Posted by: reformedmusings | September 23, 2007

I’m back, with thoughts!

Thanks to everyone for their patience. I’ve been on the road in Israel and the U.K. That was a great trip. In Israel, we stayed in Tel Aviv but traveled to Haifa and Ceasarea on business. As part of our introduction to the Israeli mindset, our hosts took us on a tour of Jerusalem, including the Yad Vashem holocaust museum, the Mount of Olives looking down on the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Western Wall.

Several points bear mentioning. Yad Vashem is designed to be a very personal experience, centering not so much on historical details, although there are plenty of those, but on the stories of people–putting faces on the tragic history. While we waited for our guide at the museum, our Jerusalem guide explained the goals of the state of Israel: 1) provide a safe place for Jews to live free from persecution; and 2) help Jews get there who desire to come.

Point 1, of course, comes into high relief in Yad Vashem. Although Jews are safe in the U.S. and most of Europe today, history doesn’t indicate that’s a long-term state of affairs. As our guide pointed out, the job isn’t complete yet because Israel’s neighbors are intent on its destruction. More on that later.

On Point 2, the Israeli’s have gone to sometimes heroic measures to rescue Jews from hostile foreign lands. They have both bribed governments and leveraged their talented military and intelligence network. It’s hard to put oneself in their place, especially for Americans who have no uniform, shared ethnic or religious background. Yet, this drives a great deal of thinking in Israel and spawned the so-called “Right of Return” for Jews who can trace their lineage to the third generation. I saw law this in action with a Russian Jew who emigrated four years ago to Israel. He served as our security guard in Jerusalem, and did a great job.

On our own with a tour guide, we visited the Plain of Meggido (stopped in the Gas Station at the End of the World; HT: Douglas Addams), Capurnum, Sea of Galilee, Mount of Beatitudes, Tiberius, and the Jordan River. Of course, there is rampant idolatry of the worst kind throughout. I saw people kissing stones, icons, getting “special blessings”, etc., in the churches, not to mention the statues. We all know that most, if not all, of the relics are fakes. That’s all very sad, and it caused me to constantly question my own feelings on the experience and not sink into cynicism. On the other hand, literally walking where our Savior once roamed this earth can be heady stuff. I was struck again with how much He sacrificed in the Incarnation to save His elect by grace alone through faith alone.

In the end, I came away appreciating the journeys of our Biblical forebearers in the faith–the hilliness and roughness of the terrain, and the challenges of the climate. There are lots of rocks, hills, and sun. At the same time, the distances and features are so small by American standards of geography.

That geographic scale pervades Israeli thinking. From an apartment in Haifa you can see the mountains of Jordan. We spent most of our tour day to Galilee under the shadow of the Golan Heights (the wine made there is excellent). On our way to/from Galilee, we passed within shouting distance of Jenin, where the Intifada started. We saw memorials to victims in places where homicide bombers killed busfuls of civilians just to make a point to their friends in the prison by the side of the road. Haifa itself was rocketed in the 2nd Lebanon War. Of course, Israeli civilians are rocketed literally every day from outside their borders. An attack jet can fly across Israel in about 2-3 minutes. Time to react to an attack is non-existent. One must anticipate every possibility or perish if you miss something. It’s hard to understand that in the U.S. where we have two great ocean barriers and friends on either side. Even ICBMs from Russia or China take 20 minutes to get here. While we have serious issues on our southern border, the illegal immigrants aren’t wearing bombs yet. But don’t get comfortable, because that day is coming as sure as I’m typing this.

Probably the most lasting impression left with me was the gulf between the Islmaist world and the western world. Seeing it first hand really drives the point home. Islamist thinking is so foreign to us in the West, even in the living of their daily lives. I won’t go into detail, but if you get to the Middle East, by all means notice the difference between Islamist ways and Western ways. The Islamist are far more corrupt, with their actions betraying the flowery words they speak in the press.

If you want to know what a Palestinian state looks like, look at the internal barbarism and carnage in Gaza. For people that think that 11 Islamists using four airliners full of passengers as missiles to kill 3,000 innocent victims was an aberration, think again. They’d do it again tomorrow if they could get away with it. They have no conscience, beheading children in Iraq and Afghanistan, murdering over 300 children, raping many of the young girls, in Breslan, Russia. If we don’t vanquish them over there, our cities will be like Israel’s–living under constant threat of attack in our restaurants and shopping centers. Every card-carrying member of the Western World should send a personal note of thanks to the coalition troops fighting to keep the worst from happening. That’s not alarmist, that’s reality.

And that brings me to my last comment. While we were on our way back to Tel Aviv, our guide’s thoughts turned to eschatology. I don’t know if he reads a lot of dispensationalist stuff on the side (I’m betting that he’s Jewish, though) or even if his thoughts are shared by many Israelis. I do know that he has degrees in history and archeology. He stated clearly is opinion that the U.S. is the country of good guys in Revelation. He could not understand why the U.S. didn’t take up the mantle that history has, in his mind, clearly placed on us. I’m more than a bit uncomfortable with that thinking, but I thought that I’d report it. While many in the West want to hide in their comfortable homes and pretend that the world will go away if we’re just nicer to people, or give them what they want, or even just bow to their gods, people who live within earshot (and small rocket shot) of the enemy seek our help. There you have it, for what it’s worth, without further comment.

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