During the summer, when the workweek is done, my family and I love to unwind at the beach. Watching children play in the sands of our beloved homeland as waves gently splash along the shore, it’s hard to believe that we live in one of the most volatile regions in the world. Most days feel as normal as my childhood life growing up in Chicago.
But every now and then something happens to remind me that Israel is surrounded by enemies. A rocket might be launched towards Israel’s south or terrorists might attempt to infiltrate Israel’s northern border (both incidents occurred within the last two weeks) and I remember that we live in a pretty tough neighborhood.
However, in spite of ongoing hostilities from neighboring countries, Israel never ceases to amaze me by being a good neighbor and extending a hand in friendship to the entire world.
Extending an Olive Branch
Just last week, a powerful explosion devastated the port of Beirut in Lebanon, killing at least 200 people, injuring thousands more, and causing untold damage to property. Even though Lebanon, which sits on Israel’s northern border, has been at war with Israel ever since the Jewish state was founded, Israel did not hesitate to lend a helping hand as soon as the crisis hit.
Our Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu explained, “We are ready to send humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, as human beings to human beings. This is our way…We distinguish between the regimes and the people.” This is certainly not the first time Israel has taken such action. Over the years, the Jewish state has shown time and again that it will be among the first nations to deliver aid in the event of a natural or man-made disaster, wherever that disaster occurs.
All too often, Israel is misrepresented in the media and is frequently the target of false propaganda and outright lies. Israel’s enemies try to paint her as a ruthless country and an evil, oppressive occupying force. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Jewish people have returned to their historic and biblical homeland. From the day the State of Israel was reborn, our hand has been extended in peace, and it will remain so. Unfortunately, our neighbors have yet to choose peace, and for that reason, we must defend our people when necessary.
Speaking the Truth About Israel
Israel walks a fine line between extending an olive branch and being forced to grab our weapons. After decades of fighting defensive wars, it would be understandable for Israel to turn her back on the countries that have caused her so much pain when those very same countries confront pain of their own. But that has never been Israel’s way.
Forty-five years ago, Golda Meir, former prime minister of Israel (and a personal hero of mine), expressed the very same sentiments I’m feeling today. She wrote, “I am also grateful that I live in a country whose people have learned how to go on living in a sea of hatred without hating those who want to destroy them and without abandoning their own vision of peace.”
Not much has changed since Golda’s time, and in truth, the same scenario existed in King David’s time. In Psalm 120 he proclaimed, “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (v.7). Yet, Israel remains committed to peace, firmly rooted in the belief that one day, with the help of God, peace will come. And while Israel exists in a rough regional neighborhood, she remains ever committed to “love your neighbor,” (Leviticus 19:18) just as God directed.
As friends of Israel, I turn to you to speak the truth about Israel when so many others perpetuate lies. And like Israel, I pray that we can all see past labels and denominations, countries and political parties, in order to provide hope and healing to all people in need wherever they live.
With blessings from the Holy Land,