Pastor Dr. Billy Ingram: Values in Practice

Eulogy given by Ari Bussel

We have just heard from the founder and leader of the ICN, General Shimon Erem, a true Hero of Israel. A day will come and you will remember this beautiful Sunday in Inglewood, and the fact you met a legend.

Join me on a journey of the first decade of the 21st Century. We will have four stops. In each, we will meet Pastor Dr. Billy Ingram and learn a lesson that is directly relevant to us today.

We will first visit a Jewish house of prayer, followed by a place of Tolerance. Then we will be at Pastor Billy’s Church and the Los Angeles Cathedral.

First Stop

I remember the first time I met Pastor Billy. It was at a synagogue, where we gathered, Jewish and Christian leaders, for a board meeting of the Israel Christian Nexus. The ICN is an organization created ten years ago by General Shimon to support Israel and our shared Judeo-Christian heritage and values.

General Shimon just celebrated his 90th birthday last Monday. For almost a century he has been a soldier for Israel. For the past thirty years he has forged relations with the Christian community to build on our common foundation, the Bible, strengthen our relations and get to know each other. Interfaith activity starts at the smallest building blocks.

For instance, we read the first five books of the Bible, one portion each week, completing a cycle in one year and immediately starting over again.

There is so much in common, and yet we are simply unaware. A person of faith once told me she does not know Hebrew. I laughed with joy and said, “but you do. ‘Hallelujah’ is a Hebrew word that means ‘Praise The Lord.’”

There was nothing new or extraordinary in the fact that Christian and Jewish leaders were working together. Much of the history of the civil rights movement shows the same. The challenges, struggle, failures, setbacks and successes were all based on people working together toward a common goal. The only separation was between them and those who were filled with ignorance and hatred, between right and wrong, good and evil.

Many paid a very dear individual price, to make the world in which we live a better place. Today, we take it all for granted, as if the world has always been the way we know it now. Our kids do not know our history, and yet there are many here in the audience who can still tell us their stories first hand. We are like a tree that ignores its roots, dismissing them as irrelevant or unnecessary.

There will soon be a generation that will not remember and will not know, and history will be rewritten. History forgotten is bound to repeat itself. Take the time to ask. Take the time to listen. Record. Tell your children. Have them gather around and hear.

Pastor Billy was there. He knew what had to be done.

Second Stop

In the summer of 2006, Israel went to war in Lebanon.

Christian Lebanese who fled from Lebanon live today in the Northern part of Israel. They were not safe in Lebanon any more. They cannot go back to their country, for they will be murdered there. They are foreigners in a land not theirs.

Hezbollah terrorists, backed by Iran and Syria, embed themselves in the middle of residential neighborhoods, using civilians as a live shield.

They train to conquer the northern part of Israel, rape and murder.

They await the go head to unleash on Israel tens of thousands of deadly missiles, including non-conventional warheads.

They will stop at nothing until Israel is destroyed, until the Jewish people are no more.

Very few stood with Israel at her time of need. Israel stood alone, no friends at her side.

A community-wide event was called to support Israel. We all gathered at the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Pico Blvd.

I called Pastor Billy and asked if he would join and say a few words. Pastor Billy replied: “I have to pick up my kids from school, but I will be there.”

As he walked into the garden, where hundreds were seated, all eyes turned. He was tall and handsome, proud and radiating of confidence.

It was a courageous act to be there to show support, because so few did. Pastor Billy showed he was a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people, since friendship is measured at a time of great need.

Pastor Billy was there. He knew what had to be done.

Third Stop

Our next stop is at Pastor Billy’s church.

The fight of evil against good is so fierce that it can be felt. We are constantly bombarded with lies. The devil is very cunning. We hear so many lies designed to confuse and trap us.

Let me start with a few facts.

Israel is a tiny country on the shores of the Mediterranean. Seven million people live between the Jordan River and the sea, a short driving distance. North to south, it is just a few hours drive. The size of Israel is about that of New Jersey. Israel fits 19 times into California.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is composed of 120 elected members. One of them, Shlomo Mollah, was invited by Pastor Billy to tell his story, marching hundreds of miles, bare footed from Ethiopia to Sudan, where he and his friends were airlifted to Israel.

They came from a place that had no running water, electricity or toilets. Today, they are doctors and lawyers, officers in the Israel Defense Forces and Members of the Knesset.

Israel is a county that has absorbed immigrants, close to a million Jewish refugees from Arab lands, another million from the former Soviet Union.

In 1984 some seven thousand Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in Operation Moses, following 5,000 prior to that. In 1991 another 14,000 were brought as part of Operation Solomon.

They have all been assimilated in Israel.

Today, non-Jewish refugees walk hundreds of miles from Africa, at a great risk to their lives, to arrive to Israel. One can see thousands of Sudanese in Tel Aviv.

Those who malign Israel and call it Apartheid lie. It is a very effective weapon in their arsenal. If what you hear makes no sense, ask, inquire, learn, do not believe everything you hear.

Know to separate blood libels from truth. Pastor Billy worked to ensure you know the truth. For this reason, he invited Member of the Knesset Mollah.

Pastor Billy was there. He knew what had to be done.

Fourth Stop

Psalms 150 starts with “Hellelujah. Praise God in His sanctuary. “ Please read it as I recite the text from the Hebrew:

1 Hallelujah.

Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in the firmament of His power.

2 Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His abundant greatness.

3 Praise Him with the blast of the horn; praise Him with the psaltery and harp.

4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and the pipe.

5 Praise Him with the loud-sounding cymbals; praise Him with the clanging cymbals.

6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Hallelujah.

We were seated in the House of the Lord, a group of Jewish people among a sea of Christians. You could easily make us out.

I was looking around and I realized how blessed and privileged we were to have Pastor Billy as a friend, and I know that it is upon us to continue the work, for faith without works is dead.

Pastor Billy knew that, and like General Shimon, he followed his heart. He dedicated his life to building bridges, to setting the path, one stone at a time.

In this final stop, as in the previous ones, Pastor Billy was there, a precious light, an example, a beacon of leadership.

May we be blessed to continue his work and support Israel. If you ask yourself why should you support Israel, the answer is simple.

The enemies of Israel are the enemies of God. Supporting Israel makes you a soldier in the army of God, in the army of Good vs. Evil.

Yesterday we read in the weekly portion (Exodus 29:45-46):

45 And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.

46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

In the additional to the weekly portion, we read:

Samuel I, 15:29:

29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie nor repent; for He is not a man, that He should repent.’

May we live to witness God dwelling in Zion Jerusalem, and may I end with a blessing from Psalms 29, 11:

11 The LORD will give strength unto His people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.