Sunday, June 18, 2006

Israel and the Power of God: An Indescribable Force Described

I was very frustrated bit a derogatory post about my work on Haveil Havelim last week (evidently I omitted a strong posting by On The Contrary) and turned to one of my favorite writers in the blogosphere, Soccer Dad, for both advice and comfort. In his responses, he reminded me of a post I had written in May on my personal experiences in Israel, this post on Har Gilboa.

In actuality, though, I had written four posts on my time in Israel, thinking I would post one a week. But with so many pressing topics, I had forgotten to post the other three.   However, there’s no time like the present, so I figured I would post the second one now, and try to put up the others some time in the near future.  So without further ado, my second post on the how I personally experienced Israel.

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Israel is a bizarre country. The country, by its present borders, is only the size of New Jersey, it contains few natural resources, the water supply is minimal, and the heat can be unbearable.  And yet, for the past 5000+ years, no country has been fought over more than Israel.  Which bears the inescapable question of why this country, in such a tumultuous region, is in such demand?

To a person who’s never been there, the answer may never be found. Sure, people can talk about the history, the tangible proof found everywhere of the stories found in the bible and our own heritage, regardless of your religion, but that’s not it.  Others speak of its geographic location, as a keystone of three continents, a trade route between Africa, Europe and Asia. But while Israel’s location makes it strategically valuable, this has little to do with what makes Israel so special.

But while Israel’s appeal may elude the rational thinker, it is crystal clear to the person who has walked the sands of the country with an open heart: it’s because in Israel you can feel something special, something which I have no terminology for other than “the power of God”.

Now don’t get tricked into thinking that I’m ultra-religious or some sort of bible-thumper.  In reality, I’m a somewhat non-religious Jew.  But friends of mine who are Christian, Muslim, even agnostic, have all noted that same power, that same electric feeling that we feel no where else in the world, and that grows stronger as you approach Jerusalem.

The power of the city is almost tangible, you can feel it and taste it, and it seems as if it emanates from the Temple Mount itself.  I believe it is no accident that the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are in such close proximity to each other. There’s something special there, something indescribable that makes the Mount and Jerusalem itself the true capital of all religion?

In Jerusalem, religion is not esoteric; it lives and breathes in the very fabric of life in the city.  It creates a passion for religion greater than the passion felt for a woman, greater than the passion for life itself it sometime seems. It drives people to unthinkable actions, both positive and negative, in support of their religion.  And it changes people’s lives on a day-to-day basis.

I can hardly imagine what a person who reads this post and has never been to Israel is thinking at this point; perhaps they believe I’m crazy or imagining things. But people who have spent time in Jerusalem and have lived in the Holy Land know exactly what I’m talking about. We have all felt it, and the feeling is too powerful to ignore.

Life in Israel is not easy.  Israeli people can be abrasive, honking horns at 2 second delays at traffic lights and arguing over issues that have little significance.  Government bureaucrats rule the day, carving out their own little government niches and protecting them as vigilantly as Israel defends its borders. And the threat of terrorism or all-out warfare looms large, an ever-present cloud hanging over the beautiful landscape.

Yet, I am not alone in longing for the country every day that I am away from the hallowed grounds. It calls to me like a voice in the night, pulling me back, away from family, friends, and the comforts that Western life not only promises but delivers upon. And when I speak to other people who have spent any time there, they all seem to feel the same way, their longing increased by the amount of time spent in Israel.

Oddly enough, the same feeling felt by the Jews who have spent time in Israel is felt by the Muslims and Christians who have spent time in the country as well.  It reminds us that the Jewish God, the God of the Old Testament, is also the God of Islam and the God of Christianity; there is One God, there is none else.

The feeling could bind us, be common ground that could pull these people together to help Israel claim the glory that I believe is its destiny, and help it become a truly moral and spectacular nation.  Instead, it divides us, and causes a level of strife that can only be described as God-less.

I can’t tell you what the future holds for Israel, who will wind up running the country, or how the present dispute will be settled.  But I can say definitively that it’s a special country, with a power like none other I’ve felt in the world. And I can also say that if you haven’t been there, haven’t experienced what Israel has to offer, you are missing something glorious in your life.  Make it a point to get to Israel; you will be glad for the experience.

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Posted by Scottage at 8:14 PM / | |