Israel in the Summer: It’s hot. And it’s fun!

Dr. Carrie Burns
Good News

Israel in the Summer: It’s hot. And it’s fun!Israel is a land of startling contrasts that may take a little getting used to at first. For most people on the outside looking in, Israel is the Holy Land, the place of the patriarchs, prophets, Ruth and Boaz, King David and Jesus. Israel is also a modern nation that is hated by its neighbors and requires high-level round-the-clock security. But for locals? Summer in Israel may be hot, but it is also a time for fun. The places in the Bible and in the headlines are also places of recreation and rejuvenation for the people of Israel.

Though things are heating up in the region, Israelis of all ages are quick to take appropriate action. For example, kids are heading to the malls in droves to buy up snorkels, swim masks, noodles and beach balls, all for keeping cool in city pools and at the sea shore. In the same shopping centers, their mothers and fathers are lining up to get chemical gas masks and new filters for the ones they already have. Swim masks and gas masks. This is the way it is when it is hot.

In the summer, beaches on the Mediterranean, the Sea of Galilee and the Red Sea are loaded with Israeli kids, young people, friends and families, and they are happy. They are building fortresses in the sand, tossing Frisbees, flying kites, spiking volleyballs and paddling red rubber balls in games of beach tennis, a popular sport they call matkot. The contemplative ones are perusing the newspaper or a good paperback, or in love, strolling arm in arm on seaside promenades.

There’s also a lot of fishing to do, water-skiing, hang gliding and if you are by the Red Sea, swimming with the dolphins and scuba-diving in coral reefs. Old-timers watch it all and chat with each other under the shade of the palm trees and beach umbrellas. All the while, Israel’s Navy fleet silently cruise the oceanic coastlines, vigilant, protective and necessary.

As the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) fortifies the border with Sinai at Israel’s southernmost city, Eilat, jazz enthusiasts from all over the world are preparing to attend the annual Summer Jazz Festival. This year, music lovers will no doubt stay up each night, August 18 through 21, to enjoy live music in the clubs and on the boardwalk of this Red Sea harbor city. Music fills the night in a city where the average August high is 104. It is the hottest jazz in the world.

Towns and cities under the hot Israeli sun come alive after supper, when the sun is going down. Playgrounds that were empty in the white-hot heat of the day teem with children playing, while parents keep watch. Joggers are out in large numbers, as well as mountain bikers and power walkers. Meanwhile, Israeli security forces are also keeping watch. Israelis see them. But not really — they are just out to enjoy the evening.

Israel’s leaders are engaged in intense discussions regarding the threat of a nuclear Iran and Israel’s security and defense needs. These high-level international talks allow for negotiations of another kind. Israeli children fervently bargain with their parents for ice cream, slushies, more Bamba (the hottest-selling snack in all Israel), a trip to the Jerusalem Zoo, or a week or two at their favorite summer day camp.

Christians around the world associate the Sea of Galilee with Jesus, the promised Messiah who offers rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29). Israelis too, associate the Kinneret (the name they call it) with rest. In the summer, all around the rim of the sea that Jesus loved, are tents, campers, fire pits, outdoor BBQs, picnics, sun-bathers and teens skipping rocks off the shores near Capernaum.

Christians yearn for the Jordan River, recalling Joshua’s crossing, the ministry of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus. But in this same river, you will see Israeli families having a blast kayaking and tubing, iTunes drowning out their laughter.

Likewise, the Holy City of Jerusalem has a special place in the heart of all Christians. But if you walk Jerusalem’s streets on a hot summer afternoon, you just may see little Orthodox Jewish boys filling their kippas (skull caps) with water from the fountain and dumping them on each other’s heads. Isn’t that what kippas are for?

Zechariah foresaw this day. “The streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play” (Zechariah 8:5). Israel is the Holy Land, it is the land of the Bible. So too, it is a country that has neighbors who hate her. These things we know. But Israel is also a homeland for a people who enjoy their country to the fullest, the places Bible-believing Christians revere, pray for and defend.

The Bible predicted this and we are seeing it in our day. Kayaking on the Jordan? Water-skiing on the Sea of Galilee? The people are playing there. They are having fun, even when it’s hot.

Dr. Carrie Burns is the Educational Programs Developer for the US Branch of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

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