November 12, 2005

To Israel, part 4

The Lifestyle

I keep mentioning the kibbutzes there in Israel, so I guess I should explain what they are. I found the concept innovative and fascinating. When the nation of Israel took back their homeland in the 1940’s, you can imagine there was a lot of strife with the neighboring countries and the people they took it back from. Under constant threat of attack, farming was a dangerous occupation, because you are alone on a large piece of land, putting your family, crops, and livestock in a very vulnerable position. So being innovative people, they banded together, lots of families and single people investing in a large piece of land….men and women working the land, caring for livestock, caring for each other’s children, cooking for a crowd. It is a very effective way of producing great results. Today kibbutzes are used not only for effective farming, but also to introduce new immigrants to the country. You join a kibbutz, they give you a job, a place to stay, food and friendship. In many kibbutzes half of your day involves learning how to speak and write in Hebrew.

I mentioned that the young people of Israel are so focused and sharp. One night we had dinner at an Israeli Air Force Base. We ate half tourists and half cadets at a table. It was fun trying to communicate with them as they practiced their English on us. Two of them were fluent in English, one tried and one sat quietly watching us. Many of them know three languages…their native language of where they grew up, Hebrew as an immigrant to Israel, and English to communicate with their best allied country. It astounded us that every high school graduate in their country is expected to serve two years in the military….and they do it gladly. We asked a young lady at our table what happens if they choose not to do their military service. She tried to explain that her peers would look down on them if they did not serve…it brought shame upon you. Patriotism is such a high value there…they do not take their freedom or democracy for granted. I wonder how long we in America will have that stupid luxury. We carelessly take so much for granted.

We had a great opportunity as we came into Jerusalem late Friday afternoon to just make it to the Western Wall as Sabbath was beginning. As we approached the wall area, I noticed young, old, modern and traditional people coming to pray. Men had to cover their heads with a yamaka (they had paper ones available for visitors) and women had to cover their head with a scarf or covering of some kind. I only had the hood of my raincoat, but several others did the same, so I guess that was alright. Many had their Jewish prayer books and rocked and prayed, kissed their shawls, their books….then slowly backed away from the wall backwards. The backing away is a respectful, old fashioned way to show honor, not turning your back to the Temple area. Many left notes and prayers in the cracks of the wall. Our guide said that people believe that when the paper falls out, then God has heard your prayers and they are swept up each day.

A lot of things are like that in modern Jewish religion….hoping, wishing, tradition, but not secure….it’s an impersonal kind of faith. I found myself hoping and praying for them, that Messiah, Jesus, will come back soon, in their generation, so that they will see Who He is and believe….I am having that hope for them. I wish I had put that in the Wall, but didn’t think of it then.....I'm glad that God hears us when we pray and doesn't have to pull out papers stuck into an old stone wall.

The Sabbath day we of course were still touring around Jerusalem, but I noticed how the Jewish people walked and laughed and enjoyed the day with each other….just what Sabbath should be. The next day, our Christian day of worship, we gathered at the Mount of Olives for a teaching on the Second Coming as we faced the Eastern Gate of the city, where the Messiah is supposed to enter Jerusalem when He comes again. It was a very memorable Sunday morning. =)

I’m still kind of reeling from all the travel…I think I have extended motion sickness from the flight home or something…but I will try to add more about the places we saw in the coming days.

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