After nine years in Israel

“Discovering Jesus in His Jewish Context” course on the Sea of Galilee in May 2023. Photo: Sanna Erelä.

Moi! (Moi means hello in Finnish.) My name is Sanna. I am originally from Finland and have been living in Israel altogether for almost 9 years. I have been working as a Project Coordinator for international projects at the Caspari Center, and now the time has come for me to return home.

I am going to miss many things, for example the Israeli weather which may sometimes be a bit challenging but is never depressing, unlike the Finnish November rain that can last for weeks in a row. I am going to miss tasty Israeli food, the colorful lively history that can be seen everywhere, and all the different cultures and subcultures mingling in the same pot. When I am in the cold, remote North, on the edge of the earth, I will remember the vibes of my life residing in the center of the world. I will think back to Israel and its atmosphere, a unique combination of world-class intellectual accomplishments and, when seen through the eyes of a Finn, complete craziness!

Half of my heart will stay in Israel, and will probably never leave. It reminds me a bit of experiencing frustrating children in a family: they annoy you, they make you pull out your hair, and yet, they are the ones that make their way deepest into your heart, you just have to love them. I feel that I both love and dislike Israel at the same time. But in the end, love always wins.

Most of all, I will miss my wonderful colleagues, both current and previous ones, who have shared this journey with me. Thank you, dear friends! You and the meaningful ministry of the Caspari Center have been the reasons for me to continue here for so many years.

Wandering throughout the land of Scripture has permanently changed the biblical images in my mind. I can sense the soft wind over the Sea of Galilee or hear the trees humming in the evening breeze on the Mount of Olives. Here the Bible feels so real. For example, the message of Christmas or Easter is almost tangible, where everything happened in the radius of less than 10 kilometers. In Finland, the spiritual atmosphere sometimes feels quite flat and grey, to put it bluntly. In Israel, light and darkness ram into each other and nothing is grey. There can be a lot of religious tensions in Jerusalem, but one hardly finds that indifferent, lukewarm attitude that is, according to my experience, characteristic for much of Post-Christian Europe.

Serving in a study center has not only illustrated my Bible but has taught me a lot theologically. In fact, a completely new world has opened up before my eyes and that world will not leave me alone even after I have settled in Finland again. I hope I will have opportunities to share some of what I have discovered in my home country also.

These years have been a wonderful learning curve on so many different levels! I have learned many things about myself and others. Life here in Israel hasn’t always been easy. Some thoughts and plans that I had when I first arrived have proved to be rosy dreams and the reality-check that came later has sometimes been painful. At times, I have gotten disappointed at myself and occasionally also at other people. However, during this journey I learned that the ways of God go so much higher than our ways! Most of the time we do not fully understand them. But at the same time, He doesn’t regret or cancel His calling, not with Israel and also not with me either. He is faithful and keeps His promises. The wonderful things that are foretold in the Bible, will come to happen. The detailed care that He shows to me amazes me over and over again!

I thank God from the bottom of my heart for having had this privilege to be a small piece in His great Kingdom puzzle here in Israel! Through trusting in Him, I feel ready to move on now to the next challenges.