It’s sundown on Friday night here in Israel. It is the Sabbath. I am privileged to celebrate it with a Jewish family near the Lebanese border. The community here bore the brunt of attacks in the 2006 war, with numerous rockets raining down on them. It has been hard to recover economically, as numerous businesses moved out of Naharya.
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At the table are two pastors, a Jewish man who found Jesus in Coos Bay, Oregon, and at the other end of the table a former Lebanese army officer who lives in Naharya and ministers to Lebanese who live on the Israel side. It was an amazing experience listening to these two men share their common bond in Christ.
The day started with a discovery on the tenth floor of my hotel in Tel Aviv. There next to the other five elevators was a Sabbath elevator. I could not figure out why there is this designation. I rode in it, thinking it might give a more restful ride. It felt no different. Perhaps everything was automatic, and I would not have to work at pushing the buttons. But I had to use effort and push them. It looked and smelled the same as the other elevators. There was no list of rules inside, no quotes from the Torah.
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It turns out every kosher hotel has a Sabbath elevator for the orthodox to use on the Sabbath. Since it is clear in Scripture that you cannot start a fire on the Sabbath, and the push of a button sparks an elevator, a Sabbath elevator runs continuously on the Sabbath. This means that if you are on the third floor and you want to go to the lobby, you must ride to the top and then down, for the elevator moves from floor to floor, opening and closing, but never stopping. One might consider staying at home on the Sabbath.
But this too poses a problem. What about turning on light switches, that spark a light, which again break the Sabbath rule of fire lighting? No worries. Orthodox homes have a Sabbath clock that programs lights kto go on and off, and TV channels to change, so one is not found guilty of Sabbath infractions. So unless you have one of these devices, and you want to watch Hawaii Five O on Friday night, but it is on a different channel, you will have to settle for CNN or The World Series of Poker or whatever was on the channel last watched. I am told that synagogues in the States hire Gentiles to turn lights on and off on the Sabbath. It is quite a profession, one that can be lucrative for those who are high achievers.
As long as I am on the Sabbath, I also discovered that there is no ripping on the Sabbath. You might assume this is not a big deal until you are using the toilet and find out you cannot rip the toilet paper (I am not making this up!). It creates quite a dilemma, especially if it is a new roll. But again, no worries. Stores actually carry ripped toilet paper! They have thought of everything! Can you imagine asking a store manger where the kosher TP is kept?
These are just some of the benefits of global travel. There are profound things to learn and experience. But I must say, in all seriousness, I have truly loved my brief time here. I came, not as a tourist, but as a co-laborer, and I have met some impressive men and women dedicated to following Jesus. They do place their lives and livelihood on the line. They are passionate to reach both the secular and the orthodox, helping people see that it isn’t about the hand but it is all about the heart.