Our friends thought my wife and I had gone crazy. Visiting Israel barely a month after the war broke was bad enough but travelling with our three young kids in tow seemed completely insane. As we boarded our flights to the Middle East, all we knew deep down in our hearts was that God had spoken, and we as a family trusted His leading.
Planning our Trip
In August 2023 we planned and booked our first trip to Israel as a family, planning to leave Australia in early November. Our flight options were to fly direct to Tel Aviv, Israel or to land in Jordan and cross the border by land. We were strongly recommended to avoid the option of going via Jordan as the border crossing is hard for kids, however, as we prayed, we specifically and clearly felt to take the Jordan route.
And what would we do while in Israel? Our plan was to begin to arrange our own itinerary of places and people to visit as soon as the Feast of Tabernacles was over. Our only decision in the meantime was to base ourselves in Jerusalem for the duration of our three-week trip so our kids had a settled base.
The last day of Tabernacles, the day we were to begin to plan the rest of our itinerary, was October 7th, the fateful day of the Hamas terror attack. The erupting war meant that many flights to Israel were cancelled, but due to our flights being to Jordan they were still going ahead. Staying in Jerusalem for the duration of our trip now made a lot of sense, as the Holy City was a safe place of refuge for people fleeing the war. We realised that God had known what was about to happen on October 7th, and He had already arranged our trip accordingly!
A Baby Blessing Israel
On November 6th, we left Australia, heading to Jordan with our three kids and a mountain of luggage. The border crossing from there to Israel was just as bad as we had been told, an arduous three-hour ordeal with pesky flies intensely bothering our kids. It was a relief when we finally boarded the taxi to Jerusalem.
What happened next brought tears to my eyes. Strapped securely into her car seat, our 22-month-old girl Olive began to sing in the cutest voice possible: “The Lord bless you…. And keep you”. She sang her way through ‘The Blessing’ over and over as our taxi made the climb up to the hills of Jerusalem. “This is why we are here”, I thought to myself. “to bless God’s people as a family”.
The God Who Restores Families
Hamas’ horrific terror attacks had stolen away over 200 hostages from their homes and families. In response Israel called up 360’000 reservists, many of them leaving behind their own families to join the military. In this way, almost every family in Israel has been impacted, with empty seats left at Israeli dinner tables throughout the country for weeks on end. Mothers have often been the ones left to manage at home, trying to keep their kids calm in a highly tense environment. Children throughout the land have been regressing in their behaviour as they miss their dads and are generally unsettled by what is happening around them.
This context brought new meaning to us visiting Israel as a family. As we engaged in conversations with local Israelis, we told them “Hamas has been seeking to break apart families. We have come as a family, praying that God will restore and make families whole”.
An Answered Prayer at the Western Wall
Our twins David and Hannah celebrated their fourth birthday at the beginning of our stay in Israel, and for their birthday we took them for their first visit to the Old City in Jerusalem. Young David was very excited to see the Tower of David, proudly proclaiming ‘this is my city!’
As we were leaving the Western Wall, something special caught the eyes of our twins. Plastered along the walls of the exit were a large number of posters of missing people taken hostage to Gaza, and our twins began to inquisitively ask questions. Our twin’s attention was especially drawn to the picture of a beautiful 3-year-old hostage called Yahel Shoham. Moved by her plight, we prayed right there and then for her release, with the twins repeating a simple prayer after me.
Throughout the remainder of our stay in Israel, our little Hannah kept asking about young Yahel. Yahel’s story had obviously made an impact on Hannah, who kept describing to me in vivid detail the specifics of the photo we had seen of Yahel – even including details I hadn’t noticed!
On our last full day in the Land of Israel we got the news we had been waiting and praying for, 3-year-old Yahel had been released along with her mother and sister! What a miracle! Hannah was beaming with joy that morning as she awoke to the news. God had heard our prayer!
Encountering Heroes of Faith
Many people have told us that we were brave to travel to Israel during this war, but our courage felt insignificant compared to that of the Israelis who live in such a difficult environment. During our time in Israel, we were also inspired by the courage of many Christians from overseas who now live in Israel. Some live with their families in Jewish communities in what the world calls the ‘West Bank’ (Biblically known as Judea and Samaria). There they find themselves surrounded by 2.5 million mostly hostile Arabs, and despite the danger, they and their families have chosen to live and serve the Jewish people in these communities. We met other Christians who are now sending their children to join the Israeli Defence Forces. These Christians could have easily chosen a much more comfortable life in Europe or America but have instead displayed great faith and courage to cast their lot with Israel.
Their willingness to stand with the Jewish people reminded me of the Ten Boom family. When World War 2 broke out, and Nazi persecution of Jews was unleashed in their homeland of Holland, the Ten Boom family bravely cared for and protected Jews who came to them. Warned of the danger of their work, the 85-year-old patriarch of the house, Casper Ten Boom replied, “I would consider it an honour to lay down my life for God’s chosen people”. It wasn’t long after that Casper and his family were arrested for their work and Casper died shortly after his arrest.
This is the Time
We are living in some of the darkest days for Israel and the Jewish people since the Holocaust. Not only was the terror attack on October 7th the worst single mass killing event of Jews since World War 2, but the ensuing war has enflamed world-wide anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment to arguably its highest levels since the dark days of the Nazis. In Australia for instance, we have seen a massive 738% increase in anti-Semitic incidents since the war broke out.
This is truly the time for Christians who know their Bible to stand with Israel and the Jewish people. For some of us this may mean travelling to Israel on one of the many Christian solidarity missions currently being organised (for information contact groups such as Christians 4 Israel, Keshet Journeys and Ezra Adventures). For others, it simply means taking a stand at home, informing people about Israel, praying for her at this time and encouraging any Jewish friends and contacts you may personally know.
We were greatly privileged to stand with Israel through our visit to the land and we know that the support of Christians like us speaks volumes to Jewish hearts at this time. Please consider prayerfully how you too can stand with God’s people during these dark days.
Enoch Lavender was born in Australia, raised in Norway, spent time living in China and is now based in Melbourne, Australia. He has been studying Hebrew and the Jewish roots of our faith for the past decade, and has a keen interest in the Middle East from a Bible prophecy perspective.
Contact Enoch and Olive Tree Ministries