We are still in Israel as I write this, and it may be premature to draw conclusions about a visit to Israel that has a few days remaining. But our kids, who were with us for 10 days, left two days ago and our time is winding down. I do expect that this visit will remain with me, impacting how vividly I read the stories of Scripture. But beyond that, here are a few reflections I have had during our time here.
1. Repeatedly, we saw things that could have been the actual place where someone did something. (I know this observation sounds quite obvious as I say it, but bear with me please.)
2. In general, all over Israel we saw signs of a lull in tourism, which I'm sure was a hardship on all who rely on tourism for their livelihoods but made our visit more peaceful and focused. We were in Bethlehem on Christmas day, and it was quite crowded, but that was about the only time we were really inconvenienced by crowds. People here connected the drop in tourism with the Gaza war from the summer, yet we never felt unsafe or worried about our security. But we were able to enjoy many chance encounters with others who were striving to visit Israel, as we were, devotionally and not just as tourists.
3. We also took some time to visit the Yad Vashem, Israel's official monument to the victims of the Holocaust, at the heart of which is a museum that displays the history of Europe and Jews in Europe before and then during WWII. The architecture and layout of the monument and the narrative components, including first-person video interviews of survivors and documents telling of the lives of those who were lost, combined to make a very powerful experience. The message was not one of sheer numbers (6 Million lost their lives) but that each person who died had a family, a world, a history and a future and all of those families, worlds and futures were lost, each loss a tragedy in its own right.
We came to this part of the world over the holidays for many reasons, but mostly to enjoy meaningful time with our kids and friends in a place that could be enriching of our spirits and souls. This we certainly received, and we did receive all of this trip as a precious once-in-a-lifetime gift of God to us. We begin 2015 excited about the year before us, and the changes and gifts that 2015 will bring that are currently unknown to us.
Rich and Lisa Lamb