We have just returned from our latest Issachar Tour to Israel, where we were briefed by many senior officials of the Israel Defense Force and others from the intelligence community.
Along the way, we also visited the major Biblical sites in the Galilee and in Jerusalem (one highlight of the trip was our “bird’s eye view” of the Holy Land from small planes, below), but this fall trip is distinctive from the spring Bible Study “Berean” Tour because of the special briefings we receive, all of which focus on the issues facing Israel’s security in The Land today. Among the excellent speakers this trip were:
1. Raphael Israeli, author and professor at the Hebrew University;
2. Avigdor Kahalani, Brigadier General of the IDF;
3. Aviv Oreg, former Shin Bet leader and now a consultant for counter-terrorism;
4. Uzi Dayan, former National Security Advisor;
5. Uzi Arad, former Director of Intelligence for the Mossad;
6. Benny Elon, Knesset member and head of the Judeo/Christian Alliance;
7. Briefings from the Ramat David Valley Squadron, IDF airbase in the Valley of Armageddon;
8. Gina Utterback, Jerusalem Support Center; and 9. Adi Zahavi, Hatzollah emergency “first response” ministry.
Among the memorable briefings was the talk by Uzi Arad, who had some strong opinions of U.S. involvement in Iraq, saying it was the wrong choice strategically for many reasons, but most importantly because it diluted our ability to deal with Iran. He said our main focus needs to be on Iran due to their rising strength in the region and their support of terrorism-Iran is the “gorilla on the block.” He also emphasized that not all Arabs and Muslims are bad but the fact of the matter is that the leadership is and that the religion is!
According to Arad, Israel also failed to focus on Iran, and shifted its focus on disengaging from Gaza. This was a timing issue (six meetings were held with the U.S. from 2003-07 and all of them dealt with the PLO and not Iran). The whole face of the Middle East will transform when Iran develops its nuclear industry-they are nearing completion of 3000 centrifuges which, when finished, could provide the materials necessary for one or two bombs, but they are pursuing more (through the black market, North Korea etc.). A few months’ time is all they need to complete the manufacturing, which means they are anywhere from one to three years away.
Uzi Dayan was the National Security Director under Ariel Sharon. He told our group that the problem with democracy in Israel is that will one day Jews will be outnumbered. He sees Israel today without leadership and without vision. It is not smart for Israel to be the lamb at this time-Israel must be strong like a lion! She must fight terrorism and war against Hamas and Hezbollah. The U.S. needs to support Israel because of shared values, not just shared interests. Ahmadinejad in Iran is more dangerous than Saddam and Osama. He would like to see a “Rest in Peace” Process, not a Peace Process.
Undoubtedly the highlight of all of our speakers, Avigdor Kahalani is a national hero and has begun a passion to inspire the younger generation to “take up the flag because Israel has not yet arrived and the threats to their existence increases day by day!” His new program for the younger generation is entitled, “In the Footsteps of the Warriors.”
During the Yom Kippur War, Kahalani almost single-handedly held the Golan Heights for Israel. Some estimate that Kahalani’s OZ brigade of 12 Israeli tanks held off and defeated over 250 Syrian tanks! For this Kahalani was awarded the Medal of Valor, the highest honor that Israel has to give. His presentation captured the spirit of the soldiers and reflected the sovereignty of the God of Israel.
Being a national hero and a true warrior, Kahalani has looked at the current landscape and determined that even though the world would want Israel to be a “Bambi” today, Israel must remain strong and be willing to fight for her existence. From his talks with Hamas, there is no doubt that he sees no bridge for peace and with the rumblings from the “little dictator” in Iran who wants to relocate Israel to Alaska, he reiterates that Israel must be prepared.
We sat in the Golan overlooking the Valley of Tears where the epic tank battles took place during the war and Kahalani ended with the words, “To be or not to be … to BE!” Kahalani then pulled out the Israeli flag and offered it to the younger generation and warned them to hold the flag and never let it fall or else Israel one day might cease to exist. Avigdor Kahalani … a true hero.
If you have never been to Israel, you have to ask yourself, “Is now the time?” I know it may sound like “hype,” but we promise you-your life will change when you visit The Land! And just a reminder for our Koinonia Institute students-our Israel trips carry course credits. For 2008 tour details contact Sharon Stolebarger at firstname.lastname@example.org.