Musings in Israel.
At 71 years of age I thought I would never see the Promised Land, even during 25 years of travel abroad, but I was asked to accompany a Mission worker friend, Mr Thomas Jennings, who was visiting us earlier this year; so, here I am in Israel.
I worked briefly in Lebanon so the topography, heat and architecture was no surprise to me, even the ancient sites, as there are a good few in that land too.
Of course, all the Bible places are special and to see even Herod’s antiquities had a relevance, like Caesarea where Paul was 2 years in prison and where evangelist Philip lived with his 7 daughters who prophesied : a magnificent site on the Mediterranean sea.
I was surprised by the size of Nazareth, now a city spread out over many hills, a nightmare of a place to drive through because the lack of road signs! However, drivers are much better than Lebanon, it was bad there. Also the roads in Israel are of high quality and a couple of motorway intersections matched Spaghetti Junction on our M6. A Christian group have made an ‘old Nazareth village’ on a hectare of a hillside with men and women illustrating the old crafts from the first century.
The carpenter’s shop was very special of course as was the wine press and the synagogue where our young guide gave great Bible illustrations and finished off with a short but beautifully presented gospel message! The others in the group were Catholics from England on pilgrimage! The guide likened the double pressing of the grapes to Gethsemane [wine press] and the sufferings of Jesus there; he had tears in his eyes and so did I.
Capernaum, of course, was special too, although it left me with many questions. Why did fishermen choose such a rocky shore line to work from? Why were the rocks of the walls and walkways of the old town so black? They looked volcanic, but where were the volcanos? It was great to pass by the fields on the hill side where the Sermon on the Mount was preached, but sad to see massed army vehicles on the lower slopes, facing north? I was reminded of a recent report that said there are many thousands of rockets now pointing at Israel from those northern and eastern borders, not far away. But, sat beside the synagogue ruins that the centurion built and where Jesus taught, I was impressed with one thing – He’s coming back again, very soon!
On day 2 we had a dust storm so visibility was poor thereafter and it was 45 degrees with very hot wind down at the Dead Sea and Cumran, a vivid example of the harsh weather they had to endure without the blessings of AC in cars and homes.
Staying in Haifa in a hostel that was also a drug rehab centre for men [also in Beersheba] and walking down town for diner at night it was obvious that Israel is afflicted by the curse of alcohol and drugs, just like the west. Worse, at the top of the main city centre street there was a beautiful building and gardens laid out high up the mountain, but it was a Temple to a demon! Thomas says Israel is a most unholy land!
However, I was delighted to meet so many people, Israelites and Gentiles, who were involved in mission, so staying in Christian hostels and B&Bs, I met many who were really praying for the peace of Jerusalem and actively spreading the Word. I spoke with John [of the tribe of Levi] an elder in the Haifa assembly and he told me that many churches in Israel were growing steadily, Haifa considering 2 meetings on Sunday to cope. An Arab missionary also reported the same thing, so that’s very encouraging.
Another thing that impressed me was the agriculture; I had heard much about the kibbutzim who were making the desert bloom, but to see many hundreds of hectares of fig, date and various trees and shrubs, under net covers, besides fields everywhere in fruit and vegetables was great; that’s really serious agribusiness.
We saw our main business in Tel Aviv, the Red Light area that was shockingly desperate as people laid in the dust to have their daily fix; we saw one lad injecting into his jugular vein for a fast affect. Satan is so successful and so few to meet the needs of so much suffering. My friend facilitates a new rehab house for the women. A report was given in a small nearby church but there was more interest in finding out where we lived!
Bethlehem in the West Bank was hot, dusty and commercialised, but we stayed with a dear young English couple doing a great work among Arabic children .
Beersheva down south, was also hot and dusty but another church of Ashkenazy, [Russian Israelis] a number of whom were converted addicts, please pray for Rod, Svetlana and Dove who lead the work there and in the north.
Jerusalem of course was amazing, I did the important sights and was caught up in Bar mitzvahs in the morning and preparation for Yom Kippor in the evening, a high spirited youth sanctification celebration that went on long into the night. But it was at the Weeping Wall that I had a strong sense that there could be no doubt that their 3rd temple will be built in the very near future. We visited the Temple Institute for a tour of their preparations and saw the portable altar ready to go to Temple Mount the moment they have possession of it; the only thing they have not yet decided is, who will be the High Priest! They have 3 candidates. The young lady who was our guide spoke with much passion and her eyes glistened once or twice, she was close to tears as she talked of her Messiah that will soon come!.
My visit conformed my friends words – Israel is a most unholy Land – but why? Why is it so sad? There is the Biblical reason – Israel is still ‘set aside’ – Diaspora is still the case, even if they are in the Land, their hearts are still far from Jehovah, despite so many Orthodox. But what about 4 million of Arabs there, they can be saved. The western church has failed miserably to evangelise them, even when they came to us. God has had to do it himself and our friend in Bethlehem said that they regularly hear of many who have seen dreams and visions of Jesus,