New Millennium Candle Company

"Lighting the way into the New Millennium . . . from Wausau to the World!"



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"With the recent unrest in the world since 9-11 and the ongoing trouble in the Middle East, I've decided to reprint the article that appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle on January 1, 2000. A reflection on the hopes and dreams of the people that longed for a peace to envelope this part of the world. As I stood among fellow Christians, Jews, and Muslims on top of the Mount of Olives, we witnessed the celebration of the New Millennium and prayed for peace to govern a new  world. Although the Messiah never appeared to enter the Holy City through the Golden Gate that night, there was a serenity and hope that embraced the witnessing crowd. Maybe someday those prayers will be answered." ...Jim 

View of the Dome of the Rock and the Mount of Olives
Nighttime view of Jerusalem

Christians mark New Year during Muslims’ Ramadan and the Jewish Sabbath

 By Don Lattin

Chronicle Religion Writer

While much of the world partied and played, the people of Jerusalem prayed their way into the year 2000. At midnight, hundreds of hymn singing and arm-waving Christians gathered in the Garden Tomb, one of two Jerusalem shrines that claim to be the site of Jesus Christ’s tomb. “We're hanging out in a graveyard, while others hang out in Times Square,” said the Rev. Wayne Hilsden, pastor of the King of Kings Assembly, an evangelical congregation in Jerusalem. “They'll wake up with a hangover. We’ll wake up redeemed in the Lord.”

As firecrackers and louder explosives crackled and flashed at nearby Damascus Gate, the outdoor congregation sang spirited choruses of “this year in Jerusalem, may your spirit descend”. While the messianic spirit may have descended, there were no immediate sightings of the actual Messiah atop the Mount of Olives, where many Christians predict Jesus will someday return to earth. “If the Messiah would have returned, it would have been neat to see him go through the Golden Gate,” said Jim Peters, a candlemaker from Wausau, Wisconsin, referring to the now-blocked portal through which some believe Christ will approach the Temple Mount. Peters, who said he spent $2,500 just to be on the Mount of Olives at midnight, comforted himself with this thought: “Jesus needs to come through the heart,” he said, “not the gate.”

More than 2,500 pilgrims and local Catholics attended a Roman Catholic service at the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane, followed by a candlelight procession up the Mount of Olives. In an extraordinary set of calendrical coincidences, yesterday was the last day of the Christian 1900s, the final Friday of the Islamic month of Ramadan and the beginning of the weekly Jewish Sabbath, which shuts down the Holy City like nowhere else on earth. Jerusalem is famous for its amazing juxtaposition of faiths and feeling. Islamic women covered in traditional dress rub shoulders with American tourists in shorts and Hassidic Jews wearing the same black hats and long coats that their grandfathers donned in the 19th century.

Yesterday, as hundreds of thousands of Muslims chanted and bowed around the Dome of the Rock, everyday life went on in the Jewish Quarter, just a stone’s throw below. Outside a rooftop café overlooking the packed Islamic shrine, a violinist played a mournful version of the Frank Sinatra hit song “My Way.” And if that wasn’t enough, noontime church bells began ringing in the year 2000 of the Christian calendar. Tom Jacobson, a tourist from Rohnert Park, sat dumbfounded in the café, wondering whether to believe his eyes and ears. “I have never seen anything like this in my life,” said Jacobson, an associate professor in environmental studies at Sonoma State University. “This morning, I was at the Lion’s Gate watching this sea of humanity walk up to the Dome of the Rock. It was mesmerizing. It just flowed.”

Also on hand in the narrow streets of the walled city were thousands of heavily armed Israeli soldiers, police and special security forces. About 7,000 officers and 5,000 police volunteers were on the New Year’s Eve night shift – more than four times the usual number. Security was especially tight at checkpoints into the prosperous Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, where Jews gather for prayer. The eve of the year 2000 was not a particularly big deal in this town of three calendars and three major faiths, with Christianity the smallest of the three. For Christians, yesterday was December 31, 1999. For Muslims, it was Ramadan 23, 1420. For Jews, it was Tevet 22, 5760. “We are very used to counting the years,” said Amnon Lipkin Shachak, the Israel minister of tourism. “We are in our sixth millennium.”

More significantly, New Year’s Eve fell in the middle of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, which runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and the orthodox rabbis and religious political parties who have enormous power in Jerusalem issued stern warnings to observe the Sabbath. There were no big public events scheduled in Jerusalem last night, and the city’s Religious Council and Chief Rabbinate threatened to withdraw the kashrut certificates from any major hotels that had music or parties last night. Those certificates verify that a hotel’s food and kitchen are kosher, and are essential for doing business in the Holy City. The low-key celebration was due in part to stringent Israeli efforts to keep believers in apocalyptic endings at bay. In recent weeks, Israel deported evangelical Christians who feared could cause trouble, and yesterday, it tightened security around its national park at Megiddo, just off the highway that connects the ancient Roman city of Caesarea to the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee.

Megiddo is the site mentioned in the apocalyptic Book of Revelation for the Biblical doomsday battle of Armageddon, and it is a growing source of fascination for evangelicals focused on “end times” theology. Although there are no churches at the site, approximately 170,000 Christian pilgrims visit the hill of Megiddo each year, and authorities were afraid that Christian extremist groups might target the area, or that a suicide cult might go there to usher in the new year. Not far from Megiddo, Angelita Galvan-Freedom, a Roman Catholic pilgrim from Southern California, planned a New Year’s Eve sail on the Sea of Galilee, on a wooden boat not unlike one Jesus would have used 2,000 years ago. Her New Year’s prayer is that Christians, Muslims and Jews will find common ground in the millennium ahead. “We started as one people,” she said, “and we have to get back to the root from which we all came.”

Chronicle correspondent Tom Zoellner contributed to this report from the Mount of Olives.

Copyright © 2000 San Francisco Chronicle


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