After seventeen hours’ flying time, plus airport waits, Don and I approached the customs window in the Tel Aviv airport. Neither of us has been in Israel before. But seeing the land where Jesus walked, taught, healed, loved, and gave His life as a ransom for many (including me) has been a long-held dream. Standing in line, weary but excited, I watched Israeli nationals returning home, along with travelers like us entering the country. I didn’t know quite what to expect. Would we be grilled by customs? Would we feel intimidated by their security measures?
“Hi,” I smiled as I handed over our passports. The officer looked at them, then up at me.
“Well, I used to be.”
“In a little town in Manitoba.”
He looked up like he was waiting for more detail. I didn’t give any, thinking he wouldn’t know much about that frozen wasteland where Mom gave birth to me on a September long ago.
“Winkler? Morden?” He asked.
My jaw dropped. “How do you know about Winkler? That’s where I was born.”
“Mennonites,” he responded, and stamped our passports. “Welcome to Israel.”
Not wanting to keep the line waiting, I didn’t ask how he knew of these towns. The officer, however, told someone behind us in line that a lot of his friends had moved to those areas. Wait, that little farming community where Mom and Dad met in Bible school, that tiny place where my great uncle had a large, and productive, potato chip factory? Now a mix of Mennonites and Israelis? Who would’a thunk it?
And so began our journey in the land of Israel, with a welcome that connected my Mennonite heritage with a Hebrew customs official. What other surprises would our Father have in store along the way?