Life in Israel is always filled with adventure: unexpected beauty, belly laughs, and the more than occasional sense of danger. Every time a balloon pops in a coffee shop or a car door slams in the parking lot, everyone jumps slightly and shudders with the understanding that a crazy man could be only an arm’s reach away. Each of us either knows someone who has been killed in an attack or knows someone who has lost a friend or family member in such a way. In a country of only eight million people the world seems very small and interconnected.
Wars and rumors of war
War and rumors of wars are part of our daily life, but we are resilient in a way that refuses to let such chaos interfere too greatly. In March 2016 an attacker stabbed people right and left as he ran down the streets of Yafo, a few minutes’ walk from my home. On weekdays, as the sun is setting, the streets of the Old City are filled with soon-to-be brides and grooms taking their wedding pictures before the ceremony, and there are numerous venues to host these nuptials and the extravagant parties that accompany them. In the midst of the horror and confusion of the attack, the wedding venues still welcomed guests, the chuppahs went up, and these young couples started a new life together with their family and friends at their sides.
One victim died in that attack and ten others were injured before the assailant was eventually gunned down by the police. The next morning, the evidence of the stabbings and shooting had been cleaned, the restaurants and jewelry stores were open as usual, and we pedestrians continued to stroll, jog and meander through the streets of the ancient port city—the same city from which the prophet Jonah once fled on a ship to try and escape his destiny.
And yet, in spite of this desire for life to continue as usual, Israelis live with some sense of fear and an over-alertness of the world around us. We may willingly ride the city bus on the day or two after a bombing, but we will refrain from staring at our cellphones and instead eye everyone as they get on and off to make sure no bags are left unattended. Or perhaps when we hear the whir of a fan or the revving of an engine, the tone will trigger our instinct to get to the nearest bomb shelter. When you’ve been woken up enough times to the sound of a military siren warning of an attack missile, forcing you to grab your children and run under your home to a safe place, a simple hum often leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and increases the beating of your heart.
To whom can we turn?
In these times of stress and uncertainty, many people rely on one another to feel supported, holding onto each other for strength. But it is difficult to grip the arm of your friend when the ground seems to be shaking underneath your feet. For the few of us in Israel who believe in Yeshua, we know that the only thing reliable and strong enough to hold us is the Lord. Scripture tells us, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). We recognize that our fear, no matter how hidden or small, is not from God. He fills us with His love and gives us shalom. This does not mean that we are never afraid, or that we don’t turn to our family or friends for comfort and support, but that we have our truest and most faithful hope in the Lord.
King David writes in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” In our darkest hours, our times of trouble, or even in our tiniest worries that keep us up at night, God is there to guide us, protect us and give us hope. He is our hope that we will survive another day, and that, even if we don’t, we will have a greater tomorrow.
Our hope and savior
I have two lovely children and do my best to protect them from taking on the world’s burdens. When they were too young to understand war, I called the incoming missiles “bad fireworks” and said that we were hiding from them. As my kids got a bit older I explained, “There are bad guys called Hamas who are shooting missiles.” When boxes of gas masks arrived at our door, I took one out, strapped it to my head, and showed them how silly Abba (Daddy) looked—anything to protect them from living in a world of fear. Even today they still don’t know the ins and outs of the conflict and the emotional baggage that comes with it. Perhaps they saw a glimpse of my worry as I would hold them tight in our bomb shelter, but they also felt I was protecting them.
When the last military operation ended, I said to my children that “the good guys won,” imparting them with a hope that everything had ended. I told them that “God protects us and keeps us safe.” And through it all, in the midst of wars and random stabbings, I do my best to stay strong like a rock for my children, as the Lord is strong for me. God is bigger than a threat from Iran. He is more powerful than a nuclear blast. He is the creator of heaven and earth and savior to all who turn to Him. He is, as Jeremiah proclaims, “O you hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble” (Jeremiah 14:8).
This article originally appeared in the Jews for Jesus publication Issues 22:01 and reposted with permission.