An Angel In Jerusalem
by Harold Smith
"In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them." Zechariah 12:8
My third week in Israel - the Land is all I remember and, working as a volunteer based in Jerusalem, is increasingly unfolding itself before me more every day. It is like watching a flower bloom in slow motion as the dawn slowly evaporates the dew off its petals, leaving a sheen behind through which the color takes on a richness of breathtaking splendor.
So, it was with great joy that I was able to accept an invitation from a couple that I had previously met while here in 2005, Hannah and Hillel Weiss, to come and spend Shabbat with them in their home in Ariel, a community of about 20,000 nestled among the beautiful hills of what is generally called "the territories."
The bus system here is quite extensive and coming to learn where to be and when to be there in order to travel in and around Jerusalem has been an adventure I am slowly becoming accustomed to. Even with clear directions from the Weiss', however, I knew traveling into Ariel was to be something quite different. The day before Shabbat, I had mentioned to an Israeli friend of my plans to travel and inquired as to how to get to the central bus station, whereupon he graciously volunteered to take me. He continued to instruct me, though, that every bus goes to the central bus station at some point in their route and that since every driver of a bus in Jerusalem is required to speak English, all I would need to do is to tell him where I was going and they would help me to get there. Well, I found that statement to be almost true.
Since the Jewish calendar is based in lunar activity, the day of Shabbat actually begins at sundown on Friday and lasts until the first three stars appear in the night sky on Saturday evening. In observance of Shabbat, the buses cease moving late Friday afternoon and don't begin again until Sunday - everything in this country, in fact, closes. The bus schedule showed the last departures from Jerusalem to Ariel to be 1:15 and 2:00 pm, respectively. To be sure to have enough time available, I had suggested to my friend we leave at 12:30, thinking that plenty of time to navigate through the system.
After waiting patiently, at 1:00 my friend informed me he would not be able to carry me as he thought he would. Knowing I had already missed the window to catch the 1:15 bus, I was confident there was plenty of time to arrive and find my way to the bus station for the bus leaving at 2:00. Little did I know. In my naivete, I had not given any forethought as to what I was to do if, for some unexpected reason, I was to not board the last bus to Ariel. I mean, what could go wrong? You go to the bus station and get on the bus - right? OyVey!
I went downstairs to the nearest bus stop, boarded the first bus to pull over, informing the driver of my intention to get off at the central bus station and would he help me by telling me when I should get off? To that he nodded and, in broken English, said it was in three stops. Traversing bus schedules is nothing compared to hurtling the barrier of language. Yes, all the buses run BY the central bus station - but, they don't necessarily stop there. In the driver's mind, since he had already told me to get off at the third stop, he had finished with me. Looking up, and seeing that I was still waiting for his prompt to exit the bus, he pulled the bus over, waved at me to disembark and, as soon as I left the doorway, he was gone. Looking around, I saw no other buses - anywhere. I didn't know where I was, but it was pretty evident this was NOT the central bus station.
It was here that the precariousness of my situation began to crash in on me. The only people I knew in the Land had all exited the city for different places for Shabbat leaving me with no one to call for a rescue. If I did not make it to this last bus leaving for Ariel, it means I would be stranded in Jerusalem until Sunday not knowing where I was or where I would stay or on whom to call. When I said earlier that everything closes - I mean EVERYTHING. If you don't have it before Shabbat begins on Friday afternoon, the likelihood of you getting it is gone until Sunday. I didn't even know which direction the central bus station was.
It has been almost 40 years ago that an old guy once told me (I look like him now), "the most challenging thing you will ever face in this walk in the Spirit is to get up every day and, no matter what you see, no matter what you hear, no matter what you feel, no matter what you think, to just believe - God is Good." I have found those words to be significantly true in my life. Standing on the sidewalk in who knows where Jerusalem, I was given the opportunity to exercise that belief, that faith, in His Goodness, and I began to thank Him for His goodness in these circumstances I found myself in.
Looking up, I realized I was in front of some sort of institution or dormitory related to an institution. There was a young man coming down the steps before me and, as he approached to pass by, I asked him if he spoke "eng-laish." When he said, "a little," I asked him if he knew where the central bus station was. He said, "Yes, I am going there. Come with me, and I will take you. It is about six blocks from here." He then asked where I was going and when I said, Ariel, he said, "I am going there as well. Come, I will help you." �and off we went.
Now, understand, there are just not many in all of Jerusalem that travel to this tiny, out of the way place outside the security of the wall around Israel called Ariel. What are the odds of randomly stepping off of a bus at the precise moment to encounter someone going to the exact place I needed to be and is willing to help? God sent me an angel because He knew I was totally dependent on Him to come to my rescue - there was no one else. How much I was to need this angelic emissary was soon to become very apparent.
A native Israeli, one who is born in the Land, is called a sabra. They are named after a particular cactus that grows only in this region of the world. A sabra cactus has a very tough, thorny exterior but on the inside is very sweet and moist. These people of the Land, while normally very abrupt in their manner and tone, become extremely considerate and helpful when they see someone in a vulnerable position. For instance, my wallet - my whole life - slipped out of my pocket onto the floor on a recent bus ride and, immediately, four people were speaking to me in Hebrew and pointing to it on the floor. This young man, this angel whom the Lord had sent to me was just like that. I am a slow mover - steady, but not fast. Elad was constantly showing concern for me, slowing his pace to mine and reinforcing to me when I apologized for slowing him down that we had plenty of time to get to our destination.
Because of the incidents of terror that have rocked this country from its inception, security here is a way of life. Everyone is searched all the time before entering any building - be it grocery store, office complex and, most certainly, arenas of transportation. Coming around the corner to the entrance of the bus station, there was a crowd of three to four hundred people standing in line before three turn-styles to be searched to simply enter the terminal. My first thought was, "�how will we ever get through this mass of humanity in time?"
Moving to take a place in line, Elad took my arm and led me around to a side of the building I had not noticed where the line was much shorter and, within a matter of minutes I was through. Because Elad was carrying a duffel bag, however, he was told to go to yet another line where a more extensive search of belongings was being conducted and I lost sight of him.
Thinking I was on my own again, I looked at this din of activity before me and could still see no buses. Everything was in Hebrew and I was totally lost once more. Once again, I approached a fellow to ask where to go. Trying the best he could in as much English as he could come up with, I could tell this was not helping. Suddenly, I felt a firm hand on my shoulder. Though I had lost sight of Elad, he had kept his eye on me and sought me out. He said in an authoritative tone to the fellow I was talking with. "�he is mine to care for" (what I heard was in English, although, now, I wonder why two Israelis would talk in anything other than Hebrew to each other). He then led me through this maze of turns and corridors until we arrived at the gate where the last bus to Ariel would pull up in less than 20 minutes.
What I had not been told was that there were TWO different buses to Ariel that left at the same time but taking very different routes. Had I taken the wrong bus, the directions I had to the Weiss' home would have been useless. Elad stayed right with me until I was seated on the proper bus and rode with me, all the while giving me instructions on what to look for and when to disembark.
I told Elad that God had sent him and because of his compassion on this old prophet, he could expect a prophet's reward. I blessed him in the name of HaMashiach Ben David and am still asking God's blessing on this young man. The truth is, literally, there is absolutely no way I could be sitting here writing this today in Ariel enjoying the warmth of pleasant surroundings, good food and enjoyable fellowship without the help of our Lord to dispatch the aid of an Angel in Jerusalem.
Had I been able to communicate with the bus driver properly, had I been left off of his bus at the central bus station where I was supposed to, I would have never been able to traverse the maze encountered there - I would have missed the bus. The Lord took me six blocks out of my way to rendezvous with His Angel. Baruch HaShem - bless you, O Lord.
"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels..." (Hebrews 12:22).