Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Yom Kippur in Israel

Can you imagine a day with with no cars on your nations highways and byways? Can you fathom walking on the 495 Capital beltway around DC and not meeting a single car? This is exactly what happens on Yom Kippur in Israel.

I have seen it first hand and still find it difficult to believe that a modern, industrial nations comes to a complete halt for a twenty-four hour period.

Above is a picture from the Ydiot Achonot newspaper in Israel. You can see the skyline of Tel Aviv from one of the major roads, the Ayalon, with a little helpless, adorable baby sitting in the middle of one of Israel's busiest thoroughfares. 

What on earth can get an entire nation to literally stand still for twenty-four hours? I am humbled by the answer. It is really nothing on earth at all, but rather in heaven.

It is considered the most holy day of the year and most Israelis, as well as Jewish people worldwide, spend the day fasting and praying. It is a day of repentance as prescribed by God in Leviticus 23.

It was the one day when the High Priest was able to enter the Holy of Hollies, Kadosh ha Kodashim, and offer the atoning sacrifice on behalf of Israel. I am astonished to see such reverence from a nation. I have read that in the history of my country, the US, we did have days of fasting and prayer called for even by our Presidents.  I can only imagine that such a notion today would be considered "unconstitutional" and "intolerant".

I hope that America, and the rest of the world, can learn a lesson from Yom Kippur. Can we put God first, if only for one twenty-four hour period? Can we halt our lives to repent and worship the living God?

Israel was attacked on this most holy day in 1973 in a war that cost many lives. The country is quite vulnerable on Yom Kippur, yet the people of Israel continues to observe this day with perhaps even greater purpose and dedication.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why We (Evangelical) Love Israel

by Kasey Bar

Many people calling themselves Christians throughout history have taught incorrectly that God has rejected his people and that the church has replaced Israel. This theology directly contributed to egregious acts of violence against the Jewish people in the name of Christiandom.

Christian anti-Semitism creates two victims. It has brought terror and death to numerous Jews, but it also attacks the very heart of Christianity and has led to persecution of many Christians such as Cory Ten-Boom and Martin Niemoller. In some cases Christians gave their lives to defend their faith and the Jewish people, as was the case for German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who helped Jews escape Germany during the reign of Hitler. He also was advisor to a high-level assasination attempt on Hitler that eventually brought about his arrest. He was sent to prison and later to a concentration camp where he was killed just days before liberation of that camp.

Paul warns against Christian arrogance in Romans. He uses an olive tree to illustrate the relationship of the gentiles to the Jews. He refers to the roots as the Jewish covenants and promises. The natural branches are the Jews. Paul reminds us that we gentiles are not the natural branches of the olive tree but have been grafted in.

Paul says, "Do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the roots but the root that supports do not become proud, but stand in awe" (Romans 11:18,20).

All that we hold dear God gave to us through the Jews. Paul says again in his letter to the Romans:

"They are the Israelites and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Messiah who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen"(9:4).

God's word commands us that we are to stand with Israel (Gen 12:3), comfort her (Isaiah 40:1) and pray for the peace of Jerusalem (PS 122:6).

It isn't just Ahmadinijad and most of the Arab world that is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. The world at large is growing increasingly intolerant of Israel. But why? The nations are coming against Israel because the they are against God and his redemptive plans for the world. God has established Israel as a sign to the world to testify of His glory (Isaiah 49:3,6).

This is just one of the promise upon which we stand. In Numbers 23:19, Moses wrote, "God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind. Does He speak and not act? Does He prophecy and not fulfill?"

The restoration of Israel to her ancient soil is evidence that there is hope and redemption for this world and when we stand with Israel, we stand with the purposes of God.

It is easy to watch the events unfolding in the world today regarding Israel and lose hope. Just the very existence of the State and her Jewish citizens incite anger and violence. However, it is the very existence of Israel and the Jewish people that gives us hope! For Israel points to the existence of a covenant-keeping God who has not forgotten his promises.

First published for Travelujah at

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Land of Apples and Honey:
Rosh HaShana in Israel

Shana Tova! Happy New Year!

Not to worry, we didn't fly past autumn and enter the month of January just yet. Today at sunset begins the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month in the Jewish calendar, and the beginning of a new year. It is Rosh HaShana! Rosh means head in Hebrew and shana means year.

It is such a festive time in Israel. And I've learned the most interesting things at the Jewish Agency's Absorption Center where I am taking Hebrew classes with hundreds of new “olim” or immigrants.This past week I felt like a little school girl again as the center prepared for our Rosh HaShana assembly, for which my particular class was chosen to sing. With 31 years to my credit, I was quite surprised to find myself so energized and excited about the whole affair.

Yesterday I had to shake my head in disbelief at the ridiculousness of myself as I felt so proud to put on my white "holiday" shirt and trot off to ulpan with six Hebrew songs in my head just waiting to be sung. Not only would it be an assembly of new immigrants, but the Mayer of Ra'anana was to be our guest of honor. He did come in a nice white "holiday" shirt and jeans, of course. He wished us all well as we not only start a new year, but a new life in Israel.

We had the traditional slices of apples that we dipped in honey as a symbol of bringing in a sweet new year. We talked about the custom of having the head of a fish at our holiday dinners (something I will experience tonight). The idea is to remember to be the "head and not the tail". Or in other words, to be leaders in life and not those who simply follow the dictates of others. It is supposed to be good luck to eat the head of the fish, but I think I would rather leave such luck to others!

I still have not fully comprehended the fact that I am a new immigrant. Israel is my country too! I have lived here in the past but I worked in a Christian environment and never really experienced the Jewish Holidays in this way before. This past week was like being introduced to Christmas for the first time and getting a crash course in Christmas carols and all the joys of the holiday. I loved learning the songs, being taught about the traditions and discovering how all these customs enrich my faith. I am looking forward to the holiday dinner tonight at sunset. (I am making the symbolic apple pie!)

So I have decided to cast off all inhibitions and allow myself to be a child again with the wide-eyed wonder that comes from experiencing a whole new world. I can't stop singing and even pealing apples has a special charm!

These traditions bring joy and warmness to the celebration, but for me the most fascinating aspect of this holiday is found in the very source of why the holiday exists. In Leviticus 23:24, God ordained it. In fact there are three God-ordained holy days within the seventh month referred to as "The High Holidays".

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of the trumpets, a holy convocation...Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord...The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord." (Leviticus 24:23-34)

This passage in Leviticus refers to Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles. I hope to write on each of them as the occur. It is indeed a very special time of the year and close to God's heart. Having not grown up in the Jewish traditions, I have much to learn about these days. But it is my desire to mine their riches in order to understand why God gave them and what message He wanted to send through these sacred days.

I look forward to learning more in the coming year as I celebrate Jewish holidays in the light of my faith in my Jewish Messiah. I feel as though I am just learning the abc's of Jewish life and faith, but the idea of the pursuit is exciting and invigorating. It was Yeshua who said, "you must become like children in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4).  The more I learn about the Jewish holidays the easier I find it to be simply and wonderfully childlike in faith and wonder!

Shana Tova to all of you!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Israeli Research Will Have You Sleeping Better

Israel In Our Day Listen online:

Reported by Shalle McDonald
Written by Kasey Barr

According to the Department of Health and Human Services 64 million Americans regularly suffer from insomnia. Insomnia is not a disorder in and of itself, but rather a symptom of various conditions including disease, depression, and anxiety. There are many drugs on the market to help individuals overcome their sleeping woes. However, HHS also published a study acknowledging that most drugs have limited success and many individuals complain that the side effects are sometimes more troublesome than the lack of sleep.

According to a recent report by Israel21C, An Israeli Company is marketing a new drug that works with the natural process of the body to help sufferers of insomnia initiate and maintain sleep throughout the night.

Neurim Pharmaceutials, a company founded by Israeli scientist Professor Nava Zisapel at Tel Aviv University, has developed a drug called Circadin after years of research and clinical testing.

“Circadin not only improves the onset of sleep, but also the quality of sleep,” said Zisapel, “People who take the drug have reported that they have better daytime functioning and an improved quality of life.”

Most sleep medication actually suppresses brain activity and can induce unwanted symptoms ranging from a loss of coordination to short-term amnesia. Circadin, however, works by assisting the natural patterns of sleep in the body. The hormone melatonin that is found naturally in the body and created by the pineal gland, triggers the brain to signal the body to rest. The Pineal gland gradually releases melatonin moving the body slowly into a sleep cycle.

Those who have insomnia often have a lack of melatonin or suppress its release because of tension, anxiety, and depression. Also, since darkness triggers the release of melatonin, spending late nights under fluorescent lighting can reduce the amount of melatonin in the body. “Circadin produces melatonin in the same way as the gland: It starts slowly at around 10:00pm, gets to a peak at around 2:00am, and gradually stops by the morning. It releases melatonin in a gradual manner,” explains Zispel.

A recent clinical trial in the US tested the drug on patients 18 to 55 and found it to be effective. Zispel believes, however, that the drug will be most helpful for the mature population. She explains that when individuals age, the pineal gland, which produces the hormone melatonin, often becomes calcified and is unable to produce the same quantities of melatonin, explaining why much of the elderly population finds it increasingly difficult to maintain their sleep.

The drug was approved in the European market in 2007 with excellent reports. It is currently being sold in Israel and Zisapel hopes that it will soon be approved by the American Food and Drug Administration.

Zisapel continues to expand the research she began during her post-doctoral work at the Weizmann Institute, and is now conducting trials on how to treat insomnia brought on by pain and depression as well as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Source: Israel21C

Saturday, September 5, 2009

An Arab-Israeli Scientist
at the forefront of cancer research

Could preventing cancer be as simple as taking your daily vitamins? Dr. Fuad Fares, and Arab-Israeli scientist, believes he is very close to producing an anti-cancer daily supplement. Fares has spend years studying ancient herbal treatments and his latest research is revealing what he believes is a plant with a new family of antioxidants powerful enough to reduce and even prevent the development of cancer cells.

Dr. Fares recently published results from his experiments, conducted at the Carmel Medical Center at the University of Haifa lab, which demonstrate that the unnamed plant compound has indeed stopped prostate and colon cancer in mice as well as in human cancer cells in vitro.

Dr. Fares injected a crude extract of the plant into a test group of mice as a preventative medicine before introducing them with cancer. Of those given the plan injection, 80% were able to fight off cancer as compared to only 20% of the mice not given the herbal extract. Fares proceeded with a second test which demonstrated that the mice infected with cancer, who were given daily doses of the plan extract, were able to reduce the tumors by 70 to 80%.

Similar tests were executed on human cancer cells in vitro with the same dramatic results. "Just used as an extract it seems to be effective," says Fares, who is currently working on purifying the substance which may lead to even more startling results and quite possibly a medical breakthrough.

Numerous scientific studies prove that antioxidants, such as lycopene found in tomatoes,  fight free radicals that lead to cancer. However, Fares' mystery plant with its supposed new family of antioxidants, may actually be able to prevent and reverse the disease that is affecting such a large percentage of the world's population.

According to Cancer Research UK, overall cancer rates have increased by one quarter since 1975. Each year 10.9 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer and each year an astounding 6.7 million die from the disease. Statistics reveal that more than 1 in 3 people will develop some sort of cancer in their lifetime. 

For the many people suffering with the disease, Dr. Fares' herbal remedy brings hope that future cancer treatments will no longer include intensive and intrusive procedures such as chemotherapy and radio frequency, but could quite possibly be as simple as a supplement.

Dr. Fares is also director of Modigene, a company he created while doing postdoctoral work at Washington University. He will soon apply for a patent, and if his compound is determined to be unique, he will reveal the name of the plant and begin producing and marketing the wonder herb.

Dr. Fares remains tight lipped about the name of his herb, but he does disclose one fact, it grows in Israel. If Fares' research is verified, accepted and marketed many people throughout the world will have yet another reason to refer to Israel as the land of miracles.

 Written for Front Page Jerusalem: Israel in our Day