Massive stone reinforced bunkers and metal silhouettes of soldiers greet me, as I arrive at the peak of Mt. Bental in the Golan Heights. Morning wind whips across the top of the hill, while a cool mist surrounds it, gradually being burned off under the August sun. To the north, Mt. Hermon, brown and snowless, pops up in the distant background like a 9,000 foot 3-D picture in a fold-out kids’ book.
From this dramatic vantage point you can see close to 360 degrees, observing the far north-eastern corner of Israel, right up to our border with Syria. Such a strategic, commanding position no doubt contributed to Mt. Bental being the site of one of the largest tank battles in history and bloodiest in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Syria’s tanks outnumbered Israel’s by 1500 to 160. In spite of being reduced to only seven tanks, the Israelis withstood Syria’s attack, causing them to retreat! The bunker I described is no longer an active army base, but a monument to this battle and to the Israeli soldiers who died in defense of their country.
In practically every direction one sees orchards, vineyards and carefully tilled fields. This abundance is the fruit of God’s blessings and the hard work of kibbutzniks, the residents of Kibbutz Merom Golan, the first kibbutz established in the region after the 1967 war. A large fruit packing facility testifies to the fertility of the landscape surrounding the mountain. Their kibbutz is nestled against Mt. Bental and has become a favorite vacation spot for Israelis like ourselves, seeking refuge from the intense summer heat and congestion of the cities. Merom Golan’s current location was established after the Yom Kippur War of 1973. How did they do it? There must have been a lot of inspiration, perspiration, cooperation and determination.
My mind and heart fill up with these interwoven themes of courage in battle, sacrifice, pioneering, and tenacity. I begin reflecting on our relatively young Messianic movement in Israel. In a way, we are the same age as the kibbutz. The Six Day War and Jerusalem’s return to Jewish hands in 1967 was an enormous prophetic sign and then, following the Yom Kippur conflict, new Messianic congregations began to appear in the land. What qualities are needed among us to grow, to take root more extensively – to become established in a way that touches Israel as a nation? We need these same qualities that enabled the Israeli army to push back the surprise attack of Syria and Egypt. We need the perseverance and determination of the kibbutzniks who cleared land and dug wells, built homes and planted vineyards.
Before leaving the States to make aliyah, I wrote a piece for our first newsletter, published in April 1992. It was called “Spiritual Pioneers in Israel.” In it I spoke of our calling to birth revival in Israel after 19 centuries of estrangement from our Messiah. I compared that calling with the early Zionists who came from Europe to rebuild a Jewish nation on the fallow ground of “Palestine.” Now, many years after writing that article, I feel more strongly than ever that this is what it will take – the same attitudes of heart that have characterized the kibbutz pioneers and the dedicated infantry of Israel.
What about our generation? It’s never enough to look backwards. We view history in order to gain wisdom and inspiration to shape the future. We have been handed an opportunity – one crafted by the Most High as a prelude to His return to the planet. If that doesn’t get our motor running, I don’t know what will. Yet because of life’s hardships and discouragements, the weakness of our frame and the forces of opposition, we must continually remind ourselves of the value of what we are called to do. Every wise commander, before sending troops into battle, reminds them of the values and purposes they are fighting for. Likewise, kibbutzniks pressed through the hardships and strain of pioneering by remembering the greater purpose of their endeavors. We must continually regain, refresh and reclarify the vision.
Nor can we proceed alone. In that original article, I wrote: “In the 1890’s and following, the new pioneers relied on assistance from Jews and Christian Zionists outside the land for supplies and encouragement. Over one hundred years later a similar relationship is being created. It is the linking in heart of those like ourselves, who have been called as spiritual pioneers, to the reestablishment of an Israel that embraces Yeshua as her King.” Only with the dedicated help of Israel’s friends in the Diaspora was the nation physically restored. Her spiritual restoration calls for nothing less.
Soldiers and kibbutzniks; these heroic pioneers captured my heart at Mt. Bental. We need to follow their example at this moment in the history of Israel. As spiritual pioneers, we must have both of these qualities. (1) Like IDF soldiers, we need the willingness and ability to fight, to stand, to sacrifice life if necessary. We must be brave, ready to battle side by side with fellow spiritual warriors for what we believe. (2) Like kibbutz farmers, we must be able to plow, to plant, to harvest, and to work patiently, day by day, sometimes seeing fruit only after many years. We will need to join our lives in a prolonged collective effort, raising our families and supporting each other.
Heading back down the winding road to the kibbutz I have fresh motivation. In an unexpected way, God met me on a mountain in the Golan. I know that although our task is difficult, there is no greater cause, nor higher goal to which we can devote our energies. I returned to my wife, children and grandchildren who were waiting for a horseback ride at Kibbutz Merom Golan. I am glad to be an Israeli, glad to be a pioneer, ready to re-embrace the challenge of a lifetime.