“Jesus had one message, and one message only”, said the man with white hair and a white beard, “it was love”.
We were having dinner at the King David Hotel. This is the hotel that terrorists blew up in 1946, killing 91 people.
They were Jewish terrorists. Israel’s current president says they were freedom fighters. And their leader, Menachem Begin, later won a Nobel Peace Prize. Go figure.
The dining room of the King David is large, divided into two sections. In one, Jews were celebrating Shabbat, dining with extended families at large tables. We were shown to the other side, in which a group of Christians from the USA were just finishing their dessert.
A young woman with a black dress that came down over her knees and a black sweater wandered from one side to the other, apparently looking for someone.
The Jewish side soon filled up. A large family of Jews was ushered over to the Christian side. They looked as though they might have been from New Jersey. There were two pairs of grandparents, very squat and plump. Five or six teenagers looked very American in T-shirts.
A couple in their 50s seemed to be the organisers of the Shabbat dinner. The 50-something man looked exactly like his father, who sat on his right. Both were fireplugs, with thick bodies and strong arms. They might have been plumbers or ironworkers. The woman wore a black leather outfit, with a short skirt, prominent zippers, she had black hair, and heavy black makeup.
All the men wore yarmulkes. One of them had a black one on his black hair. All you could see was the silver clip that held it in place. He stood to read a Torah passage as the rest of the family studied their menus.
As he read, we noticed an unusual sight. A man had come into the restaurant in an unusual get-up. He had on the coat and white stockings worn by traditional Jewry, but unlike all the black hats we have seen sported by all the various sects and distinctions of the sons of Abraham, this man had on a tall white hat with Hebrew writing on it. But the most unusual thing about him was his tribe. He was neither Sephard nor Ashkenazi. He wasn't Egyptian, Coptic or Ethiopian. Here was a Sub-Saharan Jew… a real African.
The Jews are not a proselytising group. They do not evangelise, preach to or try to convert the goyim. As far as we know, they stick to themselves, cling to their own, and accrete only through the maternal line. So how did an African come to be a traditional, Orthodox Jew?
The woman found the man she was looking for – the African Jew. But she did not seem happy about it. They were shown to a table, but the man was restless and friendly. He got up to shake hands with the maitre-d’ and several of the waiters. He then got up to move to another table. Not once, but twice. The woman followed, but with a fatigued look on her face. "Who does this guy think he is?" it seemed to say.
Jamal Michael Barrow was born in Belize, the son of a former prime minister of the country. He moved to America and became a minor rap star, using the stage name Shyne. Then, he got involved in a ‘shooting incident’ at a New York club with P Diddy and Jennifer Lopez. It is rumoured that he took a fall for his more important friends. He served nine years at the Clinton Correction Institution, maintaining a code of silence, which earned him the respect of the rap community.
While he was in prison he became an orthodox Jew, taking the name Moshe Levi Ben-David.
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“Today, we have followed in the footsteps of Jesus. The footsteps of love. Remember that we were on the Mount of Olives, and then down in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he camped out for the night. And then, into Jerusalem itself.
“Tomorrow, we’re going to visit the very spot of the Last Supper, and the place where he was judged by Pontius Pilate, and where Peter denied him three times, and where, finally, he was crucified for us.
“And now, we see the places, the stones still there. We set our feet on the very stones where our saviour put his sandals some 2,000 years ago. And we see that it is real. It is not some made-up fairy tale. These are real places. With real people who did very real things.
“We will see the spot where Jesus was crucified, and where St Helena found the cross 300 years later. And we will see the stone where Jesus was laid out and prepared for burial. Where his blood ran. And we will see the Holy Sepulchre, where he was laid to rest.
“They did not know it then, but we know now, that Christ our Saviour would not die. He would not be buried like a mortal man. Instead, he rose from the dead.
“And why did he do that? To give us a clear sign. He could have just stayed in his tomb and enjoyed his eternal rest. You could say he earned it. But that wasn’t his purpose. It wasn’t his mission. Instead, he rose from the dead, rolled his stone out of the way to give us a clear signal that we too could have eternal life.
“And what do we have to do? We just have to love God and love each other. Now, that’s pretty easy isn’t it?”
The following morning we began our tour of the Holy Land.
“Well, basically, the history of this part of the world,” began our tour guide, “is a history of one group trying to exterminate another group. Often, people were trying to annihilate the Jews. Sometimes, the Jews tried to annihilate each other. Of course, we don’t know for sure, but probably Neanderthal man and early Homo sapiens lived here at the same time. And they probably tried to kill each other. Maybe even for food.
“Egypt was the first organised political force to conquer what is today Israel. There were Amorites and Canaanites. And some other groups developing their cultures. Even as early as 2300 BC we have evidence of fortified towns that were destroyed. Then, about 1,000 years later, we have historical records of the battles between the Egyptians and what we call the “Peoples of the Sea” – who were a coalition of seaborne tribes who established themselves in the area. And we know that there were many groups, often fighting with one another at the time – the Moabites, the Philistines, the Aramites, Phoenicians, Ammonites, Edomites, and so forth.
“Then, the whole area was conquered by the Assyrians, who were particularly ruthless and violent. There is monumental picture in the Israel Museum showing the Assyrians impaling captive soldiers, and herding the women and children into slavery.
“Then, the Babylonians overran the area, kicked the Assyrians out, and took thousands of Jews back to Babylon as slaves. The Persians conquered the Babylonians a few years later and they let the Jews go back.
“And I’m just giving you the rough outline. I’m leaving out hundreds or maybe thousands of conquests, battles, and slaughters. There have been so many massacres in this area, it’s amazing anyone is left.
“And I haven’t gotten to the Macedonian conquest, or the Roman conquest, or the Islamic conquest, or the Crusader conquest…
“And I wanted to show you Jericho on this tour. But I can’t go there. I’m a Jew. The Arabs control Jericho. You can go there. But I can’t. It’s illegal for me to go.”
“It’s all about love”, continued the American preacher. “That’s the one thing you have to remember.”
The American group then began a sung prayer:
Holy Love of Jesus
Holy Love of God
We give prayers for you and me
And all of those we love
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