Monday, June 30, 2008

A Night To Honor Israel

In 1978 then 38 year old Pastor John Hagee made his first trip to Israel. He was praying at the Western Wall and observing an orthodox Jewish man who was also praying nearby. He realized that this man distrusted him and felt impressed by God to do something to try to heal the rift between Christians and Jews. That began what is now the organization known as Christians United For Israel.

It has not been all that easy according to Hagee and has included many death threats and a good deal of danger. Before the first event he approached the San Antonio Jewish community to see if they would be honored. The idea was received with considerable reluctance. Eventually it was agreed and an evening was scheduled and announced. Immediately death threats poured into Hagee's Cornerstone Church.

He says he called the FBI and asked them what to do and was told he probably should take a different route to work every day. He said he did and it was pretty airy because all the windows had been shot out of his car.

I know this because I heard Pastor Hagee speak in Oklahoma City recently at our own "Night To Honor Israel" event. It was in recognition of Israel's 60th year as a nation restored to her land. My beautiful and talented wife played her saxophone in the orchestra for the event. That alone required uncounted hours of rehearsal and practice. Just on the day of the event she spent more than 7 hours on stage and that was after morning worship.

Rabbi David Packman was one of the speakers. I was particularly interested in his remarks because I know something about him and because he told something I had never before heard.

The image is of this large menorah that sits in a little area across from the Israeli Knesset. There are various scenes from different Jewish traditions in relief on the menorah. One such scene is the martyrdom of Rabbi Hanina ben Teradion depicted on the 6th branch. But I don't know if you count them from left to right or right to left. I did wonder but haven't found the answer.

He was killed in Hadrian's rule which ended in 138 ad. His crime was teaching the Torah which had been forbidden. He taught it anyway. The method of his execution was being wrapped in his own large Torah scroll and then being burned to death in it. Packman said that as the scroll burned Rabbi Hanina ben Teradion said the letters on the scroll were returning to God.

I found this story particularly moving.

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