My first visit to the Holy Land was as a fourteen-year-old. I was a regular American teenager on a summer program in Israel. There were many things I loved about the Jewish homeland, but a few things I found strangely disconcerting. Like how there was building going on just about everywhere. Cranes and building equipment dotted the Jerusalem skyline. In new communities, I found the small, newly planted trees unnerving – they looked so vulnerable. I was used to trees that were perhaps centuries old and houses that looked like they had existed forever. I wondered why I was bothered by these things and realized that it all came down to one thing – a fear of change.
They say that the only constant in life is change. But my teenaged self didn’t really want change. I enjoyed consistency and predictability. I found a sense of security in the strong towering oak trees in America and the well-established cities that barely changed in a decade. But of course, it was only an illusion. There is nothing predictable about the world we live in no matter where we may be.
As we begin the summer months, change is in the air. Kids (and adults) graduate from school. Many people switch jobs or move to different cities. People get married or move into new homes. Personally, I have my own potpourri of changes going on this spring and summer. My oldest will graduate elementary school, signaling a new chapter in our family life and we will move into a new home here in Israel. But I no longer hide from changes; I have learned to embrace them.
One cannot live in Israel with any other perspective, because in Israel, everything is changing all the time.
Our modern state is only 69 years young, which means that we are still building the very fabric of the country. New roads are paved. Old roads are torn up. New paths are forged. New communities are planted and shopping centers spring up. Cranes and building equipment still dot the Jerusalem skyline, and new trees are constantly being planted. But now I marvel at these things and find joy in them. Our landscapes and cityscapes are masterpieces in the making.
At the same time, our national security fluctuates from week to week, year to year. I remember a few summers back when war broke out in the summer. We had reservations at a Holiday Inn on the coast of Israel. I had to cancel our vacation because the beach, close to Gaza, was taking a lot of rocket fire. When I called the Holiday Inn hotline to cancel our booking, a nice woman with a British accent asked why we were cancelling. Not knowing exactly what to say I answered, “Um, because they are bombing the beach and I have small kids.” “Oh, ok, certainly you can cancel your booking,” came her polite reply. And then we did what everyone else in the country did – booked another hotel further from the rocket fire and carried on with our vacation in spite of the war.
We live in a world where nothing is certain – especially here in Israel. We are surrounded by enemies and just one match, one action, could ignite the entire region. One week can be calm and quiet, while the next leaves us feeling completely shaken up. And every summer, the question looms over our head – will we face a war this year?
Change abounds. It is unpredictable and, at times, unsettling. But if we face change with faith instead of fear we can see it for what it really is – the vehicle through which our lives and world will become better. God has a plan, and while it might feel like a lot of shifting sands for us, we are still on solid ground, still in the palm of His hand. As we read in Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”