‘three-thousand years with no place to be and they want me to give up my milk and honey? don’t you see, it’s not about the land or the sea, neither country but the dwelling of His Majesty.’ (Matisyahu, ‘Jerusalem’)
I read a book early last week. it was a fantastic mix of fiction and history—historical fiction if you may, but more on the bubblegum side of the truth. I was enthralled by the story. it was about the founding of the nation of Yisrael: the pogroms of Eastern Europe and Russia. the Holocaust. the troubled years of the British Mandate. the treachery of international politics. how the pioneering farmers of those sapling days reclaimed what was swampland and made the wilderness bloom. it was a cry for home for a people who have been unhomed for two-to-three thousand years.
David Ben-Gurion, Chaim Weizmann, Theodor Herzl, Yossi Harel and The Friend, Orde Wingate – to name a few names – all featured in some way or other. but don’t count on Leon Uris’ Exodus to give you a faithful account of Yisrael’s rebirth. the narrative is too much skewed with his own fantasies and prejudices to provide more than a captivating picture of that conflicted, holy spot at the centre of the world.
what the work does accomplish so well, though, is to kindle the furnace of a longing to return. to go up. make aliyah. although I have never seen it with my own eyes, something of the spirit of the land came alive for me in Uris’ descriptions of the terrain. it was almost tangible, lying just beyond my fingertips on the other side of the page. Eretz Yisrael. the home of my heart.
I felt a similar stirring when I read Birgitta Yavari-Ilan Smith’s Forsake Not Your Heart in 2012. what a portrait of her life and trials in the City of David. Yerushalayim. ‘Jerusalem, if I forget you […].’
and more than just stirring the longing to return, Exodus somehow moved me with a desire to see Yeshua in His own context again. that Jewish man. that Jewish God. I was struck by how much sense He makes when viewed through an Israeli lens. in fact, it seemed to me that He makes the most sense as the Sabra of sabras. after all, if I may paraphrase words I heard from Ya’akov Damkani early on in the year, ‘Yeshua is the logical conclusion of Yahveh’s covenants with His covenant people.’ Messiah and the Yehudim are an inseparable pair. you cannot have the one and not the other.
(that said, let us not lose sight of the fact that, since His awesome Pesach, the Yehudim and Gentiles have been made into one new man, reconciled to each other in Him, for He killed the enmity between the two when He died on the cross.)
the words of a song written many years ago by Baruch Maayan echoed in my soul: ‘I want to see Yeshua walking down Ben Yehuda Street.’ I want to see Him walking too. from Dan in the north to Eilat overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba. I want to walk with Him through Safed, Haifa, Nablus, Rishon LeTzion, Beit-El, Beersheva, Hebron, Netanya, Gaza—the length and breadth of His homeland. just imagine hearing from His mouth His commentary on the place: how He sees it and feels for it and thinks about it. just imagine.
some years ago I was at a Rosh Hashanah braai at the home of the Maayans, a dear family who had come out from the Negev to South Africa on a short assignment for the Kingdom. at some point in the afternoon the group that had gathered spoke about the one place we would be if at that moment we could be anywhere in the world. Jerusalem was my answer that day and still remains so. I still carry her in my heart.
it is a strange thing that a Venda South African would have such a deep longing to return home to a land that I am not too sure I came from in the first place. mayhaps one of my ancient fathers was a Lembe. or mayhaps I have simply just caught a strong bout of that Zionist fever which is sweeping through Christendom at this hour of history. who knows?
is it wrong to love a nation? in this instance, it seems a contradiction that a person can love Abba Elohim without loving Yisrael. but of course there are many who love the King and not His special possession. is it wrong to feel that home is a place far off from your place of birth? hmmm, good question. we shall see what happens when I ascend in August. until then, ‘Jerusalem, if I forget you, fire not gonn’ come from me tongue. Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do.’ (Matisyahu)