A couple of days ago we learned that Dr. George Wood passed away after a battle with cancer.
Some 6,641 miles divide his home in Springfield, Missouri from the city of Jerusalem. When we met for the first time about 13 years ago, he told me about his first visit to the holy city, many decades prior. Despite being a busy leader as the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God – one of the largest Christian denominations in the U.S. – he took time to journey down memory lane and describe to me in detail the young and naïve west side of Jerusalem he encountered.
He recalled how he and his wife, Jewel, were desperately looking for a place to stay in Jerusalem. Although they were young and broke, they had no alternative but to stay in Jerusalem’s flagship of class – the King David Hotel. He laughed at how surreal it was for them to have spent a fortune there.
Those were different days. But Wood, it seemed, didn’t change much. His love and passion for Israel remained as if he was still a 20-something first-time visitor to the land. He loved to talk about his favorite places here and to show off his ever-growing collection of carved olive wood camels he kept bringing back from Israel.
As the former general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Wood made the historic decision to open the Center for Holy Lands Studies. The center was created to help people understand and apply the Bible through its culture, history, land and spirit. Thousands were brought to Israel through the incredible work of the center. Being such an influential leader in the Christian community, this decision by Wood helped move many other ministries and organizations to be more involved with bringing Christians to Israel.
Wood was a true “mensch,” a good guy. There are few higher Jewish compliments one can pay someone than to call them a mensch, though, of course, a true mensch would be too modest to want to be complimented.
A mensch is a person who can be relied on to act with honor and integrity. But the Yiddish term means more than that: It also suggests someone who is kind and considerate. Mensches may be people who have achieved high office, but they are just as likely to be largely unsung heroes or heroines, admired within the small circle who know them well.
We, in Israel, are in debt to this mensch, Dr. George Wood. Through his efforts and determination, more and more Christians have experienced Israel and are forever changed. He has made sure to continue to strengthen the connections of millions of Christians with the State of Israel.
And for that we say, toda. Thank you.
Uri Steinberg is a former Israeli Tourism Commissioner for North America, Israel Ministry of Tourism, and currently serves on the ALL ISRAEL NEWS advisory board.