You could say I have a God-given love for the Jews and the nation of Israel (Isaiah 62:6-7). That sacred bond has been strengthened over the years by the fact that I’ve been blessed to have lived all over Israel, getting to know its land and people quite well.
Apart from 5 months as a kibbutz volunteer at Ramat Yohanan near Haifa, I’ve also served as a kibbutz volunteer at Sdot Yam on the Mediterranean, next to Caesarea, the site of my first ulpan (intensive Hebrew course), and where Israel’s heroine, Hannah Senesh, was from; Regavim, near Zichron Yaakov, where I continued my Hebrew lessons amid its rolling green hills; Reshafim, near Bet She’an, with Mt. Gilboa practically in our backyard, and Jordan’s mountains in lovely view out front; Adamit, on Lebanon’s border, high up on a mountain, from where on clear days you can see all the way to Haifa’s Mt. Carmel; Shoval, a rose in the Negev desert, just north of Be’er Sheva; Dan, way up in the northernmost part of Israel, in between Syria and Lebanon, next to the majestic snow-covered Mt. Hermon, where I was living when “Operation Desert Storm” blew in; and Ha’On, with its campground and ostrich farm on the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, across from Tiberias; and last but not least, my beloved Jerusalem, next to my favorite spot on earth: the Temple Mount.
It was during my sojourn at Kibbutz Ramat Yohanan, while looking for the home of the widow Simcha Gombo, a Worldwide Church of God member and mother of Michal (who was deaf) – both of whom I had briefly met during the 1980 Church of God celebration of the biblical Festival of Tabernacles in Jerusalem – that I met Ilan Itzhayek on the street and asked directions, as related in Israel Work History (Worldwide Church of God).
Ilan Itzhayek wrote the following full page article in Hebrew that appeared in Hed HaKiryot, a newspaper in Northern Israel, just West of the Sea of Galilee, November 19, 1982. Please note that David Hoover is the name I was born with before I legally changed it to David Ben-Ariel, and forgive the imperfect translation of the Hebrew into English in this attempt to preserve a part of the Church of God history in the Promised Land (and honor Ilan Itzhayek for helping to make it).
The Drug Addict Who Discovered God and the Kibbutz
by Ilan Itzhayek
His name is David Allen Hoover – he’s 22 years old and was born in Toledo, Ohio, USA.
David, and other members of the Church he belongs to arrived in Israel last month as visitors in Jerusalem, but David stayed behind as a volunteer at Kibbutz Ramat Yohanan. He doesn’t mind any of the work they give him to do – whether it’s in the fields, in the factory or in the chicken incubators – he has ideals.
David belongs to a very special Church called the Worldwide Church of God – they call themselves the true Christians and consider the conventional Christians pagan. They believe in the Torah of Moses and observe Sabbath, as well as all the annual holy days mentioned in the Torah. They believe Jesus Christ is the Messenger of God. The Church has 100,000 brethren all over the world. A common belief they have is that they have been chosen by God to join the community of believers. Their leader is Herbert Armstrong, 91, whom they admire and consider that he’s come in the spirit of Elijah.
David talks quite excitedly about his Church. He’s very patient and ready to explain his convictions to you again if you haven’t understood them. His answers are filled with verses from the Bible and the New Testament – verses that he knows by heart. He calls himself “chosen” because in his Church there isn’t those “religious and not religious” – there’s only the chosen. If you don’t agree the Church doesn’t want you – which means that God hasn’t called you.
Scar in the Heart
David hasn’t always been in the Church. He was raised on a farm in Ohio that belongs to his father’s family. His parents were divorced when he was 11 years old. A year later his alcoholic father died at the early age of 36. “All I remember about my father,” David says with a sort of bitter smile, “is that he was drunk and always messing up the house and arguing with my mom. He was always arguing with her. I was really young then so I really didn’t even get to know him. I almost can’t remember how he looks.”
It was a drastic change – his parents divorced, the move from the farm to the city, a new school and then his father’s death that deeply affected him.
Soon, with all of his being, David began to search for a way to help him with his hurt. That’s when someone mentioned to him how you feel “high” when you do drugs. So he began to really look for drugs. He tried to find out who used them and where they hung out. Shortly after trying pills, pot and hash, he began to buy them regularly.
“When I was 15 years old I stopped taking them by the mouth and started snorting them” – quickly adding ‘ “it’s far more potent that way and it affects you more quickly…money to buy drugs with wasn’t a problem for me. It wasn’t hard to get. The man my mom had remarried wasn’t rich, but he definitely wasn’t poor. The allowances I got I used to buy drugs with instead of clothes or other things. My sister and I kept it secret that we were getting high and so our parents kept giving us good allowances.”
It seems like David will never forget a Jethro Tull rock concert that he attended. “I had snorted some drugs, smoked a lot of pot and hash and was drinking beer until I was really high.” He remembers, “I felt really strange. All I remember is being sat down by some friends and the chair began to fall backwards…3 days later I woke up in the intensive care unit of the hospital with a heart monitor attached to me. I was in serious condition and it had been getting worse but the doctors worked hard to save me.” “Later there was a special agreement between me and my parents,” David grins. “I was promised that if I quit taking drugs they’d allow me to let my hair grow long. I promised and I didn’t keep it. My hair grew down to my waist.”
Wanderings and its Moral
A different stage began in David’s life: wandering through different churches. He was in and out of many churches during his search for the true morals and values. He considered the members of traditional Christianity as hypocrites. Those churches had failed to fulfill him.
After failing to find what he was searching for, David came in contact with Hinduism – the Hare Krishnas. He was attracted by its exotic appeal, the incense and vegetarian members of that cult. During a special Krishna festival in Philadelphia, he met a famous leader in their movement who wanted him to become his personal aide and travel all over. David decided not to join because he didn’t want to be separated from his family. “I believed in Hare Krishna,” David says assured, “I loved the religion because it was physically and spiritually attractive and I was devoted to it. I engaged in their ceremonies, singing and dancing, chanting their mantras and going into a group trance. But even though I knew their religion didn’t accept drugs, I still used them, though they were unaware of it. I was around 17 when I began to shoot up drugs.”
After awhile David began to seriously question his involvement with the Krishnas. He feared he had been wrong, had been misled in going to the guru. His amount and use of drugs began to dramatically increase, going to the bars every night of the week, getting high and drunk, began to take its toll on his body. By then it seems he had lost any spiritual strength he had.
“God Help Me”
“I really began to think about God,” he says. “Suddenly I began to think about him seriously and wondered if I had been deceived or enlightened in Krishna. I begged God to lead me into all the truth. I had prayed about it many times and then one of the greatest miracles in my life happened” – he explains while getting down on his knees to show how he had been praying. “All I remember is that I was purposely praying to the God of the Bible and really hoped that somehow He would answer my prayer. Then it was like a hot brand was put upon my forehead. Two words were forcibly impressed upon my mind: “FORSAKE HINDUISM!” Then I actually wondered whether it was my subconscious that gave me those words. I turned to my Bible that was beside me and, unintentionally, opened it up to Psalms 115:4-8 – David’s holding his Bible and reading it out loud: “Their idols are silver and gold; the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; They have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not; They have hands, but they handle not; feet have they, but they walk not; neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like them; so is every one that trusts in them.” “After that I didn’t need any further proof to know that it had truly been from God. That same day I burned all my Hindu books, beads, posters…”.
The drugs caused David’s condition to continually deteriorate. Everyone told him that he was destroying himself. He knew himself that he was going to die, but he wasn’t able to help himself.
“All that horrible time” – David says with a shaky voice – “I really wanted to be free. I didn’t want to be addicted to drugs. But I also felt that there wasn’t anything in this world worth living for. I didn’t have any power but I still tried to get off drugs. I ended up throwing away my needles, hoping to stop, but later I’d turn around and go back and take them out and use them.” Even though his needles had been in the garbage, dirty and broken, he said he still used them up to a dozen times, even though you’re only supposed to use them once! “I was taking the needles in my frustration and would bash them against the wall so that I couldn’t use them, but later I’d attempt to until it hurt me and I was bleeding. That’s when I realized that I was addicted.” David says, thinking out loud: “All I knew was that only GOD could help me, not man!”
David experienced “almost sure death” another time, besides the rock concert, when he was 18, and was in his bedroom mainlining some drugs. His mother was home at the time but was unaware of what was happening to her son. “Suddenly everything seemed strange to me” – David says trying to remember – “the music started sounding really weird…Later I woke up in the hospital and a doctor informed me that I had damaged my liver and that it was a miracle that I still had a brain and could think clearly.”
Goodbye and Good Riddance
“Those were my times of wandering in the wilderness. God delivered me and took me out of Egypt into His light” – David says reflecting on his past. “The inner struggle between good and evil wearied me after awhile. I had been asking God what I was supposed to do. I asked for power because I didn’t have any strength and none of the churches I encountered had the power necessary to deliver me from drugs. At the time I opened up my Bible unintentionally to Isaiah 45. The first verse that caught my eye was verse 2: “I will go before thee and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron…”. That verse succeeded to do for David what he, of himself, had been unable to do for years.
“No more drugs!” David said and that is how he finally managed to be free from drugs. “Now I felt ready to begin to listen to God. Sometimes you have to first live in darkness before you can appreciate the light. I knew I wanted to live God’s ways of life so I said good-riddance to drugs and to my old friends and bad influences – to all of that I said goodbye and good riddance!”
“Drugs are a Lie”
Shortly afterwards, David discovered the Worldwide Church of God through their Plain Truth magazine. The ideas in it seemed so logical to him and not like all the others he had known.
Soon David was one of its excited believers. After a whole year of observing Sabbath and all the holy days of Israel, he was baptized as a brother into the Church.
One of the Worldwide Church of God beliefs is that there will be a politico-military mess that will take place by next year. In their opinion, Germany, and maybe even Italy, will attempt to conquer the world. That attempt will ignite a world war that will take two thirds of the world’s population, but that afterwards there will begin a true peace for planet Earth. The members of the Worldwide Church of God will be among those that survive and they believe that eventually their beliefs will be accepted by all the Earth.
The doctrines of the Church are all biblically based. Besides the above-mentioned prophecy there is another one that states the world leaders will sit in Jerusalem and that Israel will become a “Light to all nations.” The whole world will have one government.
David is writing a book, from his biblical research, about the two prophets who will prepare the way for the days to come. David is also contemplating about writing an autobiography. He already knows what he would call it – Wanderings! He’s convinced that he has a lot of experience to give to others, and he’s very interested in warning those who might consider abusing drugs. “Drugs are a lie” – he says – “and it would be a lot better if people would learn form the experience of others. Today I’m alive, very alive – and I feel I have a lot to live for!”