Welcome to Israel!
We landed at 10 am Israeli time to perfectly clear sunshine. 70 degree weather was a treat coming from the Northeast where it was cold and snowy. As we landed in Tel Aviv, looking out the window at my first glimpse of Israel in almost 20 years, I couldn’t help but think about how Jesus came to this land as a humble baby, born in a dirty manger. He came to suffer and die for our sins. How thankful I am for His sacrifice. I have a feeling we’re going to have reminders like this the entire trip!
Once we were through customs and had our luggage, we hit the ground running and began touring right away. We can sleep when we get home right? Our first stop was the ancient port town of Joppa (today known as Jaffa). Our tour guide shared the importance of having a seaport for ancient Israel. This is where goods came in and out of the land. There is a lot of Biblical history in this small town. Here, Jonah ran from God when He commanded him to go to Nineveh. In Jonah’s fleeing he was treating God like a false god—as if God were only a local god as the pagans believed. Jonah actually thought he could get away from God—the true God who is all powerful and all knowing. Seems silly but I know we all treat God this way sometimes as believers too. This is also where Solomon’s cedars of Lebanon came for the temple. And where Peter was visiting Simon the Tanner and received the vision of previous unclean animals being clean to eat. That was the beginning of taking the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Next we visited the Ayalon Institute in the city of Rehovot. This area was a working kibbutz that was really a front for an underground ammunition factory in the early part of the 1900's. It’s a fascinating story. A group of Jewish young people wanted to to do their part in establishing a safe homeland for Jewish people worldwide. While others were working the farms and living on the kibbutz (like a commune), 45 people were working underground making ammo. And they never told anyone, including those living on the kibbutz, until years later. How did they do it? They smuggled twelve ammunition machines in from Poland, dug a factory underneath the laundry and baking facilities in 21 days, and went to work. All of this happened right under the noses of the British. This story is a great testimony to the Israeli spirit.
Our radio program, The Friends of Israel Today recently talked about this place. You can listen and learn more here (https://radio.foi.org/2018/01/26/interview-laurel-fairworth-ayalon-institute/).
We then drove south to the Valley of Elah. We climbed to the top of Tel Azekah and had a fabulous view of the valley where David killed Goliath. We read 1 Samuel 17 and our bus leader Jim Showers, the executive director of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, shared how David defeating Goliath was a display of God’s sovereignty. Saul was not fit to be king and there was great fear of Goliath among all of the Israelites. When David came to visit his brothers he wanted to know why the people were so afraid. David’s brothers wanted to dismiss him but we all know what happened next. Jim said that God choosing David to be the next king and David’s defeat of Goliath was God’s way of preparing the people to recognize the leader He was making of David. David had no weapons but he had God with him. This is a lesson for us. We don’t have to be great and mighty. We simply need to trust God for His sovereign plan in our lives.
I’m happy to say that after these long days of travel and an amazing day of touring, we headed to the Tel Aviv Dan Panorama Hotel. After checking in we had a wonderful dinner and a much-needed early lights out. I pray we all sleep well because according to our itinerary, it’s another full day in the Holy Land!
Links to where we visited today:
Ayalon Institute: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-ayalon-institute
Valley of Elah: https://www.bibleplaces.com/elahvalley/