On Monday morning, April 27, we stood on the edge of the Sea of Galilee and looked out. To the left rose Golan Heights, to the right Galilee. All over Israel, sirens rang out and people stood still for two minutes, in remembrance of the Holocaust and its 6 million victims.
We landed by coincidence in that moment at the spot, where history and the Bible tell us Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. It seemed to me the perfect place to reflect on one of history’s most appalling episodes.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
The timing, like much of our visit to the Holy Lands, felt surreal.
Israel remains a study in contrasts — stark deserts and fertile valleys; the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, and Mount Meron, four thousand feet about sea level; a civilization dating back millions of years to the Paleolithic period, a country that will turn just 69 on May 14. Due to low water levels and declining stock, the government pays 500 fisherman NOT to fish on the Sea of Galilee, which is actually Israel’s biggest fresh water lake.
The country sits between two tectonic plates, the African and the Arabian, and its politics have been as volatile as its land. For the freedom to live peacefully in its homeland, Israelis live in a state of war.
“The strong survive, the weak are erased,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the Holocaust Remembrance ceremony. “The lesson is that we must be able to defend ourselves, by ourselves, against all threats and all enemies.”
I love this picture because it celebrates peace in a place where Jesus is said to have performed many of his greatest miracles and it offers the possibility that we are not alone in our struggles.
Here’s to peace in the Holy Lands, may God bless them all.