Stand With Israel

On living in Jerusalem

Becky and I moved to Jerusalem in 2016 to begin a new chapter in our lives… and to Stand With Israel, to participate in the historically unprecedented resurrection of the Nation of Israel, the Hebrew language, and the ongoing return of the ancient covenant people. I will describe some observations and feelings about Jerusalem, especially the Jewish people we have come to love deeply.

Living in Jerusalem is like a marriage in that you are not there for very long before the romance of the place gives way to the reality of what it takes to adapt and live together. Not so much that you lose that loving feeling… it goes much deeper than that. Like a marriage changes you, Jerusalem changes you. The prophets Ezekiel & Isaiah refer to Jerusalem as a refining fire. No one who lives there can escape the heat of that process.

Being a spectator in Jerusalem, especially during holidays, leaves me feeling that I should look away because it feels so private and deeply intimate. On the one hand, something vulnerable and tender is happening between God and his chosen people… on the other hand, it reminds me that while their hearts yearn for his presence, they missed him when he came in the person of Yeshua.

Observing and participating in the national celebrations of Israel is hard to convey in writing. All five senses are popping, not to mention your spidey sense or spiritual radar. During the holidays, the atmosphere tangibly changes. When you breathe, it feels like something heavenly passes in and out of you… somehow becoming part of you. 

If you are like me, you can remember what it felt like as a teenager to catch rays on a lazy summer afternoon. Listening to Casey Kasem’s top 40 countdowns on the radio while your skin soaks up the sun like a biscuit sitting in gravy.

It was a great feeling to dive into the water on a hot afternoon… passing through the heated surface and deeper into the cool water beneath. I loved pretending to be a frogman or that I was escaping from the Creature From The Black Lagoon.

When it came to the water, my brother, sister, and I usually were the first in and the last out. It was never enough for me to swim and play in the water. I wanted more than it could give me. I wanted to become part of it… or for it to become part of me. I felt like that about many things over the years, like Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and Jerusalem. 

CS Lewis once wrote if we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

That longing for something from another world is what living in Jerusalem is like, especially during the holiest days of the year. CS Lewis called these deep longings stabs of joy. Stabs because they pierce and are painful, and Joy because, even though they hurt, they are the sweetest things this life has to offer.

The mood and cadence that sets the Holy Days apart gradually give way to the steady drone of routine. The shift in the atmosphere alters your mood and emotions. It reminds me of when your Mom and I lived in Santa Cruz. Those beautiful sunny days at the beach would slowly disappear when the afternoon marine layer rolled in and covered you like a blanket.

Those aromatic and richly flavorful stabs of joy that, for a couple of months at least, seemed to soak in and be absorbed into people give way to a familiar and persistent sense of agitation. There is a discernible restlessness there, accompanied by a faint look of confusion on the faces of both Arabs and Jews, people who cannot see into, control, or predict their own future.

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