Israel Trip Report:
Issachar 2008by Dan Stolebarger, Executive Director of Koinonia Institute
A few years back, my wife and I had a yearning to do more than just the regular Christian pilgrimage to Israel. We wanted to not only introduce people to the Land of their faith but also give them a better understanding of what is going on today. With this type of information, we believed that our prayers for Israel would be more directed and that we might find practical answers to the question concerning how we are to “bless” Israel.
So, with prayer and excitement we launched what we now call our Issachar Tour. Each of these tours has had their own flavor; part of our desire is that no two would be alike—different sights, different speakers—but hopefully our same guide, Jane Benari. We’ve now led four of these tours and I’m amazed at what the Lord has done in each and every trip.
Our first night in Israel is always filled with a variety of emotions, from joy and excitement to “what in the heck have I gotten myself into?” For our fall 2008 tour, we thought what better speaker to kick things off in Tel Aviv than Aaron Klein, a journalist from World Net Daily who resides in Jerusalem and is the author of the book, Schmoozing With Terrorists.
Aaron, a devout orthodox Jew, simply presented the case that there is no ambiguity in the terrorists’ message and wonders why we in the West have such a hard time believing what they are actually saying—there is little uncertainty to their goal and mission. Simply put, they are in a war to eliminate Israel and to retake the land of Palestine using whatever means best suits their purposes. He answered the question as to why Islamic jihadists kill, maim and die. The questions, as complicated as they might be, all have a very simplistic answer: Islam is a religion of HATE and will not be appeased until Israel and all Jews are eliminated. Remember, with Islam it is not the amount of territory that Israel populates or controls, it is the EXISTENCE of Israel that is the problem. Now as Aaron Klein would say, “What part of that is unclear?”
The next day we left Tel Aviv and began to make our way to the Galilee. Before arriving in Tiberius, we had a number of stops to make. Due to the nature of this trip, we do not include all the traditional sites that one normally takes in on a first-time trip to the Holy Land. For us we got up early and headed to the Valley of Jezreel for a Missler briefing overlooking the Valley of Armageddon and then we were off to a small airstrip, where we flew in low-flying 3-5 passenger prop planes (see photo below) that gave us a bird’s eye view of the Jezreel Valley, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. We were blessed to have a clear day and were treated to some spectacular views.
From here we headed to Ramat David, the Israeli airbase that is located in the northwest corner of the Valley of Armageddon. We were met by the Base Commander and taken both to the airstrip to see F16’s taking off as well as the base Briefing Room for an update concerning the Lebanese border, the amassing and fortification of the Hezbollah as well as a perspective of the Syrian situation. Before leaving one of the pi-lots took us down to one of the active Israeli fighter jets for a closer look.
The next few days took us back to the time of Jesus and we walked in places where He would have walked and sailed on the sea that He sailed on (for the record, no one from our group walked on the sea.) We had an incredible sunset dinner cruise with our friend, Daniel Carmel, on his boat, Faith. Another one of our goals is not only for our friends to see the Land but also to experience it and to worship their way through it. I am sure that all of our sojourners will never forget their evening singing and praising Jesus on a boat called Faith on the Sea of Galilee, led by the captain of the boat, a believer!
Because of our relationships that have been forged over the years, we always seem to have opportunities that were un-planned pop up. This was the case when our dear friend and guide, Jane Benari, was able to get our group onto the Ziporin Army Base, located right on the northern border between Israel and Lebanon. This base is a concrete bunker that literally looks down on the UN base, as well as members of the Hezbollah who have made their camps along the border. This base is on the road that the Israeli soldiers were kidnapped, which precipitated the last war with Lebanon.
One of the missions of the Issachar Tour is to incarnate the words of Genesis 12. Here in Ziporin we blessed the Israeli soldiers (boys) by giving them a treadmill, a table tennis set and, while we were on site, someone from our trip felt led to donate a new pool table. We concluded our stay by singing the Hatikvah to them with hugs and tears abounding! Keep in mind I called these soldiers “kids.” The commander of the base is 24 years old. What were YOU doing at 24?
While in the Galilee we always stop in to see our friends at the 605, an engineering base located on the slopes of the Golan Heights. We were able to do some general cleanup before having lunch with the soldiers.
But before leaving the Golan, we met our friend Avigdor Kahalani (photo, above), a true Israel war hero, at the Valley of Tears, the site of one the largest tank battles ever recorded, which turned the tide during the Yom Kippur War. This presentation always stirs the emotions by showing the depth and courage of the Israelis. Kahalani relayed the facts that the standing army in Israel today is only to be able to hold the line for 24 hours until all the warriors in Israel can assemble; need-less to say ALL Israelis are the nation’s warriors. From the Valley of Tears we made our way to a tank demonstration that literally shook the ground we were standing on.
Leaving the Galilee, we made our way up to Jerusalem and on our first night in Jerusalem we had a briefing from Uzi Arad (photo, below), a former director of Mossad. Here are some quotes from his presentation:
Israel has NEVER faced a more challenging year than it faces in 2009...Some of the world’s problems and issues are not comprehensible as well as ungovernable. The UN is irrelevant to the problems of today...Currently U.S. and UN Iranian sanctions are like standing in front of a Merkavah tank with a pellet gun. Iran will not strike a deal until they perceive their hand is weaker...In Israel there are three covers of Intelligence: 1. Military; 2. Covert (Mossad and Shin Bet); and, 3. Nuclear. No more than a dozen people in all of Israel have access to all three of these layers of cover. A preemptive strike on Iran will require a National Unity: Bibi, Livni and Barak...Suicide bombers are not lunatics; they should be respected for taking their convictions to their logical conclusions...concerning dividing Jerusalem: amputation should be the last solution. We need to explore “earned sovereignty.”
Words cannot express one’s experiences in Jerusalem. One site that we always visit is Yad Vashem—Israel’s Holocaust Memorial. If you have been there, then you know that as you come to the end of the museum, there are quotes that are projected on the walls, both in English and Hebrew, from the victims of the Holocaust. This year I went right to the end and took out my journal and wrote down some of these quotes. The following is a selection from that experience:
A man who has nothing left in the world still may know bliss for one brief moment in the contemplation of his beloved.
You have made me so rich, O Lord, please let me stare at your beauty with open hands. My life has become an open dialogue with you, O God, one great dialogue.
Whoever flees from history – history will catch up with him. Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary effort of the mind, the senses, willpower, and action!
From amidst the horror grew another morality, another love, another compassion. These grew wild and no one gave them a name.
My desire is to be with God against man, rather than with man against God.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes
It is not that six million Jews were murdered; rather that there were six million murders and in each case one Jew was murdered.
Abel Jacob Hertzberg
The word dies whenever reality demands absolute domination.
Another staple of the Issachar Tour is a visit to the Knesset. This year we were privileged to have a briefing from a former Director of the Shin Bet, who is currently an MK (Member of Knesset) from the Israel Beitanu (Israel is my Home) Party, Israel Hasson. Here are a few quotes from his briefing:
The problem with Iran going “nuclear” is not the typical nuke scenario. Nuclear terrorism is when a suitcase bomb can be delivered to any port around the world, with no one claiming credit...If Iran is scheduled to go nuclear in Feb 2009, Israel must not allow that to happen!”
When asked who he preferred, Obama or McCain: “Israel must do what is best for Israel regardless of what America may think.”
Our last day in the Land always includes a walk from the top of the Mount of Olives with a Missler briefing that details Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. From here we head to the Garden and then on the Walk of Sorrows but always concluding with a visit to a Tomb (below) that is still empty and a time of worship and communion.
Scripture exhorts us to be praying for the peace of Jerusalem. Being a part of one of our Issachar Tours hopefully adds a sharper awareness to what Israel is facing today, thus making our prayers less generic and more specific!
As we plan our 2009 trips, please take a moment to reflect on what Israel faces in the days and weeks to come—a new Prime Minister, a new U.S. President, a new U.S. Secretary of State, a “two state” solution, a divided Jerusalem, the future of the Golan Heights, Lebanon's Border, a nuclear Iran, a nuclear Syria, and Gaza—and please remember to PRAY!