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Conspiracy theory

There's a whole swag of 'em. Folk with bees in their bonnets. Thinking the world is run by a select group of faceless men. Who plot and plan programmes for the next decade. But give us a break! Who believes this Conspiracy Theory guff? Answer: we do!

One perk of spending this year in Jerusalem, selflessly slaving as volunteers, is that we've found untold secondhand bookshops. Dare we say they leave their Kiwi cousins for dead? Never a sadly steamy Mills and Boone or Readers' Digest Disemboweled Book to be seen.

Instead, blockbusters galore. Plus serious tomes on every subject imaginable. In fact (George writing this bit) for a mere fistful of shekels, I'm wallowing in a minor hobby of mine, English history.

Dull? Not the genuine stuff. Only the castrated accounts they anaesthetise you with at school - designed to put you off the real version.

Study history. And find out (with full documentation) that the conspiracy theory - that political clout really belongs to a few men behind the scenes - has been a fact of life ever since political power was invented.

'What about the democratic process?' you ask. After we stop giggling, we'll wipe our eyes and tell you that the democratic process is simply a vote-catching slogan that doesn't change the big plan.

(Ponder the vote-count in America. Or the lead balloon of the NZ homosexual law reform petition.)

Look, we've seen some of this hidden agenda business acted out all around us. And even our limited marketplace Hebrew has understood the local table-thumping reactions to it.

The now ex-prime minister Barak was the unpopular leader of a minority government. With reckless generosity he offered Arafat anything, everything, the car keys, the family silver, take the house and we'll sleep in the garden style of thing. The more the media reacted in horror, the more the riots escalated in sadism, the more the public protested and Arafat insulted - the more Barak offered.

Crazy? No.

Oh, it was the end of his political career. That's not the point in the bigger plan. He was carefully demonstrating to world leaders and power brokers that simple negotiations, peaceful concessions with Arafat were impossible.

Then came the Israeli prime ministerial election. Of course Sharon (an elderly hawk) moved in with a 66% majority. Of course he set up the largest national unity government in Israel's history. Of course the new American administration is backing him. Because...

(Drum roll, full spotlight as the velvet curtains part) ...because Dr. Henry Kissinger says so.

Conjecture? No. This was spelled out in an interview given by the unsinkable Dr. K. one week before the election.

Barak and Sharon played their 'good cop - bad cop' roles to perfection. Scripted by Henry.

But of course this land and this people is the focus for the real movers and shakers. Who can sit on the fence where Israel and the Jews are concerned?

Sometimes we feel impatient about merely taking a meal to one of the sick elderly folk in the Home. Merely laying tables. Merely painting some Holocaust survivor's room. Merely... Yet there is no such a word as 'merely' in Jerusalem. The place and the people are a living interaction of ordinary humans, world leaders, spiritual forces, and God Himself.

It's always been like that. Right here. Abraham plodded wearily with young Isaac up a rocky ridge close to where we buy ten-shekel pizzas. The baby Jesus was carried by his parents along a street we can see from our sixth-floor window. David and Solomon lived near the chemist who stocks our blood pressure pills.

World history has been lived out here. And the final chapters are still to be enacted, although you can read the previews in the Bible.

Israel's drama is more than a few militant Zionists upsetting already aggrieved Palestinians. More than the impertinence of a small Jewish state daring to exist in the centre of a sprawling agglomeration of Arab countries. It's more than the best-laid plans of the men who manipulate religious empires, financial markets and industrial networks with a nod and a handshake. Behind all that, behind even the powers of darkness, is the very purpose and eternal plan of the living God.

(Can you imagine anything stranger than God's intention to take the name of this historic, argumentative, traffic-clogged, beautiful, noisy capital of the little Northland-sized state at the east end of the Med - and give that name to the vast, supernatural, jewel-studded metropolis that, one day, will gloriously and terrifyingly descend to Earth from outer space?)

Jerusalem - and, one day, the New Jerusalem - is and will be a proddable link between ordinary life and the Lord Himself.

Yesterday we sat at a bus stop on Jaffa Street. A seedy local was fleecing other Israelis who paused to gamble on his well-performed three-card trick. A black-coated yeshiva student swayed as he said his prayers. Two girl soldiers, pony-tails bobbing as they walked, went by with AK16s over their shoulders. A young couple stood arm-in-arm, each talking to friends on their cellphones.

All this and more in the city where the mysterious and mystical Melchizedek gave bread and wine to Abraham. Where the world's most magnificent Temple was built and re-built. Where a young Orthodox rabbi claimed to be God's son, upset corrupt religious leaders, was put to death by an Italian peace-keeping force - and, by rising from the dead, transformed the lives of literally millions of pagans the world over.

Jerusalem. A city - the city - that affects everyone. Our year here has changed us - and is still changing us - in ways we never thought possible.

We arrived with enough enthusiasm and adrenaline to last for two or three months. With neat political and theological opinions. Now we've settled in, God has begun to chip away rough edges. Teach us about life. About ourselves.

About His eternal love for the Jews. And the complex, wonderful way they have been 'a light unto the Gentiles, even to the uttermost parts of the earth'.

People we meet, the daily problems we face, are all part of the script that God has written. If we'd known what we were going to face, we might have chickened. As it is - eight months in - we wouldn't have missed a single moment.

(Our kids, bless 'em, write cheerily that life in Jerusalem has to be character-building. At our age!)

It's a conspiracy, that's what it is.

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