Why I Chose to Make Israel My Home – Story 16

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A view of the wall around the Old City of Jerusalem (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I came to faith in my Jewish Messiah in 1972 while living in Los Angeles, California.

Not having been raised with any kind of Zionist background whatsoever, I do remember that even as a kid, any mention of the Land of Israel immediately brought a twinge of excitement and a rather strange longing. In my last year of high school, I saw an ad for a tour to Italy, Greece and Israel. I remember daydreaming about going on the tour and not getting back on the plane in Israel. The fact was that I had never travelled outside of the United States, and even the discounted student price of the tour was way beyond my means.

Two years later, in 1975 at age 20, the thought of visiting Israel was constant, something on my mind that wouldn’t leave me alone. At the time, I had been working at a woodcraft shop in Phoenix, Arizona and while at a prayer/Bible study group one day, I caught myself still thinking about visiting Israel. I imagined myself strolling down the streets of Jerusalem.

One weekend in late July, our prayer group went on a day-long retreat. Afterward, in the evening I stopped into a local congregation that I had rarely visited and caught the very end of the service. After the meeting, I was introduced to a young guy named Kerry who was visiting from out-of-town. Suddenly, a girl who was one of the choir members unexplainably came up to me and handed me a magazine from Chosen People Ministries. The cover story read, “Next year in New Jerusalem,” a Messianic twist to the yearly Passover prayer. Suddenly, all my longing came flooding back. I thought how wonderful it would be to be able to say, “Next year in Jerusalem” and really mean it. Actually, I had prayed about it a lot, but never seriously. Yet, I knew that it was essential to believe whatever you pray for. As I stepped out on the sidewalk, I paused for a moment and prayed, “Lord, send me to Jerusalem.” I told Him that I didn’t want to be a tourist there but that I wanted meet other believers in the Messiah.” So in faith, I declared that I would be in Jerusalem, asking the Lord to let it happen soon. As I crossed the street on my way to the car, someone who had recognized me at that congregation invited me to a birthday party in progress.

At the house, I was greeted by Kerry whom I had met earlier. We began to talk, and I discovered he would soon be heading Israel. I could hardly believe my ears. I began to ask him all kinds of questions about his trip – what he would do there and how he would pay for his travel, room and board. He said that he was going on an intensive Hebrew language work/ study program that would pay for itself. Even the flight to Israel was subsidized. I told him, “You wouldn’t believe what I just prayed.” He answered me, “Maybe the Lord wants you to go to Israel, let’s pray about it!” I had to arrange an interview with a representative at the Phoenix Jewish Community Center. Kerry put me in touch with all his contacts. I followed exactly the path that Kerry laid out for me and in a little over two months I found myself on an El Al flight to Israel. Oddly enough, Kerry himself hit a snag in the interview and as far as I know, he never made it to Israel.

At first, I participated in the Kibbutz Aliyah Program. The six-month-long course sponsored by the Jewish Agency combined a daily routine of working on a kibbutz near Haifa, with an intensive ulpan (Hebrew language study). It was a wonderful experience. The ulpan manager noted that ours was the closest group of students they had ever had. Many memories and life-long friendships came out of it.

From extensive excursions around the country with the kibbutz program and weekend travels, I became intensely interested in the history and archaeology of the land. After completing the ulpan course, I spent the summer of 1976 working on archeological excavations including the Hebrew University dig at the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. I admit that I had come to Israel with very high expectations. What I found far exceeded all my dreams. I loved the people, the land and all the adventures I shared with my new friends.

At the completion of my year in Israel, I returned to Phoenix area, returning to the very spot where I had prayed about going to Israel. There, the Lord gave me Psalm 122:2:

“Our feet have been standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem!”

The archaeological work had been so enjoyable that I decided to return to Israel to study it formally. I returned in 1979 to Jerusalem and completed my B.A. with a double major in Archaeology and History of the Jewish People at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At the same time, I began working as an archaeologist with the Israel Government’s Antiquities Authority. I have had the joy of excavating all over Israel, from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Eilat in the south and extensively in Jerusalem, both as a member of a team of archaeologists, and as the project director. My expertise is in ancient ceramics from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. I completed an M.A. at the University of the Holy Land, Jerusalem in archaeology with a heavy emphasis on Early Christian history and thought in 2005. Presently, I am completing a second MA at the Hebrew University in Classical Archeology.

In 1984, two friends and I planned a visit to Bethlehem, and that evening, I met a beautiful young lady who I married two and half years later.

In 1989 we officially made Aliyah. Today, we live in Jerusalem and have three daughters, all of whom have served in the IDF and all, thankfully, who are walking closely with the Lord.