The Palestinianisation of Jesus

very interesting article I saw recently:

Unfortunately, this happens quite often, and Palestinians turn to promoting history revisionism to naive Christians visiting the holy land.   One example of this I have heard is Samson being the first suicide bomber!!

Great reasons to not have a smart phone

Some people wonder why as an IT person I don’t have an iPhone or another smart phone.  I have thought about it, not being in paid employment is the main factor, but lately I have been thinking a simple type phone has some advantages that sophisticated internet capable phone

1. Cost.   Either a large amount for complete ownership of the handset (£500+)  or having to pay £30-40 or more per month for a contract, that’s a lot of money you could spend on a holiday or many other things.  At the moment, my pay as you go phone on Cellcom IL means my 57 shekels (~£10) worth of credit lasts me about a month.

2. Long commitments.  I reckon people don’t often always think they are stuck paying for this thing for 18 or 24 months (3 years typically in Israel for an iPhone) without a simple way to get out, if the service or the handset don’t meet expectations.  The novelty appeal of the phone may wane way before you are able to get an upgrade or switch to a different payment model.  I wonder if less young people these days will go off traveling, doing volunteer or overseas work when they realise they can’t get shot of the mobile phone plan without an expensive exit fee.    Someone I know who is coming to Israel from the US was paying $106 a month and was struggling to get out of it!

3. Being forced to be doing work stuff when you are not at work.   People I know in the hospital I worked hated their blackberry handsets for this reason.   Employers don’t always plan that staff are doing work without always getting on-call commitments recognised in their actual salary package.

4. Fear of theft or damage.   One of the IT professional web sites I am a member of recently said that in a typical corporate environment, 10% of the phones get destroyed or lost in a year.   I suspect figures for consumers are not that far off.  I have seen many people crack the glass displays on an iPhone, and so therefore your monthly bill may need to have an insurance cost also added on that too.

5. Creditworthyness for getting a contract phone.  This is always checked in phone stores, not everyone qualifies for this.

6. Saying something you later regret online.  More easier to do on a device in your pocket that it is on your regular PC or laptop.

7. Not telling everyone a running commentary of your life’s problems on social media.   Its better to meet up or call a close friend and spill out to them.   Seriously.   Social media provides the tools online for narcissists to talk about themselves all the time too.

8. Enjoying life not being online.  Hiding behind that little device may mean you miss out on some of life’s things like sights of the countryside, getting chatting to strangers in a queue in a shop, and going camping when refraining from anything with an LCD display.

9. Chatting to a friend about a funny story you heard, can be done by A) showing said-item in Youtube or Wikipedia on a phone, or B) using the power of words and acting, in some ways, B can often be more appealing in the same way a good comedian just uses his hands and microphone stand to stimulate the imagination of the audience without any props.

10. Being antisocial in general.   If you are in a party or at a pub, people getting out their phones and then discussing which celebs they follow or what apps they have, are similar to loved-up couples that are too preoccupied with themselves to think about other (non phone obsessed) people around them.  I was watching the popular British motoring TV show Top Gear once when they had writer and actor Stephen Fry on there once, he decides to talk about an app on his phone he uses for gay cruising. geez, keep you nasty habits to yourself please, I used to have a lot of respect for him until this.

Fiddling with a phone in a job interview, theatre/cinema, in church or cell group or also examples of this I have seen being annoying to other people around you.

11. Being technologically unsatisfied.  Some people hop from one model phone to another and regardless of what the features of this and how new it is, are never seem happy.   despite all phones have limitations in one way or another.

12. Metering cost of data.  Its easy to go over the data allowance per month when using data on 3G network, which can make monitoring how much data consumed hard, to avoid any nasty shocks when the bill comes.

Of course, smart phones are incredibly handy for all kinds of things these days, with email, calender, navigation, web, media playback just for starters, but respect that not all people will be associated with the problems above, I have decided I myself would rather just do these things on a regular computer at home.

Return to Nazareth – 4. Looking for the Jesus village

Back in the youth hostel I asked the staff how to get to the Jesus village, a place I missed out on previous trip, they very kindly phoned up the museum in advance, and told me I had to get there quick to not miss out as there was only one more guided tour left that day.

To get there, I had to follow the purple dots painted along the walls, this was quite fun actually, a sort of biblical follow the yellow brick road, hunting the painted on dots through the maze-like paths around Nazareth’s old city.

As you may have already seen, Nazareth’s tightly packed collection of houses closely resembles Jerusalem’s old city, its like no two houses are a like, completely unlinear in their shapes, sizes, with different steps, roofs, balconies.  I think this is a small mosque in between some ordinary houses, as it has this dome with unmistakable crescent ontop.   Theres a sort of odd mix of extensions and alterations on top of ancient houses!

At one point it took me through this Islamic cemetery.

After a few more narrow alleys, I got to a main road, and it was here I found the entrance to the Jesus village.

As you can see the car park is made big to cope with a volume of tourist buses that come often here….

Like the aforementioned following the brick road idea, I was concerned that the wizard, or in this case the intended representation of Christ’s home town may be a disappointment, but actually this place was very well done….

1. The Fauzi Azar – 2. The uglier sides of Nazareth – 3. Welcoming the king with palm leaves? – 4. Looking for the Jesus village – 5. The replica village of Jesus – 6. Today’s Nazarenes

Bad taste bible stories

Sometimes I see people use stories from the bible out of context in the worst way possible.   In the case of these two pictures its from both people groups here in Israel.

The last supper with Hollywood stars?  Me and another Christian friend challenged the Jewish owner of a youth hostel on this, wondering if its really wise considering how many Christians visiting his business might feel offended about this but he just seem to think it was funny.

Yes, its the nativity scene with a seperation barrier.  This commonly used by Palestinians to manipluate the west that this hated barrier uses to keep terrorism from getting into Jerusalem.    The concrete pilars that make up this structure are ugly, but no sensible person wants to go back in the days during the intafada where there were bombings on buses and coffee shops every week.

Return to Nazareth – 3. Welcoming the king with palm leaves?

Firstly, don’t know if this has much relevance in Nazareth culture today, be in Islamic or Christian, but it made me smile anyway;

Ok, I am in wrong side of the country, as Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with palm fronds, although this looks like just a driveway into the side of someone’s shop.

As you can see, this house or business has palm trees put up in an arch over the drive way!

John 12:12-18
On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” 14 Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15 “FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT.” 16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. 17 So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. 18 For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.

This act of Jesus and the people celebrating with the branches was a direct prophecy of this from the OT:-

Zechariah 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Wonder if anyone could zoom in and translate the Arabic in the picture for me please? 🙂

Ok, maybe my imagination is probably working over time, but its interesting to see through the obvious and imagine what life was like, heck, I got to see an unusually large number of carpentry shops on my first visitto Nazareth!

1. The Fauzi Azar – 2. The uglier sides of Nazareth – 3. Welcoming the king with palm leaves? – 4. Looking for the Jesus village – 5. The replica village of Jesus – 6. Today’s Nazarenes

Return to Nazareth – 2. The uglier sides of Nazareth

Nestled in the middle of Nazareth’s high street I walked past the Mary’s well monument, this picture was taken from my first journey.  Now some of the grafitti has gone and some more has appeared, along with an official sign telling people not to drink the water, reason being is at the back of the monument there is a discarded big wooden drum for keeping electric cable, and lots of rubbish, and an odour hinting its been used as a toilet.  Sad that Nazareth’s iconic centre piece in the middle of the city isn’t respected by some people.

Back to old city streets:-

I went to the Synagogue church again, this is the place Jesus made his debut as a Rabbi, a teacher of the Torah as part of his youth.   Today there was a different door open with a talk being given I wanted to take a closer look but didn’t want to interrupt the teaching here.

I was kind of disappointed by the Vatican flag hanging up here.   I don’t really care for the oddball palace in Rome as it has little to do with the teachings of Jesus and doesn’t really fit in here.

In the market place there is everything from fruit, vegetables, home made olive oil, cakes, clothing, cleaning supplies and books on sales outdoors,


I was a bit perturbed by some of these, as you can see the middle ones look like they have more than a hint of antisemitism to them.   There was also people casually selling Keffeyahs, like I saw in Jericho, neck scalves made famous by Yasser Arafat, these tend to have a very political edge to them.

The youth hostel I mentioned earlier I stayed in is run by a Christin Arab family, its a beautiful place, there aremaps and guides available to plan what to see.  I didn’t see anything in the way of obvious Christian literature, ie: pictures of Jesus on the walls there, unlike Jerusalem its kind of interesting to hear Arab people speak a mixture of Hebrew and Arabic, but I was a bit annoyed that the local man on the desk seemed to use the Lord’s name in vain quite a bit.  Ok, they probably aren’t religious, there is a youth hostel in Eilat owned by Messianic Jews that does have bibles and Christian books there.   I am guessing if you go to a youth hostel in Memphis, Tennessee you would see photos of Elvis there I reckon!! 🙂

Some people may think I am being overly romantic about Jesus’s home town, Nazareth has an entirely Arab population and around 30% of these are Christians, but I was hoping to see more Christians, particularly people who could pray and intercede for people here, especially when you seen provocative posters put up like this.   Someone has tried to deface this quite recently it seems!

I would like this know what these posters say, I suspect they are just as poisonous as the previous above.   By the way, these are Christians from an African nation on a tour with nice tartan matching jackets.

Along with not seeing any of the visitors of Christian background at the hostel, many of the experiences of this day left me feeling kind of depressed.   Of course Nazareth is reliant on tourism and aspects of businesses here tend to be geared towards this, but this should be a special place, but churches seem like relics of history without any modern day meaning, Nazareth is important to our Lord Jesus and his Jewish upbringing, a lot of the things seem to be anything but.  Of course, there are minarets nearby, the tall very vocal prayer towers that Islam feels obliged to share with anyone else around.

Trying to sleep was an awkward experience, mainly because the beautiful old house that was a hostel had these big wooden shutters on the windows, and the heavy wind outside was causing them to bang loudly, getting up half a sleep to try and wedge them shut seemed impossible as the latches were broken.   Part of this I think was the Lord was prompting me to pray for my fellow travelers who had come from different backgrounds, a few with some mixed up views about their spirituality.

The Saturday evening meant I got to meet three chaps from New Zealand that were Christian, I was glad to see more believers here.

Am I trying to put Christians from visiting and show Arabic culture as being negative in a Christian light, no – some unexpected surprises happened as I will explain later….

1. The Fauzi Azar – 2. The uglier sides of Nazareth – 3. Welcoming the king with palm leaves? – 4. Looking for the Jesus village – 5. The replica village of Jesus – 6. Today’s Nazarenes

Learning Hebrew without a dummy

I got this book before I came over here:

Actually its a terrible book, its really לא טוב / Lo Tov (no good) for learning Hebrew.   Why?   There’s no Hebrew symbols on it apart from on the front!! The tuition is based around purely only phonetically using Hebrew using Roman letters.  Makes me wonder how much the Dummies franchise check things out before putting their name to their titles.

This is a bit like people I have seen learning to drive a car that’s an automatic, and they can’t get to grips with a manual, it requires drastically re-tooling your brain a second time to learn the native method of doing it.

The symbols in Hebrew are quite different, there is no upper or lower case like there is in European language, or Greek for that matter.   As well as being right to left, there isn’t an upper and lower case set of characters, but there are ‘sofits’ a longer leg on some (N, P, F, etc) characters, you can see this trend also with Arabic which has curvy bits also at the end, as bother languages are derived from Aramaic, an ancient language spoken by Jesus as used in the Passion of the Christ movie, almost extinct but still practiced by a small number of people in small towns in Syria.

What can make it harder is only a small number of things you see in Hebrew include the vowels (dots above and below symbols)  making looking at some words involves a bit of guess work!!

I am learning in a small class of 6 with a friend, most people tend to opt for doing Ulpan, a professional type class, if you want to immigrate to Israel, use the language just for religious or biblical study or if you are just curious.

I only learned French at school which I wasn’t interested in, nor can I really remember any of it.  Its made me think though how hugely challenging it is for a teacher to demonstrate a language, and build the confidence of all the students at the same time and motivate them to practice speaking/listening, reading and writing, and if anyone in the group struggles, helping them out without making them embarrassed.   I think with any type of adult education, you inevitably get people dropping out, not want to persist when it gets difficult.   This happened to us with two pupils thinking that were not making enough progress and worried about letting down the rest of the class.

I know several Japanese people learning Hebrew from a Japanese teacher, which surprised me is that Japanese Christians read their bibles up to down! apparently they used to read all old style books like this but all other modern books contains the kanji symbols left to right.

This book on the right is what our teacher recommended us, it has a mix of conversational bits and individual words too.  Notice this book is ‘proper’ as looking at the front it has the spine on the right hand side!

My personal recommendations would be:-

  • Make sure books and training materials are of good quality, check on Amazon or review sites to see if they can offer learning all the aspects of Hebrew at the right time.
  • Be persistent.   I meet up with some of my class in an Aroma coffee shop in between my monday night lessons, I am not motivated to do practice on my own, so being with other people is good.
  • If you are not yet in Israel but planning to, do some searching for flash cards and learn the symbols and the numbers, print them off and go through them at least 3 or 4 times a week.
  • If you are Israel already, try practice whilst out shopping, when buying things in the big outdoor Shuk (market)  I found I could pick up the names of numbers well this way.
  • Encourage those in your class that aren’t making so good progress and be sensitive not to embarrass them.
  • Asking friends who already know Hebrew to help you practice!

I am a long way from having anything that useful, but I look forward to being able to gain some understanding of what was spoken in the bible and get more detailed examination of the harder to understand parts of the old testament.

This week our teacher showed us Cursive (hand written) Hebrew letters, which really throws me as they look radically different from the regular right-angled looking ones!

For a new immigrant to this land, it is critical to persist and get to grips with Hebrew if you want to get employment, make friends and fit in here, its not easy, but possible when you put your mind to it.

Its quite embarrassing as like most other British person I have been not conversant in any other language, friends from Europe seem to speak 3 including English, and my various Israeli friends immigrant and sabra also know a third language which maybe Arabic, Russian, Ukrainian, French, Spanish, Amharic or Armenian!

During my time I went to Karmiel and Nazareth again, its a pleasant surprise to know I can read the boarding gates now in Jerusalem bus station without having to ask someone! 🙂

fees for flight payments are daft

I bought three plane tickets recently, to come back to Britain to see family for Christmas, on the way back here I am stopping for a short break in Basel, Switzerland to spend New Year with my friend Matthias who lives there, I am going to do some travelling and fly out of Geneva back to Tel Aviv.

I really don’t like airlines for their dishonest practices with upselling you things that used to be included.  This booking I did here was an extra £13 to use a credit card or £8 using a debit card!

I am already doing this on the cheap by not taking any luggage, just everything as carry on.    I don’t have a Electron card to circumvent payment fees, as I thought they were pointless as they are not accepted in a lot of places, but with three flights, I think should exploit getting one just save of these stupid fees I think…

I bet you if you bought a chocolate bar with a credit card in Tescos they couldn’t care less!

I’d like to know if anyone has ideas on getting a suitable Electron card just for buying flights…

Return to Nazareth – 1. The Fauzi Azar

This youth hostel is literally a palace!!

It looks stunning with its high painted ceilings and huge windows, the owner of the place who is the grand-daughter of Mr Fauzi Azar himself seems proud of this place and the fact its been voted the best youth hotel in the country.   Its little wonder that earlier this year on my first trip to Nazareth that it was fully booked up and I wasn’t able to stay before.  Interesting enough I was in the lobby reading a book when one of the staff of Lonely Planet was there to speak to the manager.

I got chatting to other travelers, which as well as of course finding out the countries we were from, where else we had visited and exchanging stories and inevitably our own personal religious feelings and our perceptions of Nazareth and Israel.

The two girls from Canada and Switzerland who I first spoke to were atheists, there was another girl who was a Christian from the US and was studying Arabic and seemed really fascinated with Arab and Islamic culture and wanted to one day visit Saudi Arabia.   I know of British people get well paid tax-free jobs in Saudi, I really do wonder though, if they realise the roles of men and women in the Gulf states are not the same as they are in the west, and some appalling human rights violations, particularly if anyone wishes to exit out of Islam for whatever reason.   There was another older British couple, which one of them had a large Pagan looking symbol on a necklace, also a young American guy who was working doing web design for the Fauzi.

There was a couple from Ohio in the US who said they were ministers from something called a Universal Unitarian church, and as I wasn’t familiar with this denomination, as a group of us were in the kitchen just chatting I asked them a few things, and found that they were originally atheists, and I was more and more concerned when they said they didn’t really read the bible very often, and didn’t believe in heaven or hell or even the trinity!   Seems that the Universal Unitarianism “church” or something like that, was actually a strange of cult, trying to be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ faith combining elements of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions by ‘people-pleasing’, leaving God (the one of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) completely out of the picture.

I think this only causes confusion (no not Confucianism – haha!)  amongst the other guests who didn’t believe in God giving a very mixed up picture.

I didn’t want any theological debate, but I did let it slip amongst conversation of 5 or 6 of us in the kitchen there that I thought it was worth a mention that the previous week I got back ache from lifting boxes whilst helping out at the food bank which , and was completely healed two days later which I in no doubt give credit to Jesus.  Was kind of sad that there wasn’t more Christians visiting with a curiosity for famous home city of Christ though.

view out of a bathroom window, seeing the maze of streets of Old Nazareth

The family that own that house were Arab Christians, but I didn’t spot any kind of pictures on the wall or bibles or anything.   I did spot a strange “special offer” poster in the reception which gave travelers a free extra night if they had stamps in their passport from Iran, Iraq, Syria or Lebanon!!! I really can’t get my head around why they would want to do that?!?   Normal circumstances means you can’t enter Israel after visiting one of those nations, so I am a bit baffled.   Seems more of a case of thinking it is ‘clever’ to be rebellious over Israel’s strict but sensible policies on visas and entries I think??

I noticed actually only 3/4s of the Fauzi’s beautiful house is restored, there is one corner of a wing of the house that has no roof at all and you can see the sky through the missing window.   I think maintaining old buildings like this must be quite a challenge and monumentally

Later on in the afternoon, I met three chaps from New Zealand, an older gent in his 70s and his two sons, they were doing some travelling around Israel, so I got a chance to hook up with them and head out on the town in the evening.   This was great I could finally meet real believers who had a curiosity for the streets of Jesus’s upbringing also.   I got to learn the father was a cancer survivor and had always wanted to visit Israel and his two sons had helped him achieve visiting here, so I was really pleased for them to come to the holyland for the first time, it was nice to sit in a nearby Falafel place and have a natter.

I spent a bit of time in the mornings out in the pleasant court yard taking advantage of the unlimited coffee and tea (especially with jars of mint and anise you can add to you drinks) and doing some reading of this book called ‘Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures which is written by a leader of a Messianic Jewish congregation and had some eye opening account into how Christ was not only predicted in Isaiah but also glimpses of him are seen in the Old testament too.  This book isn’t available from Amazon or from common distribution channels so I can’t really tell you where you can get it apart from doing a Google search.   I only got part way through it but have enjoyed what I have seen so far.

Anyway I can’t recommend the Fauzi high enough as a place to stay when visiting Nazareth, for its grand appearance with breakfast included and a free tour around Nazareth’s old city in the morning.

Did I find some spirit filled Arab believers in Jesus in Nazareth?   yes!! – I will explain soon!!

1. The Fauzi Azar – 2. The uglier sides of Nazareth – 3. Welcoming the king with palm leaves? – 4. Looking for the Jesus village – 5. The replica village of Jesus – 6. Today’s Nazarenes

Karmiel IT visit visit in November

In case you have just found this blog, I am a volunteer IT system admin person looking after the computer systems for a Christian charity in Israel with three buildings to take care off.   This building is special as its 180kms from where I normally work and I also go and visit once in a while when something urgent needs sorting out or I have a number of regular jobs to do.   I like this trip as it does mean I can combine it with a weekend away somewhere, like seeing Netanya, Akko, Nahariya, Cana, Tel Aviv, Nazareth or Tiberias and often stay with colleagues or friends close by.

I needed to do some more work at our food bank at Karmiel, a few jobs to do, mostly because of recent thunderstorms made the power go off causing all the PCs to reboot suddenly there, including the main servers and telephone equipment, this is not good as the UPS battery back up system appears to be useless as the batteries had not been changed in a while, they normally only last 3 years.

I get the new batteries from an electronics shop run by a Russian man and his wife, he has an amazing knack to talk on the phone in Hebrew and write in Russian at the same time!    I got someone from work to order the batteries (he doesn’t speak English) and I had them a few days later.

I don’t have a decent mobile toolbox, heck I don’t even have a car to get up there, I borrowed a old ladies’ shopping trolley off someone in our headquarters, put the new batteries and my tools and software CDs in there and took the bus up to Karmiel, I left at lunch time as the only bus that goes in a straight forward linear direction from Jerusalem to Karmiel is at 2pm.

Karmiel is quite different from Jerusalem.   Quiet, clean and orderly.   I have been to Wales a couple of times in the last couple of years, and Karmiel is quite similar, the city is surrounded by hills.

I got into the warehouse about 30 mins early and got into the wiring cabinet and disconnected the UPS systems, opened them up and replaced the batteries and quickly tested them.  The other jobs to do, was to do some site survey for a bigger UPS system but this needs a heavy duty shelf to hold at least 25 kilos worth of equipment inside a cabinet.  The cabinet will also have a 48 port switch quite soon.

Also needed, was to install the new antivirus application, this is the third time I have had do this, seeing as our AVG licence ran out, and I previously installed Bit Defender antivirus was terrible and never worked right, Panda antivirus (free for non profits) was ok but too basic and wouldn’t protect us properly from online threats, this time I had three years subscription to Avast so I could get this installed and not have to worry about it for a long time!   Not only was this over 50% saving of the licences compared to Bit Defender, it saves a lot of time having to carefully test and plan installing this all over again now we have it for 3 years.   Normally you can install antivirus using remote software like VNC, but I wanted to do in person, in case in crashes the server it would not be easy to sort out from 180kms away.

Last thing to do, was set up a nice HP Officejet printer in an office, the desk on the user’s PC is very cramped so I put it in the corner of the room and switched it from USB to network connection, so it can be shared among multiple staff and I can see if it (and all the other PCs, servers and printers online and working using my Spiceworks remote software.

Once I got a whole days’ worth of work done, I took the friday off, saw my Messianic Jewish friends who moved from my town of Portsmouth to close by in Karmiel, Israel, which was really nice to see them, I got another early morning bus at about 8.30 over to Nazareth, my second visit to Jesus’s home town to go and stay in a legendary mansion converted to a youth hostel.

Check back soon!