Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Jesus Boat

IMG_2100.jpgA remarkable catch

In a life lived in a desert country, a drought is as much a part of living as dying. It’s a harsh place, especially in biblical times when those in Galilee depending on fishing to make it. A drought almost always brings bad times, even death.

Late in January 1986, during one such drought, between the ancient harbors of Gennesar and Magdala, local residents (ironically fisherman brothers like Peter and Andrew) made the chance discovery of a boat’s oval outline in the muddy lake bed. Word spread like wildfire. In less than two weeks, local newspapers were announcing discovery of “the Jesus Boat!”

Archaeologists, called to examine the still unexcavated vessel, announced it was the first ancient ship ever found in the Sea of Galilee. They suggested that it was built and used between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D. – the time of Jesus of Nazareth!

Marathon round-the-clock excavations ensued, racing against both now-rising waters of the Sea of Galilee and treasure seekers. The archaeologists even invented new techniques of excavation and preservation as they went along. Just before the site was flooded, the almost completely intact hull was fully excavated, encased in polyurethane, and floated to shore for further study and conservation.

The boat is almost 27 feet long, just shy of eight feet wide, and roughly four and a half feet high. It was probably of the Sea of Galilee’s largest class of ships. Fore and aft sections were most likely decked and it had a mast, meaning it could be both sailed and rowed depending on the weather.

Evidence of repeated repairs suggested the boat had a long life. Studies of ancient ships suggest this vessel had a crew of five (four rowers and a helmsman). The ancient Jewish historian Josephus Flavius referred to such ships holding 15 people. Skeletal remains from Galilee during this period indicate males averaged five feet, five inches tall and roughly 140 pounds. Fifteen such men could fit into this vessel easily. So that begs the question did Jesus and His 12 men sail together in this boat?

IMG_2099.jpgThe race was on to preserve it, and won

The Galilee boat dated to the general time of Jesus’ ministry. It was the type used by Jesus and the Twelve, and was large enough to hold 13 men no problem. It could indeed have been in use at the same time He sailed the sea here, but Jesus cannot be connected to this particular boat with any degree of certainty. Yet, it does help us visualize daily life in Galilee, as Jesus knew it.

You can see the Jesus Boat at the Yigal Alon Center (operated by the Kibbutz Ginosar) on the western shore of the Sea of Tiberius. It’s something you should not miss and can only truly be appreciated when you see it in person. You’ll be treated to a fascinating video about the boat’s history, discovery, and trip to this museum. The gift shop has some amazing items about the boat as well. If you exit at the rear of the museum you’ll come out to the Sea of Galilee where you can take a boat ride on the same lake that Peter and his friends fished.

It’s all rather surreal when it sinks in that these men really lived here, droughts and storms and all, and used a boat just like this one. Perhaps the other amazing part of this story is how a drought gave life, maybe for the first time ever, to a kibbutz and their two fishermen named Moshe and Yuval. I think Peter and Andrew would approve. Be sure not to miss this once in a lifetime experience.

Like the thousands of fish taken with it, it’s a keeper!

 

 

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Charles Orde Wingate

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The great Wingate all smiles as usual

Sometimes a short life, lived to the fullest, is the most rewarding. This could be said of the son born in 1903 to a British officer in India who lived for only 41 years, but they were full ones. A solid Christian who believed in the prophetic place of Israel in his beloved Bible, Charles Orde Wingate would, in the spirit of his hero Gideon, go on to make Israel a safer country. His Plymouth Brethren upbringing made him not only a devout believer in Christ and Israel, but his six siblings helped forge a fierce and independent fighter too. A glimpse into his early military training sheds some light on this unique soldier’s character.

In 1921, Wingate entered Britain’s officer training school for artillery. Like most military schools, first-year students got pretty rough treatment for minor infractions. One punishment used on plebes had them strip and run a gauntlet of knotted towel raps from seniors, and then tossed into an ice-cold tub of water. After a minor cavalry offense (he was an extremely talented rider), Wingate refused to take the humiliation and instead took the offensive in approaching each senior, toe-to-toe, daring him to hit him with his towel. Each one refused, all the way down the line. When Wingate successfully challenged the last boy, he flung himself into the cold tub to the shouts of his classmates. A leader was born.

After his military education, Wingate served in the British army in India and Sudan. In 1936, after studying the history of Palestine’s Arabs and Jews, he was transferred to his dream post, Israel. He would spend three hard years here and earn such distinction for his actions in defending Britain and Israel that the College of Physical Education in Netanya would one day be named in his honor, as would Wingate Square in Jerusalem, a forest at Mount Gilboa, and the Orde Youth Village in Haifa.

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“Nowadays people seem to imagine that impartiality means readiness to treat lies and truth the same, readiness to hold white as bad as black and black as good as white.  I, on the contrary, believe that without integrity a man had much better not approach a problem at all.  I came here with an open mind and I testify that I have seen.  I believe that righteousness exalteth a nation and righteousness does not mean playing off one side against the other while you guard your own interests.”

 Captain Wingate earned the love of the Israelis almost instantly, when as an innovative intelligence officer, he put a stop to the deadly raids and riots by local Arabs. His reputation, albeit somewhat eccentric, was sealed as surely as Gideon’s with his men when he took the trouble to learn Hebrew and set up a commando style camp at the Spring of Harod to train his infamous SNS.

The “Special Night Squads” that Wingate trained, and personally led with extremely unconventional methods, were made up of Haganah soldiers. In the spirit of Francis Marion and John Mosby, they combined audacity, surprise, and mobility to thwart Arab incursions in night attacks and even defensive stands protecting the Iraq-Haifa oil pipeline. Moshe Dayan was trained by Wingate and attributed his leadership to making the famed IDF what it would one day become. Underlying his passion for Israel was a firm belief in their right to their biblical homeland, as well as the source for his Christian faith, and something that made him beloved as a “friend of Israel.”

His successful ambushes and brutal attacks, along with his strong stance for Zionism, made him more controversial that Britain preferred and in 1939, under Arab pressure, he was transferred back to England. He would arrive just in time for the outbreak of World War II.

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Airborne Orde

In 1941, he fought in Ethiopia and helped liberate it from the Italians by creating the Gideon Force (a small guerrilla unit made up of Ethiopians, British, and Sudanese soldiers). Wingate recruited some SNS friends to help him and with the aid of local fighters, they continuously harassed the Italians and their supply lines. By the end of the Ethiopian liberation, his Gideon Force of less than 2,000 fighters forced the surrender of almost 20,000 Italians.

In Burma, he organized and trained the Chindits, a special-forces jungle unit named for the Burmese Lion (the Chinthe) that operated behind the Japanese lines. Although a dangerous environment to fight in that proved costly in lost British, Gurkha, and Burmese soldier’s lives, their deep jungle penetrations caught the Japanese completely off guard and forced them to alter their plans to fight the Chindit incursions instead.

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His untimely death was front page news

Sadly, Major-General Charles Orde Wingate was killed in an airplane crash in Burma in 1944 and eventually buried in Arlington National Cemetery (several Americans died in the crash, and with all 10 men burned beyond recognition, they were buried together at Arlington).  Churchill called him “one of the most brilliant and courageous figures of the second-world war.” Knowing Wingate, his Israeli title from the Yishuv (Jews in Israel before 1948) of “ha yehdid” probably meant more to him than the Prime Minister’s praise. It translates simply as what he always wanted to be, “The Friend (of Israel).”

 

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Our Dad Who Art in Heaven

Dad  21.jpgMy dad at 21 (who is now in Heaven)

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they (Matthew 6:25-26)?”

Some say we view our Heavenly Father through the lens of our earthly father. A sort of imprinting from their characteristics in how they raised us, whether generous, severe, distant, or approachable, your dad affects how you see God. Since we just honored our dads with Father’s Day it seems appropriate to comment on our Heavenly Dad.

Jesus described Dad as benevolent, valuing us more than all of His other creation (that incidentally, never worries; some say that man is the only creature who does worry). When the disciples were in danger of drowning, Jesus rebuked them for not trusting Dad, and quieted the tempest with a word (Mark 4).

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Dad, far right, at his brother’s wedding.

Dad considers you precious and He will take care of you, even if your life isn’t as you think it should be because of real needs with money, your health, or maybe even your own father. Does Dad really see us as precious? Yes, definitely! Jesus goes on to say this,

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?  You of little faith!”

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My dad at 6 with his dad (not sure if he’s in Heaven)

What does this tell us about our Dad in Heaven? He loves us (or Jesus is a liar)!

“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’  For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

The key to claiming this promise is to put Dad’s interests first (He loves people), His kingdom (sharing the gospel with those people), and He promises to care for your needs. And if you are in the deepest pit, it doesn’t mean that Dad stopped loving you. Just look at the cross. Dad didn’t just say it, “He demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. So come back! You are worth so much more than anything else Dad made. No worries!

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My dad at 70 with my mom (also in Heaven)

 

 

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