Getting to Israel this time was an adventure. The best laid plans of mice and men as the saying goes was on full display. The scheme to have a four-hour layover at JFK missed the mark in one way because weather forced the plane in Charlotte, NC, to stay grounded just long enough that as I arrived at El Al’s security check point in NYC the final boarding call for my flight was being called! So … I did have a four-hour layover in NYC, just not the one I planned and one pebble of peace fell out of my pocket. However, I had prayed throughout the day that God would have his way in the day and allow my testimony to shine through the frustrations of it and so maybe it wasn’t lost after all because several people on the plane told me that I was the calmest person on the plane! I had peace they didn’t have and they were just going to New York!
Another pebble perhaps slipped through a crack in my pocket when El Al decided to do an extra security on me because I was traveling alone and I had a Jordanian stamp on my Passport. My luggage was gone through, my shoes were examined(!), and I was escorted onto the plane at JFK. A fellow traveler from the Charlotte adventure told me that she felt sorry for me because I looked so embarrassed by the whole process but I also never expressed any anger that she would have shown. This gave me an opportunity to share with Diane, and with whom I had been trying to share with her about Jesus all day, about the testimony of Paul who wrote Philippians from a prison cell and could write about contentment (chapter 4) even in the midst of his circumstances and I do believe I found my peace pebble in the process.
While I was on the plane and throughout the rest of the adventure to the Beit Immanuel (House of God with Us) hostel in Jafffa, I reflected on how Israel and all the Jewish people are so desperately searching for peace. They are willing to go through a political process that offers no peace. They are willing to search through the luggage of a 43-year who “fights” for their peace (for a few more days of peace). They are longing for peace but they do not know where or how to find it.
They are divided among themselves in the search for it. I sat on the plane and watched on the how the Israelis were divided among themselves. The seculars were embarrassed by the ultra-Orthodox. The ultra-Orthodox were ashamed of the seculars. The ones in the middle were annoyed by both groups. There was no peace on the plane.
The ones who have served are angry at those who will not serve in the military to protect the peace. The ones who will not serve in the military are belligerent at those who will not study Torah as they believe that is the only way to peace. Even the Kotel (Western Wall) which is to be a place of prayer and peace is divided by women who want to pray anywhere and men who believe they are committing blasphemy because they want to pray in the men’s section. There is no peace at the Wall.
I did find two moments of peace last night, my first night in Israel on this second trip of mine. The first was listening to the praise team of Beit Immanuel Congregation practice for this weekend. As they sang, “Jesus, the Lover of My Soul,” in Hebrew, I experienced the moment (the pocket) of peace that Israel and all Jewish people are searching for at this moment. Here in this tucked away corner of Jaffa, a small group of Israeli and Arab believers have found peace (shalom) in Jesus. No military. No inspections. No regulations or legalizing. Just Jesus giving them a pocket a peace. Remarkable, huh?
The second pocket of peace in Israel was when my friend of more than a decade, Neriyah A., walked in the door. Here is a man who made aliyah from the Former Soviet Union, served in the Israeli army but finally found peace in Yeshua. I met when I lived in New York City in the early 2000s with Chosen People Ministries. He is a congregational leader for them and has six children with his wife, including two he found/adopted from the streets of Israel. These non-Jewish Eritrean children are a blessing to his life and are his children as much as his four birth children. I was able to see Neriyah while he was on his way to dialysis because his second kidney transplant has reached the end of its sixth year of effectiveness and dialysis is beginning again. He was able to see me between dialysis and a children’s outreach for his congregation, which runs about 50. He has peace and I do believe the picture of myself (looking quite jetlagged!) is going to be one of my most favorite pictures of all time. He has not been able to go out on support raise for Chosen People in quite some time because of health reasons but he has peace but God is continuing to provide.
There is peace in Israel but it is not in diplomacy, it is in Jesus, the Sar Shalom. This is the pocket of peace that Israel and all the Jewish people need now more than ever.