Life in Israel
Little children are taught, and encouraged to recite songs like “Oh sons of Zion, Oh the most evil of creatures, Oh barbaric apes,” and avow their desire to die as suicide warriors. School textbooks indoctrinate children with anti-Semitic stereotypes and statements: “Jews are cowards whom Allah has prepared for the fires of Hell.”
It seems as though these artists, on a deep and personal level, understood something about him and his life and it's meaning for all of us in a way that many of us in Messianic Judaism have been trying to grapple with for decades. They understood that he is us.
The protracted conflict in Israel carries with it difficulties that are not always visible to the outside world looking in. The pain is real, deep, and pervasive on all sides of this issue, and I have embraced some who have wept as a result of losing those they love.
In a mere 148 years, the land of Israel has transformed from desolation into a living oasis. How did this change occur? What about the land gave it this amazing ability to change in such a miraculous manner? The settlers of Zion had a largely positive impact on Israel. They turned the desert green.
People in Israel live closely. We have to stand together and help each other. Life is often like living in a dormitory, where we are into and out of each other's homes all the time. We have to be able to laugh at our mistakes and form friendships, so that when things get rough, we can support each other.
I watched in awe as this young woman who had complained so bitterly stated with tears that leaving the army was one of the hardest things that she had ever had do to. We knew beyond any doubt that this army experience had been a life-changing event—and a metaphor for us all.
A fellow (Jewish) teacher said, "Oh, well, you can't really blame them. They see the Jewish soldiers oppressing them. So, it's natural for them to feel this way. You have to love your enemies." I freaked out! Then, I coldly said, "He is not my enemy. He is my student and I do love him."
Living in Jerusalem as a disciple of Yeshua and a practicing Jew, I constantly feel the tension between the Messianic and Orthodox Jewish worlds. Yet that tension was exceptionally sharp as I had to defend my Jewish practice to a fellow believer in Yeshua.
Here in Israel, everyone is a Jewish mother or father to the soldiers who serve in the IDF. It is not uncommon for a stranger to go out of his or her way to help a soldier in any way they can. The soldiers are like our own children.
HaYovel’s busiest season is “harvest season,” usually occurring in late August when the grapes are ripe for gathering. Thirty-five staff members help transport volunteers from the airport to the vineyards, cook and prepare meals for all five hundred workers, and organize the massive operation to take place in an effective manner.
I knew it had to have been an attack, so accustomed are we to this outrage in this part of the world. Not wanting to alarm my husband and daughter, I looked at YNET on my ipad and saw there had been a shooting at the upscale, trendy Sarona neighborhood at our favorite chocolate restaurant.
Today, as G-d, true to His word, sovereignly regathers the exiles to His Holy Land, we are beginning to see the flowering of that nation, established in a day, in the heart of a region seized with turmoil and violence. Israel has filled the earth with beautiful fruit of every venue.
During the Six-Day War, one of the most stirring moments occured, which was captured on camera and tape, when Lt. General Mordechai Gur announced, "The Temple Mount is in our hands … the Temple Mount is in our hands!" Why was this so very significant?
Where had her father been? There were children playing at the park across the street and this hero, who was in pain himself, got out of his car and rounded up the kids to shelter them inside a garage. He covered them with his body, arms around them, and calmed their fears.
Last year I began to find myself less enthusiastic than I had been at the school for Palestinian kids. I wondered at the reasons. Yes, we have been through terror attacks and operations by the IDF. I have mourned with those on both sides who have lost people and rejoiced at celebrations for weddings and graduations. What was wrong?
Nearly seventy years ago, a great miracle took place. After enduring thousands of years of foreign domination and exile which culminated in the cruel evil of genocide, God’s chosen people witnessed the sudden and miraculous fulfillment of ancient prophecies, hopes, and prayers: the rebirth of a sovereign Jewish state in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
At this moment speeches come to a halt, because words fail us as we try to describe the pain of our lost children. Traffic stops as individuals stand outside their cars to show respect. Movement in the streets suspends as everyone, no matter where they are, stands completely still with their heads bowed.
I looked at the faces of my students and I prayed. I prayed for a world in which they can be proud and unafraid Jews. I prayed for a world in which my children and my students can live in peace. I prayed for a solution to the protracted and relentless conflict with the Palestinians.
It was finally time to pay a visit to the tomb of the matriarch Rachel. I had been longing to visit her tomb for years. It’s kind of tricky to get to, or at least used to be, because it’s near Bethlehem, which is in a territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
These boys are those among the very committed. No one has to join a Special Forces unit. It takes dedication, perseverance and a desire to have one's service count. The physical and psychological demands are above those of a regular soldier, and those demands are high.
As I watched the vendors, the kids, the families and the flowers, I was overcome with emotion, to stand at the same spot in which my son had stood to defend and protect us, and to see that life in the glorious South is continuing and thriving because of him and others like him.
A gift lovingly given, a young man on a tour of Israel, and a terrorist attack all converged together to blend tragedy with hope and provision. This is the story of how God in his infinite wisdom can use seemingly random people across the globe to intersect into one moment in time.
It's tense in the Holy Land. There have been fatal attacks on young Jewish families, mothers, children, soldiers, and fathers. There have been demonstrations and Palestinian kids and youth have been killed. Our soldiers are kids, often confronting angry mobs. Their demonstrators are also kids, who feel as if they have very little to lose.
This is a country where, if you can't find your kids, you can be fairly sure they are at someone's house, eating schnitzel. When there is a stranger he is welcomed and when there is someone who is lonely, they don't have to be, because they are included.
Here in Israel, we have some confusion between congregation and community because we use the same Hebrew word (kehila) for both. The word kehila is also used to describe the "body", the general Messianic community throughout Israel. This seems to imply that congregations are the community and the community is the congregation.
To cope with the recent attacks Israelis are taking self-defense classes and buying personal weapons such as pepper spray. Most of us have had to change something about our daily routines. I’ve had to change my running route to run at a later hour when I’m not so vulnerable by being alone.
The Messianic community in Israel has a disproportionate amount of ministry personnel over the marketplace, which creates tension over wages, workload, and religious leadership. Israel is a hotspot for international ministries and the locals find it hard to refuse employment opportunities. Ministry should not be taken lightly, it is not an opportunity for easy work.
Sitting in the Aroma cafe, reading headline after headline about boycotting Israel and the BDS movement, I mused if the “loud voices” of this movement had ever been to Israel. Had they ever experienced what I am experiencing now? Chances are good they haven’t.
Messianic Jews in Israel are too few to create their own subculture in society. As such, they will necessarily study and work with others, adopting a large degree of existing identity markers. Unfortunately, secular society tends to be the only option. Where do we fit into the big scheme of it all?
Just moments after HaShem has held us, forgiven us, and renewed us, he places us outside and subject to the elements, making the week of our joy also the week of our testing. We place ourselves outside of our own comfort, joining our brothers and sisters, exposed to our vulnerabilities and ourselves.
Finally, as if the universe shifts a bit, their smiling faces come through the doors. Like thousands before them and thousands to follow they come with tears in their eyes and a dream in their hearts. We run to them, singing and shouting: “Welcome home!” We embrace for a few moments longer than usual.
“It takes courage to come here as a Diaspora Jew” we all agreed and began laughing at our various Hebrew mistakes, the stigma of being American, the army and the difficulties we had to overcome within Israeli society. None of us ever regretted the decision we had made to live in Israel.