In 1986 I was invited to be a part of a team ministering in Israel. The team’s mission was to provide a children’s ministry for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). The ICEJ began some years before when, as the founders put it, they realized how world turned cold hearts against Israel, none acknowledging Jerusalem as the Capitol of Israel.
[Aside: Interestingly, President Trump is the first to begin the process of moving the Ame rican Embassy to Jerusalem. No wonder so much trouble has been stirred up against him. I’m convinced most of the world hates Israel. But those who bless Israel shall be blessed, though perhaps they’re persecuted first.]
The annual Festival of Succoth was chosen as a time to gather as many Christians as possible from around the world to join in celebration. Rosh HaShanah begins tonight, Yom Kippur follows in 10 days, and then Succoth. As it was when first I went to Israel, so it is today: A time thousands of Christians gather in Jerusalem to Celebrate The Feast.
I fell in love with Israel, and in particular with Jerusalem. The work with the ICEJ was incredible and in the company of other volunteers, I was able to spend time touring the Biblical sites throughout Israel.
In 1987, I returned to Israel for The Feast, and to again work with the children’s ministry of the ICEJ, I did so planning to stay on in Jerusalem. Many other Christians that worked as volunteers for the Celebration Festivities did also. I became friends with a number of people that continued volunteer work in Jerusalem. One women provided full-time, live-in nursing care to an elderly woman, for instance. One man volunteered as a carpenter/fix-it man at a small village that had been turned into an asylum for the mentally ill, many of whom were Holocaust “survivors.” (I mean no disrespect by using quotes around survivors, for I those in that village sadly didn’t fully survive, though they lived.)
These people I met worked hard, long hours. If anyone needed a break, it was them. Like the disciples of Yeshua mentioned in the Gospel According to Mark:
“. . . [Yeshua] said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. ” v. 31
Responding to their need for a break, I was blessed to be able organize and secure financial assistance for a variety excursions. One particular trip to us, a group of about eight, to a monastery located above the town of Jericho. While the monks not always allowed visitors, we were blessed to be able to spend several hours simply relaxing atop that mountain, viewing the valley and town below. We ate in Jericho, then returned by bus late in the afternoon to Jerusalem.
A small group of us whet to Cairo, Egypt, for a few days. No, Cairo doesn’t fit the bill of a quiet and solitary place. But it was an adventure we shared together, and thoroughly enjoyed. We visited a few museums, a huge bazaar, and toured inside a pyramid. While we’d all spent a lot of time traveling in buses in various countries, one of the most interesting experiences was the buses of Cairo. They never stopped. To enter or leave, one would grab a handle on the doorway, and simply jump aboard. Just to ensure people didn’t fall as they entered, there were large scoop-shaped doors that protruded from the side of the bus. I was a pretty incredible thing to do. Returning to Israel we were able to easily get new visas, which was a good thing, as we were at the end of our short-term visas.
One of my favorite places to take groups was through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. A brief mention is made of it in 2 Kings 20:20:
“[Hezekiah] made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city”
While I suppose it’s changed today, but in the mid-1980s it was a very low-key adventure, and it was free. Then there were no signs even marking it’s entrance, until just before the stairway going downward. The story I was told is that King Hezekiah had engineers dig a tunnel from the springs located outside the city walls, to bring water within the city. It was especially useful when foreign nations attempted to take Jerusalem. Two teams of engineers were used, one from each end. Somewhere in the middle of the tunnel there is a sharp bend where it is said workers from one team could hear the sounds of the other team, and began their cut in that direction. It was mere feet between them at that point, and they soon met each other. Each of the groups I was privileged to lead carried candles, a tradition we were told, and trod through the icy waters the 583 yards (533 m) the tunnel runs through solid rock from the spring to the Pool of Siloam.
For all of us that felt called to go to Israel, felt called to show compassion upon a people that asked none, but so richly deserved it, we gladly served as able. Our various trials and difficulties in the doing of this service was offset by our travels in a beautiful country, rich in history, and filled with marvelous people. Certainly, those time we retreated to solitary places renewed within us the Spirit of G-D that enables us to continue our work.
It’s been a long time since Israel, and some faces of friends met there have faded, places have, likewise, become foggy in my mind, but other images are crystal clear. I hope they remain that way until the next time I am blessed to once again set foot upon the Promised Land of Milk and Honey.