Report of recent trip to Israel
David Masson has recently returned from a trip to Israel: he gives a report of his visit which belies much of the disheartening news which we see in our mass media.
Was it wise to go?
Prior to leaving for Israel on 3rd April (2012) I had been inundated with news reports of rockets from Gaza, the threat of Hezbollah increasing their store of rockets, the danger of Syrians fleeing over the border into Israel and the Muslim Brotherhood threatening to tear up the peace treaty with Israel, if elected to power.
Meanwhile Iran continues to makes threats to wipe Israel off the map of the World.
Was it wise to be going at such a time as this? But then there is the Word of God, which says: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people.” Psalm 125 v 2. Would I put my trust in media reports or the Word of God?
Three aspects impressed me during our 4-day-tours within Israel and then in Jerusalem.
There was a real sense of peace in the whole land.
There is a peace treaty with Jordan. Israelis have greatly helped the Jordanians with their agriculture on the east bank of the River Jordan – the only part of Jordan where crops can be grown. There are very many greenhouses stretching the length of the Jordan valley. In the peace treaty Jordan said that they did not want the West Bank of the Jordan.
The Jordanians said: “You can sort out the Palestinians. That is your problem.” There is a peace treaty with Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is threatening to revoke it. Does this mean that Israel would take back the Sinai, which they gave to Egypt as part of the peace treaty?
The Egyptians did not want Gaza as part of the treaty. The Egyptians said: “You can sort out the Palestinians. That is your problem.” Originally all the people living in the land mandated to Britain at the end of World War I were called Palestinians. – Jews and Arabs. Now the Jews are Israeli and the Arabs living within Israel are Israeli Arabs – some Muslims and others Christian.
There never was a Palestinian people as such. In the days when Mark Twain visited the land it was virtually deserted. Sinai is occupied largely by the Bedouins. No one likes them – neither the Israelis nor the Muslims. They are regarded as criminals – trading in people, drugs and weapons.
There are now 8 million people living in Israel. Leaving aside the Negev, Israel is the most crowded country in the World. 75% are Jews (6 million) and 25% Israeli Arabs. (2 million).
The Israeli Arabs are better off than Arabs living in any other part of the Muslim or Arab World. The Israeli Arab areas are very prosperous with many large and impressive houses. There is not a refugee camp or tent nor even sub-standard housing in sight anywhere. In Israel bags are no longer searched on entering a cafe. There are no policemen at bus stops searching the bags of passengers boarding a bus. Even at the railway station it is necessary only to pass bags through a scanner. I felt entirely safe everywhere I went. Of course there are still rockets coming out of Gaza and for that reason I avoided taking my people to Sedrot or Beersheva.
Jerusalem is now the largest city in Israel with 500,000 people. Tel Aviv has 400,000, although when greater Tel Aviv is included the population is over 2 million. Haifa has 300,000. There is a complex railway system from Tel Aviv throughout the lowlands and up to Jerusalem. The economy is booming with unemployment the lowest in the western World.
The transformation since 1948 can only be described as miraculous. The network of roads is amazing. Alongside the roads are verges with trees and shrubs – mile after mile. How do you improve on perfection? Most people would love to live in a bungalow, each sitting under his own fig tree and vine but there is insufficient space. The tower blocks rise everywhere – the highest I saw had 36 stories.
The building is almost all in local stone, which is sand coloured and very warm in the sunshine. With parks, boulevards, museums and archaeological sites the impression is wonderful. Despite that there were some people sleeping rough on the streets of Jerusalem and there were quite a few people begging with bowls.
The contrast between the original Jerusalem in the days of Jesus and the present day vast sprawling and modern city of Jerusalem is incredible. It is as if the city is preparing for the return of its King. Somehow the beautiful new tramway through the centre of Jerusalem epitomises the success of the city.
What of the Jewish people?
One of the guides and a young man in a shop both asked the same question: “Why does everyone hate us and criticise us?” The feeling is that the Jewish people have done their best and still they are hated throughout the world. My answer to this issue is because the Jewish people remind the World about God. There are times when the Jewish people without their Messiah remind the World about God more than Christians with their Messiah.
The Jewish people challenge the Church by their love for one another. There is a strongly family element in their culture. Families are seen walking, talking and travelling. During the week of Pesach thousands of families came to visit the Wailing Wall. The guides were all humorous, courteous and friendly. Clearly there is a pride in their country – and with good reason. Of course Orthodox Jews still keep themselves very much to themselves. After two thousand years of persecution that is not surprising. Despite the fact that most Jews are secular they all keep the Sabbath. Everything closes from 6.00pm on Friday to 6.00pm on Saturday – including public transport.
I left the country feeling that the state of Israel is in good hands. Their King has brought them home. He holds their future in His hands.
Footnote: See opportunity to visit Israel in October this year (2012) with Rev. Donald N Martin.
David Masson is a retired lawyer who lives in the Scottish Highlands and leads teaching conferences for Christian leaders in Africa.
He established The Andrew Discipleship School, in Kampala and has just finished his first book called 'The Seven Spiritual Giants'. It is being translated ito Lugandan in Uganda, Swahili in Kenya and then printed in each country for distribution to the pastors and churches. He returned from a speaking visit to Norway just before the recent massacre.