Glimpses of Israel - Land of Contrasts

by Joseph Hunting

Israel is a land of contrasts. On the one hand there is the searing heat of the Dead Sea region and the bracing atmosphere of Safad. In the space of three hours one can drive from the "howling wilderness" of the Negev desert where Israel's ancestors wandered for forty years to the lush green of Galilee.

Perhaps nowhere in Israel is the contrast between the past and the present more evident than in Jerusalem itself. Surrounding David's City the skyline is ringed with the latest in urban development. In the Old City one can take steps back into the nation's past as level after level is excavated. On every hand there is the evidence of the conquerors who once trampled the Beloved City underfoot -- Crusaders, Byzantines and Romans.

The Western Wall itself has spanned two thousand years of dispersion but now is the focal point of joyful yet tearful prayers and caresses of Jews from more than a hundred countries. Perhaps the lower courses of massive stones date back further than Herod's time. Certainly nowhere in the world are stones more loved than those of the Western Wall. Was it of these stones that the Psalmist wrote: "Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and love the dust thereof"? (Psalm 102:14).

Israel 's coastline provides a fascinating contrast between the past and present. Modern cities such as Ashdod and Ashkelon rise adjacent to excavations that date back to Canaanite times. It was from the ancient port of Jaffa that Jonah fled from the presence of God and a few minutes away one can be swept into the life-pattern of Tel Aviv and all the hustle of a modern metropolis.

Indeed, the whole land, from the southern-most tip at Eilat to its northern border at Metulla, is a land of contrasts. From arid desert and rugged eroded hills of fifty years ago a transformation is taking place even as Isaiah said it would. "For the Lord shall comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord." (51:3).