The Modern Table of Nations - Part 7
Europe is the land of my ancestors, but removed by several generations. My father's went from Europe to Africa; my mother's from Europe to North America. Between my father and mother, I am a mix of English and Dutch, with probably a bit of German, Irish, Welsh, Scottish and French blended in.
It seems that Europe is the continent which united the world through discovery. This is a continent which has had the privilege of being grounded by its broad connection to Asia. Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan are Asian countries which blend over into European territory, but Russia is the largest of those nations to do so. Since I have covered Russia in my page on Asia, I do not find it necessary to repeat it here.
The Northern Coastlands
Finland: it seems the most famous feature of their lifestyle is the sauna (a special kind of bath), carried out in a room where stones are heated over a furnace/stove, bringing the temperature to anywhere from 176 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, causing perspiration. 212 is the boiling point: I suppose if it got any hotter, the Finns would be accused of cooking each other for consumption. (By the way, 'Fahrenheit' honors Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit - 1686 to 1736 - a German instrument maker who made the 1st reliable thermometers. He died in the Netherlands.) The purpose of the sauna is relaxation/cleansing. The state church of Finland is the Evangelical Lutheran Church (another German connection!). I must say, I think the best and only book I ever read by a Finn was Max Dimont's Jews, God and History; but his chapter on Christianity was charged with confused emotion, and so was hardly worth reading. The northern part of Finland is called the Land of the Midnight Sun, because in the summer the sun shines 24 hours a day.
Sweden's coat of arms displays 3 gold crowns. I think it is safe to say that S is synonymous (equivalent in connotation) with smorgasbord: a variety of hot/cold foods on a large table for self-service. According to visitsweden.com, when you think of S, you find it associated with a gorgeous collection of choice foods meant to be eaten in a special order on several plates. Perhaps this culinary science is a product of (or was perfected by) the Lutheran Church, which reigns in S. The Svenska kyrkan (Church of Sweden) informs me that it 'is an Evangelical Lutheran church', boasting about 7 million members. S has over 9 million people. That means about 2 million are either Jewish, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Muslim or Buddhist. Rebecca Weiner says S has about 18,000 Jews (Hebrews).
In Norway, beer is sometimes served with aquavit, a strong liquor. Bandy is their form of hockey, consisting of 11 player teams on huge rinks. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is established by the Norwegian Constitution. When I learned that, it gave me renewed reflection on why the US decided to emphasize the separation of church and state early on: but I believe the US did so to protect the church from the state, and not the other way around. The Church of Norway, by its own admission, says it has represented the main expression of belief in Norway for 1000 years. The message of Messiah (however distorted it may have been) 1st came to Norway in the 800's, from the British Isles, Germany and Friesland (a Germanic people who eventually became a Dutch province).
Estonia's flag strikes me as very impressive: a blue stripe on top of black on top of white: representing sky, land, hope in the future. Their highest elevation is Munamagi (1,043 feet). Their capital is Tallinn. If you are interested in visiting Tallinn in 2012, they will have cultural highlights such as Estonian Music Days, Nargen Festival, and the SEB Marathon. The Music Days are intended to show the current state of new music and to keep the classics fresh in our minds. The Festival is the biggest show in E's musical culture. The Marathon will start at 9 in the morning, next to Vabaduse square.
Latvia's coat of arms has a silver griffin, a mythical creature symbolizing 1 of the original provinces. The Latvian tongue is akin to Sanskrit (India's ancient tongue), which made me think that L probably had Gypsies (Roma). In fact, they did: nationsencyclopedia.com says that L's Roma were almost completely destroyed by the Nazis in 1941. L's largest place of learning is the University of Latvia in Riga. This university was started in 1919. No doubt it was opened because the year before Latvia claimed independence, as its citizens tried to shake off German advances.
Lithuania's majority is Roman Catholic. The Hebrews still hold strong there. Vilnius, the capital, is the home of the Vilna Gaon. Lithuania's Hebrews have come into my life in 2 distinct ways. If I am not mistaken, Zola Levitt was an American Hebrew of Lithuanian descent: his teaching transformed my faith, bringing it to a higher level and broadening my understanding of who Messiah is. When researching about my native South Africa, I found out that about 80% of South Africa's Hebrews are of Lithuanian descent. For some reason, L's flag makes me think of the circus: their colors - yellow, green and red - represent golden fields, countryside forests and blood spilled while fighting for their homes.
Poland got its name from Polanie, a Slavic tribe that lived there over a thousand years ago. Polanie = plain/field. Poland's national anthem is Poland Has Not Yet Perished, but they made sure their Hebrews almost did. This does not depress me like it used to. Why? Because I see the suffering and deaths of Avraham's seed as an inspiration to press on in the face of adversity; their afflictions and testimonies enriched the world. The major concentration camps there were Treblinka, Stutthof, Sobibor, Majdanek, Gross-Rosen, Chelmno, Belzec and Auschwitz. Auschwitz is where the largest number of Europe's Hebrews were murdered. Hitler came to town and Poland was complicit. Yes, I read stories by Hebrews there who were friends with the Polish, the next day those same friends were scowling at them. The Poles chose to get involved with Adolf Hitler. The Avengers by Rich Cohen is an excellent read on what happened in Poland. Poland did not learn its lesson: today, about 94% of its population is Roman Catholic. Hitler's parents were Roman Catholic; Richard Steigmann-Gall confirms that Hitler was Catholic; Pope Pius the 12th assisted Hitler in the Nazi's program to envelop the Hebrews. Nevertheless, I pray that God would bless Poland.
I lived in Germany for about 3 months. I was stationed in the state called Bavaria; I was a soldier there. My fort was just west of Nuremberg. I am very fond of Germany's flag (even though I am not partial to black): it is a black stripe on top of red on top of gold. These colors are traced back to medieval times: the Holy Roman Emperor's banner was a black eagle with red claws on a gold field. The Holy Roman Empire was centered on the Kingdom of Germany. I do think Germany flows through my blood more than I realize, since the 1st recorded Vorster was Jan Vorster, who lived in Bern, Switzerland. Perhaps this Jan was a Dutchman living in Bern - I am not sure. Bern is the capital of Switzerland; Bern stems from Baren = 'bears' in German; the official tongue of Bern is German.
Ah yes, the Netherlands, my ancestral land! While in Germany, I rode the train over into this small nation on the North Sea, staying 1st in Arnhem. Then I traveled to the capital - Amsterdam - and could finally see this city which sits on the River Amstel. The Dutch flag inspired the US and South Africa flags: the US went with the red, but the Afrikaners favored orange probably because the House of Orange was fresher in their minds (the House of Orange played a central role in Dutch politics). When I think of the Dutch, I think fondly of Desiderius Erasmus and Baruch Spinoza. Erasmus was a Renaissance humanist with a sharp tongue, who felt the Vatican could do better. Spinoza was a Hebrew philosopher who had a considerable knowledge of science and exhorted all to be rational.
Belgium is a kingdom. The Brabant Song is their national anthem. Trying to define Brabant is hard, but in the center of Belgium is a province called Flemish Brabant. During the Middle Ages, the main tongue spoken in Brabant was Dutch. I wonder if the derogatory term 'twerp' (= despicable person) comes from the city named Antwerp. The origin of 'twerp' is uncertain, but we do know that Antwerp had its origin in a neighborhood which was Romanized, but with a French twist. I remember being pleasantly surprised years ago when I found out that the diamond trade and Hebrews were married staples of Antwerp. There is an 80% chance that if you have a diamond, it was in Antwerp before you handled it, either being polished, bought or valued there by the hands of a Hebrew.
France: I must admit, I get weak at the knees when I hear their language. Their Huguenots were a group of Protestants who fled to South Africa and mixed in with the Dutch there. Thank Jah that France has a Hebrew President, Nicolas Sarkozy. Although the fleur-de-lis (lily flower) has been used by others, general knowledge favors it as France's symbol; I am fond of it. The baguette - a long thin loaf of crusty bread - is the premier part of the French meal.
Iberia is the peninsula in southwestern Europe which is the home to Spain, Andorra and Portugal; I do not include Gibraltar, since that is part of the UK, which will be discussed later on.
Andorra is a tiny nation which sits in the Pyrenees mountains, on the border between Spain and France. Most Andorrans are Roman Catholic. On September 9, the citizens make a pilgrimage (journey) to Our Lady of Meritxell, a shrine honoring their patron saint. It is said that in the 1100's, on January 6, a rose in bloom was found by villagers from Meritxell going to mass in Canillo. It was out of season and at its bottom was found a statue of Miryam and her child Yeshua. The statue was placed in the Canillo church. The statue was found under the same wild rose the following day. The flower was removed again. It returned again. Meritxell saw this as a sign and built a chapel. And so that is how this holiday was started. My version is that the statue was returned to the rose by the person who put it there in the 1st place. But, some must have superstitions in order to survive. Of course, 'Our Lady' is a reference to the virgin who gave birth to the man who became the Savior of the world. The Catholics still refuse to believe that she is no longer a virgin.
Spain is mostly Roman Catholic. I was not surprised to hear that the Spanish government recently decided to acknowledge that Israel is the home of the Hebrews, even though Israel has been such for over 60 years now! Barak Ravid informs us that Spain made this announcement even though Spain is considered the European Union's number 1 friend of the Palestinian Arabs. This sudden shift in attitude makes me wonder what is going on behind the scenes. Concerning Spain's domestic urban life, Spaniards enjoy their walk (paseo) before eating in the evening, which meal usually occurs around 10pm. No wonder my Peruvian girlfriend loved to munch down so late at night! Anyhow, Spain's popular culinary creation is paella, made of vegetables, ham, chicken, lobster and shrimp, combined with rice that has been cooked with saffron (a flavoring).
1 of Portugal's favorite culinary offerings is bife com ovo a cavalo, an egg on top of French fried potatoes with a side of steak. The Vatican's brand of religion is the major brand in Portugal. Annually, thousands make a pilgrimage to Fatima, where tradition says the 'Virgin Mary' appeared to 3 children. Benjamin Disraeli once made a comment about the superstitious nature of the Iberian people - except he showed how it manifested itself even in the New World in his day. In other news, I was impressed when I found out that Portugal legalized heavy, dangerous drugs and actually lived to tell how successful the result was in the better behavior of its citizens. I took a look at an article by Maia Szalavitz to confirm what I remembered seeing on television: The Cato Institute showed how teen drug use declined as a result of the nation's bold move. Instead of jail time, health services are offered to those who cannot keep their bodies from the seductive stuff. America can learn a lesson here.
The Southern Coastlands
Italy's coat of arms makes me think of my state's coat of arms (which in Texas is more popularly known as a seal). The star in Italy's represents unity. Italy's flag, oddly enough, was 1st used by Italians (in 1796) who supported Napoleon Bonaparte of France. The Roman Catholic Church is the religion of Italy's majority. A Roman website called ZENIT tells the tale of how Magdi Allam, an Italian journalist Egyptian blood, converted to the Catholic faith. Allam says he renounced his Islamic faith because he 'saw the light'. Allam took on the Christian name 'Cristiano' as his middle name. He said his journey started at 4 years old when his Muslim mother entrusted him to the care of Sister Lavinia of the Comboni Missionary Sisters. He arrived in Italy in the 1970's. What I especially like about his story is that (according to shortnews.com) - as a result of his identification with Messiah - he started getting Muslims mad at him because of his pro-Israel stance. Now, would to God Italy would convert its pope concerning the idea of removing Catholic idols from Israeli real estate!
Vatican City. Let it be known that I do not hate Roman Catholics. I just hate unsound doctrine. I am quite sure the Vatican was turned into the smallest nation in the world in order to get away with murder (and they have, plentifully). It is the spiritual center of the Roman Catholic Church. It sits on Vatican Hill, west of River Tiber. Early Christians were martyred there. The Lateran Treaty was what decided to make Vatican City its own independent state. According to Toni Johnson (whose article appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations), VC did not recognize Israel until 1993. Yes, these Catholics are late bloomers!
Slovenia's national anthem is The Toast (Zdravljica). The anthem says, 'God save our land and nation...God's blessing on all nations' - it is a drinking song because each stanza resembles a cup of wine. The purported (claimed) father of Slovenian literature is Primoz Trubar: he translated the New Testament into Slovenian. He lived in the 1500's and was the head of the Slovenian Protestant church in Ljubljana, which is the capital of Slovenia. During this nation's festival called Kurenti, people perform rituals in order to drive away winter's 'evil spirits'.
Croatia is mostly Roman Catholic. Their capital is Zagreb. According to cia.gov, Croatia's land was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until WW2. Only 5,000 of C's Hebrews survived the Shoah. It is estimated that 2,000 Hebrews live in C today, but they suffer from Jew-haters there; their goy neighbors deny the Shoah. Israel fights back by refusing to establish diplomacy with C. In 1997, Franjo Tudjman (C's head of state), apologized to the Hebrews for their denial of the Nazi crimes. Tudjman (Tudman) has a statue of himself in Siroki Brijeg. He died in 1999. C is called 'Land of thousand islands' as per croatiaemb.net.
Bosnia & Herzegovina declared sovereignty in October 1991. It borders the Adriatic Sea. Almost half of B & H is of the Bosniak ethnic group. This nation's religious breakdown is: 40% Muslim, 31% Orthodox, 15% Catholic, 4% Protestant and the rest believe in someone else or themselves. By the way, it is impossible to not have a religion: God made mankind to be religious; it is the deepest part of who we are. This nation's flag is really cool: stars floating onto and off the borders, against a blue background, with a daggerlike yellow striking the middle. Ivo Andric is a native of Bosnia; he won the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1961. During World War 1 he was jailed for his activities against Austria.
Montenegro is largely Orthodox. It is said that M was once the Roman province Praevalitane, where Messiah found roots among the people. The Montenegrin Orthodox Church claims to have 4 saints; 1 of them is St Vladimir of Duklja. This 'saint' is also known as Jovan Vladimir. The person who is not familiar with the games that the Orthodox Church plays must realize that they define 'saint' differently than the Bible does. Podgorica is the capital. July 13 is their National Day (holiday).
Albania is mostly Muslim. Tirana is the capital. In the center of Tirana is the Et'hem Bey Mosque, which was opened for business in 1823. It was closed by the communists, but then reopened for more terrorism in 1991. A government online article dated November 2011 said that A was transitioning from being a closed and centrally-planned economy to having a more modern and open-market structure. I once had a roommate from A, in the sense that we used the same bathroom. He was very angry, but he was a Christian. We lived on the campus of a Baptist university and we were friends, but I had to be very careful about what I said around him. Perhaps his anger was because of the strains between the Christians and the Muslims in his native land. Let us pray for Prime Minister Sali Berisha (a Muslim): hopefully he will have the wisdom to see Messiah in a new light.
Greece's flag, to me, is like Israel's flag: a soft blue wonder. Greek Orthodox is the official religion. Athens is the capital. I think that most Christians do not realize that the 1st translation of the Hebrew Tanakh into any language was Greek. I refer to the Septuagint. It is the Old Testament through Greek eyes, even though it was translated by Hebrews in Egypt. No matter what the world thinks of Greece's recent economic woes, Greece can always be proud in a good way that Jah chose to put his Good News in the tongue of its citizens; that has been Greece's best export, despite what the experts may think. JTA online reported back in September 2011 that Greece and Israel signed an agreement on security cooperation due to Turkey's souring attitude with Israel.