PART THREE– Israel to Bernalillo (cont.)
We met a few volunteers from around the world: Alan from England, a communist who was cynical and rather bitter about religion; Linda, his girlfriend; Simon from England; Angela from England; Lynette from South Africa; Marcus from Switzerland, who was looking for acceptance and purpose; a girl from Australia; and a short young Irish fellow with a chip on his shoulder who indirectly challenged me to a fight – I didn’t bite.
Some volunteers seemed to be trying to find themselves while hiding from everyone else.
Artur befriended me. He was originally from America (California?), and married Aharon’s daughter, Miriam, a sabra. He played guitar and urged me to join him with mine. He also took me to a private spot at the ancient ruins of a Crusader castle at Habonim where he would retire on occasion to be alone and meditate. It was a personal gesture to show his appreciation of our relationship.
Marilyn and I paid Jerusalem a visit. Of the many places we went to see, the alleged tomb of the Lord was one. As we approached, the Lord spoke to Marilyn saying, “Why do you seek the Living among the dead?” Surely, why would we? We turned around and left.
In the old city of Jerusalem, I bought some fresh figs from an Arab vendor in his mid-twenties, choosing him because his price was marginally less than that of other market stalls (I didn’t know he was Arab). He weighed them on a balance, with his back to me, concealing the scales. When it seemed I was getting less than I was supposed to, I asked him to show me the weight on the scale.
He instantly got angry and spat out, “You are a Jew! Are you a Jew? You are a Jew!”
I replied that he could have easily made a mistake, and I just wanted to see the proof of value. He was caught at cheating because he had to top up the figs for what he was charging me.
He was seething – the anger I saw in him was unsettling. What I found even more disturbing was that there was no shame or apology on his part for the “error.” He was indignant that I questioned his cheating me.
This wasn’t the only time I witnessed an intense unqualified, unjustified Palestinian/Arab hatred, ready to be vented in any direction. Years later, I learned that this was typical Muslim religious philosophy toward infidels, as set forth in the Koran. Muslims retain the right to do anything they please, including all moral wrong, and infidels (non-Muslims) do great wrong by merely questioning them.
My particle title is admittedly a bit extreme, but given the facts, not as far from the truth as one might suppose. I wanted to see the Golden Gate up close. As I approached, some Arab children suddenly dashed up to us, yelling. An Arab/Muslim cemetery guarded the way, and I didn’t know we weren’t permitted to pass through it. The boys assured me that it was an offense and a dangerous thing to enter it.
As foreigners, we didn’t know this. We saw no guard, gate, or even a sign, though there could have been, and likely was one, perhaps small and makeshift. Certainly there was nothing official enough to handily alert us against trespassing, or to the gravity of trespassing in this case.
This area is curiously full of danger and intrigue. The Golden Gate is so famous, yet unapproachable, and for what good reason? With these Arab boys, who ranged between ages nine to twelve, I again saw hatred, an enmity that was eating away at their souls. At the time, I didn’t know that it wasn’t merely an Arab issue, but a Muslim one.
Beggars were everywhere. While I wanted to give to the poor, how was one to tell who was in genuine need and who wasn’t? We have heard of those in America who make a respectable living begging while holding down a regular, well-paying job.
More disconcerting, however, were the attitudes and ploys. One blind man displayed himself as a devout Orthodox Jew, arranging the Torah (Scriptures) and other religious articles on a cloth on the ground in front of him. This was as if to say, “See, I am a good, pious, God-fearing man. Give to me!” I didn’t appreciate one asserting his piety as the reason I should give to him, and I didn’t give.
On another occasion, in Tel Aviv, there was a one-legged man on crutches, with a collection container on a stand made for that purpose, like the Salvation Army uses for its donation campaigns. The container seemed rather full, but he was literally shouting impudently at the passersby in front of him to give. He was rudely, contemptuously demanding it. Perhaps he thought his war wounds (if they were war wounds) entitled him to demand reparations or appreciation from the public. I wasn’t about to give to him, either.
The Lord was continuing to teach us that the poor of whom He spoke weren’t the poor in pocket. And several beggars we met certainly weren’t the poor in spirit.
We thought we might pick up a dress in the Arab market for Marilyn. Seeing one she liked, we looked it over and realized it was too high a price for the value. As we walked away, the vendor pursued us with a discount. Refusing it, he reduced it several times, until I thought, “Maybe.” Finally, I decided I would rather purchase something in a more reputable or reliable shop.
He gave his fifth and final offer, and we bought the dress for a quarter of the original asking price. Over three decades later, Marilyn still has that dress and occasionally wears it for lounging around.
What an enigma that right on the ancient Jewish Temple site stands a gold-domed representation of enmity toward Jews and the whole world! Tourists pour in to see its glory. We approached but couldn’t enter. We knew we wouldn’t please the Lord by going in to see this structure, built by those who call Him a liar in all their ways.
In the mosque are boldly and prominently written four words: “God has no son.” But the Old Testament boldly proclaimed a coming Messiah, and the New Testament declares Jesus Christ is He:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 MKJV).
Years later, as I write, I find it ironic and significant that the Muslim declaration, “God has no son,” is written on the Jews’ sacred site of the Temple. Didn’t the Jews, in no uncertain terms, declare that God has no Son, and even tried to make sure He didn’t?
A three-day bus tour of northern Israel was organized for the volunteers of several kibbutzim. Marilyn and I didn’t wish to go, not given to sightseeing. People at Habonim talked us into it, however, and in the end, I was glad we went.
We camped outdoors, slept on the ground, and ate from plates washed in the river by volunteers who were ignorant and careless about sanitation and hygiene. For a day or so, we didn’t help, but a woman got after us, and we changed our minds and pitched in.
Two armed guards, Yair and another fellow, accompanied us. We visited some kibbutzim and historic sites, while the guards served also as tour guides. They took us right to the northern border crossing, where the Christian Militia was buffering between Israel and the PLO. As we were returning, we saw PLO shells fired on grain fields just behind us, setting them on fire.
We were told the shelling came from the nearly impregnable large Crusader castle, which was set on a steep hill. We could see it just over the Lebanese border. Bombs by the IAF couldn’t penetrate, so thick were the stone walls. Men had to take the fortress on foot. I believe it was in the raid on Lebanon in 1982, three years after we were there, that Israeli soldiers stormed this difficult-to-approach castle and captured it.
Our tour bus stopped in a small-town store, where we bought some unshelled peanuts. Sitting on a bench outside the shop, I and others ate them and let the shells drop to the pavement. I made a remark to the guards that we had just “shelled” the town.
Seeing the material was biodegradable, I didn’t think there was a problem, but one of the guards took offense at the mess we made. “You’re Canadian and you make a mess like that? You should be ashamed of yourself!” he exclaimed.
I gathered the joke was lost on him.
But I suddenly was ashamed. I went in and asked the shopkeeper for a broom. Though he gave a weak, “It’s OK,” I cleaned up the mess.
Upon looking around, I saw that the village was well-kept; the streets and walks were spotless. I hadn’t thought I was making a bad mess, because the shells were organic material – I wasn’t strewing cigarette butts, plastics, or wrappers. I then considered our Western lifestyle, where garbage of every kind was everywhere, and I realized more clearly that, though I was a believer, the decadence of the West had adversely influenced me more than I realized.
Of course, the streets were clean. Why shouldn’t they be? Why should I act like a pig, no matter who else does or doesn’t? I admitted my fault to the guard, and apologized to him and the shopkeeper. The guard brushed it off as though he had no time for such triviality. Nevertheless, he had performed a necessary task not part of his official duty, and I was bettered for it.
On our tour, we were taken to the Jordan River where we would be sleeping outdoors. Whether to tease, test, or testify, they told us that in the night, deadly vipers might approach the water, so we should exercise caution. Not having a tent, we were vulnerable.
We prayed and asked the Lord for His protection. Finding the ground hard, we gathered old tall grass, which was plentiful there, made a bed, placed our bags on the grass, and had the best sleep I can remember having in my life, before or since, to this very day in 2012.
After a two- or three-day tour, we returned to Habonim, pleased to have gone and pleased to be back.
While at Habonim, Marilyn and I found out that Meir Kahane was going to speak in Jerusalem. He was preaching the immediate removal of all Arabs from Israel. Some at Habonim thought it strange that we, as Gentiles, should be interested, especially when most Jews themselves were not. Their opinion of him wasn’t very positive, considering him a radical and a cause of trouble for them.
We were interested because we believed that much of what he said made a lot of sense. We had red a book of his, They Must Go, in which he outright declared that a democratic government wouldn’t work for Israel, and all Arabs needed to leave the country if it was to survive as a Jewish state.
Arriving in the meeting room, we had expected hundreds of people. We had front-row seats in a small room with perhaps less than forty people, and of those there, it seemed they were somewhat like us, present more out of curiosity and appetite for sensationalism than support for his convictions. Several questioned Kahane’s motives and understanding. We believed he was right but didn’t have any inclination to personally or actively support him. When returning to Habonim, we found few, if any, interested in what was discussed.
After a few months of proving ourselves good workers and being considered worthy of their acceptance, the friendly people of Habonim asked us if we would like to be permanent members. If so, we would need to leave them for a while and attend an ulpan, a Hebrew language school, likely on a kibbutz, where we would work half days and learn Hebrew the other half.
Upon learning Hebrew, and with the Habonim community prepared to sponsor us into Israel, we could apply for citizenship. Being Gentiles, it wouldn’t be easy. I came across people in government and elsewhere, who were quite bitter towards Gentiles or “Christians.” I recall one lady who couldn’t hide it and almost didn’t even try.
We searched for an ulpan in nearly every area of Israel. There was a new one opening in Dan, near Mount Hermon, not far from us. We visited, but didn’t feel right about it. There was one in the West Bank, which we also didn’t feel right about. There were simple agricultural ones, ultra Orthodox, Messianic, communist, atheist, liberal, conservative, specific philosophical, and others.
Nothing felt right until, one day, Kibbutz Revivim HaNegev came to our attention. The desert? Yes, I wanted the desert. Their schedule and program suited us, and the Hebrew instruction was reputed to be reasonably good. This was it. We applied and were accepted.
Revivim was an older kibbutz with over 1,000 people, a modern theater, and a dining hall that could seat about 900 persons. It had peach and avocado orchards, egg production, broiler production, cotton, and a plastics factory, among other things.
Old houses in an agricultural environment are sometimes converted into chicken barns. That is what happened on my two childhood farms before I was born. At Revivim, the reverse was true; having a shortage of living accommodations, old shacks made into chicken barns were converted back to living quarters for volunteers, like us.
In our unit, amusing us each day at about the same time, we had a friendly in-house pet mouse that would come speeding out of his hole and make a mad dash around the cupboard for another hole, skidding all the way on the slippery old linoleum.
Sand would occasionally blow into our rooms from the desert when winds came up, the blankets were about a foot too short, and we would occasionally lose something from the public laundry (our laundry number was 444), but it really wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I enjoyed it.
Next door to us was a young Jewish couple from the USA. Beside their bed (which was in open view of the front door), I saw the Jerusalem Bible. I began to realize that one of them was a believer in Jesus Christ, and one was not, yet I wasn’t sure which was which. I also perceived by the Spirit that there was division in their marriage. The couple was living in fornication, that is, they weren’t married as far as God was concerned. All this came to me before we had opportunity to meet or get to know them.
Not far from our door was a pomegranate tree with ripe, juicy, flavorful fruit, about four times the size of some we see in the stores here in Canada, ours for the taking. Nobody wanted them! We picked these and enjoyed this treat with our neighbors, Paul and Alison Cohen, as well as with others.
A bit farther away was a date palm, which I climbed one day and gathered ripe dates. The tree was quite tall. On the way down, when I had nearly reached the ground, I clumsily jumped down and skinned myself on my chest and the insides of my upper arms.
It was worth it! They were the most delicious dates I had ever eaten. To our surprise, my wounds were healed with little treatment and in a very short time. Was there medicinal power in fresh, tree-ripened dates? In the dry desert environment? In pomegranates?
Maybe the Lord was simply generous with His wages in sending us to Israel to speak to Paul.
Carob! What a wonderful little secret about to be uncovered! There was a carob orchard near our quarters, with pods hanging, ready to eat. They were delicious. One day, as we were picking some, a lady came by and said, in broken English with Hebrew accent, “This what you call, ehhh… St. John bread.”
“St. John’s bread”? I knew John ate honey and locusts, but as with many others, I thought he ate the grasshopper-like insects called locusts. But something started to come together for me. On cottage cheese and other dairy product containers, I recalled seeing “locust bean gum” listed in the ingredients, which refers to carob. Suddenly, it struck me that John hadn’t been eating insects, but the highly nutritious produce from the leguminous tree common in his environment.
Of course! That would make far more sense. Carob was highly nutritious and ever available. Locusts were not consistently available. They would come and go, usually in swarms. For John it would have been feast or famine! “Let’s see, I’ve been fasting for 40 days now. If that swarm of locusts doesn’t get here soon, I’m in trouble.” I was elated at the revelation!
Revivim was the home community, for a time, of former Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir. (By the way, Golda Meir was born in Kiev, Ukraine, about the time my grandfather, at age 4, was leaving the Ukraine with his parents for Canada.) Golda’s daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Zechariah, were in their fifties. They still lived there, and had been there since before Israel became a nation. He being a potter and my knowing ceramics, Zechariah wanted me to help him get a production of pottery and ceramics started.
I had learned how to make molds, which could have been of great use for reproducing ceramic copies of the pottery pieces Zechariah created on a wheel. I was looking forward to this, but at the same time, I felt like these things weren’t to be.
My first language was Ukrainian, until I was five, when I began to speak English with my younger friend and neighbor, Raymond McKillop, and later in school. The third language was French in many grades of school. The fourth was a short stint of Esperanto in high school. The fifth was two years of Latin in one, in grade eleven at the minor seminary. The sixth was Greek at Bible school for a year and a half. The seventh was German for a few weeks while in Austria, and the eighth was Hebrew in Israel.
The one language I always wanted to learn was Spanish (as a child, I listened to Cisco Kid and Pancho speaking Spanish and thought I would like to know it), but never did, except for perhaps a hundred common words. Hebrew was the most fascinating to me of all because it gave me some connection with the Bible, though the Greek did as well. The difference was that I used Hebrew as a common language in Israel, unlike Greek.
Our Hebrew ulpan class was made up entirely of Jewish students, except for us. They were from many parts of the world – including Iran, Argentina, England, and Australia – but mostly from the U.S. Varda, an enthusiastic, helpful lady of about 55 years, was our effective Hebrew teacher in a class of perhaps 30 students. Varda was a heavy smoker and suffered headaches. I was afraid she would develop cancer. Over ten years later, we heard she was still alive. It was good to hear.
Marilyn and I officially met Paul and Alison in the dining hall, as we sat across from each other, perhaps the third day we were there.
Paul asked us, “Why did you come to Israel?”
I told him we had come to live.
He said, “But you’re not Jews. Why would you want to live here?”
I hummed and hawed a bit, but finally said that we were believers and the Lord told us to come to Israel.
He said, “I know why He told you to come. He brought you here to talk to me!”
At that time, we began to talk of the Lord. Paul revealed that he was the believer, and we recognized that Alison, his wife, was not. Paul had come to believe the year before, married Alison after he believed, and they came to Israel from the U.S. to live.
He had prayed that God would send a man to talk to him. He’d been having struggles, at times to the point of tears, not understanding or knowing what was happening between him and God. He felt disconnected, but was unable to even articulate the problem, much less do anything about it. And his wife couldn’t relate to what was going on with him.
On a subsequent visit with Paul and Alison, I had a Word from God for him. I told him that he would be telling people their sins and that it wouldn’t be easy. He would be hated and misunderstood, but it was God’s calling on him. Alison fidgeted and her countenance fell; it was plain she didn’t want to hear this.
In the days to come, we met and talked. Paul listened and wanted to hear more, while Alison struggled. We took a bus to Beersheba for a day, visited, and ate at a restaurant, but there was a strain in our relationship. Much more was developing than a budding friendship between Paul and us, but this wasn’t happening with Alison. A dividing sword was at work.
It was around this time, I believe, that I had a vision, not a picture, but a premonition or a spiritual sensing.
We were at an Egged bus station in Beersheba with Paul, and a crowd was shoving and pushing to get on board (not an unusual sight in Israel). I then saw, as though it was in America, even perhaps in other parts of the world, Jews trying to cram onto buses to escape to Israel. They were fleeing persecution and destruction, but it seemed they had waited too long; it was too late for most.
At the time (1979), it was difficult to imagine it could be that way for Jews in America. Things have changed in thirty years and are changing more rapidly.
Many were the times there seemed to be the possibility or promise of a lasting relationship when we met someone, but in all those instances, it was never to be. At some point after meeting Paul, we enquired of the Lord about him and Marilyn heard that he would be our friend. While this was true, he was to become much more than a friend.
The Day of Atonement came, and Paul published an article in the Revivim bulletin about the meaning and fulfillment of Yom Kippur. He plainly declared that Jesus Christ – His death and resurrection – were the fulfillment of the Feast.
It caused a stir in the community, particularly because it was a Jew who had written the article. Alison told Paul she thought it was in bad taste and that he ought not to have done it. Paul didn’t doubt himself and was eager to testify, telling the Jewish people about their Messiah.