I left Kansas City on May 19th at 4:40 PM and flew to Detroit. There I joined most of the rest of the tour group of thirty-eight, and on to Amsterdam. We arrived on May 20, at 12:30 PM, Amsterdam time and 5:30 AM Missouri time. Lots of flying and very little sleep.
By two o’clock, we were off to see the home of Corrie Ten Boom and Anne Frank. These were places of my dreams as well. To read and imagine is one thing. To see these homes in their setting, was life changing. (These remembrances will be in my journal notes yet to be published.)
On Eagles Wings—Going Home for the First Time
May 21, 2000—8:15 A.M.– Amsterdam Airport
It’s raining. The air is thick as we arrive—smooth transition through customs. There are many empty seats on the KLM plane, yet only half of our group is on this flight. The rest of them will catch another one leaving Amsterdam tonight.
We are flying over the Austrian Alps. Rugged with blue green-forested slopes and pristine snow covered tops of such beauty. In the valleys between, lie miniature villages surrounded by patches of green grass. Emerald lakes sparkle like jewels reflecting sunlight and azure skies. Can’t help but think of the “Sound of Music” and the stories of Jews escaping the Nazis over these same mountains. What difficult terrain to cross.
First Glimpse of Israel
“If you look out the left side of the plane, you will see the west coastline of Israel,” announced the pilot. “We will be landing shortly at Ben Gurion Airport.”
Immediately the tears come as I see my first glimpse of Israel. Tall modern office buildings mark the city center in Tel Aviv. Palm trees line the streets and gather in groups on the arid fields around the airport. It reminds me of California. Surprised at how similar it looks from the air.
More tears, I cannot stop crying.
Instead of pulling up to the terminal, the pilot is parking out here off the landing strip. A stewardess greets us over the intercom, “Welcome to Israel. Check to make sure you have all your belongings with you. A bus will arrive shortly to take you to the check in area. Be careful going down the stairway. Hang onto the handrails. If you need assistance, let one of us know. Enjoy your stay in Israel.”
The stairway? No one alerted us to this before. God see us all down the stairs in safety and through passport check. Here goes:
My hope is to publish my journal notes from this trip someday. But here are the notes from the one place that affected me in ways no other did. It was my first encounter at the Western Wall.
After several days touring the northern part of Israel, we arrived in Jerusalem. At sunset that night, Shabbat began. I’d always wanted to experience Shabbat in Israel.
The hotel provided a wonderful Shabbat dinner. On each table was a bottle of Shabbat wine and challah loaves for each guest. Candles were lit, and a Jewish blessing was spoken over the bread and wine. It was a delicious dinner and unforgettable time.
A group of us decided to walk from the hotel down the Hinnom Valley and up through the Jaffa Gate, through the Armenian Quarter and to the Western Wall. Along the way, we encountered Shabbat in full swing.
Traffic reduced to Arab taxis. Chasidics filled the streets with other Orthodox Jews dressed in their black attire and white shirts with high top Shabbat hats. Families, groups of men and women, couples pushing strollers and small children in their Shabbat frocks, were walking and talking, laughing and singing. It was all so peaceful and familiar, and it was 10:00 at night.
The scripture out of Deuteronomy 11 came to life around us. Deuteronomy 11:18-19
“Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise. NKJV
We were seeing this commandment lived out before us, many centuries later. Are we as Christians as faithful to teach our children and make it a natural part of their lives? We have room for improvement.
We greeted each other with “Shalom Shabbat.” And the response was sometimes, “Shalom Shabbat, Shalom.” The spirit of Shalom was ringing through the stone paved streets and narrow alleyways. The only breaks to this ideal setting were Arab taxis that sped through sending the pedestrians scrambling for the walls. At least the boisterous Arab teens on bicycles issued high whistled warnings before cutting through the crowds.
The air was full of spices and song. The aroma of freshly baked challah, garlic, and olive oil reminded me my Greek Yiya’s kitchen. We could hear singing congregations praising Adonai behind the stone walled synagogues. The high tempo of the songs gave me visions of them dancing as they sang.
It seemed surreal. Was this a movie set? No, we were present, in this place of eternal history. God’s all sufficient grace brought each one of us to experience this moment together.
Because it was Shabbat, none of us carried our cameras, purses, or even a pen, so as not to offend the Sabbath laws of no burden bearing. We were visitors to their land. We later witnessed a rabbi caution group of tourists with cameras near the Western Wall.
We arrived at the Western Wall at the time for the Muslims evening call to prayer. They have several minarets in the city, and at night they illuminate them with lime green neon. Loudspeakers transmit the prayers so that everyone can hear them.
We stopped at a small plaza at the head of the steps leading down to the Western Wall. The panorama of this site was riveting. The history of Jerusalem was before us:
The Western Wall—the holiest place on earth for the Jews. It is nearest to the historic Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount. The hill behind the Temple Mount called the “Hill of Evil Counsel.” This is where King Saul consulted with the witch of Endor. See I Samuel 28. In more modern times, U.N. meetings have taken place here, and Palestinian authorities have their offices. Then the tall minarets with their garish call to Muslim observance.
When the Muslim prayers finished, we descended the stairs to the Western Wall.
At the guard post, we went through a metal detector for security purposes. Once we got into the courtyard, we separated men and women and walked to the Wall.
There was a little stand at the entrance of the women’s section where scarves were available for head coverings. I took one and walked in tears to the Wall. All I could do was weep. To finally be here, after so many years of joining my heart with the people of Israel for their true redemption, was almost more than I could handle. To see their dedication to prayer; to witness their love for the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; to know the cry of their hearts for peace and to know the only lasting peace in their future is Messiah—tears, tears, and more tears.
I joined the other women at the Wall. I pressed my hand against the limestone blocks worn smooth as pearl by centuries of praying hands and falling tears. All I could do was weep. Each crevasse was stuffed with bits of paper, cards, and tissues—prayers for the nations recorded in the mortar of the Wall. I cried for Israel. I cried for America and for the world that does not know God’s heart for this land.
God extend Your mercy. God awaken Your Body. Call forth intercession, call forth support. Lord bring Your peace to Jerusalem. Lift the veil that they might know You, Yeshua, as their living Messiah and Deliverer. (End of Journal notes)
All these years later, I still feel the pull of this place and the tug on my heart in prayer for Israel. A big part of me will always feel at home there.
In 2001 and 2002, I returned as a volunteer with Bridges for Peace. I kept journals of those trips as well that I plan to ready for publishing. Both years, I had the pleasure of serving six weeks at the Jerusalem Volunteer office as a secretary. A month does not go by that I don’t remember those times and long to return.
If you ever get a chance to go to Israel, go! It must be a God appointment. It needs to be on His agenda. If it is, you can go without fear. He showed Himself faithful to me when I went during the time they were bombing buses and restaurants. Where He points, He provides. Shalom for now.
The next chapter will be about my trip to Guatemala. God uses us in our weakness, as you will see.