Walking through the Lod Airport lobby near Tel Aviv was a wake-up call. It was June of 1972. I had just stepped off the plane on my way to a summer's work on an archaeological dig in Jerusalem.
Back home, only a week before, I had been glued to the story. Three Japanese Red Army terrorists, posing as tourists, had walked into the airport, unpacked their automatic firearms, then indiscriminately mowed down travelers and staff, slaughtering 24 and injuring 78 more.
Now, actually standing in that same lobby, seeing bullet holes sprayed all over the walls, envisioning the bloodletting that had occurred right there—that drove reality home! This was a different world, one stoked by ancient hatred that keeps it hanging tenuously on the edge of life and death every day. A little different timing, I thought, and it could have been us caught in the cross fire of other people's anger.
That was actually the first of two very different "wake-up calls" I experienced that summer in that small corner of the world. On one hand, as a young student on my first trip abroad, it began to register how real, and how dangerous, is our absolute inability to overcome our problems. (Nationality and religion aside, as fellow human beings, these are indeed our problems, not simply theirs.)
On the other hand, walking where Jesus walked, and standing where He's going to stand, ranks as one of the most inspiring experiences of my life. God is in control of our destiny, and He promised that Jesus Christ will return to put an end to all this madness. Being there helped cement that reality too!
Watching the warfare in Lebanon recently resurrected these memories and confirmed some old conclusions: Nothing has changed (only, 34 years later, the wedges are driven even deeper), and the same old irresolvable problems depend on the same single solution.
Watching world diplomats scramble between bitter enemies, trying to control fires—born of centuries-old enmities—before they rage out of control and engulf the entire world, is like watching reruns of past efforts that only temporarily papered over the problems.
One Jewish leader assessed it this way: "Everybody sees a difficulty in the question of relations between Arabs and Jews. But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question. No solution! There is a gulf, and nothing can bridge it . . . We, as a nation, want this country to be ours; the Arabs, as a nation, want this country to be theirs."
What makes this statement so remarkable is that it was spoken by David Ben-Gurion—in 1919! Any politician could declare the same thing on this evening's news and it would ring just as true. Some things simply don't change—especially the nature of humanity that regularly sets the world on fire.
So, are we hopeless? Was Ben-Gurion's fatalism correct? If I had to place confidence in humanity's ability to make peace, I'd be a card-carrying pessimist. But you won't find anyone more optimistic, more hopeful for the future, more confident that world peace lies ahead, than those of us who are listening to what God says about this, and thus looking beyond today's troubles.
He, too, has a peace plan. It's not one of building high walls to keep people away from each other's throats, but one of building right hearts. The world desperately needs this wake-up call! Stay with us, and see how God is going to make it happen! GN