Try these delicious Israeli treats!By: C4i

Israel has a truly unique food culture, one that has been shaped by geography and history. As a desert nation, Israel has an entirely different agricultural profile compared to what we’re used to in North America. Israeli cuisine makes far more use of staples like olives, olive oil, chickpeas, and yogurt than we do in the west. But that’s just part of the puzzle. What really makes Israeli cuisine so interesting is how many different parts of the world it draws from! As Jews living all over the globe return to Israel to live in the Holy Land, they bring parts of those cultures with them. A typical Israeli pantry looks like a meeting of the UN with spices from North Africa and South America sitting next to products from Europe which will be combined to make a Mediterranean dish! Combine all of that with Israel’s lively street life and the popularity of small food stalls and gimmick restaurants and you have no end of interesting treats to sample!

Best of all, you can try many of these favorites at home. Put a little international zing in your kitchen by trying some of these popular Israeli dishes!

Israeli Salad

When you’re looking for a distinctly Israeli dish, it’s only natural to try one that has "Israeli” in the name! This fresh salad of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and peppers is a nice and light addition that can go with almost any meal. Dressed in a little olive oil, lemon juice, and tahini, it’s both tasty and delicious!

Khachapuri

I did a double take the first time I saw khachapuri. "Is that an egg on that bread?” It sure is! This delicious bread treat originates from Georgia but is incredibly popular in Israel. A sure-fire breakfast hit, this boat shaped pastry is stuffed with cheese with a beautiful golden fried egg on top. It’s pretty easy to make and is great for dipping or topping with your favorite condiment. Who doesn’t like a little humas in the morning? Some people even enjoy adding shrimp and garlic to this bread goody and serving it for dinner – how versatile!

Kebabs

When you’re looking for a meal to remind you of Israeli street life, you can’t beat the humble kebab. Served everywhere in the country and with as many variations as you can imagine, the kebab is an absolute staple of Israeli cuisine.

While there are endless variations to be tried, one of the most popular in Israel is the so-called Romanian kebab (also known as mititei). This kebab is made with ground beef, a generous dose of garlic, some onions, and a little bit of sugar to caramelize everything. They’re simple, quick (although you do need to prep it ahead of time to chill in the fridge a bit), and guaranteed to impress the family the next time you fire up the BBQ!

Atayef

Alright, let’s be honest. If we’re talking favorite Israeli desert treats, Sfenj, Israel’s preferred doughnut subsitute sold by street vendors and tiny cafes all over is the best. Like an extra airy but crisp doughnut, these are dusted with sugar and impossible to resist. But they also need to be eaten as fresh as possible for the full effect and not too many of us have a barrel of frying oil around the house to do them right. 

Thankfully, we can still enjoy atayef at home! These are delicate thin pancake bites stuffed with nuts (or cheese if you’re feeling adventurous) and usually served dripping with syrup. Although they are associated with Tu B’shvat, you can enjoy these treats any time of year. Easy to make, tasty, and totally unique! Try making a batch for your family as a surprise and see how quickly they ask for more.

Café hafuch (upside-down coffee)

If you’re going to have a sweet treat, you’ll need something savoury to wash it down, so why not try Israel’s upside-down coffee? This drink was all the rage for a few years and still enjoys decent popularity at cafés and espresso kiosks across the country. 

Café hafuch is similar to a latte, but in reverse. When you make a latte, you put your espresso shot in the vessel and pour frothed milk on top. With café hafuch, first you put in your steamed milk and slowly pour your shot over top of it. Layer it with another dab of milk froth, garnish with nutmeg, and you’ve got a nice compliment to anything sweet that is creamier than a typical latte. In Israel this drink is frequently served with a chunk of dark chocolate, give it a try for the full experience!

[Comment]

Relationships and love during COVIDBy: C4i

There is a passage in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 that contains some of the most practical and direct relationship advice ever put to page. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." Wise words indeed, and words that have taken on extra meaning during this extended period of crisis.

What does patience look like when you’ve been basically homebound with minimal social contact for months on end? How do you manage to not "keep a record of wrongs” when you’re home with a spouse all day every day and petty annoyances gradually becoming maddening vexations? How can we keep our relationships strong as we get through this (hopefully) final period of uncertainty and stress?

Honesty and interest

Honesty is one of the most important elements in any relationship and that has never been more apparent. Spouses should be able to talk to each other about anything openly and without fear. From important matters of the home and family to all the little inconsequential thoughts and observations we make throughout the day, everything should be on the table.

Nothing breeds resentment like feelings left unexpressed. If you feel like you are unable to talk to your spouse about something it will create a wall between the two of you that will only get taller with time. Being honest with your feelings might not always be the most pleasant thing when you need to address a problem, but it’s far better than bottling them up and letting them fester into something that hurts the love you have for each other. 

This is especially true when you are not able to discuss things with other people. Even small observations like talking about the plot points of a show you like or speculating on the Blue Jay’s chances next year (not good) are important. They might not seem like all that vital, but God created us to be social creatures and that kind of exchange and sharing of what matters to us and what interests us is essential to a healthy and happy life. We must recognize that the social outlets we used to enjoy are just not there anymore, but we still need the release they provide. All of which means you need to take a more active interest in what your spouse cares about and wants to discuss.

Understanding instead of resentment 

Of course, honesty means nothing without understanding. There needs to be a real effort from both people to accept each other’s feelings when they are expressed, as well as an equally strong effort to stave off the all-too-common impulse towards defensiveness and blame shifting. 

Think of it this way, if your partner has the courage to tell you "hey, you’ve been doing X lately, and it’s been bothering me” you should be grateful they let you know. They’ve given you a chance to talk it over and find a solution rather than letting it grow into something worse, that’s good! The last thing you want to do is get sulky, defensive, and insist it’s not a big deal, that’s only going to let your spouse know two things. 1) That you don’t think their feelings or opinions are "a big deal” and worth considering. And 2) that there is no point in trying to address things between you calmly, the only options left are resentment and recrimination. That’s how you start adding pages to that record of wrongs Paul was talking about. 

Genuine understanding is difficult, but it is the path to a strong and stable relationship. When your world shrinks down to the size of your home and your social circle only includes those in it, you must accept and embrace each other even when it’s tricky. 

Make sure you’re spending quality time together, not just lots of time

Sure, you may be spending all of your time together, but has it been quality time? It’s easy to fall into comfortable ruts in a situation like this. Yes, you might be watching TV together every night, but if you’re not talking or engaging with each other you might as well be in separate rooms. 
Make time to focus on each other. Turn off the background noise and have a conversation. Plan a date-night meal that is a little fancier and elaborate than normal. Take a walk together or even just a nice country drive. Anything that lets you unwind, enjoy each other’s company, and break up the routine a bit is good! 

Now more than ever, love needs to be patient. It has been a tough year, but the end is in sight. What kind of relationship you’ll have at the end of it is a choice you and your spouse have the power to make.

[Comment]

Sigalit Landau, Dead Sea ArtistBy: C4i

Everyone knows things float in the Dead Sea. But what would happen to something that couldn’t float, or was intentionally weighed down in those strange waters? Well, then you might see something interesting. The same high salt content that makes the Dead Sea so incredibly buoyant has another interesting property – intense calcification. It is this natural but entirely bizarre phenomenon that Israeli artist Sigalit Landau has made her signature style, using the unique properties of the Dead Sea to create stunning "salt sculptures” of everyday objects!
Resting 1,412 ft below the ocean, the Dead Sea holds the distinction of being the Earth’s lowest elevation on land. It is a hypersaline lake, with a salt to water ratio of 342 grams of salt to every kilogram of water. While those numbers might not mean much to a casual layman, it is an astounding ratio. To put it another way, the Dead Sea is over nine times as salty as the ocean! Truly, there is no other place like it on Earth, which makes it the perfect place for an artist to find inspiration.

Enter Jerusalem born and raised artist Sigalit Landau. Landau is an Israeli artist with international appeal. Her multimedia work spanning everything from sculptures and video installations have been the feature of shows and museums across the world, including a personal exhibit at New York’s prestigious MOMA. Her work has been described as providing symbolic bridges connecting the past to the future, the individual to the collective, and the center to the periphery, all while always using interesting materials and unique techniques that have made her a star in her field. It is this drive that led her to the Dead Sea and the creation of her incredible "salt sculptures.”

Picture a dress that can stand on its own. One where the fabric has become so stiff and brittle with time and salt exposure that it can retain individual wrinkles like it was cast in cement. Think of ordinary objects turned to crystalline structures like they had been petrified, completely frozen in time. This is the beauty of Landau’s craft, a singular art she has been perfecting for over 15 years.
The Dead Sea has always been a part of Landau’s life. In her childhood years she visited the magical spot regularly, taking inspiration from the quiet stillness of the water and the intensely personal experiences visitors would have. Individuals floating separate from each other, but still deeply connected by their shared wonderment. The idea for the project occurred spontaneously as she walked the shores one day and noticed the crystal formations that occur naturally along the water’s edge. 

The process is painstaking. Landau and her team secure items to the bottom of the Dead Sea using metal weights and cables. It’s very tricky to suspend something just so to attain the proper effect, it isn’t as simple as just throwing something in the bottom of the sea and waiting. Each item is carefully considered for its emotional impact, as is the choice of material and composition of the item. Different materials calcify at different rates and by intelligently using these differences Landau is able to create texture and unique effects in her salt sculptures. Heat and the weather are also pressing factors, requiring careful monitoring and documentation to make sure nothing is extracted from the waters too early or too late. It must be perfect.
The entire process is recorded in her book "Salt Years” which serves as a kind of coda to her decade plus work. The book not only details the many incredible sculptures she created over the years and the process used to make them, but also her thoughts and the emotional connection she has to her work. How her life in Israel, the specter of the holocaust, and her fascination with how the individual functions inside a society has influenced the way she sees the world and what she creates.
"The Dead Sea tells its own stories. Its salt crystals are like prisms. Through them you can see the world anew.”

Landau’s Salt Sculptures are an achievement that is only possible thanks to the natural wonder that is the Dead Sea. Yet another example of how special the land of Israel is and what it has to offer the world.

[Comment]

Churches of Israel - Church of the MultiplicationBy: C4i

Tabgha is a sleepy little area in Israel. Found above the northwestern corner of the Sea of Galilee, It is known for its springs and is a favourite local fishing spot with sportsmen. But there are surprises around every corner in the Holy Land, and this seemingly sparse area is no exception! Tabgha is also the home of the Church of the Multiplication, a church with an incredible connection to the life and ministry of Jesus and celebrates one of his most inspirational miracles.

As you might have guessed by the name, The Church of the Multiplication honors the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000. As recounted in Mathew chapter 14, Jesus was so distraught upon hearing of the death of John the Baptist, he retired to a remote location to pray and contemplate on what happened. But upon hearing this a large crowd followed him. Despite his own pain, Jesus took compassion on the group, which included many sick and afflicted seeking his blessing and began to minister to them and heal the sick among them. As night fell, his disciples asked him to send the crowds away to go and buy food since they were in such a remote and barren location. 

But Jesus said they could stay; he would feed the crowd himself. When the only food his disciples could produce was five loaves of bread and two small fish, this was no obstacle for the son of God. Giving thanks to the Lord, Jesus began to break the loaves and fish apart and distribute them among the people. Miraculously, not only did five loaves of bread and two skinny fishes feed a crowd of thousands, but they had over a dozen baskets full of leftovers. There are many lessons to take from this story, but it stands as one of the most powerful and direct testaments to God’s ability to provide for us in our time of need in the bible.

Ranking miracles is an exercise in futility, each one is, by definition, wholly unique and equally impressive to every other miracle. But there is something that speaks to the heart about Jesus’ ability to feed the five thousand. It is one of only two miracles mentioned in every gospel (the other being the resurrection of course) and one of the most immediately accessible and reassuring moments in Jesus’ ministry. Even when he himself is suffering, Jesus chooses compassion towards others. Even when the situation seems hopeless (how can you feed thousands with only a small lunch’s worth of food?) the power of Christ doesn’t just find a way; it makes the impossible look effortless! That compassion and that power to change things has never gone away, Jesus cares about you and can work miracles in your life as well. What an absolutely beautiful message. 

This is why the Church of Multiplication is so special. It is said to be built over the location of where this miracle took place! Of course, the church we see today is far from the first church to have been built at that location. To know the whole story, we have to go back to the 4th century.

Records dating back to the first church are somewhat spotty, but it is widely believed that a convert name Josepos built it. Born into a wealthy family, Josepos became a follower of Christ and used his family’s money to found at least four churches in the Galilee area. We are familiar with him and his works from the writings of a Spanish nun and pilgrim named Egeria who toured the Holy Land and documented her journey. She wrote about the small church built over the rock where the Lord broke bread and fed the multitude. Her writings name the location as exactly the same spot we see the church today.
But Josepos’ church was not to last. In the 5th century the small chapel built over a rock was replaced by a much more elaborate Byzantine church. Built in an ornate style, the church featured magnificent tile mosaics floors. Speculated to be the works of two different artists, the mosaic tiles feature wildlife and food (notably most of which is Egyptian in origin which fuels speculation that the artists were originally from Egypt) among other things. The most impressive mosaic of course depicts the miracle of the multiplication, a priceless work of art commemorating the event that makes the church so special.
This church stood until the 7th century when the Persian invasion of 614 sealed its doom. The beautiful church was destroyed by the Persian army and in the resulting upheaval the area itself became deserted. Soon the ruins of the church were covered in sand and lost to time. Almost.

In 1889, land near Tabgha was purchased by the German Palestine Society. They sent an American archaeologist to survey the land who noted several promising spots, including what would later be confirmed as the site of the Church of the Multiplication. In 1911 another archaeologist began preliminary excavations and discovered the first remnants of the church, including, miraculously, the mosaic depicting the miracle! Somehow after more than 1000 years and the ravages of war, these historical mosaics survived to confirm what the archaeologists surveying the site had dreamt of. 

Despite the excitement of this discovery, the site would lie dormant for years. World War 1 interrupted any kind of excavation effort as all involved had much more pressing concerns. Then ongoing post-war territory disputes involving multiple parties would prevent anyone from digging for decades. It wasn’t until 1933 that work to restore the mosaic would take place.

Many more upsets (including another world war) would prevent more ambitious work on the site until 1980, when finally it could be safely redeveloped. The church was rebuilt incorporating as much material from the ruins of both the Byzantine church and Josepos original church as possible and the new church was designed to infuse design elements from what churches in those times would be like. 
Today the church is a magnificent building. The millennia old mosaics (two of the earliest known examples of figurative floor mosaics in Christian art in the Holy Land) have been restored and are a main feature of the church.  The foundations of the original churches can also be viewed (safely protected behind glass). As can the very limestone slab it is claimed Jesus multiplied the bread and fish for the miraculous meal! Imagine it, Jesus laid his hands on that slab and today we have the privilege to be able to see it with our own eyes. Incredible. 
While not an ancient church like some of the historical temples and shrines dotting Israel, the Church of Multiplication stands atop a rich history. It is another important connection to the life and work of Jesus, the kind of which can only be found in the Holy Land.

[Comment]

Heroes of the Holocaust: Suzanne Spaak, martyr for justice Part 2By: C4i

 
At first blush, Suzanne Spaak didn’t seem like a strong candidate to help the underground. She was an heiress who married into even more money. As a foreign-born non-Jew living in Paris, members of the underground were initially skeptical when she asked how she could help. What was this rich girl thinking getting involved in this world? What could she possibly bring to a resistance movement that needed to get its hands dirty from time to time? Nobody took her very seriously.

This was an attitude Suzanne made sure did not last long. She threw herself into the work with a zeal that surprised even her other resistance members. She took any assignment without hesitation or complaint. Whether it was physical labor, clandestine scouting and observing the Nazis, or creating and distributing leaflets, Suzanne completed her tasks quickly, efficiently, and always asked for more.

But her work wasn’t just limited to standard underground fair. Suzanne came from a unique background, one that afforded her access and ears that were closed to most other people. One of her major tasks was finding hospitals and other safe houses that were willing to accept fugitive Jewish families. It was dangerous work with a huge amount of risk for everyone involved. Everyday the Nazis broadcast and published propaganda with a simple message, anyone caught aiding or hiding Jews would be put to death as well as their entire immediate family. Asking someone to shelter Jews was asking them to accept the possibility of arrest and execution for them and the people they cared the most about.

Suzanne, the socialite adept in the ways of conversation and persuasion, was one of the best at getting people to accept this risk. She rang up judges and authors, knocked on the door of priests and painters, she used her social standing and incredibly diverse circle of friends to pry open doors and solicit aid for Jewish families like nobody else.  

She even got her own family in on the effort. Her daughter, Pilette, helped her forge documents for Jewish families. It was like an arts and crafts project they would do together, taking old ID cards they collected from friends, they would use a hot iron and moist cloth to lift the original signatures off the card. After a bit of clean up they’d write in a new name and presto, a fugitive Jew suddenly becomes a respectable citizen with right of passage.

Still, this wasn’t enough for her, she wanted to do more. She HAD to do more. Suzanne was haunted by stories of Jewish children being taken. She would look at her own beloved children and could not shake the deep, deep horror of what the Nazis were doing to kids and mothers exactly like them. It began to affect her psychologically; she’d wake with nightmares and have trouble focusing from time to time. Handing out ration cards and new IDs was a good start, but there had to be more she could do.

That’s when she began to hear rumors about a mass arrest the Nazis were planning. There were preparations being made to raid all of the Jewish orphanages in the city and deport the children to Auschwitz. This was a singular horror to Suzanne. These were innocent children who already had their lives ruined (the reason so many Jewish children were in orphanages at the time was because their parents had already been forcibly deported and likely murdered by the Nazis). They had nobody, so Suzanne decided to be that somebody, to be the person who would save these children.

She set to work immediately. She recruited a local Pastor, Paul Vergara, who was known for his fiery anti-Nazi sermons. They were joined by Marcelle Guillemot, the woman who ran the church’s soup kitchen and was all too familiar with the precocity facing Jews and particularly Jewish children at that time. Together, they put a plan. A series of "kidnappings” that would take those children far from Nazi clutches.

On February 15, 1943, there was a strange amount of interest in Jewish orphanages in Paris. More than 30 women (vetted by Suzanne and her allies) showed up at orphanages around the city. They offered to take some children for a walk, get them out of the building and stretch their legs. And of course, the orphanage staff was glad for a break and naturally agreed. More than 60 Jewish children from ages 3 to 18 walked out of those orphanages that morning and never returned. 

The children were given new names, clothing, and ration cards. The yellow stars marking their former clothes were burned. This was a massive and risky operation involving multiple people, safehouses, and smuggling methods. Suzanne herself sheltered some of the children in her own home for a time, hiding them from the ever-present eyes of the Gestapo and the opportunistic French collaborators who would gladly sell information about a Jewish sympathizer to the Nazis.

This was why Suzanne had allied herself with the "Red Orchestra” (a loose network of resistance cells that originated with anti-Nazi Germans in Berlin and spread all the way to France). She needed their network to help smuggle and place the children either in allied countries or safe areas across Europe. Sadly, it was this association that ultimately led to her fate.

Unbeknownst to anyone in France at the time, The Red Orchestra network was compromised. Members captured in Germany were tortured and forced to give up their allies. Those allies were then rounded up and tortured into giving up their friends. Again and again the horrible pattern continued, eventually reaching all the way to Paris. More than 600 members across Europe were rounded up in a year long Gestapo operation - and one of these members was Suzanne. 

It is only by the grace of God that Suzanne received last second word of the Gestapo’s operation. Not enough time to save herself, but she had just enough time before she was arrested to give the names and locations of the Jewish children she saved to another underground member not affiliated with the Red Orchestra who would be able to keep track of them. This last heroic act was done in the hope that those children could eventually be found by any surviving family they had be reunited someday. Even up to her last moments of freedom Suzanne thought of the children before thinking of herself. 
On August 12, 1944 mere days before the liberation of Paris, Suzanne Spaak was executed. They conducted her execution while simultaneously preparing to abandon the prison and flee from the inevitable march of allied forces. A completely senseless and spiteful murder committed by an evil regime. 

Suzanne left behind her husband and two children. Her accomplishments and heroism would go largely unknown for years but have thankfully since been recognized, with Suzanne being inducted into Yad Vashem’s "Righteous Among the Nations.” In 2009 her surviving daughter Pilette, by then an old woman herself, finally got to meet a few of the children her mother saved. Old themselves, they were able to tell Pilette about their own families, the lives they got to lead and the children and grandchildren they got to have thanks to Suzanne. All of them forever connected by the love and sacrifice of a woman who gave up everything to do the right thing. 

[Comment]

Heroes of the Holocaust: Suzanne Spaak, martyr for justice Part 1By: C4i

Some people have all the luck. Suzanne Spaak certainly had her share. Born the daughter of a wealthy Belgian banking family, Suzanne enjoyed a fine European upbringing that took her to the elite social circles of Belgium. She married extremely well and eventually settled into a glamourous home in Paris where she and her husband enjoyed life in Paris’ high society.  

It all sounds like a fairy tale, a charmed life well lived. But this was Paris in the early 40s and everything changed with the invasion of the Nazis. Suzanne’s perfect life was turned upside down and she was faced with a choice. She could either turn a blind eye to injustice and try and live as normally as possible during the occupation like so many of her rich friends, or she could listen to her conscious and do something about it. She chose the later and became first a hero and then, tragically, a martyr.

Silver spoon, golden heart

Suzanne came from a family of means. An established Catholic family with deep ties to the banking business, she wanted for very little in life and was brought up from an early age to become a "proper” young lady. She received an excellent elementary education but was frustrated by her parents insistence that she study house management and embroidery as she matured. She independently studied literature and political science, with an eye towards social issues. It was this interest that brought her into contact with Jewish women’s groups in Brussels, many of which had already fled homes in Eastern Europe as the antisemitism in those areas became more intense and violent.  

It was also these interests that made her so fascinating to her husband Claude Spaak. When we say Suzanne married well, that’s a bit of an understatement – she married into a dynasty that might as well be considered the Belgium Kennedys. A family of political movers and shakers, businessmen and important figures. Claude was an accomplished man in his own right, a pioneering filmmaker and playwright. Sadly, he also proved to be a difficult and sometimes selfish man. He was unfaithful and prone to mood swings, but Suzanne stuck with him, largely for the sake of her two children, a daughter name Pilette, and a son, Bazou, both of whom she loved intensely. While her marriage could have been better, she embraced motherhood and was incredibly devoted to her children.

In 1938 they relocated to Paris to be closer to the emerging film and arts scene. They moved into an upscale building in the heart of the city, one of those gorgeous buildings that people just stop to look at and dream about. The two young children settled into Parisian life immediately, making friends and excelling in their studies. It was a fantasy come to life – until the Germans invaded in 1940.

The Spaaks originally tried to flee. Joining the millions of people fleeing the country, they intended to travel to New York and the safety of America but were cut off by German roadblocks before they could reach their boat. So, they returned to their Paris home and prepared for the worst. But to their surprise, the worst didn’t happen to them.

Make no mistake, the Nazis occupation of Paris was brutal. There is no telling how many people "disappeared” during that dark time. Fear was the order of the day, you never knew who was listening, where the Gestapo were lurking, or which of your friends had become an informer. It was a nightmare for Jews and anyone the Nazis considered an enemy. But if you were not a Jew, but wealthy, politically connected, and willing to keep your mouth shut, things could still be relatively comfortable all things considered. 

Suzanne’s position shielded her and her family from the worst of the occupation. But she could still see what was going on. Jews were suddenly not allowed simple basic freedoms. They were barred from parks, cafes, or movies. Their movements were controlled and monitored, and possession of a contraband item like a simple radio could earn a Jew a death sentence. She saw it all and was disgusted by it. She felt terrible guilt seeing such injustices mercilessly meted out to innocent people while she got to comfortably go about her life like nothing changed. 

But as angry and upset as she was, nothing prepared her for the shock of losing a friend. One of the Jewish women she met in her groups back in Brussels, Mira Sokol, also moved to Paris. The two had bonded over their shared interests and become close friends. Originally when Mira moved to Paris it was a welcome and celebrated event. But now with the Nazi occupation, it was a disaster. Sure enough, Mira and her husband were arrested by the Nazis, taken away to parts unknown and doomed to an uncertain fate. All for the crime of having Jewish heritage.

It was too much for Suzanne, she couldn’t stand by and just watch. So, she made the most of her position. As a wealthy Belgian married to a politically connected man, she could pretty much roam Paris unimpeded. She would use this freedom to raise funds for Jewish families trying to keep their heads down and avoid detection. Her home was unlikely to be targeted for inspection, so she listened to verboten radio broadcasts from the UK and allied forces, sharing the news with friends and creating a whisper network to keep people up to date with what was going on in the world.

While many of her social circle resigned themselves to quietly enduring the Nazi occupation, taking comfort in their remaining freedoms, and trying to ignore the plight of others, Suzanne chose a different path. She joined the underground National Movement Against Racism (MNCR) and dedicated her life to the struggle against Nazism.

Find out how this socialite became a hero in part 2 later this week!

[Comment]

Passover during COVIDBy: C4i

Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is one of the most important religious and cultural holidays in Israel. Celebrating the events described in Exodus of the Israelites’ miraculous liberation out of bondage, the ten plagues the Lord brought down on Egypt, and the journey to the promised land. That’s a lot for any holiday to cover and indeed the Passover is a weeklong event complete with numerous different rituals and traditions to observe.

But how do Israelis plan to celebrate that history while still in the grasp of a modern-day plague? COVID-19 disrupted last year’s Passover events, and sadly it is still a looming concern of this year’s upcoming celebrations. Here are some of the ways people in Israel are keeping the spirit of the holiday alive while staying safe.

Chametz and deep cleaning

A traditional part of Passover is cleansing the home of chametz. What are chametz? Very simply it is any food that contains wheat, barley, rye, and oats that has been mixed with water and allowed to "rise.” In other words, leaven bread. Jewish observers not only abstain from such food during Passover, but they also need to cleanse their house of them so they do not own or benefit from chametz during the holiday. Over the years, this has been folded into a kind of broader annual cleansing, but it is still a highly ritualized event. For example, as observers are supposed to have no contact with any chametz, some recommend cleaning the oven and sealing it up prior to Passover. It’s a very involved process.

Now in our time of social distancing and self-quarantining, there has never been a better time for Israeli observers to dig deep and give their home, vehicles, and other property a good cleaning. Many Israeli’s took extra time to rid their homes of chametz and give it a new sparkle for the season last year during the beginning days of the Coronavirus outbreak and looking online it seems many families are gearing up to do it again. This makes a lot of sense, if you’re going to be stuck at home it might as well be comfortable and look great!

Solo Seders? 

One of the most important parts of Passover is the Seder. This is the traditional feast that marks the beginning of Passover. Normally, this is a joyously chaotic and crowded affair. Entire families gather and crowd around a shared table, swapping stories, picking at the spread and traditional four (!) glasses of wine, and making a show of who can recline and relax the most (seriously, one of the Seder traditions is to recline in your chair to demonstrate the comfort and freedom Israelis enjoy since escaping Egypt).

Sadly, in the current climate with COVID-19 looming over us, gathering that many people into a small room is just asking for trouble. Many people will be practicing smaller Seders with only their immediate household members or, unfortunately, nobody at all. While there is no denying that this will be a very different Seder from the traditional experience, many Israeli families are still doing what they can to honor the Seder and make it fun for the whole family!

Last year many families attempted "virtual Seders” to various degrees of success. Trying to wrangle more than a dozen relatives through a Zoom meeting screen to read through the Haggadah is no easy feat! Thankfully, after a year of dealing with COVID lots of people have plenty of experience with Zoom and there are no end of tutorial and tip articles out there with pointers on how to throw a fun, but not out of control, long distance Seder. 

Remembering what is important

As Israeli families enter this second year in a row of cautious distancing and a disrupted Passover, many are concentrating on what is truly important – keeping each other safe. Yes, it has been an incredibly difficult year, and nobody expected to have to celebrate a second Passover under these conditions, it’s discouraging and difficult and disappointing. But at its core, the Passover is a celebration of the Israeli people’s perseverance in the face of adversity. We have dealt with the disruptions and dangers of COVID for an entire year now and with vaccines beginning wider distribution the end is finally in sight. While this might be an unusual Passover, the important thing is to make sure everybody makes it to see next year when they can gather in safety and gratitude. 

[Comment]

Churches of Israel: The Wedding Church at CanaBy: C4i

 
As the birthplace of Christianity, Israel has many beautiful and historic churches. Some are magnificent feats of architecture known across the world, standing testaments to God’s glory and our devotion. Others are humble chapels you might pass right by without noticing but contain deep historic and spiritual value to this ancient land. 

Today we’re going to look at a church that is neither the biggest nor the smallest. A beautiful church with a history and significance all on its own - the Wedding Church of Cana.

Also know as the Church of the First Miracle, the Wedding Church was constructed in 1879 by the Catholic Church. The location was specifically chosen as it is believed to be the exact spot where Jesus worked the miracle of turning water into wine. The story is recounted in John 2:1-11.

"On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So, they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

And indeed, the Church celebrates this miracle by not only being a premier location for Israeli couples to marry, but by maintaining a small shrine/museum in the lower church. This includes artifacts from the time of Jesus’ life including a winepress, multiple vessels and containers, and the most important relic of the church, a jar that is claimed to be one of the six jars referenced in the miracle. This jar represents a direct connection to the life and actions of Jesus Christ Himself, a piece of physical history. The spiritual and cultural value of this kind of relic cannot be overstated. This is the kind of history that makes Israel such a special country. 
 
 

While the importance of the Wedding Church is obviously its historical and spiritual connection to the life of Jesus, it has plenty of other charms as well! The exterior of the church is simply beautiful. With a pure white face in a gothic style and covered with sculptures of angels and fine detailing, the church is stunning to look at. Inside, the church has two levels, the lower church with the shrine and museum, and the upper church. The upper church contains a number of wonderful decorations, chief among them a portion of a Byzantine mosaic dating back to the 5th or 6th century. The mosaic even includes a dedication in ancient Aramaic to the generous patron who commissioned the mosaic!

But how does a 5th or 6th Byzantine piece of art end up in a church built in the late 1800s? That’s because this was hardly the first church in this location! Historical documentation can verify that Empress Helena commissioned the construction of a church in the same location in the 4th century. Excavations below the church and in the surrounding area have revealed the ruins of houses from the 1st century and a 5th century atrium. There is also evidence of a Christian funerary building from the 5th century as the area was developed and redeveloped over the years. Indeed, the Franciscans obtained the area in the 1600s and built a church in the same location. 

The Church stands on layer upon layer of history. Each artifact and ruin uncovered tells its own story that leads back to the days of Christ. The Wedding Church might not be the most famous church in Israel, but it is an important and beautiful connection to Christ that should not be overlooked!

[Comment]

Creativity as praiseBy: C4i


How do you pray? When I was a young boy, our family had a very set routine. We’d pray before dinner, and again before bed after reading a devotional or a chapter out of the bible. When I entered my teenage years and eventually struck out on my own for post-secondary school, my prayer schedule became looser, more fluid. I’d try and fit a prayer into a quiet moment during the day, sometimes when I was commuting, sometimes just before drifting off. Both methods had their own positives and drawbacks.

When praying was a routine activity, I did it every single day without fail. But I have to admit that it could also become mechanical and route. It was easy to let my attention drift while hungry for dinner and just rush through the same muttered words of grace without thinking of them. Reading from the Bible provided more focus, but I also had a tendency to "play the hits,” re-reading a few familiar stories again and again. When I was just fitting it in whenever I felt like, prayer felt more intentional and spontaneous. Because I was taking my own initiative to talk with God when it seemed like the right time, I tended to pray about the most immediate things on my mind and really focus on what I was bringing to the Lord. But it also let me take that relationship for granted. When I got busy or things were going smoothly, it was all too easy to forget to pray at all. Nobody likes it when they only hear from someone when they need something, and that certainly isn’t the relationship you want to cultivate with God.

What I try to do now (and I don’t always succeed) is have structure and spontaneity. I have returned to regularly praying before bed, but I also try to communicate with the Lord throughout the day. Now though, I don’t just pray when I feel like it, I try to worship through acts of creativity.

Joyous Praise

We already know it feels good to worship through creativity. It’s why people enjoy singing in a choir or as part of the congregation during a service. It’s why we’re attracted to works of art that remind us of the glory of God. Why many of us will clip prayers or Bible verses and make them the wallpaper on our computer or phone. But even though we know this, when we think about "worship through creativity” your mind might turn to the great works. Things like Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel, or the incredible architecture and detail of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, classic hymns, and poems. Incredible masterpieces made by truly unique and talented people.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be a master to worship through creativity, you just need to open your heart!

But what does it mean to worship through creativity? To me, it’s about doing something that gives you joy and satisfaction while reflecting on God and this wonderful world he has given us. After all, God is the ultimate creator. Everything we have in this world was made by Him, just as we were. We were created in His image, and any act of creation we make is a celebration of his original artistry. 

An act of creativity is about manifesting an idea or an impulse into the physical world. When you sing you use the air in your lungs, the muscles in your chest, and the vocal cords in your throat that He gave you bring sound into this world.  When you paint you take an image in your mind and use your hands and the raw materials of a brush and some oils (made from things He created) to make it a reality. When you cook you combine simple ingredients God has given to us with labor, heat, and presentation into a delicious total that is more than the sum of their parts. 
Reflecting on this process and what God has given to us can be praise in its own way!

It’s a way to connect with the gifts He has given to us in a physical, personal way. When you’re kneading dough in your hands, reflect on everything that happened to that flour before it arrived in your kitchen. From growing as wheat in the field, to harvest, to refinement, to ending up on your counter and eventually onto your table. When you’re playing guitar, reflect on the callouses on your fingers, the wonderful ability he has given us to grow and adapt to take on new challenges and learn new things. When your arms ache after a day spent hammering together a new deck for your family, reflect on the scale of creation. You’re exhausted after hauling around some 2x4s and drilling in deck screws over an afternoon. God created the entirety of the universe in a week!

When you’re working on something that gives you a sense of fulfillment, remember to thank God for the opportunity. For all the million blessings and miracles it has taken to place you in this position on this day, able to do the kinds of things that bring you and your family joy. When you create, create for the Lord as well as yourself. 

This kind of focused reflection and celebration is all the more important when we are feeling lost or unbalanced. With the world in such turmoil today, an act of joyous creativity can be more than just a pleasant distraction, it can be a way to anchor yourself when things seem to be spinning out of control. Whether you are drawing a picture, or just writing down a few lines, having something of substance to hold on to and focus on can provide much needed clarity. A beautiful moment to pray and talk with the Lord, to let the soothing act of creation remind you of what is important and all of the many blessings you already have.

This kind of purposeful reflection can help even when we’re at our lowest. When we have dark moments where we doubt or feel like we’re alone. Step back and think about the pride and love you put into the things you make. Think about the care you take and how you treasure the end result of your labors. Then remember that in the same way God made us. He made us with care and love, and he treasures us as his children. He would never abandon His creation or ignore that love. 

While it may seem like just an idea, give it a try next time you are feeling creative. Whether you’re building a model, sketching a drawing, or just humming to yourself, take a moment to reflect on God and pray with an open and joyous heart.  

[Comment]

Helping others through a difficult timeBy: C4i

 
 
Last year was the worst year of my uncle’s life. He lost his brother and then he lost his mother within the space of a few weeks. An abdominal condition kept him in terrible pain and prevented him from eating properly for months until an operation removed a large portion of his intestines. All of this happening under the cloud of COVID which cost his wife. But worst hit of all came just before Christmas. He knew something was wrong and his doctor confirmed his worst fears – cancer.

Now, my uncle is a strong man. All my life he’s been a take charge kind of guy. The one who was always ready to drive out into a blizzard to help jumpstart my stranded car, who helps put in new floors, who always is the focus of attention during family events thanks to his big laugh and tall tales. When I came by around New Years to say hi for the holidays though, I barely recognized the man staring back at me through the screen door. I hadn’t seen him for months and now here he was, ashen, gaunt, and quiet. The year just hollowed him out. He was in such obvious, terrible pain.

And truth be told, it paralyzed me.

When we see a family member or friend in pain, it can sometimes be overwhelming. We spend so much time gliding through typical conversation, the standard exchange of "how are you doing?” "Oh, I’m fine” it’s not always clear what to do when the script changes and it’s clear someone is suffering. The fact is there is no roadmap that will work for every situation, but there are a few things that you could keep in mind when someone in your life needs your help and support.

Nobody expects a cure

One thing you need to break free from right away is the need to "say the right thing.” That terrible internalized pressure to say something that will be immediately comforting or provide closure for your friend. When someone is dealing with a serious blow like cancer or a miscarriage there is simply nothing you or anyone could say that would make that feel okay. It’s an impossible task and if you feel you can’t talk to your friend until you know just what to say, you’ll never speak with them again.

But here is the good news, your friend or family member doesn’t expect you to know what to say. Flip the situation, if you just experienced a terrible loss or received life changing news, would you expect your friends to make it all better with a single conversation? No. In fact, the idea would probably seem insulting. You would probably just want your friends to be there for them to listen and share. So, do that. Be the person who is there to listen, talk, and share. Don’t play repairman.

Show up

The number one best thing you can do for a friend in pain is to simply be there. This can look like a lot of things depending on the situation. Obviously in-person contact is best. There is nothing that will replace the reassurance of a loving hug and a sympathetic shoulder to lean on. But sometimes when someone is hurting, they might not be ready for that, and during a global pandemic, that might not be possible.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t be there. A simple text message checking in can help remind them they are not alone. An email, a phone call, a hand-written note left in their mailbox. All of these are great ways to make sure your friend has a lifeline they can call on. Keep the lines of communication open for when they are ready to talk.

Don’t wait to be asked

The thing about being hurt is that it knocks you out and leaves you empty. Everyday tasks seem unbearable or pointless. Simple questions become as difficult to respond to as an algebra exam. You may be tempted to ask a friend "what can I do?” and even though there are 50 things they could probably use help with they’ll answer "I don’t know” because they can’t focus on anything but their pain.

Instead of waiting on them to tell you what they need, try to anticipate their needs and what would help them. A covered meal can be a Godsend to a family overburdened with hospital visits and stress. If you can’t cook, give them some gift cards for their favorite take-out spot. COVID permitting, offer to give them a ride to an appointment, or to be there with them. Shovel out their driveway after a snowfall without being asked or take care of mowing the lawn so they don’t have to sweat it. Whatever you can contribute, big or small, it will be greatly appreciated. 

Don’t forget the kids while you’re at it. When mom and dad are hurting or dealing with a major issue, it’s easy for their children to suddenly feel rudderless. Most kids are used to being the focus of concern and attention around the house and it’s not easy to adjust when mom suddenly needs to go to the doctor’s office all the time and dad is worn down to the nub taking on extra responsibilities to keep the family going. A small gift like a Netflix card or credits for their favorite game/system can help keep them occupied and provide some welcome relief for their parents.

When I was very small, my mom had a serious health scare. A virus suddenly compromised her normally healthy heart and she was hospitalized for several days. When she came home she was very weak. I remember my aunt and uncle took us kids out for a night just to give her a break. We went out to one of our favorite restaurants, Kenny Roger’s Roasters (a big deal at the time usually reserved for birthdays). Not only did we eat our fill, our uncle also ordered an extra helping of chicken to take home and enjoy the next day (an outlandish extravagance to us, total boss move). We went back to their place and played a few games of NHL Face Off on his cutting-edge PlayStation, laughing and hollering as we fumbled with the new controller and spent more time cross-checking the air than anything else. It was a night of fun we desperately needed during a very dark time, and one that I still remember fondly to this day. 

That is the power of being there and stepping up. A simple meal and a few laughs can leave a lifetime impression when someone really needs a hand. When you have a loved one or friend in need, you don’t need to do anything fancy, just being there and offering support can make more of a difference than you can imagine.

I don’t know if there are any Kenny Rogers Roasters left any more, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t play games anymore, but you can be sure I’m going to try and find a way to repay the favor to my uncle all these years later now that he is the one in need. 

[Comment]

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