Five Lessons from Israel

I recently took a trip to Israel, my first trip there. Several data points impressed themselves on me, and the first is...

It’s Like the DMV

The behavior was the first reminder of the DMV... for people in Israel behave like Americans at the DMV. They do not smile; they offer no amicable greeting; they push. At a store, someone else brushes past you, jostling your shoulder a few inches, without acknowledging your presence, much less an “Excuse me” in Hebrew or Arabic. It is not rude – it is normal.

Space — or the lack thereof — also reminded me of the DMV, which usually has inadequte or uncomfortable seating. Due to limited space, drivers often park halfway on the street and halfway on the sidewalk — or sometimes, fully on the sidewalk. And etiquette is out the window with driving in Israel. “Good” and “bad” drivers do not exist, not in the American sense of the term. There are only effective drivers and ineffective drivers.

Last but not least, socialist bureaucracy reminds me of the DMV.

For example, since 1995, Israel has imposed universal health care and an individual mandate. In 2014, this socialist system added “free” abortions for any reason for women ages 20 - 33.

And for another example, Israel does not recognize the right to bear arms, imposing rigid licensing for any private citizen who wishes to carry. Such persons must provide “proof of the existence of a cause that justifies the license,” in addition to specific training and mental health requirements.

God’s Wisdom in Hiding Noah’s Ark

Many explorers have tackled Mt. Ararat searching for the Ark. After being in Israel, I thank God that He has kept Noah’s Ark away from curiosity seekers and idol worshippers. For in Israel, the places where Biblical figures passed by, now function as places for idol worshipping and continued rejection of God.

Upon Mt. Carmel, unbelievers have created an idolatrous shrine in the cave (pictured below) where people say Elijah stayed (whether he stayed there is beside the point). Therein they pray the repetitious prayers of the heathen, and think they will be heard for their much speaking. When I visited the cave, I could have wept. How righteously indignant Elijah would be over the way his memory is elevated, while the God He preached is denied true honor.

Throughout history we see that people often worship symbols or human messengers rather than God. For example, the brasen serpent which God instructed Moses to create in the wilderness, as a symbol of salvation. Well, guess what? In 2 Kings 18:3-4, Hezekiah is praised for destroying the serpent: “ And he did that which is right in the sight of the Lord...and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.”

Idol worship abounds in Israel, as do today’s Pharisees, the money changers, and the merchants.

In the “Via Dolorosa,” ostensibly the route Jesus walked (I am personally undecided), I could rarely pause along the way, due to the scores of merchants and shops. If you paused, you became an easier target for the hawkers and their calls of, “Fine jewelry” “Prayer shawl! Verrrrry nice prayer shawl!” “Fresh squeezed pomegranate juice.” (All passersby are easy targets to begin with: these merchants are not timid.)

If God had allowed explorers to easily and visibly find Noah’s Ark, it would become an idol, and as commercialized as the Via Dolorosa.

A Prophet is Not Without Honor

“But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” Mark 6:4

Jesus’ words came to my mind over and over again. The very dates on the explanatory placards and signs are written as “B.C.E.” and “C.E.,” (Before Common Era and Common Era) — not “Before Christ” and “Anno Domini.”

The city that Jesus upbraided, Chorazin, was destroyed, according to His word; but the ruins of that wicked city are now a revenue-generating National Park for Israel.

If you are a Jew who believes in Jesus, you can expect persecution and denial of Israeli citizenship. Take the example of Rebecca Floer, reported in The Jerusalem Post. Because Rebecca said she believed in Yeshua, Israeli officials blacklisted her passport and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to even visit Israel again.

In The Jerusalem Post’s own words:

Both in Israel and across the Jewish world, there is an almost blanket rejection of Messianic Jews, or Jews who believe in Jesus. They are ineligible to make aliya, because while they consider themselves to be Jews, is it not accepted that a Jew can believe in Jesus.

“Aliya” is the term for a Jew who goes to Israel to become a citizen.

Commandments to Abstain from Meats

In the Old Testament dietary laws, God gave a rule that “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.”

From first glance, this rule seems to be categorically focused against cruelty to young animals still nursing.

Second, after reading John Gill’s commentary on this passage, I believe that indeed, God created this ban because there was a heathen fertility ritual that involved boiling a kid in his mother’s milk.

But the Jews have created a “kosher” rule that meat and dairy can never be served in the same dish or same meal. (Some Jews even go so far as to separate the very pots, pans, dishes, utensils, and cooking tools so that they never use the same utensils with meat that they use with dairy.)

This gross exaggeration and distortion of God’s rule reminds me of Jesus’ remark:

”But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:9

Due to the imposition of “kosher” eating, In Israel, most eating establishments and stores with food products pay for rabbis to certify their products as kosher, which in turn increases the costs of living.

The Illiteracy of Jesus

I do not speak or read Hebrew nor Arabic. Both Hebrew and Arabic “thgir ot tfel morf daer” (read this backwards) but hold almost nothing else in common. The alphabets are vastly distinct.

Though many road signs had Hebrew, Arabic, and English (in that order), the vast majority of words I could not understand. It jolted me to be illiterate after being literate since childhood. It brought a deep, daily-reinforced sense of stupidity.

I knew in my conscious mind that I would not understand the languages spoken around me, but even so, while going about, I strained my ears to absorb conversations, trying to capture the odd sounds, trying to make sense of them. This only heightened my sense of stupidity.

One afternoon, as my ignorance weighed extra heavily on me, I suddenly realized Jesus knew the humiliation of being illiterate.

For Jesus, when He was made flesh, came as an embryo; He passed through babyhood, and allowed Himself to be taught to read and write. He was illiterate — He Who created the first language, spoken by Adam and Eve; He Who in the Trinity went down to the Tower of Babel and multiplied languages instantaneously. “Go to, let Us go down,” God said in Genesis 11:7.

Tears sprang in my eyes as I remembered these words,

“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4

“For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

The longer I live, the deeper the meaning of these precious verses.

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