signs are in Arabic, and many of the women dress according to their tradition – veiled. A Jew does not dare to enter that part of Jerusalem, especially at night, or he might be a “has been.”
The Mount of Olives
Just a few days before we left Israel, we were standing on the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives appears more like a hill to me as I am a resident of Colorado where anything under 1000 feet is a hill.
On the Mount, John and I were approached by two Arab vendors. One of them tried to sell us a picture of the panoramic view as seen from the top of the Mount of Olives; the other vendor tried to sell us the same book that John had just purchased at the airport. The first Arab was too pushy, and we both backed off. When his first “pushy” attempt to sell us the picture for $5.00 failed, he tried to shame us into buying the picture by saying, “I have not had a job in five years.” The second Arab, who appeared to be his boss, rebuked him for being too aggressive in the way he tried to sell his goods.
The second Arab, Israel, was smooth; in fact, he was so smooth that I nearly reached for my wallet. That’s when the vendors make their kill. They sometimes reach for the whole wallet and not just for the “negotiated” amount. We had been warned of this and had secured our wallets in hard to get to places. Rebekah had sown special inside pockets that were hard to reach for a pickpocket. We could have easily become paupers in seconds. We tremble in retrospect.
Israel, claimed he was a born-again Christian, that he and Benny Hinn were on speaking terms, and that Benny Hinn had been on the Mount of Olives the previous week with a tour group. On his business card was the title “Manager.” He is thirty-three and has five children. John had a way of getting him to talk.
Israel asked us where we were staying and how much it cost per night. When we told him that we were paying $100 per night, he said, “I have a deal for you. See that hotel just in back of us? Saddam Hussein built that hotel. You can stay there for $45 per night and enjoy a king’s breakfast in the morning.” During the conversation, Israel offered us the same book John had just purchased in the airport bookstore. The price was $30. John said, “That’s too much.” Israel replied, “I am not making a lot on this. The book costs me $25 to purchase.” When John didn’t fall prey to the offer, neither did I.
John remarked to me privately, “I bet we will get robbed blind if we stay here. Let’s get out of here. This place gives me the creeps.”
I tell you all of this not because I want you to distrust or dislike Arabs, but to be on guard wherever you go. Smooth operators can be found anywhere. Thieving and conning can be a part of a culture, a family tradition, a hobby, pastime or a matter of survival. God knows the heart and will discipline us accordingly. I have fallen prey to smooth operators a number of times. John is a lot more astute. That’s just one of the reasons God put us together as traveling companions. As a businessman, he must be able to discern freeloaders and con artists.
I thoroughly dislike being lied to, betrayed or exploited. It happens all over, including America. America is not squeaky clean by any means. We have many prisons to prove it.
I am slow in learning to smell a rat because I have an extra amount of compassion for the down and outers. I seem to have to learn the hard way. Satan has gotten to me lots of times by pulling on my heartstrings. Retroactively, I get very angry when I am outfoxed. I have a hard time forgiving others and myself whenever I am betrayed. Please don’t betray me. I still have a hard time forgiving in that area.
I will never forget the time I was alone at home. We had recently emigrated from Germany. I was sixteen. Two young women came to the door to sell a two-year subscription to “Look Magazine”. Their story was that they were working their way through college, and had a quota of sales to meet to qualify for a bonus, etc., etc. I fell into the trap and bought the subscription. Our family was next to penniless at the time. My parents were furious when I told them what I had done. I have never forgotten that incident. The incident was like a “white stone” the Holy Spirit planted along the trail of my life. The “white stones” are like dots that I was able to connect at “The Stone Table.” That’s when life, the purpose of my life, and the reason for my trip to Israel made more sense.
During our brief time on the Mount, Israel gave us an interesting overview of the area. Between where we stood and the walls encircling Old Jerusalem were two cemeteries. The one closest to where we were standing was where the Jews were buried; the one closest to the Old Wall was where the Arabs were buried. The graves were all above ground – mostly cement coffins. There were a few tombs tunneled into the hillside where the elite were buried. Absalom’s grave was said to be one of these. Israel, who had volunteered much information, said, “It costs $120,000 today to be buried in the Jewish section, and few can afford it.” I am repeating his words but do not know if they are true.
Maybe 300 yards below that spot was the Garden of Gethsemane and the Kidron Valley. To the right of where we were standing and only slightly below us, were several historic chapels and churches. One of these was built on the spot where Jesus is said to have wept over Jerusalem. The words, “Jesus wept,” have always pierced my heart with great anguish. I have felt His pain over the lost sheep of Israel.
We drove to an overlook where we could get a better view of those sacred grounds. John remarked, “It looks more like a junkyard to me.” He told me later that he was hoping to find respite for his anguished soul in the Garden of Gethsemane. Rebekah had been to the Garden just three years earlier and found it to be well cared for. We did not linger in this area. John told me later that he had been very threatened by what he felt and observed.
Great fear arose in my heart the next night as I reviewed an incident where we were nearly robbed. At one of the old chapels we visited, we were cornered by two men demanding $5 for admission. When we refused, they ran off and jumped in their vehicle that was blocking ours. We had no idea that they were stalking us. John said, “They probably were ready to take our rental car plus all our valuables.” The car rental agencies are aware of this and secure each vehicle by giving you a secret code. Before you can start the car, this secret number has to be entered into a console. The presence of guardian angels and the prayers for protection from folks back home became quite tangible. It was a close call. We never went back to the Arab section of Jerusalem.
Tour buses upon tour buses crowded available parking spaces in the Mount of Olive area and other well-known landmarks. If anyone found a parking place for his private vehicle, it was a genuine miracle. Most people who have visited Israel have done so via guided tours. The impressions gathered must be quite different compared to the impressions we received.
A tour bus is a cloistered and safe environment. Those who travel with you speak the same language, use the same alphabet, have hotel and restaurant reservations made for them, and see the historical and religious sites through picture-perfect windows. At the same time there is a great amount of genuine fellowship between like-minded Believers. Some people have even found their mates on these guided tours. We have a friend who did. People like ourselves who travel alone are like animals separated from the herd and become easy targets for predators.
John and I went cold turkey. We had no reservations except for our first night in Tel Aviv. During the balance of the nine days, we relied on the Holy Spirit to guide each step we took and each of the 722 miles we drove in our rented Mazda. Was that approach scary? YES! Was that approach necessary? YES! I would have no story to tell if we had been a part of a guided tour. My eyes would have been blinded to the reality of the animosity between the Jews, the Arabs and the Christians. I would not have learned to identify with the anguished heart of Jesus. I am not chasing down rabbit trails. We will eventually come to “The Stone Table at Maagan,” where these seemingly irrelevant pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
As I said earlier, waiting for John around a bubbling fountain caused me to remember a time when I was in my thirties. When John came back with a novel and other successful purchases, he sat in the chair next to mine and let me talk.
I said, “John, all these security checks we have experienced at the airport and every hotel at which we have stayed reminds me of my secular job at Librascope.” I had been hired to build an information system that would put the pulse of the factory at the fingertips of managers and project coordinators. Librascope was an electronics firm that built sophisticated guidance control systems for Polaris submarines. There were thousands of parts, both purchased and manufactured that had to be assembled to make one system. I am going to take an educated guess that it took at least a year to build one system.
It was my job to help follow-up men and project coordinators quickly locate any part whether it was in the stockroom, on order, in the machine shop, or on the assembly floor. It was my job to keep an accurate record of the hours it took to manufacture or assemble each component and create the necessary payroll information at the same time. It was my job to be able to do this with a minimum of record keeping, pencil pushing, or keypunching. Providing accurate and timely information that did not require a Philadelphia lawyer to interpret was mandatory.
The only way this could be done was to utilize some of the newest and most innovative equipment that could electronically read and transfer information from the factory floor to a central location in data processing via telephone wires or other cables. Little by little, this was accomplished until eventually we had all the pieces of the complex jigsaw puzzle that allowed anyone to find anything within minutes. A lot of wasted steps were saved. Delivery dates for finished systems could be forecast more accurately. Cost figures for individual components and assemblies were more accurate. A number of people were reassigned or let go because of the timesaving daily information.
I lapped up the glory associated with the successful installation of the information system. When it came to glory, I was always famished. My ego needed large doses of it to be able to survive. God was not a part of the equation of my life during those years. I always worked hard, often at the expense of family, and always took the credit when trophies were handed out. My God-given ingenuity, creative gifts and zeal were used only to advance the kingdom of “self” and the kingdoms of this world.
I said to John, “You know, the way Israeli Security has monitored almost every move that we have made while in Israel, they have almost all the information necessary to make a profile of us and every visitor. If you add the purchases made with credit cards, there is little missing to be able to make this happen, to connect all the dots.”
It was a spooky thought. Big Brother is watching! I remember my nine years at Librascope and the day I found the last missing piece of information that would allow management to play the role of “Big Brother.” It was an intoxicating, heady moment. Every employee and every part in the company was suddenly under surveillance. Every move was accurately monitored. When an employee was just one minute late, his name was posted on an attendance report the next day. Harsh supervisors could use the report like a whip. And a few probably did!
What happened at “The Stone Table” was similar to what finally happened at Librascope. I was shown the missing piece that made sense of the many seemingly irrelevant parts of my life. I suddenly came to a point where I saw the big picture. I came to the point where I could put the many seemingly senseless pieces of the
puzzle together correctly. I came to a point where I could see the Hand of God from the moment I was conceived to that precious moment at “The Stone Table.” And in the process of painting this picture with words, there will be others who will be able to assemble the fragmented pieces of their own lives and make sense of it. The darkest hours of their lives, when suicide, murder, and despair crowds every waking moment, will suddenly be viewed through different lenses.
Gloriously Positioned Savior (GPS)
The plane kept droning on and on. Finally, I had to lay down my pen. I could not write one more word. On the last leg of our flight from Toronto, Canada, to San Francisco, I tried once more to pick up where I had left off. It was useless.
In San Francisco, John got a major jolt. He had parked his car in the parking lot of the hotel where we stayed prior to our departure. The car was no longer there. The hotel had resurfaced the parking lot during our time in Israel and towed the car to another location. It was poor communication on the part of a new employee.
John also got disoriented in San Francisco and was grateful to have his GPS-guided map program that quickly directed us to the right freeway. By the time we were finally able to put our heads on a safe pillow next to our wives, we had gone thirty hours without sleep.
From start to finish, the Holy Spirit led us safely past dangerous booby traps. At times, He closed doors we tried to pass through, at other times He opened new doors that were not on “our” itinerary.
Jesus was and is and always will be our GPS (Gloriously Positioned Savior). He always knows right where we are, where we need to go, and the exact path we need to take to get there. Hallelujah!