Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chapter Fourteen


Central Israel
The Fields of Nazir Training Facility
Sunday, November 15
11:00 p.m. Local Time

The group of twelve sat around a single, rustic conference table, watching and listening as Hannah Lira explained the satellite image of Aksum, Ethiopia. The high resolution photo was impressive. Ben could easily see the target objects.
“This picture has much better detail than the one I showed you at my home.” Hannah used a laser pointing device as she spoke. She rotated a red dot around each feature as she described how it fit into the plan. “As you can see, the two main buildings of the compound are moderately guarded. The reason is simple. The newer church is used for daily worship, making entrance into the entire facility somewhat simple. The old Church of Zion of Saint Mary has been converted into an historic site. However, the Mass is celebrated on the front portico of the old sanctuary on the first Sunday of each month.”
She pointed the laser between the two main structures. “This is a thick, rod-iron fence manned by guards twenty-four hours a day. As we zoom in, you can actually see the stationary post for each watchman, as well as his assigned duty path along the perimeter.” As the operator zoomed in on the photo, Ben could see the military caps of the guards. Though no other physical features stood out, the weapons carried by each were clearly seen.
“What type of weapons?” Ben asked.
“Those are standard AK-47, skeleton-stocked, automatic assault weapons,” answered Zev Tolberg. “We also know that all personnel carry either 40 caliber or 9 millimeter semi-automatic hand guns. They are serious about security.”
“Gentlemen, notice the tight stands of trees located at the four corners of the security area,” Hannah continued. “These are more than pretty Junipers. They each hide one 7.62 millimeter PKJ coaxial machine gun at each location. The weapons are Russian-made and deadly. They provide overlapping zones of fire and offer one hundred percent coverage inside the secured area. They also cover all fence lines.”
“They are serious!” Gilad Belfer exclaimed with a low whistle. “I didn’t realize the Ethiopian Government possessed such firepower for the protecting of their churches.”
“This security setup is not from the Ethiopian government,” Ari Goins explained, “nor is it from Tigre Province. What you see is owned and operated by the Church of Zion. The weapons were obtained on the international arms market through various networks of middlemen. And yes, they are serious, deadly serious.”
“This, as you remember, is the objective,” Hannah continued. She highlighted a small copula roughly thirty feet in diameter. “This is the Chapel of the Ark of the covenant. Rather, it is the surface entrance to a chapel situated five stories below ground. It too is heavily guarded. As far as we know, the bottom level can only be reached by a steep, winding stairwell. How you will tackle the logistics of the incursion will be dealt with during your training this week. Suffice to say, this will be no picnic, as the American’s say,” Hannah winked at Ben.
The operator panned the picture out to include a five mile circumference around Aksum. On the northeast extreme of the circle there appeared a long runway stretching from northwest to southeast.
“You are now looking at Aksum Regional Airport, finished in 2007, completely functional and accessible, and rarely used by either military or civilian aircraft. Ethiopia is nearly bankrupt, so only nominal military air activity exists. It is manned by a small contingent of military police. They are poorly armed and extremely unmotivated. We plan to exploit that fact to the fullest.”
Ben was humored by the way such a small woman could speak with such machismo, and do it with extreme confidence. She noticed his smile before he could hide it away.
“And why are you smiling, my good Ben?”
“Nothing, Doctor Lira,” Ben re-adjusted himself in the chair. “I just like the way you talk.” The men laughed, but they too were impressed with Hannah’s leadership style. Ben was reminded of Deborah in the Book of Judges and how God had used her to deliver Israel.
After the chatter died, Hannah looked at Ari and nodded. “Ben has brought up a good point. Some of you may be thinking a woman has no place here, especially a little gal like me. Give them my resume, Ari.”
At that point, Ari Goins was the only man in the room that wasn’t smiling. “Yes ma’am,” he began. “Hannah Lira is not just an expert in archeology. She has served as an agent of both the Shin Bet secret service and the Mos’sad. Don’t let her small stature fool you. Trained in the personal fighting style known as Krav Maga, she could easily snap my neck if I let my guard down,” he raised his eyebrows at Hannah as if letting her know she probably couldn’t. Her eyes brightened at the challenge. “She is fully trained in the use of every known hand gun on the planet, the Negev light machine gun, the 1W1 Jericho sniper rifle, as well as mortars and RPGs. Hannah can kill you with a knife, a piano wire, or a Bible.” Laughter returned as Ari let everyone know that Hannah was not to be feared except by an enemy. Her love for Yeshua went deeper than her loyalty to the defense of Israel. However, in this instance, both love and loyalty were folded into one purpose.

The Road to Haifa
Same Time Local

“That was you?” Ty asked in awe. Attack aircraft and their pilots had always been held in his highest esteem. That esteem was increasing at the moment. “I thought we were going for a swim for sure. What happened?”
Tasha and Blake were engaged in a conversation in the back seat as Moshe traversed the switchbacks leading to the top of Mount Carmel. They were on their way to the borrowed apartment Ty and Blake would be using.
“Your plane was targeted by an enemy missile. The pilot was scissoring and diving in an attempt to dodge the thing. Some very bad people wanted you dead.”
“Why?” Ty asked.
“I’m not sure. The attacking aircraft were Turkish. It’s the first time Turkey has made an aggressive move beyond trying to run our blockade of Gaza, especially knowing we could easily shoot them from the sky in their inferior planes. The more I think about it, none of this can be a coincidence.”
Ty looked at Moshe as the pilot kept his eyes focused on the highway. He couldn’t help the feeling that he’d somehow seen this man before, but he just couldn’t think of where or when.
Moshe noticed the silence and felt the stare. “What’s wrong?”
“Besides being shot at?”
“Well yes,” Moshe grinned. “You seem to be puzzled about something beyond that.”
Ty stared even harder. “Oh, man!”
“What, oh man? What do you mean?” Moshe could feel the tension within his new friend.
“I don’t know. It’s like I’m stuck in some sort of déjà vu and I don’t even know what it’s about.” Ty forced the strange feeling aside and returned to the subject at hand. “You mentioned how strange it was that the Turks attacked us. Wouldn’t they have known the plane was civilian? I guess I’m asking, why us? We’re only here because Pastor Ben has some pretty powerful connections, and everything about it happened quickly.”
“That bothers me as well. I had no knowledge that he had any connections at all, let alone with the higher-ups in Jerusalem. The jet that transported you is from a fleet used only by elite members of the government. By that I mean the prime minister, the president, or the foreign minister.”
“Whoa! What’s going on?”
“I do not know. It was just yesterday that Ben informed Tasha and me of your arrival. That is also when he told us of his departure.”
“Is that strange behavior for him?” Ty asked.
“That, I do not know. I have only known him for a few weeks. But in that short time I have come to understand he is fully committed to whatever Yeshua tells him to do. However, my wife has known him for well over a year, and she says this behavior is out of character.”
“Again, Moshe, this still begs the question. Why us? Why now? Why attack our plane when I’m sure other aircraft could have been targeted?”
Moshe’s lifted his brows and shrugged his shoulders. He kept his suspicions to himself.
Ty saw he was not going to get an answer, so he changed the subject. “Tell me about Pastor Ben and his ministry.”
Moshe instantly lit up. “The man is amazing. I still cannot believe he gave up his life in the United States just to work with the poorest of our people in Haifa. That includes Arabs,” Moshe exclaimed. “He’s Jewish, but that hasn’t kept him from helping the very people who consider Israel an abomination.”
“How did you meet him?”
“Through Tasha. She dragged me to church one Sunday to listen to a special prophecy teaching. At first I thought they were all addle brained, but the more I heard, the more plausible it became. Then, everything they preached began to happen. I was right in the middle of it when my Barak was shot down.”
“Barak? Is that the name of your plane?” Ty had never heard the Israeli designation of the F-16.
“Yes. In English it means lightning. We were ambushed by a pair of Russian MiG 29s. I was able to shoot both bogies, but I was hit by a shoulder-fired missile. My wingman was killed.” Moshe paused as the pain of Levi’s loss began to resurface. A moment passed before he could gather himself. “Pardon me.”
Again, Ty was astonished. He’d watched the immediate aftermath of Russia’s incursion into Israeli airspace from the comfort of his living room. Fox News had been right on top of it all. This pilot had been right there in the fight and the still carried the weight of his loss. Ty had seen this type of reaction many times, almost always when someone was experiencing an acute sense of guilt. “You didn’t get to him in time to save him and you feel guilty about it, don’t you?”
Moshe’s head whipped around. “How do you know? That sounds like something Ben would say.”
“I’ve seen it before. Listen, none of that was your fault. Bad people are doing bad things and good folks get caught in the crossfire. You should let it go. Grieve, but don’t let guilt eat you up.”
“Thanks.” Again Moshe paused before continuing the account. “Anyway, after I was shot down things really got interesting. Before I could be rescued, I discovered a hidden Iranian missile. A nuclear warhead was riding it.”
“Oh man!” Ty exclaimed.
“I had to evade capture and get back across our lines to sound the warning and try to stop the terrorists. But we were too late. I got a shot at the thing, but when I saw the nuclear flash over Haifa, my world came crashing down. I was sure I’d lost Tasha.”
“I bet you were scared to death,” Ty coaxed. He knew the best thing for Moshe’s long-term emotional health was to talk through the trauma. Things had evidently been happening so fast, that opportunity had not presented itself.
“I have never felt fear at that intensity. Not in a dogfight, not on a mission. Never! When I landed my Lightning that night, the only thing I could think of was finding Tasha. In fact, in the process of searching, it was the first real prayer I ever said to Yeshua.”
“Tell me.”
“Well, you can imagine the chaos of a nuclear explosion and how people are rushing to flee the area,” Moshe said.
“Unfortunately, yes.”
Moshe suddenly realized the commonality he had with Tyler Dempsey. They had both been subjected to a nuclear nightmare. They’d both experienced the chaos of fleeing refugees and traffic tie-ups. “That’s right. You know. Well, I got stuck in traffic and had no way to get to Tasha, even if I had known where she was. In my frustration, all I could do was cry out before I lost my mind.”
Ty’s déjà vu ended. He was stunned. He couldn’t help it. “You were stuck in your car in the early morning hours on that Thursday. All you could do was slam your fists on the steering wheel and scream. Am I right?”
Moshe’s mouth nearly fell into his lap. “How did you know?”
“There was a reporter with a camera right beside your vehicle, wasn’t there?” Ty continued, now smiling. “Then you put your forehead on the wheel and prayed, right?”
“Please tell me how you know this,” Moshe demanded.
“Man, we saw it on television right from my mother’s living room,” laughed Ty. “In fact, we felt your pain so much that we stopped what we were doing and prayed right along with you.”
A floodgate opened and tears poured from Moshe’s eyes. Tasha and Blake, now listening from the back seat clasped hands. Yeshua had proven his love again and none of them would ever forget it.

Jimmy Root Jr
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