From Bill Sutter’s Desk Jan/Feb 2003
It was a trip none of us will forget. As our group of 45 landed in Tel Aviv, we did not realize that, for the next ten days, we would be the largest group in Israel from the United States.
From October 15 through 25 we went “Up to Jerusalem” with The Friends of Israel to stand with Israel. And Israel stood with us. Everywhere we went, from Tel Aviv to Haifa, from Tiberius to Jerusalem, Israelis expressed their sincerest appreciation to us as Christians for visiting them in their time of trouble. “Thank you for coming” was a remark we heard everywhere we went.
At Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, we saw patrol boats in the Mediterranean Sea and gun positions on land, all in place to protect this tiny country’s people who are striving for peaceful and secure lives in the midst of a hostile Arab world. We looked into Lebanon and saw the large, yellow flag of the Hezbollah flying there. Hezbollah is one of the most violent terror groups in the world. We even spoke with Israeli soldiers stationed along the border, charged with protecting their fellow countrymen.
At the Golan Heights we saw scores of Israeli tanks in a state of around-the-clock readiness. We looked across the valley into Syria, noting UN encampments close by and Syrian military fortifications in the distant hills. As we stood there, not one of us questioned the Golan Heights’ strategic importance to the security of the State of Israel.
Few of us could restrain our tears as a restaurant in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee honored us with a stirring rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Scores of Israeli young people who were gathered nearby erupted in applause, joining others who were dining. Next came “Hatikva,” the Israeli national anthem, to which we stood and joined in the cheering at the end. What other country in this decaying world loves America as much as Israel does? And now more than ever, Israelis keenly sense that the United States, especially its committed Christians, are the most loyal friends Israel has.
We visited the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo and saw firsthand the damage to Israeli homes that have been shelled from nearby Palestinian-controlled territory. A resident told us of his people’s determination not to be driven from their homes by terror, and he explained why they are making a stand. If they cannot be safe in Israel, he asked, where else will they ever be safe from those bent on destroying them?
The Bible came alive as we visited scores of biblical sites throughout this land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We walked where Jesus walked and rejoiced together in our personal faith in our Savior.
During an inspiring ceremony at Modi’in, where the Jewish uprising against the notorious Antiochus Epiphanies began, officials of the Jewish National Fund honored The Friends of Israel and Elwood McQuaid for planting thousands of trees in recent years as part of Israel’s reforestation effort. Afterward our people put their hands to the soil and planted trees. Each tree serves as a personal legacy and continuing testimony to the founding and development of the State of Israel.
The significance of our visit did not escape ABC’s Nightline, as its camera crew spent a full day filming us; and an ABC reporter interviewed our tour participants—Christians who have a deep and abiding love for Israel and its people. Jerusalem Post Radio also told the country of our presence and broadcast interviews with our people. We were, they said, “Friends of Israel, through thick and thin.”
It was an unforgettable journey and one we want you to experience with us. Never has there been a more exciting or important time for us to visit Israel. The dates of our next “Up to Jerusalem/Standing With Israel” tour are March 19–29, 2003. For further information, or to receive a tour brochure, call The Friends of Israel at 800-257-7843 and ask for Lisa Nickerson. Together, we can stand with Israel and the Jewish people.