It’s all about the Timing – part 3

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Let’s take a look at where we left off in our previous installment, comparing what Peter said at Caesarea Philippi and the inscriptions which are inside the Dome of the Rock:

Peter: “You are the (long awaited) Messiah, the Son of the living God,” circa AD 30.

Dome: “You are just a messenger, the son of Mary, NOT the son of God,” circa AD 660.

These two diametrically opposed statements—one by an over eager Jewish fisherman, the other by the (now) powerful Islamic umma representing 1 1/2 billion souls—are nothing less than the fundamental maxims representing the two sides of a cosmic war, a war that is currently more spiritual in nature than physical. However, the time is coming soon—and already is happening on a limited basis—when the spiritual battles will overflow into the physical realm. And it won’t be pretty when it happens.

With the veil torn around AD 30 and the Temple’s destruction in AD 70, Satan wasted no time in moving in to set up his own kingdom on Mount Moriah and continued his efforts to eliminate the nation of Israel—the apple of God’s eye. He still has no intention of giving up that physical and spiritual real-estate without a fight. “No Trespassing” signs have been put up all over the place, as we have seen in the inscriptions inside the Dome of the Rock. From the beginning, he has overestimated his ability to thwart YHWH’s plans, believing that he can keep the Most High from reclaiming rightful ownership and moving back in.

Think about it this way: the Son himself will soon dwell in the same physical space where the words are written, “Allah has no son.” Not only will “the LORD…reign over them in Mount Zion from now on and forever (Micah 4:7),” he will live there. Of course, the Dome will have been destroyed by then.

You might be asking, “But how will all of this happen?” The simple answer that scripture gives us: with the use of extreme force. If that’s not the answer you expected, then read on.

The prophet Zechariah tells us that “the LORD will appear over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning and “on that day…will set out to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. Isaiah tells us that it will be a literal bloodbath: “Who is this coming…with crimson-stained garments? Who is this robed in splendor, marching in the greatness of His strength? ‘It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.'”

In other words, Jesus the Son is going to use violence to get back his turf and save Israel. That is exactly what his disciples expected the Messiah to do when Peter said that Jesus was the promised Messiah of God in Caesarea Philippi. They had the right idea; they were just wrong about the timing. By at least a couple of millennia.

Much will happen between now and Satan’s eviction and complete destruction. Diplomatic crises and wars will come and go. Agreements will be made and will be broken. Covenants will be reinforced and sacrifices stopped. Some of these things are already in motion, but it’s all about God’s timing as to when they will occur.

However, we do know this for certain: the outcome of the war between Caesarea Philippi and the Dome of the Rock is already decided. Future history is already set into motion. And already determined.

Stay tuned, and we’ll find out how it all unfolds from our front row seats.

It’s All about the Timing – part 2


We all hate tedium. None of us likes to read tedious articles or books. So, I try to communicate with that basic truth in mind, rubbing as many of the kernels away from the cob as possible in order to provide you with (hopefully) only the tasty (and applicable) bits. As you consider this, let’s pick up from the end of part 1 and ask our question: What does an event that occured in Caesarea Philippi 2,000 years ago have to do with an inscription in an old Islamic building, which is currently standing on the Temple Mount?

The Dome of the Rock, sometimes called the “Mosque of Omar,” is neither a mosque, nor was it built by Omar. Instead the octagonal structure is considered a shrine, sitting on top of the place where Abraham almost sacrificed Ishmael. Another ancient building situated on the Temple Mount, south of the Dome of the Rock, is the al-Aqsa Mosque, which is considered the third holiest site in Islam. Instead of spending more precious words about the history of these two buildings, let me quickly point out that the Islamic prophet was purported to have ridden a flying horse called Buraq from the al-Aqsa Mosque all the way to heaven, where Jesus, accompanied by John the Baptist, supposedly prayed for him. And in case you didn’t notice—Islam gets its history wrong—we all know that is was Isaac who was nearly sacrificed by Abraham, not Ishmael. But the rewriting of history doesn’t stop there.

Inscribed inside the Islamic dome are the following statements in no particular order:

  • (the god Allah) “has no associate.”
  • “The messiah, ‘Isa (Jesus) son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah.”
  • “So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not ‘Three’ – Cease!”
  • “Allah is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son.”
  • “It befitteth not (the Majesty of) Allah that He should take unto Himself a son.”

Are you starting to see the pattern? Let me clarify some of the salient points.

  • First, Islam calls Jesus (his correct Arabic name is “Yesua,” but Islam misnames him “‘Isa”) the “son of Mary.” This might seem like a small thing, because he literally was her son. However, in Arab culture, it is a slam to call someone “son of the mother.” In this desert culture, Mary would have been known as “mother of Jesus—Umm Yesua,” but Jesus would have been called “Jesus, son of Joseph—Yesua, ibn Yusef” (see John 1:45 and Luke 3:23).
  • Second, by calling Jesus “son of Mary” they specifically deny his divine nature, but we know that he was (and is) the “Son of God.”
  • Third, they say that Jesus was only a messenger and not part of the Trinity. Don’t get confused here as to Islam’s use of the label “messiah.” This term is heavy with meaning in Jewish prophecy, history and culture, and we know that the word translates to “anointed one.” But if you ask the average Muslim what the word actually means, they probably couldn’t tell you; it’s just a title to them, similar to how many Christians say “Christ” without considering the significance of that designation. In Islam, it certainly doesn’t mean “savior of the world,” in the way we know the Messiah of Israel to be.
  • Fourth, Islam is adamant that Allah doesn’t have a son, nor should anyone ever say such a thing. The truth of the matter is that the one true God—YHWH—does have a son, and his name is Jesus of Nazareth.

Let’s now compare what was said at Caesarea Philippi to the inscriptions in the Islamic domed building on top of the Temple Mount:

Peter: “You are the (long awaited) Messiah, the Son of the living God,” circa AD 30.

Dome: “You are just a messenger, the son of Mary, NOT the son of God,” circa AD 660.

So, what’s the point, and what does this have to do with “future history?”

Keep reading, and we’ll find out.

It’s All about the Timing – part 1

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I was recently visiting a friend at a hospital in an ancient city in the Galilee called Tzfat. We decided to take a walk outside the hospital grounds, and I remarked that I thought that Tzfat had a “strange feel” every time I drove into it. As soon as I was getting ready to say my next sentence, a young Jewish Israeli woman who was walking with us exclaimed, “I agree, it ‘feels’ just like Jerusalem—heavy.”

Similarly, when we take Christian friends of ours to visit Jerusalem, they will nearly always tell us that the city has a very different “feel” than much of the rest of Israel. Unsettled, tense, etc. Absolutely, we tell them—there is a definite difference in the “atmospheres” of different locations across the land of Israel. Now, I’ve heard many Christians talk about the tense and uneasy atmosphere in Jerusalem, but I was surprised to hear a non-believer say the same thing. What is it about Jerusalem that makes people feel the way they do when visiting?

The Bible tells us that, as we draw nearer to the Day of the LORD, Jerusalem will become “a cup of staggering” and that He will make “Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves.” Nonetheless, Zechariah continues, “And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.No wonder people describe what they feel there as “tense.”

This reminds me about an inscription on top of the Temple Mount.

I’ve never understood why people take photos of the Dome of the Rock and then blow them up to hang on a wall at home. Sure, it’s an interesting—maybe even considered by some, to be a nice looking—building, in an oriental sense. But I wonder, would they still be so interested if they knew what was inside the building?

The Dome of the Rock was built on the Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples were located. It was completed in 692 AD and happens to be one of the oldest Islamic buildings in the world. One might think that a building like this would focus on one thing—Islam and its false prophet. You would be half-correct. Because, written inside the dome itself are inscriptions directed at refuting an historic event that occured at a place just a few miles from our home. Before we get to the inscriptions, let’s first get our bearings.

For those of you who read our newsletters, you already know that we live about a ten minute drive from Banias, the Arabic name for ancient Caesarea Philippi. It was in our “backyard,” at the base of Mt. Hermon, roughly 660 years before the Dome of the Rock was completed, that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”

They answered by saying that some people thought that Jesus was John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. But Jesus wasn’t primarily interested in what others were saying; he wanted to know what his disciples thought. Unsurprisingly, Peter was the one who answered first, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

That simple statement, announced near the gates of hell, contains one of the greatest definitions of the Gospel message: God has deigned to enter the world in the form of a man, who is both the long-awaited Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. This simple statement contained so much explosive truth and was so profound that Jesus “strictly charged the disciples to tell no one.”

For these disciples—who knew their scriptures very well (and trust me, they weren’t the illiterate dolts I’ve heard so many make them out to be)—this meant that he, Jesus, was the one who would finally defeat Israel’s enemies and bring peace to the nations! They were right about what he was going to do; they were just wrong about the timing.

To be continued…

Bring Your Glove

Someone wrote recently, “We cannot understand the end times by only focusing on the end times. That is like trying to understand a movie by only watching the final ten minutes.

This reminds me of one of my all-time favorite movies, the 2000 film Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe. We saw the movie with dear friends, and I still remember that we entered the theater just a few minutes late, finding seats in the back row. It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 20 years since it was released!

There’s a scene near the end of the movie (**Spoiler Alert…never mind. It’s been two decades!**) where Commodus—portrayed brilliantly and creepily by Joaquin Phoenix—stabs Maximus in the back before sending him to the arena to fight to the death. The brief remainder of the movie depicts Maximus, who is losing blood and struggling to breathe, overcoming his weakened condition to kill Commodus before he himself dies. It was a powerful movie which I’ve rewatched many times from beginning to end, each time picking up dialogue and background that I’d missed in previous viewings.

But what if I watched the beginning of the movie to the moment when Commodus shows up, skipped around to a few scenes here and there to find some action, and then fast forwarded to the scene which I described above? This describes me exactly when I watched The Princess Bride (put me out of my misery already and apologies to those who’ve memorized it), except I couldn’t even get to the end. This type of movie-watching is what we Christians tend to do when reading or studying the Bible.

Here’s how we generally “read through” the Bible: read the first few chapters of Genesis, then skip around to some of the juicer parts of the OT (e.g. Jael and the tent peg), skim the Gospels for a good Jesus quote or healing, highlight a few verses from one of the letters by Paul or James, and then finally—if we ever read the last section at all—finish it off with a quick reading of the last chapter or two of Revelation, because well you know, Jesus wins!

We might have a fair idea of what the Bible (or the movie) is about—how it all started, some major and minor characters, and how the last few scenes conclude. But would we really understand why Commodus wants to kill Maximus in the last few minutes if we only caught bits and pieces of the movie?

The Bible begins with the well known phrase, “In the beginning…” and wraps up by showing us a New Heaven and a New Earth and with Jesus saying, “Surely I am coming soon.” We know how the story starts, because we learned about it as kids. We even know some of the most famous stories: Noah and the Flood, Ruth and Naomi, David and Goliath, Jonah and the whale. Definitely the Gospels and Acts. Maybe even Ephesians (gotta have that armor) and Hebrews (for bragging rights). But the major and minor prophets? Snooze.

Yet it is exactly the books which put us to sleep that we need to be reading.

The problem we have is systemic. We’ve been told for so long that we belong to a “New Testament Church,” and “we do Bible things in Bible ways (meaning: New Testament).” We also hear, “Jesus came, and we’re no longer under the law,” so we ignore the scriptures that Jesus himself studied, memorized and quoted during his ministry. When he was walking on the road to Emmaus, he didn’t quote Paul. He was giving his fellow travelers a deep dive into the wonder that we call the Old Testament. Jesus’ Bible WAS the Old Testament. We would do well to remember that.

As I write this, the world has experienced more than 144 earthquakes in the past seven days, around 70 of which have hit the Ring of Fire surrounding the Pacific rim. Jesus said that we would experience earthquakes and more, but “the end is not yet.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that we are long—or short—on time (as we count time). But based on Jesus’ parables adjacent to his comments about the end of the age, it would seem that many are caught by surprise when events quickly unfold. Do we want to be one of the prepared bridesmaids? Only half were ready when the groom arrived. To which half can we honestly say we belong? It’s not a rhetorical question.

To be prepared for what is coming, we need to get our “houses in order.” That means spending time in ALL of God’s word to understand what we are seeing and what is coming. Just like in school, the Cliff’s Notes version is okay for getting an overview, but is insufficient for an in-depth understanding of the important details. Thanks for joining us in the front row seats, but remember…you’re responsible for bringing your own glove to the game.

“…for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20:27 ESV

“The Temple, The Temple!”

One of the things that you find out when living outside your home country for a long period of time is that your country’s politics—especially if your country is the United States of America—start becoming boiled down into their basic components, separated from the “noise” that accompanies them. It’s this more succinct version of our country to which Meg and I have become accustomed.

Conversely, we have also become more aware of our host country’s political landscape and its goings ons (is that even how you write that?). As Americans we understand how easy it is to focus only on our own country, which seems to be the default setting. For instance, people outside of the States make fun of Americans because we generally can only speak one language: American English. You know how the joke goes, “Q: What do you call someone who speaks three languages? A: Trilingual. Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages? A: Bilingual. Q: What do you call someone who speaks one language? A: American.”

It’s actually pretty funny, since all good humor is based on some amount of truth. But I tell Europeans to imagine each of Europe’s countries maintaining its distinct national borders, but each akin to our individual states all speaking the same language. After a bit of cajoling—because it’s difficult for them to imagine such a thing—they admit that they would probably need just the one language. They know that America takes up a big chunk of the continent, but have never really considered how we can travel for days—from state to state—while (most) everyone we meet continues to speak English.

It’s these kinds of things that you start to understand about your host country once you have enough of the culture and language(s) to notice what is happening behind the scenes—things that people here in Israel take for granted and don’t see in the same light as we outsiders see them. For instance, that sacrifices that have been occurring each year closer and closer to the Temple Mount.

There are multiple places (Matthew 24:15; Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-5, just to name a few) in the Bible which describe the sacrificial system restarting as part of a new temple system. It’s not the temple described in Ezekiel 40-46, but one which will be built between now and then. In each of these passages they describe how someone, generally agreed to be the Antichrist, puts an end to the sacrifices and sets himself up to be God. Yes, I acknowledge that some of these passages—not all—could have had a partial first fulfillment around 70 A.D. But that timeframe long ago cannot be the only fulfillment, as there are substantial portions of scripture—that are directly tied to these passages—which are yet to be fulfilled. You can read them for yourself and see that they plainly revolve around Jesus’ return, which at the time of this writing, has yet to occur.

And I believe that Jesus has not yet returned because the scriptures I’ve listed above have not yet happened.

Take a look at them and you’ll see language like this: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days…the Son of Man coming on the clouds…” and “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus…let no one deceive you…for that day will not come…unless…the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.”

So what, you might say? There’s no temple up on the Temple Mount—it’s just Islamic buildings, and custody belongs to Jordan. So, there can’t be any sacrifices right now. That’s true as of this moment, but there is a full-blown spiritual battle being fought over the status of that site. As one article I read recently in an Israeli newspaper said, “Comprising only 300 square meters of the one square kilometer of the entire Old City, the world remains focused on it…the situation is so fragile that at any moment things can just explode.”

I maintain that the Temple Mount is the most fought-over real estate on planet Earth. How can I say that, you’re asking? Because Satan can’t let it fall into the hands of the LORD/YHWH. Every event that brings the current situation on the ground closer to what is described in the Bible is one less thing that must occur before Satan is thrown into the Abyss.

It is from Zion that Jesus will reign over the earth. As long as it remains in the hands of Islam (or anyone else for that matter), Jesus won’t reign from there. What about the sacrifices, you’re asking?

It was impossible not to notice how nearly the whole world went berserk, including many Christians I know, when Trump announced that the U.S. was acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and would subsequently move its embassy to Jerusalem. Why did everyone go bonkers over an obvious fact? Because if the world recognizes that Jerusalem belongs to Israel, then that places both Israel and the Jewish people in and around the area. And in order for passages like Zechariah 12 and 14 to occur, Jerusalem needs to be controlled by Jews (known as Judah in these passages). Without Jews in control of Jerusalem and at least part of the Temple Mount, there’s no way for sacrifices to restart.

These geopolitical actions bring us closer to the time when a temple can be rebuilt and the sacrifices restarted. In fact, the sacrificial system could be restarted before a new temple’s foundation is even laid. How can that be the case? Ezra 3:6 tells us that “they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD. But the foundation of the temple was not yet laid.” There’s biblical precedence.

One objection I’ve heard from Christians about the sacrificial system’s being restarted is that it’s no longer needed, as Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. Yes, that is true, but just because Christians understand that Jesus paid the price once and for all doesn’t mean that unbelieving Israel won’t restart sacrifices. In fact, they are doing test runs each year, as a lamb is sacrificed closer and closer to the Temple Mount on the eve of Passover. This year the lamb was sacrificed on the southern steps leading up to the mount, most likely the closest sacrifice since the temple’s destruction in 70 A.D. The Waqf—the Islamic organization which controls the Temple Mount—was not amused.

Although they have generally rejected their Messiah, many in national Israel continue to yearn for forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. Never mind that the Messiah has already come; their desire for a temple is built into the collective Jewish Israeli psyche, and they continue to be deceived by the notion that the temple is essential for a connection to God. Israel will continue to yearn for reconciliation until they recognize their one true Messiah. This longing pushes the biblical narrative forward, and so we could very well see the sacrificial system restart in our lifetime.

Amazing things would have to occur for us to see such a thing, but we live in amazing times. Trump was elected president and moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, and no one thought that either of these things would happen as recently as two years ago. It’s one of the reasons why we should be studying prophecy in our churches, small groups and personal bible study. I’m afraid that a large number of Christians, who generally ignore the prophetic word, will be caught off guard when these things happen. Jesus himself said, “when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)…” You ARE the reader. Don’t be caught flatfooted and ignore the direction our world is taking, especially as events begin to align with scripture. Don’t take my word for it, be the good Berean. I’m just a watchman with a front row seat.

When You Hear the Siren it’s too Late

It’s a huge part of the Good News! It’s what Jesus commanded us to do, and he’s telling us that we are living in an “immediate” zone, on the border.

One early morning while it was still dark, we were awakened by the Code Red apps on our phones telling us that a rocket attack was taking place. Normally, these attacks happen every month or so to the Israeli communities which surround the international border with Gaza, 140 or so miles away from us to the south, and so we were in no hurry to do anything other than silence our phones. It was probably just another false alarm—real enough for others but not for us. However, when I glanced at my phone’s lock-screen to confirm what I expected to see, instead it read: Rocket Attack: Golan. As soon as I read the screen, we heard a couple of explosions followed by the loud wail of the rocket siren across the street. It wasn’t just any part of the Golan, it was our part!

Throughout Israel, each neighborhood is assigned a color representing the number of seconds one has to reach his/her bomb shelter before a rocket lands—once the siren has gone off. These “defense zones” range from 1 1/2 minutes in the middle of the country down to “immediate” or “no time” for those who live near the borders of Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. We just happen to live in one of those “immediate” zones, just 2 miles from the Syrian border and 3 miles from the Lebanese border.

Of course, upon hearing the siren we jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes and headed to the bomb shelter next door. But by that time the incoming rockets from Syria (in this case Iran was the instigator) had already passed over our home or had been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system. That wasn’t the end of our hectic morning, as Israel lost an F-16i to the overwhelming number of SAMs shot by Syria at their fighter jets in a skirmish that happened just a few minutes later. We were in and out of our protective place for the next three hours as the battle raged overhead and on both sides of the border. Thankfully, this time none of the rockets—nor any of the falling debris from Syrian SAMs which were intercepted by the Iron Dome—fell on our neighborhood.

However, just a week or so before this battle took place, we had been instructed by our neighborhood security chief to check out our bomb shelter to make sure that it was ready. I.e. we needed to make sure that there was enough bottled water, snacks—flashlights and batteries—and anything else that we might need in case of an attack. To be honest, I put off the inspection for another day—for a time when I thought that a war might be a bit closer. Basically, I was derelict in my duty to make sure that we were as prepared as possible, thinking that we would have plenty of advanced warning—even though we had been given specific instructions on how to prepare. All of this brings me to the point of this post.

If Jesus had given instructions to his disciples in present-day Israel regarding his return, I think he might have used current day natural catastrophes and skirmishes with Iran and Syria in his parables, similar to how, two thousand years ago, he compared his return to Noah’s flood and the parable of the ten virgins.

Sitting on the Mount of Olives, with the old Arab man who owns the camel that the tourists ride listening in, the conversation might have gone something like this:

“Look, no one knows exactly when I will return—except my dad. For example, remember all those people in Sumatra, Indonesia? How they were eating and drinking, having beach weddings. But they were unaware that one morning the earth would quake and the sea would carry half of them off in the following tsunami. Two people would be standing together and one would be drowned while the other held onto something for dear life. So, you’ve got to be ready, because I’m going to return just like that earthquake—at a time you do not expect.

“My reign will come like that time I tipped off the IDF about a possible attack. Remember how they instructed the Golan residents to be prepared by making sure that their bomb shelters were stocked with everything—especially batteries for their flashlights and for their electronics—and to stay close to their bunkers? Then in the middle of the night, a little while later after everyone had gotten complacent because nothing had come of the warning, Iran and Syria launched thousands of rockets into the Golan. But only half of the people made it to the bunkers before the doors were shut, and fearing an invasion, the ones inside the bunkers would not open the doors, so the rest outside had to deal with both the rockets and the enemy.

“Watch out! because you don’t know the day nor the hour! When you hear the siren, it’s too late to get ready.”

Jesus has told us to be faithful during the delay of his return. We don’t know exactly when that will be, but we’re told to ‘stay awake’. What does this mean practically for us? We’ve got to prepare the church—everyone in the church—for the Lord’s return and the times leading up to it; how to be living ready and alertly. The Bible, throughout both the Old and New Testaments, details numerous signs that could happen before he arrives. It’s got to be part of our sermons, children’s lessons, ABFs, small groups and our discipleship training. It’s a huge part of the Good News! It’s what Jesus commanded us to do, and he’s telling us that we are living in an “immediate” zone, on the border.

Are we being obedient? Or, do we think, “Ah, we’ve got time…”?

RocketTrailsSyrian Rocket and Israeli Iron Dome contrails as seen from our home.DefensiveZonesDefensive Zones as detailed on Israel’s Home Front Command website.

Future History

I read once that biblical prophecy is really just “Future History,” i.e. it’s a written and published fully-accurate history of things yet to occur.

I read once that biblical prophecy is really just “Future History,” i.e. it’s a written and published fully-accurate history of things yet to occur. What I’m hoping to do in this blog is connect the dots of what the Bible says about the past and the future from the perspective of one who lives in Israel, experiences the craziness that happens in this Land on a daily basis, and to give you a front row seat of the things that we are seeing, but aren’t necessarily being reported.

A person recently said—quite accurately I think, that “The temple mount is the focus of Jerusalem, Jerusalem is the focus of Israel, Israel is the focus of the Middle East, and the Middle East is the focus of the world.” If you work this quote backwards to its logical origin, you can easily see where the world’s future is heading. As Ezekiel wrote, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘This is Jerusalem. I have set her in the center of the nations…,'” “…who dwell at the center of the earth.” Another Bible author quotes the LORD saying, “I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there.

It’s going to be an interesting ride, and we’ve been given front row seats.

“Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” — Ezekiel 37:28

Clover World Map
Jerusalem – Center of the World