“Who are you, and why are you here?” Yep. Those are the two questions I hear most often when I’m hanging out at the Jewish Community Center; generally right after I disclose the fact that I’m not Jewish, but instead, Christian. A Christian who spends most of my spare time studying Hebrew, traveling to Israel, and volunteering with both Jewish and Christian organizations that have anything to do with Israel.
So why? What happened? It all started with my first trip to Israel about eleven years ago. Actually, it started about ten years before that when my husband first started nagging me about going to Israel. Let’s just say at that time, I thought he had lost his mind. Seriously?! Israel? Why would I want to use my precious little vacation time to travel half way across the world to see a pile of old rocks? Really. I wasn’t the least bit interested. Italy? OK. Ireland? Perhaps. But Israel? No way.
Well, let’s just say he is a very persuasive guy, and in 1999 we went to Israel. And believe me, I had no idea what I was getting in to. We knew so little about Israel that the first weekend we were there; we got all dressed up for a Friday night out on the town. Wow, were we shocked when we ended up at Kentucky Fried Chicken because the entire city of Jerusalem was deserted and every restaurant closed for Shabbat. Yep, that’s how little I knew. But in spite of my ignorance, somehow, the entire spirit of that land got dumped right on my head. I fell hopelessly in love. I was in love with everything; the sounds, the smells, the people, the passion, and yes, even the piles of rocks. And these Jews; such an interesting and intriguing people. I had never met people who were so passionate about the important things in life and so disinterested in the little stuff. So different from all my American friends who could get into a complete tizzy over a bad hair day and barely even knew what was happening outside their front door. I was hooked from the first Shalom. Imagine my delight when I returned home and found Jews living right here in Tulsa Oklahoma. Who knew?!
So as fast as I could, I found a Hebrew 101 handbook and started learning the language. I joined Bridges for Peace as a volunteer, and started getting involved in anything I could find that was Jewish or Israeli. Before this trip, I was just a regular person who went to work everyday, attended church regularly, did family stuff, had lots of hobbies, etc. etc. I still do most of those things, by the way. (except the work every day part, retired, whoo hoo ) But now all my spare time is given to studying Hebrew, volunteering, and daydreaming about my next trip to Israel.
Pam Edwards, lives in Tulsa with her husband Larry, and her beagle puppy Willis. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for OKIE and Bridges for Peace USA, and chairs the Israel booth at Kids’ World for the Tulsa Tiberias Sister Cities organization. She is a member of Carbondale Assembly of God and has helped to organize 2 tour groups from her congregation to visit Israel. She has visited Israel 11 times during the past 8 years.