From Bill Sutter’s Desk Mar/Apr 2007
We have experienced a little taste of heaven on earth.” This comment, shared toward the end of our recent Christian/Jewish journey to Israel, struck a responsive chord in all our hearts as we prepared to return home. The congeniality within the group went far beyond anything anyone had ever experienced.
We visited numerous biblical sites and sailed on the Sea of Galilee where we recounted many of Jesus’ miracles and God’s promises to the Jewish people, through whom He has blessed the entire world in fulfillment of key texts in Genesis 12, 15, and 17. And we saw how His promises will never be voided but are everlasting, according to Psalm 105:10–12.
As Christians, we also expressed our personal appreciation to our Jewish friends for all God has given to us through them, particularly the Bible as God’s Word and Jesus as our Savior.
Upon arriving in Jerusalem, our cohost, Alan Respler, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey, declared: “No one can come to Jerusalem without being transformed!” Then he quoted Psalm 122:8–9: “For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’ Because of the house of the Lᴏʀᴅ our God I will seek your good.” We were experiencing firsthand the city so close to the Lord’s heart, the incomparable Jerusalem.
Overlooking the Valley of Jezreel, site of the future Battle of Armageddon, we read from Revelation, Joel, and Zechariah, observing how Armageddon and related biblical end-times campaigns are, in part, the Lord’s judgment on the godless Gentile nations for the horrific way they have treated His ancient people. The “big story,” yet future, is that Messiah will rescue the Jewish people; and they will lead the world in worshiping the Lord from Jerusalem.
We also visited Lior and Ita Applebaum in their home near Haifa. Lior and Ita are former emissaries from Israel to the South Jersey Jewish community. During Israel’s war with Hezbollah last summer, Lior led a military unit into southern Lebanon. He told us that when the Israeli soldiers there found their supply lines cut and their rations depleted, they received permission from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to enter Lebanese homes from which residents had fled. They took only what was needed and slept only on the floors, not in the beds. Before leaving, they cleaned up after themselves and left messages for the homeowners, explaining how to file a claim for reimbursement from the IDF.
Later on the tour we gathered in a peaceful alcove at the Garden Tomb. First we focused on the significance of the date, November 9, the 68th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass.” A Jewish day-school teacher described the horrors of that night in 1938 when the Germans destroyed more than 1,600 synagogues throughout the country and smashed and ransacked Jewish stores and homes. Jews were beaten to death in the streets, and 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up by the government and shipped to concentration camps.
Then our evangelical contingent observed communion, explaining why, as Bible-believing Christians, we could never blame the Jewish people for Christ’s death. We read from John 10 how Jesus went to the cross of His own accord. His death as the final atonement for me, my family, friends, neighbors, and everyone in the entire world was God’s plan. Our service emphasized our deep appreciation and thankfulness for Christ’s provision of our personal salvation. Closing with Alfred Ackley’s hymn “He Lives,” our voices rang out into the oncoming dusk of late afternoon in Jerusalem:
I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him He’s always near.
This unique trip intertwined our lives and bestowed on us all the blessings of enduring friendship. We believe the Lord was pleased with our journey and with the relationships that continue.