Israel and Middle East

Security in Israel: Safe to Travel with Steve & Janet?

by Steve Ray on December 26, 2017

UPDATE 12/11/17:  Watching the mainstream media today and making a few observations. 1) The images they keep showing are not current events but are pulled from stock video footage from the past. I doubt that any of the images of rock throwing and tear gas is current video. 2) They are making this violence, which is very small at this point, look like it’s all taking place in Jerusalem which is not the case.

If there are these kinds of confrontations they are happening inside the West Bank and Gaza, not in Israel. There is NOTHING happening in northern Israel and the Galilee area and whatever’s happening in Jerusalem is small and minor.

This morning we hear about a bomb that was blown up in New York City.  Having been in Jerusalem over 150 times and in New York a good number of times as well, I can say I feel safer in Jerusalem then I do in New York.

And, a simple question: why does a minor dustup in Israel make headline news for days whereas in Chicago alone over 600 people have been killed by violence this year and we never hear a word about it?

ORIGINAL POST:  They are happening inside the West Bank and then Caza. There is NOTHING happening in northern Israel and the Galilee area and whatever’s happening in Jerusalem is small and minor.

I was asked about the safety of Israel for our upcoming trips in December and January. Here is my response to the priest:

No problems for our pilgrimages. I am taking 106 people in two weeks. The news seems more hype than reality. I expect it to blow over and you won’t even remember it a month from now.

Your folks in January have the nice convenience of watching the daily videos of our trip going over Christmas break. They can see for themselves how safe and secure it is.

My major fear and concern in Israel right now are the crowds of tourists and pilgrims that are cramming into the holy sites!

One day we were there in October they calculated over 150,000 tourists in Jerusalem alone. Bus parking lots which usually hold many buses quite well now have buses double parked and overflowing into the streets, enough to block traffic — we’ve never seen it like this before.

On our last two trips, we were not even able to get down to the birthplace of Christ to touch the 14-pointed star marking his birthplace because the lines were four hours long.

Today (12/8/17) was supposedly going to be the “Day of Rage“ but what happened? Basically nothing. All the 100,000+ Muslims went to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem today without incident. If there was going to be a problem, that’s where it would have been.

I have been watching the news — not on American media but the Jerusalem Post and other local Israel news. It looks like the few groups that are protesting are small. Gaza, which is far away from anywhere we going is trying to be heard but not much.

Seems to me the same old, same old — a lot of American news-hype especially because the US media are continually trying to make Trump look bad. I’ve learned to pay very little attention to them and go to the source which includes Israeli news and my friends over there.

Write me personally anytime to discuss this if you’d like. My email is sray@me.com. Also feel free to give me your phone number so we can talk if you’d like. Let other pilgrims know we are moving ahead with confidence.

From all of my experience of 20+ years, I am not nervous at all and my trips are full steam ahead.

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Was Jesus Really Born at THAT Place in Bethlehem?

by Steve Ray on December 18, 2017

Church of the Agony in Gethsemane

In a few days we are leaving for Bethlehem. We will have Mass next week at a lot of holy sites with our group of Catholic families. To the left is a picture of Gethsemane on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. How do we know this is really Gethsemane?

In a few days we have Mass at Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Really? How do we know that’s the place?

We will venerate the place Jesus was born in Bethlehem (see 14-pointed star below) and had Mass in the Cave of the Shepherds.

It is often asked: how do we know these are the real sites where Jesus and Mary lived and walked. The earliest Christians realized the importance of these sites and immediately viewed them as sites to be remembered and venerated. Small chapels were built and pilgrims came from around the world to visit these spots and to pray.

The spot marking the place where Jesus was bornthese spots and to pray.

When Christianity became legalized, churches were built on these sites. Tradition, archaeology and the ancient witness confirms the authenticity of the sites. Below is a few examples relating to Bethlehem.

In a very enlightening side note, Bethlehem was mentioned by St. John Chrysostom in his Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, written in ad 370: “. . . Since that birth [of Jesus], men come from the ends of the earth to see the manger, and the site of the shed.”

The early Christians remembered and preserved the location and pilgrims like you visited even in the first centuries. Emperor Hadrian built pagan shrines over the holy places in 135 AD. He thought the memory of the sites and associated faith would be obliterated forever. But then Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity. His mother St. Queen Helena went to Israel, asked the locals where Jesus was born, where he was crucified…

Church of Nativity 100 years ago

They pointed to the shrines and showed her what they all still remembered well. Queen Helena knocked down the pagan shrines and what did she find? The remains of early Christian veneration. She built a huge church over the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, another over the place of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and a large church over the cave on the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven.

There is a saying, “The water is cooler and clearer the nearer you get to the source.” Many of the Fathers of the Church – very close to the events mentioned in the Bible – speak with great certainty about the sites in the Holy Land.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says, “The cave-stable is mentioned by Justin Martyr, Origen, and Jerome. After the Romans conquered Bethlehem anew (AD 135) the site of the Nativity was desecrated, probably under Hadrian (117–138; cf. Jerome Epistle 58.3). Jerome lived for thirty-three years in Bethlehem (AD 387–420). Here he helped found and direct pilgrim hospices, convents for women, and a monastery.”

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary says, “The birth of Jesus possibly took place in a cave in the rocks outside the town. The early Christian writer Justin Martyr 9100–165) thought so, as did Origen (c. 185–254) some years later. Origen frequently resided in the Holy Land and wrote, ‘In Bethlehem you are shown the cave where he was born, and within the cave the manger where he was wrapped in swaddling clothes.’

Emperor Constantine and his mother Queen Helena

“Jerome later described the grotto over which the Emperor Constantine had built a basilica. In excavations in 1934–35, evidence indicated a second period of building in the reign of Justinian (ad 527–565), when Constantine’s basilica was extended beyond its original proportions. Steps lead down to the grotto, the rectangular shape of which suggests that Constantine’s builders reshaped the original. But there is no description of the grotto prior to the construction of Constantine’s basilica.”

These places were remembered! We’ve known their locations for two thousand years.

Another Example: The Cave of Machpelah

The Cave of Machpelah was bought by Abraham about 1850 BC as a tomb in which to bury his wife Sarah. It now contains the remains of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. It is now in Hebron, the city of Abraham. However, Abraham never owned any other land in Canaan before he died.

The Machpelah Cave over Sarah’s tomb built 2,000 years ago

Abraham’s descendants were in bondage in Egypt for four hundred years. For an additional forty years they wandered in the wilderness. It was remembered in Genesis 49 – over 400 years later – when the Israelites returned from Egypt. The city of Hebron was built around Abraham’s tomb and King Herod build a huge monument over the graves of Abraham and his family which still stands today in the heart of Hebron.

Abraham bought a plot of land called the Cave of Machpelah (Gen 35:16–20; 48:7; 1 Sam 10:2). Even today, the Cave of Machpelah is known and can be visited in Hebron. Visiting this site you see a place known for four thousand years!

Another Example: Rachel’s Tomb

Notice a case in which we can see how important holy sites were and how they were carefully remembered. The Tomb of Rachel can be visited today in Bethlehem even though she was buried there about 3,800 years ago!

Rachel’s Tomb 100 years ago in Bethlehem

Jacob buried Rachel in Bethlehem and the location of the tomb was still known 800 years later when Israel returned from Egypt and after they lived in the land for over 350 years. Wouldn’t expect them to forgot its location over the subsequent eight hundred centuries? It is still there today and we filmed there for our David DVD. Notice the biblical verses below:

“So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)” (Genesis 35:19) 

“And Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day” (Genesis 35:20)

Eight Hundred years later, “[Samuel said to Saul]  When you depart from me today you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah” (1 Samuel 10:2).

These are just a few examples from the Old Testament to show how these holy sites were venerated and remembered. The same can be said from the New Testament. Holy people have always remembered the holy sites.

How much more so for Jesus the Son of God who became flesh! We can be very confident that the holy sites we see today, were the holy sites of old—the very places where God and the saints walked and where we can walk today.

Join us on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and I will be your guide. Visit Footprints of God Pilgrimages.

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Here is the show aired a few weeks ago on EWTN. It was my appearance on the Franciscan University Presents with Dr. Scott Hahn, Michael Hernon and Dr. Regis Martin. It was a fun show about “Abraham: Father of Faith and Works” and the whole story of salvation.

Enjoy!

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Muslim Palestinian Explains Why He Serves in Israeli Army

November 29, 2017

I know many other Arabs in Israel that feel the same way. It needs to be known to a wider audience.

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Jews as Proof of God’s Existence & Faithfulness

November 3, 2017

Winston Churchill wrote “Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.“ He is absolutely right! I have often said they are remarkable people –gifted in a […]

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U.N. Condemns Israel – then Silenced with Lone Voice of Reason

July 5, 2017
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History of Middle East in 90 Seconds

April 26, 2017

Fascinating moving map. Click the image below to see biblical and modern history of the volatile and ever-changing Middle East.

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I’m thinking we are wrong about Assad and Syria…

April 8, 2017

My recent Tweets: I’m thinking we were wrong about Syria, who used the gas and President Assad. Why was attack launched before full investigation? What did Assad have to gain? Why do local Christians support Assad? Too many questions. Bishop of Jerusalem told me USA was wrong and Russia right in regard to Syria. The […]

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Is Islam a Religion of Peace? A Profound Short Video from a Brilliant Muslim Women!

March 30, 2017

I suggest everyone listen/watch this short video. She puts it all in perspective in a few minutes. Pass this on to others. We need to wake up!

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Devastation of Christian Towns In Iraq by ISIS – Short Video

March 20, 2017

A visit to the Chaldean Christian town of Karemlash, 9 miles from Mosul, liberated from ISIS by Iraqi and Kurdish forces in November 2016. I sure hope and pray the world wakes up and stops this carnage. I am glad President Trump has promised – and is doing something already to end this.

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What Kind of Music Did Abraham Listen To?

February 27, 2017

Our next DVD in the Footprints of God series will be entitled “Abraham, Father of Faith & Works.” We will begin filming in Iraq — in Ur of Chaldees — which is the home of Abraham, just south of Baghdad (Gen 11:28-31). Thanks to the Biblical Archaeology Society to which I subscribe, we can now listen to music […]

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Bob Dylan’s “Neighborhood Bully” song about Israel – I Like it!

January 13, 2017

Lyrics to “Neighborhood Bully” by Bob Dylan Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man His enemies say he’s on their land They got him outnumbered about a million to one He got no place to escape to, no place to run He’s the neighborhood bully. The neighborhood bully he just lives to survive He’s […]

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Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu Addresses Christians on Christmas

December 26, 2016

Janet and I are currently on our way to Israel to pick up our group of 100 passengers. This is a Family Holy Land Pilgrimage and we have a LOT of children on the trip. We want to impress them with the Truth of Christianity so that as they grow up they will never lose […]

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Thanks to Assad and Putin…

December 25, 2016

Are you against Syrian President Bashar Assad like Obama and Hilary are? Thanks to Putin/Assad Catholics in Aleppo have Christmas Mass 1st time in 5 years! Assad has always supported and protected the Christians. How can our country get it so wrong? Read more HERE.

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“You are Peter” in Jesus’ language of Aramaic

December 1, 2016

In Caesarea Philippi, the site where Jesus renamed Simon as “Peter” or Kepha (Matt 16:13-20), it is interesting to hear what Jesus REALLY said. I thought you would find this interesting. So, what did it sound like at Caesarea Philippi when Jesus renamed Simon and made him the rock of the Church: “And I tell […]

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Pictures from Nazareth over 100 Years Ago (see the Virgin Mary :-)

October 7, 2016

Today we are in Nazareth looking for Mary! We are visiting her home cave where the Angel Gabriel brought the announcement from heaven. We will also visit her cave where she lived 30 years with Joseph and Jesus. These pictures are over a hundred years old from Nazareth. Not much changed between then and the […]

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