Israel and Middle East

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 criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully.

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully.

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully.

Well, the chances are against it, and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
‘Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully.

Well, he got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully.

Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully.

Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully.

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract that he signed was worth that what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully.

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothing, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits for feed
He’s the neighborhood bully.

What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully.

Songwriters: Bob Dylan
Neighborhood Bully lyrics © Bob Dylan Music Co.

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What Kind of Music Did Abraham Listen To?

by Steve Ray on December 29, 2019

UrMusic.jpgOne of our DVDs in the Footprints of God series is entitled “Abraham, Father of Faith & Works.” We filmed the first chapter it 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 that Abraham listened to. We included this music in our DVD.

Click here to listen to The Music of Ur, a musical duet featuring a lyre and double pipes such as those found at the ancient city of Ur. Click here to learn more about these instruments and the music from that time period.

Enjoy! And you can hear this kind of music on our Footprints of God DVD. We follow Abraham from Iraq (yeah, we really went there to film :-) to Turkey, to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

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Was Jesus Really Born at THAT Place in Bethlehem?

by Steve Ray on December 18, 2019

IMG_8809(Picture: Aerial view of Nativity Church in Bethlehem)

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 the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. How do we know this is really what Jesus was born?

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.

IMG_3547(Picture: Steve & Janet touching the birthplace of Jesus in Nativity Church in Bethlehem)

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.

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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Yom Kippur in Jerusalem; Holy Day of Atonement – like Twilight Zone

October 9, 2019

Today Janet and I are waiting for our group to arrive tomorrow in Israel. But we get to enjoy and be part of Yom Kippur, the great and holy Day of Atonement for the Jews. It was the day the high priest took the blood of a goat and a bull into the Holy of […]

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Jews as Proof of God’s Existence & Faithfulness

July 16, 2019

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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Are Muslims Descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael?

May 22, 2019

Today I was asked a question which I have been asked a good number of times. So, I thought I would give a simple answer here. A young man wrote and asked: “Can you please tell me whether the descendants of Ismael are Muslims?” Because I have been asked this question a good number of […]

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Plants and Trees of the Bible – What a Fun Show!

May 10, 2019

You may not realize how often plants and trees play a part in Scripture! To understand the land and culture of the Bible is to open your eyes to the whole story of salvation. Recently I did a fun show on Relevant Radio about the Trees & Plants in the Bible. Hope you enjoy it. […]

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Facts and Figures about Islam in Israel – Different than you might think

May 8, 2019

Behind the Headlines: Facts and Figures – Islam in Israel “The State of Israel…will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions.” –Israel’s Declaration of […]

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Israel Independence Day May 9 – Interesting Facts & Population Figures

May 8, 2019

We just arrived in Jerusalem last evening (Wednesday, May 8) and we pick up our sold-out group of excited pilgrims at the airport in Tel Aviv tomorrow which is Israel’s Independence Day. Celebrations have already begun. These are a tough bunch of people and I consider their existence and regaining of their land (Genesis 17) […]

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Interesting Facts About Israel which Will Amaze You

January 3, 2019

We are in Israel today and thought you might like to see this impressive list. I found this list several years ago but it still applies today. Geography: 1. Israel is only 1/6 of 1% of the landmass of the Middle East. 2. Israel is roughly half the size of Lake Michigan. 3. The Sea […]

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Pilgrimage with Steve Ray 100 Years Ago – Imagine with Real Photos

December 28, 2018

Step into a Time Machine and imagine what it would be like going back in time on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Steve and Janet Ray 100 years ago! I have used actual pictures from over a century ago to re-create what it may have been like. I hope you enjoy! And, I […]

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“Rabbi, I can see the coastline!”

December 27, 2018

I cannot describe the sensation I feel every time we look out the window and see the coastline of Israel from the window of the plane. Yeah, we are exhausted — 8 hours from Detroit to Amsterdam, 3 hours layover, and 4.5 hours from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv. Some who travel with us come from […]

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We Leave for Israel Today – Joining a Record Number of Tourists

December 26, 2018

ANOTHER RECORD FOR ISRAEL AS TOURISTS FILL HOTELS In October, approximately 1.36 million tourist stays were recorded, an increase of 12% compared with last year. Economic Research Department of the Israel Hotel Association published data for October 2018 for tourist stays in hotels compared to the same period in the past two years. (Pictures: Our Ron […]

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Update on the Opening of the Holy Sepulchre but Warning it is Not Over

February 28, 2018

Statement on Municipal threats and the discriminatory “Church Lands Bill” The heads of Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulcher and the Status Quo governing the various Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem, are following with great concern the systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land, in flagrant violation of […]

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Holy Sepulchre Church Closed over Taxation Dispute with Israel

February 27, 2018

As many of you already know, last week the major Christian groups within the Holy Sepulchre and the Patriarch of Jerusalem decided to close the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as a protest against the punitive taxes and confiscatory collection process being imposed by Israel through the municipality of Jerusalem. Closing the Church is a great burden […]

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History of Middle East in 90 Seconds

February 11, 2018

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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