ISRAEL AT 75 And Paul on Israel’s Future
The current news from the Middle East is dominated by the Attack of the 7th of October and its aftermath. As a writer on the History of the region, I don’t comment on current issues, which are the domain of newspapers and other means of communication.
I share this article with my readers to help them understand the complicated nature of the issues that have dominated the lives of Mideastern people since the end of the Second World War.
On the 15th of May 2023, Israel celebrated its 75th as a nation. Time marches on. I remember that Saturday morning in 1948 when the BBC broadcast the news.
As the dawn of that day began, Arab armies greeted their neighbor by attacking from the north, the east, and from the south. The Haganah that had defended the Jewish people in Palestine during the British Mandate, became the IDF (Israeli Defence Force). Since that attack, Israel has been involved in a non-stop effort to defend itself and its people.
There are two aspects to the subject of the future of the State of Israel: one is historical/political, the other is in Apostle Paul’s teaching in his Letter to the Romans chapters 9-11.
We will begin with the historical/political side.
Prior to the Arab/Islamic conquest of the Holy Land in the middle of the seventh century, most of the people in Palestine were Christians, with a Jewish minority living alongside. The Islamic conquest resulted in the Arab Muslims gradually becoming most of the Palestinian population.
While most of the Jews had been living in the Diaspora for centuries, they maintained a strong yearning for a return to their ancestral land. They expressed that longing during the Passover celebration each year with the phrase “Next year in Jerusalem.”
During the 19th century, Jews were persecuted in Russia and discriminated against in Western Europe. The rise of anti-Semitism became evident in the trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Captain Dreyfus, who was Jewish, was charged by the French High Command with spying for the Germans. He was found guilty and spent time at Devil’s Island in French Guyana, South America. French author Émile Zola took up the defense of Dreyfus and wrote his famous letter “J’accuse” in defense of Dreyfus.i
Theodor Herzl, a Jewish correspondent of a Viennese newspaper, covered the Dreyfus trial. He became convinced that there was no hope for the Jews to achieve complete emancipation in Europe. He became the father of the Zionist Movement, which advocated the establishment of a national home for the Jews. After many debates at World Zionist Congresses, it was decided to establish this home in Palestine. After his death, the Zionist Movement was assumed by Chaim Weitzmann, a Polish Jew who was teaching chemistry in England. During the war he helped the British Navy by inventing materials used to combat German submarines. Eventually, the British Government published the Balfour Declaration, which favored the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
At the end of WWI, the British assumed the government of Palestine with a mandate from the League of Nations. For the next 30 years, Great Britain found strong opposition from Palestinian Arabs against the plan. In 1946, the British Government brought the matter to the United Nations. A U.N. Commission of Inquiry studied the matter and proposed the partition of Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State. The Jews accepted the plan; the Arabs rejected it. Britain ended its presence in Palestine on 14 May 1948 at midnight. David Ben-Gurionii, with other Jewish leaders, declared the birth of the State of Israel on 15 May 1948.
Those opposed took immediate action. Armies from Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Iraq, and Egypt entered Palestine in response. By mid-June 1948, the United Nations Security Council managed to pass a cease-fire between the opposing sides. But that was not the end of the conflict. Other major wars between Israel and the Arab countries took place in 1956, 1967, and 1973. Eventually, Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat took the initiative of signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1978, and in 1994, Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel.
During the second decade of the 21st century, the United States succeeded in getting several Arab countries to agree to normalize their relations with Israel. This is in a set of documents called the Abraham Accords.
The Accords ended the official Arab denial of the right of Israel to exist. However, a determined foe of Israel is now the Islamic Republic of Iran. To prove its utter faithfulness to Islamic tradition, the Iranian regime assumed an active opposition to Israel. It supports the radical Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian HAMAS in Gaza, with weapons used to continually harass Israel. While it is impossible to predict the future, the past 75 years give evidence that Israel’s existence may be frequently challenged.
Thus far the political history of the modern State of Israel.
As a Christian committed to the Biblical views of world history, I turn to The New Testament teaching on the Future of Israel.
In Romans 9 – 11, Saint Paul begins by focusing on the future of Israel, as some Jews had come to faith in Christ, while the vast majority had rejected Him as the Messiah.
Paul lists the privileges the Jews had received as witnesses to God’s glory: the Covenants, the receiving of the Law of Moses, the worship in the Temple, and the promises of God. He refers to their founding fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Finally, the Apostle mentioned that the promised Messiah was a descendant of the Patriarchs.
In Chapter 10, Saint Paul describes his desire and prayer for the people of Israel to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. He acknowledges their zeal for God, a zeal demonstrated though efforts to obtain salvation by keeping the Law, something available only by faith in Jesus Christ. To be saved “one must confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead” (10:9)
Chapter 11 sums up Paul teaching about the future of Israel.
God has not rejected His previously chosen people, Israel. God’s relationship with Israel as a nation continues. Israel’s hardening will end when the “fullness of the Gentiles” has come to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul warns Gentile believers not to feel superior to Jewish unbelievers, since it was their faith in Christ that brought them salvation.
The future of believing Israelites is not to be separated from the future of believing Gentiles. Israel’s hope for the future is the same as that of believing Gentiles.
Chapter 11 of Romans ends with a poem structured as a hymn, expressing Paul’s profound reaction both to God’s ways and to His mercy to sinful human beings. He finishes his hymn with a statement of worship: “to God be the glory forever, Amen.”
iJ’accuse, (French: “I accuse”) a celebrated open letter by Émile Zola to the president of the French Republic in defense of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer who had been accused of treason by the French army. It was published in the newspaper L’Aurore on Jan. 13, 1898.
iiDavid Ben-Gurion, orig. David Gruen, (born Oct. 16, 1886, Płońsk, Pol., Russian Empire—died Dec. 1, 1973, Tel Aviv–Yafo, Israel), First prime minister of Israel (1948–53, 1955–63)