Israel: A State of Mind
Israel: A State of Mind
by Lonnie Lane (with Elhanan Ben-Avraham)
My friends, Elhanan and Julie Ben-Avraham had lived in Israel for many years, but returned to the States for medical reasons. When their Sabra (native born Israeli) daughter was having their first grandchild, they decided it was time to move back “home” to Israel. I emailed them and asked them, even though they had been back and forth a number of times, what it felt like to be back and how they saw life there as compared to the States. How different was it than what the American media presents which is the only insight many have as to life in Israel?
We here in the States only hear the News from the secular media perspective which is usually biased, some more so than others, or Israel is ignored altogether, even when there are significant things going on in the Land. You have to get it straight from Israel to know what’s going on, and from the Believers (usually via websites or emails) to know what God is doing there. Stories abound of protection in the midst of crises or of supernatural provision among the Israelis, particularly the Believers, for which we give God praise.
The media is not likely to tell you what ordinary life is like for most Israelis. Ask yourself if what you picture of Israeli life is continual stress, fear and oppression, along with continued dangerous animosity from any Arabs there. Unless you’re informed, you may have an unrealistic idea of what the average Israeli’s life is like, be they Jewish or Arab, because of media input. To give you an example of media persuasion, I was in Israel during a time when there were fires in the Grand Canyon. The media from the States, which was aired in Israel, made it appear that the entire western portion of America was on fire. It seemed a terrifying catastrophe from there affecting millions of Americans, when in reality it was rather localized. I had to call home to find out.
Again, I was in Israel at an other time when in my home town of Philadelphia about a month earlier our mayor had ordered the bombing of 3 houses in which the cult group “Move” was holed up, armed and dangerous. I could hear the sounds of it from my own home a number of miles away. While it was designed to hit only the houses in which Move was located, it resulted in an entire block of houses catching fire in West Philadelphia. The media coverage of the event evidently reached Israel. Israelis who knew I was from Philadelphia asked me, “Aren’t you afraid to live in Philadelphia where your mayor is blowing up your city?” With all I had been hearing about Israel and their own danger and bombings from the media, here they were asking me if I was afraid, as if I had more to worry about than they did.
The point of these stories is that you can’t judge from secular media (and sometimes Christian) reports what’s really going on, or at least the whole story. Life can go on normally when the media makes it sound like the ONLY thing going on is catastrophe and horror. But God is “gooder” than that. Keep in mind that the devil doesn’t like Israel and he’s not interested in anything “good” being promoted about Israel. The devil, being the author of lies, and seemingly the defacto editor-in-chief of the secular media, presents stories according to his own slant. Consider that his is the bad news, while God’s news is always The Good News. Consider how little good news you actually hear from the media. On the whole it seems that generally the media reports on what satan is doing, and not what God is doing.
This is not to say there aren’t difficult or threatening things going on in Israel, nor that there isn’t a real hostility from her enemies. The threats are real, the stresses are significant and the need for prayer for Israel is urgent. But life does go on normally for many Israelis, even within the context of the war that never seems to stop. We need to keep in perspective that God is still protecting His people and that Israel is still the apple of His eye (Zech 2:8) and that His faithfulness to her is everlasting. (Ps. 106:1) He meets needs on a daily basis and holds her in His Hands. And most of all “The Lord has promised good things to Israel.” (Nu 10:29) The media doesn’t tell you that.
Along these lines, I thought you might like to hear what Elhanan had to say about life in the Land from his perspective as an Israeli citizen, having returned after a time of living in the States. Here’s what he emailed to me about life in Israel today, now that they’ve returned for good.
“My sense of the last few months is a bit like Dorothy caught up in the tornado out of Colorado and seeing very odd folks and things flying past the window, then dropping down into Oz, Munchkins and all. We are definitely not in Colorado anymore, Toto. (“Munchkins” happens to be the name of our congregational youth group here. And Oz means strength.)
That being said, where we now live is a bit like Colorado with pine forests and mountains, and our new house is a bit like Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden) with a fish pond and fruit trees galore, baruch Hashem (praise the Lord). We’ve been delighting ourselves on Julie’s fresh apple pies from our trees.
As to changes in Israel, I find things much more advanced ten years later, life being pretty good, and service much better, and shops and markets full of all necessities and more. The food is excellent. Also, I find a change in the people (or perhaps it is in me), in that they seem to be more patient, and even more kind.
Overall, I’d say there is a definite sense of reality-of-life here that is harder to experience in the American Dream. Yes, that’s it: a sense of LIFE rather than illusion of Life. As my son David put it, here you see old people walking in the streets, along with children playing and soldiers eating ice cream cones and immigrants playing music in the streets to make a few shekels….with faces full of character engraved into their faces from life experience of war and peace, sweet and bitter, etc. While in the USA all seems to be hidden away somewhere under a shallow smile, and perhaps the old folks are deposited by their kids into institutions so as not to interfere with their own “self realization.”
We visited our lovely new granddaughter Danielle while passing through roadblocks “manned'” by young black (and pretty) Ethiopian girls with m-16 rifles. One sees Arabs in shops and restaurants and hospitals and workplaces together with their Jewish counterparts not making any news whatsoever. So much for the “racist apartheid state” accusations.
Life being full of surprises here, I reckon the funniest, or oddest recent one being while I was asking the price of a faucet at a local Arab shop and saw the young Muslim shopkeeper praying on his matt toward Mecca. I waited for him to finish and he arose and said pleasantly in Hebrew, “Can I help you?” I asked the price of the faucet and he told me what I thought was too high a price, telling him I saw a similar one for much less. He looked at me and said emphatically, “Don’t you love the State of Israel?!” Rather surprised, I affirmed that I did. Then he said that this faucet is made in Israel by an Israeli company, while the cheaper one is imported, and that I should buy Israeli products. Well, go figure that one out.”
Let me interrupt Elhanan for a moment to tell another story. I recall a a very touching story that Elhanan told me a number of years ago. He was walking through the Arab market in Jerusalem shopping when he got into a conversation with an Arab shopkeeper who shared his heart with Elhanan. That was in the days when the PLO was making most of the noise against Israel. “I want to raise my kids just like you do,” he said. “I want no war. I was born and raised right here in Jerusalem. I have no battle with Israel. But if I don’t go along with the PLO, they will burn my shop down.” That heart-breaking story must continue to be the plight of many precious Arab people, especially those who are Believers in Jesus, who also have been misrepresented by the media as being Israel-haters. Now back to what Elhanan was saying:
“Yep, we’re back in the Holy Land, which pretty much defies description, is nothing like the media would report, is a land of extreme contrasts where King David’s words, “He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies,” written somewhere off my front porch some 3000 years ago, takes on a reality elsewhere unavailable. Israel is in fact a State of Mind.” Elhanan Ben-Avraham
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.