We arrived in Israel after a fairly long trip. Pittsburgh to Clearfield to Philadelphia to Frankfurt Germany to Tel Aviv. We have already heard the common Hebrew greeting, many times: “Shalom, Shalom.” The word means "peace", but so much of our arrival was a reminder that this land has long been anything but peaceful. It was interesting to travel to Israel with a connecting flight in Germany, as the attempted German genocide had such a role in leading to the restoration of Israel after the second World War.
I was warned that Israeli security is extremely careful, and it certainly is. After being screened at the airport in America, we went through another screening when we transferred flights in Germany. The process was more detailed than any I had ever seen. Every person was given a full body search. And after arriving in Israel certain people were pulled aside for further examination before being given approval for entry into the country. After flipping through my passport, the immigration agent called special security and I was relocated to the side room – presumably for suspicious people. Of all the travelers in our group, I was the only one who fit a profile alarming enough to warrant further investigation. So, there I sat – on the naughty bench with other suspected terrorists. There was no word, about what to expect. Would it take 5 minutes or 5 hours?
Fortunately, it was 5-10 mins later that a border control agent came back with my passport and told me that I could go through. There was no explanation. The other suspects had not moved in that time. I am guessing that an American passport carries a fair amount of weight here. My fellow suspects were not so lucky. Mom thinks I was profiled because of my beard, but I think that it was because my passport showed a prior trip to Iraq (7 years ago.) So as I see it, my passport got me into trouble and it also got me out of trouble.
We had flown into Ben Gurion airport and drove through Tel Aviv on the way to our hotel on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Our tour guide told us that the center of Israel is by far the most populated – in part because the regions further to the north are within range of missiles from the Golan Heights. Another reminder of the conflict in this region. Construction cranes spot the skyline as the sprawling urban center stretches across the land. Jewish immigrants, like our tour guide, come from across the world to the relative safety of their ancestral homeland.
We had a short wait until dinner and used the time to catch the sun setting over the sea. On the way home we sighted a statue commemorating one of our favorite musicals. The fiddler on the roof is apparently as popular in Israel as it is the States. Just last summer, Mom and I watched a community Theater production of the play in Ocean City. In the closing scene, the Jewish inhabitants of the small Russian village of Anatevka are fleeing to America to escape the persecution of the Tsar. In the musical, the fiddler accompanies them on their pilgrimage, symbolizing the continuation of their traditions. Now, he is here to great us and welcome us to this contested land. “Shalom.”
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Matt Koerber is the senior pastor at City Reformed Presbyterian church. This is his personal blog that he also asks guest writers to participate on.