What's Your Picture of Israel Today?

by Lonnie Lane 

 

What’s your picture of Israel today? What do you think it looks like? The media often makes it seem like Israel is barely hanging on, in crisis all the time, and losing the battle. Such is surely not the case. The media won’t give you even a remotely adequate picture of life in Israel. A snapshot here or there, or a video clip, and at best you get an out of context can’t-see-the-whole-picture media-biased idea of the quality of life in Israel. And non-Biblical opinions by news commentators may find a way to imply that Israel has no real right to the territory called Israel. But God seems to be blessing her right there in the land, as if He is keeping His promises to the patriarchs….

(Beep) We interrupt this article to bring you a news bulletin. Just as this article was completed, we were made aware of the following news factoid as if to make the point above: “… A meeting of top level Catholic Bishops from the Vatican issued a paper which said, "Israel cannot use the biblical concept of a promised land or a chosen people to justify ... territorial claims….” Perhaps this article was God’s response to the Vatican paper even before it was released. We now return to our regularly scheduled article. (Beep.)

The media won't give you even a remotely adequate picture of life in Israel.

Having just received an email from my friend Elhanan in Jerusalem, I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you a realistic picture of life in Israel, without all the political hullabaloo. Glory be to God, He is the God who can be trusted to watch over His people and His land. Numerous times in Scripture He calls the land of Israel “My land” and the Jewish people “My people.” His trustworthiness to keep His promise of the land to them is wrapped up with His lovingkindness and it’s seen all over Israel. Makes me want to sing, “Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies” (Psalm 36:5). Right here in the midst of all the turmoil directed toward and against Israel, God is blessing her enormously. The standard of living for the Israelis (including the Arabs who live in Israel-proper) far exceeds that of most of the Arab countries that seek her demise. Perhaps the explanation is in Genesis 12:3, if you care to look it up. Here’s what Elhanan had to say:

“He prepares a table for me in the presence of mine enemies” (King David, Psalm 23:5). “I can tell you for a fact that (though our enemies) batter Israel relentlessly in every way, yet Israel just keeps on prospering.… Israel continues flourishing in technological development, the greening of an utter wasteland into Colorado-like forests and wheat fields and fruit and fish farms, turning dead and abandoned hilltops into Life, and green and thriving communities (a.k.a. “settlements"). Along with military successes, now (we have) major natural gas and oil discoveries to boot. You should see Israel since you were last here. It has grown vastly to a very pleasant place to live, with wonderful goods and services, and utterly fascinating and modernized high-tech ancient biblical sites to see. Jerusalem is being tastily and lovingly modernized and cleaned and renovated, with a commuter train a-coming, timeless shopping malls, beautiful hotels, and great hospitals with a fully functioning universal healthcare system. The incredible Israel Museum has just re-opened after a three year renovation, with the world's greatest biblical puzzle pieces supporting the Scriptural accounts. The new Bible Lands Museum is a gem. The Holocaust Museum has been completely re-done as a magnificent and moving work of art. The tourism industry is absolutely flourishing. The economy is stable (I moved my dollars to shekels), unemployment is low – and much more. Yes…there is (blessings) in the air over here for the Jews and their (faithful) and invisible G-d.”

The same day Elhanan’s email arrived, so did my Hadassah magazine. Hadassah is the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. The women in my immediate family are five generations of Haddassahniks (members) as of this year. As I think I may have told you before, my grandmother helped raise money to pay for some of the trees that enabled Israel to turn swamps into fertile lands and my Mom worked for years to support the land and the Hadassah Hospital, after which the organization is named, that serves both Jews and Arabs and is a leading contender for medical and scientific advancements in the world. My daughters are also very involved today as well. So as you see, Israel isn’t just “over there” for many Jews. It remains very much in the forefront of our hearts and many of our activities. As some Jews who work for Israel have never even been there, for those of us with eyes to see, what we see is a work of the Holy Spirit to keep Israel alive in our hearts as one day all Jews will be returned to the Land according to over fifty prophecies in the Word of God. How God will accomplish that remains to be seen.

I know many of you who love the Lord love what He loves, and so you love Israel too. The Hadassah magazine this month focused on how Israel has been making the desert bloom for over a century. I thought I’d share some of those facts with you, taken from the magazine. But first, a little history. Following the deportation of the southern tribes of Benjamin and Judah to Babylon in 586 B.C., following the Northern Tribes deportation in 720 B.C., for the next 1800 years the land of Israel remained a wasteland. Jews the world over would recite every year at Passover, “Next year in Jerusalem” as the hope of restoration to their land remained firmly in their hearts. It was a rare Christian that took the Scriptures seriously to believe that one day God would return the Jews to the land, but some individuals and even some groups such as the Moravians prayed and held onto God’s word and believed for their return. (Note: take this as a challenge to you to believe God’s Word, no matter what the circumstances look like and how long it looks like that.)  (Note #2: I wonder if there are special rewards in heaven for those who believe God about Israel. It’s not too late to get in on that, y’know. Lots to pray for still.)

Though Jews have always lived in the land, until as recently as one hundred years ago Israel was “an ecological disaster.” When land is denuded of trees, a process called “desertification” takes place, as in creating a desert. Israel was once located in what was called, “the Fertile Crescent.” But during the 400 years under Ottoman rule in particular, the trees were cut down in massive numbers for two reasons: 1) taxes were calculated based on the number of trees owned by the landowner, and 2) to build a railroad from Constantinople through Israel to Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia, in order to facilitate the journey of Muslims to the required once-in-a-lifetime visit to Mohammed’s home town. 

What was once a barren wilderness is now a land of lush fields, forests and farms.

When a notable number of Jews began to return to the land in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, their first priority was to drain the often Malaria-infested swamps, and to restore Israel’s forests and make the desert bloom. The first kibbutz was founded on the shores of the Galilee in 1910 which began to make the dream a reality. A few years earlier, in 1901, the budding Zionist movement established the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to oversee the reforestation of the Land. A little blue metal box sat on my grandmother’s kitchen table into which went her quarters and dimes to help pay for the trees. (Remember, this was the 1940’s and 50’s when that was a lot more money than it would be today. You can still help plant trees in Israel. I recently presented my pastors (they’re married) with a lovely certificate of a tree I had planted in Israel in their honor. You can plant trees too: Go to jnf.org.) Over 200 million trees have transformed the landscape and the oxygen levels of the country as well. What was once a barren wilderness is now a land of lush fields, forests and farms. The greening of Israel has been met by a number of the world’s most advanced agricultural accomplishments. In the 1950’s Israel invented water-saving drip irrigation to preserve their water supply which has revolutionized agricultural growth around the world. As for the trees, Israel has been making the desert bloom for over a century, shipping out huge quantities of flowers, fruits and vegetables daily to the rest of the world.

Israel excels in science, agriculture and technology above almost every other nation in the world. (Did you know that cell phones were invented by Israelis? The first time I ever saw, rather heard one, was on an Israeli bus. Suddenly a phone rang. What? I’m on a bus. How can a phone be ringing? The next sound I heard was a bus full of people who had whipped out their cells, all saying “Hello” or “Shalom” at once. No different rings to identify whose phone was ringing then.) 

But with all the accomplishments, I don’t think I have to tell you that the heart and soul of Israel is without a doubt Jerusalem. It was first settled in the fourth century B.C.E., which makes it one of the oldest cities in the world. It is home to some of the planet’s best preserved and holiest artifacts and historic sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all who call Abraham father. Walking through the streets of Jerusalem is not like walking though any other city in the world. It has a feel and an aura, a sense of God’s presence being close like no other. Praying at the remains of the Western Wall of the Temple is an experience unique in itself in which one feels not only connected to God but to centuries and generations of Jewish persons who also put their hands on the wall and prayed fervently there. To welcome the Shabbat at the Wall, while the Yeshiva boys in their Chasidic garb dance arm and arm in circles, singing their songs to God, is like being transported to another time – but surely not another place.

God called Jerusalem His city. It is He who brought Israel back to the land: “When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream” (Psalm 126:1). Jerusalem is called Zion referring both to the city of David and the city of God so it has both a physical and a spiritual meaning. He restored it for His purpose: “For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation” (Psalm 132:13). Having returned the people to the land, the Bible also prophesies Messiah’s return at a time when Israel is under siege by her enemies when He comes to fight on her behalf and brings great judgment upon her enemies: “In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east” (See Zecharia chapter 14 for the whole picture.). Messiah Yeshua can only return as fulfillment of prophecy if the Mount of Olives belongs to the Jews.

The devil knows that, so he continually instigates wars over Jerusalem. It is desired by nations because it holds a fascination for all men so they have sought to take it from one another. But the real war is to take and keep Jerusalem from the Jewish people. It’s history is unlike any other city in the world. It has been besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. So the battle going on today is not a new one. But God gave it to the sons of Jacob whom He renamed Israel. And it is to Israel the land will remain. When Lord Yeshua returns it will only be to Jerusalem; no other city in all the earth will do; He has called none other His own. 

But let’s take a little walk around the city. The Old City is about a mile square and is in the center of Jerusalem. I’ve walked through it in less than ½ hour to give you an idea of how big it was in David’s or Yeshua’s day. You can walk along the top of the city walls. I once had the exciting adventure of being inside the wall in order to get to the top though I don’t advocate doing it. Neither did the army who was not happy to see us there. See my article, “Seeing From the Top of the Wall.” 

There is also a panorama road that offers a view of the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the Judean desert just beyond. Next year, Jerusalem’s electric-powered light rail system will enable tens of thousands of Israelis and tourists to travel through the city silently and without using a drop of oil or gasoline. Take a stroll though the market and taste Israel’s freshest produce including luscious fruits and vegetables, local olives, spices, fragrant mounds of fresh bread….nuts, dried fruits, pastries and …my favorite, halvah. Of course, the Biblical sights can be seen no where else as in Jerusalem.

There is so much to see everywhere in Israel. There are trails all over Israel for hikers and bikers. You will see ancient structures validating the Bible throughout Israel. When any evidence, large or small, a buried village or a fragment is discovered of earlier days on a building site, everything stops and whatever is found is carefully protected and archaeologists pour over it to determine it’s history. Following the verse that says that God will “have compassion on Zion,” it says,“Surely Your servants find pleasure in her stones” (Psalm 102:13, 14). That they do. It would seem God also finds pleasure in her stones. 

A trip to the Galilee is to visit the area that witnessed many of the Biblical stories.

From the snow covered mountain of Mt. Hermon where you can ski, or through pastoral hillscapes, past biblical remnants and vastly excavated cities, we journey down to the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth. It’s been used for rejuvenation and relaxation for thousands of years and remains one of Israel’s main attractions. The landscape is exquisite in color and rock forms. The Dead Sea is surrounded by the mountain fortress of Masada, by Ein Gedi where David hid from King Saul, Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and where the first monasteries were founded in the Judean Desert. The sea itself has no outlet but loses huge amounts of water through evaporation leaving very high concentrations of twenty-one minerals and salts which are reportedly good for one’s health. Perhaps you’ve heard of the therapeutic black mud packs for skin and whatever ails you. The water is nearly eight times more salty than the ocean, which burns your tongue if you taste it, while enabling a person to float on its surface without any paddling. You can lay in the water and read a book at the same time.

While you’re wandering through Israel, you may want to partake of Tel Aviv’s bike-share program which offers 1500 bicycles so you can explore the beachfront and tree lined boulevards, stopping at an outdoor café for coffee or lunch. The bikes can be picked up and dropped off at 150 locations throughout the city. Tel Aviv is an amalgamation of many cultures all pulled together. It’s been said that Tel Aviv’s multi-cultural lifestyle makes it one of the world’s “hippest travel destinations.” 

Southeast of Tel Aviv is the Ariel Sharon Ayalon Park which was once a foul-smelling garbage dump. Now it’s an urban oasis where you can hike, horseback ride, climb or visit the stunning gardens, attesting to the Israeli’s ingenuity and resourcefulness. From the observation deck you can see a view of the three recycling plants that turn waste into re-usable material without polluting the air or water. Tel Aviv recently passed a law requiring new construction to adhere to low water use, energy efficiency, thermal and acoustic insulation, limited use of raw materials, natural ventilation and lighting and even ‘green roofs” where people can grow their own foods and flowers, thereby setting a precedent for model cities the world over. But it’s not just for cities that Israel sets a standard. We all know that the future of automobiles is likely in electric cars. Israel is releasing in 2011, the world’s first “actionable electric car system” which will provide thousands of recharging centers and battery changing stations throughout Israel. Today visitors can drive the cars on a test track. Climb in, press “on” and go from 0 to 60 in five silent seconds.  

A trip to the Galilee is to visit the area that witnessed many of the Biblical stories. It was once covered with knee-deep swamps which has been drained to reveal fertile farmland. Some of the best bird-watching in the world takes place there with millions of migrating birds twice a year as the seasons change. One of the best ways to see it all is on the bike trails that circle the lake, about a 5-hour ride. Lots of charming bed and breakfasts as well as world class spa retreats, and Slow Food eateries with delectable meals. Or head for the Negev Desert that stretches into Africa through more bike trails. Or perhaps you’d prefer to ride a camel, stopping at a Bedouin camp overnight or just for delicious coffee. Not all of the desert is desert any longer, thanks to the drip irrigations the Israeli’s invented. They have transformed the Negev into lush orchards and wineries, using techniques that date back to Biblical times.

Many things have changed in Israel since they have been back in the land. Great advancements have been made, but there is still a respect for what has gone before, for the land itself, for what it has been through, and sometimes even using the techniques learned by Jews many years before, like growing grapes and making wine. Few Shabbat tables would be without wine grown at home, in Israel. I’ll end our little tour of Israel with a Shabbat blessing as I close my computer down for the Sabbath. L’chaim. To life!

 

 Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2010. 

 
  

 

Lonnie Lane

For Lonnie's other articles, check out our Exclusive Articles and Resources, especially the section on One New Man.

Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

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