JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
A tale by Johny Noer
Russia with its millions of souls. Vast as the ocean. Deep as snow-covered Siberia. Profound in its sufferings, and terrible as ‘a bear robbed of her whelps in the field’ (2.Samuel 17:8).
In Danish we have, since times of old called this great neighbour in the north: ‘Holy Russia’. Perhaps because we have felt that there was a deep longing in the Russian soul, which is beautifully interpreted in her songs, perhaps because the word ‘holy’ in a biblical sense simply means ‘to be set apart for a special, divine purpose’.
Who know if this is not the case with this vast nation, which has entered world-history in a new way since the October Revolution in 1917?
The Americans are sometimes a little offended, because they don’t seem to be mentioned very much in Bible-prophecy. Not so with the Russians; they occupy quite some space in the Holy Book. And while God does not speak very much about the Superpower in the West, He certainly describes a great people in the East – and the Jewish prophets had a very clear picture of a mighty nation, which would arise in that corner of the world in the last days.
‘That corner’ is however not, in the biblical language, what we in Europe and the Western world would call ‘the East-European countries. The Jewish prophets viewed everything from Jerusalem, and that’s why according to some theologians they looked towards the north, when they spoke about that nation.
I looked back in the mirror of the Mercedes bus. A lonely figure stood at the border post. I could not see clearly, who it was. A man in uniform waved his hand. Was it the English-speaking officer? I opened the window and stretched out my arm and waved back. A stream of love poured through my heart. "God bless you!" I whispered.
"What do you say?" Gisèle asked. She was looking into the mirror on her side of the car.
"I said: ‘God bless you’!"
"Bless who?" she continued.
"Ivan? Who is Ivan?"
"I don’t know", I said, "I just call that man Ivan. I mean the officer. The one with the song sheet. He was an honest man, and I am sure there are many like him in this huge country. May the Lord bless them – before it is too late!"
When I was driving along the enormous prairies of the Ukraine, I could not help thinking of the proud armies, who had tried to invade this nation. With half a million men Napoleon attacked his enemy and came back with a scattered handful of a few thousand beaten soldiers. 130 years later Hitler thought that he could take Russia in a quick summer invasion, but millions of his soldiers died in the snow outside Moscow, Stalingrad and the Caucasian mountains. The Bible however speaks about a future disaster, which may come upon this vast ‘land of the north’.
The people and leaders of this land are no doubt like the people and the leaders in the countries of the Western World: They don’t know very much about Bible-prophecies, and if somebody was going to speak to them about important predictions, that are written in the Holy Scriptures, they would probably not take such writings seriously. Some of them would shake their heads and laugh at ‘such religious nonsense’. Others would perhaps even get angry and consider scriptural warnings as ‘hostile’ to their system. But whatever the reaction is, nobody can take the prophecies out of the Book, which has proved credibility to all generations.
All this however would have been none of my business, if I had not been involved by God. I have never been interested in politics and am still without any specific knowledge in that field. Prophecy however is another matter. Especially when it is related to Jerusalem.
I think I started to see a first small glimpse of this principle when I was a boy.
I must have been five or six years of age, when I first saw the Danish king. Today I feel old, when I have to explain that he was the grandfather of the beautiful Danish queen Margarethe II. Her father was Frederick the 9th, but the king I saw was Christian the 10th. He was a man of royal dignity, who showed a special respect towards the Jewish People.
I remember that during the sinister years of World War II I saw him riding on horseback through the snow-covered streets of Copenhagen. He was a stout figure. He would do that every day, wearing his Danish general-uniform, and everywhere he came through the German-occupied capital the eyes of men and women lit up with new hope. The workers pulled off their hats, bowed their heads in reverence and whispered, "God bless the king!" – and to those men the man on the royal hose always greeted back. The well disciplined German occupation-troops always made strict military salutes; but to these the Danish king never saluted back…
I never saw the following incident myself, and perhaps the story has become almost a legend. But Jews from all corners of the earth have told me, what they believe, happened, and the well known Jewish author Leon Uris has repeated this event in some of his writings.
When the German security police, Gestapo, ordered all Danish Jews from a special day onwards, to wear the yellow star, the king removed all medals of honour from his Danish general-uniform and placed instead of these the Jewish yellow star of David on his breast. That day when he was riding through the streets of the Old City, filled with anxious people, many of whom understood. Several placed the yellow star on their coats, and some confusion was created at the Gestapo Headquarters.
What really happened, I don’t know; this is the Jewish version of the story, but it is a fact that the tree of honour planted by Jews nearest to Yad Vashem, on ‘the pathway of righteous Gentiles’ in Jerusalem, has been planted for the Danish king, Christian X. and the tree next to it is planted to the honour of the Danish people. It is also a fact that Danes in those days brought 3,800 Jewish men, women and children in small boats during the late night and early morning hours to the secure Swedish coasts, where neutrality reigned.
The Danish world famous philosopher Søren Kierkegaard has explained about his own coming into the world, that it happened in that fatal year of inflation, in 1813, where ‘many worthless money bill was issued…"
I was born in the fatal year of the beginning of Holocaust: 1936, where ‘many terrible laws against the Jews were issued’, and whether other people will believe it or not, I just knew that in a mature age I was called by God, the God of Israel, into a work, which had to do with Jerusalem and what the Bible calls ‘the end times’.
All this started a bright November day in the year 1958. Early one morning when I walked from Lasbygade in the picturesque Danish town of Kolding, I didn’t know that this day was going to be one of the most important days of my life. Everything seemed just to be the normal daily routine. The enormous beautiful white swans were screaming after me as usual, when I turned around the ‘pathway of the lovers’ along the lake towards the office of the daily newspaper, where I worked as a journalist. The usual hot cup of coffee was served before work started in the editorial offices. The colleagues gathered in the telex-department, where jobs were delegated by the editorial boss, a tiny, kind man with big round spectacles.
That morning I got two jobs: I should cover an air crash by a small, local plane, where two men got killed. After that I was expected to make an interview on French literature with a Jewish writer from Paris, who had just arrived in town.
The sympathetic and very skilled press-photographer, Peter Thastum, was humming one of his favourite melodies, as usual, while we were driving along that pleasant road, leading up to the imposing buildings of the apostolic church bible school. We had the story of the tragic air crash behind us, and Peter was an easy going fellow, who preferred the ‘good stories’. Our boots were muddy, because of the wet fields we had to cross an hour ago, and I was wondering if there were nice carpets in that beautiful red three storey building in front of us.
None of us ever dreamed of the fact that this interview with that French, Jewish writer would put an end to some warm years of exciting co-operation. We never knew that by entering that door our ways would be separated – and I never imagined that this day would be the beginning in my life of a long pilgrimage towards Jerusalem.
"Big place", I said, when we stopped in front of the entry.
"Sure!" Peter remarked with a dry voice. "These people have always enough money!"
We were kindly received by Pastor Jens Erik Friberg, who would later become the principal.
"Big car!" he said pointing at Peter’s nicely chromed ‘American’ car. Then he nodded towards the press-photographer: "Bu those people have always money enough, haven’t they?"
"Sure", I answered and laughed.
For a moment Peter stood astonished and looked at me. Then he shook his head and scratched off the mud of his boots. A few minutes later we walked over the nice carpet of the entrance hall, where the Jew awaited us.
I think this was the first time in my life I had a long conversation with a Jewish family. The well known writer, George Berreby, was not alone. He had with him his wife, Martha, whom I later came to know as a deeply spiritual woman with a rare love towards her own people. Also two smaller children were present, Michael, whom I have since met as a zealous young man with outstanding talents and a deep concern for Israel and her Messiah, and Karen, whom in the beauty of her youth I could only describe her as the most pretty daughter of Zion I have ever met.
Later I was happy that Peter, the press photographer, left us immediately after he had taken his pictures. "I’ll be back at the editorial offices in a few hours time", I said. When I returned late that night, something had happened in my life, and I had been so deeply moved in my whole being, that I shouldn’t have wanted any of the colleagues from the paper to have been present.
The interview started quite normally. I was sent to have a talk with this man on ‘French literature’ and as I had to stick to the things I knew just a little about, I had quickly to pass over those figures, who have perhaps had the greatest influence on Europe’s history: Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot and Rousseau. I noticed by the way that though I really knew little about these French thinkers and philosophers, also, the Jewish writer was unwilling to speak about them. The same with the French existentialist-movement by Jean Paul Sartre. The Jew didn’t want to get into these corners. I tried with Albert Camus, Saint Expupéry… but nothing new came out of it after more than an hour. I looked at my notes and realised that I had not succeeded in the job, I was expected to do. There would probably be no story. I would have to say to Peter, that he could throw his nice pictures away…
It was at that moment, I happened to look at the young Swiss interpreter, Denise de Rougement. As my French at that time was poor, this young daughter of the well known Swiss pastor was asked to translate the interview.
I was surprised to see that her eyes suddenly were filled with tears.
At that moment, I didn’t know what was going on. I was too preoccupied with my work. Since I have learned that Denise, who was later married to the respected and faithful servant of the Lord, Francois Jecquier, was a young lady, extremely open to the Holy Spirit. Today I know why her beautiful eyes were filled with tears; she somehow sensed that this was my day: That young journalist sitting there opposite her desperately trying to get along with an interview on ungodly French thinkers, was without knowing it slowly crossing his own borderline into the eternal election ways of God:
I felt somebody present in the room, that couldn’t be seen with the natural eyes; I looked at Martha, the wife of the Jewish writer, and discovered that tears were running down her cheeks as well. "What’s going on?" I thought. "Why are they all weeping?"
I gazed secretly at the Jewish author, and saw him sitting with one hand before his eyes. Did I hear him sobbing?
The presence of Someone invisible standing in front of me grew stronger. Then it overwhelmed me. It was at that moment I was happy that the press photographer had gone. I didn’t want him to report at the paper what happened: I myself started weeping!
"What are you doing here?" I heard my own broken voice asking. Desperately I tried to get on with the interview. "I mean, what are you doing here at a Christian bible school? You are Jewish, aren’t you?"
Martha wanted to answer, but her husband quickly put his hand over hers. "Wait a moment", he said Then he looked at me, and I noticed that his eyes were wet; "I want to tell you something", he said. "And I have been burdened with what I am now going to say all the time you have been asking me those questions." He pointed at my notebook. "That’s why I haven’t been able to give you very much of an answer. I must apologize for my silence. But now I want to speak."
There was a moment’s silence. I had again this overwhelming feeling that somebody was present in that room, whom I could not see, and once more I had to restrain myself in order not to weep.
"I want to tell you something", George Berreby repeated. "I want to tell you, why we are here as Jews".
Before he went on, I knew what he was going to say: I knew why he and his family were there! I knew why I was there! I knew why we all were weeping! I knew who that invisible person was, who was also there…
"Jesus Christ, the Messiah, lives today", the Jewish man whispered. "He is resurrected from the dead. I have met Him."
A wave of hope flooded through my heart. "And He is here", the man in front of me continued. "You know, it’s true. He is here!"
I nodded silently. My pen and my note block were lying on the table. I had nothing more to write and no more pages to turn. I knew the Jew was telling me the truth. A new page was being turned over in my own life…
And I could never have imagined in that moment, that the next page was going to be turned over more than 25 years later somewhere in Ukraine, in the Soviet Union, after that I had passed some border posts, where I was asked questions about a Jewish rabbi, who prayed the prayer: "Next year in Jerusalem!"