3: Danny Ayalon

3: Danny Ayalon

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 3 •

Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel and member of the Knesset; former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.

Today, with extremism and intolerance in every corner of the world, Billy Graham’s words, thoughts, prayers and life teachings, throughout his great career, have served a great purpose for bearing love and acceptance of others. As a former member of the Israeli Defense Forces and a current representative in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, I have seen how Dr. Graham’s words provide us all with direction towards mutual respect and understanding.

From the first time I heard Billy Graham on TV, I have felt he speaks the truth; that he speaks from his heart. I have been very moved by his faith. As a proud Jew and Israeli, I have been deeply encouraged by his steadfast support for Israel and, I think, for all the people of Israel. He understands that we are here because of a grand plan, God’s design, first and foremost to work for God’s glory, to bring God’s Word to the world. I believe Billy Graham has felt this same responsibility in the Judeo-Christian heritage.

I didn’t hear Dr. Graham speak until after I was already married in 1980. My wife and I met in Israel, but she came from a family in Ohio. They were very devout Christians. Her father once told me how as a young man, he went to one of Billy Graham’s services, and there became reborn, with new meaning and purpose in his life.

I will never forget hearing Dr. Graham say that one of the most exciting developments of the century was the rebirth of the nation of Israel. He then talked about this new land, scarcely more than 150 miles in length and nine miles in breadth, so big in history, the cradle of civilizations and the birthplace of the Ten Commandments, which were imparted just south of Sinai. I was so inspired!

Billy Graham has often spoken of Israel, preaching that Israel is the land where Jesus was born and raised as a rabbi — that it is here in this holy land that He brought about His miracles. Dr. Graham deeply affirms the unbreakable bond between Jews and Christians. Of course, we cannot hide the major theological differences between Judaism and Christianity, but Billy Graham’s words are a testament to our common Judeo-Christian heritage and legacy, which brought about Western civilization with its justice, morality, and code of law.

It is no coincidence that my wife, who grew up watching Billy Graham, shares his embrace of our shared values. She is the president and co-founder of The Galilean Campus, a major project located in Migdal, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Its mission is to give Christians a greater understanding of the Jewish roots of their faith, and God’s plan for His nation Israel. It will be a place for Christians to experience a spiritual renewal with God in the very land that both traditions cherish.

Today, we see the great biblical prophecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah being fulfilled. Our return to Israel has given Jews, and also Christians, free access to all our sacred places — whether in Jerusalem or the Galilee — for the first time in 2,000 years. In the Bible, throughout Isaiah, we have the prophecies for the glory of Zion with Jews coming from all corners of the earth for the restoration of Israel, and for the Messiah to come. These are promises from God, and we Israelis understand this great responsibility to build our country and defend ourselves in our faith as part of God’s plan.

Israelis appreciate Billy Graham not only because he has supported our country, but also because he has always been positive and forthcoming — never offensive. He has never tried to proselytize Jews, respecting instead our traditions while also highlighting our common values. He has done so much for Israeli-American relationships in general that President Nixon offered to make him the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. However, understanding his work and sermons were more important, he chose to pass up political opportunity and stay in the spiritual realm — a decision which has clearly benefitted millions of people all over the globe.

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