To say that a trip to Israel is life-changing is not an exaggeration. The change is not something we looked for. It just happened. It’s hard to explain. Perhaps it’s like the difference between learning a language and having to use the language because you live in that country. But even that is a poor explanation. The other word I can come up with is, ‘immersion’. It happens because of immersion. Being there. Seeing where Paul addressed the people before he was deported to Rome, seeing the beautiful background, getting a grasp of the culture and community because you are THERE. Walking on streets of a city that Abraham may have walked and, if not, would certainly have at least passed within view of. Waking up in Tiberias, just a couple hundred yards from the Sea of Galilee.
Visiting towns where we are sure the Lord taught, ministered, healed, prayed, my goodness-where he grew up and would have known the area because it was his town and other nearby towns. Knowing that Jesus walked in Capernaum, and so did I, and seeing the synagogue where he taught, and Peter’s home. Sitting on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. Understanding little details such as the long journey to Jerusalem, which would take two weeks to walk, stay a week, and then, walk back two weeks. Pondering about the planning it would take and the sacrifice to lose income for that long. Still wondering why it took a day before Jesus’ parents missed him as they traveled back.
Then, when we were in Jerusalem, seeing firsthand that children nine and ten years old are unaccompanied by an adult in the safe Jewish quarter of the old city. It still happens-parents trust their relatives and friends to watch out for each other’s children. It’s easy to see in real life that much of the old culture is alive and well, even after two thousand plus years. Even after having been dispersed around the globe-the culture is still alive!
And the children are so beautiful! I know this seems an odd thing to notice, but the incidence of curly hair seems to be more among this population. And, believe it or not, there were lots of beautiful, red, curly heads trailing after parents or running around nearby. They were just stunningly adorable. I know, it’s odd to notice such a thing, but I love kids, especially seeing a baby or toddler. I would often see these beautiful toddler boys with tzitzit hanging down from under their winter clothes.
Wikipedia explains what that is: The tallit katan (Yiddish/Ashkenazic Hebrew tallis koton; “small tallit“) is a fringed garment traditionally worn either under or over one’s clothing by Jewish males. It is a poncho-like garment with a hole for the head and special twined and knotted fringes known as tzitzit attached to its four corners. (My note: now you know what David had cut off from Saul’s robe!)
I had to wonder how often the tzitzit would have to be repaired after a busy toddler day.
The longer we were there, I became saddened as I could clearly see that the same issues that our Lord addressed are still there. Even though I’ve heard it many times, it surprised me to see in person how deeply ingrained tradition is and how the law is deeply believed to be salvation. Did I say “deeply” twice? Yes, it’s deep. Yet, every law seemed to have a way to get around it without actually breaking it! And the belief that anyone not following the law and traditions as they do are not to be a part of their lives! They still don’t recognize the true Shepherd, the Lamb of God who takes away their sins and sets them free from bondage. They still won’t hear.
I’ll share more thoughts tomorrow, but in the meantime, would you consider making it a habit to pray not only for the nation of Israel, but the spiritual condition of Israel? Although it’s probably the most well known Christian pilgrimage, most Christians in Israel at any given time are tourists.
Lots of love,
Oh Lord, we ask that you open the eyes and ears of those living in Israel. We ask for peace for our Jewish brothers and sisters in the midst of being surrounded by enemies. May they see You, Jesus, as the way, the truth, and the life.