Many times I’ve been in Israel a week or two prior to Thanksgiving, but this last time took on special meaning. Leading a smaller group this time around for two weeks through Jordan first and then Israel was equally significant. Perhaps it was the stark contrast we felt between our very Muslim guide (my good friend Mo) in Jordan and our Jewish guide (my good friend Shlomo) in Israel.  Or perhaps it had something to do with Israel’s need to protect its citizens from Hamas rockets fired from Gaza.  Or just maybe this trip carried special meaning because where we seemingly are at in God’s redemptive history.  Just maybe we are witnessing the final chapter in prophetic history?  Someone famous once said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”  Although the context is different today than when these words were uttered, I am thankful today for the nation of Israel and what they represent for our world, no matter hw trying it is for them!

Other than hearing them on Israel’s Memorial Day, the sirens sounded on our last day in Jerusalem.  This minute-long siren however was a warning alert of a rocket shot from Gaza, one that would land about 5 miles south of Jerusalem. While feeling no personal threat at all (yes, travel in Israel for tourists continues to be safe!), I was thankful that Israel has the capability to advise its citizens to seek cover during such a potential threat.  While we left the country as IDF troops (Israel Defense Force) massed at the Gaza border for an impending land invasion, I am also thankful that Israel takes seriously the means they put into action in order to protect its civilians, despite the world’s unfathomable objections as if Israel, not Hamas) is the bully aggressor.  While the world doesn’t understand the threats posed on this tiny nation established in 1948, I’m thankful for the resources Israel possesses to thwart terrorism.

I am also thankful for the current cease-fire.  Israel wants nothing more than peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.  The majority of  Palestinians want peace too! The unmistakable problem is that Hamas leaders that govern the Palestinians in Gaza don’t want peace.  Making it clear time and time again, Hamas wants nothing less than the total destruction of Israel. While Hamas terrorists cower behind their own civilians as they launch 100’s of rockets into Israel, the Jewish nation takes all possible measures in their counter bombing raids (in the forms of warning leaflets and pin-point bombing) to avoid civilian casualties.  I am thankful that Israel even sends into Gaza 100’s of their own trucks filled with food and supplies.  To date, they have even medically treated dozens of Palestinians.  What other nation does this?  Why aren’t these humanitarian efforts ever in the news?

And while Morsi, Egypt’s new Pharoah, wins the praise from world leaders (even naively from our own Administration) for this latest brokered cease fire, no one seems to care what Morsi said the following morning.  This smooth-talking and smiling Prime Minister may say wonderful things in English for all the world to hear, yet in Arabic, this top leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood “denounced the peace efforts with Israel and called for a jihad to liberate the Palestinian territories.” His true colors are revealed.  The western world must not be fooled!  And speaking about this new merciless Egyptian ruler, a former Jerusalem professor of mine said, “the king of the south” has now been revived after centuries of decline. And now, woe to Egyptian Christians and those who defy Sharia law and do not bow to this default Islam.”

What an upside down world we live in, and Israel exists smack-dab in the middle of it all.  What the future holds for Israel is anyone’s guess.  But be sure to know that all guess work is thrown out when God is involved.  God will continue to rule the nations by His sovereign hand (Psalm 2), and His redemptive purpose for Israel remains intact.  For this reason, this is a time for believers to not only be thankful for Israel, but to also prayerfully intercede for the peace of Christ to come to this region of the world.

So as I sit here eating Turkey leftovers and watching football from the comfort of my couch, I am thankful for Israel 6,000 miles away.  Is Israel perfect in all that she does?  To be sure, no.  At last glance, neither is our nation.  But Israel exists and must continue to exist despite, as my Israeli guide says, “living in a not-so-friendly neighborhood.”  

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