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Deer gets back to roots

IRONTON — A prayer shawl from Israel hangs on the back wall of the Church of the King chapel in Ironton — perhaps as a reminder of the Bible’s Jewish roots.

Learning to speak the Hebrew language may be an anomaly to some, but to Butch Deer Jr., pastor at Church of the King, it helps him to have a better understanding of the Bible.

A long thin piece of fringe on each side of the shawl, the tzitiz, represents the 613 laws that are found in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.

“We’re not trying to be Jewish, we just want to learn the richness of our heritage,” Deer said. “Studying the Jewish roots will do that. It will enhance and enrich your relationship with God.”

So, traveling more than 6,000 miles to learn the Hebrew language was not only a learning experience, but also an opportunity to see the sites where Jesus walked.

“Our Bible was written in Hebrew,” he said. “A lot of times in the translation, we miss a word. For instance, in English, a word generally has one definition, but in Hebrew, it may have multiple definitions and used in different ways.”

On June 16, Deer went to a six-week class in the Hebrew language staying at kibbutz Tzuba in Israel.

“It’s equivalent of a year-long college course crammed into six weeks,” Deer said.

Although his classes were until noon, he had four hours of homework every day. In between, he visited all the sites he could by going into Jerusalem three times a week.

“The kibbutz was established in 1948 after their war of independence,” he said. “All the money goes into a pot. Everybody has a job. They have vineyards, orchards — it’s really neat to see how it operates.”

About 150 people lived in the kibbutz Tzuba, he said. His classmates were not only from the United States, but also from other countries in Europe and Australia.

“There are lots of things we miss by not studying Jewish roots,” Deer said.

The site he enjoyed the most when he was in Israel was at the Hulda Gate, he said.

It’s where the majority of people would have entered the temple Mount Ararat during Jesus time,” Deer said. “It was on these Hulda steps where Jesus would have stood during the dedication where the priests would pour out water and say, ‘This is living water.’ It’s on these Hulda steps where Jesus would have stood and said, ‘I am the living water.’”

Standing at the eastern gate or the Golden Gate in Jerusalem in the middle of an Arab cemetery, he could see the Mount of Olives, he said.

The Golden Gate is on the eastern wall of Jerusalem and below the Temple Mount. It faces the western slope of the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley. In the valley below is the road to Jericho and Bethany, the Garden of Gethsemane and several famous first-century tombs.

“Of course, according to the prophecies of Zachariah, when He returns, he’ll step down on the Mount of Olives,” Deer said. “Those were places that were really special. My best experience was just riding the bus like the Jewish people do, and the Arabic people do, go into the city of Jerusalem, go to Ben Yehuda Street, eat a swarma …”