A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Claustrophobia is the fear of being confined in a tight space. It’s an anxiety disorder that can make someone feel like he is alone and suffocating. A woman who suffers from claustrophobia once told me she drives for days to visit family rather than fly because she feels trapped inside an airplane, with no option of getting out.

The fear of tight spaces can affect more than individuals. Sometimes it seems an entire country can feel trapped, with no option of escape. Israel is an extremely small state surrounded by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, none of which are its biggest fans. Even Jordan and Egypt, which have peace agreements with Israel on a diplomatic level, have a poor disposition toward it.

Israelis are confined within the borders of their country. They can only leave by plane or boat. Imagine if you lived in New Jersey, for example, and it was unsafe for you to travel to New York, Pennsylvania, or Delaware; and some of those states outright banned New Jerseyians from entering. That’s a typical day in Israel.

In describing the character of an Israeli, one writer put it this way: “What makes an Israeli? A peculiar mix of joie de vivre, arrogance, aggressiveness, fear, claustrophobia, plus a whole lot more.”

So how do you work through the claustrophobia? How do you live with such a debilitating anxiety when it makes you feel like you’re suffocating? Many people can manage their fear of tight spaces if they know there is a light at the end of the tunnel—that freedom from confinement is attainable. They just want to know they can get out at some point.

I’ve learned over the years that being a light at the end of the tunnel is exactly what ORIGINS does for the Israeli people. ORIGINS is The Friends of Israel’s three-week, young-adult ministry trip to Israel. The name stands for “Our Resolve Is Giving Israel Never-ending Support.” This unique program provides a light for Israelis. It helps them see they are not alone.

I figured this out through an experience I had a few years ago at a grocery store in a suburb of Tel Aviv. I was speaking in English with one of my ORIGINS teammates, and a big, burly Russian-Israeli overheard our conversation. He couldn’t help himself. He interrupted us and asked what we were doing in his non-tourist town. I replied, “We’re a group of young evangelical Christians from America and Canada who have come to show you love and support as volunteers at your local hospital.”

Out of nowhere, this man’s eyes welled up with tears. He grabbed me and hugged me and started to cry. Then he explained that he and most of his friends often feel extremely alone in the world, trapped by countries that don’t like them. And to make matters worse, they hear story after story about people all around the world who lie about Israel and foment hatred for the Jewish state in universities, the news media, and even in some churches.

ORIGINS became a light at the end of the tunnel for him. He finally didn’t feel so trapped and alone because he knew there were people outside Israel who loved him.

The experience at the grocery store gave me a clearer vision of our ORIGINS mission. The Friends of Israel provides a way for young evangelicals to answer the call to bring light into a confining, suffocating darkness. We want to show our Israeli friends that God loves them and we love them and that there is unexplainable freedom in the light of our Savior.

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