Why I love Israel. It's not about Armageddon

Opinion: "I wanted our people to hear your story," writes Pastor Greg Laurie.

The Tel Aviv beach – before the pandemic. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Tel Aviv beach – before the pandemic.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

I remember standing on the beach in Tel Aviv on a summer day years ago.

An elderly Israeli woman, her body tanned from the sun, stood before me with her feet firmly planted in the sand, a paddle firmly gripped in her hand.

She was engaging in an aggressive game of smash ball (as we call it in the United States) with a sturdy man young enough to be her grandson.

He lurched to the right and left and leapt to return her serves and even fell a few times.

This lady never moved from her spot.

There was no real competition.

To me, she is a picture of the great nation of Israel and its people.

Despite the enormous suffering of the Jewish people, the people of Israel have returned to their God-given homeland and produced an amazing nation that benefits the whole world.

She stands firmly planted in her land, the very land that God Himself gave to her.

I remember walking through the dark, winding streets of the old city of Jerusalem and ordering a proper falafel and coming upon one of the many T-shirt shops selling their wares.

One T-shirt I vividly remember displayed an image of an Israeli Air Force jet with the words, "Don't worry America, Israel will save you!"

I laughed and bought one.

As an American pastor, I want the nation of Israel to know that I love your nation and your people.

Not because, as some would suggest,  I am "waiting for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled in your land" and Armageddon to commence.

No, I love Israel and the Jewish people because they are special.

I recently took a 23andMe test to see where my ancestors came from.

Honestly, I was hoping I had some Jewish blood in me.

But unfortunately, I am as gentile as they come with my roots going back to Ireland and England. No wonder I burn so badly in the sun.

But I still feel like a part of your extended nation and family.

There is no country like yours in all of the world.

Since the early 70’s, I have brought hundreds of people on tours of the Holy Land.

I met former prime ministers like Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanyahu.

I had dinner with American Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman and invited him to address our touring group of 600 from America.

I wanted our people to hear your story.

I, along with millions of Evangelicals, publicly supported moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. After all, that is your capital city.

We love you for your past history and we marvel at your archeological sites, but we love you for who you are today as well.

Sure, we visit the old city of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee and other famous sites.

But I also take our tours made up of Christians from America to Yad Vashem.

I want people to understand what the Jewish people have had to endure and why their nation is a literal modern-day miracle. People of Israel, each of you is a chosen person living in the promised land. You might say along with Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof:" "I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't you choose someone else?"

That is more than understandable.

But it does not change the fact that God has indeed chosen you.

God tells us why in the book of Deuteronomy:

 “The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations!  Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt" (Duet. 7:7-8).

As Evangelical Christians, we will return to your land soon with busloads of tourists marveling over your people and nation.

We come because it is our home too.

I hope to see you soon.

Pastor Greg Laurie runs Harvest Christian Fellowship.