I stood next to the radio, listening to news about the Persian Gulf War. Scud missiles had just landed in Tel Aviv. My heart began to pound and my mind raced as I tried to absorb the facts. I had taken part in a recent month-long evangelistic campaign in Israel. The sights and sounds of the Land were still fresh in my mind, as were the faces of the people I had met. I recalled a sea of faces on the beaches of Eilat and in the streets of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem—a multicolored fabric of people from many lands around the world, all of them Jewish, and all of them secure” within the borders of the Jewish homeland.
Most of the faces were friendly and smiling, and the people had readily entered into conversations with us “strangers” from America. Some of the smiles had changed to frowns when their owners heard that we believed in Yeshua. Yet, for the most part, even the skeptical had invited us to tell them more, and many had accepted gospel tracts and books translated into Hebrew.
I still remember the nights that our group strolled up and down the boardwalk in Tel Aviv, entering into discussions with people about the Messiah. Groups of Russian Jews sat together and carried on lively discussions in Russian, and they were often the most open to our message of Yeshua.
Soldiers were great listeners, too. We met them at their guard posts, as they hitchhiked along the side of the road, as they traveled in trucks and as they went to work at the central military base in Tel Aviv. They were always friendly and willing to read something—a Hebrew New Testament, a tract, even a Hebrew translation of “The Late Great Planet Earth.”
“Do you think there will be a war?” I asked Yitzhak, one soldier I met on Ben Yehudah Street in Jerusalem.
“Of course,” was his typical reply.
“And what will happen then?” I asked. “Are you afraid?”
“Ha!” he laughed, “Israelis are not afraid of war. We have been attacked so many times since 1948 that we expect it. It is part of life.”
“Well,” I said, “I am a Jew from the United States, and I believe that Jesus is the Messiah.”
“Jesus?” he responded incredulously, and looked at me again. “You are Jewish?”
“Of course,” I laughed. “And I really believe that our Scriptures tell us that Jesus is Messiah. He came to give us a new heart and a new spirit—to give us peace.”
“I don’t believe it,” he said confidently. “I am not religious. I don’t believe in that or in God.”
“So, what do you believe in?” I asked.
“I believe in myself, my country—that is enough.”
I said, “Yitzhak, the reason that Israel and the Jewish people exist today is because of God! There have been many ‘Saddam Husseins’ in our history who have tried to destroy us, and look! We’re still here. God promised that he would never let us be destroyed. And he promised that he would send us a Messiah who would die for our sins so that we could have new life. Can I show you?” I read to him in Hebrew from Isaiah 53:
Kulanu katzon ta’inu, ish l’darkopaninu, va’adonai hifgiya bo et avon kulanu. (All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.)
“That is in Tanach (the Hebrew Scriptures)?” Yitzhak asked.
“Yes! Here, let me give you this,” I held out a copy of the New Testament in Hebrew.
“That is for me?” he asked.
“Yes, and since you are in the army,” I added, “you might like this.” I gave him a copy of “The Late Great Planet Earth” in Hebrew. “This is about the state of Israel and what will happen in the coming wars.”
“Very interesting,” he said, examining the book. “I will be happy to read this.” He gave me his address for further contact, and I continued on to talk to more Israelis.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Yitzhak and the many others to whom I was able to talk and give literature. I hope and pray that they have read their books and Bibles and are right now considering the message of Yeshua. I pray that many of them have discovered that they can have peace with God through Yeshua now, regardless of what is happening between people and between nations.
And I look forward to the time of peace predicted by the prophet: “…and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:4b).
Let’s all pray for God’s permanent peace in the Middle East, and for God’s salvation for Jews and Arabs through the Prince of Peace, the Messiah Jesus.