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In 1991 – several years after my conversion to Christianity and well into my own life as a husband and father – every Saturday morning, my two youngest children would drag me out of bed to watch cartoons with them. I would quietly sit on the sofa, wiping the sleep from my eyes, while Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny did their thing.
One particular Saturday morning, the cartoons were regularly interrupted with updates on the Gulf War. My oldest son, Travis, was a Marine on a big gunboat in the Persian Gulf – so we would listen carefully, wanting to know about Trav’s welfare.
In one of those interruptions, Peter Jennings had Benjamin Netanyahu, then Deputy Minister under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, in the ABC news trailer in downtown Jerusalem. It was still dark over there (a nine hour difference), and Netanyahu had come from an all-night meeting at the Knesset. He was in his T-shirt and wearing his kippah. He was visibly agitated as he responded to Jennings’ questions posed from ABC’s New York studio. Raw video feed, on the bank of live monitors in Jerusalem, showed numerous explosions rocking the city under a black night sky.
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Almost without introduction, Netanyahu pointed at the monitors behind him and thundered, “Do you see this, Peter? Do you SEE??!! Scuds all hours of the day and night, and we have to put up with this!” Before Peter could respond, an obviously frustrated Benjamin continued, “How would you like it, Peter?! How would you like this, unceasingly, from insane neighbors who want only to see you destroyed?!” (Words to that effect).
As we watched this beleaguered Jew at his wit’s end trying to describe the indescribable, I silently prayed, “Lord, please, somehow encourage that man.” Almost instantly in my heart, I sensed a reply! “Yes, you should encourage him!” My commonsense response was, “He’s all the way over there in Israel – and I’m here in Colorado – so you’ll just have to encourage him for me.” And again, He replied, “I will! And I’ll use you to do that!”
I had no idea how this was going to work (if indeed it could), but I knew I was to make the effort. This was prior to the Internet – and technology was still in the Stone Age. I grabbed the phone.
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I called the local operator who transferred me to the overseas operator for Colorado. I asked the overseas operator for Jerusalem/Tel Aviv information. She responded that, even though she would try that call for me, since the outbreak of war over there, the few available lines were jammed. Millions of Americans were trying to reach friends and relatives in Israel. In addition, most of the telecommunications had been commandeered by the Israeli government. She told me up front that we would not make the connection – and, further, if we did, we very likely would not reach an English-speaking operator. My call went through immediately, and we’d reached an operator whose English was flawless. The stateside operator was in shock. I was given the number for a Dr. Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. At the termination of that exchange, the stateside operator told me I could dial the call myself; but she was certain that this fluke would not be repeated.
I took another moment to pray, and began pushing the numbers into the phone. I listened intently to a succession of chirps and tweets of the various satellite and ground repeaters that carried my call. After a few tense seconds, I MIRACULOUSLY heard the slow succession of “boooop … boooop … boooop” that is typical of many phone systems on the other side of the globe – ringing though! Netenyahu’s brother, Iddo (Israeli physician, author, and playwright), answered. Benjamin was not there.
Iddo was soft-spoken and cautious. After the normal, awkward moments of phone etiquette, he asked my name. I stammered, “Oh, my name is – oh, Benjamin doesn’t know me – I just called to – well, my name is Dave Merrick, and I’m calling from Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.” More silence, and then he asked, “May I please know the nature of your call?”
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With the peace and confidence ‘that passeth all understanding,’ I just told him the truth. “I saw your brother on an ABC news break. He seemed justifiably upset and somewhat desperate – and I just wanted to call and tell you that lots of Americans are pulling for Israel’s survival and prosperity. We are not all like James Baker*.”
Iddo’s tone changed immediately. “This is a wonderful and thoughtful call, David! We are so under siege and often feel that most of the outside world has forgotten us.” I again assured him of the contrary and told him that he and his countrymen were the object of much concern and many prayers. Our talk was brief; but he insisted that I leave my phone number, assuring me that his brother would want to talk with me personally.
That night at about one o’clock in the morning, the phone rang! I heard a lot of air and a couple of clicks and chirps, and finally, a very formal, eloquent woman’s voice that announced, “This is the nation of Israel calling for Mr. David Merrick …. Is Mr. Merrick available?” I was! “Please hold to speak with Minister Netanyahu.” I did!
Immediately, the phone picked up; and I heard the same booming voice that I had heard that morning in Peter Jennings’ interview. “Dave Merrick! Good to finally hear your voice!” Benjamin went on to tell me how timely my phone call had been. He said that his brother had shared my call with the family at dinner and that it was a great refreshment to them all. He mentioned some other, lightly personal, family things – and we just chatted about all sorts of stuff. We talked about my son in the Gulf as well as his (Benjamin’s) own stint in the armed forces. I thanked him for Israel keeping their cool–and maybe keeping us all out of a full-blown war. I told him about my faith in Jesus (without ramming anything down his throat.) We both had some laughs and just enjoyed a moment of friendly conversation, like a couple of guys across a backyard fence. I stressed that we (many of us Americans) were praying for Israel. The call lasted about 45 minutes.
He told me, “Next time I am in your neighborhood, get a hold of my team – tell them who you are, and we’ll have lunch together!” I have since never had the opportunity to take him up on that offer.
In summation, I’ll say this: The man I spoke with on the phone has never lost my admiration. Time has proven him to be a truthful, candid, brilliant leader carrying a formidable burden. Very often, just as world history has shown, such men are lonely and despised. The Bible instructs me to pray for him and the charge he oversees. The fact that so much of our world can be intimidated and deceived into lending credibility and support to the cowardly, masked hoodlums who hate Israel is shameful. I will do everything I can to promote the safety and welfare of what today still remains an “Apple of God’s eye.” (Psalm 122:6)
It is my honor to have such a story to share with people. These sorts of singular miracles occur in my life REGULARLY. They don’t happen because I am some kind of privileged character – they happen simply because God is faithful to give me power, peace, and the desires of my heart. He’s promised to guide and bless daily all His children (Isaiah 26:3, Psalm 37:4) – and I can gladly rest on that. Indeed, all His children wear the signet ring of His authority – and our possibilities, for His Glory, are limitless. (Philippians 4:13)
*James Baker, then George Bush Sr.’s Chief of Staff, made that infamous remark–“F**k the Jews!”–that will forever fix him into American history as one of our more venomous anti-Semites.
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