Day 18: 586 BC!

by Alexandra Rutkowski

Alright, so there’s this one joke that we’ve heard a bunch of times from different guides throughout the trip whenever someone mentions how much everyone wants to be buried in the cemetery in Israel. A guy takes a trip to Israel with his mother-in-law and while there, she passes away. He is told that he can pay 150$ to bury her in Israel or 1500$ to fly her back to American and bury her there. The man stops and thinks for a moment, and chooses to have her flown back. “Excuse me, sir, it’s none of my business, but why would you want to have her buried in the States? It’s ten times more!” “No offense,” the man replied, “but two thousand years ago, a man was buried here and three days later he came back to life. I can’t take any chances.”

We started the day in the offices of Honest Reporting, an organization dedicated to combating the media bias against Israel. This is just one of the countless examples of the way the media is twisted against Israel. Just seeing this changes a lot.

We stopped at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Justus Reid Weiner spoke to us about the strategic situation Israel is in as well as the extreme persecution of Arab Christians. Justus mentioned a good friend of his came up to him saying that he was targeted, so he wanted to get his story on camera. He did, right before he was shot dead in his doorway for being an Arab Christian.  It’s terrifying how Christians are targeted. The Muslims have a saying: “First comes Saturday, then comes Sunday.” Next on their agenda is Christians. Things are changing. Bethlehem used to be 80% Christian, but now it’s not even 15% Christian. The 80% is now Muslim. Bethlehem’s church bells are drowned out by the blaring loudspeakers of Muslim muezzins’ calls to prayer. Muslims put their prayer mats in front of the Church of the Nativity so Christians can’t get in every Friday. A teacher was cursing Christians in a class of 14-year olds and told his students to hold down a Christian classmate and stab him, which they did. He was never convicted. The problem is getting so bad that within 10-15 years, the Christian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is expected to disappear completely. They are abandoned by their leaders, ignored by the international community, and have been regarded as a minority, both from a legal and social perspective.

A few hours later, I found myself in the Prime Minister’s office, speaking with his right-hand man. This is the most influential political figure this organization has ever met with before. It’s a huge deal for all of us. (I took Professor Brubaker’s Minor Prophets class last semester and I remember him writing on the board in large numbers 586 BC – the date of the Babylonian exile. He promised us we’d need it someday. I chuckled at that. Yeah right. I’ve been waiting to use that knowledge for a long time.) The Prime Minister’s right hand man randomly asked when the Babylonian exile took place and my hand shot up and I proudly proclaimed, “586 BC!” Listen up in class. You never know when a member of parliament might quiz you on your Old Testament history.

That was the highlight of my day.

God is OPENING UP DOORS. What beautiful things He’s done for us this day!

Shalom! -Alexandra