Recently my younger brother, who I am very proud of, went on a trip to Israel. My brother did not go as a tourist but as a business man. During his time in Israel and between meetings he was treated by his hosts to some spectacular sightseeing, some of which gripped his heart. When he returned home he called me to tell me how he now understood my love for this country. He said the people and hospitality showed to him was extraordinary
My brother went as a VIP and I’ve no doubt he was treated as such.
My husband and I went several years ago as simple tourists and we too were treated with genuine respect and warmness. That’s just Israel. Unlike other places in the world that may snub or treat tourists rudely, Israelis are the
“crème de la crème. “
On our trip to Israel we took several day excursions in small buses to see the historical sites. We drove each day with different tour directors and different people from all walks of life. Some were Jews, some Muslims, some business people, some families and some, like us, who were on a spiritual journey. Our trip to Israel from the moment we stepped on the plane was non-stop in discovery and wonder. It was profound. So much, in fact, that we hope to return and one day, God willing, to live there.
My brother’s recent trip and our conversations have drawn me back to the pictures that we took and to the memories that I have. Those memories are not just about the awesome sights but are more about the people we met and visited with. It's as though they are my souls’ best friends. Drivers and cabbies, tour directors, store owners and doormen all took the time to tell us “their” story. Some were tragic yet filled with hope and the miracle of love. One such story was told to us by a cab driver who had been a Jew in Poland during WW2. He was a child of the woods, hunted by the Nazis. His rescue and the appreciation that ensued were infinite as was his devotion to his country, Israel.
We had tour directors who were each as smart and witty as the next. One was an MIT graduate and retired, but giving tours kept him sharp and connected. His run was to Masada or ‘Metzada Fortress’ a location so rich in history and controversy that it would take days to understand. Masada sits overlooking the Dead Sea and it is spectacular! From Masada’s high vantage point in the desert a person can see for miles.
On one of our tours our driver was a Muslim. Our female tour guide that day was a Jew turned Christian or as she referred to herself a “Messianic Jew.” Now that is quite the thing. My husband sat for a long time visiting with her in the church building built over where Jesus had lived in Israel. What the world doesn’t let you know is that there are many Jews and Muslims that get along. In cities and hillsides you can identify occupants by the roof tops (Jewish red and Muslim black) you can tell much about a community. There are obvious red areas but there are many places where a mix of houses is very apparent.
Now a Jew who is Christian may surprise people. That is no different than a Buddhist, or Hindu or even a Muslim becoming a Christian. Christianity is not about being a Catholic, a Baptist or a Methodist. Christianity is always when a person accepts Jesus into their life as Lord, God Savior and Redeemer. We accept that He took our penalty for sin. He paid it all and became as sin. As Christians, we become willing to also turn from sin and live a life pleasing to God. Anyone is welcome to join the club! All are invited, no matter what their background. Let’s not forget Jesus was a Jew, from the line of David, which also tracks all the way back to Abraham.
On our tour to Old Jerusalem and the Western Wall we enjoyed the company of a man from the states. As we were heading through the old city gates there were people checking our bags with dark colored skin? The gentleman we were visiting with questioned who they were; I explained that they were Ethiopian Jews. I jokingly said “Solomon? Queen of Sheba?” It clicked for him too. The first mass wave of return from Ethiopia was called ‘Operation Moses’ the second was called ‘Operation Solomon.’ The history of the ‘right of return’ is a fascinating one. It’s as though some omnipotent voice is saying “come home.” The ‘right of return’ or ‘law of return’ was established by the Israelis Parliament in 1950 just two years after it became a state. It is a welcome to all Jews across the world to become citizens of Israel. If you know your history you will recall the Assyrian and Babylonian invasion. There are some who say that the Assyrians were in many ways the first Nazi, cruel beyond measure towards the Jew. The tactics used by the Assyrians are attested to by the ancient cuneiform inscriptions. The nation was dispersed and eventually the Hebrew people were all over the world and without a homeland. The Old Testament is rich in historical reference about that era. The last verse in Nahum has this to say about Assyria;
“Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?”
On one of our days in Israel my husband and I went for a long walk in Tel Aviv. We stopped at a store and had a very lively visit with a Jewish man named Rubin. Rubin was originally from Iran. He was supremely optimistic about Americas unwavering support for his country. We talked about how from our point of view that support was dwindling because of academia’s ignorance and their rewriting of history. We also talked about the geopolitical state of the world. He told us that in spite of our opinions about Americas support for Israel that our country wasn’t even close to being as anti-Semitic as Europe and specifically France.
I was reminded of this conversation as I watched gripped and horrified like most people to the recent news and the terrible massacre by Islamic terrorists in Paris. I found myself paying very close attention to the hostage situation that followed when a Jewish Deli was taken over by one of those terrorist. To the credit of one Muslim man who worked at the deli several hostages were protected by him in a freezer. Which (like my relating that Muslims and Jews live in peace in many Israelis communities) is a witness to humanity that differences don’t always require hate.
In listening to the news account just after the terrorist was taken and the living hostages were freed, I was in tears. I heard an announcer say that the Israel TV reporters had gone into the deli to care for its people. It was said in passing and without fanfare, but I heard it. I wept as I thought about how Israelis believe in life first, above all things. As soon as they were able, the Israeli TV broadcasters' calling wasn’t to report, but to care for its dead, its injured and those who had been traumatized. That’s just who they are. Mercy and love come before the story.
“I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you.”
May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob protect and keep the state of Israel ever close to Himself and May God’s will be done.