I was confident in doing so because I was emailing with friends in Israel and they were calm and confident. One emailed he heard the America press was reporting Israelis were lining up to get gas masks. They were. The government requires all citizens to keep an up-to-date gas mask and like many others they got their most recent ones six months ago.
The scare worked to our advantage in that thousands around the globe canceled and where we usually saw 20 to 30 buses at a site, there were only one or two and sometimes none. Therefore, we were able to visit more sites than on previous occasions.
Israel continues to develop antiquity sites and modern infrastructure. Their growth is admirable. The resilient people carry on their daily routine without evidencing stress. Up until the scare created by our president, tourism was booming.
We journeyed to within two miles of Lebanon, drove along the Syrian border and took pictures of Syrian villages, and motored along more than 40 miles of the border with Jordan — without seeing any military presence. Contrast that with what you might have seen in the national news these last two weeks.
I had several conversations with people while there about the Muslim attitude toward America. First, let me acknowledge that when speaking about any large group of people not all in that group think alike. However, there is a large segment that base their opinion of America on the following.
Before Mohammad ascended, he called all the Old Testament prophets together and converted them to Islam. Included in the converts was Jesus, who also converted to Islam and is now one of their great prophets. They revere Him as such.
They say people called Christians misunderstand Jesus’ teachings and for that reason Christians resist Islam. Therefore, America, “a Christian nation,” is considered the Great Satan. In this light, opposition to America is a defense of Islam and the most high prophet Mohammad. To those adhering to this school of thought the conflict is not only political, but spiritual.
Another factor of faith relates to the after-life. Most have heard stories about 57 virgins awaiting any Islamist who dies in defense of the faith. They believe Paradise is an after-life state in which those worthy of it enjoy all the sensual pleasures of earth. By the earthly standard of most it would be considered a carnal place.
Heaven instead is another state which is a holy place where God abides and is spiritually pure.
Ours was a spiritual pilgrimage with intellectual and spiritual advantages. Any Christian that goes to Israel wants to “walk where Jesus walked.” There are a number of places regarding which it can be creditably said He walked on those very stones. The most memorable photo every person came home with is one I had informed them was possible. On the walkway beside the Western Wall where He surely would have walked folks took pictures of their own feet standing on the stones.
We have been to Israel 42 times. If you can go, do go.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.