Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?
There is a mixture of excitement and some sadness as we begin our last day of touring in Israel. It’s strange. Many of us are just getting to know each other, yet we know we will soon be saying goodbye. But seeds of fellowship have been planted, and we have no time for sadness when there is new joy to be had and much to learn! So today, we begin with a very quick bus ride right up the street from our hotel to…
The Jewish Agency for Israel
If you can imagine that over 100 years ago you were one of the small but growing number of people wanting to see the Jewish people return to Israel and finally have sovereignty in a world full of antisemitism, how would you prepare for such a thing?
The answer is, you would support or be part of The Jewish Agency for Israel.
We toured this marvelous historic facility this morning and learned the amazing history of the work of The Jewish Agency. This labor of deep love for the Jewish people around the world was a mixture of inspiration, sacrifice, espionage, military takeover, global politics, and all that happened to prepare for the modern state of Israel. Here’s the short version:
In the 1890s, Herzl authored Der Judenstaat, “The Jewish State,” making a case for a sovereign Israel, and helped found the World Zionist Organization (WZO), later renamed The Jewish Agency for Israel. The Jewish Agency helped oppressed Jews resettle in Israel; and, ultimately, largely through its efforts, the state of Israel was reborn.
We toured much of the building and sat in the room of the first Knesset, where so much history was made as local leaders solved problem after problem with resourcefulness, prayer, and deep resolve. We even saw the location of the super-secret compartment where key documents were hidden from the Brits in spite of their 10-day search. Folks at home, please don’t ask us where it is—you will just have to come see for yourself!
We saw images of key figures working here to support the birth of Israel, such as Golda Meir, Albert Einstein, and David Ben Gurion. Suffice it to say that God was clearly with the Jewish people. As Israel was outnumbered like Gideon’s army of 300, God gets all the glory in this victory. Today the Agency improves conditions within Israel, builds connections among the Jewish people around the world, and still helps thousands of Jews from oppressed areas resettle in Israel each year.
We ended our tour with Jim Showers signing a 75th anniversary affirmation of commitment to Israel. Jim surprised our hosts with a $25,000 gift to The Jewish Agency to help other Jews, including those in Ukraine today, come to Israel to start a new life.
The visit to The Jewish Agency reminded us of the dark history of antisemitism from which modern Israel has shined in a brilliant light of hope. It only made sense that our next stop would be Israel’s national Shoah (Holocaust) memorial, Yad Vashem, located fittingly on the Mount of Remembrance.
Established in 1953 as a place to mourn all those who were lost in the Holocaust, including about 6 million Jewish lives, Yad Vashem holds the largest collection of artifacts in the world. We saw many of these for ourselves in print, photo and film. Words here cannot capture the depth of trauma and tragedy we witnessed. The horrors are undeniable, yet the scope of the cruelty is nearly impossible to fathom. But it cannot (and must not) be denied.
The visit ends with a somber but beautiful tribute to the countless lost children. In a vast dark room filled with mirrors, infinitely reflected small lights around us each represent the life of a child, tragically extinguished so early in life.
I should mention as well that Yad Vashem honors the Righteous Gentiles who helped save Jewish lives during the Holocaust. Names like Oscar Schindler, Corrie Ten Boom, and Raoul Wallenberg are among over 28,000 on display for visitors. But even this bit of comfort does not settle the challenging emotions stirred by the horrors of the Holocaust. It is comforting to know that so many visitors are coming to remember and to join Israel in saying, “Never again.”
Davidson Center: Jerusalem Archaeological Park
Our final stop would be back at the edge of the Old City of Jerusalem to the Davidson Center, which offers views of the remains of the First- and Second-Temple periods. It was a beautiful, sunny time for us to walk to the southern steps, or steps of ascension. Here, just outside the Temple Mount, Jesus, His disciples, and all Jews heading to and from Jerusalem would most certainly have traveled. The blind man healed at the Pool of Siloam would have certainly come down this road. Perhaps sermons in Acts were preached from this area as well.
On this last day, we can see deep down into the underpinnings of this labyrinth of walkways, buildings, and drainage systems, with layer upon layer of history stacked up to our feet, easily 50-100 feet down. We know that underneath this visible maze of ruins, untold findings rest in wait for future discovery. How we yearn to see more!
The archaeological findings we see around us now, so thoughtfully preserved and on display, continue to support the text of the New Testament. We are truly blessed to sit upon these steps and ponder our visit, all that happened here, and what has happened in our Christian walk because of it.
Tonight we have eaten our fill and begun to reflect on an amazing 10-day journey. We were blessed to thank our most excellent tour guides, Tito and Roni, and our drivers for this trip of a lifetime. Special guest speaker Josh Reinstein of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus gave a keynote address. He reminded us that Israel is the third-safest country in the world, that other nations are asking Israel for help with all kinds of technology, and that the founding of modern Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
We have seen for ourselves on the streets, in the stores, and in our hotels that this is not the apartheid state that many falsely claim it to be. Jim Showers reminded us that after this trip, each of us has the opportunity to tell our story of our visit to Israel, how it touched our faith, and how it welcomes those who would learn more. With some teary eyes, warm handshakes, and hugs aplenty, we begin to get ready to say goodbye tomorrow.
Some will head off to Petra with Jim and Roni, and most others will head to the airport with Tito. We’ve got tired legs and sore backs; and a few of us probably won’t mind if we don’t have another falafel, shawarma, or schnitzel for a while. But what we are taking with us goes way beyond the extra laundry, some souvenirs, and a few shekels we haven’t yet spent. Truly, we bring with us the memories of walking in the land of the Bible, of seeing the very places that were once simply words on a page or part of arts and craft projects from VBS or Sunday School.
Now, when we read of Gideon at the spring, King Herod and his sons, shepherds in the field learning of Christ’s birth, John the Baptist in the Jordan River, the village of Nazareth, Peter declaring Jesus to be the Messiah in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus ministering in Capernaum and the Galilee, of His place of crucifixion and resurrection, we know that we have been there. We have smelled the rain coming, felt the stone with our own hands, breathed in the air, and heard the quiet of still moments. We have had expert guides and FOI staff giving us definition and detail from the land around us that goes beyond bringing the Bible to life. It brings us to life anew in His Word.
We will now walk through some passages of text with fresh eyes. We will meditate upon some verses with a new understanding. We will go into Scripture and our own experiences here at the very same time. It is beyond amazing. It is of the Lord. Surely, this journey with our Lord and Savior through Israel, back home, into His Word, and beyond will never end.
We are here today, and we will be gone tomorrow.
But not really.
Therefore thus says the Lord: “If you return, then I will bring you back.”
Blog author: David Lightfoot
Photos: Roxanne Lightfoot
Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry