Serenity in the sand

Serenity in the sand

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Shaped by the winds of humanity

Yeahuda Amichai once said, "jerusalem is a port city on the shore of eternity." It is hard to speak of my experience here without speaking about my relationship with God. I believe in God, but I am also very private about my belief, possibly too private. However I know that he is there. I am shaped by God, much like the abrasive wind shapes an immovable mountain to form immaculate and unique shapes. In a big way, I have come to know myself more in the last two months, than I have in the last twenty-three years. I have come to the cross roads of the world, and have been changed by the people that I found there.

My dad once told me that we travel to meet people, and in that way to be influenced by them. If we aren't changed by the people around us, then I don't think that we can truly be who God wants us to be. The greatest men and women I have ever met, were people of different faiths. Their talents and passions were rich and diverse, and they have made me who I am today. I haven't met a single person who hasn't in one way or another shaped the mountain that I am becoming.

I guess really what I am trying to say, is that the port city of eternity isn't Jerusalem itself, but the people that we come in contact with day by day.

So change their lives, let them change yours, and become a mountain. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Fires of Survival

The inspiring power of story shakes and inspires the very foundation of humanity. Often times we try to omit painful events from contemplation, in order to spare ourselves emotional pain. Tonight was a celebration of human triumph in the face paramount tribulation.

The Holocaust features horrors that exceeded human imagination. But yet we are deeply affected by the dark failures of mankind. Tonight I met ninety-six year old Mr. Elias Feinzilberg, a spanish speaking survivor of the Holocaust. his story inspired me to turn my attention more to family and to divine supplication.

Elias was the only member of his family to survive the "Shoah", or the Holocaust. He was twenty-two years old when his town was first touched by the German invasion in Poland. He recalled that in those first weeks his father was carried out into the streets by German soldiers and shaved with a knife. He remembered his father stumbling back into his house, blood pouring from his face onto his blouse, and the screams emanating from outside. "Even in my early adulthood, I felt scared like a child", he said. Being a strong man, and seeing his family struggle to survive, he went out in search of work, despite extreme risk. It would be the last time he ever saw them.

He went from town to town doing anything from chopping wood, to working in coal mines. He recalls that once he was complimented on his strength by the SS and given a wonderful stew in return for his good work. After traveling abroad for a time, he returned home to find an empty home. Later he would find out from a camp survivor that ran away, that his father died of starvation, and his five sisters, two brothers, and mother were taken to their death in a concentration camp, were they were gassed, and burned. Overcome with grief he left home once again, but this time he was captured by German forces and taken to Dachau, when his head was shaved and he was stripped of all clothing he remembers thinking that this was going to be the place of his death. He remembered mountains of bodies, which he described as "volcanoes", because of the smoke and fire which consumed them.

One morning he was awoken and ordered to meet with a regiment of SS troops, were unknowingly he would be taken on a death march where all the company but him would die. "To this day I don't know how I came out of those fourteen days alive. We were deprived of food and water for the entire experience, and by all means should have succumbed to death." He remembered calling upon god to deliver him; he undeniably was.

In the final days of the war he was taken by two soldiers to the banks of a river, where they tried to put him in a potato sack, throw him in the rushing stream, and shoot him. "This was the moment when surely I was going to die." He closed his eyes in preparation, when he heard from behind, two gun shots. Unknowingly at the very moment of his execution, the Americans came to his rescue. They untied him, and in tears he embraced his heroes. In the following days, thousands of prisoners would die from overeating. He recalled the enormous bodily pain that came from it. He would later marry one of the women who gave him food to eat.

Mr. Feinzilberg, moved to Guatemala for twenty-two years with his wife and children. He currently lives in Jerusalem, and has reached the ripe old age of ninety-six years old, and hopes to continue on in his healthy, and happy life.

When asked what kept him going through the experience he said, "family, mine was taken from me, and the greatest desire of my heart was to have one of my own. That is what kept me going."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

One Small Step for Man... in the Footprints of our God.

An anecdote concerning one of my greatest heroes. His stories have inspired my childhood, and continue to do so in foreign lands. Let us remember in the hard times of our lives, the executive creator, who started it all. Let us reverence his accomplishments, and sacrifices. Let us step, no matter where, or how daunting they may be, in the footprints of our God. 

"The American astronaut was taken on a tour of the old city of Jerusalem by Israeli archeologist Meir Ben-Dov. When they got to the Hulda Gate, which is at the top of the stairs leading to the TempleMount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had stepped anywhere around there.  “These are the steps that lead to the temple,” Ben-Dov told him, “so He must have walked here many times.”  Armstrong then asked Ben-Dov if those were the original stairs and Ben-Dov confirmed that they were indeed.  “So Jesus stepped right here,” Armstrong asked. “That’s right,” answered Ben-Dov.  To which Armstrong, the devout Christian, replied, I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these stones than when I was stepping on the moon.  The secular world remembers Armstrong as, variously, an aerospace engineer, a university professor, a Navy fighter pilot and, of course, as the first man in history to peer back at Earth from the surface of the moon.  But those who were closest to the famous astronaut – his widow, Carol, his two sons, Eric and Mark (from a previous marriage), his brother and sister, and other survivors – remember Neil Armstrong as a man of faith."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Lessons from the desert

I think in the past month I have learned more from the desert, than books could ever teach me. I've stood on the tops of mountains, and walked in the depths of valleys. I've experienced a place where men can walk in the paths of Gods. I see men and women who have given everything to see the beautiful city of Jerusalem, nestled in the heart of the Judaean Hills, and I revere their devotion. Theirs is a journey similar to that of Jesus, a carpenter's son, who took 40 days to seclude himself in the wilderness in divine introspection.

I find beauty in the wilderness because it is untouched by man, it's a place where I can find my creator and have a personal dialogue with him. What many would consider bereft of life, I find to be the source of mine. Where few dare to venture, I find to be a source of personal strength. I have stood upon the stones where the Savior stood, and knelt in places where in surely he must have supplicated to an almighty hand to aid him in the deliverance of those who would not hear.

A howling wind through archaic valleys overshadowed by ancient structures fill my personal holy land. In a thriving city of millions I can feel unrestricted access to perfect seclusion. Like the savior I find myself in a time of preparation, where daunting and difficult times lay ahead, and where the stresses of life become too much to bear. And so I resign to my desert, and I peruse the words of prophets, as I sit at their roadsides. As I pray at wells, long dry after thousands of years, I seek sources of living water. And I find it, day, after day, after day. In a land of political mercilessness, I find harmony and forgiveness. Over the period of four months, I can find my 40 days.