The Great Divide

Posted on June 30, 2017

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This is fictional story describes the kind of struggle Jewish people who come to Christ may experience.

NOTE: This story is equal to 14+ double-spaced pages in a Word document. I have attached the Word document if you would like to download it and read it more comfortably. The file, directly below, is called, “the great divide.”

the great divide

By David Ettinger

As the two fished on the tranquil waters of the Sea of Galilee, it mattered little that they hadn’t made a catch in two hours. All that mattered to Eliezer and Benjamin were the glorious words of Isaiah the prophet as they flowed from the mouths of grandfather and grandson.

“For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem,” the elderly Eliezer would recite. “For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.”

At the first pause, the effervescent youth, Benjamin, broke the silence by continuing: “And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers.”

On they went. Eliezer’s impassioned orations seemed to stir the sea beneath them as the high-pitched utterances of Benjamin’s 10-year-old voice tried to emulate his grandfather’s power. Eliezer continued, well aware he was at the very center of not only his beloved grandson’s attention, but also his heart and very life.

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”

They traded off a few more verses until Eliezer had reached the end of their ritual.

“Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord binds up the bruise of His people and heals the stroke of their wound.”

As the tears streamed down the hardened soldier’s granite face, Benjamin wept with him. He didn’t know why he wept, only that something very powerful had happened to cause his grandfather to be so moved. For Eliezer, however, Isaiah 30:19-26 held such passion, such promise, such joy, that words alone could not explain his feelings to the youth.

“Ah, Benjie, how can I make you understand? How can I make you … feel?”

“Feel what, Grandfather?”

“That …” he paused, struggling to find the right words, “that Messiah is coming … to redeem … to bring back …”

He reached across, almost burying his grandson’s inquisitive face in his huge hand as he gently patted is cheek. “Oh, Benjie, our God has not forgotten His people; no, He will never forsake us.”

How crucial it was that Eliezer not feel forsaken. Even as a youth in Nazi-oppressed Germany, Eliezer had known only death, loneliness, and the cold, heart-crushing agony of being  abandoned, even if not by choice, by anyone who ever spoke a loving word to him; by anyone who ever kissed his forehead to calm his fears; by anyone who ever wrapped a reassuring arm across his shoulders. Where once love and companionship filled his life, emptiness took up residence. Thus, Eliezer clung to the precious promise of the prophet Isaiah.

However, life was not always the nightmare it had become. There was a time when his German homeland was a desirable place to live, even for a Jew. As a youth, Eliezer spent countless hours studying the Scriptures with his father, and Orthodox rabbi, in Munich. The impressionable youth marveled at the tales of creation, floods, and heroic feats, and learned never to be quick to comment on them until first examining what Jewish scholars of past centuries had to say.

Suddenly, Eliezer’s education came to a screeching halt. As the 1920s gave way to the ’30s, an up-and-coming politician, a former struggling artist, began to capture the fancy of morale-bankrupt Germans. It was not long after that Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich inaugurated its barbaric reign, seeking to wipe out, among other things, the Jewish race. Abruptly, Eliezer’s life became a struggle for survival in the midst of unaccounted for disappearances and deaths.

Eliezer continued his studies until one day he came upon that wonderful passage in Isaiah Chapter 30. Something about the words, about the promises, seemed to stand out as the sweetest of all hopes and dreams in the widening madness of the Nazi regime. In the midst of the destruction around him, the teen set out to memorize verses 19-26. He spent most of that day in a back alley doing so. When he returned home, his family was gone. Forever.

Ever since, Eliezer knew that one wrong word, one flawed step, one misguided thought could be his last. And yet, he managed to outlast the Second World War, slipping through the death-grip of the murderous Nazi regime. When the war ended, he was still alive, comforted all those horrid years by Isaiah 30:19-26.

It did not take much to persuade Eliezer to leave Europe for Palestine. The door for immigration to the Holy Land was open, and Eliezer walked through. On the boat to Israel, Eliezer met Rivkah, also the lone survivor of a Jewish family. Deciding that each deserved better than they had received, they married almost immediately upon settling in the land. It was not long before Israel’s War of Independence began, and Eliezer found himself fighting for his life once more. Eliezer became a soldier of honorable standing and performed admirably in the wars of 1948, ’56, ’67, and ’73. Between wars, Eliezer and Rivkah, managed to put together a life. First came an apartment, then a house, then a small savings account. Then, finally, a child.

When Shlomo, their only child, was born, the picture seemed complete. However, Shlomo grew up wild and uncontrollable, marrying an Arab girl against Eliezer’s and Rivkah’s wishes. The marriage was a disaster, though it did produce a son. Shlomo’s wife returned to her family, leaving husband and child behind. Because Shlomo had little time to raise a child, the boy spent most of his days with his grandparents. When the proud, glory-seeking Shlomo, firmly believing in his own immortality, foolishly set out on a one-man tank attack against a group of Egyptian soldiers in the ’73 campaign, he was killed by a barrage of shells and bullets. Shlomo’s son, Benjamin, now became a son to Eliezer and Rivkah. When Rivkah succumbed to cancer a few years later, Eliezer found himself alone, trying to raise a 12-year-old. Over the years, Benjamin would be the source of Eliezer’s greatest joy – and also his greatest sorrow.

Now 30 years old, Benjamin had not seen his grandfather in seven years. Despite the deep feeling of separation which enveloped him, Benjamin also felt the greatest sense of gratitude to his wonderful God who had miraculously transformed him, for where the years were so cruel to Eliezer, they were so blessed for Benjamin.

Encouraged and nurtured by his grandfather, Benjamin put to wonderful use his natural brilliance. As he grew, he excelled in school, leaving fellow-students far behind him in aptitude and intelligence. In college, he was the star of the engineering department at Hebrew University, and it was not long before a major California college offered him a full scholarship to graduate school. Ah, the U.S! Benjamin mused. With all due respect to his homeland of Israel, the States – and especially California – was to him the “Promised Land.”

And it was to California where Benjamin flew, landed, took a bus to his dorm, registered, and sat down to his first class and met Ann, who was intrigued by his Israeli accent. She struck up a conversation with him, and Benjamin, looking for American friendship, accepted hers readily. At first, they merely chatted before and after class. Soon, they were attending football games and movies together.

Then, one day, much to Benjamin’s astonishment, Ann said, “You’re so fortunate to be Jewish.” Benjamin was stunned. Fortunate? Jewish? Being an Israeli, Benjamin was zealous about his nation and his people, but he also knew that he and his compatriots were objects of worldwide scorn. He felt pride in his Jewishness, but clearly did not feel fortunate. How could she be so naïve? He wondered. But Ann soon proved to be the opposite. It became clear to Benjamin that Ann possessed an inner peace and satisfaction that his Jewish zeal and upbringing had never produced. He suspected she was a Christian, and time proved him right.

In conversation, she never used the name “Jesus,” but always referred to her Lord by His Hebrew name, “Yeshua.” Though Ann was the kind of girl he was taught to avoid at all costs, he was deeply attracted to her. Not only did she love her Lord deeply, but she loved the Jewish people with a righteous love. This love was commanded of all people, as she proved to him from his own book, the Torah. He was astonished by this Gentile girl’s love and faith, as his own pride began to crumble. Falling in love with Ann, in defiance of his upbringing, did not crush his ego; what did, however, was the realization that his own brilliance could resolve nothing in a world he came to realize was perishing in sin. With his final defenses in ruins, Benjamin, overcome by his sense of unworthiness in light of a holy God, gave his heart to Ann and his life to Yeshua, the One he had been taught so long to scorn.

During the next seven years, the Lord blessed Benjamin abundantly. Upon graduation, he and Ann married, and he found a well-paying job and a home. Soon after, a son, Josh, was born. Benjamin was making great strides spiritually, sharing the Gospel with unsaved acquaintances and being active in his Bible-believing church.

But there was Eliezer. Whenever Benjamin thought of him, he would find himself waging an all-out battle with his emotions to control the sorrow he felt so strongly. Eliezer’s rejection of his grandson, due to his conversion, left Benjamin conflicted. Peace became harder to find for Benjamin. No matter what rationale – always biblically correct – Benjamin used to defend his conversion, he thought that somehow he could have lessened the impact it had on Eliezer.

After all, Eliezer was the towering figure of Benjamin’s life. As a boy, Benjamin loved to hear the stories of heroism and intrigue that were so much the substance of Eliezer’s existence. Night after night, the boy would go to sleep later and later as the pleas of “Please, Grandfather, just one more story,” would be granted. “So, what’s an extra story?” Eliezer would reason, “There’s plenty of time tomorrow for a boy to sleep.”

As Benjamin grew, the two spent more time together. By the age of 12, Benjamin knew Isaiah 30:19-26 inside out, sharing the same zeal for the marvelous passage which his grandfather possessed. Wherever they went, whatever they did, they would review the passage, sometimes saying it one after the other, sometimes taking turns saying one verse at a time, or sometimes saying it together.

Of course, the admiration was not one-sided. In Benjamin, Eliezer saw the potential of youth which had been snatched away from him. In Benjamin, he saw a new era for Judaism, an age of resurrection amid an uncaring and uninformed world, a world which allowed 6 million of his brothers and sisters to perish. And in Benjamin, Eliezer saw a boy who simply loved his grandfather for exactly what he was.

As a toddler, Benjamin saw in Eliezer a great war hero, big and strong, a man who had saved the lives of others; a man Benjamin could brag about to his school chums. As a boy, then as a teen, Benjamin – an intellect – saw in Eliezer a man of action. As he entered his 20s, Benjamin saw in Eliezer a man of passion, a man with a dream, a man of vision. And in Eliezer, Benjamin saw a man who simply loved his grandson with an unconditional love.

In Benjamin’s personal study of the Torah, he became fond of the story of Joseph, who was torn from his father. As a shield, he adapted a verse of his own. In Genesis 46:4, Benjamin derived comfort by imagining himself as a Joseph, at long last being reconciled to his aged father Jacob: “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.”

If it can happen to Joseph, it can happen to me, Benjamin thought.

 “You’re never to set eyes on me again, nor I on you!” Eliezer raged at his grandson. “You’re dead! Dead! Do you understand me?”

As his days began to dwindle, that one moment had become more real, more painful, more ingrained into his being than any he had ever experienced. Benjamin – a Christian! This he neither could, nor would, accept. For Eliezer, it was Christianity that caused the centuries of heartache suffered by his people. For Eliezer, it was Christianity that caused the death of his loved ones. For Eliezer, if it was not Jewish, it was Christian. Eliezer did not hate Christians; on the contrary, he got on quite well with his non-Jewish friends. After all, he thought, it was not their fault they were not born Jewish. However, Jewish was Jewish and Christian was Christian, and never were the two to become one. Nor did he think it was possible for them to become one.

Back when Benjamin left for the States, Eliezer’s heart sank. His faithful grandson, however, never forgot his beloved mentor. Benjamin wrote once a week without fail and his letters become Eliezer’s greatest source of joy. Every fifth or sixth day, Eliezer would eagerly await the postman’s arrival. And whenever a letter from the States arrived, Eliezer excitedly would tear into its contents. Then, on one hazy, humid August day, Eliezer’s joy was once again peaked by Benjamin’s latest letter. He quickly read the familiar lines as he made his way upstairs to his second-floor apartment. “Dear Grandfather,” the letter started.

Eliezer froze as he read, then slowly sat down on the stairs, shocked at what he was reading. Though he had long ago burned the letter, almost in effigy of his grandson, he still remembered snatches here, pieces there, of what he considered his grandson’s funeral dirge: “I know you won’t understand …. There’s something you must know … fulfillment of the prophets, especially Isaiah … Yeshua … I love you ….”

For days after the letter arrived, Eliezer considered his emotions: bitterness, rage, hatred, anger, confusion, betrayal, deceit. With all of them blazing in full force, he phoned his grandson. Again, he could not remember the details, but he did recall remnants of the fiery exchange. “How could you …?” “Do you realize what you’ve done?” “Do you want to murder Jews also?” “You’ve turned your back on your heritage.” “You’ve sent me to my grave.” And finally, the proclamation that Benjamin was as good as dead.

From then on, once a year, Eliezer would light the traditional memorial (Yahrzeit) candles for the dead; one for Rivkah, one for Shlomo, and one for his grandson Benjamin.

In the U.S, Ann knew that Benjamin would never feel totally at peace with himself until he returned to see his grandfather. She had spent nights listening to Benjamin’s tales about him. He told her about Eliezer’s escape from the Nazis, his war stories, and how he, Benjamin, was the apple of this great man’s eye. She was frequently awakened by her husband’s fervent prayers – a combination of supplication and tears – often made when Benjamin thought Ann was well asleep. She witnessed over and over Benjamin’s futile attempts to reach Eliezer by phone. She was often the one who had to tell him “no” to his daily inquiries regarding letters from Israel. She watched as he attempted to smile, covering the deeply-felt pain. Ann wanted so much to be able to comfort her husband.

As simple things – walking, breathing, seeing – became more difficult for the aging Eliezer, he felt certain that he would never see the fulfillment of Isaiah 30:19-26. He was also sure that, unless he acted quickly, he would never see Benjamin again.

Despite the “death sentence” he had pronounced on Benjamin, Eliezer could never live as though Benjamin were actually dead, nor stand behind his bold proclamation. Every time he thought he could escape the shadow of his grandson, another letter from the States would arrive. At first, Eliezer tore them up and tossed them in the garbage. However, he would soon be scavenging for the pieces like a vagrant rummaging through a trash bin. He then began to simply place the letters in a drawer, hoping he could forget them. When enough had accumulated, he could hold out no longer. He read every one, from beginning to end. Never once did Benjamin try to lecture his grandfather. Instead, Eliezer learned of Benjamin’s straight A’s in graduate school, his excellent job, and of his Gentile wife. Eliezer could not understand how a Gentile could have such a heart for Jewish people. “But Ann does,” Benjamin wrote, and Eliezer was fascinated. Then there was Josh – “very much like me, and even more like you, Grandfather.”

As the letters mounted and his days grew shorter, Eliezer decided that seven years were enough. One unforgettable night, Eliezer, seeking guidance, struggled to his knees, closed his eyes, and for the first time in his 73 years, prayed.

Praying was never a problem for Benjamin, but too often he failed to follow his prayer with action. Ann found herself at the point of pleading. “Enough praying,” she urged. “Just go to him.” But there was always an excuse: “He won’t talk to me.” “He’ll throw me out.” Benjamin had them down pat. But more than anything, he could not bear to be rejected again.

Ann’s arguments had expired, but not her determination. As Benjamin prayed for his grandfather one quiet night, Ann entered behind him, waited for a pause and tenderly recited one of Benjamin’s favorite verses: “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.”

Sitting on an Israeli-bound plane, Benjamin thought he knew exactly how Joseph must have felt 3,500 years ago when at last he saw his father after a 20-year separation.

Benjamin had experienced the gamut of emotions during his lifetime, but never had this many of them welled up within him at one time. Being back in Israel made him feel as though he never left; yet he felt awkward. Traveling by bus to his village gave him a great sense of familiarity; yet he felt like a stranger. He recalled his 23 years in the neighborhood where he grew up; yet it all seemed as if those memories were from another lifetime. As he climbed the steps to the apartment, he remembered how many times as a child he had dashed up those same stairs – two at a time – into Eliezer’s warm embrace. And now he was to talk to, and actually see, his grandfather again.

He had come this far, and now doubt was besieging him. Benjamin paused before the dark wooden door which looked so large and threatening. He was too nervous to pray as he lifted his trembling hand to knock, but couldn’t. He quickly withdrew his clenched hand and slumped on the railing. He breathed deeply and loudly. Finally, he mustered his strength and tried again. His knock was firm and loud, his actions swift, but almost something apart from his own will. It was as if he were watching a movie of someone else.

Silence. The possibility of Eliezer simply being out when he arrived did not fit into the script. Yet, he was relieved. It would give him time to regroup and come back refreshed and renewed. He also knew, however, that if he turned back now, he would only experience the same draining torment when he would return and hour or two later.

He knocked again, and waited.

And waited. And …

“Yes. Come in. It’s unlocked, Max,” Eliezer said weakly from his bed.

Benjamin recognized the voice at once. How could he forget? It was weaker, but distinctly Eliezer’s. Benjamin felt like fleeing; he might have if Eliezer had not spoken again.

“Max, is that you?” he asked, thinking it was his next-door neighbor. “Since when do you wait for me to open the door for you?”

Benjamin knew that if he didn’t go through that door now, he never would. He whirled, flung the door open, and nearly fell in. How his heart almost burst at the sight of the place he where he grew up. He looked around, absorbing it all. Then, suddenly, encouragingly, there was hope! Over the rustic mantel, where Eliezer kept the ancient photos and portraits of his past, hung a family portrait of Ann, Josh, and himself that he had previously sent to Eliezer.

“Max, what’s all the mystery?” Eliezer called. “Have you forgotten how to speak?”

Benjamin cautiously made his way down the corridor to his grandfather’s room. Lining the walls were pieces of Eliezer’s life since he came to Israel: the wedding picture of him and Rivkah, snapshots of Shlomo at various ages, the decorations and medals Eliezer won in military service. And there was Benjamin: There he was, as a toddler, making a mess of his meal; as a child, head buried in a book; as a 10-year old, showing off on his bike; as a teenager, spinning a basketball on his index finger; as a 21-year-old with his grandfather, arms around each other’s shoulders as they dangled fish from fishing poles in their hands.

“Max, come and keep me company. I’m not feeling well today.”

As Benjamin slowly entered his grandfather’s room, he began to weep. The previous seven years had taken their toll on the once barrel-chested champion of Benjamin’s youth. What he saw was a frail, aged, and deteriorating old man. He was too weak to turn, his eyes too feeble to see beyond a few feet. The head of the bed was against the wall on the same side of the room as the door, hindering his view of Benjamin as he entered.

“I’m tired, Max, but not too tired for some company.”

Benjamin could no longer be silent.

“Grandfather. It’s me, Benjie.”

Eliezer lay so motionless, so silent, that Benjamin actually thought his presence had shocked his grandfather to death.

“I’ve come back to you,” he said, drawing nearer until at last he was directly at his grandfather’s side.

“Do you recognize me? Do you see me, Grandfather?”

“Benjie.”

“Yes …,” he trailed off, not knowing whether he should embrace the ailing man, take his hand, or just remain silent so his grandfather could take it all in.

“Benjie … how could you? I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again.”

At this, he took Eliezer’s hand.

“I’ve always wanted to come back ….”

“Your wife, Ann ….”

“She’s good.”

“A Gentile?”

“You know that.”

“And the little one ….”

“Josh ….”

“… Gentile too?”

“Grandfather, none of this matters. Only that they love God, and me – and you.”

“They don’t even know me.”

“They do. I’ve told them all about you – many times.”

“Anything bad?”

“Of course not. What is there bad to tell?”

At this they laughed cautiously, but it was only a brief respite from the issue, the questions that needed answering.

“Benjie, you broke my heart.”

“No, Grandfather, you broke it.”

“But this … this … Yeshua! This Jesus” he said, slowly gaining strength.

“He’s real and alive and just as much for you as He is for me.”

“But … all the tragedy and persecution our people have been through because of the Christians.”

“No, not the true Christians; you know that.”

“Benjie, I’m sick, I’m old, and I’m alone. I don’t know what I know anymore.”

“Then let me tell you.”

And so he did – for hours. Remarkably, Eliezer listened, quietly, transfixed at the words Benjamin had practiced and rehearsed for seven years. He told his grandfather about his first days in America, meeting Ann, the courtship, and his salvation. He shared from the Old Testament, as Ann had done with him years before – Psalm 22; Isaiah 7, 9, and 53; and Jeremiah 31 – and showed him how they all pointed to Yeshua – Jesus. He then read from the Book of Matthew. How utterly amazed Eliezer was at the Jewishness of it. He read Romans 9, 10, and 11 and passages from Galatians and Hebrews. Eliezer soaked up every word until Benjamin could no longer go on.

“Oh, Grandfather, what more can I say to you? Can’t you see that you had no reason to survive everything you’ve been through had not God had some special purpose for you? Don’t you know that everything in your life, your family’s death – Grandmother’s, Dad’s – has all brought you to this moment?”

Eliezer could neither hold back the tears nor deny the truth of Benjamin’s words.

“Please, Grandfather, I know you believe it.”

Eliezer, unable to speak, nodded affirmatively.

“Then, please, say these words with me.”

As darkness fell on a hazy August Israeli night, Eliezer invited Israel’s long-promised Messiah and the world’s Savior into his heart. When they were through, Eliezer smiled at his grandson.

“So, Isaiah … it’s all true.”

“Yes, Grandfather.”

Eliezer gained strength one final time as his almost-forgotten passage came back to him for one triumphant finale.

“For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem ….”

Benjamin joined in as they recited together.

“You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.”

As they continued, Benjamin realized that he was reciting alone. He gazed down at his grandfather, whose eyes were wide open, almost looking up toward Heaven. As Benjamin’s tears fell onto Eliezer’s lifeless face, he knew that one day he would be eternally united with him. With an everlasting prayer of gratitude to his Savior, Benjamin slowly reached out his hand and tenderly closed his grandfather’s eyes.