One morning this week, I went to run some errands near my home in the Judean mountains. In addition to being cold out, there have been an increased number of security/terrorist incidents around Israel in recent weeks, leaving several dead and injured, Israelis edgy and on guard, and many more soldiers on duty guarding us. Of course, it’s unspeakable that we should have to live with the threat of terrorists stabbing and shooting at civilians, or ramming their cars into Israelis on the side of the road. But it’s also sad that in response, many more young men and women are standing guard to protect us, outside, bundled up to stay warm against the elements.
On the way to the bank, I noticed two soldiers standing guard at a bus stop. It was clear from their posture, and where and how they were standing, that they were there for business. After the bank I stopped into a bakery and picked up a box of fresh pastries and two coffees to rush back to the soldiers nearby while the coffee was still hot. But I also wanted to show my gratitude to them that cold morning. To say that they were appreciative is a great understatement.
After I left, I realized something. The bus stop where they were guarding is where three Israeli boys were kidnapped by Palestinian Arab terrorists dressed as Orthodox Jews in 2014, and murdered. There are soldiers at bus stops and check points all throughout the area, but seeing these soldiers there, this morning, made me wish that they had been there a few years earlier on that fateful June day.
Of course, I’d rather that there didn’t have to be soldiers guarding like this until the middle of the night, and then again before dawn.
Two cups of coffee and some pastries really cheered up these guys. As the commercial goes: two cups of coffee, 18 shekels; package of hot pastries, 30 shekels; smiles and appreciation from the soldiers, priceless. So, on the spot I decided to do something more. It’s winter and particularly cold for Israel right now, especially in the Judean mountains south of Jerusalem, about 3000 feet above sea level. We are the winding up a storm that’s added heavy rain and high winds to the cold. Despite the weather, the threat of terror doesn’t end.
So, our soldiers are out there, standing guard to ensure our safety. One thing that’s unique in Israel is that since most young men and women serve in the army, all the soldiers are like our own kids. They are “deployed” to their back yards. So as their back yard neighbors, we look out for them.
I went to the store and bought all kinds of fresh vegetables to make two big pots of fresh homemade soup. As my friend Bill noted, the soup was very hearty and tasty. Bill and Shirley run Ten Gentiles; a ministry dedicated to engaging Christians to participate in God’s restoration of Israel alongside the Jewish people. They’re Christians who love Israel and the Jewish people, and spend as much time here as possible. We made a date to go out to serve soup to the soldiers standing guard near where I live.
I have to admit, I do make great soups. My kids anticipate it each winter. Sometimes they invite their friends over to try my soups. This soup was no different. It stayed hot for the two hours we drove around from point to point. As much as we served it with love, it was received, and devoured with gusto and appreciation. Most of the soldiers were on guard and not able to speak, but it really made them happy. One who had a moment, after devouring half of it, said “I wish my mother made soup like this.”
In the summer, in the midst of a brutal heat wave, we did something similar: serving over 120 liters of cold drinks and nearly 100 kilos of sweet watermelon. That day we went all the way to Hebron, and brought these cool treats that filled the trunk of my car to soldiers guarding as far as the Tomb of the Patriarchs. That was cool – pun intended. This week, the soup was served on the side of the road, using the closed trunk as a table.
Through my nonprofit, the Genesis 123 Foundation, one of the ways in which we build bridges between Jews and Christians and Christians with Israel is doing little things like this to make a meaningful, tangible difference. While it’s our privilege to make and serve the soup (or cold drinks in the summer), ingredients and supplies are donated by generous Christian friends all over the world who want to “have a ladle in the game.’ Bill and Shirley decided that Ten Gentiles needs to donate a larger stock pot so we can make more soup and serve more soldiers at one time. Also, that way when they’re not here with us, they will be participating alongside us.
Others are able to be a blessing this winter and beyond. The Genesis 123 Foundation Bless a Soldier program gives anyone the personal opportunity to send a note in any language that can be translated, printed, and delivered to the soldiers on their behalf.
Please feel free to send your love, support and appreciation for Israel’s soldiers who not only guard Israelis on the front line, even when the front line is a bus stop, but do so in the freezing cold. And please always keep them in your prayers.