Israel's solar power aspirations are a guiding light to the futureBy: C4i

In 2009, Israel's Knesset set an ambitious goal – to make 10% of all of Israel's energy renewable by 2020. At the time, this struck many as an unrealistically tall order. After all, renewable energy only accounted for a paltry few decimal points of a percent of Israel's annual energy needs.

Today though, the image is much different. Thanks to widespread incentive programs, increased adoption of solar panels by private homeowners, and other clean energy developments, Israel is already up to 2.6% renewable energy. But, it is the culmination of years of effort that will really take Israel into a renewable future – as represented by the world's tallest solar tower.

The Tower

Dubbed the Ashalim Project, the plant is actually comprised of three separate sites. These massive fields work like technological green-houses, gobbling up sunlight and repossessing it for energy. While each part of the project is impressive, the site of the tower is particularly striking. Resembling the impact crater of a technological meteor that has landed in the Negev desert, the tower stands in the center of dozens of concentric rings each made up of thousands of high-tech solar mirrors, radiating outward. It is an incredible sight, representing a national commitment to solar energy at a scale that has never been seen before.

Each site works in concert with each other utilizing both solar thermal energy (concentrating and converting the heat generated by the sun into harnessable energy) and photovoltaic (converting light into electricity using semiconducting materials) generation techniques. 

The tower uses an uncommon method of turning light into usable energy. All of those thousands of concentric solar mirrors reflect and focus the heat of the sun on the very top of tower, which in turn heats a massive boiler used to spin a turbine. It is an absolutely incredible feat of ingenuity.

The other sites are focused on conventional photovoltaic conversion and solar thermal energy. More than 500 THOUSAND mirrors collect and concentrate the heat of sun and direct to a delicately arranged series of glass-insulated pipes. These pipes absorb that heat and transfer it to oil that is constantly circulated through those pipes which in turn heats water into steam to power turbines. The oil is reused and 90% of the water is captured and re-used making it not only clean energy, but one of the most efficient production sites of clean energy in the world. 

Put together, the three sites will provide approximately 300 megawatts of electricity daily, effectively doubling Israel's renewable energy output. 

Why renewable energy?

For many nations, the push towards renewable energy is a relatively recent phenomenon, mostly spurred on by economic and environmental concerns. For Israel though, renewable energy has been a long time fixation, dating back to the foundation of the country. David Ben-Gurion famously promised "to make the desert bloom” and a key part of that vision was securing a source of renewable energy. In 1949, Ben-Gurion established positions and offices for top researchers to examine revolutionary, and at the time unthinkable, renewable energy options. While other nations enjoying the post-war boom were happily burning up coal and gulping down fuel to heat their homes and run their cars during the '50s, Israeli minds were already prototyping and designing solar and wind alternatives, spearheading much of the work that has allowed solar energy to develop to the mature point it has now.

Part of this was practical. When Israel was an early nation, it was believed that there were few natural fuel sources within its borders. With often contentious political relationships with its oil supplying neighbors, it was indeed a savvy idea to consider alternatives. But it also is a continuation of the same attitude of self-sufficiency and innovation that drove many of the early kibbutz, the idea that a community should be able to come together and find solutions to their common problems. 

The same drive can be seen today in both Israel's quest for renewable energy, and its modern innovation in water management. Despite all odds, Israel is indeed making the desert bloom.
[Comment]

Learning to wait on God's timeBy: C4i

Not too long ago, our family was recently blessed with a new addition, the first of this generation. It's been an exciting time for everyone as we've delighted in our new shinning star as well as become suddenly familiar with new roles like "grandmother” and "uncle,” figuring out what those mean in our family. In the midst of so many new things, we've also become accustomed with a concept known as "baby time.” This is the extra padding of time that needs to be accounted for whenever our little star is going to be involved in something. Want to meet for a quick cup of coffee? What used to be a quick 10 minute drive is lucky to be done in about 40 baby time minutes of pre-changing, feeding, and organization. Trying to plan out when to meet for dinner – better bump that reservation up another hour! 

Nobody minds, being a bit more deliberate is a small price to pay for such a blessing.  It's normal, every family has to get used to this kind of change. So if we can adapt to baby time fairly easily, why do we seem to have such difficulty adapting to God's time?

Humans, by nature are impatient. When we want something, we want it right now, or at the very least we want to know how soon it's going to be coming. This can be something as routine as dinner, as trivial as a new episode of a favourite TV show, or even as serious as the questions and prayers we ask God. No matter the context, we sit on pins and needles waiting for the results. 

But of course, God doesn't act according to our timetable. God works on his own schedule which is in a scale unimaginable to us mortals. You have to remember, He is omniscient and all knowing, existing in all times at once. To Him, a year of time could be like the blink of an eye, a fleeting flutter of barely noticed movement, while a single moment could be stretched to an infinity. So while we know God always answers prayer, we also have to recognize that He rarely does so according to our convenience. And this isn't always easy. If we get impatient waiting for the morning coffee to brew, how much more nervous are we going to get when waiting for an answer to prayer?

We have to learn to wait on God. Not just as an act of patience and humility (although that should definitely part of it) but also as an expression of faith. 

When you really think on it, waiting on God should be a source of strength and security, not nervous agitation. When we wait patiently on God, we're not just being respectful, we are demonstrating our trust in Him. It recognizes that our mortal worries and insecurities are nothing in the face of His divine grace and that all things can be left with Him. In this way, waiting on God should be restful and replenishing, we know we can leave our concerns in His hands, not frustrating and exasperating (as it too often feels). 

I'm reminded of the story of Jesus and the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee. When a storm rises on the winds and the churning waters threaten to claim their small boat, the disciples begin to panic. They fret and worry and plead in the face of the coming storm. But Jesus wasn't worried, He was sleeping. Jesus could rest in the middle of a storm because He could wait. He was totally assured in the protection of His Father, so there was no need to panic. When the disciples wake him, Jesus calms the waves but He also chides them, asking the group "where is your faith?” This is something we should remind ourselves when facing our own personal storms.

When we find ourselves waiting on an answer to prayer, we should use it as a chance for rest, for assurance and strength. God is always with us and always watching over us. There is no need to rush Him. We can wait. After all, if we can all adjust our schedules to account for a family member, we can also adjust our patience for God.
[Comment]

5 Ways to enjoy the Negev desertBy: C4i

A desert might not seem like the best vacation destination in the world, but the Negev desert has a lot more to offer than just sandy dunes and sunshine. Covering nearly half of Israel’s landmass and home to uncountable hidden secrets and scenes of beauty, the Negev desert truly is the heart of Israel. If you come to the country and don't spend at least some time exploring what it has to offer, you'd be doing yourself a disservice.


But what exactly is there to see and do? Read on to find out.


Camel Rides

Take yourself back in time with a camel ride through the Negev desert. There is no better way to experience the sheer scale and beauty of the Negev than from on the back of one of these magnificent animals, just as millions of pilgrims have through millennia.


There are many different companies that offer safe, comfortable camel tours with experienced handlers. These groups often take predetermined routes that show off the natural splendor and majesty of the area. If you're looking to take some unforgettable photos while in the Holy Land, a camel ride through the Negev is sure to provide some choice opportunities.


ATV Tours

Are camels a bit too sedate for your tastes? Do you prefer your rides to have a bit of kick? Then consider joining an ATV tour! These high octane tours will have you exploring the back trails and hills of the Negev, using the power of an all terrain vehicle to get up-close-and-personal with spots other tour groups would have to enjoy from a distance.


Shivta

Shivta houses the astounding remains of a 6th century Byzantine city. These ruins, dotted with monastic churches, cisterns, still-paved streets, and assorted dwellings have to be seen to be believed. Remarkably well-preserved, you'll swear you've been transported back in time as your explore the remains of this ancient city. There is no entrance fee to Shivta, it is a public treasure. You're free to take in this ancient site at your own pace, or join a guided tour that will add additional illumination and historical context to your visit.


Shivta is so unique, it was given status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its historical importance.


Museum of Bedouin Culture

The Museum of Bedouin Culture makes for an interesting stop while you're exploring the Negev. Located about 20km north from Be'er Sheva, the museum includes a number of interesting exhibits showcasing the Bedouin way of life. In addition to artistic works and cultural touchstones, you can take an up-close look at authentic clothing, textiles, and jewelry as well as examples of Bedouin agriculture and engineering. The Museum provides an excellent overview of the nomadic tribes of the Negev and contextualizing them in modern Israeli life.


En Avdat

A true oasis in the desert, En Avdat is one of the Negev's most striking natural wonders. This spring is located in a barren area dominated by sheer cliff-sides that seem almost totally devoid of life. But water from four separate springs combines together to create a secret, tranquil pool in the middle of the canyon creating a scene straight out of a dream. The effect is completed each morning and evening when wild ibexes in the area come down for a sip, an image of resilience and life in the midst of adversity.


Be'er Sheva

Known as the "city of the Patriarchs”, Be'er Sheva is one of the Negev's most prominent destination. One of the largest cities in Israel, Be'er Sheva is worth a visit just to sample the culture alone. While the city might not seem like much on first blush, there is a lot for the curious tourist to explore and experience. Major attractions such as Abraham's Well, Tel Sheva, and the ruins of a Chalcolithic settlement from the 4th millennium BC are obvious highlights, but more off-beat attractions exist too. Be'er Sheva is a city steeped in culture, combining Israeli, Bedouin, and Ottoman sensibilities, offering some of the most unique culinary and cultural experiences available in Israel. Check out the Thursday Bedouin Market for handmade treasures you literally can't get anywhere else in the world.

[Comment]

Explore the history of Tel Aviv on the new Independence TrailBy: C4i

- Photo by Ricky Rachman
 
Tel Aviv is a city famous for its attractions. The thriving nightlife, the world class restaurants, the art galleries and major businesses. But what about its roots? What about the history that the city was built upon? With everything else going on, it can be easy to forget these roots - which is exactly why the city has seen fit to draw some attention to them in the form of the new Independence Trail.

Inspired by Boston's famous Freedom Trail, Tel Aviv's Independence Trail allows both residents and tourists alike to explore the rich history of the city that may otherwise be hidden in plain sight. This guided path through the city allows curious travelers to enjoy the experience at their own pace and make detours and stops as their curiosity demands. The golden bricked path (which is illuminated after dark for night time explorers) covers over a kilometer of the city's sprawling downtown core while marking ten essential stops along the way.

It all starts at the most appropriate of all Tel Aviv locations – an espresso kiosk. Or maybe we should say the espresso kiosk. At the corner of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Streets sits an unassuming little slice of history, the very first kiosk to grace the streets of Tel Aviv. For a city defined by its quaint little cafes and exotic street stalls this may be surprising, but kiosks were not always part of the city's urban experience. The very first kiosk in the city was established at this exact location in 1910, quickly becoming a hub of the community and local culture. It wasn't long until fellow entrepreneurs noticed the opportunity and other kiosks started sprouting up in the area.

Today, the Kiosk (that's it's name, just "Kiosk”) still stands, serving up strong coffee amidst some of the city's most popular restaurants and bars. As far as places to start a tour, it doesn't get much better. Grab a jolt of caffeine and head on down the path to the next location. 
The Nahum Gutman Fountain tells the history of Tel Aviv as a city. Originally installed in Bialik Square, the mosaic decorated fountain now sits at the end of Rothschild Boulevard. Intricately detailed, the mosaics that wrap around the fountain and stand as pillars rising out of the water visually recount the story of how the port city of Jaffa became the modern Tel Aviv we know and love today. This is the kind of outdoor installation you might not notice if you were just wandering around the downtown core, but it is well worth slowing down and taking a quick stop to appreciate.

Next on the path is what could be considered the very foundation of Tel Aviv. The home of Akiva Aryeh Weiss, the man who founded the first neighborhood of the city. Known initially as "Ahuzat Bayit” the neighborhood was an early effort of the freshly created Building Society to establish a more healthy community. Seeking an alternative to the congestion of Jaffa proper, the Building Society sought to establish a new community with the goal of a "Hebrew urban centre in a healthy environment, planned according to the rules of aesthetics and modern hygiene.” Families submitted their entries (which were written on sea shells) in a lottery to determine who would get a lot of land in what would become Tel Aviv. Only 66 families were drawn, a relatively small number to found a city. But these families prospered, and from these humble roots the city we recognize now as Tel Aviv bloomed. 

The path then winds to the Shalom Meir Tower, which was once the site of the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium, the first Hebrew-speaking high school in the area. You can browse the visitors center for information on the site's history, or keep moving on to the Tel Aviv Great Synagogue. This incredible building is a marvel of engineering and design. Featuring a massive dome, an Italian inspired plaza overhang surrounding the building, and an array of light fixtures, it is a site of beauty and history halfway through the path.
Next, the Hagana Museum offers an opportunity to soak in the culture of Tel Aviv. The somewhat modest looking building contains three floors of exhibits depicting the true history of the establishment of the Jewish Yishuv (the per-zionist Jewish community living in Palestine)  during the British Mandate and the story of the community defense force, the Hagana (the predecessors to the modern IDF) that defended the Yishuv. There is a ton of history packed into those three floors, a site more than deserving of a visit.

After that is the Bank of Israel Visitor's Center, an exhibit examining the history of finances in Israel. Look through hundreds of differently designed coins and notes from different periods of Israel's history.  From ancient shekels to the notes used during the British Mandate, to the evolution of the modern NIS, there is lots to discover. An economic history lesson might not sound like the most thrilling stop, but the keen presentation and bracing history of the exhibit keep it fresh and inviting for visitors.

Then it's off to the Tel Aviv Founder Monument remembering those whose efforts forged the city. The names of the 66 families chosen more than a century ago to set down Ahuzat Bayit are inscribed here overlooking a fountain that sits where they dug the first well to supply the city. Just down the path sits the ninth location, a statue of Meir Dizengoff, the first official mayor of Tel Aviv. The statue depicts a relatively humble looking man on the back of a horse, commemorating his habit of riding his horse home from City Hall on Bialik Street to his home nearly 2 km away each day.
Finally, the Independence Trail ends, fittingly, at Independence Hall. This is the spot where on May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion and 25 other signatories signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence, officially ending the British Mandate and establishing Israel as a sovereign state. 

You can enjoy the Independence Trail either as part of a group or on your own through the use of a downloadable application for a self-guided tour! Either way, you're sure to walk away with a deeper appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of downtown Tel Aviv. 
 

[Comment]

The Slyvan Adams Velodrome hopes to turn Tel Aviv into a cycling paradise By: C4i

- Photo by Guy Yehiel/Tel Aviv Municipality

When you think of great countries for cycling, what do you picture? Do you think of the quaint European towns like Copenhagen or Amsterdam where bicycling is a daily way of life? Or maybe you think of long distance races like the Tour De France or the Athens-Savannah marathon through Georgia, where athleticism and stamina are key. 

One man, Sylvan Adams, wants to bring both ideas to Tel Aviv and make it the premier bicycling capital of the world. This might surprise anyone who has been to Tel Aviv and knows it as a city of automobiles and crowded, hot streets - but the change is already underway.

Adams, a real estate mogul from Montreal who immigrated to Israel in 2016, takes cycling seriously. As a two time world outdoor cycling champion who has been cycling competitively for more than 20 years, it is a subject near and dear to his heart. But his passion for the sport is only one reason he wants to bring a cycling revolution to Tel Aviv. The main reason is cultural. Adams wants to see a transformed Tel Aviv that is free from the congestion and exhausting commutes the city has become known for.

Tel Aviv has a traffic problem. With large neighbourhoods and satellite communities separated by an overtaxed network of highways, even relatively short commutes can stretch to hours of driving each day depending on conditions. When they finally reach their destination, drivers need to fight over the increasingly scarce (and expensive) parking options in the city. While all of this is frustrating for commuters who just want to make it into work on time, it is also ruinous to the environment. Each and every vehicle stuck in a traffic jam or circling the block looking for a parking spot is just another exhaust pipe pumping out smog and creating fumes that threatens to choke the skyline.

But, Adams is betting a developed cycling network could alleviate many of these problems. He envisions a modern Tel Aviv that embraces both cars and bicycles, taking the burden off the motorways, reducing pollution in the city, and putting more people on the street to browse the city's amazing street kiosks and shops. A greener, friendlier Tel Aviv if you will.

"Amsterdam was a congested, car-centred city until the 1960s, when a deliberate plan was made by visionaries to transform it into a bike paradise,” Adams told the Canadian Jewish News in 2016, explaining how a city can't just leave the development of a bike culture to chance, it has to build it. This is the logic behind both the Israeli Cycling Academy, an organization dedicated to developing the sport of cycling in Israel. While working to develop cycling teams and events, the Academy's most ambitious project is far and away the Sylvan Adams Velodrome.

Massive in scale, the velodrome, under construction right now, will be the most sophisticated indoor cycling arena in the Middle East. Built to Olympic specifications, the arena features a track over 250 meters in circumference. The wooden track has steeply sloped sides that go up to a dizzying 45 degrees. When professional cyclists hit these sloped turns at speed, they look more like they are flying than riding! The facility will also include robust training facilities and publicly accessible resources. The idea is to both build up the Israeli Cycling Academy and team, as well as promote interest in the sport among the public. 

Just last month, professionals put the new track through its paces when veteran cyclists peddled their way across it during an official ceremony commemorating the arena. Built to hold hundreds of spectators, Adams hopes that the Veledrome will be fully constructed and ready to host the 2021 World Junior Championships for track cycling. After that, he, along with the ICA, hope to make the arena the number one location in the area for cycling enthusiasts. 

It might be easy to write the Velodrome off as a purely symbolic gesture towards a cycling Tel Aviv, but Adams thinks otherwise. Citing the success Britain achieved in 2002, when the country invested in a number of velodromes to support the Commonwealth Games. Those facilities and the major press surrounding the events inspired an entire generation of cyclists in the UK, helping to shape future city policy and design to encourage cycling. To Adams and his fellows in the ICA, the velodrome is just the start of Tel Aviv's future on two wheels.

[Comment]

Celebrating Israeli Icons: Chaim Topol By: C4i

Over the past few years, we've grown accustomed to seeing Israeli faces on the big screen. But before actresses such as Gal Gadot and Natalie Portman captured  our hearts, one man blazed a trail for Israeli performers world wide – Chaim Topol.

While he may not be a household name in the West, Chaim Topol paved the way for a generation of Israeli performers to come. The Golden Globe winner has enjoyed a storied career, appearing in works as mainstream as For Your Eyes Only, where he played wingman to Roger Moore's 007, to the campy pulp fringes of Flash Gordon, but these are not the roles he'll be remembered for. No, it is his iconic portrayal of Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof that has immortalized Topol in the ranks of Israeli performers.

Topol began his acting career in an unlikely place - the Israeli army. Joining the IDF at the age of 18, Topol gained recognition for his quick thinking and attentive mind. But along with being commander of his own unit, he also served in the Nahal entertainment troupe. When he wasn't drilling or patrolling, Topol was cutting his performance teeth by entertaining his fellow troops and servicemen. While serving, Topol would hone his stage persona, learning how to read a room, improvise on the fly, and convey emotion effectively from a distance. As a member of the entertainment troupe, Topol didn't always have easy access to scripts or materials to work with, so he learned to make his own. He quickly became proficient as a sketch comedian, envisioning, writing, and performing short scenes with relatively little time for revisions and second guessing. These sketches and small scripts had a kind of authentic "from the gut” feel given their origin, one which resonated with audiences (one of the scripts he wrote while on active duty would later be revived to become the Oscar-nominated film Sallah Shabati). Topol eventually completed his service and left the IDF, but the passion for performance he developed during his time in the army never left him.

Away from the service and looking to strike out on his own as a young man, Topol and a group of friends founded a satirical theater group called the Spring Onion. The vision for the group was for a completely local and home grown take on the theater. He wanted a group that would express what the common men and women of Israel contended with on a daily basis. As such, all the talent for Spring Onion was locally sourced, anyone who wanted to be in the theater had to be a member of his Mishmar David Kibbutz. This was just an early example of Topol's commitment to his roots and people.

Unfortunately, the troupe encountered tragedy with the death of one of its founding members (a personal friend of Topol's) and was disbanded. In the wake of this upset, Topol founded the Haifa Municipal Theater alongside his friend Josef Milo in 1960. Here he would refine his stage persona in multiple roles, including Jean in Enesco's Rhinoceros, and Azdax in The Caucasian Chalk Circle, garnering notoriety and stoking the beginning flickers of fame. The Haifa Municipal Theater endures to this day, a fixture of the community.

In 1961, Topol made his first screen appearance as a supporting character in the mostly forgettable I Like Mike, an Israeli drama/comedy. While it may have been a humble cinematic debut, it didn't take long for him to find bigger and better things including more roles and even US exposure in the years to come. His script for Sallah Shabbati was adapted to a screenplay, with Topol cast as the eponymous lead. The film put him on the map with a Golden Globe and a Golden Bridge Award for Best Actor in the San Francisco Film Festival. 

It was in 1966 that Topol made the transition from an actor on the upswing to a legendary performer. This was the year he first adopted the role of Tevye the milkman in an Israeli stage production of Fiddler on the Roof. His performance was instantly hailed as a masterpiece, bringing a humanity and charm to the character all of his own. A massive success at home in Israel, Fiddler also found international success as well, performing at Her Majesty's Theater in London.

It was in London where Norman Jewison saw Topol on stage and knew right then and there that an English speaking film adaptation of Fiddler needed to exist. This is the version of Fiddler most people in North America know, and Topol serves as the very face and heart of the film. At the time, the 34 year old Topol sat in the make-up chair for more than two hours each day of the shoot to transform into the aged and weary Tevye.

Since then, Topol has played the role more than 3,500 times all across the world. From film to Broadway, to Israel and Australia, to London and Japan, he has brought his iconic portrayal to stages big and small. Now 82 years old, it wouldn't take as much make-up to slip back into the role. Despite his age though,Topol still loves to entertain.

As impressive as his legacy as Tevye is, it is only one of Topol's many contributions to Israeli culture. He's served as a producer on dozens of films, played in numerous series in Israel and beyond, and still appears in other stage shows. 

But all of these accomplishments pale next to his charitable works. Since 1967 (just before he became the juggernaut of Israel's entertainment world we know today), he founded Variety Israel, an organization that is dedicated to serving children with special needs. The organization offers assistance and specialized care to families with children with disabilities or developmental challenges, helping children to reach their full potential as healthy and happy individuals while also providing support for their parents. He also founded and acts as chairman for the Jordan River Village, a holiday village for both Jewish and Arab children suffering from life-threatening diseases. 

"We treat Muslim, Christian, Arab, Jewish, Sikh and Palestinian children together, just as we do in our hospitals. This is what we do in Israel.”

In recognition of his impact on Israeli culture, the role he has played in popularizing Fiddler and the Israeli experience to people around the globe, and his remarkable charity work, Topol was awarded the Israel Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015. In typical fashion, he insisted  "Other people deserve it more.” That's statement that is hard to believe. 
[Comment]

Celebrating Jerusalem DayBy: C4i

Jerusalem Day, or "Yom Yerushalayim,” commemorates Israel's victory during the Six-Day War and the repatronization of Jerusalem. As a holiday established relatively recently in 1968, you may be forgiven for thinking of it as a kind of civic holiday. A sedate day off in the vein of Canada's Family Day, a chance to kick back and enjoy a vaguely patriotic afternoon of daytime TV. But while the holiday may only be 51 years old, it has a massive history behind it that should not, and cannot be ignored.

To understand why Israel celebrates Jerusalem Day with such heartfelt zeal, you have to understand the history of Jerusalem itself. Despite always existing as the heart and home of the Jewish people, Jerusalem has a long history of conquest, domination, and loss stretching back nearly two thousand years.

A truly ancient city, Jerusalem had been the center, the beating heart, of the Jewish people since they could be called a people. Yet despite its tall walls and devoted population, it was conquered in 70 AD by the Romans, setting off centuries of struggle to come. When the Romans took over, the Jewish people were killed and scattered, thrown from their homes virtually overnight. Over the next few decades, the city would be razed, ruined, and rechristened as "Aelia Capitolina," a satellite state of the Romans. The only Jews allowed in the city were slaves, men and women kept in bondage, reduced to cleaning the gutters of their ancestral home.

As time wound on and the Roman Empire transformed into the Byzantine Empire, the name Jerusalem was readopted by rulers eager to lay claim to a larger history they had no right to. But with the adoption of the old name, were the Jews allowed back in? No, of course not. The Byzantine's only wanted the trappings of the ancient city, not its people. The only day of the year Jews were allowed in the city of their forebearers was Tisha B’Av, an annual holiday observing the destruction of the Holy Temple. Any Jewish pilgrims looking to pay their respects were forced to pay handsomely for the pleasure.

And so it went. The Muslims eventually conquered the Byzantines and permitted the Jews to return, only to lose the city during the Crusades, after which the Jews were once again removed by force. The Egyptians would raze the city in 1250 and take over, granting the Jewish population a chance to return. But this period of recuperation and rebuilding would soon face an Ottoman conquest in 1516. This cycle of conquest and turmoil, of brief periods of peace interrupted by violent clashes, continued into the present day, culminating with the British take over of the city during WWI. When the British took control, they promptly divided the city into four ethnic quarters (with little regard to the actual populations living in those areas) and governed the city strictly until they were forced out in 1948. The Jordanians soon took over, violently expelling the Jewish population, burning homes and looting as they pleased.

Even during the post WWII boom in returning Jews to Israel, the city remained out of reach. Jerusalem was named the capital of the reconstituted nation of Israel, but it was divided between Israel and Jordanian control. The Old City, the spiritual heart of the city was kept in a vice-like Jordanian grasp.
It wasn't until the Six-Day War in 1967 when the Old City would be brought back into the fold. During the chaos and confusion of that frantic struggle, the Jordanian forces made a fatal error. With their communications disorganized and poor response to multiple fronts, the Jordan military left the Old City nearly defenseless. Not failing to take advantage of the situation, Israeli forces were able to move in and finally reclaim their home.

For the first time since 1948, Jews could once again walk free in the city and worship at the Western Wall. The conflict closed the book on nearly two thousand years of insecurity and turmoil. Finally, all of Jerusalem was part of Israel and belonged to the Jewish people again. 

Today, that momentous event is honored every year on the 28th day of the month of Iyyar in the Hebrew calendar (that is May 12th this year). The day is marked with by both religious ceremonial prayer in synagogues, and civic recognition from the mayor of Jerusalem who leads an annual ceremony remembering those lost in the Six-Day War. Celebrations include a winding street parade that represent the unification of Jerusalem as a complete city, complete with vendors, special costumes, and youth participation. Of course there are also typical holiday celebrations such as parties filled with song and dance and special family meals recognizing the day. 

The nation of Israel was reborn in 1948, but it wasn't whole until 1967. Jerusalem Day serves not just as a celebration of that date, but as a celebration of all that Israel has endured and overcome to arrive at that happy day.
[Comment]

Don't overcomplicate your walk with GodBy: C4i

 
Being a Christian isn't always simple. Life for anyone in the modern age is confusing and chaotic, but for Christians who have dedicated themselves to a higher purpose, who truly wish to lead their lives as a servant of Christ, it can be downright bewildering at times. Who should you be? What does God want for you? How do you know if you're following His will or not? These are the kinds of questions that can play on you're mind late at night, filling you with doubt and uncertainty. As much as we search  for direction, the path we should be on isn't always clear. 

It's not enough to just dismiss those kinds of thoughts. The fact is, they are legitimate worries, and your not alone. Every Christian occasionally grapples with these thoughts. But, there does come a time when introspection and reflection can turn into self-sabotage, a kind of critical over-thinking. While it's true that God's will isn't always clear, that doesn't mean it is some inscrutable riddle either. The Lord doesn't want you to live your life like it was some nightmarish multiple choice exam with thousands of possible "wrong” answers you have to avoid. If you find yourself constantly in want of direction, you might be missing the forest for the trees.

What if the path you walk is less about specific direction, and more about how you take that walk? 

Consider 1 Corinthians 10:31 -  "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This is sage advice for anyone who feels lost in their walk with Christ. Not that it isn't giving anyone a specific direction - it's not a command to do more of one behavior or less of another. Instead it is guidance on how you should go about making decisions and living your life. It's a call towards a kind of living and decision making that is less focused on critiquing specific choices, but more about the spirit in which you make those choices. Yes, there are still good and bad choices, but as long as you are doing things for the glory of God and keeping Him in mind at all times, you can't go too wrong.

This is some powerful advice for the wayward soul. If you're unsure about the direction your life is going, simplify. Concentrate on brass tacks. Do what you love and what feels right and do it joyfully in glory to God - that is the best way to find the path he wants for you. No matter where you are in your life, what kind of decisions you find yourself facing, or what crossroads you come to, you'll always know what you should do because you'll know in your heart what glorifies God and what doesn't.

Your walk with Christ will never come with a map, but that doesn't mean you're lost. Think of "do it all for the glory of God” as kind of magnetic North, a fixed point of reference for your spiritual compass. It won't tell you what specific street to go down, but with that bit of guidance, you'll always be able to find your way when you need to.

Instead of constantly questioning yourself or God's will, take a step back. Worry less about the details and more about living a life that glorifies God. 

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Healthy meals mean healthy mindsBy: C4i

We all understand the link between nutrition and healthy bodies. One of the first cliches most children become familiar with is the old chestnut "you have to eat your vegetables if you want to grow up big and strong.” But that old saying only covers half of the story. More and more, educators and scientists are proving a direct link between nutrition and mental development. If a child goes hungry, they will have difficulty developing in other areas.

Children who suffer from malnutrition either in the form of regularly missing meals, or a diet comprised of nothing but low quality food suffer in the classroom. While they might be in attendance physically, mentally, they are far removed from the class and unable to absorb or process the information they receive. It's not hard to imagine why. How can anyone learn if they are distracted by constant hunger pains? How can the body continue to fuel itself and find the energy to concentrate and care about what is going on in class when it's running on empty? 

Additionally, malnutrition introduces knock-on effects that compound the difficulties already present. Children who are malnourished are more susceptible for preventable illnesses, their bodies lack the necessary vitamins and minerals to fuel a strong and consistent immune system. So when they come in contact with germs, they run a much higher risk of contracting an illness that a properly fed child might not. This leads to more time out of school, missing classes, and falling behind, essentially handicapping an already disadvantaged student. 

These are only the effects that are evident when looking on the outside. Inside the body, the impact nutrition has on development cannot be understated. The American Psychological Association has conducted a number of studies looking at the effects of nutrition during different stages of development. In grade school-aged children, they observed a direct link between hunger and mood and behavioral disorders. Hungry and malnourished children are far more likely to act out, break rules, or fail to pay attention than their well fed peers. 

In this way, the effects of hunger and malnutrition are insidious and potentially long-reaching. Not only do they directly impact a child's ability to develop mentally, they also can lead to the child being labeled as "trouble maker” or "underachiever” stigmatizing them and making it less likely they will receive the support they need as they continue through their academic life. The Children's Hunger Alliance in Ohio found that hungry students are twice as likely to have to repeat a grade.
 
 

There is positive news though. The APA's studies show that not only can proper nutrition prevent these issues, but can also compensate for earlier periods of malnutrition. Just because a child has had to suffer through periods of malnutrition and hunger earlier in their lives, this doesn't doom them to permanent underdevelopment. Access to even one healthy meal a day on a regular basis can make a huge difference in a child's life and mental development.

This is why C4i is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the children of Israel. According to a 2016 report from the Israeli National Council for the Child, over 30% of children in Israel live beneath the poverty line. Many of these families struggle to provide for the basic needs of their children, including regular meals. Of these, children with special needs are particularly vulnerable to the impact of poverty and hunger. 

C4i's Children At Risk program is designed to help these families. We support a robust after-school program where vulnerable children are given the extra care and attention they need to succeed. Along with assistance with homework studies, tutoring, and access to computer technology, each child is provided with a delicious, nutritious meal. This includes children who cannot be fed orally and require specialized food and feeding procedures.

C4i's Children At Risk program has positively impacted the lives of countless children who could depend on at least one hot meal a day they otherwise might not have received. Through our program, these children have been given both the physical nourishment they need for healthy development, as well as a positive, supportive environment to learn, grow, and play. We are immensely proud of the work we've done and humbly ask for your support so we can continue, and even expand our program to accomplish even more. 

Together we can make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable children in Israel. 

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What is Saint Nicholas doing in an Israeli garden?By: C4i

In late February, Dekel Ben-Shitrit was working away an afternoon in the garden of his Moshav Yogev home. Watering the plants, pulling the weeds, a completely typical day. That was at least until something interesting caught his eye. A dull and dirty ring, surfaced in the churning soil of uprooted weeds. Surprised, Dekel plucked the ring out of the earth, cleaning it with his fingers. What he found was a small carved figure of a man.

Finding a piece of jewelry in your garden would be a small thrill anywhere, but in Israel, it isn't just a curiosity, but likely a piece of history. The land is so steeped in history and culture that it is a natural hot spot for artifacts and relics of the past. This concentration of history combined with the  shallow soil and dry climate of the region means landscapers, farmers, and construction workers not only have a much higher chance than normal of stumbling over small trinkets, but that they are likely to still be in good and recognizable condition.

This is what Dekel found out when he posted a few pictures of the ring to Facebook. Asking his social network if anyone could shed any light on the origins or likely history of the ring, it didn't take long for someone to connect him with the Israel Antiquities Authority who were able to identify it immediately.

Amazingly, the ring is from somewhere between the 12th and 15th centuries and bears the image of none other than Father Christmas himself, Saint Nicholas. 

How do they know who it represents? Simple, the iconography of the carving. The ring pictures a bald man carrying a bishop's crook, this combined with the style and materials used placing it in the Byzantine period heavily suggest it to be Saint Nick. The crook and staff were trademarks of the saint and used in nearly every depiction of him.

But how would a Byzantine ring of a Christian saint come to rest in an arid plain in Moshav Yogev? Well, old Saint Nick is quite well traveled. Well before he became popularized as the bearded, jolly, giver of gifts we associate him with now, Saint Nicholas was the patron saint of travelers, pilgrims, and sailors. Jewelry bearing his image was often carried by Christian pilgrims as they traveled for protection, and Israel was a major destination of the era.

The main Roman road from Legio to Mount Tabor wound through the area, passing closely to Moshav Yogev. This path was frequently used by Christian's making pilgrimages to Mount Tabor, Nazareth, and other locations in the area. It isn't at all unlikely that some weary traveler might have made a slight detour in the area and found their way to where Moshav Yogev stands today. How the ring was lost will remain a mystery, but it's existence can inform us on the patterns of trade, travel, and exchange in the area. 

Rather than keep his find to himself, Dekel Ben-Shitrit willingly donated the ring to the Israeli Antiquities Authority in the interest of historical preservation and knowledge, as is customary for Israeli citizens who make historical discoveries. The history of Israel is one of the nation's intangible treasures and belongs to every citizen.  
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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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Our VISION is to see God’s truth proclaimed so that nations will support and bless the people of Israel.