The sun was beginning to set over the Judean Hills as I drove into the Moshav called Yad HaShmona. The group of young people who had recently had a tour of Israel from the Young Messianic Jewish Alliance (YMJA) was sitting in a circle, talking about their recent experience in Israel.
Not wanting to interrupt this sacred space I happened upon, I sat quietly, impressed by the thoughtfulness and spirituality of the participants. They honestly shared their thoughts and feelings as to how the recent three weeks had impacted their lives. I could have listened for hours and it seemed to me, they could have shared for that long. Earnest, heartfelt and eager, they were transparent and vulnerable, excited and hopeful that what they had learned and seen would have lasting effects.
I spoke with the group leaders, and received background information.
This is the third Experience Israel Trip that the YMJA has taken. The goal is to give their Messianic young people a Messianic Jewish experience in the Land. They want to provide an opportunity for them to deepen their sense of Messianic Jewish identity, help them solidify an understanding of the biblical and historical significance of Israel, and to give them the opportunity to serve in the Land.
The trip encompasses all kinds of different service projects, including working in a soup kitchen, blessing Holocaust survivors, volunteering in local organizations (The Joseph Project, Vision for Israel, etc.) who provide practical help for the poor, cleaning up a Messianic elementary school (Makor HaTikvah), working on different farms, bringing toys to children in the hospital, etc.
They also tour all over the country and visit important biblical and historical sites. Lastly, they participate in the Messianic Jewish community in Israel by attending services at congregations and fellowshipping with Israeli young adults.
This sounded wonderful and glorious, to me. As someone who has been in Israel for over 20 years, it is possible to become jaded, and not to remember the zeal with which we made Aliyah. I listened some more, as the participants shared from their hearts.
“Before the trip I had grown somewhat apathetic, and this trip re-ignited my passion! The richness, color and diversity all over Israel…I now have a new appreciation for painting and have discovered a love for gardening and cooking!”
Another said, “My life has a deeper meaning. When I went to Yad Vashem [The World Holocaust Remembrance Center] and realized Anne Frank died at 15 years old, with all of her aspirations and passions, I realized that I needed to fulfill my own aspirations and passions, in a sense, to honor her. I don’t want to dishonor her memory by not living to the fullest.”
“We went to the place where Yeshua was buried and rose again. This is the same God we are going home to. It’s important not to lose it.”
“We have to go home and be ambassadors. So many people have no understanding of what it is like here. I felt safe and at home.”
I was touched and inspired, but wondered if, in fact, there were lasting results. I needn’t have worried. According to the coordinator,
“We have definitely seen lasting results. Our young adults who attended our 2012 trip continue to tell us how the trip has changed their lives. Of the 28 young adults we brought to Israel, three have made aliyah and are currently serving in the army. One is in the process of making aliyah and enlisting. Two others have studied abroad in Israel. From our 2003 trip, two young adults have made aliyah and are now living productive lives in Israel. Further, many of our young adults are college-aged students and have explained that the trip helped them to formulate an educated response to those who oppose Israel in their university communities. We feel extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to take 13 young adults in 2003, 28 young adults in 2012, and 25 young adults in 2016.”
More participants shared…
“It helped solidify my Messianic identity when I didn’t even realize it needed solidifying. I came away with more than a better understanding of why I am a Messianic Jew, but also a conviction of the importance of the Jewish roots of our faith and how those roots are really are relevant to everyone, Jew and Gentile.”
“The trip gave me a new sense of pride in Israel and a desire to learn more about the country. I identified with the Jewish people in a way that I hadn’t before, finally understanding the importance of a modern Jewish state.”
“G-d changed me so much on this trip, and the spiritual changes that were made in me were nowhere close to what I expected.”
“The Bible truly came alive to me while I was in the Land to the point where I want to study the Bible and study it in a way I’ve never studied before.
As I drove away, the sun had set, and I felt a deep sense of peace. Sometimes, walking where Yeshua walked and living where He lived, can lose it’s luster. We live in flesh and blood bodies and experience exhaustion and discouragement, and can, if we are not vigilant, lose our focus. As much as these zealous young people became re-ignited and rejuvenated, so did the writer, in seeing the earnestness of their faith and their desire to come and serve, or return and advocate. Both are needed, both are important and we welcome it all, in whatever capacity God impresses upon you.
As much as you need Israel, she needs you.
Come and see. Come and stay.