“Signs of War and Love Evident in Israel,” Ensign, Mar. 1974, 79
Kathryn B. Jenkins, a staff member of the Ensign, was a member of the Brigham Young University Travel Study group that visited the Holy Land in December and January. Here are her impressions of the atmosphere in Israel, which the group toured from Dan to Beersheba:
“We have lived with the Jews for centuries. If the politicians would only leave us alone, we could settle our differences very easily.”
The speaker was a wrinkled, bent Arabian man, owner and operator of a small shop that sells tourist trinkets in the new section of Jerusalem. His shop is next door to that of a Jewish merchant, who also sells olive wood carvings, silver Bibles, and embroidered linens—and who also discounts the problem of serious conflict between Jewish and Arabian communities within the country.
There are signs of war in many places throughout Israel. They are relics of wars gone by: a rusty tank stands silent guard over the roadway leading to Bethlehem, left there after the six-day war in 1967; pieces of large transport trucks are scattered along the highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, mechanical ghosts of the 1948 war of liberation; a stone tower keeps solitary watch over a grape vineyard near the Valley of Elah, a reminder of conflicts dating to Biblical times.
Only one sign of the most recent conflict remained—the clusters of soldiers along the roads who were hitching rides back to their posts after coming home for the Sabbath. An advertisement in the Jerusalem Post read, “Not everyone can serve on the front lines, but everyone can give a soldier a lift to the front.”
Residents of kibbutz areas along the Golan Heights told of flare-ups and mine explosions in the area, but always with a sense of fantasy, of long-ago remembering. The action apparently had moved miles across the Syrian border, and the Israeli government was firm about protecting both her citizens and her tourists: no one was allowed near areas of possible fighting.
Casualties continued to mount, but only from a few isolated areas of border dispute. The fertile valleys, the rolling hillsides, the sandy-colored cities, the sparkling Galilee—all were calm, with no indication that a war was going on.
As we walked a narrow, winding path through Bethany, small bright-eyed children crowded us, eager for the chance to speak English with “good American friends.” They were Jew and Arab alike, living together in the same tidy houses, playing together their childhood games.
A fierce sense of nationalism seems to dominate the citizens of Israel, a sort of stubborn determination to keep their land and their country. The scriptures indicate that there will be disputes with neighboring nations until the Messiah descends from the Mount of Olives and enters Jerusalem through the golden gate. Even so, mankind is obliged to dream of—and work for—a permanent peace, one they and their children can enjoy.
Meanwhile, a calming peace fills the noonday air over Jerusalem and protects hills and valleys where once the Savior trod.