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July 23, 2006


“He that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).

It’s easy for us to stand far off, viewing Israel, and quote such passages of Scripture. And we say Israel will stand. And that is true - she will stand as a nation. She has done so as a nation of people for millennia.

However, with the individual families losing loved ones, comfort is remote. We who love the Jewish people want to comfort, but there are times when one can only just be there and listen. We learn this from the Book of Job; his miserable comforters' words only added to his grief. But in the end he was vindicated and delivered and returned good for evil to his friends and prayed for them.

Tough Sabras (native-born Israelis)

I am amazed at the resilience of many. Some of this is the result of being through so many wars here. The underlying factor everywhere is that life goes on regardless. Children in the bunkers are being entertained with music, games, etc. and taught to embrace life. There was a wedding this week in a bomb shelter in Kiryat Shmona (Israeli town on Lebanese border) The couple had set their wedding date before the Hizbullah attacks, and refused to change it. The bride said, “Our first night as man and wife we’ll have to spend in a bomb shelter instead of a hotel room.” Only a kilometer to the west, just over the mountain ridge, was Lebanon. A resident remarked, “Hizbullah should learn that they cannot destroy our routine.”

The same week Israel’s forces on a ground mission just inside Lebanon destroyed several bunkers of weapons. Israel is doing all it can to warn and protect the civilian population of Lebanon, but Hizbullah deliberately targets Israel’s people. And they stock weapons in homes and mosques. The IDF has long been known for sparing civilians, many times to the sacrificing of their own men - and Israel’s forces are known for protecting religious places. The terrorists know this and take advantage.

Haifa - means “beautiful”

Haifa, Israel’s port city is her glittering jewel by the sea, long known as an oasis of Jewish-Arab coexistence. An Arab landlady we had back in the 70’s in Ramallah was from Haifa and she often spoke of how her children and Jewish children played together and often were in each other’s homes. The panoramic view from Mount Carmel has charmed our tour groups and countless others for many years.

Haifa is a city set upon a hill that cannot be hidden. Therefore she has suffered attack after attack. When the railway depot was struck the first time, 8 workers were killed with one of the rockets that packs 40 kilograms of ball-bearings. The injured men in the Rambam Hospital are anxious to get well and back to work., saying, “We’re not going to stop our lives because of these threats.” One said it was a miracle from God that he survived. “There was blood and I couldn’t breath…I had a hole in my heart and my liver.”

“You feel the sense of common destiny and common determination,” said a member of an American Jewish Committee solidarity mission in Haifa. “We want to be here not only in the good times, but in the bad times too….We hope this mission will encourage others to visit Israel and not allow the terrorists a victory.”

Last week a planeload of over 200 American olim (immigrants) arrived in Israel. One expressed their attitude, “You make Aliya, you come to Israel. Israel comes with the bad and the good. It has neighbors that don’t want us here, and sometimes things happen. But just because things are happening is not a reason not to come, it’s a reason to be careful.”

Nazareth

The city where Jesus grew up is mostly Arab. A rocket hit Nazareth the other day and killed two little Arab brothers. The mother was naturally distraught because there was no warning - and blamed Israel.

Arab residents in the Galilee and Haifa areas make up half of the one million population under attack. Missiles have been hitting them, too. “Bibi” Natanyahu told the Knesset that a Katyusha rocket doesn’t have eyes to see whether it hits a Jew or an Arab. But few outside Israel realized this until the rocket hit Nazareth.

An Arab Evangelical pastor wrote a letter of solidarity to Prime Minister Olmert. He called Olmert “a man of peace” and assured him that Arab Christians in the Galilee were praying for Israel’s leaders in this crisis. He was writing while his home and church buildings were being shaken by rockets, and said, “yet we are not afraid, for we believe in the protecting hand of the Lord of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are aware of the difficulties you are facing mostly caused by the Islamic extremists.” The pastor is concerned for his relatives in Lebanon.

“This war is not about politics as much as spiritual warfare,” he told the Jerusalem Post.

Another Arab pastor in Haifa noted the rare agreement across the country on the necessity of this war. “We can’t remember the last time there was such a consensus in the Israeli society and leadership on a war. Hizbullah is like a deadly tumor that has to be removed,” he said.

But not all Galilee Arabs are so patriotic. Local Arabs have been seen on rooftops quietly cheering when Katyushas land in nearby communities.

Also sometimes forgotten are the over 2,000 South Lebanese refugees living in the Galilee who fled their homes six years ago when Israel pulled out of Lebanon. Relatives calling from southern Lebanon say Hizbullah militiamen are taking over Christian homes to hide rockets and fire them at Israel.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem

Life as usual. Preparing for the Sabbath, I walked several blocks on Derek Beit-Lechem (Bethlehem way) to purchase flowers for the hostess where I was invited for the Sabbath meal, Challah (Sabbath bread) and the Jerusalem Post. And to check my P.O. Box to see if I may have heard from some of you! (I did receive a packet of booklets by an author friend in New Mexico.) Along the crowed sidewalk I met tourists and other Israelis scurrying to accomplish all their errands before the Sabbath began at sundown. My host family for the Sabbath meal was my friend, Zev Kedem’s daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren who struggled to speak English to me as I struggled to speak some Hebrew with them. (They won!) At one point, little 8-year old Tamar and I tried to play a piano duet. From their garden rooftop we spotted the apartment complex where I live - as well as many well-known places. In the street below and everywhere the Sabbath of peace was upon us.

Yes, He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps and He instructs us to not let Him rest until He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62:5&6).

Keep your e-mails coming as well as the requests to be added to my list. Hearing from you is vital to me. And if you have questions, I will try to find the answers!

                In His Love,

                  Chris Josephson