Apples of Gold Mar/Apr 2014

The day I was scheduled to return home by plane after my military service in the Sinai desert, a terrible sandstorm broke loose. Our tents were blown away like so many balloons. Instead of traveling by plane and being home within an hour or so, we were loaded onto military trucks for the long trip through the desert to Jerusalem.

All through the night we travelled in cramped positions and were most uncomfortable, but the hope that we were homeward bound made me very happy. Some of the men, however, were deeply unhappy, tossed by the storm and the ruts in the desert. In addition, there was the constant fear that we might hit a mine and be blown sky high. There were many mines because the Six-Day War (June 1967) had just ended.

I tried to comfort my buddies in the Israel Defense Forces, but some cursed the day they were born. “Our cousins,” they said, “may give us a taste of their mines, and we will never get home.”

However, I assured them the Lord would see us safely home and no mine would touch us. They asked me how I could be so sure.

“Well,” I said, “I have the assurance in my heart that no harm will come to us. And what is more, I am sure about my heavenly home and that one day I shall be with my Lord, safe at home forever.”

I took out my Bible and read to them from the epistle to the Hebrews. One of them said, “Oh, all this was written by Christians.”

“No,” I said, “it was written by a man who used to be the greatest enemy of Christ but became a believer in Him, and he was a Jew.”

One of them said, “Is it not enough that we fast all day on the Day of Atonement? Now are you going to turn this truck into a synagogue? Surely, once a year is enough—I do not want to hear any more about this.”

But another said, “Leave him alone. I like what he says and would like to hear more.”

The first man replied, “You see, he has already poisoned your soul.”

To which the other man replied, “I do not feel poisoned at all. I feel fine—a lot better than in the synagogue on the Day of Atonement.”

And so the conversation went on the way to Jerusalem.

Many weeks later, I received a pass for six hours after being engaged in difficult and dangerous work. It was a gift of God to spare my life. I prayed on my bed to the Lord, thanking Him for sparing me. Suddenly, my commanding officer came in. I was about to go home when he asked, “What were you doing when I came in?”

I said, “I was praying to God and thanking Him that He spared my life.”

He was a new officer and did not know me, so he asked, “How could you pray without your phylacteries and without a minyan [a quorum of 10 men]?”

I told him King David prayed without those things, and so did Samuel the prophet.

The officer replied, “I see you have a special kind of faith. Could you tell me more about it?”

“Yes,” I said, “for you see, I believe in the living God and the Messiah, the son of David, who came to save all who put their trust in Him.”

He opened his eyes in amazement. “Now I can understand your peculiar behavior,” he said.

“I believe in the Old and the New Testaments and in the Lord Jesus,” I said.

“Why then do you stay in Israel?” he asked. “Why do you not go abroad?”

I told him, “This is my land for which I have fought and shed my blood in order to be able to believe in the Lord and to give my testimony if it is demanded here in Israel. I am a citizen of Israel, and out of this land came faith in our Messiah, which went forth into all the world.” I read him passages from the book of Acts and 2 Peter.

The officer said, “I am very much impressed with what you have to say, and if you keep on talking, you may even persuade me to become a Christian. I did not know there are Jewish Christians who love Israel.”

I showed him my military record and all the awards that were given to me since 1948 for the faithful performance of my duties.

“I apologize,” he said, “if I said anything against you. And I take back any unkind remarks I made.”

We shook hands, and he left.

by Zvi Kalisher in Jerusalem,
from the Friends of Israel Archives, 1968

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