UPDATED: (Washington, D.C.) — With the Hamas war on Israel on-going, I’m being asked by pastors and other Christians whether it’s safe to visit Israel right now, or even to take a tour group over there.
Here are a few thoughts:
- First and foremost, this is a matter for prayer — ask the Lord for wisdom according to James 1:5, and He will give you His answer. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
- If you don’t feel peace about going, that’s fine. If the Lord doesn’t give you the green light to go, don’t.
- That said, if the Lord does give you peace and a “green light” to go, obey Him.
- Now is actually a very important time for Christians to visit Israel — to pray for peace, to demonstrate Christ-like love for Israelis and Palestinians, to better understand what’s happening, and to encourage the believers in the Land.
- What a great witness and blessing it is to people in the epicenter when followers of Jesus Christ are willing to come visit them at this critical time!
- [UPDATE: Even with the news of Israel’s ground operation in Gaza, we are still planning on going to Israel in a few weeks.] Lord willing, my family and I are planning to go to Israel in a few weeks. It’s a long-planned trip, we’re excited to go, and we’re eager to pray with and serve those in the Land, and we’re not going to let this rocket war stop us. That said, if the Lord tells us to cancel or postpone the trip, we will. But right now, we feel very peaceful about proceeding.
- We know many others who are traveling to Israel these days and haven’t had any problems. One of The Joshua Fund’s board members and some of our senior staff were just there last week and had experienced no significant difficulties or dangers. We also know other tour groups that are there right now or are heading over there soon and everything is going well.
- There are certainly risks, and it’s important to be honest and clear-minded about them.
- But remember that most of the rockets fired from Gaza land in fields and don’t injure people or damage buildings.
- What’s more, the Iron Dome is shooting down 90% of the rockets that are at risk of falling on populated areas.
- And despite this rocket war, it is very important to note that most Israelis and Palestinians are functioning day to day without being affected by the rockets. They’re working and shopping and going to parks and doing errands and carrying on quite normal lives. Sure, they are talking with friends and neighbors about the conflict. They’re praying. They’re watching news coverage. They’re mourning over loved ones or countrymen who have been injured or killed. But life hasn’t come to a stand-still. They’re not paralyzed. Those in Gaza and southern Israel are living in extremely difficult circumstances, to be sure. They’re living in a severe conflict. But most Israelis and all the Palestinians in the West Bank are carrying on with their lives as they typically would.
- For example, we have Joshua Fund staff in Israel. By God’s grace, they are operating fine day to day. Their humanitarian relief work has become more challenging in the south because of the rockets. But their day-to-day activities haven’t become paralyzed personally or professionally.
- For visitors to Israel, it wouldn’t be advisable to travel down in the south of Israel at this point — but most tour groups don’t head south — they travel to Jerusalem and the north of the country to see the Sea of Galilee, and Caesarea, and Armageddon, etc. Yes, a few rockets have been fired from Lebanon and Syria towards the north, but they were immediately shot down.
- Only one Israeli has been killed in this rocket war so far, and he was visiting troops right on the border of Gaza.
- Remember: every hotel and public building has bomb shelters. There are also very effective air raid systems. Tour guides and bus drivers are very experienced and know exactly how to keep you safe and secure. So you’ll be in good hands.
- Note to pastors: I’d encourage you to go forward with your tours to Israel if they are coming up soon. But you might consider offering people 100% refunds if they don’t feel peaceful about going. Even if you take a smaller group over, that’s good. You’ll have people traveling with you who want to be there, who truly want to learn the history of Israel and the region, and who want to pray faithfully for peace and be a blessing to Jews and Arabs. What a great trip that would be!
- A final thought for now: in addition to visiting Israel, consider spending several days in Jordan. I was just there in early May. It’s a beautiful, fascinating, historical country, filled with rich Biblical history. Jesus was there. John the Baptist was there. So were Moses and Joshua, and Elijah and Elisha, David and his mighty men, and so many others. It’s safe and intriguing and worth taking your family and tour group. To read more about my trip, please click here.
I hope that’s helpful. May the Lord grant you grace and wisdom as you consider a trip to the epicenter.
Learn more about The Joshua Fund (www.joshuafund.com). This is an organization my wife and I founded in 2006 to educate and mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her Arab neighbors in the name of Jesus, including caring for the poor and needy with food and other humanitarian relief. Read our 2013 Donor Report. Please pray for our team, especially as they care for people in the rocket zone. And please prayerfully consider making a generous, tax deductible, secure, on-line contribution.
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