by Sondra Baras
Monday July 3, 2017
What do basketball, the American Navy and India have in common? I assume that they play basketball in India and in the American Navy but that is not what I am referring to. What I am referring to is three wonderful visits in Israel this week— the prime minister of India, an American Naval Aircraft Carrier, and the Faith Academy Basketball Team. And all three visits, each in their own unique way, represent a positive response to the boycotts and isolation that our enemies are trying to impose on us.
India has had diplomatic relations with Israel since 1992, not a long time in the history of nations. But this is the first visit of a sitting prime minister of India in Israel, following a visit by that nation’s president less than two years ago. Both India and Israel achieved independence from Britain around the same time and yet for most of the years since, India aligned itself with the Arab nations. Even since the establishment of diplomatic relations, India continues to back Arab initiatives at the UN most of the time. But in recent years, trade between the two countries has grown and India’s interest in Israel’s agricultural and technological inventions and initiatives has expanded exponentially as India recognizes the role Israel does and can play in helping them solve critical problems for their people. Boycott? Not in India!
I was in Jerusalem on Sunday with a friend and we had time to wander a bit in the Old City. As we roamed through the Jewish Quarter, we kept bumping into groups of young people speaking English, each group led by a tour guide and wearing badges with a number on them. Clearly they were tour groups from one organization and each number indicated which tour bus they were assigned to. But what we only discovered later is that they were all members of the American Navy, stationed on the “George Bush” a huge naval aircraft carrier with close to 5,000 personnel. I think a good percentage of those personnel were touring Jerusalem yesterday. I had the opportunity to ask some of the young people on one of the groups how they were enjoying Jerusalem and they responded with the typical American: “Awesome!” Boycott? Not in the American military!
And then there is the Faith Academy basketball team. Faith Academy is a Christian school in Denver, Colorado, in the US, affiliated with Faith Bible Chapel. Faith Bible Chapel has hosted me and other CFOIC Heartland representatives for years and has always been very encouraging of our work with the communities. When I was last there in the fall, I met a young man from the church who was leading a tour from the school to Israel but with a twist. The tour participants were all either high school basketball players, graduates of Faith Christian and now college basketball players, or basketball coaches and their families and counselors. They were coming to Israel to see the land but also to contribute their basketball knowledge and expertise to the children of Israel.
I just spent most of a day with this group and it was amazing. I met them at the 3 Seas Outlook, a gorgeous lookout point in Samaria from which you can see Mt. Gerizim, Mt. Ebal, the Oak of Moreh and the Jordan Valley. I gave them a teaching at that amazing spot and then we drove to my own community of Karnei Shomron where they were greeted by the mayor and by the heads of sports and the community center in the community. We all ate lunch together and then the games began. All of the basketball teams of Karnei Shomron, from 8 years old through high school, enjoyed basketball activities with these visiting American basketball players. And the children were thrilled. They felt so important! They felt that these American basketball players, including College players who are admired immensely by basketball fans all over the world, took the time to play with them, to teach them maneuvers. These American Christians came to Karnei Shomron because they cared.
And that, my friends, is what our work is all about. It is gratifying to read about the prime minister of India visiting Israel and about the enormous naval carrier docking in Haifa. But when young people who are being taught to love Israel from childhood come to Israel to express their love and support, people to people, there is no better gift for Israel.
And this is a gift that can be given by anyone. We all have something we can give to express our support. Some of you are making donations. Others are hosting meetings for CFOIC Heartland. Others are keeping our handy “Israel’s Story in Maps” booklets in their purse or bag and using it to educate people at every opportunity.
I was in the UK last week and on the weekend, had the chance to take a lovely walk in central London. Just as I was enjoying my walk on a busy street, adjacent to one of London’s lovely city parks, I noticed a string of posters hanging from a rail along the sidewalk. And every poster accused Israel of atrocities against the Palestinians. I couldn’t help but think, who are the people who are hanging these posters? Someone out there is doing this legwork for their cause. But with your help, with your legwork, you can spread support for our cause. They are spreading hate while we are spreading love. With your help, we can win this!