Les Sillars: Hope for Israel

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Tuesday, May 14th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

AUDIO: [Sound of children]

Children at a school playground in Nativ HaSara. It’s a tiny Israeli village just a stone’s throw from the northern border of the Gaza strip.

It’s like every other place in the village—no more than a 15-second dash from a concrete bomb shelter.

Hamas rockets strike with very little warning. Shelter proximity can be the difference between life and death.

Ten days ago, when violence erupted, Hamas would fire nearly 700 rockets into southern Israel. Those attacks killed four civilians and injured hundreds more. The Israeli Defense Forces responded with airstrikes.

BASHAM: WORLD Radio’s Les Sillars was in Israel in February. He says the trip gave him a new perspective on the past, the troubled present, and our hope for the future.

LES SILLARS, COMMENTATOR: We traveled all over Israel. We saw folks getting baptized in the Jordan River.

BAPTIZER: You might want to hold your nose. OK. Then I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit …

We looked across the Valley of Elah as our Israeli guide, Daniel Rubenstein, read from first Samuel. Somewhere down on that plain, David killed Goliath.

RUBENSTEIN: A champion of the Philistine forces stepped forward. His name was Goliath of Gath …

We went for a boat ride

AUDIO: [Sound of boat, water]

on the Sea of Galilee and ate whole broiled fish on its shores.

We visited the museum of a synagogue from the first century in the hometown of Mary Magdalene

AUDIO: … that saved a wretch like me …

where some of our women poured out their hearts.

And in Old Jerusalem we walked the Via Dolorosa and celebrated communion outside the Garden Tomb. We stood on the southern steps of the Temple Mount and looked down at the first century stones beneath our feet. Jesus very likely walked on those same stones.

Seeing these places made the Bible stories come alive. But I wasn’t as overwhelmed as I had expected. Perhaps that was because the troubled present was always elbowing its way into our Bible stories.

We stood on the Golan Heights looking into Syria as our guide explained the region’s geopolitics.

RUBENSTEIN: So from an Israeli perspective the nuclear deal with Iran strengthened Israel’s enemies…

In Jish, in northern Israel, the pastor of a Maronite Christian church

AUDIO: [Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic]

taught us the Lord’s prayer in Aramaic. Shadi Khalloul told how our brothers and sisters in the region are being terrorized. Those too poor to pay the Muslim tax on unbelievers either leave, die, or hand over their loved ones.

Khalloul: Your wife, or your daughter, being sex slaves in the ISIS markets—ISIS, you heard of ISIS…

Don’t forget them, he pleaded.

And in Nativ HaSara, we heard a father talk about the effect on children of living under the constant threat of rocket attacks. Some became anxious. Others harden.

In the latest attacks, 72 Israelis were treated for shock.

But the trip did not just make the past more real or the present more compelling. It made my hope for the future more sure.

From the top of the Mount of Olives we looked across the valley to the Temple Mount and read from Zechariah. The prophet wrote: “On the Day of the Lord he shall plant his feet on the Mount of Olives and it will be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley.”

A river will run through this gap. It will flow from the temple to the Dead Sea. Filled with fish, it will make salt water fresh. Fruit trees with healing leaves will line its banks. It is the river of the water of life. No longer will there be any curse, and God will dwell with men.

MUSIC: [The Cathedrals “We Shall See Jesus”]

For WORLD Radio, I’m Les Sillars.

(Photo/Creative Commons, Zachi Evenor)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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