From Bill Sutter’s Desk Jan/Feb 2009
The prophetic significance of meeting Jewish people who have come home to their Land of Promise was not lost on those of us who recently went “Up to Jerusalem” with The Friends of Israel.
At Misgav Am, Israel’s northernmost kibbutz near the Lebanese border, we met Ari Ben-Yaakov. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Ari came by himself to Israel from California as a young adult in 1961. After visiting Misgav Am in 1964, he knew that where he would live from then on was settled. “This is my home,” he said. Ari described his years of farming on the kibbutz as “an emotional experience—growing my food for my people.”
As an Israeli paratrooper in the 1967 Six-Day War, Ari saw 50 percent of his battalion suffer casualties in liberating the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He also fought for Israel in the 1969 War of Attrition, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the 1982 First Lebanon War.
Located 2,700 feet above sea level, the kibbutz where Ari spoke to us is almost surrounded by Lebanon and is closer to Damascus, Syria, than to Haifa, Israel.
In this most dramatic of settings, with Ari standing only feet from the Israel-Lebanon border and our group looking down onto several Lebanese towns, he declared with conviction, “Look! Everything you see is Hezbollah. They control the printing of books, the programming on radio and television, the teaching in the schools, everything. This is a Taliban-like society where everyone is forced to be a Shiite Muslim.” Then, with a note of sadness, he lamented, “There are no Christians left.”
Members of our tour commented on the eerie appearance of quiet and calm in the Lebanese towns. There was virtually no movement: no cars traveling the streets, no children playing outside the homes, no people coming and going. Ari explained that what appeared to be normal residences were actually storehouses for mortars and rockets. The dwellings were occupied by Hezbollah terrorists and their families in the midst of a countryside laced with bunkers.
As we said goodbye to Ari and others from the 200-member kibbutz, all living under Israeli military protection, we reflected on Ari’s statement, “This is my home.” Despite everything, God was fulfilling His promise to His ancient people:
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land (Ezek. 36:24).
Our visit to the Ethiopian Absorption Center in Tiberias provided another stirring reminder of the prophetic, biblical ingathering that is a vital part of the Jewish state’s demographics. Israel has helped 50,000 Jews make the difficult transition from primitive conditions in Ethiopia to modern living in Israel. Fleeing anti-Semitism and abandoning their homes in Ethiopia, families typically arrive in Israel with no more than two suitcases and a plastic bag.
Their tradition traces their Judaism to the Queen of Sheba who visited King Solomon and returned to Ethiopia with knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (1 Ki. 10). By coming to Israel, Ethiopian Jews are following their dream to return “home.”
At the Absorption Center, families are housed in small apartments where they receive food and clothing. Children attend school right away, with classes emphasizing Hebrew and math. We could only imagine how difficult it must be for these youngsters who are picking up a pencil or pen for the first time.
They participate in special programs each afternoon—crafts, games, sports, and even computer activities. Smiling brightly, they lined up to have their pictures taken and gathered around excitedly to view themselves on the small screens of those of us with digital cameras.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once said that Operation Moses in 1984, which brought nearly 9,000 Ethiopians to the Jewish state, represents the first time in human history that black people were carried to freedom, and not into slavery.
When God makes a promise, He doesn’t abandon it, change it, or replace it. He keeps it! In Israel, we experienced this truth dramatically as we visited with Ari Ben-Yaakov and as we witnessed the ingathering of Jews from Ethiopia.
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you (Gen. 28:15).
The birth of the modern State of Israel in 1948 and the Jewish people’s continuing return to the Promised Land from countries worldwide assures us we are living in the most important time for the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in almost 2,000 years.