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The Most Influential Jewish Man in Modern Mormon History

John L. Lund - April 13, 2010

Had I not made the decision to travel abroad and to tour with Fun for Less Tours, I would never have met the most interesting man I had ever known, Dr. Joseph Ginat. His friends called him Jose (Yo-see), a nickname for Joseph in Hebrew.

Jose was a very important person in the Israeli Government. Over the years he developed a personal relationship with Presidents Harold B. Lee, Ezra Taft Benson, Spencer W. Kimball, Howard W. Hunter, Gordon B. Hinkley and Thomas S. Monson. He gave personal guided tours of Israel to four of these Prophets. He heard President Harold B. Lee say at the Garden Tomb, "The Holy Ghost bears witness to me that this is the place from which Jesus resurrected." (Ensign, Apr. 1972, p. 6 and Ensign, February 1974, p. 89.)

He was with President Lee again on the ground floor of the Antonio Fortress when President Lee asked a group of loud and boisterous French tourists to be quiet for "you are standing where the Roman soldiers mocked Jesus and placed a thorny crown atop his head."

Jose was a Sabra, or a Jew born in Palestine before the Jewish State of Israel was created on May 14, 1948. A Sabra is the name for what we in America call the "Prickly Pear" fruit on the cactus plant. The fruit is sweet on the inside and very tough on the outside. In order for the State of Israel to be established, it required a durable and determined people. Jose's grandfather, from the Tribe of Levi, came to the lands of Abraham when it was still called Palestine. For Jose's grandfather it was enough to live in the Promised Land for eleven years and to die and to be buried in sacred soil. Three times a day the grandfather had prayed for his children and grandchildren to be able to live in a Jewish nation, that the Holy Temple might be built again in a New Jerusalem that would me once again become the capital of the Jewish people, and that the Messiah would come. Jose told me that from the time of the scattering of the Jews by the Romans in 70 A.D.(C.E.), Jews from around the world have prayed for a return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, for the Holy Temple to be built atop of Mount Moriah, and for the coming of the Messiah.

The State of Israel was a dream and remained the hope of every believing Jewish heart around the world. In 1948 a twelve-year-old Jose Ginat was given a World War I rifle and told to defend the east entry of a small Jewish village north of Tel Aviv. Once again, with a rifle in hand, a thirty-one-year-old Jose would help in the liberation of the city of Jerusalem during the Six Day War in June 1967. He served as an aide-de-camp to the one-eyed General Moshe Dayan. One third of the prayers of his grandfather had now been completed. Even though the State of Israel was created in 1948, the Jewish People did not have access to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. After the Six Day War, Jerusalem was declared the capital city of the State of Israel.

Jose found out from President Ezra Taft Benson that Orson Hyde, a Jewish American and a Mormon, had dedicated the Holy Land for the return of the Jews thirty-seven years before Theodore Hertzl. Most scholars have, and still do, credit Theodore Hertzl as the Father of modern Zionism. Jose also discovered that Orson Hyde had traveled to Europe and spent months going from one synagogue to another in England, France, Germany, and Poland to convince the Jews to return to Jerusalem; this was in 1840. Jose recognized that Orson Hyde was the First Zionist and wanted Orson Hyde to be honored and recognized as such.

It was only due to the hard work and effort of Jose that the Orson Hyde Park exists today on the side of the Mount of Olives. It is also true that the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden located at Netanya College today, north of Tel Aviv, is due to the passionate commitment of Dr. Josef Ginat and the donations of many who have traveled with Fun For Less Tours.

Dr. Josef Ginat, as an instrument in the hands of the Lord, is the reason there is a BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. As an Advisor for Arab Affairs five times to three different Prime Ministers of Israel, Dr. Ginat was able to obtain permission for the land to be leased to the Church through BYU.

The Temple in Jerusalem has not yet been dedicated nor have the prophesies of Zachariah concerning the Messiah standing on the Mount of Olives been fulfilled. Those of us who travel to the Holy Land at this time are "In-Betweeners." We are blessed to be witnesses "in between" the establishment of the Jewish nation and the appearance of Jesus on the Mount of Olives, wherein he will say in answer to the question, "What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet? . . . I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God" (D&C 45:51-52).

You owe it to yourself to experience the Holy Land. You will feel the spirit abundantly when you walk upon the sacred ground where Jesus walked.

--- John L. Lund has taught as adjunct faculty at major universities throughout Washington, Idaho, California and Utah. He is a consultant to both the business world and the private sector as a family counselor. He currently travels with Fun For Less Tours as an educator. Find out more about these tours.

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