Sanctuary of Hope and Tears: What Happened When a Family Responded to God’s Call

Large flag of Israel seen next to the Western Wall, the holiest Jewish site (Photo: Sebi Berens/Flash90)

This is Part Three in a series of articles showing God’s call on a family, their decision to move to Israel and what happened when they did.

In Part Two, “A Step Of Faith,” Scott Presson wrote about how God had moved upon the hearts of his parents to leave their life in the United States and to move to Israel.

“Wake up.”

My father was shaking me. I opened my eyes and looked at him. He looked…weird.

“Get up” he whispered loudly.

I rolled over and then it hit me. We were in Jerusalem! No wonder my Dad looked different. He was excited and it was instantly contagious. I got ready as quickly as possible and we headed out into the new world.

We had arrived in Tel Aviv the previous day. The trip had taken well over 24 hours including our connecting flight to New York, a long layover in the airport terminal and then an airline workers strike before take-off. After a harrowing nighttime taxi ride, we had arrived at our destination completely exhausted. In fact, my mother and brother were still sleeping.

We were staying at Christ Church Guest House just inside the Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. My father and I walked out of the courtyard and into a street hemmed in by ancient stone buildings. There was a steady stream of cars and buses navigating the small street in front of us and there were crowds of people everywhere. It was February and the air was chilly but the golden stones reflected the bright sunlight. Taxis lined the curb while their drivers chatted in small groups. Diesel fumes and cigarette smoke permeated the air.

I looked at my father and he looked overjoyed.

The previous summer and fall we had journeyed throughout the United States while my parents had shared their vision with others about what they felt like Adonai wanted them to do in Israel. As we had traveled, we had gone over some basic Hebrew vocabulary. My father was smiling and greeting nearly everyone that we passed with “Shalom.” I realized that for him this was the culmination of a dream. I could only imagine what it must be like to have Adonai put something in your heart to do for him and then as you walked by faith, he pulled circumstances and situations together and made his will happen. No wonder my father looked so happy. He asked an Israeli policeman for directions to the Wailing Wall.

“The Kotel?” He pointed to his right, “that way.”

We moved towards a covered walkway where a steady stream of people seemed to be entering and exiting. At the first step we entered a world that I never could have imagined. It was almost as if we had stepped back into another time. Shop after shop lined a set of worn stone steps leading downward as far as I could see. Vendors were selling everything from jewelry and clothing to ceramic plates with colorful designs and olive wood cups, crosses and manger scenes with carved wooden figures. Old men were sipping coffee from small cups and puffing on water pipes through long hoses. We moved quickly out of the way as a young boy yelling “hallo, hallo!” deftly manipulated a large cart with what appeared to be a side of meat though the hordes of people. I had never seen anything like this in my life. It was loud and chaotic and I fell instantly in love with the sights, the sounds and even the smells that went from unpleasant to enticing in seconds.

My father and I continued to follow a steady stream of people moving forward. Suddenly we came out of a covered area into a vast plaza. There it was; a massive stone wall with people crowded as its base. Something in me jumped. I quickly looked at my father. He looked as if he had felt it also. I had heard and read about this. Some people at the Wall appeared to be bowing, while others were holding books and reading or praying. It was mysterious and thrilling at the same time. It was also strangely familiar. I felt as if I arrived home; like this was where I was supposed to be, yet that was so far from the truth that I could not reconcile the differences in my mind.

My Dad, who had never met a stranger, immediately began to talk with an Israeli soldier.

My father had fallen off of a cliff back in the States and it had nearly killed him. The fall left him with a severe limp. Seeing his limp, the soldier surmised that my father had been wounded. He politely asked my Dad which war he had been in.

“The big one” said my Dad.

The soldier’s eyebrows shot up.

“48?” he said.

My father smiled, “No, World War Two.”

“Ah. You were shot in the great war.”

My father shook his head, “No, I fell off of a mountain.”

The soldier was immediately interested. I was instantly bored. I had heard this story a thousand times. Plus, I had lived it. I turned and began to look around the plaza. Everywhere I looked there was something interesting to see. Some people rushed towards the Wall while others approached slowly. There were men in long coats with white stockings and fur lined hats. I noticed that the men and women were separated. Soldiers were standing around with guns and there were lots of tourists. I glanced over at my father and the soldier. I wanted to get closer to the massive Wall in front of me.

Finally my father made his way towards me. We grabbed a cardboard kippah from a box where others were doing the same and made our way toward the Wall. As we approached, I looked up. There were birds darting in and out of the crevasses. Bits of weeds and even small trees appeared to be growing out of the cracks. I could hear some kind of prayer call in the distance. We stopped just steps away from the stones. I looked at my father beside me. He began to pray. His eyes were tightly shut and his lips were moving. I heard weeping. I looked the other way and I saw a very small man dressed in a black overcoat and a wide brimmed hat. He was rocking back and forth. His eyes were also closed but he look as if he was grieving. He cried deeply. From the heart. I felt as if I was intruding on a very private moment. I looked away and then I looked up again. Far above my head swallows swooped and darted in and out of the cracks. Then I stared directly at the wall in front of me. I could see a portion where the rough stone had been chipped away and was relatively smooth. I could see what appeared to be tool marks. I thought of the man that had chiseled that stone. I reasoned that he had worked with a sense of hope and of destiny. I imagined that he thought that once this massive stone was placed where it belonged, that it would never be moved. Through all of the centuries, the wars and turmoil and even earthquakes in Jerusalem, it was still here. Every gap that I could see was stuffed with paper prayers. I wondered how they had placed them so high up. As I stood next to my father and an old man crying on a winter’s day in Jerusalem, I wondered if the men that had shaped this rock had imagined that one day all that would left of the Temple would be this holy piece of wall containing the stone that they had worked on. A sentinel looking out over the ebb and flow of time. A sanctuary of hope for the people of Israel. A place to cry out to Adonai in desperation and in love.

Adonai ordered the Israelites to obey his decrees and commands and told them that if they did not that one of his judgements was that he would make even their “sanctuaries desolate” (Leviticus 26:31). The Sages pointed out that even in desolation, the sanctuaries maintain their holiness. Even though the Temple was destroyed, the Western Wall remains a holy place.

Adonai made a promise to Abraham. He told him “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants” (Genesis 12:2-3). The Bible says that he made “his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised” so that “we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.” Adonai goes on to say that we “have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Yeshua, has entered on our behalf,” and “has become a high priest forever” (Hebrews 6:17-20).

Centuries later, as surely as the Western Wall stands, we stand as descendants of Adonai’s promise to Abraham.

Are you crying out to Adonai? Do you need hope? Adonai promised us life everlasting through his son Yeshua. In fact, Yeshua is in Adonai’s “inner sanctuary” praying for us! (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:34)

Take this encouragement with you. Adonai promises to make a way for you where there seems to be no way (Isaiah 43:16). He says that he is the friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He has ordered your steps (Psalms 37:23, Proverbs 20:24). He has made the path of the righteous level (Isaiah 26:7). He has made the path of the righteous smooth (Proverbs 3:6, Isaiah 45:2). His wisdom calls to you (Proverbs 1:20). He gives you direction (Psalms 32:8, Isaiah 48:17-18) and says that you will hear a voice behind you saying, this is the way, walk in it (Isaiah 30:21). He is your guard (Isaiah 58:8). He keeps you in the shadow of his wing and he is your shield (Psalms 91:4). He gives you strength for the journey (Isaiah 40:29-31). All we have to do is walk by faith. Step by step to the Sanctuary of Hope.

Next: Love Your Neighbor: My baseball throw gets a tune up when my brother and I are stoned. In 1973, God told our family to move to Israel. This is our story.

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Scott Presson is a Writer whose commentaries regarding personal and spiritual issues have been published around the world. He is also an award winning TV Producer, Editor and a former Journalist, who has traveled extensively covering everything from politics and weather to domestic terrorism and the front lines of the Middle East conflict.