We need to talk about JesusBy: C4i

How much do you talk about Jesus? Not with your family, or with your fellow church-goers, or the close Christian friends you’ve made through church groups and activities. How much do you talk about Jesus out in the world? With people who don’t already share your beliefs? Who might be hostile to them? In other words, with the people who might really need to hear about Him?

Odds are, sadly not often enough. 

Data analysis organization LifeWay Research recently released a study that casts an unfortunately bleak spotlight on modern evangelism. Entitled the "Discipleship Pathway Assessment”, the study polled thousands of Christians on questions ranging from their thoughts about the church, their goals as Christians, and their everyday behavior. While fascinating in many ways, the results show a very real disconnect in what many seem to want from their church and themselves as Christians, and what they do.
One of the most glaring areas this disconnect manifests is when it comes to outreach. While 56% of those polled said they regularly (meaning at least once a week) pray for opportunities to share the gospel with non-Christians, a scant 55% percent of respondents have actually participated in any kind of spiritual conversation with anyone outside the faith in more than "the last six months” (IE, six months at least, possibly years). 

That is a tragic figure. So many of us are praying for something we seemingly have no real intention of following through with. That alone should give us pause.

But why are people hesitant to talk about faith? What is preventing these people who seem to want to share the Good News from actually doing it? The study itself hints at a few reasons. For example, 47% of millennials polled (people born in the early 80’s to mid-90’s) "agree at least somewhat” that it is impolite to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith. It’s considered a gaffe, something you wouldn’t want to be seen doing. 

The number of people who identify as religious as a whole is on the decline in the West, and those who are religious now face increasing social pressure to "stay in their lane” as it were when it comes to sharing those beliefs. This creates a vicious cycle. People are afraid to speak up about what they believe because they don’t see anyone else doing it, creating an inescapable silence. 

But spreading the gospel is one of our most important duties as Christians. It’s what Jesus came into this world to do and why He made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. In no uncertain terms, Jesus commands His followers to spread His word. From Mark 16:15 "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” He makes it clear that this needs to be a priority for every Christian.

There is good reason for this emphasis on spreading the word. For starters, what greater expression of loving your neighbour could there be than letting them know about the Lord? In what way could you more positively impact another person’s life than putting them on the path to eternal salvation? For all the good works you may do in your life, they will always come in second to this most important duty. 

And it is a duty. Jesus charges us to spread his word. From James 4:17 "To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” How can we know His mercy and then selfishly keep it to ourselves? That is not what God wants from us, we are meant to spread it far and wide!

Sharing the word with others isn’t just good for them, it’s good for you too. It will lead you to a fuller, more developed understanding of the gospel and your relationship with the Lord. The more you discuss the details of your faith, the more you need to understand to be able to answer questions (yes, even pointed ones) about the Bible and Jesus’ gospel, the more you will grow as a Christian as well.

It may seem like keeping your faith to yourself is the smart thing to do. To keep it on the down low, not make waves, to keep your mouth shut and not say something that will make your friends and co-workers look at you differently. And maybe that is the smart play, the shrewdest maneuver. But Jesus never asked for us to be shrewd, He asked us to love our neighbours. To be bold. To do the right thing, not the smart thing. 

We should always talk about Jesus.
[Comment]

Why are so many artifacts found by Israeli citizens?By: C4i

 
Have you ever noticed how many stories there are of incredible artifact discoveries in Israel? Reports of construction crews discovering temple remains while digging in a new foundation or fishermen pulling up ancient shields while hauling in the morning catch, that sort of thing? It’s not just a coincidence! Those kinds of discoveries happen in Israel more than any other nation on earth.

But why Israel? What makes that nation so unique in this regard? Why is history seemingly frozen in a bubble, close enough for the average person to make archeological discoveries that would jump start a career in the West? For those answers, we have to take a look at what sets Israel apart from the rest of the world.

Its history

Israel is a very small country, but one with an immense history. Obviously, the importance of its biblical history cannot be overstated. It is the land of God’s chosen people and where Jesus himself lived and walked. It is home to some of the oldest and most important centers of the Christian faith - that alone would help explain the prevalence of artifacts discovered in the nation. But, that’s only one piece of the puzzle.

You also have to consider where Israel is in the world. Located near the center of the "cradle of civilization” Israel is a country that has directly witnessed many of the most important milestones and eras of history. Flanked by powerful neighbours like Egypt and Syria, and within the reach of the Greeks and Romans, Israel has both been a center of trade and a tempting target for civilizations on the grow.

It is a nation that has seen countless battles, wars, and occupations from various other cultures and empires. And every other nation that has come to Israel to trade or conquer has left their mark. Foreign coins, razed battlegrounds, once prominent trading hubs – all of these become the fodder for discoveries today. There are over 37,000 officially recognized archeological sites in Israel, you can barely throw a stone without hitting history!

Its climate

While its history provides the opportunity of all these discoveries, it is Israel’s climate that truly provides the means to find them. This may seem like a mundane explanation, but the reason you see so many artifact discoveries in Israel is because it has a climate that can allow those discoveries to exist!

Israel is a beautiful country, but one with an arid climate and little rain fall. In countries like Canada that see heavy snowfall and rain every single year, moisture accumulates in the soil, corroding and spoiling anything left below. While a coin buried in Canadian top soil might corrode to illegibility within a few hundred years or even decades (just take a look at anything they dig up on The Curse of Oak Island), items can be plucked from Israel’s dry soil, brushed off, and often identified on the spot. 

It isn’t just the moisture content of the earth that helps Israel here, but its composition. The dry, hard soil helps keep artifacts and items near the top. While something lost in a Canadian climate will slowly worm its way down several feet below the ground over the years, items tend to rest much closer to the surface in the Holy Land. This is why weekend gardeners and students out on a field trip can sometimes unearth real treasures!

Its culture

Another major factor of why so many discoveries are made by average people is because we actually hear about them. Israeli culture celebrates the past and recognizes the value and importance it holds to its people as a whole. That’s why when someone accidentally strikes their spade against some ancient coins or a bronze age helm while digging up their garden, they don’t hold on to it and hope to privately sell it to a museum or collector for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Instead, common practice in Israel is to report the discovery to the Israel Antiquities Authority for proper preservation.

It’s true that there are laws in Israel that state all discoveries should be turned over, so it would be easy to assume this was just people following the law. But similar statues exist in many other nations and are frequently flouted in the pursuit of riches. In Israel, it isn’t just the law, but the expectation of a fellow citizen. The IAA places a premium on community involvement in archeological sites, and such sites are the frequent location of field trips for young Israeli students who are raised to respect their shared history as belonging to everyone. 

Despite their relative frequency compared to other parts of the world, these kinds of discoveries never get old. It is thrilling to imagine just how much Israel has left to discover and what it can teach us about the world, our history, and our Lord. 
[Comment]

Israel FAQBy: C4i

 
With C4i’s ongoing mission to reach out with a critical, biblical message about Israel today, it’s only natural that we frequently receive questions about the nation. What is it like? How is it different from Canada or the US? And most of all, what should someone know before visiting?

Wonder no more! Here are the answers to some of the most common questions people tend to have about the Holy Land.

Is Israel safe to visit?
This is an understandable question. When you look at the news and you see stories about Hezbollah attacks, escalating Syrian tensions, and other worrying reports, it’s only natural to wonder about the risks. Thankfully, we’re happy to say that (generally) you are as safe in Israel as you are in any major developed nation. 

Israel is a very security conscious nation with an active and present police and military force. All major tourist and historical sites are kept under careful watch and incidents are extremely infrequent. While terror attacks like rockets and flammable balloons are an unfortunate reality of Israeli life, these mostly occur around the West bank. If you are sticking to the major cities and interior of Israel, you should never have a problem. 
When it comes to more pedestrian crimes like theft, the rules are the same as visiting any other unfamiliar nation. Stick with your friends, don’t wander off alone, and don’t leave any belongings unattended. In this respect, Israel is no better or worse than anywhere else. Generally, if you use a little common sense, you’ll get along fine!

Do I need to bring cash?
Both Visa and Mastercard are largely accepted in Israel. When it comes to hotels, restaurants, and most shops, you shouldn’t have any problem paying with plastic. 

That said, it’s still a good idea to carry shekels with you as you travel. You never know when some little mom & pop shop or market stall will catch your eye and it would be a shame to miss out on the perfect memento because they couldn’t accept your card. It’s also good to have cash for things like taxi rides and tips. Tipping culture does exist in Israel, generally in the 10-15% range at restaurants. You can use your discretion for things like luggage carriers and hair stylists. 

What are the top spots to hit?
This is largely going to depend on your personal tastes and what you want to get out of your trip to the Holy Land. As Christians, it’s obviously a great chance to connect spiritually to the history in the Bible and the lands Jesus lived in. Key locations are going to include things like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Gethsemane, the Jezreel valley and Mount Tabor. 

If you are the adventurous sort and want to connect with Christ in a different way, the Jesus Trail can be a fantastic experience. This long winding hike retraces the steps of Jesus taking you to a wonderful variety of both major Christian sites and a few little ones tucked away off the beaten path. 

And if you just want to glory in the sheer splendor of the Holy Land, natural wonders like the Dead Sea, Ramon Crater, and Harod Spring Nature Reserve are all great places to visit.
If you plan on visiting for your first time, why not come on one of C4i’s tours? These guided tours group you with likeminded Christians in a tour of many of the spots we just mentioned and many others. It is a fantastic way to connect spiritually while also seeing some of the natural beauty and culture of Israel. 

What about the language barrier?
Don’t worry if you don’t speak a lick of Hebrew. English is extremely common in Israel. In major towns and cities, you’d be hard pressed to find yourself in a situation where nobody could understand you. A little further out in the country you might run into fewer English speakers, but if you’re sticking to typical tourist locations like attractions, restaurants, hotels and hostels, it is practically guaranteed that an English-speaking host will be there to help.

How is life different in Israel?
Well, that’s a really big question! Generally, life in Israel is fast-paced and vibrant. While every individual is unique, typically people in Israel are a little more direct and to-the-point than you might be used to. Don’t be offended if someone is a little blunt, and don’t be afraid to toss it back either. As long as you are respectful and match the tone of those around you it will be smooth sailing. 
[Comment]

The Valley of Armageddon – MegiddoBy: C4i

The Bible promises a battle to end all battles will one day take place. A final confrontation between the forces of good and evil at the end of days. We don’t know when that battle will take place, but the Bible does tell us where it may begin – an ancient city in the Valley of Jezreel called Megiddo.

A bloodstained history

Megiddo is no stranger to conflict. Located in Northern Israel about 35 kilometers south of Haifa, the former city holds the distinction of being a key strategic location in the area. Located just before the narrow entrance into the eastern Carmel hills, it was a massively important spot for ancient trade routes. These routes connected with Egypt, the greater Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor. Whoever held those roads could exercise incredible economic and military power in the area. And you held those roads by holding important trade route cities like Megiddo.

As you might imagine, this made the city a tempting target for every major state and power player in the area. Archeological evidence of the city’s import stretches back to the early bronze ages when the first walls of the city were constructed for defensive purposes. Since then, Megiddo and the surrounding valley saw almost constant turmoil, conquered and occupied again and again by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, and more. The surrounding area was even held by the British for a time in WW1 and the site of a key ally victory. 

The words of Thutmose III, an Egyptian pharaoh who said in 15th century BC that "Capturing Megiddo is as good as capturing 1000 cities” have proved to be true for three millennia. 
The city has been built and rebuilt dozens of times throughout history. Archeological digs in the area are like slicing into a layered cake of history, with multiple distinct periods of times and cultures that can be identified. 
Today, the city sits empty and at peace. Its ruins are still being excavated and examined by archeologists. Visitors today can see the remains of Solomon’s Gate as well as a number of temples, stables, and even an iron age aquifer. It is a fascinating space that, for all of its bloodstained history, is now surrounded by peaceful plains of fertile farmland and small communities.

The battle 

Revelation 16:16 "And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.”

But what about the prophetic battle of Armageddon that has been foretold? Is it possible that this now peaceful area could become a place of conflict again? 

Well, some choose to interpret the passage in the book of Revelation that mentions "Harmagedon” as allegorical, that it could mean any number of places. Some might argue that modern military technology has rendered the idea of a "battlefield” obsolete, that the wars of the future will be settled by bombers and drones. Or that the area is not as important today as it used to be. But there are other factors to consider.  

It is true that the site of the ancient city is not a modern-day hotbed of activity, but the Valley of Jezreel still holds significant strategic importance. The Israeli air force’s most important base in the area is located in the valley. And the valley itself is a large open area that is accessible from Lebanon to the north and from Syria to the east, as well as Iran and Iraq by extension. It’s proximity to the port at Haifa also creates strategic value. If you wanted to bring in a large number of troops, the valley around Megiddo would be a naturally preferable route rather than trying to move men and equipment through the surrounding mountainous areas. 

And yes, modern military tactics do not resemble the massed groups of spearmen and shield walls of yesterday. But it doesn’t matter how much you bomb an area if you can’t hold it. Even the most technologically advance armies of the world still come down to boots and bodies in the end. Also, we are discussing a battle of biblical proportions, one led by the Messiah against the forces of the anti-Christ - there is no way for the human mind to truly conceptualize what that could look like!

The Bible also alludes to two battles at the end of the world. One very explicitly in Megiddo and one in a valley near Jerusalem. One interpretation of what that means is that we could see a two-pronged battle, with conflicts at both sites, or a rolling battle that starts in one place and ends in another. Whatever the case, we know that Megiddo and the Valley of Armageddon will play a crucial role. We may not fully understand what form that may take, but we can look to the words of the scripture and the chaos of the world around us to know that it will occur.

There is so much more to know and understand about Megiddo and its role in future world events. If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to check out Seasons 7 and 10 of The Prophetic Connection where our Rev. Dr.  John Tweedie goes into deep detail on the historical and biblical significance of Megiddo and the prophecies found in the book of Revelation. 
[Comment]

How can you get closer to the Lord in your life?By: C4i

Have you been experiencing an emptiness in your spiritual life recently? Maybe you’ve been disappointing yourself by sliding into behaviour you know is wrong but feel compelled to do. Or it could be a nagging sense that you’re not living up to your values like you should. 

If any of this sounds familiar, the problem might be you’ve strayed a little too far from the Lord. Here are some tips on how to get back to where you need to be. 

Humble yourself

You’ll never fix anything without admitting there is a problem. This is something a lot of us have a hard time with. For long-time Christians who value their spiritual walk with the Lord, it can be a bitter pill to admit you’ve lost your way.  But, doing so is often the best way to refocus your priorities. Once you recognize that your spiritual life needs work and own up to that fact, clearly and without resentment, you can take the steps you need to fix it.

Find your spiritual support group

One of the worst things about struggling with your spiritual life is the fact that it is so personal, so isolating. While it’s true that nobody will ever be able to walk your walk for you, you don’t need to go it completely alone either. That’s where your spiritual support group comes in.

Being able to talk openly about your spiritual journey and difficulties, without fear of judgement or ridicule is incredibly freeing. Having a chance to discuss spiritual issues with others, ask advice, and to listen to others and have a chance to return the favour can be just what you need to help you get closer to God. It will help you to examine your life from an outside perspective, help you understand where others struggle, and how unique each Christian’s relationship with Christ truly is. Most importantly, it will keep you accountable when you try to improve.

The best place to find this sort of group is at church. If you’re not currently attending, or like so many people these days, often intend to go but rarely follow through, this is an obvious and immediate way to get closer to God. Go to church, but don’t stop there, find ways to integrate into the church community. Join groups dedicated to specific causes, meet people you can consider friends, open up to them and be open to listening in return and find your spiritual support group.

Untangle yourself from negative relationships

While we are talking about building up positive relationships that can help you get closer to the Lord, we should also acknowledge that some relationships are not so helpful. Have you been trying to make a change in your life but find yourself constantly held back by some of the people in it? Maybe you have an old friend who enables and encourages your worst impulses and habits. Or maybe one of your co-workers is an aggressive atheist who frequently makes snide and disparaging remarks about religion, making you feel ashamed and insecure to live your faith in front of them. As Christians we should do what we can to reach out to others, but if your own spiritual walk is struggling it is better to avoid these corrosive elements while you tend to your own journey.
The most important relationship in your life will always be your personal relationship with God. That has to be the priority in your life, and the number one thing you should be focusing on. Don’t allow someone else to damage that relationship for the sake of appeasing them or being polite. If you feel like a certain friend or family member is (intentionally or not) sabotaging your faith, it’s time to put them at arms-length, at least for now. 

Do what you can for others

Maybe the best way to get closer to the Lord is to emulate the example He gave us. Do what Jesus did and look for ways to help others, to lift up the needy, and protect the vulnerable. It’s a very simple but a very powerful idea, and the Bible lays it out explicitly in Matthew 25:40 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

If you are looking for ways to improve your relationship with the Lord, why not start with the most direct method? When we look after the sick, poor, and needy, we are acting in exactly the way the Lord asked us to. We are following the exact formula He demonstrated for us. What could be better than that?
[Comment]

Capture the moment! The best places to grab a picture in Israel By: C4i

Capture the moment! The best places to grab a picture in Israel 
Making the trip out to the Holy Land? Don’t go home without some amazing pictures to remember it by! Israel is a beautiful country steeped in culture and history, so no matter where you go, you’re bound to find some amazing photo opportunities. But if you get the chance, be sure to check out some of the following gems.

The Dead Sea
How could we not put the Dead Sea at the top of the list? This world-famous landmark is still one of the best places to grab a photo in Israel. Make sure you have a memory of the soothing sensation of floating in this magical body of water to hold on to for years to come.

St. George’s Monastery
There is no shortage of must-see religious locations in Israel, and you can capture amazing photos at all of them. But, if you’re looking for sheer visual spectacle, the cliff-side St. George’s Monastery will knock your socks off.

Carved into the rock of Wadi Qelt, it is one of the oldest and most breathtaking monasteries in the world. Obviously, you’ll want to get some photos of its amazing exterior, but don’t forget to check out the reliquary inside, a (slightly creepy) chance to see thousands of years of history up close.

The Dolphin Reef in Eilat
With over 10,000 square meters of semi-enclosed waters filled to the brim with exotic marine life, the Dolphin Reef in Eilat is the perfect place to grab an unforgettable picture. While there are all kinds of interesting aquatic animals to see at the reef, the undisputed number one attraction are the dolphins. These friendly, playful creatures are more than happy to swim and play with visitors. Getting one to sit still long enough to grab a picture might be difficult, but well worth the effort!

Ramon Crater
We’ve written about the Ramon Crater before, but it bears repeating. If you’re looking for the raw beauty of Israeli nature, you can’t do much better than the crater. This 839-meter-tall cliff face is sure to inspire your photography skills. If you can, try to come at night and get a shot of the stars over the valley below, an absolutely breathtaking view.

The Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street Espresso Kiosk in Tel Aviv
You can’t claim to understand Israeli street life without making yourself familiar with its espresso kiosks, and what better one to capture on film than THE espresso kiosk at the corner of Rothschild and Herzl. This little piece of Israeli history was the very first espresso bar in Tel Aviv, established all the way back in 1910, setting the standard for what is today an Israeli standard.

The kiosk is still a bustling hub of activity where you can get a strong cup of "botz,” and it also marks another landmark – the Independence Trail. This unguided street tour starts at the kiosk and winds its way through downtown Tel Aviv hitting a number of other locations. Think of it as a great chance to snap an amazing pic of Israeli street life before a day of exploration and discovery!

Beit Guvrin National Park Bell Caves
These incredible caves speak for themselves. A geological marvel that has been a hub of activity for over 2000 years, these caves feature gorgeous natural patterns and texture, unique formations and shapes, and delightful ceiling holes, perfect for allowing a single beam of sunlight down to frame your photo. 
With over 800 caves to choose from, you can be sure to take a unique, once in a lifetime photo you’ll cherish for years to come.

These are some of the best places to take a photo in Israel, but there are so many more! If you’re not sure where to start, you may want to keep an eye on our regular tours! These events are a guaranteed way of seeing the best Israel has to offer and celebrate the beauty of this special nation with fellow Christians. This year’s April tour might have passed, but it’s the perfect time to get on our priority reservation list for the 2020 tour! 

[Comment]

Heroes of the holocaust: Sir Nicholas Winton Part 2By: C4i

 
Nicholas Winton went to Prague in 1938 and found a mission in life – to save Jewish children. But it wouldn't be easy.

There were formal conditions set by the British House of Commons for extricating at-risk Jewish children (but not their parents) at the time. However, the process was not fully supported back home and riddled with bureaucratic loopholes and barriers which, in retrospect, seem designed to discourage Jewish families from taking advantage of the program. 

Chief among these hurdles, families were required a £50 deposit to pay for the child’s transport. This might not sound like much, but it was a significant sum at the time, especially for many Jewish families suffering under intense persecution and prejudice, unable to even provide for basic necessities let along come up with that kind of money. Processing a child also involved significant leg work, including finding a family that was willing to take a child and a host of visa and regulatory requirements (imagine how difficult this would be in an era where the post was still the main form of long-distance communication). For families with nothing to their name, completely desperate, and surrounded by enemies, asking them to fulfill these requirements was like telling a drowning man you would throw them a life preserver as long as they could solve a Rubik’s cube first.

Winton found his niches in smoothing out the process considerably. Meeting parents in his hotel room in Wenceslas Square, Winton worked with them to navigate the bureaucracy, pay the fee (sometimes out of his own pocket) or skirt it through various twists of bureaucratic trickery, set them on the path to freedom. When news spread of his work, his hotel became so flooded with parents they would line up in the lobby and out to the sidewalk and around the building. Winton had to find and open an office to keep things moving.

You need to remember, Winton was just a talented, but otherwise normal man. He had no formal connection to the government, no large reserve of a fortune to draw from and fund all these expenses. Just an intense desire to do good. Eventually, he needed to return to Britain, both to maneuver and advocate for his charges more effectively by speaking with politicians and policy makers face-to-face, and (very plainly) to make a living. His entire mission of mercy to Prague was coming out of pocket and it was beginning to take its toll. But still Winton persisted, for months he balanced working as a stockbroker by day, and as an activist for the Jewish people at night (and his lunch hour, early morning, or any spare minute he could find in his day).

He tirelessly worked to secure funds for desperate families who could not pay the transportation fee. More than that, he found British families willing to open their hearts and homes to young Jewish refugees. He printed photographs of needy children and paid to print them in the post. He beat down the door of every Church and Synagogue he could find and networked with them to find willing members of the congregation to take in a stranger’s child (a big ask, even under the circumstances).

He even committed a little crime. With frustration, he would later relate "Officials at the Home Office worked very slowly with the entry visas. We went to them urgently asking for permits, only to be told languidly, 'Why rush, old boy? Nothing will happen in Europe.' This was a few months before the war broke out. So, we forged the Home Office entry permits."

Reckless? Maybe, but he was proven right. Thanks to his hard work and selective bending of the rules, Winton was able to shepherd 669 Jewish children out of the jaws of the Nazi death machine just before war broke out and the Nazis "final solution” began in earnest. Many others were not so lucky.

Aftermath

After the war, Winton never spoke of his deeds. He married his wife Grete in ’48, had three children with her, and none of them knew anything about his humanitarian achievements. It wasn’t until 1988 when Grete stumbled on an old trunk with a scrapbook filled with dossiers and photos of Jewish children that she learned of it. She took the scrapbook to a holocaust historian and public knowledge of his deeds grew from there.

This culminated in an episode of the BBC program "That’s Life” Winton and his wife attended. One that was specially arranged without his knowledge. Winton came as an audience member, but the show had a surprise for him. Watch the touching scene for yourself.

 
After that incredible display, Winton became known far and wide as a hero. His scrapbook is featured in Yad Vashem, his story has been told in innumerable articles, and he was knighted Sir Nicholas Winton by the queen in 2002. He lived a powerful and affirming life to the aspirational age of 105.

Winton was a hero, there is no other way to describe him. He saw an injustice of unimaginable proportions being carried out and rather than turn his head like so many tragically did, or wait for someone else to do something, he followed his conscious and took action.

The only question left of his story is why he didn’t share his deeds with his family, why he sought none of the richly deserved glory he was eventually given. There are several possible reasons. Winton was by all accounts a modest and humble man, who has frequently said his partners and friends in Prague deserve as much credit as he does. He could have also been honouring the millions of fallen of the Holocaust, keeping remembrance focused on those who were lost rather than himself.

There is one sadder possibility though. While Winton was able to save 669 human lives, he always wanted to save more. He attempted to save more. And he would have saved more if the Home Office had just cooperated a little bit more.

On September 1, 1939, Winton had 250 more children loaded onto a train and awaiting their journey to safety. It was the largest mass transport he had organized. That day, Hitler’s Nazi army invaded Poland, instantly closing all borders under German control. Those 250 children, already on a train, never made it out of German territory. Of them, only 2 would survive the horrors of the concentration camps.

Winton had everything in the world to be proud of. The tragic loss of that last train of children was not his fault and does nothing to diminish his bravery and moral clarity. But one can’t help but wonder how that loss haunted him, how the thought of those children, expecting to make the trip to meet their new families, instead hauled off the train by Nazi thugs, kept him up at nights.

Sir Nicholas Winton is a hero of the highest order and a reminder that the right time to do the right thing is never next week, never tomorrow, never in a few hours, but NOW.
 
[Comment]

Heroes of the holocaust: Sir Nicholas Winton Part 1By: C4i

 
It’s pretty natural for people to celebrate their accomplishments, to take pride in a job well done and seek the approval of others. Get promoted at work? Call your spouse and let them know the good news! Win a competition or place in a sporting event? Place the trophy on a display shelf. Cook a really nice dinner? Snap a pic and share it. These are all fine accomplishments and (within reason) it isn’t a bad thing to be proud of what you can do. But there is something to be said for modesty.

Nicholas Winton saved 669 children from death in the concentration camps and didn’t breathe a word about it for 50 years.

If there was ever an occasion to crow, his efforts would certainly qualify. But Winton was a man who understood that a good deed was its own reward.

How it began

In 1938, Nicholas Winton was an interesting fellow. A 29-year-old stockbroker and sportsman, Winton would have made for a good conversation partner. He was formally educated and a gifted student, but dropped out of the prestigious Stowe School to concentrate on practical experience in the business world. He was a stockbroker, but one who was openly critical of the financial sector and its oversized role in policy making. He was political, recognizing early on the threat that Hitler’s brand of rabid propaganda was fomenting in Europe. Although perhaps his greatest claim to fame at the time was his extraordinary fencing skills. It is speculated that if not for the war, he would have represented Britain in the Olympics. All this and he was well regarded by his peers and seen as a dependable confidant.

Perhaps it was this quality most of all that led to the strange and interesting journey Winton would soon embark. He was just packing for a skiing trip to Switzerland when he received the call that would change his life (and the lives of many others).

"I have a most interesting assignment and I need your help. Don't bother bringing your skis."

This was his friend Martin Blake, asking him to switch his plans from enjoying the slopes to meet him in Prague. Now most of us, when asked to drop a vacation to go help a friend with a vague and unspecified project would tell them no sale. But Winton saw the situation differently, he knew Martin wouldn’t make a request like that if it wasn’t important. So, he put the skis away, refunded his ticket, and got a new one to Prague.

You have to understand what this meant at the time. This was after Kristallnacht, the mood in Europe was already dark and Prague was becoming less safe by the day. The ghettoization of the Jews was well and underway at this point, but many in Britain and other parts of Europe had yet to absorb the sheer scope of the brutality brewing in Germany. 

Winton thought he understood the plight of the Jewish people in Germany already. He was a politically aware and thoughtful person and of Jewish heritage himself, so he was already sympathetic to oppressed Jews of Europe. But knowing about something and seeing it are very different things. Coming to Prague, it was clear to him that the full extent of Jewish persecution was far more insidious and vile than what was understood in Britain, a kind of hate that could only possibly end in mass graves.

Blake was in Prague working with the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia. This was the project he wanted Winton’s help with. The official services were choked with bureaucracy and overloaded with applications. He wanted a reliable person he could trust to help expedite things. Basically, someone to help with the paper work.

Winton, recognizing the severity of the situation, did one better. Instead of helping to merely review forms and make sure the post was delivered accurately, he came up with a grander vision. He founded a new organization straight from the dinner table of the hotel he was staying at, one with a single mission - Getting Jewish children as far from the clutches of the Nazis as possible.

He had no idea how successful he would be or how his legacy would reverberate for generations to come. Find out more about his incredible story in Part 2 next week.

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Old City, new accessibilityBy: C4i

 
Jerusalem’s Old City is a historical wonder. The 3000-year-old city is considered the very heart of Jerusalem, and many would say Israel. It is a living, breathing connection to the past, a place that teems with life and excitement, yet can also look frozen in time. Home to the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Sepulcher, and the Dome of the Rock, it is hard to imagine a more densely packed area of cultural importance. It’s a place everyone should try and see at least once in their life.

But, it hasn’t always been a place that allows that.

For as every bit as important and enriching as the Old City is, it has been equally inconvenient and dangerous. The architects of three millennia ago who built the foundations of the city were not as concerned with safety standards as we are today, and to this day, the Old City is plagued with narrow streets, uneven cobblestone, and downright treacherous inclines making it a hostile place for those with mobility and health issues. For anyone with a weak heart, respiratory issues, or who depends on a cane or walker, trying to explore the area has always been risky. And for those who rely on a wheelchair, the journey has been so difficult as to almost be impossible. 
Until now.

In March, Jerusalem completed a 10-year project overseeing more than 11 million dollars of renovations and adjustments to the Old City. Chief among these overhauls is the work that has been done on the New Gate entrance into the Old City, which is now specifically designed to accommodate the disabled and mobility impaired.

Jerusalem Mayor, Moshe Lion, declared "The Jerusalem Municipality has put accessibility in the Old City at the top of its priorities, and we will continue to make many more sites in the capital accessible to achieve this goal,” and he wasn’t kidding. The renovations to the New Gate and Old City have been extensive, with a direct mind to not only providing ramp access to key spots, but to improving the flow of travel to the entire area.
Specific infrastructure improvements were also made to local businesses and their facades to prevent sprawl and limit the number of obstacles from things like patio furniture and signage. Lighting has been improved across the entire area to provide additional illumination and help prevent accidental slips and falls.

Of course, improvements to ramp accessibility and stemming the worst of the Old Cities inclines was a major focus for the project. The "new” Old City now includes enhanced shuttle service for the disabled. These free shuttles accommodate wheelchair and mobility peripherals and run on an hourly rotation, taking visitors in and out of the city area. Steep inclines have been tapered with ramped plateaus, which also feature handrails for those who might need help balancing and wider throughways to help prevent pedestrian bottlenecks. 

Many of the improvements to the city are not as obvious. Enhancements to the plumping and sewage infrastructure and electrical grid may not be seem as immediately helpful as ramps and shuttles, but they contribute to a safer and healthier Old City. It has always been a nightmare to get road crews and repairmen into those narrow streets, and with improvements to the underlying infrastructure, those disruptions should be far less common in the future.

It’s all part of making a more welcoming and inviting Old City for all people. To support the completion of these renovations, the Jerusalem municipality has even released free guided audio tours of the accessible routes in key areas of the city. Just the thing for anyone who has long dreamt of visiting, but was kept at bay by fears of inaccessibility!

[Comment]

The Passover in IsraelBy: C4i

 
While we celebrate Easter in North America, Israel will also be celebrating by honouring the Passover. The Passover, of course, commemorates the events described in the book of Exodus when, through God, Moses liberated the Jews of Egypt and led them to the promised land. 

But how do modern Israelis celebrate this holiday and what does it mean to them today? 

A week of celebration

In Israel, the Passover lasts seven days, starting on the 15th day of the Hebrew month Nissan. In some communities in different parts of the world it is actually celebrated for eight days, but in Israel proper it is an even one week. While it is an incredibly important holiday, the nation doesn’t shut down for the entire duration. To the contrary, Israeli cities are extremely lively during the holiday!

While some businesses close and many people take time off, just as many people kick it into high gear for the week. For many it is a chance to unwind and celebrate, or to help people celebrate by entertaining them! In downtown Jerusalem for example, street buskers can be observed on any given street throughout the entire week, as well as semi-organized performances by musicians and artists throwing up defacto galleries to display what they have to offer. Many restaurants change their menu for the week, offering kosher treats and potato bread for the occasion. 

While it might not be the first thing you think of when you reflect on the Passover, it is also the perfect time to hit the beach! Passover represents the start of spring in Israel as the country moves out of its rainy winter season but isn’t quite into the heat of the summer. Plenty of native Israelis use the holiday as a chance to get back to the beach, and if you happen to be visiting from a colder climate, an Israeli spring should feel just about perfect for soaking up the sun in comfort!

Passover might be a holiday with its origins in a sombre event, but it is still treated as a celebration in Israel! If you want to get a taste of what life is like in the Holy Land, Passover would be a good way to witness the multi-faceted nature of the Israeli experience. 

The Seder feast

What if Christmas dinner was six hours long and included a mandatory four cups of wine? Well, it might look something like the Seder! The Seder is a feast traditionally held by families and close friends that involves a number of customary traditions and foods. There is wine, reading, a very specific menu, and of course singing. It’s an entire evening of celebration that kicks off the Passover week, held on the first night of Passover in Israel (and interestingly enough, the second night for those outside of the country).

What is on the menu? Well, a traditional Seder platter for starters. This dish could be comparable to a meat and cheese plate at a party, only with a very different flavour. The Seder platter includes lots of matzah (consumed in a ritual manner resembling how a slave would break and ration matzot while reciting a blessing), roasted shankbone (often from a lamb, and just as often for display instead of consumption), herbs, eggs, charoset, and karpas.

But that’s not all, many families also break out other favourite traditional dishes. Some common ones include chicken soup and gefilte fish, but families tend to make whatever they like the most. And of course, we can’t forget those four cups of wine. The intention behind the cups is symbolic, they represent four expressions of freedom that the slaves in Egypt maintained despite their bondage. These are their Hebrew names, their language, their own sense of morality, and their communal bonds and loyalty. The cups are drank in joy and celebration of these values.

A communal and personal experience

At its core, The Passover is a celebration of faith, endurance, and triumph against the unlikeliest of odds. It is fundamentally about the origin of Israel as a nation and the Jewish people’s willingness to bind together to support each other and persevere in the face of hardship.

It’s a lesson you can see reverberate in the history of the Jewish people. From struggling against the horrors of the Holocaust and coming out the other side to rebuild their own nation, to the formation of social structures like the kibbutz.  

At the same time, many Israelis also experience the Passover on a deeply personal level. The Passover is the story of how much suffering and hardship the Jewish people had to overcome to find a home they could call their own. The modern Israeli stands on that ground today. It can be a humbling experience to place yourself in the context of that history and contemplate what is to come, especially for those who have made Aliyah. For this reason, the Passover is a celebration, but one that also encourages a reflective look at one’s self.  

The Passover in modern Israel represents both a recognition of its history and the struggle of its people, but also a path forward. A reminder that no matter how bleak things may look, or how desperate a situation is, faith and endurance can see us through to a better tomorrow.  
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