Why's She Going to Israel?

by - 2:54 PM

The first best part about traveling: flipping out your trusty Lonely Planet guidebook, a good map of the land, circling all the spots you definitely want to backpack through (yes it's all very hard work) which culminates in the most exciting part of all - actually going!!! 

When I tell people I’m studying Hebrew at university, or that I’m going to backpack across Israel and volunteer in the Galilee region (up north, close to Golan Heights and the Syrian border), they give me – to my amusement – the most incredulously disbelieving looks! If they do ask why, I usually give the short story – which doesn’t say much. But as you’d expect, there’s always a long story behind every short story, isn’t it? So maybe here’s the perfect place to express it...
So, why am I going to Israel, of all places?
To be honest, it is simply because I am immensely curious to see what life is like on the ground level in Israel! You often read of news reports of all the terrible things happening in the Middle East and you think, I wonder what it’s really like. Of course, at the moment, I can’t backpack in places like Syria, Lebanon, Iran or Afghanistan – but after researching Israel, I figured that it would be a brilliant gateway into the Middle East. With its eclectic melting pot of religions and races, its wealth of historical, cultural and archaeological sites, and its bountiful natural surroundings – mountains, hills and valleys; rivers, lakes and oases; deserts, craters and beaches – I figured Israel would be the place for someone like me.

I love wandering in places that are steeped in culture and history. I love immersing myself in new experiences with people who speak a totally different language (in this case, Hebrew and Arabic) and probably hold a perspective on life that vastly differs to mine. I love venturing outdoors, whether it’s through the mountains or the valleys, out in the open ocean or along the coast. Israel seems to have all of this, in one tiny country! It’s incredible. I’d be up for a night camping in a Bedouin tent in the middle of the desert (it’s going to happen I tell you!). I’d be up for diving in the Red Sea. I’d be up to trek with other backpackers in the lush nature reserves of the Golan Heights. I’d be up for anything that’s different to what I already know!

And of course, Israel is where Jesus Himself was born – where He lived, walked, taught, went to the Cross, and I believe, where He conquered death itself. I want to go to Israel of all places because it is the place. I feel that this year is the year I am growing deeper in my faith and walk with God – and that means coming to a personal discovery of who Jesus is to me, and why His life, death and resurrection is the turning point for humanity. I’ll be bringing my Bible with me, journaling, taking in the sights and sounds, imagining what it was like in Jesus’ day, and allowing the history of the Biblical accounts to come to life before my eyes. This is what will be probably the most exciting thing for me!

But surely there are other reasons?

Okay you see, I was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.And if you didn’t know, every Malaysian’s passport bears the inscription: “This passport is valid for all countries except Israel”. Yes, it’s true and it's preposterous – the Malaysian government has no diplomatic ties with Israel and does not recognize the State of Israel.  You can read more about why this is so – here.

I remember the first time I saw that in my Malaysian passport when I was much younger. I thought: “Ha! One day I will go to Israel. God, even if it's impossible now, someday make the way for me to go to there!” So precisely because it was an impossibility, I wanted to go. And both then and even more so now, I believe nothing is impossible with God. In fact, the more impossible it is, the better, because then I can say nothing was done by my own ability or position or wealth. A man may plan his ways, but it is God who opens the door and directs his steps.

I know through all the turns and learning curves in my life that I’ve definitely arrived at this point for a reason and I know (with all my heart) that God has heard that little prayer of mine. And it wasn’t just that moment that led to this. Two years ago when I first went to university, I met two Christian friends who happened to be studying Hebrew! That was the first time Israel crossed my mind again. I’d never thought of it. Though I wanted to learn this exotic language that was inextricably linked to the Bible, I couldn’t do it because I was already enrolled in other subjects. Nevertheless, I remember praying: “God, I know for some reason you’ve crossed my path with people who are studying Hebrew, of all things. I want to do it too! But if I do take it up, can you please give me a reason to do it? If it is possible for me to one day go to Israel, even though now I only have my Malaysian passport and we’re still waiting for our Australian citizenship, I know You can make it happen when the right time comes!”
Amazingly enough, now two years later, I have my Australian passport, and the door of opportunity opened for me to go to Israel because I asked for it, I’ll be backpacking across Israel for a month and then volunteering with an Israeli organization in the Galilee region. So stay tuned for more stories on what I’ll be doing in Northern Israel while living with a local Israeli-Arab-Druze family. (Like yes, for realsies!)

For the past three months since I got back from my solo backpacking trip up the Australian East Coast, I've been feverishly planning and researching, fervently praying and whole-heartedly screaming silently to myself in anticipation night and day – I CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME BELIEVE THAT I AM FRIGGIN’ GOING TO BACKPACK ISRAEL!!!!! 

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