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May 14, 2016 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129

The modern state of Israel marked its 68th birthday on May 12.  Independence Day is preceded by Memorial Day when Israel remembers and honors those who gave their lives for the survival of the nation.

I made my first trip to Israel in 1969, only two years after the so called West Bank became a part of the sovereign nation of Israel.  I was at the time Pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Salem, New Jersey.  It was during Ramadan and I was staying at the King George Hotel which is in East Jerusalem just blocks from the Moslem cemetery on a hill overlooking the area of Damascus Gate.  The plane was late getting in and we did not get to the hotel until very late.  I made it to bed by about mid-night.

It is the custom of the Moslems to fire a cannon in the cemetery during Ramadan to mark the first prayer time and the beginning of the daytime fast.  The cannon went off at about four o’clock in the morning and woke me.  My first thought was that the war had started again.  My second thought was that if the Lord wanted me I was ready, and I went back to sleep.  Needless to say the experience fixed itself in my memory.

Since then I have made some thirty to forty trips to Israel.  During my active ministry I tried to go once a year.  In 1977 while I was still Pastor at Salem I took a sabbatical and joined the archaeological expedition that was working on the Bronze Age remains at Tel elHesi in the Negev desert.  The dig lasted some six weeks and I took an extra week to relax in Jerusalem.  The temperature in the Negev runs about 115 in the shade with a very low humidity.  I lost about 30 pounds during the expedition and grew a beard.

After I retired in 1994 from the Franklin Union Baptist Church in Worthington my wife, Joan, and I took on an assignment with Educational Opportunities of Lakeland Florida to live in Jerusalem for a three month period.  I would lecture to the tour groups as they came through Jerusalem, and Joan would be a hostess for the company.  I did two basic lectures; “Jerusalem at the Time of Jesus” and “The Geography of Israel”.  We were located on the crest of the Mount of Olives in the Seven Arches Hotel.

Obviously I have a heart for Israel.  This is primarily because God has a heart for Israel.  The Prophet Zechariah tells us, “He who touches (Israel) touches the apple of His eye.”  This is not based upon Israel’s goodness, but upon God’s grace.

Jesus clearly taught that salvation is given through Israel.  Paul taught that to Israel belong “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises.  To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race according to the flesh, is the Messiah who is God over all, blessed forever. (Rom. 9:4-5).”

Jesus taught that there would be wars and rumors of wars until the “time of the gentiles would be fulfilled.”  The “time of the gentiles” is that period of time when the land of Israel is under the control of a foreign power.  It began at the Babylonian captivity (586 BC) and ended in 1948 AD.  To Israel I say with enthusiasm, “Happy 68th  plus birthday.”

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at  END-whs