Today we traveled to the Far North. In a place like Texas that would mean a whole day’s journey. In Israel it means about three hours in holiday traffic.
Our destination was a place the rest of the world calls an “occupied territory”. I call it one of the most beautiful and captivating places I have ever seen. The Golan Heights really are high, rising abruptly from the Jordan Valley in a very short distance. It was not the first great change in elevation during this journey. Coming down from Jerusalem to Route 6 along the coastal plain is enough of a descent to cause one’s ears to pop. The same thing happens once the traveler passes the Horns of Hattin (subject of a future blog post) and descends to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. Then the process happens in reverse on the ascent from the sea to the northern hills, and down again to the Jordan before ascending one final time to the Golan.
A word about these famous biblical bodies of water: I was not prepared to find the Sea of Galilee to be so tiny. Comparatively speaking, that is. Neither was I expecting the Jordan River to be smaller than a McAlpine Creek back home in Charlotte. Such great things happened around both over the last 5,000 years that I expected something a bit more majestic. Then again, Israel is a land of tremendous contrast. The truly great things are the small and humble things, while the big and powerful things often turn out to be woefully inadequate (remember Goliath?).
But I digress. This is a post about the town of קצרין.
For those who cannot read Hebrew, there is some difficulty explaining exactly where we were. This town is the capital of the Golan, so one would think that its name in English would have some kind of standard transliteration. Oddly enough, it does not. On the road map we were using, on the road signs we passed, and even on the web sites I have checked to verify what I am relating, the name is given in a number of different ways, such as:
What are we to make of this? I suggest it is an illustration of the difference between Greek and Hebrew thinking. The Greek way would establish one right answer for spelling the name in English. Every other spelling would be wrong. In Hebraic thinking, however, there are multiple ways to convey the truth that this particular place is the town we want to visit in the Golan. The sounds of the two syllables (well, three if one is Southern and drawls) are close enough to the Hebrew in each of the transliterations given above to ensure that the traveler can get to the right place. Thus there can be many versions of “right” in Hebraic thought.
What, then, is “wrong” in Hebraic thought? Ah, that would be trying to spell the town’s name as something like Woebegone, Bora Bora, or Cascabell. Clearly they are wrong in many ways. How do we know? Because the sounds rendered in the spoken Hebrew tell us we want a place that sounds like “Cat’s Ring”, so something that sounds like Bora Bora is right out.
This lesson was reinforced in the fellowship we enjoyed with some amazing Jewish Israeli friends in their Sukkah at Qatsrin. It seems that there are many ways to live out the truth of YHVH’s Word. The ultimate wrong answer is not opening that Word and letting it soak into the heart and soul. However, there is a wrong answer that is almost as bad, and that is insisting that one’s own narrow interpretation is the only truth.
For he who is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:40 NASB)