“Not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God”–Romans 10:3
As I come to the end of my time in Israel, I have nothing but sadness for the people. There is little joy in their hearts and the frustration everyone feels about everything sometimes reaches the surface and you never know when it will boil over.
Two days ago I was walking in the city and had to purchase some items. I went to a drugstore to buy some things. I stood in line; but, because I had left about 3 feet between me and the counter, that was enough space for someone to step in front of me. This is a very typical thing for Israelis to do. Lines mean nothing to Israelis. If you can get in front of people and get away with it, then good. Then the cashier began to wait on those behind me in line. I had the thought that I was invisible. I put my things back on the shelf and left.
In a store, if you approach a counter where the cashiers are having a conversation with one another, you either have to wait until they are through talking or you have to interrupt them to be waited on. No one ever smiles, and when you pay your money, they literally throw you a bag to put your purchases in.
I decided to visit a couple of youth hostels yesterday to find out about their accommodations for next year’s groups. Not the first person smiled at me and I had to interrupt conversations behind the counters to be recognized as a potential customer.
In the mornings I walk up the street and pass others walking or jobbing. No one says “Hi” or “Good morning”, even in response to my greetings. No one ever makes eye contact here.
On the bus the other morning, I stood in the aisle because I had given my seat to a lady (men never give up their seats to women unless the women are elderly or have a baby in their arms). The bus was very crowded and many of us were standing in the isle. Two women were yelling at the driver over something I couldn’t understand. It was about 7:30AM and I thought, “It’s really early to be so angry.” A little boy got on the bus with a backpack almost as big as he was. At one point he turned to the side and his backpack brushed against a lady sitting in a seat. She spoke sharply at him for touching her with his backpack. Just then she looked at me and I smiled at her. She must have thought I was making fun of her because she glared at me and said something angry in Hebrew. I responded to her glare, “I can’t help it”, I said, “I’m happy!” I guess she didn’t speak Hebrew.
Yesterday, a whole group of soldiers got on the bus. There was one empty seat and one of the soldiers was a girl. All the guy soldiers encouraged her to take the seat and she kept refusing. It was as if she was saying, “Don’t treat me any differently than yourself. I may be a female, but I’m just as tough as you!”
Two days ago I was returning to my apartment on a very crowded bus. I got into a conversation with two Israeli men. One was a soldier who was standing across the isle holding his rifle and the other a big guy standing next to me. Both looked like they were in their early 20’s. Next to the three of us in the isle were two big guys who looked Arab, also in their 20’s. At one point the soldier said something to one of the Arabs that must have made him mad because the Arab responded to the soldier with an angry remark. The big guy standing next to me said something back to the Arab and, in the next few minutes, their voices grew louder and louder and their body language more and more aggressive.
I knew something was about to happen so I stepped out of the way. I was the only one of the 5 of us wearing sandals and I knew I was about to get my toes stepped on. Suddenly the big guy next to me lunged at the two Arabs throwing punches at them. The soldier then threw himself at the two Arabs and the next few minutes was a free-for-all fight with the 4 men charging up and down the isle throwing punches and grabbing each other with all the women and children on the bus yelling and screaming.
The bus driver immediately stopped the bus and opened the doors. The fight ended with the Arabs getting off the bus. The soldier returned to where I was standing and indicated that his arm was seriously hurt. People scolded the big guy who was trying to defend his actions to them and, at the same time, they were trying to help the soldier who was obviously hurt. It seemed that his arm was broken.
The whole thing made ME angry and I said to the big guy, “That was REALLY STUPID!! You endangered an ENTIRE BUS full of people over some WORDS. How dumb was THAT!” He didn’t seem sorry at all and ignored me. I wanted to throw a punch at him.
The soldier and the big guy then exited the bus at the next stop. The big guy helped the soldier with his rifle and the two of them hobbled up the street together.
When I got off the bus I walked to my apartment and began thinking how much the atmosphere was affecting me. I was getting grouchy which is not my nature. I wanted to find someone and start a fight. There was all this pent-up energy in me and frustration that I wanted to get out.
People have alternatively disliked and hated the Jewish people. They can be charming, hospitable and giving. And, they can be rude, arrogant, defensive, dismissive, and cynical. Think about it, though: that’s the way life is under the Law. The Law does that to people whether they are Jewish, Muslim OR Christians. A Christian who lives under law is no better off than a Jew or Muslim who lives under Law.
This morning I was praying and I said to the Lord, “I know the Jews have to suffer under Law in order for people like me (biblical gentiles) to enter into a place of grace (‘…a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in’–Romans 11:25); and, ‘From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake….’ (v. 28); and, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ (v. 19). But, Lord, isn’t this vine of Yours big enough, and sturdy enough, for all of us? I hate to see people suffer under this Law and have no grace in their hearts, while I–someone who never sought to know You in the first place–get to know You and your grace! When will it be their turn?”
A member of our last group told me she cried every day once she realized what the Jews go through, and we dance through life forgiven and able to live in the freedom for which Christ set us free.
What a contrast! I can testify (having lived it here in Israel) that, as the Bible says, the Law really does kill…