Israel’s Challenges As It Celebrates 70 Years

May 12th, 2018 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

On 14 May 1948, the Jewish people ended 1,878 years of exile from their land.  The nation state of Israel was established when the founders accepted the UN Resolution partitioning the land of Palestine into a Jewish state and into a Palestinian state.  The Jews accepted that partition and declared themselves the independent state of Israel.  The Palestinians rejected the partition and declared war on the new state.  Israel won that war and over the last 70 years the world has witnessed the renaissance of Jewish civilization, the creation of a liberal democracy in the troubled Middle East, and the desert of the Eastern Mediterranean bloom once again.  Indeed, senior columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Ari Shavit, has written that the 20th century was “the most dramatic century in the dramatic history of the Jews.  In its first half, we lost a third of our people.  But the second half of the century was miraculous.  In North America, we created the perfect diaspora, while in the land of Israel we established modern Jewish sovereignty.  The Jews of the 21st century have today what their great-grandparents could only dream of: equality, freedom, prosperity, dignity.  The persecuted people are now emancipated.  The pitiful people are now proud and independent . . . [Israel] is the demography of hope: an almost extinguished people renewing itself.”   Shavit also documents the staggering success of the Zionist movement in Israel:  “In 1897, approximately 50,000 Jews lived here.  Now the Jewish population exceeds six million . . . In 1897, Jews living in Palestine represented only 0.4 percent of world Jewry.  In 1950 we accounted for 10.6 percent.  In 1980, 25.6 percent.  Now we make up almost 45 percent.  The historic project that aimed to congregate most of the world’s Jews in the Promised Land has had mind-boggling success.  Today, the Jewish community in Israel is one of the two largest in the world.  Given current trends, by 2025 the majority of the world’s Jews will be Israelis.”

Ezekiel 36:16-38 is one the most important passages in Scripture envisaging the restoration of the Jewish people to their land.  As this event is accomplished, Ezekiel exclaimed, the nations will be silent in their amazement of what God has done (vv. 33-36).  I believe quite strongly that in the 21st century we are witnessing that restoration.  But the other dimension of Ezekiel’s prophetic claim is the spiritual restoration of the Jews.  That is detailed in Ezekiel 36:22-32 and 37:15-28.   God will put His Spirit in them; they will obey Him; and they will walk with Him forever.  The fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises to Abraham (land, seed and blessing), to David (an eternal throne, kingdom and dynasty) and the New Covenant of spiritual renewal are foretold in 37:24-28.  The Jewish people will be united as one people, secure in the land God promised them, renewed spiritually and with their Davidic King ruling in their midst.  We await that fulfillment.

Israel declared its independence on 14 May 1948, but the holiday, like all national holidays in Israel, is observed according to the Jewish calendar.  So, within Israel, the holiday has passed, but much of the rest of the world will recognize 14 May 2018 as the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state of Israel.  However, the Palestinians remember that day very differently.  They call it the Nakba, or the catastrophe, of 1948, when hundreds of thousands of them fled the land for various reasons.  They want to go back and reclaim the land of Israel.  Thus, they refuse to recognize the state of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people.

The celebration of 70 years in the land of Israel has been and will continue to be a joyous one.  But the celebration is also matched by profound challenges for the state of Israel.

  1. The terrorist organization Hamas, which governs Gaza, has organized a Return March to Jerusalem. Hamas seeks to whip up the Palestinians in Gaza to breach the fence that separates Israel and Gaza and march on Jerusalem to reclaim the state for the Palestinians.  Israel now finds itself defending the integrity of this national border with force and fortitude—to the horror of the hypocritical world, which decries Israel but says nothing about the terroristic state of Assad in Syria or other such dictatorial rulers who oppress and slaughter.  They scold Israel for defending the integrity of its border!

 

  1. The far greater challenge however is Iran. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force seems determined to turn Syria into a base from which to pressure and eventually attack Israel.   Israel is determined to prevent that from happening.  Indeed, since 2012, Israel has launched more than 100 strikes on suspected Iranian-linked positions within Syria.  But it has been more recently that the intensity of Israeli-Iranian tension has grown:

 

  • On 10 February 2018, an Iranian drone launched by a Quds Force unit operating out of Syria’s T4 air base was shot down by a missile from an Israeli Apache helicopter. As columnist Thomas Friedman argues, it seems as though “the Quds Force, commanded by Iran’s military mastermind Qassem Suleimani, was trying to launch an actual military strike on Israel.”
  • On 9 April 2018, Israeli jets launched a missile strike on T4, the drone’s home base, directly targeting an Iranian facility and personnel in Syria. Seven Quds forces were killed, including Col. Mehdi Dehghan, leader of the drone unit.
  • As Friedman reports, Iran seeks to establish forward air bases and factories for GPS-guided missiles that could hit targets inside Israel with much greater accuracy. Iran likewise seeks to provide the same missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
  • The Quds Force now controls four Arab capitals—Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and Sana, Yemen. In Friedman’s words, “Iran has become the biggest ‘occupying power’ in the Arab world today.”   But the problem for Iran is that it is exposed financially; its currency is collapsing, having lost 1/3rd of its value.  Can it realistically continue such military foolishness in Syria?  Time will tell.

 

  1. A third challenge for Israel comes from Europe, specifically Germany. Columnist Bret Stephens reports that nearly 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin alone last year were reported.  A new-fascist party, Alternative for Germany, has 94 seats in the Bundestag.  In mid-April, a pair of German rappers won a prestigious music award, given largely on the basis of sales, for an album in which they boast of having bodies “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners.”  The award ceremony coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day!

Israel is the only nation on earth that faces a daily existential threat to its survival.  It is a miracle that it has survived for 70 years.  But that miracle is a daily reminder that there are robust and powerful forces that threaten its very existence.  Those forces are military and are ideological.  The miracle of Israel can only be explained by God’s promise to bring His people back to their land.  We are witnessing Ezekiel 36 and 37 being fulfilled—and neither Iran nor Hamas can stop that!

See James P. Eckman, A Covenant People, pp. 327-328; Bret Stephens in the New York Times (21 April 2018); Israel Kershner in the New York Times (18 April 2018); Thomas Friedman in the New York Times (18 April 2018).

One Comment to “Israel’s Challenges As It Celebrates 70 Years”

  1. Arlie Rauch says:

    Thanks for the important news! It’s a terrible and wonderful time!

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