The following is a touching and eye-opening letter from Brigitte B. Nussbächer, a dear friend of Israel Today who recently visited the Jewish state along with her husband Harald. If you are a Bible-believing Christian who loves Israel and the Jewish people, it is a must read in these dark and troubling times.
For three years we hadn’t seen this impressive country with its special people and all the tangible evidence of God’s presence and blessings. Israel’s closed borders during the Corona period and my husband’s cancer diagnosis last year had made it impossible. In short, we were very excited to see what we would find.
A lot had happened in and with Israel during that time: the effects and consequences of the lockdowns on society and the economy, the Lapid-Bennett government, the new elections, Benjamin Netanyahu’s return as prime minister – and this year the appalling and alarmingly frequent terrorist attacks, as well as demonstrations, protests, refusals and threats, which have become increasingly violent in recent months.
As we sat on the plane earlier this month, images went through my head, all of which were worrying. And then I remembered the impressions that the spies that Moses had sent into the Promised Land came back with. They had no eye for the potential and the possibilities, but only saw what was frightening. This assessment, which frightened the whole people, had fatal consequences for the Israelites: 40 years of wandering in the desert and no one of that generation was allowed to enter the land. But there were also the two faithful spies, Caleb and Joshua, who judged the land and the situation differently – and these became heirs of the promise.
Which images and which voices did I want to give space to – and what would I myself pass on to others? I wished to be a Caleb.
The coast of Israel became visible below us: green, cultivated fields and built-up towns. Then Tel Aviv: a lively, pulsating metropolis, only around 100 years old.
That made me realize again what a turn, what a miracle had taken place here. In 1876, Mark Twain had complained that there were no bushes, no animals and no people to be seen on this strip of land. Today life is abundant here. I remembered Ezekiel 36:35, which reads:
“So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’”
Everything went very quickly at Ben-Gurion Airport. An officer came and took us out of the line of people waiting to be processed. He said: “You can go straight through” and pressed the appropriate papers into our hands. We didn’t know what was happening to us – what an unexpected VIP reception!
Shortly thereafter we sat on the express train to Jerusalem and rolled through the blooming landscape. It has always impressed me to see plants and flowers in Israel – and all the little drip irrigation hoses that water them. We in Europe don’t have to struggle so hard for every bit of green, there is enough water. But here everything was wrested from the desert, from the swamps. Brilliant ideas had made it possible: water desalination plants on the Mediterranean, the world’s best recycling of waste water, computer-controlled irrigation!
Our boutique hotel “Bezalel” proved to be a hit. Good location in the city center, great service, delicious breakfast buffet and happy hour at 5 pm. Absolute highlights: the garden and the brilliant roof terrace. But above all very friendly, competent and helpful staff, especially Adi Gur, the operations manager.
And then we experienced a miracle!
My husband Harald had left his backpack, along with money and many valuables, on the train. We reported the loss, we went to the Lost&Found office in the train station – no trace. After two days of unsuccessful searching we were told there was no chance of getting it back. Harald then wanted to use his mobile phone to lock his iPad, which was also in the lost backpack, to prevent data misuse. Suddenly, through the location service, he saw that the iPad was in Herzliya. Since he couldn’t get any information over the phone, he took the train there the next morning. And indeed: the backpack with the entire contents, including the money, was in the train station 60 km from Jerusalem. Someone had found it and handed it over there, untouched, to the station manager. Strange but true! For us it was a very big encouragement and proof again that with God all things are possible – and that there are wonderful people in this country!
The main focus of our trip was prayer for divine intervention in Harald’s cancer. So we went daily to the Western Wall (Kotel in Hebrew) of the Temple Mount, because we think that this is a special place.
1 Kings 8:41-43 records Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Holy Temple:
“Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake, when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.”
In 1 Kings 9:3 we read God’s response:
And the Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.”
And while we felt that each time our inner peace and confidence grew, that this situation was also for our blessing, we experienced heartwarming encounters with old and new Jewish friends. Some visited us, others came to pray with us at the Kotel. Still others we passed, such as Moshe Kempinski’s “Shorashim” book shop (which we recommend to everyone!) in the square in front of the Great Hurva Synagogue. It is very important to him to make the Jewish way of thinking and seeking God understandable, and with his books he creates a great basis for mutual understanding and respect. This time we were again richly blessed.
One evening we tried the restaurant “Margo” at 21 King George Street. Opened six months ago, this little gem is tucked away behind the entrance to the Hotel Stay Inn. The chef Ezekiel is a young Israeli, a creative self-taught person who conjures up original and absolutely delicious meals. He shared his story with us and even gave us an extra extra dish when he realized how much we liked his treats.
This is something that fascinates us again and again in the most diverse encounters: people are so open and share their life stories when they notice that you are interested in them. And many of these stories are absolutely extraordinary and impressive, whether it’s the young lady who made aliyah from England six years ago, the antiques dealer who came to Israel as a child from Syria over 40 years ago, the “lone” soldier from the USA who volunteered for military service in Israel and is missing his family, or our young cook and our friends Ari Abramovitz and Jeremy Gimpel, who are building a farm in the Judean mountains. What we found in everyone is the love for Israel, the determination to make a valuable contribution to building this land, the energy, the innovative ideas and a lot of warmth and cordiality toward us.
The crowning glory of our time in Israel was two days with Aviel and Anat Schneider (who run the Israel Today news agency), who hosted us and whose friendship we greatly appreciate.
A sunny morning on the terrace of Aviel and Anat, away from the hustle and bustle, surrounded by flowers and birdsong. Is this what paradise felt like? What we will always be grateful for is that they gave us insights we would never have had otherwise. They drove with us into the untouched nature near the moshav (Israeli-Jewish village) where they live. We would not have thought that there is such a beautiful, original country here. And in the middle of it all, a small winery, with a garden – and people who enjoyed the Shabbat here. The atmosphere was incredible: the peace, the tranquility, the joy of life. Like a dream!
We had recently received an e-mail from the German Foreign Office in which we were explicitly warned of demonstrations, violent riots and attacks. What we experienced was something completely different.
Undoubtedly, the situation in Israel is tense, the losses from terrorist attacks are extremely tragic, the disunity among the people can become a real threat to the future of the country, and the threat of rocket fire is frightening.
But when you walk the streets of this country, see the young soldiers protecting it and really meet the people, you still feel how beautiful and energetic Israel is – in the midst of everything, despite all the unresolved problems! It is a special land full of promises and prophecies being fulfilled! The people here have a unique potential. God’s blessing is still noticeable – He stands by the covenant with His people.
And it is the same God who has saved Israel many times from seemingly hopeless situations: whether it was the Exodus from Egypt, which we are now commemorating on Passover – or, for example, during the 1948 War of Independence, when the approximately 600,000 Israelis of the newly founded State (militarily unequipped) successfully defended themselves against the attack of five Arab armies (which did not accept the UN decision). On April 26, 2023, the 75th anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day – Yom haAtzma’ut – will be celebrated.
Isaiah 41:10 tells us:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Am Israel Chai – l’chaim! The people of Israel live – to life!
With this in mind: See you next year in Jerusalem!
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