The afternoon after our last full day in Jerusalem we met for a worship service in a lovely outdoor arena next to the Inbal Hotel where we were staying. Dave preached on the Exhibition of the Kingdom of God to Humanity and we shared communion together. At his request, I led the group in singing " Blest Be the Tie That Binds" and the Doxology.
At dinner that evening everyone shared their experiences and what they found most meaningful about the trip. We were going to travel back to Tel Aviv the next day as about half of the group were departing for home the day after.
However, our trusty tour bus had scheduled stops along the way. The first stop was at an Israeli Defense Force Signal Training Facility and brought the reality of modern Israeli life in the Midde East back to our attention.
The tour of the base was arranged by Friends of the IDF. Since returning home, I have learned that a stop at one of the IDF bases is often included in tours. The Israelis, with good reason, are eager to improve and strengthen their relationship with the United States by reaching out to American tourists. We were warmly greeted and encouraged to visit with a group of the young IDF soldiers and one of their commanders who said they hadn't had visitors in quite a while -- no doubt because the Arab Spring conflicts discouraged travelers.
You can see by this photo that most of the soldiers at this base are young women. We were told that is because women are not put into combat roles, but trained for support roles and this base was a training facility for computer technology. All Jewish Israelis must serve in the IDF. Women serve for two years and men for three years after graduation from high school. Israelis who are not Jewish may volunteer to serve and the soldiers told us that some of them do.
We had seen IDF soldiers serving in different contexts on our tour but this was the first time we talked with any of them. They made a presentation about their training and answered questions. A few times their commander responded "I can't tell you that."
Apparently you can't leave the base without having your picture taken in front of a tank. Must be a law or something. El Jefe has his Friends of the IDF cap on and we both are dressed for the archaelogical dig which was our next stop of the day.