To Dwell - The Promise and the Challenge
by Guy Cohen and wife Tali, Harvest of Asher Congregation leader, Tents of Mercy Network

"Thus says the Lord God: 'On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt.'" (Ezekiel 36:33)

In modern history the land of Israel has absorbed an unprecedented number of Jews "making aliyah," or coming home to Israel. This land is the place where the Jewish people can thrive and maintain its identity after centuries in exile. The Scriptures speak of our days in which the exiles are returning to their homeland. My grandparents arrived in Israel from historic Jewish communities in Yemen and Morocco. It was not easy for them, but with determination and inspiration, they established a home for us.

The first waves of immigration to Israel experienced great hardship. The settlers faced many practical economic challenges and opposition from some Moslem residents as they struggled to create a habitable environment in deserts and malaria ridden swamps. They bought land with donated money, established cities, built villages and kibbutzim. Later, immigrants who came soon after the establishment of the state in 1948, received land or apartments from the government at reduced, subsidized cost.

Today, even while dealing with a new language and cultural issues, each immigrant still wants his children and grandchildren to have a good life in the land of Israel. At long last we are back in Zion. Our generation does enjoy the fruits of generations of immigrants who came before us. And we do have a beautiful and blessed land. However, even as we speak, there are those who leave Israel - around 20,000 each year - to seek an easier life in another country. And we ask, "Why ?"

In kindergarten I was taught to sing about the rebuilding of Israel - by each one of us individually, and all of us together:

Who built and who planted My land of Israel - beautiful and blossoming?
All of us together!
I built a house in the land of Israel
... I planted a tree in the land of Israel
... I paved a road in the land of Israel
... I built a bridge in the land of Israel
... I wrote a song in the land of Israel
So now we have a land ... a home ... a tree ... a street ... a bridge ... and a song in the land of Israel

Children still learn this song. It speaks movingly of the rebuilding and restoration of the land of Israel.

Cost of Living in Israel

One of the reasons that many Israelis emigrate to other countries is due to the high cost of living. Many factors contribute to this, including the leftover influence of our socialist ideological roots and high taxes. For example, by the time you add 35% import tax plus 17% sales tax, a new car costs about 1.5 times the price that it would in some other countries. Free market competition is still limited in certain sectors. Army and defense costs are huge.

Buying an Apartment

Another Israeli song says, "Take yourself a wife, and build her a house." But the price of housing in Israel is high and rising faster than salaries. A three bedroom apartment in a low-demand area costs around $200,000. So we ask, "How can a young married couple who were both asked to serve for 2-3 years in the IDF, hope to buy a house when the median monthly wage is 6,000 NIS ($1700)?" Even if both spouses work, they still might not be able to afford to purchase their own home for many years.

And yet we read promises that seem to include economic blessings trickling down to everyone.

"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord, "when the plowman shall overtake the reaper ... The mountains shall drip with sweet wine ... I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them." (Amos 9:13-15)

And so I look above and beyond government housing policy. I look to Yeshua who said, "In My Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2). We have an opportunity to experience a life of blessing. He is the one who brought us back to this beautiful land, and He is the one who will help believers here find places to live that will not be an economic stumbling block for them.

Please join with me in praying that the believers here will be able to buy homes, live a life of faith and honorably make a living for their families.

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