“Back to Beit Lehem” | The Jordan Journey, part 11 | June 11, 2018)
Abner was the commander in chief of Saul’s army, which made him David’s sworn enemy. But following an argument with Saul’s heir, Abner defected and joined David’s court. That did not make Joab, David’s seasoned general, a happy man. He did not trust Abner, so he killed him in order to protect David from possible threat.
We would expect David to rejoice, but no… he mourned for Abner. He loudly wailed, fasted a full day and ensured the entire nation knew this was his reaction. King David wanted everyone to know that he was not behind Abner’s assassination, and that he wished God will repay Joab according to his actions (2 Sam. 3:33-39).
Strange! Why was it so important to David that the nation knows Abner’s blood was not on his hands? Abner, of all people? After all, just a few chapters earlier David had no problem killing a messenger who reported Saul’s death to him, right there on the spot (see 1:14-16). So why was it so different when it came to Abner’s death?
David was just about to be crowned as king over the entire nation (up until that point he was king only over a part of it), and perhaps he did not want his kingdom to be established on the blood of Abner. But weather his reason was political or humane, he sets an example of a king who repents publicly, to make an important point and establish peace.
Fast Forward Thousands of Years
The Place: Island of Peace (south of the Sea of Galilee). An artificial small island that was created in 1927, in order to build a power station along the Jordan river. Today it is run by both Israelis and Jordanians. The island is surrounded by two streams that flow from Jordan and Israel, and integrate into the southern part of the river. Such a symbolic picture of co-operation: geographically, politically, prophetically.
The Date: March 13, 1997. A Jordanian soldier picks up his weapon, and guns down a group of religious girls who were touring the island. Seven were killed, others wounded. Their blood flowed into the rift, adding to the hemorrhaging, ancient wound, risking the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel that was still in its diapers.
A memorial built at the entrance to the island,
with seven little hills, one for each girl
Hussein, king of Jordan at that time, was overseas. He hurried back home, crossed the border and visited each and every one of the mourning families. At each house he went down on his knees, asking forgiveness and offering compensation.
King Hussein during his visits, accompanied by the Israeli PM
Why? I wondered. He could have sent a royal epistle, laced in gold. Or a high level representative to bring his condolences. Or simply pick up the phone and talk to the mourning parents. Each of these steps would have been highly appreciated by the Israelis. But he did the most humbling thing he could do – he went down on his knees and owned what happened.
Through this act of repentance, king Hussein secured the status quo and planted in the Israeli public opinion a genuine image of a heart that was truly pained and was seeking peace. He also opened doors for the Arab world: the door of repentance, the door of yielding, the door of peace, of sincerity and of crossing over. Today, both Jordan and Israel can choose to keep those doors open, and align with all they represent, or crush it.
Meditating on that powerful story, R’ said: “If the king would not have gone low enough, this murder would have been a bomb hitting the two nations. He chose to move in the spirit of humility.”
All Of Israel Took Note
Listen to how David’s story with Abner ended: “All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. So on that day… all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder” (Vs. 36-37).
The same can be easily said about king Hussein’s actions. All Israel took note of what he did, and we were pleased. We realized that the murder was the idea of just one man, and that the king had no part in it.
What Does That Have To Do With Our Journey?
Three weeks after our visit to Beit Lehem (see post #10), we finally made it to the Island of Peace. Well, some of us at least.
Not all of us could join this time. Only Hermana, Priscilla
and I were available (our shadows cast on the bridge in the island)
Before the 1948 war, king Abdullah (Hussein’s father) and Golda Meir (one of Israel’s future PMs) met secretly in that island, in an attempt to figure out how to co-operate after the land is divided by the Brits. Both sides (who were basically enemies) knew a war is right around the corner, and both wanted to avoid it. Here are a few great quotes from one of their meetings. I just couldn’t resist including it here, as it serves as one more glimpse into the unique situation between both nations:
King Abdullah: Why do you, Israelis, need to declare your independence now? What is the rush?
Golda: You cannot call two thousand years “rushing”.
Abdullah: We do not want the war, but we will have to fight.
Golda: We will fight too.
Abdullah: This is your duty.
Golda: Right. In that case, we will meet here again after the war.
Both flags dwell together over a bridge in the island
A Closure, At Least For Now…
As the three of us walked through the island, we were touched by the level of co-operation between Israelis and Jordanians. The Israeli manager told us about the endless cups of coffee they drink together, and how they even charge the phone for the Jordanian guard, when his battery runs low.
We prayed over the water, and especially where the stream that comes from Jordan mingles with the one coming from Israel. We poured salt, balm and oil into it, and blessed this artery of life that flows through the rift.
God Is Turning Our Eyes Into That Region
For long months this post awaited its turn at the end of my series on the Jordan journey. I did not know that the very week I will be writing it, the island will become a hot spot politically. As part of the peace accord between Israel and Jordan, it was agreed that the Island (as well as an Israeli village located south of the Dead Sea) will be under Jordan’s sovereignty, yet leased back to the Israeli farmers in the nearby kibutz, so they could continue to cultivate the land (which was actually purchased by them decades ago). Sounds confusing, I know. Sorry about that. Welcome to the Middle East.
Last month, king Abdullah II, son of king Hussein, announced that Jordan will not renew the lease for these two locations. Which means that by October 2019, these two enclaves will pass back into Jordanian hands. This is not good news, for both sides.
The Rift is Bleeding and Quaking
Since that announcement, a few tragedies took place around the rift area, most of them caused by flooding rains and car accidents, taking the lives of entire families and many young kids.
Not only that. Since July this year, just a few weeks after we returned from the island, the rift began to shake. Dozens of earthquakes have occurred around the Sea of Galilee and along the Jordan Valley, sometimes even twice a day! Here is a link to the website of Israel’s geophysical institute. It records only the last 30 earthquakes to occur in the Jordan Valley, but there have been nearly 100 in the past few months. One thing is clear, the valley is quaking and claiming lives.
This post closes the series of our journey to Jordan, but is far from being the last word that I will write on the subject. So far you have heard mostly my voice, my point of view. But it is only one out of the 6 on our team, thus quite limited. There is so much more. I hope that one day, all six of us will be able to put together our voices, and create a written choir that will bring more depth and riches. As for me, I have been recruited. My present study in the Word focuses on the region and the valley, as I am learning its destiny and how to pray for it.
The picture I saw on May – of the bleeding rift – is constantly in front of my eyes, right by my desk. The seeds that were sown during our journey, as we sprinkled our prayers with salt and balm, are there somewhere, carrying the faith and promises we proclaimed.
All of us on the team are aware that God had recruited us to something bigger than that journey. God is using these events to turn our eyes and attention to that region, and it will take prayer to align it with His plan.
I am appealing to those of you who feel recruited as well. If you have the heart of Ruth, that means that you have embraced that ancient decision to see Israel restored once more in the House of Bread. It means that your spirit and soul echo with the declaration: “Your God, our God”. So here are some points you can add to your prayers for modern “Naomi” and her Arab neighbors:
- That the Arab Ruth will rise up, realize her destiny and beautiful calling, that must start with yielding and crossing over. God is waiting for both Ruth and Naomi to return to Him. Both sides have torn His heart by rejecting Him and rejecting each other.
- Pray that the glue-ing and cleaving (that I spoke of in my previous post) will take place.
- That the Island of Peace will rise up to its name, and continue to be a spot of mutual co-operation, deep understanding, a flow of water and not a symbol of war, pride etc.
- That the doors opened to the Arab world through the events that already happened in that island, will remain open; that many will choose to walk through, stand in the rift itself and partake in the healing, not in the wounding and blood shedding.
- Lord, heal our lands and restore your people. Pour your spirit upon us from on high, until the wilderness will become a fertile field, and the fertile field will seem like a forest. Until your justice will dwell in the desert and your righteousness will live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. And until your people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest (Isa. 32:15-18).