Israel: Thirty Years In Celebration And Crisis
On May 14, 1948 Israel declared her independence as a sovereign nation. The next day six Arab nations struck against Israel with only one motive, “to push her into the sea.” Israel was outnumbered – a hundred-to-one in population, forty-to-one in soldiers, and a thousand-to-one in equipment – but she miraculously defeated the attacking nations.
In 1967 the Arabs again struck against Israel. On this occasion one of the shortest wars in history was fought, known as the Six-Day War. When the dust of that war had settled, the world was astonished to find that Israel had destroyed and routed the Arab armies.
Again on October 6, 1973, while the Jewish people were in their synagogues praying on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the Arabs struck in a surprise attack. The struggle was intense, as the world watched to see what would happen to tiny Israel. She survived!
For thirty years Israel has lived in fear of destruction by the 137 million Arabs who surround her on three sides. Four times since her statehood (1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973), little David took on the giant Goliath, and four times she miraculously won. Israel’s survival is the miracle of the twentieth century!
This land and people have been uniquely positioned in the history of mankind. In establishing the nation, Moses said of Israel, “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel” (Deut. 32:8).
It is in the land of Israel that God has chosen to put His name and people. Nehemiah said, “. . . though there were of you cast out into the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from there, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name” (Neh. 1:9).
After nineteen centuries of being dispossessed of their land, God has kept His promise to reestablish the Jewish people in Israel. But today another voice raises a loud cry in the Middle East. The Palestinian Arabs cry out, “We too can trace our heritage back to Abraham. Give us back the land of our fathers!” The Arabs have continually maintained that they, not Israel, have right to the land. Is this true? Do the Israelis possess the land illegally? Who owns the land of Israel?
Conflict In Israel
The question of Israel’s ownership has been discussed, debated and fought over for almost 3,500 years. Even if both Arab and Israeli were willing to negotiate, the conflict in the Middle East will not be settled until the Messiah returns to establish His kingdom in Jerusalem. But until then, who rightfully owns the land?
According to the Bible, God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants:
Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan . . . And the Lord said unto Abram, . . . Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward. For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever (Gen. 13:12, 14-15).
The land was promised to Abraham and his seed as an “everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:8).
Someone will say, “Yes, but Ishmael, the father of the Arabs, is also the seed of Abraham and his descendants can claim the same right to the land as do the Jewish people.”
True, the Arabs are from the seed of Abraham, but God never included them in the land promise. In the “everlasting covenant” which God made with Abraham, it is specifically stated that his son Isaac, not Ishmael, has sole right to the land of Canaan:
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant . . . and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a sojourner, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession (Gen. 17:7-8).
And God said, Sarah, thy wife, shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him (Gen. 17:19).
Biblically, Isaac the Jew, not Ishmael the Arab, has right to the land.
Some may counter, “True, Israel had the land in biblical times, but today the Arabs have a right to the land. The Israelis had no right to take the land away from the Palestinians.”
From 70 A.D. to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Palestine was occupied by no less than fourteen conquerors over a period of thirteen centuries. History clearly shows that the Palestinian Arabs never possessed the land as a sovereign nation.
How did the Israelis obtain the land? Most of the land they acquired was purchased from absentee landlords living in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. The Jewish people paid inflated prices for rocky land, barren hills, sand-blown valleys, malaria-infested swamps – territory regarded as uncultivatable. In 1944 Jewish people paid between $1,000 and $1,100 per acre for land in Palestine; in the same year, rich black soil in the state of Iowa was selling for about $100 per acre (U.S. Department of Agriculture).
British statistics show that 8.6% of the land was owned by Jews, 3.3% by Israeli Arabs, 16.9% by Arabs who fled the land, and 70% was state domain which had passed to the British Mandate from the Ottoman Empire. Automatically, the 70% of state domain passed to Israel when she became a state.
The Jewish people are not responsible for the displacement of the Palestinians from 1948 to 1967. The Palestinians fled the land in droves for a number of reasons. The wealthy fled when they heard that war was near. Others, fearful for their lives, fled when war broke out in their communities. Many Palestinians fled when the Arab army chased them out. This can all be documented through Arab writings. Aba Magen, writing in Falastine el Thawra (official journal of the PLO), states:
The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinian from the Zionist tyranny but, instead, they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, imposed upon them a political and idealogical blockade and threw them into prison similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live in Europe . . . The Arab states succeeded in scattering the Palestinian people and in destroying their unity. They did not recognize them as a unified people until the states of the world did so, and this is regrettable.1
In his memoirs of 1973, Haled al Azm, the former Prime Minister of Syria, stated: “But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave.”2 It is clear that the Israelis are not responsible for the refugee problem in Israel. Any land which Israel acquired from the Palestinians was gained through wars which the Arabs started. Arabs who remained in the land are considered citizens of Israel, having the same rights as do the Jewish people in Israel.
Concern Over Israel
Today many nations have turned their backs upon Israel. What should be the attitude of Christians toward Israel? Should they back Israel in her struggle to exist as a self-governing people?
Some Christians feel we should not back Israel. They reason, “Israel has been established on a political basis – coming back to the land through political negotiation in unbelief – not according to the promises in the Bible.”
Others feel that God has brought Israel back to the land and is beginning to set the stage for the fulfillment of end-time prophecy – prophecy which can only be fulfilled with Israel in the land. Let us look at some of the positive reasons for backing Israel’s possession of the land today.
Prophetic Reasons For Backing Israel
As we have already seen, Israel has been given the land as an “everlasting possession” (Gen. 13:15; 17:8). Since God has promised to give the Jewish people the land forever, we should uphold her right to possess it.
God also promised to restore the Jewish people to the land after they had been scattered throughout the world:
Thus saith the Lord God: I will even gather you from the people and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel (Ezek. 11:17; cf. 36:24).
It is clear from Scripture that if God is to bring His program to completion, Israel must be in the land. For example:
- The anti-Messiah will make a covenant of peace with the Jewish people who are back in their land (Dan. 9:27).
- Russia will attack Israel in the land before the Messiah returns to set up His kingdom (Ezek. 38:12).
- The third Temple must be built in Israel during the tribulation by the Jewish people, and it will then be desecrated by the anti-Messiah (Rev. 11:1-2; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4).
- A witnessing remnant from Israel will be chosen to preach the gospel of the kingdom throughout the whole earth before the Messiah comes (Rev. 7:4; Matt. 24:14).
- The anti-Messiah will attempt to destroy the Jewish people in the land before the Messiah comes to set up His kingdom (Rev. 12:13-17).
God wants us to have a loving concern for Jerusalem and undergird that cily with prayer. He commands, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper who love thee” (Psalm 122:6). The prayer had a partial fulfillment in David’s day, but the ultimate fulfillment will only come to fruition when the Messiah (the Prince of Peace) sets up His reign on earth. In the interim, we can pray for peace among the inhabitants of Israel today and petition God to bring peace to this people through the soon-coming of the Messiah.
Christians are indebted to the Jewish people for the Bible, salvation and the Church. It was through the Jewish people that God brought forth His marvelous plan for our lives.
God’s blessing rests upon those who back Israel. God says, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (Gen. 12:3). Both secular and biblical history prove that those who have supported the Jewish people have been blessed, but those who have persecuted them have received retribution from the hand of God.
God has a deep love for the Jewish people. He said, “. . . Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). The extent of God’s love for Israel is everlasting. God has made no such pronouncement or commitment to any other nation. If God thinks so highly of the nation of Israel, can we do less? Prophetically, it is imperative that we back Israel’s right to exist peacefully in the land.
Political Reasons For Backing Israel
It was God who gave the land to the Jewish people (Gen. 13:15). Even while in captivity, they prayed to be restored to the land and have never felt at home in any other nation (cf. Ps. 137:4-6). Jewish people need a homeland where they can live in peace and safety. If not in Israel, where?
Israel is the only democratic nation in the Middle East – a land where the dignity and equality of the individual is upheld. As Americans living in a democracy, we should desire to help all those who struggle against the tyranny of dictators and communistic aggression.
Israel struggles to survive from within. Inflation escalated 35% last year; 50% of her national budget goes for defense; the devaluation of the Israeli pound continues to drop; anyone earning $18,000 and above falls into the 50% income tax bracket; interest rates on borrowed money range between 25 to 30%; and the purchase price of cooperative apartments in Israel runs from $30,000 to $75,000, depending on the area. Israel is continually threatened on three sides by Arab aggression. If America does not help Israel, who will? Christians must be the catalyst to encourage our government to back the nation of Israel.
The world watches the participation of the United States in backing Israel. If we digress in our commitment to her, both the Arabs and Russians will step up aggressive hostility against the state of Israel. The Arabs will never negotiate with a weak Israel – only a strong Israel will be able to survive and contribute to peaceful coexistence in the Middle East. With world opinion against her, who else but the United States can help to maintain a strong Israel?
Many countries in the free world (including Israel) depend upon American support. If we don’t help our allies, they will lose confidence in our ability or desire to stand behind them in their fight against dictatorial governments. America’s neglect will only encourage the communist countries to become more aggressive in their quest for world domination.
Christian Commitment To Israel
Maybe you are thinking, “Yes, I believe Israel has a right to the land, but I cannot do much to help!” Perhaps you can do more than you realize. If the Christians in America would unite for the survival of Israel, it could have a tremendous impact upon the policy our country takes.
President Carter has upheld the traditional position of the United States concerning the rights of Israel to a homeland in the Middle East. In 1976 he presented his position to the Democratic Platform Committee on the Middle East problem, stating:
This country should never attempt to impose a settlement in Israel, nor should we force Israel to make territorial concessions which are detrimental to her security. We should attempt to promote direct negotiations between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Israel must live within defensible borders. As President, I would never force Israel to give up control of the Golan Heights to the Syrians, nor would I recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization or any other group purporting to represent the Palestinians when those organizations refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace. The negotiations that will lead to permanent peace can only proceed on the basis of a clear and absolute American commitment to insure Israel’s security and survival as a Jewish state.3
With a united voice, the Christian community can remind Mr. Carter of his commitment to Israel. We must not allow our government to swerve from its backing of Israel’s right to exist in peace with defensible borders.
A survey conducted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee shows that the 95th Congress of The United States stands firmly in support of Israel.
- Ninety-four percent of the incumbents and challengers replied “Yes” when asked, “Do you favor providing Israel with military and economic assistance necessary for her defense and economic viability?”
- Eighty-six percent, said they don’t want the Arafat group to participate in talks.
- On the question of “direct” negotiation, 94% favored this concept.
- Eighty-four percent favored legislation to prohibit compliance by U. S. companies with the Arab economic boycott against Israel.
- Ninety-five percent favored American diplomatic and economic sanctions against countries which aid, harbor or finance international terrorists.4
Even though the Congress seems to be solidly behind Israel, we must keep a vigil over our local Congressmen and speak out if they change their individual policies toward her.
You can befriend the Jewish people in your neighborhood. Let them know that you stand behind the nation of Israel in this crisis hour with your prayers and support. If God so moves, you could help support a worthy cause in Israel.
Keep abreast of what is happening in Israel. Write the Israeli Consulate in your area, who can provide you with information concerning the present state and the struggles of Israel to remain a free nation.
Speak out for the right of Israel to exist in peace. If you hear, read or see injustices being perpetrated against the state of Israel, notify the proper authorities and voice your disapproval concerning the issue at hand.
Sponsor a Jewish appreciation night at your church. Invite the local rabbi and his congregation to a special service structured to explain why your church backs the nation of Israel. In this way you would be showing the Jewish community that you too want to commemorate Israel’s thirtieth anniversary.
As Christians united for the survival of Israel, send a memorial book listing the names of those churches in your conference or fellowship who unequivocally back Israel’s right to live in peace. This would be a tremendous encouragement to the state of Israel.
Compassion Toward Israel
What is God’s attitude concerning Israel? He said through Moses:
The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people. But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers . . . (Deut 7:7-8).
The extent of God’s love for Israel is seen as unconditionally eternal.
God’s love for Israel is also infinite. He says through Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she would not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isa. 49:15). His love surpasses the greatest earthly love known to man – that of a mother for her child.
God is so concerned for the nation of Israel that He says, “Behold, I have engraved thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isa. 49:16). By a bold anthropomorphic expression, God tells of His compassion for Israel. Her plight is perpetually in God’s mind, as if her image were indelibly tattooed on His hands where He could be aware of it continually.
The logic is inescapable:
God loves Israel.
Christians love God.
It is imperative for Christians to love Israel!
- Who Really Created the Middle East Refugee Problem?, (Jerusalem: Israel Information Centre), quoting from an article by Abu Mazen, What We Have Learned and What We Should Do, (Beirut; Falastine el Thawra, 1976).
- Who Really Created the Middle East Refugee Problem?, (Jerusalem: Israel Information Centre), quoting Haled al Azm, The Memoirs of Haled al Azm, (Beirut: 1973, pp. 386-87).
- Near East Report, Vol. XX, No. 24, June 16, 1976, (Reference to the article Campaign ’76, Carter’s Platform).
- Near East Report, Vol. XX, No. 44, Nov. 3, 1976, (Reference to the article heard in Washington, Survey Predicts Strong Support for Israel in 95th Congress).