Day 22: Goodnight and Farewell, Beloved Israel.

by Alexandra Rutkowski

If his secret is discovered, he’ll be beheaded. “Pray for me,” the young man said. “If you ever have two minutes, please remember.” “Yeshua found [him]” three years ago now, and if his Arab family finds out, he’s dead. He has been attending church in secret and growing in his faith. He was diagnosed with and was struggling with cancer, and when the church body laid hands on him and lifted him in prayer- he was completely healed! “It’s gone!” he said as he brushed his hands through his thick hair, “No chemotherapy!” Though he faces the risk of death, somehow, he is joyful… full of peace. That’s the grace of God.

Please remember. Pray for me. If you ever have two minutes, please pray.”

Let’s not forget.

It was our last full day in Israel. Something I’m not ready to leave yet. But more on that later. Today, breakfast was scheduled for 7:15 and our first meeting at 8:30. As it goes, I just happen sleep in until 8:20. Jump out of bed, one contact in, throw a dress on, and of course the bathroom door was locked. Why!? I ran as fast as I could down the eight flights of stairs, made a quick pit stop at the cafeteria to get a roll which I smothered in chocolate, and yes, I made it by 8:30. Victory! It was a good start to a great day though. Neil Lazarus was our first speaker. Haha, he was great. Loved what he had to say. He fully took advantage of his British accent to appear more intelligent, and it worked. He taught us exactly how to combat the arguments on Israel and what approaches to take. Just a few things we learned from him:

  • “*In a British Accent * You’re Americans, I can’t say fat. Gravititationally challenged.”
  • The secret is to be more politically correct than the politically correct cause they don’t know what to do about it.
  • The difference between a cynic and an pessimist is that a cynic has more information.
  • You don’t have to agree with everything Israel does.

Sheikh Jairah is in Israeli-controlled Jerusalem, but it’s one of those places where Palestinians and Jews will come at you from both sides. We were given one instruction: “If an Orthodox Jew comes out to speak or yell at you, tell them you’re Christian friends of Israel. If a Palestinian does the same, then you’re an international peace organization.” That pretty much sums it up.

We ran into three students from London who were protesting “Israeli apartheid” towards the Palestinians. They held to their beliefs religiously and would not relent. It was interesting to see the other side of the argument, but it was sad. They were so grossly misinformed, but we respected their decision to try to fight to what they believed was justice. How can you argue Israel is apartheid? Would an apartheid nation have Arab Palestinians hold seats in their government, or have those students attend Israeli school, or have an Ethiopian little girl win Israeli Idol? But the problem was that they considered any type of discrimination as apartheid. They’ve redefined the word to exaggerate the situation. And they’re not the only ones.

But it’s true that before we can start educating others, we need to educate ourselves. That’s the bottom line.

We visited the concrete wall that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem. It was covered in Anti-Israel graffiti. It’s so sad. It is a problem; I’m not denying that. But as Neil Lazarus said, “Walls don’t photograph well, but they save lives.”

We went to the offices of StandWithUs where we were shown how to advocate for Israel on our campuses, while addressing specific problems in Israel. The children are indoctrinated to hate and ignore. It’s horror. Palestinian summer camps are being named after terrorists and suicide bombers. You have Arabs protesting against Israel shouting “I love Hitler- he’s the man!” or “Go back to the ovens!” That’s freedom of speech for you.

A rabbi who spoke to us today mentioned a story when a Holocaust survivor brought him a long way to a tree. The rabbi failed to realize the significance of that tree to the man. The man proceeded to tell him the story of an orphanage that once stood there. The Nazis came and wanted to line up all the children and shoot them, having their bodies fall into a ditch. The problem was that all the children thought it was just a game, so they were all running around. They couldn’t shoot the children because they wouldn’t stand still, so they took each child and smashed their heads against the tree. “This tree,” he said, “is the mass grave of 800 Jewish orphans.” 

That’s what hate does. And I know all of you know the stories of the Holocaust, but it’s too easy to ignore the same hate that exists against the Jewish people today.

After the meeting, we went straight to the King of Kings Messianic church service (after we passed a Vote for Pedro sign on the road), a church which is held in a renovated movie theatre in a mall. I absolutely love Hebrew worship! The service was one of the most incredible I’ve heard in my life. It focused on the Hebraic roots of our faith and how to examine Scripture through a Hebraic lens rather than an Eastern or Western perspective to truly understand it. Mind-blowing, really. After the service, a famous Orthodox rabbi spoke to the congregation. Though many of the things he said were somewhat controversial to the Messianic audience, he was truly anointed. Obviously, we differ on what foundational elements, but the looked at us and said, “I am truly in awe of the godly lives you all live. Though many don’t see it this way, know that there are us who look at you, God-fearing people, as our brothers and sister. Amen.” The one thing they cannot stand is proselytizing. “If you want to accept us and love us, it cannot be on your terms. You need to love us for us.” We pray for the people of Israel, we pray for the people of the Jewish faith, but we cannot only love them if they change. We need to respect and love them now.

There was something that struck me during the service. Here I am in Jerusalem. JERUSALEM. The land that Jesus walked. And it’s 6 PM and I’m in church. I know that halfway across the world, this VERY moment, it’s 11 AM in NYC where my family is doing the same. We’re on opposite ends of the earth and we’re both learning about and worshipping our Father! How beautiful is that!

After a very rushed dinner (our last in the hotel), we had a meeting for a few hours to discuss the projects we will be involved in after the trip. Haha, the meeting started in anarchy before Michael came. Denise (and almost Joseph) was doing the Single Ladies dance, Juan was forcefully reciting Ben Gurion’s speech at the podium, and everyone was yelling. Way to end our chain of meetings! But don’t worry, we’re not like that always. The rest of the meeting was productive.

The remaining hours of the night were filled with lots of talking, pathetic attempts at packing everything into our bags, lovely back massages from Shoko, hairstyling by yours truly, and last minute heart to hearts between the girls. The boys were probably sleeping.

I’m not ready to leave. As I’ve said many times before… I’ve fallen in love with this land. I’ve fallen in love with these people. It’s hard to say I’m leaving tomorrow. But Lord willing, I will return. There’s still a world full of information to learn, and I can’t get it out of my head. The burden I feel for Israel is overwhelming. The need to fight for the truth, to fight against the ideological warfare which has been going on for far too long. This story isn’t just about the Israeli people, it’s about us. Their story is our story. Despite our differences, we come from them. So looking out the window, I say “Goodnight and farewell, beloved Israel.”

Shalom! -Alexandra

Tomorrow we’ll be waking up early to go to the Old City on our own to take care of last minute details. The highlights of tomorrow are the Garden Tomb and Gethsemane. We’ll share our last dinner, worship, and communion, and make our way to the great state of New Jersey, where we’ll part our separate ways. God has worked in each of us every day on this journey, and none of us will be leaving the same. I’m anticipating great things tomorrow, and when we return home. Blessings.