As I’ve talked to many people these past weeks about our little excursion to Israel, I get different reactions. Most are excited for us while others have concerns for our safety. After watching some DVDs my husband purchased about the land of Israel, its history, modern life, anti-semitism, and media fallacies, I began wondering what people actually know and understand about the modern Israel.
Most people know that the modern state of Israel was born in 1948. It is a small plot of land about the size of New Jersey. Newspapers, internet sources and TV are the most common ways to get information about this little country. What most people don’t realize is that there is a lot of fiction mixed in with the facts. Though people living in Israel are always under the ‘threat’ of war, they are a free nation, a democratic state, that has many western ideals even though they are located in the Middle East.
The biggest issue looming over Israel today is their right to the land. The word ‘occupied’ has two faces and one can wonder ‘who is occupying whom’. With every new and past archaeological discovery, the connection of Israel to the land and Jerusalem becomes more obvious and supports Biblical history. So who’s land is it?
Historically, it’s the Jews’ land. There has always been a Jewish presence in the land even after the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70. By the eleventh century, there were Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Tiberias, Rafa, Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa, and Caesarea. Though the Crusaders massacred many Jews, they rebounded and new generations of Jews immigrated to Jerusalem and the Galilee. Their communities continued to grow until the 19th century birth of Zionism. Even today, thousands of Jewish people have geneaological roots to the Land and are known as sabras or ‘natives.’
Practically, it’s the Jews’ land. Modern Israelis have turned a desert environment into a fruitful land. They export more fruits and vegetables than any nation around them. Technologically, their research and development in agriculture, computer science, electronics, genetics, health care, optics, engineering and solar energy is the highest in the world. Because of their precarious place in the middle of those who want to destroy them and arms embargos that do not help them, Israel has become a broad-based indigenous arms industry. Along with fiber optics, robotics, thermal energy night vision technology, they have developed military technology like the Iron Dome System, Uzi submachine gun, the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system and their own aircraft like the Kfir, Arava and Nesher.
For humanitarian reasons, it’s the Jews’ land. Just like every other people in the world, the Jewish people should have a place to live, a land to call home where their traditions and cultures flourish. If they don’t live in Israel, then where in the world can they live? No other country really wants them and no other country claimed that land until they wanted it for their own people.
For security reasons, it’s the Jews’ land. The wars the world faces now are not against one or two sovereign nations, but against terrorists who move from one country to the next. They are nearly invisible and we need all the allies we can get. Israel has fought four wars in which it has never been the aggressor, but the protector of its citizen and land. It is a resilient nation with strong warriors because it has always had to defend its land. More importantly, it is a nation that has experience and expertise in dealing with terrorism and terrorists. They have become and should be considered a roadblock to terrorism in the Middle East and the world.
For Biblical reasons, the lands belongs to the Jews. God gave it to Abraham as an inheritance for his descendants. The land of Israel was distributed to the 12 sons of Jacob. Over 3000 years ago, King David established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The first and second Temples were built in Jerusalem. The first was built by King Solomon (a Jew) and the second by King Herod (born in Judea). Jews constitute the majority population in Jerusalem and their history and culture is documented in every archaeological site in the land of Israel.
There are those who would scoff at the Bible and call the historical accounts myths or try to rewrite history to make the Jewish people ‘foreigners‘ or ‘occupiers’ in their own Promised Land. For the skeptics, let’s review a little modern history.*
The Balfour Declaration of 1917. This was a letter from the England’s Foreign Secretary Balfour to Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community for the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.
“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
There is history as to why Britain supported the Jewish people’s right to a homeland that includes a man named Chaim Weizmann. He invented a product that Great Britain used to help them in World War I. Had they not been able to manufacture this product, they would have lost the war. Chaim Weizmann was not just a scientist, he was also the leader of the modern Zionist movement.
At the end of World War I, the League of Nations (which became the United Nations) created the Mandate for Palestine and entrusted it to Great Britain. Its purpose was to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine – Land of Israel. The mandate called the land west of the Jordan River, Palestine; the land east of the Jordan River, Transjordan. Transjordan remained under British control until 1946. Part of the Golan Heights was given to the French Mandate of Syria.
A national homeland for Jews was strongly opposed by Arab nationalists. Their resentment of a Jewish state turned violent. Jewish transports were attacked, fields and forests burned and unprovoked attacks (terrorism) occurred against the Jewish population. All attempts for open discussion were unsuccessful and caused more division between the Arabs and the Zionist movement. In 1937, the British government recommended a two-state solution. The Jewish leadership accepted the idea of partition and created an agency to work with the British government.
Arabs, not wanting the two-state solution, continued rioting forcing the British to limit all Jewish immigration with “The White Paper”. Unfortunately, this limiting of immigration happened in 1939 and ultimately denied Jews a place of refuge from Nazi persecution. When World War II began, David Ben-Gurion declared ‘war’ on the “White Paper.” Jewish people began ‘illegally immigrating’ war refugees and eventually Holocaust survivors. Between 1945 and 1948, about 85,000 Jews were brought into the Land despite blockades and border patrols. The movie Exodus gives excellent historical examples of these blockades and border patrols and the plight of the Jewish people who had no homeland.
The conflict between the Arab and Jewish communities regarding a two-state solution or any solution was set before the United Nations in April 1947. The United Nations called for the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states in Palestine on November 29, 1947, with Jerusalem to be placed under international administration.
The Jewish Agency and most Jews accepted the proposal; the Arab leadership rejected it. Those Jews who did not accept the solution claimed that dividing their homeland was illegal and invalid. Jerusalem would forever be the capital of Israel and the Land should be restored to Israel.
Arab militants began to violently attack the Jewish communities in order to frustrate the partition resolution and prevent the establishment of a Jewish state. The Jewish defense organizations were able to defeat most of the attacking forces and gained control of the entire area allocated for a Jewish state.
On May 14, 1948 when the British Mandate came to an end, the Jewish provisional government declared the independence of the State of Israel. Civil rights were granted to everyone within its borders whether Arab, Jew, Bedouin or Druze. No matter what your nationality, you became an Israeli citizen.
We will be visiting a young Arab woman in Israel. Her family has generational roots in the Land of Israel. When the British Mandate came to an end, her grandfather was given the option of leaving the country or staying and becoming an Israeli citizen. He chose to stay and become a citizen. Today, this young woman is a full-fledged Israeli citizen living peacefully in an Israeli town along with other Israelis, Jews and Arabs. She has every right that an Israeli citizen does including voting and going to Israeli universities to study. The only thing she is not allowed to do is serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. To say or believe that ‘it can’t work’ between Arabs and Jews is not true, it does work. We look forward to meeting her very, very large family.
Immediately after declaring Israel as a new state, their five neighboring Arab nations attacked. Armies from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Transjordan invaded the newborn state of Israel. Though many countries, like the United States, supported the creation of Israel, they were not willing to help the new nation protect itself from its enemies. The U.S. created an embargo so that Israel would not have the means to defend themselves and, in the process, kill Arabs (or Arabs steal the weapons and kill Jews). When they declared their independence, Israelis didn’t have a single cannon or tank. Its air force consisted of nine obsolete planes. Although the Israeli military at the time had 60,000 trained fighters, only 18,900 were armed for war. The Jews were forced to smuggle weapons and make their own. (The Zion Chronicles by Bode Thoene are an excellent series relating historical events from the end of the Holocaust through this first war for independence.)
The Arabs, however, had no problem obtaining weapons. Transjordan was trained and armed by the British and led by British officers. The Arab war to destroy Israel failed. Because of their unbridled aggression, the Palestinian Arabs ended up with less territory than they started with. If they had just accepted the partition ….
The Arab countries of Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria signed armistice agreements with Israel in 1949. Iraq was the only country who did not sign an agreement and withdrew its troops. These armistice agreements did not create a permanent peace situation in the Middle East and countless blockades and terrorist attacks continued.
In May 1967, Cairo radio announced “The existence of Israel has continued too long. The battle has come in which we shall destroy Israel.” During the next month hostilities rose between Egypt and Israel (and Jordan). Words from the Iraqi leader at that time were no different than what we hear today, “We are resolved, determined, and united to achieve our clear aim of wiping Israel off the map.”
On June 5, 1967, Israel was alone in the Middle East. They decided to attack Egyptian, Jordanian and Iraqi airfields leaving several fighters to protect their airspace. By the end of the first day, nearly the entire Egyptian and Jordanian air forces, and half of Syria’s were destroyed on the ground. The battle moved to the ground where some of the greatest tank battles were fought in the Sinai desert.
King Hussein received a message from Israel’s Prime Minister telling him that they would not attack Jordan unless he initiated hostilities. When Jordanian radar picked up a cluster of planes flying from Egypt to Israel, the Egyptians convinced the Jordanians that the planes were theirs on their way to attack Israel. King Hussein thought he was joining forces with Egypt and ordered the shelling of West Jerusalem. The planes were actually Israeli and were returning from their ground attack on Egypt’s air force.
Within three days, Israel captured Jerusalem from Jordan. The Jewish people returned to their historic capital from the days of King David. At the Western Wall, the Israeli Defense Force’s chaplain blew the shofar to celebrate the event.
Palestinians living in the West Bank fled to Jordan to avoid being caught in the war. Some Palestinians who preferred to live in an Arab state rather than under Israeli military rule also left. Israeli forces ordered a handful of Palestinians to move for ‘strategic and security reasons.’ They were allowed to return at a later date, but resulted in a newer and bigger refugee problem.
Another young woman we know is from Jordan. Her family lived in Palestine – Gaza. Her grandfather was given the option of staying or leaving just like the other young woman’s grandfather. This man chose to leave and move his family to Jordan. This young woman has relatives in Gaza that she has never met. She has no desire to go there and considers herself a Jordanian, not a refugee Palestinian. She has assimilated into the Arab Jordanian culture.
The war of 1967 continued for several more days and became known as “The Six-Day War”. Israeli forces in the north were in a position to take Cairo, Damascus and Amman, Jordan. They did not do this because they had no desire to fight in the Arab capitals. They had captured the Sinai peninsula in the south and the Golan Heights in the north and the Gaza Strip along with the West Bank. They had conquered enough territory to more than triple their size. They were able to unify Jerusalem. They ruled more than 750,000 Palestinians who were hostile to them, nevertheless, many families were reunited and tens of thousands were allowed to return home.
This war did not conclude with a peace agreement with their neighbors. Instead the Arab nations declared three No’s: No peace, no recognition, and no negotiation.” These three No’s continue today if one truly listens to the Arab voice in the ‘Roadmap to Peace’ talks. Israel is always willing to concede land for peace, but it’s never enough for the Arab Palestinians. They want Israel gone, not just some of the land.
The Yom Kippur War of 1973 was followed by continued terrorist attacks and suicide bombers. With international pressure, Israel has conceded more and more land – some that they actually won in wars like the West Bank, Sinai peninsula and the Gaza. No other country in the world would ever return land they gained through war and the loss of life; no other country would offer humanitarian support for ‘enemies‘ within their own borders. Yet this is what Israel does.
Peace agreements and recognition of Israel as a state still remains a problem. If one wants to travel to Israel and then to Egypt or Jordan or Morocco, they must go to the Arab countries first. Most Arab countries will not allow entry into their country if you have an Israeli Visa stamp because they refuse to recognize Israel as state or ‘its right to exist.’ For the Arab students we met last year, if they want a reunion, they must go to Turkey or Armenia. Only the Israeli girl – the one from a democratic nation – can go anywhere and return home.
Twisting of news events and photograph captions happens daily. The media is fearful to print the truth about the Israeli Arab issues because of an Arab reprisal. No one, not even the United States wants another 911. Reporters don’t want to be kidnapped and killed by Arabs who don’t want the truth out. So, they always make Israel look like the bad guy or the Goliath trying to rid itself of little David. The reality is that Israel is the David surrounded by many Goliaths trying to wipe them off the map. And, there is history in what happened to Goliath when little David tried to defend his land.
For those nations that do not recognize Israel’s statehood, they do not believe Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorists who attack innocent, unsuspecting people. The news uses the Arab buzz words ‘Israel’s right to exist’ to turn international opinion against Israel. This is the new anti-semitism. Before Israel became a nation, Jewish people – individuals, families and communities were exterminated from Roman times to the Crusades in the Middle East, the Inquisitions in Spain, the pogroms in Russia, and the Holocaust in Europe because these nations didn’t believe the Jewish people had the ‘right to exist’. With the formation of a homeland for all of the descendants of these people, it is postulated that this little nation of Israel doesn’t have a right to exist. I’ve actually heard comments from one or two world leaders who are happy the Jews are all in one place because it makes it easier to exterminate them all at one time.
So, what does God say about all of this?
A Great Nation Promised to Abraham with Land
Genesis 12:2-3 to Abraham: “I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
Genesis 15:18 “That day the LORD made a covenant with Abram: “I have given this land to your descendants — from the Vadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River….”
Genesis 17:7 “I am establishing my covenant between me and you, along with your descendants after you, generation after generation, as an everlasting covenant, to be God for you and for your descendants after you.”
Israel is to Remember the Covenant
Genesis 13:14-17 You descendants of Isra’el his servant, you offspring of Jacob, his chosen ones: he is YHVH our God, His judgments are everywhere on earth. Remember his covenant forever, the word he commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham; the oath he swore to Isaac, and established as a law for Jacob, for Isra’el as an everlasting covenant: “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your allotted heritage.”
No Peace Agreements
Exodus 23:31-33 “I will set your boundaries from the Sea of Suf (Red Sea) to the sea of the Philistines and from the desert to the [Euphrates] River, for I will hand the inhabitants of the land over to you, and you will drive them out from before you. You are not to make a covenant with them or with their gods. They are not to live in your land; otherwise they will make you sin against me by ensnaring you to serve their gods.”
Note: The contemporary word “Palestinian” comes from the Biblical word “Philistine.” In the Bible, Gaza is mentioned 19 times and Philistines 246 times. These people were a constant threat to Israel in the Bible with the most famous account being David and Goliath, the Philistine from Gaza.
1 Samuel 17:4 “A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.”
Do Not Give the Land Away
Exekiel 48:14 “They may not sell, exchange or alienate any of this choice land; because it is holy, for YHVH.”
Ezekiel 48:29 “This is the land you are to distribute by lot to the tribes of Isra’el for inheritance, and these are their portions,’ says Adonai Elohim.”
God’s View of the Nations Who Hate His People
Psalm 2 “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles. … The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” … Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction for his wrath can flare up in a moment….”
Just this past Thursday, the United States Secretary of State, John Kerrey, made the demand that Jerusalem become the Arab capital. Thousands of Jews gathered at the Western Wall, the remnant of the Second Temple, and prayed to God that the heart of their own prime minister might come to realize that they cannot give up Jerusalem to anyone. It’s the center of their history and their faith and God told them not to do it. Just like that day in 1967 when they gathered at the Western Wall celebrating their return to their holy city with the shofar, they gathered on Sunday and blew silver trumpets to let the world (the U.S.) know, they will not give up the right to control the city of Jerusalem.
According to the prophets in the Scriptures, the only time Israel will truly be at peace is when the Messiah returns. He will rule and reign from Jerusalem for a millennia and there will be no question then as to who ‘owns’ the Land. He will rule with an ‘iron scepter’ which means that even as the King of Kings, the nations will refuse to submit to his authority. Still, the coming of Messiah Yeshua should be the hope of all people – Jewish and non-Jewish who want peace in this little middle eastern country that has a longer, more resilient history than any other nation in the world.
Though the Jewish people have not yet been corporately redeemed in Yeshua and walk in rebellion to the commands of the Lord, their time is quickly arriving. Though there will someday be a New Jerusalem to replace the Old City, the final ingathering for God’s Chosen People has begun and He is bringing them back to the land He promised them. As the days go on and daily more prophetic events unfold in the Promised Land, always stand with Israel for they are the evidence that God exists and the Bible holds not only historical promises for Israel, but a future as well. Remember: those who curse Israel will be cursed, but those who bless them will be blessed.
*I found that William Koenig’s book Eye to Eye, Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel, gave me the best history lesson I ever had and have included much of it in the historical information above. It was detailed, but simple and easy to understand. William Koenig is the president of “Koenig’s International News”. He lives in Washington, D.C. and is a White House correspondent.
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