Interests of Israel
Passed on by Philip Duncan of Sydney
Lydda Airport is adjacent to Telaviv which is abount 40 miles from Jerusalem. We were fortunate to have a party of genial Jews sharing the car which conveyed us to the city of our destination. These men of Israel regaled us with stories of the struggle, hardship and warfare of recent years and excitedly drew attention to vantage points of Bible interest. Thus we saw the scene of Samson's exploits, where the large filling station was called Samson's Folly. Further on we passed Samuel's old village of Ramah. The narrow highway showed signs still of siege as we approached Jerusalem, with bullet-marked-cars and burnt-out trucks. We commenced to climb as we neared the city which is built upon the top of a range of hills. We had arrived at the great city of Zion, just two Pentecostal Christians, the forerunners of over 2 1/2 thousand more, who had booked all available accommodation during the time of their World Conference. The Israeli Tourist Bureau soon had us placed with an English-speaking Hebrew family, who treated us with the utmost hospitality and made us one of themselves.
WE SPY OUT THE LAND
With a coach-load of Israelis we set out to confirm our Bible knowledge of the Promised Land. Our guide took a special interest in us Australians as all the rest of the party were Jews from various countries. We saw some swimming in the slight surf at Caesarea as we journeyed through to Mount Carmel which overlooks the great oil-port of Haifa. We remembered how Moses prophesied (Deut. 33:24) that Asher (Haifa) would dip his foot in oil, and we bare witness of its literal fulfillment. Sweeping along through places that wanted to whisper to us of the secrets of the past, we came to the large town of Nazareth tucked amid Galilean hills. Numerous donkeys with Jews, Arabs and Christians, enlivened the narrow alley-like streets, while beggars and souvenir-sellers harassed the sight-seers. Joseph's house where Jesus spent His boyhood seems intact, except that the Catholics had superimposed their legends and superstitious tradition to the detriment of truth and common-sense. This applies to most of the so-called sacred places, though where the Jews had historical places preserved they were more authentic and true to record. Nazareth with 22,000 inhabitants is quite a large town. On the out-
skirts modern, factories looked out of place, contrasting with the buildings nearby that stood when Jesus roamed those hills. The day was drawing to a close as we saw Mount Cainan ahead alongside the historic town of Safad— the holiday place of Israel. We knew we had a booking in the great stone hotel on the mountain crest approaching 4,000 feet in altitude.
A MODERN BIBLE STORY
I must tell you the story of Safad; of a thrilling incident which happened little more than a decade ago when the Jews were fighting for their independence and with their Arab neighbours.
The British were supposed to be policing Palestine under their mandatory power, but were definitely anti-Jewish and pro-Arab. The time came when the British were relinquishing their authority and left all their equipment and buildings in Safad to the Arab population numbering 12,000 against 2,000 Jews. The police barracks on the heights dominated the town and its machine guns covered every area and. as this veritable fortress was occupied by the Arabs, the Jews in the valley had no chance of survival and their extermination was planned. There were seven Israeli soldiers in Safad including a corporal who was in charge, and he had invented a primitive mortar gun, their only deadly weapon. The Jewish (2,000 souls) were mostly quaintly garbed orthodox Jews who wear their hair in long curls and are given to prayer and the practice of their religion. They are looked upon as extremists by the Jews even as Pentecostals are regarded so by nominal Christians. These peace-loving rural folk were mustered by the corporal who put before them, the choice of extermination by the Arabs or to attack and sell their lives in a hopeless endeavour, and everyone decided to fight as the last resource. They armed themselves with pitchforks and makeshift weapons then the Rabbi committed their cause to the God of Israel. The corporal was to aim his home-made mortar at the fort on the hill and at the sound of the explosion the pitiful army was to charge up the hill into the menacing machine guns of the Arabs. The corporal put his shell into the gun and there was an ear-splitting explosion and away went the long-haired patriots with the few soldiers leading. They reached the fort without a casualty for the Arabs, on hearing the terrific explosion in the Jewish quarter, panicked, for someone had yelled "the Jews have got atomic weapons" and the entire Arab army with all the inhabitants of Safad fled pell-mell down the slope heading for the safety of Syrian territory. When the desperate Jews arrived it was like a scene out of the Bible page, for everything was left for them to possess—weapons, food and the city's resources.
To commemorate this marvellous victory, the mortar has been mounted on a mound in the centre of the town inscribed to God's deliverance, and not one Arab is in the vicinity of Safad to this day.
Descending to the Sea of Galilee we admired the snow-topped mountains of Lebanon, passing the Mount of the Beatitudes where a large crowd of Pentecostals were reading aloud in unison the words of the Sermon on the Mount in their own tongue. A mile or two away in the ruins of lakeside
Capernaum another company of Pentecostals from Holland were singing in Dutch, "Tell me the story of Jesus " Our Israeli party thought it sounded very sweet and asked many questions giving us opportunity to share the Gospel with them. On to Tiberias with its ancient crumbling walls and fascinating streets. We lunched at a cafe by the clear waters of Galilee, and I chose fish on the menu and ate a whole fried fish of the bream type and wondered if it was a descendant of one of the fish that got away from Peter when his nets broke. Anyway it was freshly caught and tasted, just like the one the Lord ate somewhere near this spot.
I would, love to describe the Kibbutz or communal village of Israel where people and families live and. work together on a non-profit basis. Their standard of living improves as the kibbutz prospers. We visited Dagania, the oldest kibbutz situated on the Lake where the River Jordan enters – a beautiful (now) peaceful spot. We saw the community buildings with modern equipment, the gleaming dining room, the nursery where children receive expert attention while both parents work in fields or workshop. Here are gathered in rankless society Jews from various lands; labourers, craftsmen, artists, scientists all dressed in suitable clothing, drawing no pay but living in usefulness and in plenty. The directors of the kibbutz receive no remuneration or any advantage over the workers in menial tasks, so there is no corruption for all work for the good of all. During the last war a Syrian war tank burst into the street of the kibbutz, and the young men and women had filled bottles with petrol (Molotoff cocktails) and ran fearlessly out and threw them into the tank, facing its hail of bullets with unconcern and the crew were incinerated. To show their contempt, the Jews left it just as it succumbed and there it remains to this day, a relic of faith and courage.
This Land reclaimed from Gentile rule and from the ravages of centuries of neglect, is packed with thrills and wonder to the Bible lover. The highway itself brings to light many places reviving the romance of the Bible with its stories that come to life through a name on a signpost. Mt. Tabor recalls Barak and Deborah's victory over Sisera. Jezreel the fast-moving Elijah racing the rain and the chariot of Ahab. We needed weeks to take it all in. We stood upon the old hill of Megiddo which is a mount raised by over 20 invasions, used as a fort to guard the approach to Jerusalem and the plains of Armageddon. As far as the eye can see stretches the battleground so significant for the fulfilment of prophecy. Beneath the hill of Megiddo is a deep well of water where armies of the past generations slaked their thirst as they stemmed the assault of invading forces.
The stage is prepared and the Word is sure. The placid landscape of Israel will soon be the scene of the final battle of the nations when Christ will return to give the verdict by His judgment.
Then at last Israel will be the most favoured domain on Earth. We look it over now with deep interest, for this Holy Land is full of interest, but soon, we shall see it from the New Jerusalem, when we will be reigning with our glorious King Emmanuel.