An amazing thing happened when I went to Israel for the first time recently. I fell in love with the people. It is true that before I left for Israel I already had a love for them in my heart. But I didn’t really know how deep that love was until I spent time in Israel among the people.
Our first day in Israel, while we were visiting Old Jerusalem, I witnessed the deep cultural tensions so present in the land. On our way to visit the Western Wall, we walked through the narrow city streets and perused the colorful vendor shops. There I observed a hostile confrontation between a Sabra (native Jewish person) and an Arab. Perhaps the gold Star of David charm hanging from the Sabra’s necklace provoked the initial comment from the Arab. Another Arab joined in with some verbal jabs. Sensing the clash, I quietly moved away from the conflict. Wisely, the Sabra held his tongue and slowly moved away from the area, never taking his eyes off the aggressors. There was no fear in his eyes, only anger.
Although I was thankful my Jewish friend held his tongue, I wondered where was the love of Jesus. You see, this Sabra was a Messianic believer. Jesus tells us to love our brothers, our neighbors, and even our enemies. Jesus’ amazing radical love is what sets believers apart from other faiths. Witnessing this exchange between my brother and the Arab, I got it. I got how the historical clash of people groups in Israel is deep-rooted. And a stronghold. I determined then and there that I must love the people—all people, Jews, Arabs, other immigrants—I mean really show them love and breathe grace.
While visiting Yad Vashem a few days later, John and I tried to save a few shekels by not purchasing a map to guide us around the property. After wandering around in the cold wind for a while on our own, trying unsuccessfully to find certain interests, I headed back to the main building to buy a map. I stood in line at the desk behind an Orthodox Jewish couple also trying to buy a map. The man held out a few shekels in his hand with a look of disappointment. Obviously the couple did not have enough shekels to buy a map. As they slowly turned away, I asked the couple how much they needed. The man did not answer me. In fact, he did his best to avoid eye contact with me altogether. I asked again. The man did not answer. I persisted in asking how much they needed. I spoke to the woman and shared I had just been around the property without a map and realized one really needed one. Shyly, the woman looked at me and told me how much they were short. I gladly put the money on the counter for them. She looked at me with grateful eyes and said it was their first time there. After they received their map, the woman thanked me again. I smiled and told them to “be blessed.”