About 24 years ago, shortly after my parents were married but before I was born, my father was reading a newspaper in their apartment. There was a report about a terrorist attack in Israel and as he read about it, he began to cry. Confused, he wondered what it was about Israel that had called for such a reaction. Growing up a southern, Christian gentleman, he did not understand why he should care about that little country over in the middle east but he knew that it was tugging on his heartstrings for some reason!
As a little girl, my biggest dream was to go to Israel one day. Of course, as our family grew, it didn’t seem like a realistic option for us all to visit there, but the desire was in all of our hearts. Then in 2004, my father had the opportunity to visit for almost three weeks. He called us back in the States and told my mother that our whole family would be going there. When she asked how we would afford it, he told her that someone was going to drive up and buy our house. It seemed highly unlikely, since we were living in a non-electric community, our house wasn’t even finished and we certainly were not trying to sell it. But before my father got back from Israel, a man had driven up in our driveway and asked if our house was for sale!
By the time we had sold our house, gotten all our paperwork and were heading to Israel, it was November of 2005. As tourists, we could only get a three month visa, so when our first visa expired in February, we crossed the border to Jordan, spent a very unpleasant one hour there, and returned to Israel to receive another three month visa. After six months, we were out of money and could not work as tourists, so we retuned to the States. Our plan was to work hard, save up and go back to Israel within a few months.
Eight years later … our desire for the whole family to be in Israel together was made reality. In the meantime, our hearts ached as we longed to be in Ha’Eretz (the Land) and we prayed every day that the Heavenly Father would take us back there soon. Why did we want to return? Because our family thrived there! We loved the land, the people, the culture, the language … and we loved the countless opportunities we had to share our faith. Nearly every time we went out, as a family or individuals, people asked us questions like “who are you?” “where are you from?” “why are you here?” “what do you believe?”
Over and over we would share our love for the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and His Messiah – Yeshua. It was this love that caused us to love the land and the people of Israel. We would share with the people that Yeshua was their Messiah too, and we encouraged them to examine Him and His life for themselves by reading what He said and what those who knew Him said about Him. People were intrigued that we observed the Torah and believed in Yeshua, since most of them believe that you can only have one or the other.
After having these thrilling conversations nearly every day for six months, we found it difficult to return to the States where there is no perceived need. Especially here in the South, most people claim to be Christians or to know God … and yet their lives are a mess! How can you present help to someone who doesn’t think he needs it? On top of that, few people understood our longing to be back in Israel because few people could comprehend what we had experienced and, hence the title of this post, few people understood the importance of Israel … it’s just another country in the middle east … what does it matter?
From a Biblical viewpoint, here a few indications that Israel does indeed matter.
- It is the apple of YHWH’s eye – Zechariah 2:8.
- We are commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem – Psalm 122:6
- Jeremiah 31:35-37 “Thus says YHWH, Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (YHWH of hosts is His name): ‘If those ordinances depart from before Me,’ says YHWH, ‘then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says YHWH: ‘If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says YHWH.'” I don’t think we have reached this era … the sun is still shining, the moon and stars will be out tonight, and the heavens haven’t been measured!
- YHWH promised to Abraham and his descendants that He would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him – Genesis 12:3.
From a secular viewpoint, Israel is the only democracy in the middle east, where Jewish and Arab citizens hold the same rights. Israel made incredible advancements in technology, agriculture, the medical field, etc, by which the world has benefited.
Have you been following the news about what has been happening in Israel recently? The tensions started heightening several weeks ago when three Israeli teenagers, one of them an American citizen, were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists. In retaliation, some Israeli teenagers murdered a Palestinian teenager last week. Both incidents were terrible. Tragic. But have you noticed the difference in responses?
When Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah were kidnapped and murdered, the Palestinians openly celebrated and passed out candy in the streets. The mother of one of the kidnappers announced that she was “proud of him”. According to recent reports, the kidnappers have not yet been found and arrested. When Muhammad Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and murdered, Israelis were horrified. The government immediately arrested those involved in the crime and have even refused them lawyers while they undergo interrogation. The prime minister and other officials apologized to the boy’s family and even the mother of one of the murdered Israelis expressed, “No mother or father should go through what we are going now … Even in the depth of the mourning of our son, it’s hard for me to describe how distressed we were over the outrage that happened in Jerusalem.”
See the difference? Don’t get me wrong … Israelis are not perfect and neither is their government! There are some hateful, aggressive Israelis but they don’t teach their children that the only way they can be assured of going to heaven is to die while killing others in the cause of their religion, as Islam does. As you dig deeper into what is happening the middle east right now, it becomes very obvious that the Islamic terrorists are the aggressors and Israel is simply exercising her right to defend her citizens.
And for that, the world condemns her.
During the past week, Hamas terrorists in Gaza have launches hundreds of missiles into Israel. Some have been stopped by the Iron Dome system and others have landed in unpopulated areas. But unfortunately some have “hit home” so to speak. People have been hurt, one elderly woman died while attempting to get to the bomb shelter. Israel has retaliated by bombing targets in Gaza such as rocket-launching areas and Hamas terrorists. They have also called up 40,000 reserve troops for a possible invasion. People in Gaza have been killed. But once again, look at the difference: Israel targets militants and weaponry – usually giving warnings that they are getting to ready to bomb a certain area or house so that innocent civilians can get out. Hamas targets civilians.
Many people around the world are watching what is happening in Israel but can’t relate to it. For our family, this is impossible. Let me explain …
Have you heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”?
On Tuesday night, an Iron Dome battery intercepted rockets over the city of Rishon Lezion. Last year we sang and danced on the streets of this city …
… and several months ago, we were hosted by a generous couple who have a beautiful mini-farm just outside of Rishon Lezion. As I remember the peaceful setting that we enjoyed while grilling out and fellowshipping together, I try to imagine the screech of rockets overhead.
When the news source reports that rockets struck Zichron Yaakov, with shrapnel from the rockets starting a brush fire in the area and one person sustaining shrapnel injuries, it reminds us of these dear friends who live just a few miles from this town.
On Thursday we learned from a friend that there was a protest march on Yefet street in the city of Yafo (where Jonah fled on the boat, and Peter had the vision), with 400 Palestinian-supporters shouting “Death to the Jews”. Our family lived on this very same Yefet street for six weeks in March/April.
Yesterday a rocket hit a fuel tank in the city of Ashdod, causing severe damage and fire, with one Israeli critically injured and seven others lightly injured. Last year we visited a coffee shop/bakery in Ashdod that is run by an Israeli believer … they had delicious pastries and coffee! It was here that I took this picture with a little girl from Germany who was part of our group.
When we hear statements from Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the Israeli chief of staff, it brings back memories of meeting him last year – you can watch a video of this event by clicking here. We pray YHWH would grant him wisdom in this operation, as well as the other government leaders involved.
We pray often for the safety of our friends who are soldiers … Noam is active duty and, last we heard, stationed near the Gaza border. This picture was taken after we had spent a day walking around Jerusalem, including an incident where Arab boys threw rocks at us.
Ziv lived in the house that we stayed in for six weeks, he is a reservist who was called up several days ago and is now, from what we have heard, near the Gaza border. He and the younger children often played basketball together.
We also pray for the soldiers that we don’t know … those that we sang and danced with …
… those that we took pictures with …
… those with whom we shared our faith.
Do you have an iPhone? I encourage you to download the free app “red alert”. It works like an air raid siren, giving notifications of rockets that are launched and where they are aimed to land. Several days ago my brother installed it on his phone and as we all sat around our living room chatting with a friend, it went off multiple times. Even though we knew that we weren’t in danger, we could all sense the tension when the alarm went off. I think it is the best way to relate to what the Israelis are experiencing without actually being there in person.
But what about those in Gaza, you may wonder? What about the innocent civilians who want to live in peace but are unable to because of their government?
In March we met these ladies in Tel Aviv-Yafo … they were from Gaza, what was formerly the well-known Jewish community of Gush Katif. In 2005, Israel forcibly evicted the residents of Gush Katif, a thriving agricultural community, from their homes as they turned Gaza over to Palestinian government … in an effort for peace. Of course, the Palestinian leaders don’t want peace – as they have sent thousands and thousands of rockets into Israel in the past several years. But when we hear report about deaths among Palestinian civilians, we can’t help but to think of people like this. See that cute little baby that my sister was holding? What if she is one of the innocent children who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Or think of these young ladies who stopped to take pictures with my little sister on the beach one afternoon. They were from Shechem (modern day Nablus), which is under Palestinian control, and had to wait a year to get the papers from the Israeli government, allowing them into Israel for a short visit. They were ecstatic to be at the sea! These are the type of people who do want to live in peace, and yet they are caught in the middle because their leaders prefer hatred.
So what is to be done? Does Israel stop attacking Gaza and allow its own civilians to be targeted, terrorized and murdered? Or is it the responsibility of the peace-loving Palestinians to stand up and say “no more!” to their government?
As I was typing this, my brother started reading a news report that thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrated in London and Paris on Friday, demanding an end to the Israeli strikes on Gaza. What about calling for an end to Gaza’s rockets on Israel? Why do the news organizations make an effort to report that Israel is killing civilians in Gaza, but forget to mention that Hamas is targeting and trying to kill Israeli civilians?
Most news sources are very biased against Israel but there are some that tend to be more accurate in representing what is happening there.
There is a saying that neutral people are the devil’s allies. It isn’t true of every situation but I believe it is definitely more accurate than most people would like to admit. When it comes to Israel, you can’t take a neutral position. You can either stand with the people and the land that YHWH chose to be His own thousands of years ago — which, as believers in the Messiah, we are brought into the commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2) and are children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7), is our land too … or you can stand with those who hate this land and these people simply because they are the chosen, and these people will be destroyed – it may not be today or tomorrow or this year, but YHWH does not bless those who curse His people.
Ultimately, there will never be true peace until the Messiah returns. The closest that we can get is to have the peace that passes all understanding in our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7), and this can only come through a personal relationship with Yeshua. That is our prayer for the people of Israel … that they will recognize their Messiah and cry out Baruch Haba B’Shem YHWH – blessed is He Who comes in the name of YHWH (Matthew 23:39).