For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing . . . Deut. 8:7-9a
About ten miles into our ride this morning I realize that it could only happen in the springtime, when the earth is breaking forth in green and fruitfulness—nature flaunting her glories in this corner of the Mediterranean. But of course it’s more than nature, because the Creator himself describes the abundance of this land, and his prophets promise its restoration after long years of exile:
The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;
It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice,
Even with joy and singing. Isa. 37:1-2a
We’re descending the southern end of the Carmel ridge, which blends into the foothills of Samaria to the south and east. We’ll descend toward the west, into the vineyards and orchards near Zichron Yaakov, Binyamina, and Pardes Hanna, which are breaking forth in leaves and blossoms this time of year. The words of Moses and the Prophets are alive before our eyes as we ride through.
The promise of the Jewish return to the Land of Israel and the abundant response of the Land to that return is undeniably presented in Scripture. It’s hard to imagine an honest, straightforward reading of Scripture that would interpret it away. On the other hand, the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the land—a restored kingdom in the restored land—is promised for the age to come, when Messiah returns to sit on the throne of David. In the meantime, I believe we need Jewish sovereignty to protect and serve the Jewish return, but the return itself is primary and the restored sovereignty is pragmatic. And like all governments and human institutions, it is prone to problems.
I see again the paradoxical nature of peace, so evident here in the land of Israel. Our route takes us through the rolling green hills up to a military base, full of bare concrete structures and scraped off fields. We come to the entry gate and the guards barely glance at us as we pedal through. Soon we reach a shooting range, where we can peek past the wall to see soldiers learning to shoot their deadly weapons with increasing accuracy. The story is that the famed Golani brigade trains at this base.
Right by the firing range, a bunch of military trucks get into a traffic tangle and, as we slide carefully through, an officer driving one of the trucks looks up, sees the string of bike riders, breaks into a big smile, and calls out to us Kol Ha-Kavod—“all the glory”—which seems like the Israeli way of saying “Way to go!” or “Awesome!” Wgreeting at our back we soon come to the exit gate and leave the base to continue our gliding descent through fields of barley and wheat shimmering in the breeze.