I haven’t heard from my online friend Ari Bussel for quite some time. Yesterday he sent a Christmas Eve greeting that includes an audio dialogue between Ari and Norma Zager which will give you a great idea on how those two interact their “Postcards from America – Postcards from Israel.”
Ari Bussel (cropped from 2015 post “Join Ari Bussel on a Tour of Jerusalem, Israel”) and Norma Zager (from a Pelican Publishing Company bio-page)
The Ari email also included some attachments of past Christmas titles he wrote which I will included after roughly after the audio dialogue.
I think you find the dialogue fascinating for it includes COVID-Omicron, Dems and Republicans and of course Israel.
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Ari Email – Christmas Eve, December 24, 2021
Flower (Photo: Ari Bussel)
By Ari Bussel
Sent 12/24/2021 7:54 PM
On this Christmas Eve, 2021, a bucket of blessings – may the joy of the season engulf you to the point you will feel like a couple dancing and dancing until your breath is taken away like a couple who knows they are – from marriage to death – one; inseparable; a husband and wife may your head spin with energy, with clarity of vision and unshakable commonsense and with the knowledge that good things are yet to happen that God is Great (or as I always say, “excellent”) no matter what!
Back in 2008, at this time exactly, I ventured from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Returning very late at night and sat down to write, by that time it was Christmas morning here in the USA and a friend, Pam, was in church reading my report (we will not address the “reading” in church – on the Jewish side we have the same issue of “talking” in the synagogue) and that was the greatest gift for me for years to come.
Ten years later I recounted part of that experience of an Israeli and American passports holder venturing into a town to a holy place where Jews are not allowed and are not welcomed where such a visit can be most dangerous to their lives and to the wellbeing of the State of Israel
You are invited to read “The Day I Discovered God:” [Blog Editor: Can be read below]
And now, three years later, the world is like nothing anyone had envisioned and we still do not see the light at the end of the tunnel (although we know with absolute certainty there is light and there is a way out!) I sat to write another Christmas message recounting my ongoing negotiations with none other than God our Lord Himself (some would call it “Chutzpah,” but then it is the Israeli blood in me, the stubbornness of every Jewish person since the times we were slaves in Egypt to present day and God is used to it already; He even likes his children being so very stiff necked at times!)
You are invited to read “A Christmas to Remember:” [Blog Editor: posted below “The Day I Discovered God.”]
And if you prefer, you are invited to listen to the latest episode of my colleague Norma Zager and my radio show – the Jewish Voice on Christian Radio – airing this weekend “It’s a Wonderful Christmas,” here:
https://www.kbriteradio.com/eye-to-eye/ [Blog Editor: Link in email that brings to many Ari/Norma titles]
SoundCloud AUDIO: It’s A Wonderful Christmas
To you and your families,
remember: It is a wonderful Christmas
and we are so very grateful for being alive!
The Day I Discovered God
By Ari Bussel
“A Song of Ascents: Out of the depths I have called Thee, O, God. Lord, listen to my voice, let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” (Psalms 130:1-2)
I discovered God on Christmas Eve.
I knew all along God exists, but I never had any direct dealing with God.
In Israel, at a time that a phone was connected to the wall, there was at most one phone line per household – after many years of waiting – and phone calls were charged by the minute or a fraction thereof, God’s presence in His City, Jerusalem, was often referred to as a “local call.”
People had direct dealings with God. A man, for instance, was very much in a rush on a busy errands day, but there was no parking space to be found.
He turns to God and says, “God, if You only make a parking space available for me now, I will observe the Sabbath and do all that You want me to do.”
Not a minute passes, and a parking space becomes available. The man turns to God and says, “God, no need anymore, I already found one myself!”
Since I am not a Jerusalemite, I did not have direct dealings with God. Until that faithful day-before-Christmas, when I was 42 year old.
Jewish people are not allowed in Palestinian-controlled territories. “Peaceful co-existence” for the Palestinian is a land void of Jews. If a Jew wanders into their midst, he likely will be murdered, as were two reservists who were lost, taken to a local police station, tormented
almost to death then thrown from the balcony to the celebrating, ecstatic mob that finished the task.
Israel’s so-called “peace partners” want the entire land of Israel, and they neither slumber nor sleep until the entire area is “clean of Jews.”
The prohibition against Jews-in-their-midst is most stern. If an owner of land or property were to sell it to a Jew, he has broken the law, a most despicable act punishable by death.
I happened to be in Israel on Christmas Eve when I was 42. I was determined to go to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ. It was not a pilgrimage for me, rather a childhood memory, when there were only single TV stations, and all in black and white. I remember a Christmas Tree, the sight of snow and the feeling of Christmas morning in Bethlehem.
Clearly, I could not miss the opportunity of being in Israel and not going to Bethlehem.
Alas, Israeli-Jews are prohibited from passing from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, lest they be murdered or kidnapped. Americans at that time were not very welcome either. But I was determined to see if my childhood memory had anything to do with reality. As a foreign correspondent in Israel, I decided that nothing bad can happen to me.
Thus, my first stop was to the Government Press Office, in charge of all foreign correspondents in Israel.
“Do you have your (American) Passport?” asked the high-ranking Government official. “Then you can go.”
With that blessing, I proceeded to a venture of a lifetime, Christmas Eve in Bethlehem.
Alas, it got close to midnight, and as the excitement wore off (after a delightful dinner, with some fellow Americans – we were the only
ones in the restaurant, as tourists that year stayed away from Palestinian-controlled areas), I decided to return.
I realized I was alone, other than some policemen/military with rifles in the middle of the street. That was danger, not safety for a foreigner, especially one who looks Israeli.
My previous attitude dissipated. I was no longer the confident “nothing-bad-will-happen-to-me” foreign correspondent. I look Middle Eastern, and not the Arab type. In fact, I looked completely out of place.
It is exactly for such a reason that Israelis are prohibited from crossing the border, lest something bad happen to them.
I was in a deserted neighborhood. Darkness all around, now not a person in sight. I could hear dogs barking and my heart was beating wildly.
Fear had not frozen me completely. I realized that if I were to walk along the Wall – the one extending 18 feet high, preventing the transfer of terrorists into Jerusalem where they exploded themselves in crowded places shouting “Allah U Akbar” – as long as I did not let it out of my sight, I would eventually arrive at a crossing.
It was exactly at that time that I found myself negotiating with God. “If I only return to Israel safe and sound,” and “if You only guide and protect me, Oh, God.”
My session of pleas apparently distracted me completely and even managed to calm my nerves. I was so absorbed in my own private redemption and salvation, that when an Israeli soldier appeared some hundred yards ahead of me, his rifle pointing directly at me, and ordered me to stop and raise my hands, I was elated. My own Christmas Jubilation.
I try not to involve God in helping me find a parking space or other such mundane things. But the flashing of all the most-horrible outcomes of my adventure to Bethlehem was traumatic enough to have shaken me so that I was reciting Psalms 121: “A Song of Ascents: I lift my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come. My help is from God, who made heaven and earth. … God is your keeper, God is your shadow, upon your right hand. … God will keep you from all evil, He will safeguard your soul. … God will guard your going and coming, from this time and for ever.”
I have ventured outside of Jerusalem to Bethlehem, from light to darkness, from safety to peril. And I did it out of my own volition, as if testing God.
Bethlehem lost its holiness under Palestinian rule. The Christians were driven away. Luckily, Jerusalem remains standing, a beacon of light and safety, peace and security.
When I returned I was grateful; oh, so very grateful. It was as if I managed, just moments earlier, to escape from the gates of Hell, and here I was back at the Kingdom of Heaven, of God the Almighty Himself.
The years have passed, and although I knew before God existed, I discovered God and the sanctity of life on that Christmas Eve in Bethlehem.
The New Testament tells us in Matthew 2: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem saying, ‘Where is He that is born King of the Jews?’ for we have seen His star in the east and we have come to worship Him.
“When Herod the King had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the Prophet: ‘And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor that shall rule my people Israel.’’” [KJV]
The reference is to the Prophet Micah (5:1 in the Old Testament). We note that Beth Lehem is the birthplace of King David (1st Samuel 16:1) and there he was anointed.
And so we arrive at the essence of the Christmas story. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and in the Bible realizes and knows that Jesus is an heir of King David and that He has arisen from within Judaism.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, a Governor, a King among the princes of Judah. Judah-Judea-Jewish, how interesting; how everlasting.
For anyone to reinvent the story nowadays and call Jesus a “Palestinian” is a travesty and sacrilegious. For anyone to claim Bethlehem has roots or any connection whatsoever with a made-up “Palestine” (a name from very many centuries later) is dangerous, and the intention bogus and misleading.
All that any Christian needs to do to clear the air is open the Bible and read. Most Christians live the Word of the Bible, but those who believe but need to pick up the Bible, remove a layer of dust and read, do so!
The Prophet Isaiah tells us (9:5): “For a child has been born to us, a son was given to us, and the position is upon His shoulder, and His name is wonder advisor, a hero god, the father of eternity, the minister of peace.” [alternative translation: “His name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”]
Once, not long ago, there was a majority of Christians in the city that is the birthplace of Christ. Then Palestinian terrorists desecrated the Church of Nativity, using it as a compound to which they knew Israelis will not enter or harm, for it is a religious place. They persecuted the Christians – as is the common practice throughout
Arab lands in the Middle East and the African Continent – and drove them away.
Today there are less than a couple of percent Christians in Bethlehem. Not only is the area “clean of Jews,” it will soon be completely devoid of Christians as well. For our enemies try to destroy the Saturday and the Sunday people, and then they proceed to murder their own as well (e.g. Daesh; Muslim Brotherhood; Hamas; Hezbollah; Iran; …). Nothing is sacred to them, except Death, Satan and Hell.
Let us celebrate our God, for we are all His people, on Christmas Day and every day of the year.
Let us separate truth from fiction, reality and history from make-belief and distortion. Jesus was not a Palestinian. He was Jewish and born in Judea.
There cannot be “Settlements” in the area that for three thousand years was Judea and Samaria. Erase that, and Jews do not exist, nor are Samaritans (or Good Samaritans).
Our enemies tried to erase Jerusalem, but their curses turned into blessings. One cannot prevail when one sets eyes on destroying God or harming the Apple of His Eye.
Let us stand firm and protect our very essence, for a fight against Jerusalem, Jews and Christians is a fight against God the Almighty, Lord of Hosts.
A Christmas to Remember
By Ari Bussel
We are all familiar with the reality that the older we get, the quicker time passes. But this year, the second year of the Great Pandemic, has disappeared with astonishing speed, that it seems that God Himself has hastened it to move on, to soon be forgotten.
God and I have an ongoing discussion, already two years in the making. First, I prayed that the Pandemic that was just given a name would disappear into nonbeing in an instant, and that this Act of God will take place before the first night of Passover. It did not, and I did not give up. I wished it to go away by the end of Passover, for we do celebrate seven days.
I was very flexible – any day of the seven days of Passover would be acceptable; and as they passed and nothing happened, I put my faith on the very last day. God’s messenger refused to leave. So I continued praying with all my might. The fate of the entire world was on the balance. God has sent a messenger on a mission, and that messenger was not leaving until he got the job done. It may not be the culture on earth, but definitely the angels are being held accountable; dereliction of duty is not possible.
When the next Passover was upon us, after an entire year of isolation, I again repeated my request. But since I did so in jest, so as not to fall deeper into despair in case it was not answered again, God did not take my prayers seriously. When we give ourselves a way out, we do not fully mean what we request. Besides, God is under no obligation to heed to our requests. It is a very important lesson we need to remember always: Asking does not grant us an entitlement.
The situation around us became intense, frighteningly dangerous. Darkness has engulfed us and became thicker, impenetrable with each passing day. No, it was not the additional six hundred thousand who succumbed to the disease here in the USA alone (three times as
many as in the first year). No one said a word about that. It was a most evil darkness of another kind.
Those who had ever lived under Communism or Nazism, or in Iran, Gaza or Syria, may know what really frightens me. The grab of power; the Cancel Culture that pervaded the country; the loss of guiding principles that tip toward the greater good and the long term health and wellbeing of the country; the urge to punish the other who does not think like us and the joy such act provides; and the lingering effects of this disease on generations to come.
We heard calls to bring about “unity,” but that did not mean willingness to give in just a bit to achieve this goal. Rather, the message was: You must all stand obedient, like good soldiers, and do whatever we tell you. You must all think the way we tell you. Be warned, if you do not obey, if you dare think differently, your punishment will be severe. Dare us not!
Historians have grappled with the question why did the Jews not rebel in the Concentration Camps or the Ghettos. Did they simply go like sheep to the slaughter? The numbers were in their favor. But the spirit and the will were not there. They did not comprehend what was happening to them, that the atrocities being carried day and night are even possible by those enlightened fellow human beings who took such great delight in doing the unimaginable.
[There are clearly exceptions. The two that immediately come to mind are the most heroic and inspirational Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Crematorium Revolt in Auschwitz-Birkenau.]
How is it possible that 75 to 100 million Americans do not rise to protect all that is dear to their hearts and essence of existence? The skies have been obfuscated and no one is standing for the truth or common sense any more. The despair is most contagious. Anyone daring to express the sentiment like at the beginning of this paragraph is a Domestic Terrorist, and thus must be hunted, punished and eliminated. So people are afraid.
There are no longer Checks and Balances. We are all standing for hours in the cold, being taunted, tortured, and no one says a pip.
People are silenced. People are afraid. And we let ourselves a way out, much like Ari in his negotiations with God the Almighty: “Come November 2022, things will take a turn, the darkness will start dissipating, there will be light again.”
Anyone entertaining oneself with such false hopes better realize that we have seen nothing yet. There is nothing more addicting and intoxicating than the feeling of absolute power, and those holding it will do everything to make sure it remains in their hands.
Will we have to learn to live with this new reality, maybe get a booster every three to four months? There are those who tell us the Pandemic is here to stay, that we better get used to it. However, we are not blind and stupid, and we do remember history. Nature is cyclical, and nothing is absolute and forever – other than God.
Pandemics came and went. This one, too, shall be over, and I keep negotiating with God, praying most eagerly to God, begging Him to consider, that it will happen sooner rather than later.
In politics too, the nightmare of this past year – from open borders to inflation, to the spread of the virus and its variants, supply chain issues and workers shortage, violence and crime skyrocketing and the police doing little or nothing, a Commander in Chief who has cognitive difficulties and a world that stopped taking the US seriously – will be over.
It will take an act of God or good people standing up for the truth and what is right, but change will come about. Until then, we lift our eyes to the mountains and know from where salvation will come:
Our help will come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
God is our Keeper, He is our shade upon our right hand
God will keep us from all evil, He will protect our souls
God will guard our coming and our going, from this time forward for all times
On this Christmas Eve, as we look around, with family and friends abound, with abundance of health and our faculties intact, our gratitude is about to erupt – for there is so much to celebrate.
In the midst of all the darkness, small, individual lights appear, joining one another, much like in the Jewish Festival of Lights, making us one strong force for good.
May we all realize the beauty of the Season and the roles we need to play in this most magnificent story; a story called Our Life.
Edited by John R. Houk
© Ari Bussel