We have just returned from what has been heralded as one of the best-organized, most informative visits to Israel. We spent four days in the north"Galilee and the Golan Heights"and then five days in and around Jerusalem. Our visits included being hosted during flight operations at the Ramat David Air Force Base, which lies at the foot of Mount Megiddo in the Valley of Jezreel, as well as a volunteer day with the 603rd Engineering Battalion in the Golan.
What made this trip particularly distinctive were the special briefings we received by many senior officials of the Israel Defense Forces and the intelligence community. These included:
- Dr. Shmuel Bar, Director of Studies at the Institute of Policy and Strategy;
- Major General Uzi Dayan, formerly on Israels Security Council;
- David Hacham, Advisor to the Ministry of Defense on Arab Affairs;
- Mark Regev, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry;
- Major General Shaul Kamisa, who served for over 20 years as Chief Intelligence Officer on Lebanon and who currently serves as the Mayor of Hatzor, one of the centers of the recent rocket attacks; and
- Brigadier General Shaul Mofaz, Deputy Prime Minister, who formerly has served as Chief of the General Staff and Minister of Defense.
We were invited to the Knesset (Israels parliament) and were received warmly as family. (We also met Avigdor Lieberman briefly at breakfast, who has just been appointed Minister of Strategy, focusing on Iran.)
While at the Knesset we were honored to be addressed by Benny Elon, a member of the Knesset as well as a Rabbi and a part of the Judeo Christian Caucus.
It was fascinating to see many of these same names daily in the Jerusalem Post as the tensions continue.
The IDF was expanding its operations in Gaza to stop the continued smuggling of arms in literally dozens of tunnels with Egypt. (300 Hamas terrorists have been killed in the past three months.) The Hamas continue toward establishing a 10,000-soldier force modeled after the Hezbollah in the north, with anti-tank and missile systems.
In the north, Syria continues to arm the Hezbollah in Lebanon, jeopardizing the cease-fire issued by UN Security Council Resolution 1701. But the greatest threat"to both Israel and the U.S."is the aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran.
There are insider views that Iran may be only a year away from a capability that neither Israel nor the U.S. can ignore.
It seems that a major confrontation on this issue continues to threaten the strategic horizon ahead of us all.
One of the purposes of this trip was to provide our group with the specific threats that Israel is facing today.
All of our speakers were unanimous in their detailing of the threats, but Rabbi Benny Elon provided the quote of the trip when he said, Israel must learn the following lesson in order to survive these turbulent times. We must first and foremost be Biblically correct and then, when possible, politically correct"disaster will await us if we get these two out of order.
Our next trip to Israel will be April 18 – 28, 2007, and preparations are well underway. This more devotional study tour will focus on traditional Biblical sites and we hope you will pray about joining us.
(We are also offering a pre-trip excursion to Rome.)
For more information on this this upcoming trip, go here, or phone Travel Management Incorporated at 1-800-975-7775.
We have also begun planning our Israel II trip for 2007. The dates are still being finalized but currently we are looking at the early part of October. Since this trip is limited in size, we encourage you to sign up early! For more information on Israel II, please contact Sharon Stolebarger here.
(These trips will also include course credit and K-credits to students enrolled in the Institute. See www.StudyCenter.com for details.)