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First Thoughts on Visiting Isra'el

by Michael D. Bugg

(These were written down in one of my notebooks on the way home, as I tried to assimilate everything I had seen over the previous ten days.)

We are truly living in the End of Days, the Acharit Yamim.

As I sit on this plane crossing the Atlantic Ocean, I no longer think of myself as returning from a pilgrimage, but as setting forth on a sojourn from my home.  Israel is my true home now and the Jews truly my people, but now like Rabbi Sha'ul before me, I must travel to a far land to teach others about Messiah Yeshua.

Having looked on the fields and valleys that a century and a half ago Mark Twain described as a desolate waste, I saw the fulfillment of prophecy in every tree, ever blade of grass and head of grain, every flower.  To cite the passage that my new friend Moshe called to my attention:

But you, mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people Israel; for they are at hand to come.  For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn into you, and you shall be tilled and sown; and I will multiply men on you, all the house of Israel, even all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places shall be built; and I will multiply on you man and animal; and they shall increase and be fruitful; and I will cause you to be inhabited after your former estate, and will do better to you than at your beginnings: and you shall know that I am the Lord.  (Ezk. 36:8-11)

The Holy One did not accomplish this by miraculously changing the weather, but by miraculously forging a people.  Two thousand years in exile, two thousand years of crying, "Next year in Jerusalem!" has sealed the love of the Land, the will to make it bloom, in the Jewish heart.  So long a time with knowledge the only possession not subject to confiscation by Christian kings and Muslim sultans has given the Jew the ingenuity to water the desert.  And the terrible crucible of the Shoah (Holocaust) has made my people determined to never surrender it again.

We live in the days of Zechariah chapter 8: The land blooms (v. 12), both the elderly and children are in the streets of Jerusalem (vv. 4f), and God's people come from both the east and the west to resettle the Land (v. 7).  We ourselves fulfilled vv. 20-23:

Thus says the LORD of Hosts: “Many peoples, and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come; and the inhabitants of one shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go speedily to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of Hosts. I will go also.’  Yes, many peoples and strong nations will come to seek the LORD of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the LORD.”  Thus says the LORD of Hosts: “In those days, ten men will take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, they will take hold of the skirt of him who is a Jew, saying, ‘We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

Zechariah speaks of the foundation of the Temple being laid (v. 9).  This yet remains future, but even now there are those who have shaped the cornerstone and pray for the day that they can lay it.

I have walked the streets of Jerusalem and prayed at the Western Wall.  The Sh'khinah is not yet there, of course, but the mark of Kodesh (Holiness) yet remains, as does the Spiritual mark of so many of my people praying towards the place where the Holy One has put His Name forever.  I prayed the Amidah in the midst of a minyan (group of ten or more) Hasidim, and I felt our Father bend His ear and smile on us--not because He does not hear from elsewhere, but because we had sought to draw near to Him in yachad (unity) in that holy place.

I also felt Him smile when we spoke with Moshe, when R. Gavriel addressed him as a brother, and he responded in kind, even calling my mentor "Rabbi."  This was not mere happenstance, but a Mo'ed HaShem (an Appointment of the Lord) that HE brought about through our dear guide Hela; may she be rewarded greatly for her service. 

(Here I trailed off and fell asleep.  I post what I wrote down before that as a first impression, so that perhaps others will be able to understand at least somewhat my joy and my burden.)



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