I’m just back from a ten day trip to Israel with Heroes to Heroes; we discussed much of this in on a previous show. But that show was recorded before and during the trip. Now I’ve been through it and have had a little opportunity to digest all that happened. So much happened to me that I truly don’t have it all sorted out yet—but here’s my best shot. This trip is especially designed to help veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress. By the way, Israel is about the size of New Jersey—and the southern half is desert.
First, my background. My mother was a German Jew—so I’m a Jew; by Jewish tradition, Jewishness comes from the mother. My dad was Irish and English and a Catholic; I was raised a Catholic. I did my fall way thing in high school and returned to the Lord in the military as an non-denominational Protestant. Somewhere along the way I became a Pentacostal—and in the past dozen years I’ve been really digging into my Jewish roots. So, I am a man of faith—with diverse religions roots.
Mechanically, the Heroes to Heroes team simply transported, fed, and housed me—well, all ten of my Heroes to Heroes team–much as any tour group would do. We visited the monument to what happened here on 9-11; this is the only such monument anywhere in the world outside of the US. Then we saw Jerusalem including the Western—or Wailing—Wall, and the Via Delarosa—the path Christ took on his way to be crucified—and more.
We also visited the fortress at Masada, swam in the Dead Sea, visited soldiers on the Golan Heights, had the opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River, visited a Kibutz—and lots more. We saw Israel. During all of our trip we had with us a number of English-speaking Israeli soldiers who also suffered from Post Traumatic Stress.
As we traveled we talked with each other and had many opportunities for spiritual activities. Virtually all ten of us American vets and most of the Israeli guys had some real healing take place—usually beginning at the spiritual level.
I’m into military history and political science. Intellectually our tour guides were top-Notch historians and were, of course, veterans. All Israeli Jews must serve in the military for a year or two—then in the reserves for decades. This makes sense because war comes to their homes and neighborhoods ever few years. I could talk for an hour on what I learned about how the Israeli government functions—they have a parliamentary democracy.
I also know a bit about Judaism and was able to learn much more about it from my brother Israeli soldiers as well as form the tour guides—who were also Jewish veterans. I knew that, like Christianity, there are lots of sub-groups in Judaism—and I got to see some of that in action.
Israel leads the world in dealing with Post Traumatic Stress. We were able to meet with some of the most senior people in their country to discuss what they’ve learned. We visited the wonderful re-hab facilities they’ve built. Given the total disaster that is the US Department of Veterans Affairs, our government should go look at the wonderful way Israel provides for their veterans. Intellectually, this trip was a real winner.
As I talked to the Israeli vets I found them to be much like me—no surprise. Except, they don’t have to travel to go to war—war comes to them. They fight within miles of their homes. There are enemies targeting them and their families, and their schools and hospitals and markets—I had to think about how I’d feel if that was happening to me, here in the US. That these men were not full of hate or fear was striking. They were just guys who loved their families and their nation and hoped for peace.
My war was Vietnam. I spent two years there as an infantryman. I saw a lot of fighting and the horrible things the Communists did to innocent civilians before fleeing before us. I still remember that during my first tour as a rifle platoon leader I had only one of my troops killed—and that was by friendly fire—and how that hurt. I thought about all of these things while in Israel. This was very emotional.
But I really got nailed spiritually. When I went to the Western Wall to pray along with many others—mostly Jews—I was deeply touched in my spirit. I knew that I was in communication with God and that He had some things for me. I think that was on Day 2 of the trip, and it set the tone for much of the rest of the trip. I prayed a lot for my fellow team members—and saw several of them make major break-throughs in their struggles. I was deeply touched a number of times. When I was on active duty I was fond of saying that I was a big Airborne Ranger and I never cry. Well, I cried on this trip—and I’m not done yet.
I’m incredibly proud of Israel. They have taken land that was swamp or desert and made it productive. They have invented more things that all of the rest of the nations in the Middle East put together. The people are patriotic and understand that with rights comes responsibilities and duties—something most Americans have never begun to understand. They’re surrounded by people who hate them and want them dead—and they don’t hate back.
And I’m horribly upset with our nation’s leaders. US policy seems to be to see Israel destroyed. Oh we say nice words, but our actions are virtually all negative.
I heard Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s talk to our Congress. He spoke the truth in a very friendly way. Iran is a threat to the existence of both Israel and the US—but we won’t admit it—and our ignorance will likely cost both our nations dearly.
In conclusion, God’s not finished with me yet—and I’m grateful. And my love for and respect for Israel is enormous.