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.


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.

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.


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!


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.  

Follow in His footsteps: The Jesus TrailBy: C4i

One of the most important things about Israel is its direct connection to Christ. It was where He lived while he was on Earth. As Jesus traveled and preached, His sandals got dusty with Israeli soil. The fish he and his disciples ate were pulled out of Israeli streams, the bread milled with Israeli stone. It was His land. 

It is this direct connection that makes the Jesus Trail so powerful for Christians visiting the Holy Land. 

The Jesus Trail is a new kind of tour. While there have always been important sites in Israel for Christians to visit, and many of them directly referenced in the Bible, The Jesus Trail isn’t about seeing one specific spot or location, but about a journey. A journey that recreates the path Jesus Himself traveled as he grew, preached, performed miracles, and finally died for our sins.

Created by Maoz Inon, an Israeli native, and David Landis, an American Christian, the Jesus Trail is an open experience that is free to all. It isn’t locked off to the public, or only accessible on certain days. The Jesus Trail is made up of a series of trail markers and small plaques that denote which path to follow and provide background and context for a few of the locations along the way. While there are tour groups that are happy to provide support and detailed information about different legs of the journey and stops, it is entirely possible (and encouraged) for believers to follow the trail on their own and experience it at their own pace and in their own way. 

The trail begins, appropriately enough, in Nazareth, home to a young Jesus. From there, it winds its way North and East towards Capernaum and parts beyond. The reconstruction of the path is based largely on the Book of Mathew, following the events as closely as possible in modern Israel. Capernaum was the base of Jesus’ ministry, making it an important stop for any believer. 

From there it visits a laundry list of notable locations and important moments in the life of Christ. From Jesus’ humble roots as a carpenter’s apprentice in Zippori, to the Old City where he preached, the Mount of Olives where Jesus wept over Jerusalem and many more. It is an incredible journey, one that allows you to see what the Lord saw with your own eyes, feel the same breeze He felt, and flatten the same Earth as His feet did. 
All told, the trail is just over 60km long. If you’re walking it at a fairly average pace, it takes about four or five days to complete. Thankfully, it is not a particularly strenuous route, much of it is flat and the paths being well appointed with rest stops and access to food, water, and shelter. By the standards of enthusiast hikers, it is considered a very easy hike, but for those of us who are not used to long distance hiking it can still be demanding (especially in a climate that can get as hot as Israel’s). There are options for driving it if health or safety issues make walking difficult.

There are plenty of accommodations available on the trail. There are of course commercial hotels, but thrifty and adventurous hikers may consider making use of some of the hostels and Bed and Breakfast’s along the way. These down to earth options are quite affordable and will introduce you to rural Israeli life, allowing you to experience more of the country and culture without straining your wallet. And of course, for experienced hikers, there is always the option to simply pitch a tent and camp for the night. 

Whichever way you choose to experience the trail, you are promised an unforgettable spiritual uplifting. Whether you’ve visited Israel before, or are thinking about going for the first time, the Jesus Trail can be an incredible way to experience the Holy Land and connect with the real life experiences of our Saviour. 

Israel is shooting for the moon with BeresheetBy: C4i

When they say that space is the final frontier, that isn’t just a saying from a TV show, it’s the truth for nations here on Earth. Despite Neil Armstrong touching down on the lunar surface nearly 50 years ago, only two other countries in the world have ever made it to the moon, the USSR, and China.

Now, Israel is poised to join that exclusive club.

SpaceIL is an Israeli non-profit that has been driving the nation towards the stars since 2011. Founded with the intention of promoting scientific and technological education in Israel, the team immediately declared an ambitious goal; To take Israel to the moon. At the time, many considered the idea "optimistic,” a goal to work towards, but not necessarily something to hold your breath for. But in only 8 short years, SpaceIL has secured a launch pad and space on a rocket, has designed a spacecraft/lander capable of making it to the moon’s surface, and are looking forward to launching the project this February.

Beresheet, or Genesis in Hebrew, is a combination spacecraft and lunar lander which will be making the actual trip. In a feat of mathematical precision, Beresheet will be taking a roundabout route to the moon starting at Cape Canaveral, hitching a ride on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket as part of its payload of satellites and observation equipment. Unlike those satellites which will remain in the Earth’s atmosphere, Beresheet won’t be sticking around. After detaching from Falcon 9, the lander will orbit around the planet several times, building speed until performing what is known as an "orbital rising,” basically using a combination of momentum and thrusters to escape its current orbit and slingshot towards the moon. When it arrives, it will perform essentially the opposite maneuver, gently joining the moon’s orbit, decreasing its speed and lowering its altitude for a period of up to two weeks before slowing and guiding itself to the surface for a "soft” landing.

All told, the journey will take upwards of three months. But don’t worry about its crew, Beresheet is an unmanned spacecraft and will be depending on on-board guidance systems and remote commands from ground control to make the trip successfully. But, don’t think that just because it is unmanned Beresheet won’t be brining anything from home with it to the moon.

Similar to the famous Voyager Golden Records, Beresheet will be carrying a time capsule of sorts made up of three separate disks carrying digital files. This trove of information is designed to embody everything that is near and dear to the history and spirit of the Israeli people. Among the items being sent is The Bible, symbolic of the faith of the Israeli people and the blessings God has provided them to be capable of such an ambitious feat. Beresheet will also contain a copy of Israel’s Declaration of Independence along with its flag and anthem - symbols of pride sent to live in the stars. 

The capsule will also be bringing the creative and academic spirit of the Israeli people to the lunar surface.  Hundreds of children’s drawings, short recordings, art and science textbooks will be held in its files to be preserved. The children’s drawings were sourced from an open call to the children of Israel to contribute to the project, to which thousands enthusiastically responded. The Space Race might be old news in the West, but the Israeli imagination still has an appetite for the stars. 

The lander and capsule will remain on the moon’s surface with the hopes that it will one day be retrieved, perhaps by future generations. Maybe that’s what will happen. Maybe someday in the future we’ll be advanced enough to send more people to the moon, find the lander, and retrieve those items. But, even if we don’t, it is still a beautiful thing. 

When Israel accomplishes this national milestone, it won’t just be a technological accomplishment, but one of the human spirit as well. With the capsule in Beresheet, there will always be a piece of Israeli, and more fundamentally, human culture in space. No matter what happens here, that piece of history will always remain, perhaps even after the day the Lord calls us home. 


Hero of the Holocaust: Frank Foley (Part 2)By: C4i

After recovering from his wound, Frank Foley, former student turned confidence man/soldier put his talents to use in the SIS, Britain’s intelligence service and the great-grandfather to today’s MI6. And what did Frank do for those first few years as World War 1 ended? We don’t know.

Even all these years later his early work is still shrouded in secrecy. The intelligence world is loath to give up its secrets, even when they are nearly a century old (keep this in mind when you think about what Britain finally did disclose about his future deeds – it takes a special case to make MI6 open up their files). What we know though is that by the 1920’s, Foley was back in Germany. Not as a soldier, or a captive, but working as a station officer out of Berlin. 

Being a station officer is not the flashiest job in the espionage world, but don’t discount it. Being a station officer is a lot like living in the jaws of a lion. They are a necessary facet of the intelligence world, but also one of the most visible and obvious targets. Unlike nameless agents who conduct dangerous fieldwork but always have the option of slinking back into the shadows under another identity, or an analyst stationed back home, dispassionately assessing information and assigning orders, station officers live among their enemies. They are as visible as any element of an intelligence apparatus is, the people they’re spying on know their faces and addresses. 

This is a risky position for someone to hold in a nation that just a few short years earlier were trading artillery fire and mustard gas with your homeland. Sign all the peace treaties you like, they’ll go up in flames as soon as a single spark sets things off. Of course, it’s even more risky working as an intelligence officer during the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism.

Foley was a smart man, and while he was a man of compassion and morals himself, he harbored no illusions about his fellow man. When Hitler took power in 1933, he could read the writing on the wall as easily as a neon sign. 

He saw the increasing demonization of the Jewish population. He kept detailed notes as more and more security hoops were made for Jews to jump through, more bureaucracy, more ghettoization. He took his wife Kay on a drive one day to the woods, supposedly "looking for a picnic spot.” But all the while he was paying careful attention to the no trespass signs, the building equipment and materials being moved into obscure and isolated spots far from prying eyes. He knew a concentration camp being built when he saw one. 

The gears started turning in his mind even then. He wasn’t going to sit on his hands and watch innocent people be slaughtered if (and when) it came to it.
When the holocaust began, Foley subtly bent, flaunted, or broke the rules to get as many Jews out of Nazi Germany as he could. His actions cannot be undersold. While heroes like Oskar Schindler saved 1,200 Jews from death, and Irena Sendler saved as many as 2,500 children, the exact number of people saved from torture, murder and death by Foley isn’t even known. Estimates place the total number above 10,000, with many estimating even more than that.

How did he do it? Through forgery, working with shadowy resistance networks, lying to his own people, and sheer utter gall.

As a superior at the British consulate, Foley understood every nuance of the emigration and passport process for accepting refugees to Britain, and more importantly, British controlled Palestine. He had authority in his station so long as he could plausibly be seen to be doing the job by his British superiors. So, he employed every dirty trick he could to rush the process time for Jews and push passports into their hands. 

One of the major obstacles for fleeing Jews was exorbitant fees for visas. For example, a Palestine visa cost over 1,000 British pounds, a sum impossible for most working-class Jews to suddenly provide (especially considering most had their accounts frozen and assets stolen by Nazi controlled banks). But Foley arranged a system where he would accept 10 pound "down payments” with the assurance that the other 990 pounds would be paid in Palestine (*wink, wink*). For those who couldn’t afford even that, he’d ask about their recent correspondence, including any with a relative who promised to give them the full 1000 in the near future. You’d be surprised how many people suddenly remembered their generous old aunt in Palestine who was waiting for them.

But why the need for such chicanery in the first place? Why couldn’t he just help people without all the winking and nodding and fudging of paperwork? Simply put, not everybody back home wanted him to.

We have to remember that, sadly, not every British politician or bureaucrat was as interested in helping the Jewish people as Foley was. While the evil of the Nazis is obvious to us now, plenty of Parliamentary members at the time were aghast at the prospect of welcoming thousands of Jewish refugees to Britain. While antisemitism in Britain wasn’t anywhere near as toxic as it was in Germany, it did exist. These ministers didn’t even like the idea of sending Jews to Palestine, considering it an erosion of their interests in the area at the time and a needless provocation to the Germans (British appeasement was more popular than many would care to admit today). So, men of conscious like Foley were caught between two sets of jaws, the Nazi wolves ready to pounce on any sign of sabotage, and incompetent and spineless jackals back home who were more than happy to allow evil to go unchallenged so long as it meant less hassle for them.

Foley was playing a dangerous game. If found out by the Germans he would be imprisoned and likely executed, no question. No diplomatic immunity would save a foreign agent actively undermining Hitler’s government in such a direct way. If his own people caught on to exactly what he was doing, he’d be recalled, fired, and maybe even tried for treason (governments take the actions of their operatives very seriously and can’t just abide station chiefs doing whatever they please, no matter how morally right they may be). Foley was in as much danger behind his desk in Berlin as he ever was in the trenches.
If the man had simply used his pen and a series of winks and nods to save more than 10,000 Jews, he would more than qualify as a hero. But Foley took an even more hands-on approach than that. With a courage we may never understand, Foley has the confidence to walk into concentration camps waving around stacks of papers, claiming the names of prisoners who’s "visas had been approved” but had been accidentally shipped off to the camps before they were properly issued. 

Of course, many of these prisoners had never even applied and certainly none of them had been miraculously approved. Working with resistance networks, he’d acquire the names and details of recently captured Jews (particularly those active in resistance efforts), draw up fake paper work, and then "interview” them in the camps. Apologizing for the mix-up, Foley would walk them out of the gates himself and see them safely transported away from the camp and onto a boat heading for Palestine. 

He played his part to a T, ever the consummate professional. Many of the people he saved never even knew what happened, believing themselves to be the beneficiary of a miraculous, but legitimate, clerical error. But it was no mistake, Foley walked into camp after camp and left with the lives of hundreds of Jews saved from certain, torturous death. 

Foley’s devotion to what was right knew no end. He kept his superiors in the dark about the underground Zionist organizations he worked with, carefully managing information to ensure he was never connected to their actions and could continue to support them in his role. He even took wanted Jews into his own apartment, sheltering them for a night or two before having them spirited away under false papers and new identities. 
Very few people knew about any of this. A few sympathetic fellow SIS members, some members of the Jewish resistance and Zionist underground, maybe a few of the men and women he pulled out of the concentration camps had an inkling about the frumpy old bureaucrat with kind eyes, but that’s it. It would be nearly 50 years after his death, when SIS files and his personal records would be unsealed before the public began to realize the full scope of his deeds. During his life Foley sought no recognition or gratitude for what he did.

Frank Foley was a true hero. He was a man who saved an unbelievable number of lives at extreme personal risk to himself for no reward, no accolades, and no praise – only the knowledge that he did the right thing. He might not have gone on to be the missionary he thought he would be when he was a child, but he exemplified the grace and courage of a true servant of Christ.


Hero of the Holocaust: Frank Foley (Part 1)By: C4i

When we think of spies, we tend to picture tuxedos and martinis. We think about daring rooftop escapes, obscure card games, number stations and scratch pads, a revolver hidden in the false wall of a briefcase. Frank Foley trafficked in none of these things. If you were to look at him, with his retracting hairline, thick glasses, and charcoal jackets, you’d be forgiven for assuming he was an accountant or a lawyer of some kind. 

But Frank Foley was a spy, one who worked in conditions every bit as dangerous as any James Bond film. Even more rare than that though, Frank was a spy with a heart. For years he waged a secret battle deep inside the heart of the Nazi death machine. A heroic battle the world would not know about until after his death. 

Even compassionate spies take their secrets to the grave.

The intelligence world wasn’t always in the cards for Foley. Born in 1884, the son of an engine fitter, a young Foley grew up in a humble, devoted home. His parents, both observant Catholics’ fostered a spiritual hunger in their son at a young age. As a child, Foley always assumed his future rested somewhere with the church, either as a missionary or a priest. In fact, at the age of 14, he was sent to a Jesuit seminary in France.

But life takes strange turns, and God’s plan for good men isn’t always obvious. Despite his enthusiasm for the church, Foley was also an intellectually curious teenager, devouring different subjects and classes. He proved an able polyglot with a gift for picking up languages (a skill that would later serve him well) that paired well with his observant and detailed focused personality. He never claimed to have a photographic memory, but you could say he had a mental Xerox machine. It was this zeal for knowledge that led to Foley being stranded on the wrong side of the boarder when World War 1 broke out.

Foley had the distinct misfortune of studying philosophy in Hamburg when war was officially declared. Needless to say, British citizens were suddenly very unwelcome indeed in German cities, with every foreign worker, tourist, and student being rounded up for imprisonment in an internment center. 

Foley wasn’t staying around to sample the hospitality of the German military police. Quickly hatching a scheme, Foley stole a military uniform, bluffed and blustered his way past security posts, and stowed away on a train by posing as an enthusiastic young Prussian office on his way to the front lines. Changing his identity and story with every stop, Foley managed to sneak all the way home to Britain with his freedom and life intact.

You would have thought such an obvious display of aptitude would make Foley a natural fit for the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), and so did Foley himself. Sadly, his application was rejected by the office, the logic of the day being that the need for young fighting men on the frontline superseded the need for intelligence work. And so, Foley was tossed into the intractable trench warfare of the frontlines. It would take a near fatal bullet to the lung to make the SIS reconsider if they were making the best use of his talents.

And thank God they did. Without Frank Foley working as a spy for the British, more than 10,000 Jews would have perished in the horrors of the Holocaust, and the world would have been denied one of its greatest heroes. 

Stayed tuned for part 2 later this week to find out exactly why Frank Foley is considered one of the most Righteous Among the Nations. 

Tu B'Shevat, the Israeli Arbor Day!By: C4i

In the West, we celebrate the New Year as a day of personal affirmations. We celebrate our successes of the past year, put our failures behind us, and set out our goals for the future. In Israel however, there are several different New Year celebrations, and Tu B’Shevat is all about rebirth and renewal!

Also known as "Rosh HaShanah La'Ilanot", literally "New Year of the Trees,” Tu B’Shevat is an annual holiday in Israel that takes place on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. This generally places it near the end of January, falling on the 20th this year. 
Tu B'Shevat is a holiday with a slightly confusing history. While some holidays can be traced back to historical events or were clearly created by a State power, the origin of the New Year of the Trees stretches back to the Middle Ages where, believe it or not, it had more to do with annual taxation and tithing regulations than any kind of celebration. 
You see, back in the 14th and 15th century, the new year was marked by a "harvest.” Not a harvest of the fields, but of the wallets. This was the time of year when tax collectors went around and made sure everyone handed over their coin for the year (not exactly the most celebratory of events for the common man). 

Over time however this changed, and the day began to take on another meaning. How this began is unclear, but we know that in the 16th century, the day was officially turned into a holiday, one that in many ways mimicked the Passover celebration. While the taxation schedule changed, the new year kept the harvest theme, but in the form of gathering for a meal instead of handing over cash. In particular, the meal partaking of delicious fruits while also planting trees to prepare for next year’s cycle.

This is where the modern incarnation of the holiday took form. Today, Tu B'Shevat is a minor, but happy, holiday that draws on both history and scripture to give it structure. On Tu B'Shevat, it is customary to eat snacks of dried and fresh fruit native to the Holy Land. These are typically selected from the "Seven Species” (shivat haminim) described in Deuteronomy (8:8), including wheat, barley, grapes (vines), figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (as well as honey as a by-product). With the inclusion of vines, wine is a popular dinner accompaniment for the holiday and a way of marking the day as a celebration.

It is also a day where nature and the cycle of renewal is celebrated. As people dine on the bounty of nature, they are expected to also contribute to it. This is done with a ceremonial planting of trees and other plants. This custom is particularly popular with schools and children, often becoming a major event where children raise money several weeks prior to the day to purchase saplings and seeds for planting and then take part in the planting process as an educational field trip. It is also an event embraced by many Israeli non-profits as an opportunity for growth. The Jewish National Fund famously used the holiday to plant thousands of eucalyptus trees to help stop the plague of malaria in the Hula Valley and continue to use the holiday to promote various projects and efforts.
Interestingly, while nature is the theme of the day, certain interpretations of the Tu B’Shevat stress the beginning for any kind of long-term commitment that is designed to grow. For this reason, the holiday is often used for the inauguration of new foundations, businesses, and groups. There are even some architects who still use the day to lay cornerstones for new buildings, a symbolic planting of another kind.

Tu B'Shevat might not be the biggest holiday on the Israeli calendar, but it is one worth remembering. It is a chance to connect with the land of Israel, to appreciate the beauty and abundance of the land and the blessings the Lord has given to the people of Israel. That’s an attitude well worth carrying into the new year.


6 foods you have to try in the Holy LandBy: C4i

If you have travel plans in Israel (perhaps with one of our upcoming tours!) you owe it to yourself to experience the real flavor of the country. Yes, Israel is a modern industrialized country, so there are plenty of familiar chains such as McDonalds and Dominos if you just want something predictable. And if you’re not feeling adventurous, you can always rely on the humble bagel for breakfast or a quick snack. But why limit yourself to the standard fare when there is so much more to experience!?

Don’t come back from the Holy Land without sampling these delicious treats!


C’mon, this wouldn’t be a real list of Israeli food if it didn’t start with falafel. Perhaps the most well-known Israeli dish in the world, it’s likely you’ve had falafel before -- but you’ve never had it like they make it in the country it was born in!

Falafel is a mix of chickpeas, beans, and spices packed together tightly into balls and then deep fried. It’s a simple enough dish, but the key is in the spices used. Every falafel chef in Israel has their own special blend of spices, their own personal take on what makes the perfect falafel, so be sure to sample the dish at a few different spots to get the full experience!

Don’t worry about running up a bill either. Falafel is a street food staple you can find in every market and nearly every corner, with vendors cooking it up nice and cheap. Think of it as Israel’s answer to a New York foot long – omnipresent, affordable, and oh so very satisfying.


There is nothing like a fresh cup of coffee in the morning! Even in the arid and hot lands of Israel, lots of people can’t start their day without a steaming cup of coffee to get them going. Don’t go thinking this will be your typical double-double though. In Israel, the preferred drink is what they call botz, or translated to English, "mud.”

Botz is a richer, more aromatic blend then you may be used to. Made up of dark Turkish grinds typically served without cream and garnished with a dash of cardamom, a cup of botz is a high-octane boost to any morning. Intimidated? Don’t feel like you need to gulp it down in one go! Take the time to savor it and get used to the taste. Israel has a thriving café culture where you can relax and enjoy a drink at your own pace and maybe meet some new friends. Make some time for a break in your busy schedule so you can enjoy this Israeli treat.

By the way, if a cup of mud really doesn’t sound like your thing, you can always get a mug of what we’d consider normal coffee in the West. Instead of ordering a "coffee,” ask your barista for a "Nescafe” with whatever cream and sweetener you usually take. Don’t ask why they call it that, it’s just the name that stuck in the area for the typical American cup.


Another Israeli staple, hummus is a tasty spread made from crushed chickpeas and tehina sauce seasoned with garlic, olive oil, salt, and a dash of lemon for zing. Just like falafel, there is an endless number of ways to make hummus by playing with the ratio of the ingredients or tossing in a little something extra, so don’t be afraid to give a few different versions a try!

Hummus is an interesting dish in that it can either be served as a side, a snack, or as the main entrée of a meal! It can be spread on pitas, hardboiled eggs, and nearly anything else. You can get it served fresh at a restaurant, prepared in front of you at the market, or off the shelf in the grocery store; it’s just that popular.

Really, if you’re dining in Israel for any period of time, the question isn’t if you’re going to eat some hummus, but how much you’re going to eat!


Jachnun might not look like much, but don’t be fooled, this tasty treat is a labour of love that you shouldn’t pass up! You might have a little more difficulty finding a sample though as jachnun is frequently only sold on Saturday mornings depending on where you go (bigger hotels might have it available on other days). This is because jachnun takes a ridiculous 10-12 hours to bake!

Made of buttery rolled dough, jachnun is kind of like a croissant on steroids. You can enjoy it as is, but most will recommend you garnish it with some schug, a Yemenite hot sauce. In the spirt of trying new things, by all means give it a shot, but go easy on it your first time though. While most of the stereotypes of Israeli food being overly spicy are exaggerations, schug is the food equivalent of molten lava!

Paired up with some bread and a hard boiled egg or two alongside it, jachnun is the perfect, luxurious way to start your weekend. Provided you don’t feel like immediately taking a nap afterwards at least.


Looking for something less rich? Atayef is just the dessert for you! These pancakes stuffed with walnuts offer a sweet and subtle way to finish a meal. You can order these for yourself, but they’re often served to the table as a pallet cleanser.

With a hints of vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon, these fluffy cakes are perfect if you want something sweet, but not overpowering. Don’t worry though, if you’re the type that has a sweet tooth, atayef is typically served with a dish of warmed syrup or honey for dipping (try mixing it with a cup of botz for a nice balance of sweet and bitter!)


Lastly, don’t come home without trying an order of shakshooka! This meal that eats like a feast is a regular crowd pleaser in Israel combining a rich variety of flavors. It’s almost reminiscent of Italian or Mexican cuisine with its abundant helping of tomatoes and tomato sauce, generous use of garlic and onions, and mix of herbs. But then just when you think you have it figured out, there is a dash of paprika in there turning the whole dish on its head, and its finished with eggs poached right in the pan with the tomato sauce! Talk about going from typical to extraordinary!

Be prepared to make a scene with this dish. Shakshooka is served right in the pan it’s made in, delivered to the table sizzling hot. Get out your bread and start dipping – it might look like a lot right now, but once your travel mates get a taste, that pan is sure to go down fast!


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The PURPOSE of C4i is to call Christians to express love in action to the people of Israel.

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