My Journey to the Holy Land, Spending Time In Bomb Shelters and Why America Needs to Support IsraelBy Tony Perkins President
Tony Perkins is President at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Christian Post on August 29, 2014.
"I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
There is a growing trend among Christians that claims this promise from Genesis 12 has expired that it is no longer valid. There are others in the Evangelical world, myself among them, who would rather stake our future and the future of our nation on the unchanging word of God.
It was this desire to bless Israel and publicly communicate our support of this resilient and remarkable nation, which gave birth to the recent "Christians in Solidarity with Israel" trip hosted by the National Religious Broadcasters.
Along with the other American Christian leaders, I was able to once again see first-hand the bounty of Israel, the determination of her people and the tremendous courage of those who lead her. Israel truly is an oasis of freedom and prosperity in a land of despots and despair.
Our mission was accomplished as we met with leaders from some of the smallest moshavim, which are settlements of small individual farms, to mayors to top national leaders, expressing the support that Evangelical Christians have for Israel's right to defend itself against the attacks of terrorists.
We experienced firsthand what many Israeli families have had to endure not just in this latest war with Hamas, but for years as rockets and mortar rounds are fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. As we were meeting with representatives of Moshav Nativ Ha-asara, a small community of 800 people just yards away from the border with Gaza the Red Alert system sounded.
We had already been briefed that morning that in the event of a rocket attack, that we had 15 seconds to enter the nearest bomb shelter once the Red Alert warning was sounded. We were ushered to a bomb shelter less than 10 yards away. We heard an explosion and I stepped out to see the Iron Dome at work intercepting and exploding the missile in mid-air.
As the all clear was sounded, we then made our way into the community center that had two conveniently located bomb shelters inside. The community center was located near a day care center that doubled as a bomb shelter. Given what turned out to be the 2nd highest number of rocket attacks during the current conflict, all the children were basically in lockdown, crowded into the daycare center.
About 20 minutes into our visit, another Red Alert was sounded and we quickly entered the shelters. This time the explosion came with the vibration of an impact. Shortly after emerging from the bomb shelter word began to circulate among the residents that a house had been struck by the missile. Raz, the man providing the briefing left and then came back, clearly shaken. The missile had hit his house, which he had just moved out of 4 weeks ago. He had rented it to a young couple with a newborn. Fortunately no one was home at the time of the attack.
In talking with Raz just prior to our departure from Moshav Nativ Ha-asara he told me that as terrifying as the rocket attacks were, that was not what kept him awake at night. What kept him awake and on edge for the safety of his wife and children were the terror tunnels that Hamas could use to enter Israel and wreak their death and destruction.
There were a couple of other standout moments; one of which came as we prayed was with the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. The Mayor was very grateful for the support for Israel among American Evangelicals. He was emphatic in pointing out that there should be an affinity between America and Israel as this is the only place in the Middle East where Christians, Muslims and Jews can all live in one place in safety and peace. He noted a particularly interesting statistic regarding the low murder rate in Jerusalem. Jerusalem has a population of 800,000 people and in the last three years they have experienced only four to five murders annually.
We closed our time with the Mayor by citing the command in Psalm 122:6 "to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The words came alive as we prayed for the leader who, in the physical realm, is charged to keep the peace of the city. Middle East expert Joel Rosenberg aptly describes Jerusalem as "the epicenter," as its well-being impacts not only the country of Israel, but that region and beyond.
We frequently pointed out in the meetings and in interviews that we had made the trip to the Holy Land to show our support of Israel and their right to defend themselves. But we were clear that our prayer for the peace of Jerusalem was a desire to see all the peoples of this region live and raise their children in peace.
Often lost in the struggle between governments and organizations are the people, young and old whose lives are dramatically impacted by the words and actions of others.
During a briefing by city officials in Ashkelon, we heard from two teenagers, who were apart of the city youth advisory council. One of them, a 17-year old girl who is the president of the youth advisory council, told us with tears in her eyes how thankful she was that we came just to show our love and support for Israel. She said that much of what is portrayed on TV about Israel is wrong; "that is not who we are," she commented." She went on to say, "From the news reports it feels like the whole world hates Israel, but your coming here is like a hug!"
A friend that stands firm in time of need is a friend indeed. Evangelical support for Israel communicates a very powerful message to Israel as global hostility grows toward the Jewish state in both the East and West.
There are a number of reasons we could justify our support for Israel: they are our best allies; we share many of the same values; and they are, like Americans, a creative and innovative people. Yet the principle reason we should support them is that God tells His people to bless them. That does not mean we overlook their shortcomings, mistakes or failures. We address them, but we do so out of a desire to see them succeed as a secure, free, and prosperous nation.
I am convinced that in spite of our many failures and shortcomings, America has been blessed because we have blessed Israel.