Moving to Israel as a Christian Zionist
My husband Kurt and I, as Christian Zionists, have constantly gotten that question since we moved to the Jewish state.
We met in 2008 at a pro-Israel event hosted by the church where he was a pastor. At the time, I worked in Israel advocacy and was one of two Christians in an otherwise entirely Jewish office. I had been sent to network with the church that evening, so I suppose you could say it was a success, as we were married two years later.
Growing up, I was always drawn to learning about Judaism and the importance of strong Jewish-Christian relations, to the point of making it my major in college. Learning about Israel was as much a passion of mine as was writing or cooking; it simply drew me in. Kurt was taught by his church to love Israel, but visited for the first time in 2010 and realized, on his own, how truly important it was.
Then came our proverbial “bend in the road,” our life-changing event. It was April 14, 2012, the day we called our boss to say that we were quitting our jobs and moving to Israel. We made the call when we were out taking our dog, Lucy, for a walk. It was an epic, life-changing phone call, so naturally it dropped three times. I sat on the sidewalk, Lucy sat in someone’s yard, and Kurt walked around with his cell phone high in the air. Looking back, I suppose it’s a good thing we’re not superstitious.
Despite our prior knowledge about and affinity for the Jewish state, no one on the Internet had put up a step-by-step guide on how to quit your job, sell your home and move to the Middle East. I know, because I looked. Although, if there were, it would probably suggest having a job or a place to live once you arrived. We didn’t even have someone to pick us up at the airport. After all, we aren’t Jewish.
Leading up to our move, we felt like our lives were being called in a different direction, literally, about 7,000 miles east. The idea of traveling to Israel with no promise of landing on our feet conflicted with my upbringing as a banker’s daughter who valued logic and stability. It did not, however, conflict with our faith. We believed we were being led out of our jobs and our stable lifestyle to something a bit more risky, but substantially more fulfilling.
At the time, it seemed to many that we had foregone any sense of wisdom, but we disagreed. The wisest choice does not always look like the best one. Besides, the worse-case scenario was that we would spend three months in one of our favorite places in the world and would not have to live with the “What if?”
Within one month we had sold our home. In fact, it took us longer to stage it than to sell it. We eased out of our jobs, sold our SUV, boxed up our belongings and somehow convinced my in-laws to keep Lucy, despite the protests of their small lap dog. My husband and I arrived in Tel Aviv on July 27, just a few hours before Shabbat descended. Exhausted and admittedly nervous, we hauled our duffel bags out of the airport and took a sherut (shared taxi) to Jerusalem. I remember sitting in the last seat of the van and looking out the window, watching the landscape go by and desperately hoping that we had made the right decision.
Two weeks later, once we had settled into a place to stay, we began visiting various organizations. Perhaps, if we pushed on doors, then the right one would open. We were determined, however, not be another Zionist couple on a mission to the “Holy Land” with a twinkle in their eyes and a Bible under their arms. In fact, we happen to firmly believe that more Christians should understand modern Judaism. Not just because “God blesses those that bless Israel,” but instead because as logical, educated individuals, my husband and I stand with Israel.
We believe in Israel and the Jewish people. We began attending a local congregation and suddenly felt as though we had known this community all our lives. Here were people who loved Israel, who sold their homes and left their stable salaries to work, volunteer or simply visit the country we loved so much. They too felt honored to be amongst a chosen people and dared to pursue a life they loved. As it turned out, in a few months my husband was offered a position at our (now local) congregation.
We would not (do not) make a salary, but rely fully on the monetary support of individuals who similarly love Israel and the Jewish people, and understand our desire to live in the Jewish state. Our Israeli friends seem amazed that others would support us to live here. It’s an honor we don’t take lightly to show them that Zionism still exists, and not only among the Jews.
Convictions and faith aside, we simply believe in living life to the fullest and allowing God to direct our steps. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway,” so we did. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Maggy Vetterling grew up in New England and moved to Colorado when she and her husband, Kurt, were married in 2010. She is the writer and editor for their congregation in Jerusalem, and also chronicles their new life in Israel on her blog Living Tall.