Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sukkot in Jerusalem, 1980

The first time I visited Israel was with the Worldwide Church of God in 1980 to celebrate Sukkot -- the biblical Feast of Tabernacles. (Some Christians understand that Israel's harvest festival foreshadows the peace and prosperity that everyone will soon enjoy under the Messiah's golden rule). But that whirlwind experience only whet my appetite.

I wanted to return for a closer look at Israel than through a tour bus window. That's how I decided to return as a kibbutz volunteer in the fall of 1982. A kibbutz is a collective farm, although increasingly it includes other industries as well. I initially served at Ramat Yohanan near Haifa, in full view of Mt. Carmel, famous for the fiery prophet Elijah's close encounter with pagan Israelites.

You could say I have a God-given love for the Jews and the nation of Israel (Isaiah 62:6-7). That sacred bond has been strengthened over the years by the fact that I've been blessed to have lived all over Israel, getting to know its land and people quite well. Apart from 5 months at Ramat Yohanan (where I met my "kibbutz mother," Miriam Weiss) I've also stayed at Sdot Yam on the Mediterranean, next to Caesarea, the site of my first ulpan (intensive Hebrew course), and where Israel's heroine, Hannah Senesh, was from; Regavim, near Zichron Yaakov, where I continued my Hebrew lessons amid its rolling green hills; Reshafim, near Bet She'an, with Mt. Gilboa practically in our backyard, and Jordan's mountains in lovely view out front; Adamit, on Lebanon's border, high up on a mountain, from where on clear days you can see all the way to Haifa's Mt. Carmel; Shoval, a rose in the Negev desert, just north of Be'er Sheva; Dan, way up in the northernmost part of Israel, in between Syria and Lebanon, next to the majestic snow-covered Mt. Hermon, where I was living when "Operation Desert Storm" blew in; and Ha'On, with its campground and ostrich farm on the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, across from Tiberias; and last but not least, my beloved Jerusalem, next to my favorite spot on earth: the Temple Mount...

- excerpt From Toledo to Jerusalem

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