Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Margy Pezdirtz has been a great friend of CFOIC Heartland and the communities in Judea and Samaria since her very first meeting with Sondra Baras in the Israel office many years ago. Since then, Margy has joined the Board of Directors of CFOIC Heartland — USA and has worked tirelessly to connect Christians to the communities in the heartland of Biblical Israel.
Many of you have ordered and read her compelling novel “The Genesis Triangle”. Margy is an accomplished writer and a passionate speaker on behalf of Israel. It is a privilege for me to share with you her tribute to Israel’s heroes.
Director US Office
Invariably, when I return from a trip to Israel, as I just did, I’m asked “How was it?” by my family, friends and casual acquaintances. Their questions take in a range of thoughts, anywhere from safety and security to experiences and relationships. My answer is always the same, “Great!”
I really don’t know how many trips I’ve made to Israel. I’m sure I could figure it out if I sat and thought about it for a while, but it doesn’t matter. Each trip is as though it is the first one, with sights and sounds and smells and the delight of just being there, in the Land. Each trip is a homecoming of returning to familiar places, lovely faces and the warmth and hospitality of my beloved Israeli friends. And, each time, as I board that plane to return home, I wonder if I’ll be allowed the honor and privilege of returning one more time.
This trip was the same and yet different. I traveled from one tip of Israel to another and visited sights that I had not seen before, when I thought I had probably seen it all. With my friends from America, we traveled by bus down a long, curving and beautifully laid-out highway to a point in southern Israel where we could not only reach out and touch the soil of Egypt, but waved at lonely Egyptian soldiers as they stood at their isolated guard posts and watched us, their only entertainment for hours. We abandoned the comfort and convenience of the bus for jeeps and hung on for dear life as we traveled eleven kilometers – almost seven miles – through some of the roughest terrain I could imagine to a place called Har Karkom (Mt. Karkom). We wanted to go there to see if this could truly be the place where Moses had his mountain top experience with God and received the Commandments.
The drive was dusty, dirty, windy and bitter cold, but exciting. Once the rugged jeeps finally stopped, we found ourselves standing on a large mass of land surrounded and protected by circling mountains. It wasn’t hard for my mind to imagine this spot as being a stopping place of protection for a million or so people for forty or eighty or even a hundred days while the solitary communication on the mountain top carried on and chaos reigned below. When the guide took us to a spot where there were twelve large stones lying on the ground in a specific order, it didn’t take much imagination to realize this could have been an altar and the place where we were standing could have been “the place” of organization where confusion and disorder became a people of purpose and integrity.
We traveled north, almost to the Lebanese border and spent three nights in a lovely guest house at Kfar Giladi, our resting place while we traversed the Golan, painted quarters at a military base and looked down into Syria. As with every trip to the Golan, being there, seeing and experiencing it reassured my mind once again that this is a strategic place for maintaining Israel’s security and safety yet we – our government – is trying to make Israel ‘give it back’ to the Syrians. I have to wonder why.
My team painted a guard outpost on the base and shivered in the cold, slogging through thick mud trying to keep dry, but it didn’t upset or intimidate us. We were getting a minute understanding of the extreme conditions Israel’s young soldiers experience and we gained a new respect for them – young boys and girls, willingly forced into adulthood by their awesome responsibility.
We rejoiced in the rains that were finally coming to this dry and parched land. Refreshing water rushed like raging rivers, making lovely waterfalls as it pushed its way toward the Galilee and filled us with the joy of seeing the land renewed. We didn’t mind that the high places which provided the most advantageous views were fogged in by low hanging clouds – it only mattered that prayers were being answered and Israel would be able to diminish water rationing even just a small amount.
It was Purim in Israel – the time when Jews celebrate their deliverance from a death sentence contrived by a jealous foe and issued by a foolish king who had no understanding of the cost it would be to him. Esther, the beautiful Jewish girl/woman, was God’s instrument of deliverance for her people when she summoned the courage within herself to approach the king and ask for the annihilation to be stopped. Every year Israel parties, celebrates and re-tells the story through the reading of the Megillah and I joined in their joy.
Costumes of all designs – mostly biblical – were the fashion of the day as we gathered in synagogues for the reading of the Megillah and in homes for delicious foods, laughter, noise and the simple joy of breathing. I asked my host why it was that the Megillah is read twice – in the evening when the holiday first begins and then again in the morning of the actual day. His reply, “Because we can.” How succinct. Because we can. Those three words summed up the joy of the moment, the reality of the sentence that was handed down and the hope of the future.
I drove to Karnei Shomron – the beautiful garden of Samaria – as Sondra’s neighborhood is called and joined her as we traveled through Samaria to meet a CFOIC tour in Ofra. This is always one of my favorite moments in Israel, when we drive through the gorgeous winding hills and mountains of Judea or Samaria, taking in the scenery and talking, talking, talking. These little journeys of two friends, Christian and Jew, are the way it should be – Jews driving safely and securely through the land that is theirs, given to them by the God that is theirs for all eternity. Every time we make one of these little jaunts I’m reassured that the boundaries for the land, laid out by God in the book of Genesis, and given to the Jews, was no mistake. There isn’t a people in the world that could turn something so rugged, harsh and unforgiving into such a beautiful and productive land. It’s a miracle that Israel even exists and it’s a further miracle that she exists in such continued abundance in a tiny spot in the center of the world surrounded on three sides by raging enemies.
I love going to Shul (synagogue) with my friends. I don’t know Hebrew well enough to keep up in the prayer book or to understand what is being said by the participants. But that doesn’t matter. I drink in the sounds, the sights and the joy they have in the Lord and I am enriched and made full. I listen to the carefree noise of the children playing in the courtyard and I am thankful for them and their freedom. And, I listen to the rich sounds of the young boy as he steps to the podium to lead the congregation in a prayer, and I love the joy and unity of the adults responding to his prompting. This is wholesomeness. The older generation encouraging the next to step up and follow suit.
We sit together over the Shabbat meal in my friend’s home and talk about scripture, world events, sightseeing or whatever and the meal lingers long past the eating. Friendships are shared, experiences are taken in and I leave there knowing I’ve been blessed to be a part of that moment in time.
This trip was the same as so many others yet completely different. The world is in a state of uncertainty. My own country is rocking in the wake of continued tidal waves of economic collapse and I have the sense that I must hang on to every moment, every sound, smell, experience and remembrance of this trip to Israel, because it might be my last. But then, maybe not – God willing. Maybe the next time someone asks me why I go to Israel, I’ll be ab