Tuesday, December 26, 2017

It was a lot of fun discussing the Nativity from a new angle — from St. Joseph’s perspective. Enjoy!



Security in Israel: Safe to Travel with Steve & Janet?

by Steve Ray on December 26, 2017

UPDATE 12/11/17:  Watching the mainstream media today and making a few observations. 1) The images they keep showing are not current events but are pulled from stock video footage from the past. I doubt that any of the images of rock throwing and tear gas is current video. 2) They are making this violence, which is very small at this point, look like it’s all taking place in Jerusalem which is not the case.

If there are these kinds of confrontations they are happening inside the West Bank and Gaza, not in Israel. There is NOTHING happening in northern Israel and the Galilee area and whatever’s happening in Jerusalem is small and minor.

This morning we hear about a bomb that was blown up in New York City.  Having been in Jerusalem over 150 times and in New York a good number of times as well, I can say I feel safer in Jerusalem then I do in New York.

And, a simple question: why does a minor dustup in Israel make headline news for days whereas in Chicago alone over 600 people have been killed by violence this year and we never hear a word about it?

ORIGINAL POST:  They are happening inside the West Bank and then Caza. There is NOTHING happening in northern Israel and the Galilee area and whatever’s happening in Jerusalem is small and minor.

I was asked about the safety of Israel for our upcoming trips in December and January. Here is my response to the priest:

No problems for our pilgrimages. I am taking 106 people in two weeks. The news seems more hype than reality. I expect it to blow over and you won’t even remember it a month from now.

Your folks in January have the nice convenience of watching the daily videos of our trip going over Christmas break. They can see for themselves how safe and secure it is.

My major fear and concern in Israel right now are the crowds of tourists and pilgrims that are cramming into the holy sites!

One day we were there in October they calculated over 150,000 tourists in Jerusalem alone. Bus parking lots which usually hold many buses quite well now have buses double parked and overflowing into the streets, enough to block traffic — we’ve never seen it like this before.

On our last two trips, we were not even able to get down to the birthplace of Christ to touch the 14-pointed star marking his birthplace because the lines were four hours long.

Today (12/8/17) was supposedly going to be the “Day of Rage“ but what happened? Basically nothing. All the 100,000+ Muslims went to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem today without incident. If there was going to be a problem, that’s where it would have been.

I have been watching the news — not on American media but the Jerusalem Post and other local Israel news. It looks like the few groups that are protesting are small. Gaza, which is far away from anywhere we going is trying to be heard but not much.

Seems to me the same old, same old — a lot of American news-hype especially because the US media are continually trying to make Trump look bad. I’ve learned to pay very little attention to them and go to the source which includes Israeli news and my friends over there.

Write me personally anytime to discuss this if you’d like. My email is sray@me.com. Also feel free to give me your phone number so we can talk if you’d like. Let other pilgrims know we are moving ahead with confidence.

From all of my experience of 20+ years, I am not nervous at all and my trips are full steam ahead.


God became Man in Bethlehem, right? Nope, it was in Nazareth. By the time Mary arrived in Bethlehem to deliver Jesus he had already been human for nine months.

At the Annunciation those first cells in Mary’s womb, to small to see with the human eye (though Elizabeth and John the Baptist recognized Him), were already 100% God and 100% Man – the human person was present in the world.

Without the Annunciation there would be no Bethlehem, Cana, Transfiguration or Jerusalem. It was in the humble cave in Nazareth that everything changed and the greatest mystery ever took place.

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896This painting entitled “The Annunciation” was painted in 1898 by Henry Ossawa Tanner and hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He attempts to show a real girl in her natural setting two thousand years ago.

No halo, no religious imagery, no royal trappings. Just the angel represented as light and a wondering girl whose expressive face tells the story as she sits in a modest dwelling. Here she became the Mother of God. Here all time and eternity was altered.

I love this meditation by St. Augustine from Sermon #90:

“For hold this fast as a firm and settled truth, if you would continue as Catholics, that God the Father begot God the Son without time, and made Him of a Virgin in time.

The first nativity exceeds times; the second nativity enlightens times. Yet both nativities are marvelous; the one without a mother, the other without a father.

When God begot the Son, He begot Him of Himself, not of a mother; when the Mother gave birth to her Son, she gave Him birth as a Virgin, not by man. He was born of the Father without a beginning; He was born of a mother, as today at an appointed beginning.

Born of the Father He made us; born of a mother He re-made us. He was born of the Father, that we might be; He was born of a mother, that we might not be lost.”  St. Augustine, Sermon 90.