Many Australians have toured the Holy Land and reflected on their visit over subsequent years. This is what we have done as his wife Delma and I are trained tour guide leaders with InnerFaith Travel and the friends they have made on those tours have lasted many years.
As a historian, one of the considerations I ponder: as I meander around the sites of the Holy Land, it’s the same parts that previous pilgrims have travelled for generations, perceiving they too pondered and prayed; how much of an invisible link there is by all such individuals.
What is it, that stirs a Christian's heart and soul about this ancient land, and moreover the word itself, the word "Israel"? Without doubt, the Bible, the events and places mentioned, give rise to such thoughts, and there is nothing more invigorating than to read a passage of Scripture, and then stand in the very place where those events of long ago took place.
The etymology of the word Israel comes from religious names including Eretz Israel ("the Land of Israel)"), Zion and Judea. The name Israel has historically been used, in common and religious usage, to refer to the biblical Kingdom of God or the entire Jewish nation.
According to the Hebrew Bible the name Israel was given to the patriarch Jacob which means, Persevere with God, after he successfully wrestled with an angel of God. Jacob's twelve sons became the ancestors of the Israelites, also known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel or the Children of Israel. Jacob and his sons had lived in Canaan but were forced by famine to go into Egypt for four generations until Moses, a great-great grandson of Jacob led the Israelites back to Cannan (the "Exodus").
The earliest archaeological artefact to mention the word "Israel" is the Merneptah Stele of ancient Egypt (dated to the late 13th century BCE). (en.wikipedia.org)
The Bible recounts the story of God and man and God's Salvation. The means through which God brings His Salvation is initially through his chosen people, the Hebrews (which became known as the Israelites) and ultimately through God's Son Jesus Christ. As the Bible unfolds so too do the prophecies which foretold of Christ and of the 'not-yet'.
It is to this 'not-yet' that so many who visit the Holy Land are consumed with interest, and for me, as I entered the Land of Israel for the very first time, he felt in his soul, a high anticipation, for the yet-to-be fulfilled Biblical prophecies, the 'not-yet'.
But it is nonetheless modern Israel to which pilgrims come, not ancient Israel. Of the approximately 250 nations today, Israel has over seven million people, about the same as New South Wales. At 20,323 sq km, it is less in size than a third of Victoria. After being a protectorate under British rule since 1917 (then known as 'Palestine'), Israel has been a western-style democracy since its Independence in 1948.
Although mineral wealth is limited, Israel has made use of the plethora of educated Jewish migrants from war-torn Europe to invest heavily in areas that helped support its population; first in agricultural innovation (the Kibbutzim are legendary), and more recently in medical research and electronic technical expertise.
Many international companies undertake research and manufacturing there, and many scientific and agricultural researchers from all over the world (Jews and non-Jews) find congenial conditions to undertake their work. Also, Israeli scientists freely collaborate with the best from other countries, enabling high quality research to be done in Israeli Universities. This site lists Israel's top 45 inventions of all time (www.israelunitycoalition.org)
The desert has been made to 'bloom' and produce crops, and Israel leads the world in some of the 'green' agricultural procedures â€“ particularly those which conserve water. Israel attracts funding for such projects from many Western countries.
The population is highly educated, particularly compared with neighboring countries, and this is consistent with the traditional Jewish culture, with its emphasis on learning, which has been reinforced by centuries of Diaspora where the only thing that 'can't be taken away from you' is the knowledge in your head.
Yet one cannot have a modern Israel without an ancient Israel and with an ancient Israel also comes Biblical prophecy, the 'not-yet'.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html