46 days ago, Israel faced the most atrocious attack the Jewish people have faced since the Holocaust. I have been primarily sharing stories on Instagram about the war itself and its ripple effects throughout the world.
In the past 8 years of ministry to the Land and People of Israel, BLI has hosted thousands of volunteers from 42 different countries. Hundreds of volunteers have expressed that “cleaning up trash with BLI” has been the highlight of their trip to Israel.
How does picking up trash become the highlight of a tour to Israel? It’s not just about doing a solid for the environment, but rather, it is doing something important for the Holy Land, for Israelis, and the greater Jewish community around the world.
It is about the real-time connection to the story of the Land and the tangibility of the service. It’s as if the work of the BLI cleaning up trash has become a living parable of the human condition and our desperate need for Redemption. One minute you are a tourist, the next moment you, as a BLI volunteer, become an active agent of change on the micro level, the soul level, and affect change on the macro level, the culture.
For years, as we have cast the vision for cleaning up the Land of Israel, there are two things I almost always bring up about the “why?” behind our work.
I share about the great cost (historically) of not having a Jewish homeland. The great cost (currently) of defending the Jewish homeland. These two realities alone form a convincing case for keeping the Land of Israel clean of senseless littering.
If the price has been so high for the Jewish people to return to their Biblical homeland, shouldn’t it be treated decently, and appreciatively? The essence of those realities played a key role in inspiring the creation of The Beautiful Land Initiative to begin with.
When I saw how the landscapes, beaches, and cities were littered with trash I couldn’t help but see the disconnect between the current reality with the reality of our past.
We didn’t set out to pick up trash, we set out to clean up the country. There’s a big difference. We human beings have a tendency to forget where we come from. The saying “Never Again” is a call to remember as much as it is a call to not be silent in the face of evil.
People go to great lengths to remember. We build monuments, museums, and movements, we create traveling shows, films, songs, and literature, all for the purpose of remembering. History repeats itself. The question is whether or not the results will be different.
The difference has a lot to do with how well we remember. The past informs the present and together they help to forecast potential futures. BLI is meant to serve as a reminder that Israel is important and should be treated with respect and care.
It is the Holy Land, yes, but it is also the only Jewish homeland. The culmination of the last exile (the Diaspora) was the Holocaust. Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, as it were, the Land of Israel was resurrected and on May 14, 1948, Israel declared its independence.
When I was 19 years old, my father and I were invited to Germany to participate in the inaugural event of an organization called, “The March of Life.” The event would retrace the steps of the forced marches of concentration camp prisoners over long distances under guard and in extremely harsh conditions
About the Death Marches:
I had seen movies about the Holocaust, but this was different. I saw the quaint, almost fairytale-like villages that the death marches passed through. It didn’t seem possible that in such a seemingly civilized place, such soul-less barbarism could transpire. But it did.
We heard stories of how villagers from the picturesque villages spit, shouted at, and threw rotten vegetables and other things at the concentration camp prisoners most of whom were Jewish. The March of Life event culminated in Dachau, Germany at the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp.
Learn More about Dachau Concentration Camp and its liberation: https://www.history.com/news/dachau-concentration-camp-liberation
An amazing Jewish woman and Holocaust survivor, Rose Price, was marching with us. She was liberated by the US soldiers along with the remaining survivors who were described by the American Soldiers of the 42nd “Rainbow” Division as “Walking Skeletons.”
We proceeded through the iron gates. I remember distinctly as we came to a certain spot when Rose began wailing and sobbing. “They are here! Beneath our feet!” She shouted. We were standing upon a mass grave. We saw what remained of the Nazi death machine.
I was shocked, horrified, and completely shattered over indifference and silence in the face of evil. The world witnessed the horrors and atrocities of October 7th when 1,400 Israelis were massacred by Hamas Terrorists.
We have all seen beautiful solidarity events and marches, works of art to raise awareness, and posters of the kidnapped Israeli hostages plastered everywhere. However, as much good as we have seen, there has been a flood of antisemitism and Jew hatred.
The world has heard the calls of “Pro-Palestinian”/Pro-Hamas chants of “Death to the Jews!” and “From the River to the Sea” which is a catchy phrase calling for the annihilation of all Jewish presence between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
We have heard statements in videos “Hitler should have finished you [Jews] off. He knew what he was doing.” We have seen the tearing down of hostage posters and we have heard outright denial that Hamas had anything to do with the events of October 7th.
There is a PR battle being waged for world opinion. Israel needs your support as they do what is necessary to root out Hamas. There is an old spirit of antisemitism wearing a new cloak, “Anti-Zionism.” I am encouraged to see massive pro-Israel demonstrations around the world, particularly recently in Washington D.C. where nearly 300,000 showed up in solidarity with Israel. That is heartening.
Israel is facing a real battle on the ground against ruthless terrorists who withheld no evil on October 7th. The rest of the world is facing a battle for the truth. It’s a battle between good and evil. Lovers of life, and lovers of death.
There can be no mistake, the atrocities that were committed against the people of Israel were pure evil. They are not noble resistance fighters, they are plotters and doers of evil. I know that our newsletter list represents many nationalities.
I want to finish this letter, by encouraging you and hopefully challenging you if you are on the fence about what you think you should do in your sphere of influence. I want to encourage you with an ancient truth, we are moving from darkness to light. God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”
When the times are dark the light shines all the more brightly.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upo
n you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Isaiah 60:2-3
I want to challenge you to stand for truth in your nation. Stand on the right side of history. Make your voice heard. Stand with Israel. Pray for the Jewish people everywhere.
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ― Elie Wiesel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Never again is now.” I couldn’t agree more. We know our history. What Hamas perpetrated in southern Israel on October 7th was a modern-day pogrom. It was a type of Kristallnacht - a set time for violence against Jews.
This cannot be ignored, accepted, or tolerated. Never again is now. Stand strong. Be courageous.
With love and gratitude,
President, The Beautiful Land Initiative
Book Recommendation: NIGHT by Elie Wiesel
Note: this book is available as an audiobook as well and the performance is fantastic.