For a number of years Israel had no place to call home. That sounds like a strange thing, but for the nation of Israel, it was not a new thing. Biblical history tells us of a number of times that Israel’s God-given land was taken from them for a time, and they were taken into captivity. Even after the captivity the Jewish people were displaced from their promised land. They were also persecuted and subject to racial discrimination.
That began to change when on November 2, 1917, Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote an important letter to Britain’s most illustrious Jewish citizen, Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, expressing the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. I can only imagine how the Baron felt. This was like having someone offer you the moon. It was something the Jew never thought they would see again. Many didn’t think they would live long enough to see it. The letter would eventually become known as the Balfour Declaration, and it was the start of something good.
Because of concerns over the direction World War I was going, the British were very supportive of the Zionist movement. Lloyd George among others, held a genuine belief in the righteousness of Zionism, but Britain’s leaders also hoped that a statement supporting Zionism would help gain Jewish support for the Allies. On November 2, Balfour sent his letter to Baron Rothschild, who was a prominent Zionist and a friend of Chaim Weizmann, stating that: “His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
The influence of the Balfour Declaration on the course of post-war events was immediate: According to the “mandate” system created by the Versailles Treaty of 1919, Britain was entrusted with the administration of Palestine, with the understanding that it would work on behalf of both its Jewish and Arab inhabitants. In 1948, the Balfour Declaration was scheduled to expire and Great Britain would no longer rule Palestine. The future of the Jewish people was at stake. The question over what to do with the turbulent country was turned over to the United Nations. They, at the insistence of President Harry Truman, eventually decided to create the new country of Israel, specifically as a promised homeland for Jewish people. The new country was to be located across the various holy locations in which many events of the Old Testament occurred. The Jewish people were back in the promised land.
That was when United States President Harry Truman became the first world leader to officially recognize Israel as a legitimate Jewish state. On May 14, 1948, only eleven minutes after its creation the decree was delivered. His decision came after much discussion and advice from the White House staff, all of whom had differing viewpoints. Some advisors felt that creating a Jewish state was the only proper response to the Holocaust and would benefit American interests. Others took the opposite view, concerned about that the creation of a Jewish state would create more conflict in an already tumultuous region. No matter what happens, it was the right thing to do.
When a plane comes down, there is always a reason. It might be mechanical, weather, the human factor, or a combination of these. Most often we don’t know the real and complete cause for a long time. On October 4, 1992, an El-Al Boeing 747 cargo jet was scheduled to bring 114 tons of computers, machinery, textiles and various other materials from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv, Israel. At 6:30pm that Sunday, Captain Isaac Fuchs piloted the jet, carrying two other pilots and one passenger, out of Schipol Airport in good weather. It was set to be a nice flight, but just minutes after takeoff, fires suddenly broke out in the plane’s third and fourth engines. Just as suddenly, they fell right off the wing. Of course, this threw the crew for a loop…literally!!
Captain Fuchs knew he needed to dump the plane’s fuel and he spotted a lake nearby. He assumed he would have enough time to dump the fuel and then head back to the airport, but the plane did not have enough power to make the return trip. They were six miles short of the airport when Fuchs radioed, “Going down,” and the plane plunged straight into an apartment building in the Bijimermeer section of Amsterdam. The crash was followed by a massive fireball that exploded through the building. Firefighters rushed to the scene. The fire was horrific, and by the time the fire was under control, about 100 people were dead. No one knew the exact number, because the explosion made body identification extremely difficult. Unfortunately, the building housed mainly undocumented immigrants from Suriname and Aruba, also making the number of casualties harder to ascertain.
When the accident investigation was completed, it was found that like a similar accident in Taiwan less than a year earlier, the problem was found to be related to a fuse pin, part of the mechanism that binds the engines to the wings, so in both cases, the problem was caused by fatigue and the ultimate failure of this part. Sadly, it often takes a tragedy of this magnitude to bring about the change that puts closer inspections in play. Of course, the ultimate price paid is in the lives lost.
Just imagine living in a place where owning or even borrowing a book could get you, and anyone who gave you a book, killed. During the Holocaust, the Jews and other nationalities and religious groups who didn’t fit in with the Aryan race, were considered non-people, and therefore expendable. They were not allowed to live like normal people. They were considered “expendable.” Their lives were not worth the trouble it took to care for them, even their fiends and neighbors were expected to turn them over to be deported to the ghettos and even killed. They were often powerless to help themselves. Still, most of them never lost hope. When the Nazis began to occupy Czechoslovakia in 1939, the persecution of the Jews began almost immediately. Things were hard for everyone, but the children were often in more peril than anyone else. Many were to young to work and that made them even less “important” to the Nazis. To make matters worse, they were often separated from their parents…everything they knew was stripped from them.
In 1942, when a girl named Dita Polachova was 13 years old, she and her parents were deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt life got even worse than it was before. Later they were sent to Auschwitz, where Dita’s father died. She and her mother were sent to forced labor in Germany and finally to a concentration camp called Bergen-Belsen. Dita’s mother died at Bergen-Belsen. Even in the face of so much sadness in her life, Dita never gave up. She risked her own life to protect a selection of eight books smuggled in by prisoners of Auschwitz. She stored the books in hidden pockets in her smock, and circulated them to the hundreds of children imprisoned in Block 31. Books were forbidden for the prisoners in the camps. The Nazis didn’t want them to have any knowledge of the outside world, or access to any kind of education materials or any books. The Nazis believed that none of these people were going to survive their stay in the camps anyway, so they didn’t need to do anything but work and die.
The prisoners had different ideas. Within the walls, there was a family camp known as BIIb. It was a place where the children could play and sing, but school was prohibited. Nevertheless, the Nazis were not able to enforce their will on the people. In spite of the orders of the Nazis, Fredy Hirsch established a small, yet influential school to house the children while their parents slaved in the camp. The materials were the biggest problem. The books, had to be hidden from the Nazi guards at all costs. Hirsch selected Dita, a brave and independent young woman from Prague to take over as the new Librarian of Auschwitz in January of 1944. Dita was a brave girl, who took her responsibility seriously.
While her parents are trying to stay alive in Auschwitz, Dita was fighting her own battle to preserve the books that bring joy to the children in the camp. The books are one of the few things that allow the children to escape from the walls in which they are surrounded, even if just for a moment. As the war progresses, Dita continues to diligently serve the teachers and children of Block 31. Then, Dita’s situation grew much worse. Her father passed away in the camp due to pneumonia. Dita and her mother are left alone to fight the battle on their own. Dita’s mother is grew weaker with age, and Dita knew she had to assume more responsibility. Dita is aware of the fact that the camp is simply a front to produce Nazi propaganda. She began to fight despair, as she struggles to feel the value in her life. By March 1944, the feeling of hopelessness grows. The Nazis announce that the inmates who arrived in September will be transferred to another division, which is really code for murder. The BIIb continued until they heard that the Nazis are going to liquidate the family camp and separate the fit to work from the rest. Dita’s mother Liesl, was grown old and very weak by now. She was able to sneak into the group that is fit to work along with her daughter, narrowly. They were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Just when Dita gets to the point where she feels this might be the end, the Allied forces liberate the camp, but it is too late for Dita’s mother, who died just after the English arrived. Dita is now free, but it has been at great cost…the kind most of us cannot begin to comprehend. Dita later met and married Otto Kraus, an author, and they settled in Israel where they were both teachers.
For many years the United States and Russia, at one time the Soviet Union, have had an unusual relationship. Depending on what Russia is trying to do, they might be our enemy, or they might be our ally. I understand that different nations have different goals, different values, and different motives, but it still seems odd to me that in one war, we could be allies and in another war, we become enemies. It could seem a little bit like two childhood friends, who are best friends one minute and worst enemies the next minute. The only exception would have to be the fact that trust doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the characteristics of the relationship between the United States and Russia. I suppose that becoming allies then, becomes a matter of finding an enemy who is doing things you can’t accept, and another enemy who agrees with you on your dislike of the actions of the first enemy…if that makes sense. I think that my prior statement makes as much sense as the United States being an ally of Russia, but that is what they have been…sometimes. I think the most difficult part of that kind of relationship would have to be the point when the relationship turns from ally to enemy again, because it really is inevitable.
It is historical fact, that over the years the Untied States and Russia have found themselves on opposite sides of a war…even threatening to blow each other up with a nuclear bomb, but so far, both have also hesitated to take things to that level, because the start of that kind of war would likely bring inhalation, since each country has the ability to know that such an attack has started. It’s a good thing that technology has given us that ability, because if we had the nuclear bombs we now have and no way the know that an attack had commenced, one nation could easily wipe out another. Russia has often tested the United States when they have moved to attack weaker nations for the things they wanted, such as oil, food, and power. Their actions left the United States with no other options but to fight against the nation that was sometimes an ally. It has happened in the past, and it will happen again in the future, because Russia remains an enemy of Israel, and that at the very least, is a situation in which the United States would want to act. Israel has always been our ally…not a sometimes ally, and if we are able, we would protect them. At least I pray that we would.
The biggest factor to affect the relationships between countries is their leaders. Most of the history of the United States has found our leaders acknowledging and even embracing our longtime, and very important friendship with Israel. Nevertheless, some leaders, like our current president, have made it clear that Israel is in a precarious position in the world. I am thankful that our president elect has told us that he will be a friend to Israel and other nations that have been oppressed by power nations in the past. It remains to be seen, exactly where Russia will be in this scenario. It is my hope that they will be an ally, but I know that they are still an enemy of our friends, and that can only make us sometimes allies.
For most people, Christmas is a time of family, friends, and gifts. It’s about showing our loved ones how we feel about them. We gather together and make a big meal, open our gifts, laugh and talk, and in general, enjoy a day off, and all that is great, but sometimes we let ourselves get too caught up in all that, and we forget what Christmas really is about. This day is the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. So many people have politicized this. You aren’t supposed to say Merry Christmas even, because someone might be upset…it might offend them and their religion. But, the reality is that my faith has nothing to do with their religion. I believe in the God of Israel, Jehovah God, because I have seen His grace, mercy, and power at work in my life. It isn’t about my God is bigger than yours, it is about me and my family, and what He has done for us.
As a kid, growing up, I had heard of Christians being persecuted. I thought that must have been something that happened many years ago, because I never experienced anything like that…until the past few years. Suddenly, almost as if I just woke up one day, and found out that Christians and Jews are public enemy number 1. I didn’t change anything. I didn’t throw my faith in anyone’s face, but suddenly they are trying their best to force me out. That is something I just don’t understand. The Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and even the Atheists are allowed to display their symbols, just not people of Christian or Jewish faiths. I don’t understand that. Don’t we have freedom of religion here? Don’t we have the right to practice our faith as we see fit? It is still our Constitutional right…like it or not.
So, today, Christmas Day, I will not give in to political correctness, but I will use my Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion to practice my faith and celebrate Christmas both with my family and the giving and receiving of gifts, but more importantly with a grateful heart. Grateful to my wonderful God, who saw that I would need a Savior, Jesus, because the wages of sin is death and a price had to be paid. Jesus came to Earth, lived a sinless life, and paid that price on the cross, so that I could be saved and have eternal life. There was nothing I had to do but believe in Jesus as my Savior, and there was nothing I could do to get to Heaven on my own. The cross was enough. The debt was paid. How can I not celebrate Christmas, and how can I call it anything but Christmas? I simply can’t. It is not about politics, or whether or not others believe as I do. It is what I believe. Merry Christmas to All, and thank you Jesus, for coming to Earth to save us.
When I was a young girl, our family took a vacation every year. By the time I was 12 years old, I had every possible worthless souvenir there was. It was at that point that I decided to change the plan some. I told my mom that instead of the silly souvenirs, I was going to start buying something that would have meaning for the rest of my life. She thought that was a great idea. So I looked around the souvenir store that we were in at Grand Coulee Dam, and found my first spoon. The decision…made by a 12 year old girl…began a lifelong collection for me.
At first I kept my collection in a box, but later on that was going to be problematic. The spoons would be hard to enjoy, because they could only be looked at when I had time to go through the box, and no one else could really enjoy my collection. It was at that time that I came across the only souvenir I would buy during those years that was not a spoon. It was my first spoon rack, and it was beautiful as you can see.
When I first bought the spoon rack, it didn’t have very many spoons on it, but the years have changed that. I have added many spoons from places that are very special to me. I have also been given spoons from all over the world, as friends and family members traveled to those places and were kind enough to spend their time to look for a spoon for me. I have spoons from places like the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle, and the Grand Canyon, all of which I have had the privilege of seeing. I collected spoons from every state that I have been in. I have also collected many memories with each of those spoons.
Then, as more of the people I knew began to travel out of the country, me spoon collection grew in ways I never expected. My ex-brother-in-law, Warren, who has remained a friend of the family since my sister’s divorce, contributed a great many of those out of the country spoons. Warren was in the Navy, and was required to go on cruises for long periods of times to many places around the world. Warren brought back spoons from Thailand, Hong Kong, Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome. My grandmother brought me one from Ireland when she got got go there…it was the trip of a lifetime for her, and that spoon reminds me of how much fun she had. My boss, Jim brought me a spoon from Israel when he and his wife Julie went there for their 25th wedding anniversary. These gifted spoons have a memory all their own for me, because while they are from places I have never been, I have the joy of knowing what each trip meant to the person who took it. Some were so special that they were the highlight of the travelers life. And they took time to do something nice for me.
My collection will continue to grow as I travel and others do. In fact, the collection as grown so much that I have had to add a second spoon rack, just to hold them all. It is almost like having a scrapbook that hangs on my wall. My spoons have their own stories to tell.