The wings of the TWA jetliner lifted and dipped as we made our final approach over the coast of Israel. I could see a mixture of sand dunes, scrub oak and faded cement structures. Houses quickly gave way to massive apartment buildings, which in turn blended into the city center.
The ground streaked by as the wheels touched down and the weight of the aircraft began to settle. In the cabin, people began to applaud. A sense of identification swept over me: This is my homeland!” In ancient days my ancestors on camelback had to withstand the desert heat and months of travel to come here. What would Abraham think if he saw that jet?
Ben Gurion Airport is an awesome experience for any first-time arrival. Uniformed men and women, security personnel, are seen everywhere. As my American passport passed from my hands, my sense of security and acceptance began to dissolve. “How would they receive me if they knew what I believe?” The question flashed across my mind and the uncertainty of the response made my legs weak.
Five months earlier I had come to believe in Jesus. Now for the first time, I realized I was a minority within a minority group, here in the only place in the world where my people were a majority.
Yet experiencing Israel taught me vividly that we are a nation of people, ordained and preserved by God. I saw that whether we are from Yemen or Rumania, Iran or Cuba, we have a common heritage; and together our destiny will be guided by the Almighty.
I eagerly explored the Land. It was one thing as a child to hear the story of how God held the sun in the sky as Joshua fought in the Valley of Aijalon but Bible history and historical geography came alive before my eyes. I traveled down the Beth-Horon road, following the course of the battle described in Joshua, chapter ten. Daydream met reality and the child’s Bible story encountered the physical evidence—God lives!
During the first visit to Israel, I began to read the Bible all the way through. I saw repeatedly how God desired His people to honor and love Him alone. When I read of the revival in King Josiah’s heart, I rejoiced in my own heart. I could identify now, through my faith in Jesus, with this ancient king of my people, who with a heart broken at the specter of sin, turned toward the living God in response to His goodness and grace.
It is now, through Jesus, that I can identify with our people, our land and our God. I know in my heart and from God’s own word, the Bible, that I am part of a people, God’s chosen people, and a land, Israel, God’s promise to my ancestor Abraham. As for my identifications with the God of Israel, I now experience, through His Holy One, Jesus, a daily relationship with Him. It is my hope that more of my people have an opportunity to know the one who provides identity and purpose.