Picked by a Pickpocket

Red Camera IsraelTurning to my wife as I heard her panicked cry, I saw the sad, sick look on her face. We were standing just outside the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem on a street packed with people and vendors. I watched her frantically checking every pocket obsessively when she said in a deeply despairing voice, “My camera’s gone!”

Instantly, we both thought the same thing—all our pictures of our trip around Israel. Gone. All our pictures with the new friends we had made. Gone. Over 3,000 pictures and videos. Gone.

That is…..until God intervened.

Our first twelve days in Israel were spent with the Joel Rosenberg tour—a truly heart-stirring tour of holy and historically significant sites all around Israel, giving us a new dimension of understanding the Bible we had been reading for years. Plus, an added benefit was being blessed by friendships that formed, especially among our Bus #4 traveling mates! After the tour, we stayed on in the Old City of Jerusalem for another fifteen days to spend more time digesting what we had just experienced. This particular day put us on the street by the Garden Tomb.

My wife Barb, picks up the narrative…

I had been warned it was pickpocket territory. I knew the rules—hold bags close to your body and don’t let anyone get close to you! Still, I became a victim. Nicky and I had just come out of the Garden Tomb, where we had spent hours just sitting, reflecting, and worshiping Jesus and the marvel of His resurrection. As I exited the gift shop, I read the sign warning about the thieves that hang out at the end of the walkway. I took notice and checked to make sure everything was “secure.”

Once we reached that section of the road, I saw that the entire street had turned into a marketplace with canopied stalls selling everything under the sun. People were coming and going, and as we were walking through the packed maze of people, a man selling postcards approached us; I interacted with him a bit, but we finally let him know we were not interested. He refused to accept “No” for an answer as he trailed my steps. I ignored his persistence as I snapped a few shots of a cross on a historically old church that was just behind the vendor stalls.

With one last shot, I returned my camera to my pocket and rushed to catch up to my husband, but my effort to keep moving down the street and away from the postcard guy was suddenly blocked when a van that was trying to squeeze between two other vans blocked the entire road—it was so tight that in order to inch through, all three vans had to fold in their side mirrors. We stood and waited—Nicky, me, and the postcard guy—in that order.  As soon as the van squeezed through, Nicky moved out into the clear, and I quickly scurried up to him in order to get away from the postcard guy. I had a—“I’m-not-safe feeling”—and I wanted to get as much distance between him and me as possible.

It was just a second after that, I reached for my small red camera I had just returned to my pocket moments before. It was gone! Every pocket was completely empty, and the horrible reality that I had just been pickpocketed made its way into my consciousness! My eyes quickly scoured the crowd; I knew it was the postcard guy, but now he was nowhere to be found!

Disbelief, shock, and a total sense of helplessness enveloped me. Nicky and I looked at each other—without words, we knew the hopeless state we were in. Our only recourse was to cry out to the Lord for help, but as I looked around at the sea of people and marketplace busyness, the hopelessness became even more exaggerated……and despairing.  Where do you even start to look?

The thief was long gone. I got blank stares in return when I asked a nearby stall worker if he’d seen the guy that just stole my camera—he knew, but the indifference in his eyes, the shrug of the shoulders and deafening silence indicated he was not about to divulge any helpful information to this outsider tourist. We needed a miracle, and the Lord’s intervention was our ONLY hope.    

For the next few moments, we roamed the market street somewhat aimlessly, all the while praying intensely. My eyes and brain went into search mode like never before, but the more I looked, the more I saw there were an infinite number of places to hide a small red camera.  The search was overwhelming and seemed futile. Nicky suggested we go down the street and turn the corner where the market continued. As we headed in that direction, I was fully aware that the moments were passing and wondered if my steps were fruitless. We kept walking slowing while we searched faces, corners of carts, and crevices. “Lord, this is becoming more impossible with each passing minute; we’re asking for a miracle. Help us find the camera.”

We turned the corner. More stalls. More people. Less hope.

In a hubbub of activity, we walked between more fruit stands, more clothes stands, more toy stands. Then an unexpected event happened. Yes, even after our earnest prayers—an unexpected event.

On my left side, I noticed two men standing under a canopied stall, huddled together and intensely focused. I was drawn in, and then I saw bright RED! My camera!! The man on the right was opening the compartment taking out the SD card that in the next instant was resting on the ball of his hand. I yelled, “Nicky, MY CAMERA!” as I grabbed it and the SD card out of the man’s hands. “THAT’S MY CAMERA; YOU STOLE MY CAMERA!!” I screamed! I now had it in my possession, and Nicky was on his way over (since I yelled loudly enough for the whole world to hear!).

I was a broken record as I repeatedly shouted, “THIS IS MY CAMERA; YOU STOLE MY CAMERA!”  To my surprise, the man I yanked the camera from put up both his hands as he walked toward me and retorted, “I didn’t steal it, honest!” At the same time, thinking the man might come after me and grab the camera and SD card back, Nicky took hold of the man’s elbow to let him know he was not just dealing with a half-crazed woman. Then the man started yelling at Nicky, “You owe me 200 shekels!”

Everything happened so fast, and I can’t tell you how many times at the top of my lungs I yelled, “THIS IS MY CAMERA; YOU STOLE MY CAMERA!” but as we walked away (and to our amazement, they didn’t come after us), my raised voice turned to LOUD PRAISES to Jesus for hearing the cry of our hearts and answering our plea for a miracle.

It was hard for us to believe what had just happened in that last ten to fifteen minutes, but it was true—amid the masses of people and flurry of activity, the Lord so directed our steps to the exact stall, to the exact hands—even down the chain from the actual thief—that were holding my little red camera at the exact moment when the SD card was being removed before it got tossed or wiped clean…………..safely into my hands!

We stood amazed—how grateful and humbled we were that God so intervened to return even a camera to one careless tourist.


“In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles.”    —Psalm 34:6 (NLT) 


Copyright © 2013 by William D. (Nick) Nichols


Interesting Links:

Joel Rosenberg, Geopolitical Analyst, and New York Times bestselling author–   http://www.joelrosenberg.com/

Bethlehem Shepherd Society–   http://www.shepherd-society.org/   George Abdo, Deputy Director


One Comment

  • Caleb says:

    Wow! I’m amazed! Than you guys for sharing this with us!
    Praise Jesus! He’s awesome always and He is ALWAYS listening to our prayers! I always learn so much with you guys! God bless you!!

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