Today we traveled from the Galilee to the far north, where Israel borders Jordan and Syria. The first stop on our journey was at Kibbutz Misgav-am, right on the Jordanian border. There was a man there who shared with us about this kibbutz (learn more about kibbutzim in Israel). He was quite a character, and told us that they only recently had opened up the kibbutz to tourists. He thought it was kind of funny that the frequency that they can receive tourists is determined by whether or not their neighbors are shooting rockets at them!
On our way to the Golan Heights, we visited an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) outpost. The young soldiers greeted us warmly as we exchanged handshakes and hugs. From the age of 18 every Israeli male and female gives three and two years, respectively, of compulsory military service. My impression was that these young guys were proud to be serving their country, and passionate about their role as Israeli soldiers. It was a joy to be with them.
The Golan Heights
I had heard of the Golan Heights, but I didn’t really know much about it. I so appreciate our very knowledgeable tour guide, Noam, who helped us to understand the situation. The western two-thirds of this region are currently occupied by Israel whereas the eastern third is controlled by Syria.
There is a demilitarized zone that runs along the ceasefire line (since the 1967 Six-Day War) and extends eastward.
As we approached the overlook where we were going to pray, we noticed a number of IDF soldiers. They were actually blocking the parking lot. We found out that a mortar had recently been launched in Syria less than 5 miles from this spot (we could still see the smoke), and that it wasn’t safe for us. We could hear gun fire and explosions in the distance.
We moved out of there rather quickly and went up to the second place we were intending to visit, at the top of the hill. This overlook was safely removed from the conflict, and so we were able to line up along the wall, facing Syria, and we began to pray.
It was a powerful time of prayer and proclamation at the edge of one of the most war-torn places on earth.
Mount of Beatitudes
On our way back to the hotel in Galilee, we stopped at the Mount of Beatitudes. The gardens and chapel there, built by the Franciscans, is beautiful and makes for a very serene setting. We were met there by Jane and the Israel Counsel. They led us in prayer for the persecuted church.
After dinner that evening, we gathered for a time of sharing and giving thanks for a wonderful time together. Even though we have several days left, a number of us will be leaving the group, so it was our last opportunity to be all in one place.
A number of the trip participants shared about how much it had touched them to be in the land. It was a great time of celebration!