, loneliness, frustration over bureaucracy, feelings of inadequacy because of language, age or cultural background. The inability to fully adjust to all the challenges of a new life, the danger of becoming depressed, the desire to do anything to make the pain go away, the draw to make an unreal world to live in. The ever pervading tiredness at mundane tasks taking so much energy. The inability to get anything done in a government or business office in less than three visits. The soul-racking humiliation as people look past you, medical staff not understanding your problem, even children laughing because your Hebrew is less than adequate. The desire to stand on a soap-box somewhere and shout, 'I AM NOT AS STUPID AS I SOUND! I AM A COLLEGE GRADUATE!!' The dark, cold, loneliness because life-long friends are left behind and at you may never really make that good of a friend again. In the Land of the Bible, the confusing, mind-boggling convoluted thinking that washes over you as you try to sort out your spiritual life and doctrine and keep it to the solid simple truths unmasked with religion and hypocrisy. The inability to keep hate from your heart over people who put your children in a position they never should be in ~ a uniform, like a target~ when they should be in college and dating and having fun.The confusion when some of those people become your dear friends~ how to keep the friendship and not have politics tear you apart. For every person who lives here, there is a different, and maybe similar, list of personal giants in Land. Some are all too real. Some are perceived. But all are giants none-the-less with the power to make us look like grasshoppers in our own eyes.

The 2 Spies have written about the Giants for two purposes.
First, to let the readers know that we are not looking at Israel through rose-colored glasses. We have our eyes wide open and we engage the giants ~ real and perceived~ on a daily basis. We know personally how engaging the battle can be~ for some of us, almost to the point of death. We are not naive nor unscathed.

We have studied the passages in Numbers often enough to understand what our determination must be. By choice, we choose to NOT be as the 10 spies and bring a bad report. Joshua and Calev agreed that there were giants in the Land. They chose to believe G-d and because of that they KNEW they could swallow the giants. The giants would be defeated, with G-d's help. This is our second purpose in writing about the Giants. We choose to be like Joshua and Calev and believe G-d. We know through experience that there are giants here. Legions if you will. We also know that the L-rd gave us the Land for our inheritance. We choose to see Him in this place. We choose to give the good report that it is indeed and land flowing with milk and honey. It is a Land where the G-d of Avraham, Yitzak and Ya'cov chooses to dwell. And...if G-d be for us, who then shall be against us?

David slaying the Giant

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cliff Jumping

The nagging thought has haunted you for days, months, years. 
"I must move to Israel".  "I need to make Aliyah." 
You have argued with yourself. You have debated with your friends the pros and cons. You have dried your Mother's tears. Night after sleepless night you tossed and turned as the good, the bad, and the ugly paraded before you. The questions keep on coming at you and swirling around you like a tornado. Logic bashing belligerently up against faith. "Why should I leave a perfectly good life and go thousands of miles away to who only knows what? Everything here is familiar and predicable.  At least I know the language. I have family and friends here. There, I have no one.  Nothing. No job. No home. No security. I am not even sure I like the food. And it is so dang hot!  Aside from all of that, it seems like there is always one war or another happening or getting ready to happen! Agggghhhhh!!!!"

And in the midst of the storm of decision, a very still, small voice says to you,
"Come home"

The decision to make Aliyah is always one filled with conflict. There is a whole lifetime of the Familiar to wrap its arms around us and make us comfortable and cozy. Even for the adventurous soul, how big of a leap are we willing to make and for how long. Maybe a tour. Maybe an extended visit. A year of study abroad or volunteer on a kibbutz. But to actually pack it all up and move permanently.... it is like... like.... jumping off a cliff!

The Torah tells us that G-d spoke to Abraham and told him to
"Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you"
Avraham obeyed and went to a place he did not know. One cannot begin to imagine what that was like for Avraham. Leaving all behind. All security. Any fall-back plan. Protection and provision. Venturing day-by-day into unknown terrain.

For those who have inherited the promise of a home in the Land, the launching out is very similar. Except we DO know where we are going. We DO know what is ahead and what waits us. G-d has given the Land as part of the inheritance. Scary? Yes. Possible? Definitely. 

A little like jumping off a cliff?  Make the decision and find out!

The 40 Day Challenge

The Challenge has been made. Can 'The 2 Spies' post for 40 days straight? That's right~ every day for 40 days~ something positive about Israel. Something lovely, something unique, something not-so-unique but just observations on life? 
Starting Kislev 15 (November 22) we will take the challenge and begin to post for 40 days straight! 
Why 40 days?  The original 2 Spies ~ Joshua and Calev~ were sent into the Land to spy it out for 40 days. 
Why Kislev 15 (November 22)?  It is the Hebrew birth-date of one of the Spies of this blog! Starting on that day, we will spy out the Land and confirm that it is indeed a Land flowing with Milk & Honey!

 Mark your calenders and prepare to join us on our journey! Be sure to register for the blog so you don't miss a posting and, Please, leave your comments to let us know your thoughts!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Safe Place

A 'Safe Place'

 Back when I was a child, which was some time ago, we lived in neighborhoods that were quite safe. I actually lived in a house very much like this one.... including the color! Everyone knew each other. We could walk to the local park alone and play all day with our friends, coming home when the noon whistle sounded for lunch. We stayed out with our friends playing 'until the streetlights came on' -- our signal it was time to go home. We walked each other  to and from school each day.  In the unforeseen circumstance that a child got sick or hurt, or another child was picking a fight;  there were 'safe places' sprinkled throughout the area. These were homes had been approved by the police and had a sign in the window signaling to us children that they were a 'safe place' should we need help. Inside, we would find someone, usually a mother, who would give us the needed band-aid, drink of water or use of the toilet. If necessary, she would call our house and let our mother know that we were there. It was very reassuring as a child to know that these 'safe places' were there for me should I get hurt or worse, should a bully bother me.

Usually, our lives roll along without too many bumps on our journey. We can handle most of the problems that come our way. If the situation in our country stays relatively 'sane', we are able to go with the flow. For many, however, the 'climate' in our countries is changing. There is an increase in anti-Jewish sentiment to the point of becoming dangerous. The new antisemitism is being voiced as anti-Israel. There has been an upswing in violent anti-Israel (re: anti-Jewish) out-lash that it is almost frightening. BUT, like when we were children, in the back of our minds there is the 'safe place' to where we can run for help if needed ~ Israel. We tough it out in our home countries, not really wanting to believe that things are as bad as they are BUT if it is THAT bad, we reason,  there is always Israel.

The 2 Spies would like to challenge this line of thinking:

G-d never intended for Israel to be our 'fall-back' plan~ the just in case we lose it all, if it gets too uncomfortable, should we lose everything, run to the 'safe place' plan. This thinking makes a judgment that the nations have more to offer us from the get-go than G-d's promise of Israel. Israel is G-d's first best. It is His only 'best'. If you are Jewish, there is a destiny waiting to be fulfilled for you that will not happen any place else other than in Israel. Israel is a 'safe place' because that is where your future is written.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Aliyah in the Scriptures

G-d Has Made an Everlasting Covenant with Abraham

Genesis 17:7, 8

"And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be G-d to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their G-d."

Psalm 105:8–11

He remembers His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac,
And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the allotment of your inheritance.”

G-d Has Not Rejected nor Forgotten His Jewish People

Jeremiah 33:23–26 (NIV)

The word of the L-RD came to Jeremiah: "Have you not noticed that these people are saying, 'The L-RD has rejected the two kingdoms he chose'? So they despise my people and no longer regard them as a nation. This is what the L-RD says: 'If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them.' "

Romans 11:1, 2, 29 (NIV)

I ask then: Did G-d reject his people? By no means!...G-d did not reject his people, whom he foreknew...for G-d's gifts and his call are irrevocable.

What G-d Scatters, He Re–gathers

Jeremiah 31:10

“Hear the word of the L-RD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.' "

G-d Will Re–gather and Restore  His People to the Land of Israel

Isaiah 43:5, 6

Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
Bring My sons from afar,
And My daughters from the ends of the earth.

Jeremiah 23:3, 7,  8

“But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase...“Therefore, behold, the days are coming,” says the L-RD, “that they shall no longer say, ‘As the L-RD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the L-RD lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land.”

G-d Will Do This with All His Heart and Soul

Jeremiah 32:37–41

"Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their G-d; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul."

The Gentiles Will Help

Isaiah 49:22 (NIV)

This is what the Sovereign L-RD says: “See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up My banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders."

Praise and Proclamation Will Release Them!

Jeremiah 31:7, 8

For thus says the L-RD: "Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O L-RD, save your people, the remnant of Israel!'

"Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together; a great throng shall return there."

In the Land, They Will Receive a New Heart

Ezekiel 36:24–28

“ ‘ “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people and I will be your G-d.” ’ ”

None Will Be Left Behind

Ezekiel 39:28 (NIV)

"Then they will know that I am the LORD their G-d, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind."

The Messiah Will Come

Jeremiah 23:3, 5, 6

“But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase...Behold, the days are coming,” says the L-RD, “that I will raise to David a Branch of Righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE L-RD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

Scriptures taken from the NKJV unless otherwise noted.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Purpose of this blog

After coming through the desert, G-d commanded Moshe  "Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites."  For forty days 12 men followed Moshe's command:
"Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many.  What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified?  How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land."

"When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs."

The 12 spies all agreed on certain points:
"We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit."

10 Spies  gave this report: 

"The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.  We saw the Nephilim there (giants). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them." They believed what their eyes told them. Their fear took over and they spoke what they perceived to be the truth.

The L-rd saw their fear as contempt of Him and unbelief:
"How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?"

Joshua and Calev agreed that there were giants in the Land but their trust in HaShem was in place:

"Joshua son of Nun and Calev son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them."

"Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."

And the L-rd said:
"No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.  But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. "

This blog is dedicated to the 2 Spies~ Joshua and Calev~ who saw with eyes of Trust and gave the Good Report. They were allowed to inherit that Land because they, like Avraham, believed G-d.
The hope is that this blog will quiet the lies and fear that abound about making Aliyah and living in the Land. In all these years, many aspects of Israel have not changed. It is still a Land  full of giants~ which we will not list so as not to give them any credence. It is also a Land flowing with Milk & Honey. This we will explore in future days. The Milk & Honey may take many forms but all should be that which will increase your desire to make Aliyah (if you are Jewish) and your prayers for the return of the Jewish people (if you are Christian).

(All quotes are from Parashat Shelach or Numbers 13-15 where you will find the story in its fullness)