I was granted the wonderful opportunity to visit the Hoy Land for a third time. I participate in a yearly camp that takes place for the children of Russian-speaking believers in the Tel Aviv area. In order to get there, however, I needed to pass obstacle #1 - the Israeli airport.
The Israei Airport has one of the most intimidating security systems in the world. As soon as you step out of the plane, security personnel ask you where you are going, how long you will be staying, and what your purpose is for travelling to Israel. If you do not have an answer ready for any one of those questions, you are taken away for interrogation. It feels as though the entire airport security suspects you are a terrorist. Because I didn't have a copy of my ticket OUT of Israel, the passport control person sent me into the airport jail room, regardless of the fact that I have been to Israel twice before. In the jail room, the woman behind the desk wrote some stuff down, handed me my passport, and I was free to go. I don't understand the reason behind their actions - perhaps it's all psychological. I guess they get away with all of this interrogation stuff because they are Israel and tourists will come anyway.
I don't remember Israel being as hot as it was this year. Although temperatures were around 80-90 degrees F, the humidity was killer. Whenever I went out in the sun, I was automatically wet from sweat and the creases of my elbows were sticky. But the heat was good for me. I was able to sweat out my sickness and I was well by the third day. Goodbye food poisoning. I quickly regained all of the weight that I lost by eating white-bread pitas and oily hummus every day.
I joined up with a group of 10 missionaries from Kiev who also came to serve in the camp. All of us stayed with at the pastor's house in a suburb of Tel Aviv called Bat Yam. We slept on his roof, from which we could see the entire city.
"The Best Street in Israel" was also very close to where we lived.
From the first day, we had difficulties with our camp. It is really hard to organize Israeli children. If I had to describe Israeli kids, I would say loud; insubordinate; and very independent. I met an elementary school art teacher who explained that because Israel is in a constant state of war, parents attempt to give their kids the best life possible by spoiling them. It is also against Israeli law to punish children. Kids are taught in school to do what they want. Children are even allowed to yell at the teacher, resulting in a generation no respect for authority.
From a Western perspective, these kids would automatically be labelled as "undisciplined". However, it isn't lack of discipline as it is a different way of disciplining. Service in the army is mandatory for every 18 year old boy and girl, and it is there that the kids are whipped into shape and the independence is stripped from them. They then belong to the state of Israel.
Working with these kids was unexpectedly difficult. Often times, we would organize a camp activity and half of the kids would say "we don't wanna play this game", get up, and leave. When there is one problematic child, there are ways to get them back in line. When 15 kids simultaneously decide not to listen, there isn't really anything you can do.
Another huge problem was the location of the camp. In previous years, whenever we did camps with Israeli children, we would divide them into smaller groups and work with them in seperate rooms. This year we had to do the entire day-camp in one big room. All the activities, games, stories, and food had to be prepared in one location. If one child went crazy, all the rest of the kids could see and follow.
We had an event during the second week of camp where a boy climbed on top of some dumpsters and began yelling Hebrew profanity at a random Israeli woman. The woman complained to the landlord, who kicked us out of the building and caused us to spend the remaining four days at a park in the Israeli heat.
The problems we had lead to constant arguments between the team members. Almost every night I would watch the team quarrel with each other. I didn't participate in any arguments myself because the huge patience muscles I grew in Mongolia kept me from losing my temper.
All of the problems that we faced made me realize how hard the "enemy" works in order to stop the work we were doing. Isreal is God's chosen nation, the place where he himself walked among his people. The moment we began to do God's work in this land, the enemy immediately retaliated through misbehaving children, location problems, and disunity within the team. What amazed me was the reality of the situation. The closer you get to God, the moment you begin his work among his people, the harder the enemy tries to make you fail.
We were able to finish the two week day-camp even though it drained us of our energies. But beside our suffering, I couldn't help but feel joy.
God told Abraham in Genesis 12:3,
"I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
We planted the seed in God's nation. We blessed God's people, and now there is nothing left to do but to be blessed ourselves