The scene could have been in New York City. Cars were swerving in and out of traffic, professionals were briskly heading to work, and pedestrians were hurriedly walking down the street. This wasn’t Fifth Avenue, it was Rothschild Street in Tel Aviv, Israel. I was standing in front of Independence Hall in Tel Aviv with my group from Virginia. Independence Hall is known for Israel’s, “Declaration of Independence,” which was signed in 1948. My group of friends just happened to be at this special place when national sirens sounded at 11:00 a.m.
That day, April 24th, was Holocaust Remembrance Day. The entire country came to a stand still for two minutes when a loud siren began to blare. Standing outside of Independence Hall with my friends we saw everyone around us stop in their tracks. Cars and trucks came to a halt and drivers got out of their vehicles to bow their heads. Mothers with babies put the brakes on their strollers. Pedestrians turned off their iPods and took out their earplugs. One could have heard a pin drop.
This same scene was repeated once more during my first trip to the Holy Land. It was Memorial Day, another day of remembrance for all the fallen soldiers and also civilians who had been victims of terrorism. This time our group was standing in the Zora forest. The air siren went off in the distance and for two minutes we all stopped what we were doing, bowed our heads and prayed for those who died and their loved ones who had been left behind.
Israel is a country filled with past remembrances. It is overwhelming to visit the places where Jesus stood, David was buried, or go on an archeological dig where the Edomites built their city. Putting your mind and heart around these important parts of world and Biblical history can be overwhelming. This land and country has had a glorious past. Israel also has also had a very hard and painful past.
During my time in Israel I saw how the country of Israel honors their past, but is able to build a very “present” people and country. They are not stuck! Anyone can see this in the young men and women who are serve in the military, in the beautiful communities that have been developed in the desert, in the arts and rich culture and in the patriotism that is evident on every corner. Israel is present in the next chapters of life, even with an uncertain future.
My take away is that when the past controls our present lives, then it is not really the past. The past and present are intertwined and we never move on. Tremendous emotional energy is spent trying to figure out the why’s and the details of events we wish had never happened. The Jewish people in Israel have learned to honor a very hard history, but have also learned to move ahead.
While on the Sea of Galilee I was again reminded of this truth. Our tour guide rented a boat reminiscent of the one Jesus might have used during his time on earth. We heard the story retold of Peter and his fellow fisherman being discouraged after their fruitless night of fishing. When the men got back to the shore Jesus asked Peter and his friends to go back out and then to let their fishing nets down into the deep. They knew their past work and efforts had been futile. Simon Peter, the hard headed and impetuous one, hesitated but he was willing to try again at Jesus’s request. The gospel of Luke tells that they let down their nets and were amazed as the nets were filled with fish to the bursting point. The boat began to sink under the heavy weight of their catch. I have tried to imagine the emotions these men must have felt of fear mixed with wonder and hope. This event caused them to leave everything and follow Jesus. Surely Peter never forgot his life as a strong, self confident fisherman, but he had to leave that past and put down his fishing nets to experience all that was to come.
The country of Israel has had to disentangle themselves from their past hurt, pain and confusion in order to allow the past to propel them towards a future with determined hope. This determination is not based on sheer human resolve, but they are basing their future on the promises of God. On these memorial days people stop their cars to remember. Afterwards, they get back in their cars and face the challenges of the day. I got back on my bus, but I didn’t forget what I saw and the application in my own life.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
4 thoughts on “Stopping to Remember”
Lindy, thank you for expressing your thoughts and feelings so eloquently. It brought tears to my eyes as I remembered those amazing events we experienced in Israel. That life-transforming trip was something I will never forget.
I felt for a moment that I was also along on this wonderful adventure. Thank you for bringing it to life in such a touching way. So glad you are writing again, Lindy.❤️
I would love to have been on the Sea of Galilee with you; however, you have made it come to life for me. Thanks.
Oh Lindy, how eloquaintly you told our story. Thank you. 💕 Sandy