The 24 hour news cycle can become very mundane at times. I admit that I enjoy listening to conservative talk radio, and follow the general movements of my state and federal governments pretty regularly. Even more than politics and current events though, I love history. One subject that has absorbed much of my attention for the last two years or so is the modern state of Israel–their founding, struggles, and successes. I think that my interest is so high because I am a Christian who knows that everything that has happened in Israel’s short history, and the Jews’ long history is did not just happen by random chance. Our God has His hand in all of it.
My goal in this post is not to list off a multitude of prophecies and fulfillments–I think I may do that another time. But I do want to present all of this logically and from our point of view as we can see in recent history.
- The survival of the Jewish people
From biblical history, we know the nation of Israel was founded with Jacob and his twelve sons, or we could go farther back to Abraham. That nation went through several bouts of people who tried to eradicate them: from Pharaoh, to Midian, Assyria, Babylon, and then to Rome. All of these failed. After the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, then Masada in A.D. 73, the Jewish people were either voluntarily or purposefully scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Instead of the Jewish population centers being in Palestine as had been for 1500 years, they became populous in places like Germany, France, Spain, Greece, Russia, and Persia.
Miraculously, for almost 2,000 years, the Hebrew language, Judaism, and the Jewish identity survived intact in these places. During the Dark Years, the Popes and Roman Catholic Church attempted to eliminate all traces of the Jews. Instead of discouraging them, however, the Jewish people became even more resilient and determined to keep their identity and religion (though the religion is false: Jesus is Messiah!). In the late 19th century, something called the Zionist Movement was formed in the Jewish communities throughout Europe. They were wearied by the persecutions and bigotry they had endured for so many generations. At first, the Zionists proposed settling in one general area somewhere in Europe, and eventually founding their own nation, possibly in southern France or Germany. However, the extremists in the group proposed resettling in their ancient homeland in Palestine. Slowly, first as just a few dozen at a time, Jewish families immigrated to Palestine–where they found they were greatly outnumbered by Arabs and Christians.
- The Formation of a Nation
The First World War erupted across Europe in 1914. Jewish people fought on both sides of the conflict. Some died for their country of Germany, while others fought and died for their country of France. One area of particular interest in the war was the Middle-East. The Ottoman Empire had controlled the great portion of that area, including Palestine, for a millenium. The Ottoman Empire sided with the Germans during the war, but Great Britain wanted to eliminate the Empire, and grab some of its territory in the process. (I don’t think the UK knew what they were getting themselves into!) With the help of a famous hero, Lawrence of Arabia, the British captured Palestine from the Ottomans in 1917. Palestine was now out of Muslim hands for the first time in 1400 years (except for 100 years or so during the Crusades). Even during the war, Jewish immigrants slowly continued to trickle in, until they made up 11% of the population at the end of the war. During the war, the British Foreign Secretary made a general declaration (the Balfour Declaration) that Jews should be able to settle in Palestine.
In between the two World Wars, the Jewish population in Palestine continued to increase at an even more steady pace. When Hitler and Nazi Germany began to put into practice their ethnic cleansing of Europe in the early 1930’s, the immigration skyrocketed at an alarming rate to the British. In 1939 the British forbade all but a small trickle of Jews into Palestine, so as not to upset the Arab population.
We all know what happened during the Second World War. Nazi Germany murdered around six million Jews in concentration camps, and left the survivors in terror and homelessness. The call for a nation specifically for the Jews began to ring out throughout the world. However, the British still discouraged immigration. From 1945-1948 tens of thousands of Jews still attempted to immigrate into Palestine, the majority of which were rounded up, arrested, and put into detainment camps by the British. The British knew, though, that they were fighting a losing battle, and decided to turn the whole problem over to the United Nations. Soon afterwards, the UN voted to create a Jewish and Palestinian state side-by-side. The Arabs despised the idea of a Jewish state, and rejected the whole plan, deciding instead to drive the Jews into the sea.
At Midnight, on May 15, 1948, the nation of Israel declared her complete independence. For the first time since the days of King Josiah, Israel was a sovereign nation. Many countries hesitated to recognize the new nation. The President of the United States was the first to recognize Israel, against the counsel of his closest advisors. President Truman faithfully declared that the land was promised to the Jews in the Bible, so he would recognize Israel. At the same moment, five populous Arab states surrounding Israel (Syria, Transjordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq) attacked simultaneously, hoping to drive the new nation, whom they didn’t recognize anyway, into the sea.
- The Survival of a Nation
Over the course of the few decades before independence, the Jews had formed militias with semi-archaic weaponry, but fearless leaders. At first, it appeared that Israel would be driven into the sea. Miraculously though, the Jewish militias (named the Haganah) fought back with a vigor, and eventually routed their five Arab neighbors within a few months. Israel had survived once again, and even increased their land more than what had originally been mandated to them.
Small wars were fought between 1948 and 1967, with Israel every time outwitting her neighbors. In 1967, Israel’s neighbors again plotted to wipe Israel off the map. Israeli intelligence caught wind of the plan, and preemptively attacked Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. By this time, though, the old Haganah had become the modernized and highly trained Israeli Defence Force (IDF). The IDF, along with Israel’s new Air Force, decimated the armies of all of the other nations, and captured the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, the West Bank of Jordan, and the grand prize: Jerusalem.
Again, in 1973, Egypt and Syria plotted to recapture their lost territory, and destroy Israel. By this time, the Soviet Union had propped up the Egyptian and Syrian armies and air forces to contest with Israel’s. On the Day of Atonement, one of the most sacred holidays in Judaism, the Arabs made a surprise attack on Israel, and caught her off guard. The Egyptians routed most of the Israeli’s in the Sinai, and the Syrians took some ground in the Golan Heights. It looked as if Israel might be eliminated. At this time, another miracle happened. Israel’s Air Force came to the rescue, while the army counterattacked against heavy odds on the ground. Israel drove through the Egyptian lines, crossed the Suez canal and even threatened Cairo, while in the north, Israel’s army was approaching the Syrian capital of Damascus. The UN declared a ceasefire, and Israel had survived the greatest threat to its existence.
The nation of Israel has never taken its existence lightly. Iraq had started to research nuclear weaponry in the late 70’s. In 1981, Israel made the first successful attack on a nuclear reactor, completely surprising Saddam Hussein, and destroying their nuclear capabilities for a generation. In 1982, Lebanon and Syria began launching terrorists into Israel through Hezbollah, which prompted the IDF to invade Lebanon. Syria did not take too kindly to this, so they launched the bulk of their much larger air force against Israel to teach them a lesson. The ensuing aerial jet dogfight, the largest in history, was a grand victory for Israel. They shot down 83 Syrian jets, with no losses of their own. It is no mistake that God has preserved the Jewish people in ancient and modern times.
I find all of this miraculous. A persecuted people throughout history, survived some of the most horrific cases of genocide and conflict, to become one of the world’s powers today. I do not promote extreme prophecy or anything like that, but all of this makes me wonder just what God’s plan will be for his people. He is not done with them yet…