On the 4th of July I completed forty years of residency in Israel. Josa has been here almost as long—since 1968, with an additional ten months as a tourist in 1966/1967.
It was on July 4, 1963, fifteen years after Israel’s Declaration of Independence, that I landed at Israeli’s international airport, located near Lod (Lydda). As the plane made its approach to the runway, I was busy looking out the plane’s window for milk cows and bee hives—I wanted to be sure that I was landing in the right country! I’m joking, but, by the way, before we touched down, I did spot them. There they were: black-and-white Holstein cows, and clusters of white, wooden bee hives.
Certainly, when I arrived in Israel, there could not have been anyone further from Israel and Jewish culture than I was, a Gentile hailing from a very small Oklahoma town with no Jewish population. During my forty years in Israel, I spent six years doing post-graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and ten years directing Hebrew language schools for Christian university students and new immigrants. I also did seventeen years of Israeli army reserve service (in total time, about three full years). Could anything be more exciting for a Christian of non-Jewish extraction than serving in the Army of Israel?
The experience of living in Jerusalem—driving past the Hinnom Valley, standing on the Mount of Olives, or walking down the Emmaus Road—has never become commonplace. I still have to pinch myself each day, saying to myself, “Is this really happening to me, or am I dreaming that I’m here in Jerusalem in the land of the Bible.” I’ve never gotten over the thrill.
Mentally, I feel that I’m still twenty-four, as I was when I first came to Israel. In fact, my poor body has aged a bit. (See the two photos below.)
Please pray that Josa and I will have many more productive years in Israel.
Before….I stand with Mr. Bar-Gur (then, in 1964, president of the Jerusalem Rotary Club) outside the Jerusalem YMCA where the Jerusalem Rotarians held their weekly meetings. Thanks to a post-graduate fellowship awarded to me by Rotary International, I was able to come to Israel. (I owe Rotarians a great debt!) When this photo was taken, I was twenty-four years old.
After….This photo (with Josa) shows how well I have weathered forty years in Israel. Obviously, Josa weathered them much better than I did!