Journey Home to Israel
Following a triumphant arrival in Jerusalem, the Journey Home Tour went directly to the Western Wall, the holiest site in Jewish religion and the only fragment of the Great Temple to survive Roman destruction, where they were greeted by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, IFCJ president and founder.
There, the Fellowship supporters became prayer warriors as they went to the Wall to begin a two-month effort to personally pray for each of the 15,000 requests received in the Fellowship’s annual Prayer at the Wall campaign. Those praying followed the tradition of rolling the paper on which the individual requests were written and tucking the rolled requests into the Wall’s crevices.
Rabbi Eckstein told the assembled visitors that the secret weapon of low, vulnerable people is “the power of prayer.” He said God hears the prayers of the poor, the sick, the needy, those whose children have gone astray, and those with financial problems. He urged the Fellowship supporters to also pray for Israel and their own families and needs.
“I’m always humbled by the prayers entrusted to us and always touched by the pain evident in the prayer requests,” the rabbi said.
He reminded the visitors, “Moses didn’t get this chance … you have a chance, opportunity and privilege to come to the holiest place in the world to open your hearts in prayer.”
Before leading the men to their side of the Wall for prayer, Rabbi Eckstein prayed with all of the Fellowship prayer warriors. “We are here and we acknowledge you are here because you, oh Lord, have enabled us to be here … our souls are bound with you, our souls reach out to you.” He asked that their visit be “a time of healing, a time of blessing, a time of renewal.”
Pastor Kenneth Adams and his wife, Darlene Stanford-Adams, of Fargo, N.D., arrived following a four-day delay caused by the cancellation of flights prompted by last weekend’s historic snowfall in New York City. They were diverted to Minneapolis-St. Paul for more than three days and then to London for another day. Both were thankful to arrive in time to see the Sea of Galilee and Jordan River before heading south through the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem.
Also on Thursday’s itinerary were stops at Mount Zion, King David’s Tomb, and the Upper Room where Fellowship staff led the visitors in singing “Hallelujah,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” and “Amazing Grace.”
In an informal gathering following dinner at the Leonardo Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem, Rabbi Eckstein assured the Journey Home Tour participants that “something good will come out of this,” referring to the struggles many endured as a result of the snowstorm that delayed their arrival in Israel.
He said it was good to be able to say, “I accept the judgment” and “I accept the facts,” but explained to the Christians that in Judaism, Jews have the right — and responsibility — to argue with God.
When tragedy strikes, it’s imperative, Rabbi Eckstein said, to not just ask, “Where was God?” but to also ask, “Where was man?” “Judaism believes in a partnership between God and humanity,” he explained.
He stressed the importance of not just asking “Where was God?” when cancer, AIDS, tsunamis, and earthquakes strike. Instead, he wondered aloud, what if humans took half of the money they spend on cosmetics and cars to invest in discovering better ways to determine when and where earthquakes will hit.
Rabbi Eckstein admitted his talk was spurred by the past three weeks during which he suffered a heart problem which led to a blood clot that, thankfully, went to his spleen instead of his brain. He said humans, including him, need to assume responsibility for living long lives by handling stress appropriately, eating right, and exercising.
He said he always received sage advice from his mother, now 86, who stressed, “Son, you do your best, and God will do the rest.”
The rabbi assured those on the Journey Home Tour, “God wants you here for such a time as this.”
Highlights on Friday will include visits to the Mount of Olives, where, according to Zech. 14:4-5, the Messiah will return; the Garden of Gethsemane, where, according to John 18:1-2, Jesus went following his betrayal by Judas; the Via Dolorosa, the traditional pathway Jesus took from the hall of judgment to Calvary; and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. On Friday night, the tour group will enjoy a Shabbat dinner with Rabbi Eckstein and his wife, Joelle, and his daughter, Yael, and her family.
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