Literally. There were rocks everywhere! We (Karla and I and Lois from our church) arrived back home in Earlham, Iowa safe and sound Wednesday March 2, 2011 after an absolutely awesome 10 day guided tour of Israel. Nearly everyone who knows that we went to Israel asks us two questions. The first “How was the trip?” and the second “Did you feel safe?”
The answer to the first question, in short, is in the title of this posting. The answer to the second is yes. At every turn we felt just as safe as anywhere in the U.S…except perhaps when we crossed over into Jordan to visit the amazing ancient city of Petra a civilization carved out of solid rock. Jordan just recently declared Israel a terrorist nation which wasn’t very neighborly of them. What a hassle it was just to cross the border! The process took more than four hours total and it wasn’t even busy!
Israel is a complex country consisting of five-and-a-half million Israelis surrounded on every side, and two or three nations deep, by largely uncharitable Arab neighbors..hundreds of millions of them. The President of Iran has publicly stated his intention to wipe the nation of Israel off the map. Iran is not a border country to Israel. So they do the next best thing: They funnel military supplies into Lebanon and Syria which are Israel’s neighbors to the north and northeast.
Of course not all Arabs are hostile towards Israel. We met some gracious Arab Christians along the way in Bethlehem which is, ironically, under Palestinian control, but since they are not Arab muslims they are heavily discriminated against. However, for the most part, the plight of Israel is a continual struggle. That’s why 80% of the GNP of Israel goes toward their defense budget.
On Thursday evening April 7,2011 Karla and I will be hosting a couple from TelAviv,Israel, who work for the ministry Jews for Jesus. They will be in the U.S. for three weeks conducting Christ in the Passover services for churches. Here’s the cool thing about this couple. He (Peter Nasser) is an Arab Christian and his wife Yarden is a Jew who was raised in Ukraine.
Since I began this posting a couple of weeks ago and am just now getting around to sending it out…we did host Peter and Yarden and were able to gain a much better perspective on the state of Jewish/Arab-Palestinian relations. We talked to them for hours! We had 115 people that attended the Christ in the Passover celebration at our church last week, which I thought was an excellent showing!
I also learned from them that Isaiah Ch. 53 is the only forbidden chapter of the Torah…Jews can read any other chapter or book of what we call the Old Testament, just don’t read Isaiah Ch.53. If you want to understand why this is so then just read Isaiah Ch. 53. Some Jews like Yarden did read this chapter and are converted…a Christian and a Jew…something that traditional Jews cannot stomach.
It was great hosting this fascinating couple in our home last week! So you see it is possible for Jews and Arabs to get along…if Jesus is brought into the equation. In my opinion Jesus is the all important but mostly unacknowledged X factor in Israeli vs. Palestinian relations.
As is the case in most things so also here. I never realized how much I didn’t (and still don’t) know about Israel until I learned just a little about the complexities of the political and religious struggles of the Mideast. I have a little better picture in my mind now of just how little I understood.
It was good to visit Israel in person and see for ourselves some of the disputed territories (the Gaza Strip [along the Mediterranean Seacoast in southern Israel, which we did not see], the West Bank [which is on the eastern side of Jerusalem…West Bank comes from Jordan which views this piece of land as the western part of Jordan], and the Golan Heights…a piece of land which our current President should see for himself so that he can see for himself why it would be suicidal for Israel to hand over this disputed land to Syria, and gain some sense for how little I knew and know regarding this nation.
Stay tuned for more pictures and commentary from our time in Israel!