The Wonder that is Israel.

Raising of the Ink Flag, marking the end of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Image credit Wiki Commons.

Originally Posted April 24 2019.

Updated June 24 2019.

 

On that day I raised My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands.

Ezekiel 20:6

Any unbiased reading of the Bible will soon reveal that the Creator of the Universe has had a long and enduring relationship with the Jews. This people group were the first humans to forge a relationship with God, where He made Himself known to them and guided their founding of a nation in a relatively tiny strip of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The Biblical narrative accurately portrays much of the history of the ancient Jewish nation and modern archaeological research is unveiling more and more details that affirm the historicity of their story, despite militant opposition from secular academics, who have been proven wrong time and time again.

Map of Israel and Judah in the 9th century BC. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Because of their unfaithfulness to their God, the former glory of the kingdom established by David and his son, Solomon, was gradually but inexorably wrenched from them because of their reluctance to follow Torah, as well as their eagerness to seek out and worship the false gods of the surrounding nations and the inter-marriage of their nobles with the nobility of foreign cultures(and against God’s wishes). As a result, ancient Israel and Judah suffered many waves of conquests by foreign imperial powers including Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium and the various waves of Islamic invasions over the centuries and millennia. Israel ceased to be a free nation about 2,600 years ago being occupied by foreign powers throughout much of this time.

For much of its history, the Jewish people have suffered terrible persecutions under various powers, culminating with the attempt of the evil Nazi regime to exterminate them from the face of the Earth. Still, despite these perils, they have bucked all the odds to maintain their culture and religion; indeed they are the only truy ancient people that exist through modern times. After World War II, the United Nations created a homeland for the remaining Jews, which culminated in the declaration of independence of the modern state of Israel on May 14 1948. The declaration was immediately condemned by all the surrounding Arab nations and was immediately attacked, leading to the Arab-Israeli War (1948-9). No superpowers came to the aid of the young nation but miraculously, the Israeli’s won. Less than twenty years later, Israel was once again attacked by a coalition of Arab nations including Syria, Jordan and Egypt in June 1967. The conflict lasted just six days, with Israel once again emerging victorious. Thus, Israel had to work hard from the outset to establish its borders, rapidly developing an excellent military machine that staved off aggressive behaviour by its surrounding enemies, and which remains so to this day.

In the 70 years since its founding days, the story of Israel has been one of astonishing prosperity, so much so that many Bible believing Christians accept it as a clear and unambiguous miracle in our times. Furthermore, it is clear that while the majority of contemporary Jews do not accept Jesus as their Messiah, the Lord would not make a complete end of them, but established them again for the sake of a minority who have(or will) come to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Furthermore, the Bible foretells that this tiny little nation will play an important role in converting many unbelievers to the true God during the Great Tribulation period, otherwise known as the time of Jacob’s Trouble.

Most denominational Christians however, have been taught the false doctrine of replacement theology, which assumes that the modern Church has taken the place of Israel, and as a result, know very little about how Israel will play a central role in God’s ultimate plan for the salvation of many people. This was essentially my thinking for most of my life, as I continued in my walk with the Catholic Church, being largely ignorant of Biblical knowledge. We had no Bible in our home(my neighbours had none either), and no Sunday Schools when I was growing up. Indeed, I saved up some pocket money to buy a children’s Bible in my youth and only purchased my first ‘real’ Bible:- an old King James Version:- as a graduate student during my time at the University of Dundee in the mid-1990s. But this is equally true of many Protestant denominations, which teach nothing at all concerning the true role of Israel in God’s redemptive plan for humankind. Only when I began to read the Bible for myself, as a non-denominational Christian, that I rejected the notion of replacement theology.

With the Lord, there is the Church and then there’s Israel; they are not one and the same.

With Israel, it’s personal.

Consider the particular interest our Lord has expressed in the land of Israel;

For the land you are going in to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you came. There you planted your seed and watered it by foot, like a vegetable garden.  But the land you are crossing over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, drinking from the rain of the heavens it drinks in water.  It is a land that Adonai your God cares for—the eyes of Adonai your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year up to the end of the year.

Deuteronomy 11:10-12

The prophet Ezekiel writes:

Therefore say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord God: Not for your sake do I act, house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name, which you desecrated among the nations to which you came.

Esekiel 36:22

So what’s it all about then? In a phrase, the execution of Absolute power!

Israel is God’s land; He gave it to the Jews.

The prophet Jeremiah writes:

Thus says the Lord, “If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.’”

Jeremiah 33: 25-26

In other words, the Lord would sooner abolish the laws of nature than renege on his promises to Israel.

So let’s take a closer look at the remarkable rise of Israel in the modern psyche. As a nation state, Israel is tiny,  with a land area of just 21,000 square kilometres, smaller than Wales and ranking about 150th out of the 200 or so nations on Earth. It’s population is currently 9 million, of which 75 per cent identify as Jew. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Israel reflects a different picture however; $360 billion, ranking it as the 54th richest nation in the world. Its per capita annual income is even more impressive though, at $42,000 per annum, making its citizens the 25th richest nation in the world; almost as rich as the average UK dweller. Israel is also home to more millionaires per capita than any other country in the world, with over 7,200 millionaires with collective assets of approximately $40 billion. What is more, Israel’s economic wealth far exceeds that of all the surrounding (Muslim) nations.The life expectancy of the average Israeli is 82 years, where it poles as the 8th longest among the other nations of the world. Israel’s age demographic though is astonishing and contrary to every other developed nation currently in existence. 25 per cent of the population are under the age of 14 and 40 per cent are aged 25 years and younger. Only 11 per cent of the Israeli population is aged 65 years and older!

This very youthful population is also highly educated; 45 per cent of Israeli’s hold a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent; higher per capita than any other nation on Earth. Their official language is Hebrew, for centuries considered an all but dead language, but thanks to the efforts of Jewish linguists, is now widely spoken and thriving. Curiously, though Israel is one of the most technologically advanced nations currently in existence, her citizens are taught little or nothing about Darwinian evolution in public schools, which dovetails with the ideology’s current rapid decline as a proper scientific theory of origins. And yet, Israel is a shining light in the emerging biotechnological and agricultural industries, both of which require an excellent knowledge of the life sciences.

Because of more or less incessant terrorist threats from foreign regimes, Israel has one of the best trained professional armies in the world. The so-called Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has about 150,000 full-time members and over 400,000 reserves. All Israeli citizens over the age of 18 are obliged to undergo two years and eight months of military service for men and two years for women, although many seek exemptions on religious, pyschological and physical grounds.This rise in military power also comports with the Biblical narrative, which describes the desolate land of Israel being revived from a “valley of dry bones”(see Ezekiel 37):

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Ezekiel 37:10

Despite more than half of the land being desert and only 20 per cent being arable, Israel is a world leader in irrigation technology. In addition, it’s de-salination technology is now being exported to other nations (the US state of California, for example, is now steeply committed to using these technologies). The north of the country receives a plentiful supply of rain but the south is much more arid, with the result that water transport and use is carefully regulated. The statistics are impressive; agriculture’s share of total water use fell from more than 70% in 1980 to 57% by 2005, and is projected to drop to just 52% by 2025, according to a recent report. Many nations around the world have benefitted greatly from Israel’s lead in this regard. Indeed this small nation has become the fruit basket of Europe and the Middle East, growing and exporting over 40 different types of fruit. Indeed, 95 per cent of all Israel’s food is homegrown, supplemented by imports of meat, grains, coffee, cocoa and sugar. Israel also produces most of the flowers sold in Europe(especially during the winter months), with an industry estimated to be worth $60 million. These flowers are almost exclusively grown on 214 hectares of land.

A lemon grove in the Galilee. Image credit: David Shankbone.

Just as the Bible informs us, Israel has truly become “a land of milk and honey.” Specially bred, disease-resistant cows produce the highest amounts of milk per animal in the world, with an average of 10,208 kilograms of dairy in 2009, according to data published in 2011 by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, outperforming cows in the US (9,331 kg  per cow), Japan (7,497), the European Union (6,139) and Australia (5,601). Honey production in Israel is prodigious, with more than 100,000 apiaries scattered across the country and exported to many other nations around the world. And despite the alarming decline in bee numbers in almost every other country, Israel’s bee populations have not endured such decimation, thanks to the implementation of a number of ingenious management strategies. Indeed, the Israeli department of agriculture estimate that the value of their bees as vehicles of pollination is worth more than 30 times the value of the honey they produce! In 1948, only about 400,000 acres of land in Israel could be tilled. Today it stands at over a million acres, with productivity increasing by a factor of 16 per unit of water used. And instead of growing strains of wheat that are waist high, as is the case in most other nations, Israeli farmers cultivate new varieties that only grow to knee height and so require far less water to bring them to maturity.

In the spheres of technology, Israel ranks as the 8th most powerful nation in the world. Outside of Silicon Valley, California, Silcon Wadi on the coastal plains just outside Tel Aviv  has the highest number(over 3,000 as of 2019) of IT start-up companies in the world. The first anti-virus software was formulated here, as was the first voicemail technology, and all manner of memory sticks that we use in our everyday lives. Motorola, Microsoft, Celebrite and Intel all have major investments here. The oil industry is booming at an unprecedented rate in Israel with valuable, high-grade crude oil and natural gas reserves found in the Negev, the Golan Heights and most recently off shore in the Leviathan and Tamar fields. Analysts suggest that the energy reserves in these newly discovered sites could power the nation for another 300 years! What’s more, it is expected that Israel will become a major supplier of petrochemicals to the European nations by building under-sea pipelines across the Mediterranean.

In recent years, geologists have assessed Israel’s mineral wealth. In particular the rapidly evaporating Dead Sea has an estimated $5 trillion of minerals salts including, calcium, sodium, magnesium and potassium chlorides, bromides and iodides, phosphates and other ressources. Even the mud dredged up from the Dead Sea floor has important medicinal properties that many people will pay for. Moreover, an extremely rare mineral, Carmeltazite, hitherto thought to form only in outer space was recently found in Israel, which, owing to its rarity, is potentially more valuable than diamond.

Israel is now also active in the exploration of space, successfully launching the cheapest ever lunar probe named Beresheet(Hebrew for “In the beginning”) which attempted a soft landing on the dusty plains of Mare Serenitatis on April 11 2019 but which proved unsuccessful in the end. Despite the setback, much new science was still achieved and they will certainly try again in the near future.

By most anyone’s standards, the story of the re-birth of Israel is a remarkable phenomenon. Look how much they have achieved in only one human generation! But all of this was foretold in the prophecies of Ezekiel, most likely dated to 7th century BC:

Thus says the Lord God, “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left round about you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken and will do it.”

Ezekiel 36:33-36

And yet, the Biblical narrative also suggests that this new-found prosperity will attract the eyes of power-hungry nations surrounding it, like a proverbial moth to a brightly lit lamp:

After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. You will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you.”

‘Thus says the Lord God, “It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan, and you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates, to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.’ Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, ‘Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?’”’

Ezekiel 38:8-13

The Bible also asserts that Israel is the centre of the world as God sees things:

Thus says the Lord God, ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations, with lands around her.

Ezekiel 5:5

And when we look at Israel’s geographic location, it indeed lies at the hub of three continents; Africa, Europe and Asia.

The Bible also confifdently predicts that Israel will always attract trouble makers and that eventually all the nations will be gathered against her under the auspices of the Anti-Christ:

It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.

Zechariah 12:3

The Book of Jeremiah also makes it clear that when the Jews come back in the land after being scattered among the nations, they will do so without the ark of the covenant:

Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the Lord, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore.

Jeremiah 3:16

And what do we see today? Israel back in the land without the ark! This was quite simply unthinkable at the time it was written, since it was indispensable to their worship.

What is more, the ancient nation of Israel was divided up into two kingdoms- the northern territory of Israel, and the southern territory of Judah, in the reign of king Jeroboam I,  and remained so. But the prophet Jeremiah informs us that when the people come back in the land in the latter days, there would no longer be such an administrative division:

In those days the people of Judah will join the people of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance.

Jeremiah 3:18

What is the ‘northern land’ referred to in this verse of Scripture?

It could well be Russia, as some 1.2 million Israeli citizens originated there.

Isn’t the Bible remarkable for its accuracy? Surely, we are living in the times of fulfilled prophecy!

Already, we can see this gradual build-up (a Biblical “hook in the jaw”) with the hatred expressed by the politicians of many countries toward Israel as well as pervasive anti-semitism(an irrational hatred of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which is both trans-generational and global in reach). Sadly, one of Israel’s greatest enemies is the United Nations(UN). For example, Syria bombs its civilians with chlorine gas, China tortures dissidents, Venezuela restricts access to food, and Burma is engaged in the ethnic cleansing of its Muslim minority. Yet despite these attrocities, the UN Human Rights Council trains the bulk of its diatribe on, you’ve guessed it, Israel!

At the time of writing, 31 UN members don’t recognise the state of Israel. Additionally, the nations of Bolivia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Qatar and Venezuela have suspended ties to Israel. Most of these nations do not want the state of Israel to exist. There are also several countries, most notably Egypt, that recognise the state but almost always vote against it. That is how far-reaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become!

The UN has chosen to oppose Israel at nearly every turn because of the influence and encouragement of all of these member states. On the UN security council, Israel has the support of the U.S’s power of veto and is therefore safe from most harmful resolutions, but in the general assembly the anti-Israel countries almost always win out. The most recent example of this was the decision to condemn the United States for recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital even though they have every right to claim it as their own. That resolution overwhelmingly passed. But if the UN were nicer to Israel, every Muslim majority country in the world (except Albania and a few others) would withdraw from the organisation and thus would lose all of its influence over the Muslim world. There would be no more peacekeepers in Syria and Iraq, no nuclear weapons inspectors in Iran, etc. To my mind, the UN has strategically chosen to alienate Israel, over dozens of others. As a result, most Israelis are suspcious of the UN to the extent that it is a miracle that they haven’t yet severed all ties with the organisation.

Yet it is important to remember that both the UN and the state of Israel were both founded on very similar principles: the exercise of democracy, liberty, national self-determination, as well as freedom from persecution and the respect for basic human rights. But the simple truth is that the vast majority of countries that oppose Israel respect none of these principles, as their actions so clearly demonstrate. Moreover, most of them don’t even care for an independent Palestine either. They just view Israel as a convenient scapegoat. It is tragically ironic that the UN, an organisation that has done so much good for the world, is siding with tyrannical regimes rather than a nation that clearly shares its own values!

Sunset on the Mount of Olives, Jersuelem. Image credit; Andrew Shiva.

The Bible also tells us that the people of Israel will not be uprooted again:

I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;
They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them;
They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.
 I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God.

Amos 9: 14-15

All of those prophecies have now been fulfilled.

Israel, a vibrant, liberal democracy, is here to stay no matter what evil intentions the nations plot against her. This is in spite of the majority of their people’s stubborn unbelief in the true Messiah they had rejected 2,000 years ago. That said, the Messianic Jewish population (who accept Yeshua as their Lord and Saviour) has increased ten-fold to ~30,000 in just a decade! Truth be told, Israel is actually one of the most secular nations on Earth, with Tel Aviv having risen to notoriety in recent years as the gay capital of Europe/Middle East. The Bible addresses the spiritual blindness of Israel in both the Old and New Testaments;

When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

“He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

                                                                                                                John 12:36-41

Jesus Christ ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and the Bible tells us that He will once again set foot on it at His second coming, where He will fight against those nations wishing to destroy Israel:

Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.

Zechariah 14:3-4

So, we’re living in exciting times; times that most unbelievers are completely oblivious to; but that too was foretold. Israel is indeed the timepiece for understanding the climactic events in world history.

So keep watching Israel, the Biblical ‘fig tree’ and pray for the peace of Jerusalem(Psalm 122:6), as we are instructed to.

 

Neil English is the author of a large historical work; Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy.

 

De Fideli.

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