Eye on the Middle East Jan/Feb 2013

Going Up to Jerusalem with The Friends of Israel is never the same twice. I’ve been on our tour more than two dozen times, but our recent fall trip was unique. Here is a glimpse of Israel that many tourists never see.

John Brown, founder and president of Zion Oil and Gas, Inc., of Dallas, Texas, hosted all of us for lunch in the Galilee at one of Israel’s few country clubs. He shared how he came to Christ and told us he believes Deuteronomy 33:24 (“let him dip his foot in oil”) refers not to olive oil but to petroleum. If he is right, it may be oil that will bring the northern armies against Israel in the future (Ezek. 38—39).

Then we journeyed to Ariel in Samaria (West Bank). In 1978, 40 families who understood the need for a Jewish presence in this strategic area moved to the rocky and barren hill that would grow into the thriving city of Ariel. Ariel is also a model for integration. Ariel University Center educates hundreds of Arabs from all over Israel.

The highlight for me there was seeing a small business that produces cables used by high-tech firms. All the employees are Russian seniors (average age, 79). They work willingly, happily, and productively, competing against the Chinese market.

Another day took us to Kibbutz Misgav Am (“Fortress of the People”) in northern Israel on the border of Lebanon. Aryeh, a 71-year-old Ohio native, explained the strategic and dangerous location. As we looked down on the many houses a few hundred yards below, Aryeh said, “You are looking straight into Hezbollah. They want us dead, but never again will we go as sheep to the slaughter.” None of the houses had glass windows, just holes in the walls, to make it easier to fire on Israel. We saw firsthand the danger Israel lives with every day.

At an Ethiopian absorption center, we donated school supplies we had brought for the children. Ethiopian immigrants live here for about a year, as they are helped to assimilate into Israeli society. Along with learning Hebrew, they learn to use electricity, to wash and iron clothes, and to use bathroom facilities. Their arrival is the latest chapter in the wonderful story of Israel’s people.

We also toured the Knesset (parliament) where 120 members—made up of liberals, socialists, conservatives, religious, nonreligious, and Arabs—argue, debate, and pass the laws that govern the only democracy in the Middle East.

The Friends of Israel always plants trees in Israel. The Jewish National Fund (JNF) handles tree-planting throughout the country. It even offers free trees to Christians for Christmas.

With all the bad press Israel receives, I couldn’t help but think how little the world really knows about the kindness and generosity of the State of Israel.

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