|An emergency official beckons for assistance after three bombs exploded in downtown Jerusalem killing at least eight people and wounding more than 180 (Getty Images)
Since the latest intifada began last September, 114 Israelis have been killed and hundreds wounded and maimed in some 5,500 attacks from Palestinians, according to Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz. (Jerusalem Post, June 11, 01)
Tourism is down 75% and often those who do visit the Holy Land are frightened. It is understandable why potential visitors be they Christian or Jew would be hesitant to come. But what about the Messianic believers in the land? Those who were born in Israel or immigrated from the West or from Russia? How are they coping from day to day with the threat of suicide bombers, drive-by shootings and attacks on a daily basis?
The answer is one of Amazing Grace. There is story after story of how God is intervening to keep those He purchased with His blood, safe under His wings.
Take for instance the unspeakable tragedy of the suicide bomber who took 20 Israeli teenagers (excepting one middle-aged victim) with him. Over 90 teenagers were wounded, many maimed for life. Ray and Sharon Sanders, founders and directors of Christian Friends of Israel, have been working in the land since 1985, were celebrating their anniversary with a dinner on the beach of Tel Aviv. Here is their story:
The celebration of our 28th Wedding Anniversary in Tel Aviv turned out to be a night of horror and death as we witnessed the worst terrorist attack in Tel Aviv of the past five years. The memory of that moment has come back to us over and over in the past few days as a reminder of God’s protective care and the power of intercessory prayer. We went through an experience we will never forget!
It was around 9:30 PM; we had finished our dinner, had read the anniversary card given to us by our staff and had enjoyed some special moments together. We decided that we would take a late night walk on the beach front near the Mediterranean sea.
We crossed the highway and stopped to observe a wedding reception in the park. We then walked on sidewalks near the water wanting to sit down on the beach and enjoy the lovely sound of the ocean but there were no chairs to sit near the water. We spoke of which direction to walk and decided to proceed north along the beachfront.
We passed outdoor cafes and people relaxing near the beach. As we proceeded up the walkway, we came near a private wedding party which was being held in a hall on the beach and proceeded to walk "around" the beach party and areas. To our left while walking through a park area and into a dark parking lot area we saw the Dolphinarium (including the "Infinity discotheque").
I noticed there was a long line of young people outside. Loud music was coming from the disco but we didn’t pay much attention because we were not interested. On our right there was a large electric structure standing high up towards the sky an amusement ride which was very colorful and we almost stopped to speak to the people operating it to ask what it was all about.
Had we stopped to talk we might have been in the center of the detonation.) But we felt the area was dark and heavy and oppressive. We moved out of the area rather quickly. Most likely we were closer to the suicide bomber than we would like to imagine. He had been in the shadows and had wheedled his way into the crowd of teenagers unnoticed; we couldn’t have been too far away from him.
We continued to walk through the parking lot by the Infinity and soon we were on the main sidewalk again. We had thought about stopping in an area right outside of the Infinity where people were selling things on the street but we decided that it probably was New Age so continued to walk north on the main sidewalk. We had no hint what lay ahead of us in the next half hour.
After walking approximately 20 minutes we turned around and decided to return south in the direction of our hotel. Little did we did know that we were turning in the direction of death and destruction. We walked back near the Infinity and suddenly without any warning we heard and felt a big EXPLOSION...a powerful blast pushed against us.
Instinctively people screamed and then within a few seconds there were police cars screeching up to the scene, crowds began to form, and sirens of ambulances began to sound. People were confused as some ran towards the blast and others ran away from it. For a few seconds we were stunned and troubled. What to do? It was almost disbelief of what we had just encountered. Had it really happened? A bomb attack? Had we just experienced a narrow escape from death?
The strength of the sudden blast had been an extremely powerful and severe force. We were a bit stunned and disoriented. We couldn’t decide what we should do next. The first thought we had was that there might be additional bombs about to explode. We decided to cross the street. By that time cars were being stopped by a police road block. We crossed over the road a little apprehensive as if waiting for a second blast.
At the moment of explosion we had been walking by a wall that was between us and the suicide bomber. We realized this wall had somewhat tempered the blast and probably shielded us from any flying shrapnel, nails, etc. as we were directly by it at the time of the blast. The devil had plans to destroy us but the Lord knew his plans. Had we been in front of the disco approximately 1 minute and 20 seconds later, (I later timed the distance to walk from where we were to where the blast took place about 135 yards) we would most likely have taken the full force of the blast and either lost our lives or our limbs. One man who was a minute and 20 seconds in front of us on the sidewalk where we were to walk, received a direct hit to his heart from one of the flying pieces of metal imbedded in the bomb and died on the spot.
While crossing the street, we saw countless bodies lay in dismembered confusion. The victims were bleeding and wracked with pain -- some moving, some lying lifeless, some crying. Blood gushed out from their wounds onto the parking lot pavement on which they were scattered. In just a split second of time, now many of these young people were without arms and legs and covered with blood. Ambulances and para-medics arrived to try and help those who were wounded to take them to hospital. The street was quickly filled up with around 40 ambulances, one lined up behind the other to take the 90 wounded and the many dead away. Israel’s ambulance services had responded quickly to the emergency calls for help.
As we were walking, I looked down on the street near my feet and saw someone’s body parts. It looked like intestines and most definitely they had been the organs of someone’s body. Body parts had flown in the air from the impact of the blast. Further up the street more body parts were on the pavement. Hugh pools of blood were splattered not only on the ground but on nearby cars.
We watched for several hours as police and ambulance workers brought the wounded one by one to the ambulances. We could see that the victim’s clothes were all torn from the blast, arms and legs, an endless maze of shrapnel imbedded in their bodies and blood everywhere. Some had been hit in the head and were bleeding profusely. One did not have a hand...others barely hanging on for their lives.
On the ground near us lay a teenage girl in shock. Para-medics were trying to help her. Other teenagers were in tears and also in a state of shock. We saw a mother running as if she knew her child had been there and was trying to find her. People were asking "Why?" "Why have they done this to children?". We watched as a police van drove up and a police bomb sapper put on his protective gear. Workers from the local morgue were picking up body parts and placing them in plastic bags.
The experience we just recently passed through has only strengthened our resolve to "stay with the Jewish people" through their troubles. It gave us a deeper appreciation for the pain and suffering the Israelis are going through with losing loved ones nearly every day.
The power of intercessory prayer has many times kept us going even in difficult times but this time prayer actually was the spiritual warfare needed to thwart Satan’s evil plans for our demise. We mourn with Israel during these days for the precious youngsters whose lives were snuffed out in a moment’s time.
We cry "save your people...save your people, O Lord and in your wrath, please remember mercy". Join with us in praying that the Jewish people would stop crying out to their government for help and begin to cry out to the God of Israel who is waiting with outstretched arms. It is the duty of the Watchmen on her walls to carry her now on the "wings of prayer".
A TERRIBLE FOOTNOTE
There is one very sad note to add to Ray and Sharon’s story concerning that night. One teenager from the former Soviet Union waiting in that crowd had belonged to a local Messianic Jewish congregation. But a couple of months ago, she left the congregation, attracted by the things of this world. She was one of those standing in line at the disco, instead of having gone to her congregation’s Friday night service. She paid for her decision with her life. In Israel, every decision seems to be so important really a matter of life or death.
Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. Romans 2:9-10
JERUSALEM YOUTHS SAVED FROM CAR BOMB
Yet another example of God’s mighty power to protect those who follow Him was witnessed by the children of Chuck and Elizabeth Kopp. Chuck is pastor of the Narkis Congregation in Jerusalem. Their son, Danny, was at a restaurant in Jerusalem two weeks ago celebrating his engagement to a young lady. Also in attendance were two of his sisters, Dalia and Julie. They were in the process of paying the bill when a few yards away, a booby trapped car exploded, burning the cars in front and back. In just a couple of minutes Danny and his party would have passed directly by this death car in order to get to their own automobile which was parked four vehicles away. They know God saved their lives so that they can fulfill their destiny to serve the Lord in this land.
BELIEVING SCHOOLBOY SAVED FROM CERTAIN CALAMITY
One other dramatic example of God’s power happened in May when God took a schoolboy directly out of the hands of a suicide bomber. A young Jewish believer who lives in Kfar Saba ( a suburb of Tel Aviv) was on his way to school. Like every morning, he took the same 8:45 a.m. bus that he always took. But one bus stop before he was supposed to get off, he suddenly felt sick with a bad headache, and so being right by the door, he just got off the bus. He called his father to come and pick him up.
As he was calling, he heard a terrible explosion. A suicide bomber who was waiting at the next stop, blew himself up as the children began to get off of the bus. Because “A” (he is a bashful 16 year old and didn’t want his name published) had been standing right at the door, he was able to make a spontaneous decision the stop before and just get off. The child that was behind him, and thus the first to get off at the following stop, was critically injured. “A” is a strong believer as is his entire family; they attend the Messianic Jewish congregation of Mayan, pastored by Tony Sperandao. This boy knows with a certainty that God protects those who are close to Him.
We have always believed that since God called us to Israel to live and to work in this vineyard, He would certainly protect us. Although we do not foolishly enter areas that are problematic without reason, we will go wherever the Lord needs us to go as we care for the Body of Messiah. Most other believers in the land feel the same. In fact, there are believers who are ministering to new converts among the Moslems in the West Bank. To those, we truly give honor, as they are risking their lives as are those Moslems who are being saved.
It is true that many believers in this land, both Jew and Arab, are willing to be martyred for the sake of Gospel. But we do not believe for a moment that it is God’s will for those who put their trust in Him, to be killed or maimed by the enemies of Israel.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near…
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation. Psalm 91:7,16
Is it true? YES, it’s TRUE!
JOYCE MEYER CONFERENCE HOSTED BY MAOZ
Over 300 Messianic pastors, elders, worship leaders and leaders in the making, along with Christian leaders of organizations ministering to Israel came together for three days and two nights in Tel Aviv to sit under the teaching of Joyce Meyer. Included were Israeli born, Russian, Ethiopian and Western immigrants and Israeli Arab leaders. Joyce and Dave Meyer, along with family and staff members, came to Israel for this historic meeting, inspite of the unrest in the nation. (The Conference took place in a hotel a few hundred meters away from the Tel Aviv bombing, exactly seven days before the tragedy.)
The Meyers sponsored the cost of the entire conference a fabulous gift of rest and renewal to the leaders of the Body of Believers in Israel. Joyce’s straight talk with deep practical advice of how to get free of strife in oneself, the home and in ministry, gave many leaders new weapons of warfare against the enemy. With Joyce came Rick Renner who related incredible examples of how he had dealt with strife between himself and other pastors in Russia where Rick and his wife live and serve. For days afterwards, leaders in the country contacted us to tell us how profoundly their lives have been changed. This is the sixth National Israeli Messianic conference hosted by Maoz.
(Maoz is publishing many of Joyce Meyer’s books in Hebrew, and is distributing them to congregations throughout Israel.)