Nestled between a fast-food restaurant and a souvenir shop in Jerusalem’s Old City there is a small, underground museum called the “Burnt House.” In a space not much larger than a two-bedroom apartment lie the remains of a house which once belonged to a priestly family at the end of the Second Temple era. Although the house was burned down and its inhabitants killed by Roman soldiers, the layout of the structure remains intact, and you can actually make out where the kitchen, bedrooms, and dining area once stood.
Recently I ventured out to the “Burnt House.” It wasn’t my first visit to the site. When I was a child my parents took me there. The images of the museum’s multimedia presentation, which recounts the terrible day centuries ago when the family that dwelled in the house was murdered and their house burned down, has been permanently imprinted into my memory.
I used to think that the house was burned down in the 1948 War of Independence. You can imagine my surprise when I learned that the atrocity happened 1,900 years before the Arab-Israeli conflict even began! This family was murdered not by Arabs attempting to wipe out evidence of a Jewish presence in Jerusalem’s Old City, but by members of the Roman legion carrying out their orders on behest of their emperor, Titus.
As I watched the multimedia presentation, I realized that, while this family may have faced a different enemy than the one Israelis face today, I could still relate to them. They were under siege, and their enemies were salivating for their blood – and today, once again, our country is under siege – not just by terrorists, but by those who would delegitimize the whole idea of a Jewish state – and our enemies openly call for our complete annihilation.
Of course, our most hostile foe, Iran, is feverishly working to secure the weapons to make their dream of destroying Israel a reality. All Israelis are aware of this sobering fact. But we persevere, and even prosper, despite these threats. And we continue to live our day-to-day lives – to go to work, take our kids to school, spend time with friends and family.
Where do the Jewish people get the strength to stand up to our enemies, generation after generation? How do we keep getting up after being knocked down so many times? And, how do we go about our day-to-day business when Israel’s future sometimes seems so threatened?
The answer is simple – faith! The God of Israel has never forsaken us, and never will. No matter what happens, we have a God who says, “I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, [those who persecute us], but of you I will not make a full end” (Jeremiah 46:28). We know that God keeps His promises, and we cling to those promises, no matter what may be happening in the world!