ISRAEL

Theodor Herzl circa 1898

 

SIGNIFICANT DATES IN ISRAEL'S RECENT HISTORY

1882 Beginning of first `Aliyah'  (return) of the Jews from the Russian Empire and Romania to Palestine.

1891 Large waves of Jews arrive in Palestine from Russia.

1896 Theodor Herzl covers the Dreyfus trial as a journalist and later writes a book entitled Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) calling for the creation of a Jewish State. (See picture)

1897 First International Zionist Congress held in Basle. The World Zionist Organisation is created.

1904 Beginning of second `Aliyah' mainly from Russia and Poland. Death of Theodor Herzl.

1909 Tel Aviv - the first modern all-Jewish city is founded.

1917 First World War: British army under General Allenby drives the Turks out of Palestine. The Balfour Declaration followed in 1917. (See page )

1922 British Mandate over Palestine confirmed by the League of Nations, in which the following was included: `...the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory (ie Britain) should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917...in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities...'

1933 Hitler comes to power in Germany.

1934 Beginning of illegal immigration of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe who could not immigrate legally under British quotas.

1939 Second World War begins bringing with it the Holocaust in Nazi occupied Europe in which 6 million Jews perished.

1946 Survivors of the Holocaust head in their thousands for Palestine; the British deport many of them to Cyprus.

1947 British send the immigrant boat `Exodus' with 4,500 Jews on board back to Germany. U.N. General Assembly votes for the partition of Palestine and a Jewish State. British Government announces its intention to terminate the Mandate on May 15, 1948. The surrounding Arab powers and Palestinians declare their intention to drive the Jews into sea when the British leave!

1948 The Mandate expires followed by the proclamation of the State of Israel and invasion by five surrounding Arab armies. Israel survives, despite being heavily outnumbered and having only home made armour to use against tanks and heavy artillery!

1948-52 Massive immigration of 648,000 Jews to Israel by the Jewish populations of Arab countries and Europe.

1964 The P.L.O. founded, calling for the destruction of the State of Israel and Zionism.

1967 The `Six Day War' in which Israel pre-empts concerted Arab attacks and occupies the Sinai peninsular, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. UN Resolution 242 follows, demanding the restoration of these territories to the Arabs. 

1973 The `Yom Kippur War' in which the Arabs attack Israel on Yom kippur (the Day of Atonement), the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and almost overwhelm her. The tide is eventually turned again in Israel's favour.

1979 A peace treaty is signed between Israel and Egypt.

1984 First mass air rescue of Jews from Ethiopia.

1987 The `Intifada' or Palestinian uprisings begin against Israel within the occupied territories.

1993 The Oslo Accord was reached between Israel and the P.L.O. paving the way for Palestinian self-rule.

1989-99 Over 1,000,000 Jews emigrate to Israel from Russia and former Soviet Republics

What Next?

WHAT IS PROPHECY in this context? It is God's message given to us through inspired men and women and recorded in the Bible. Prophecy can refer to inspired teaching from God in general or to inspired predictions of the future in particular. This article will be limited to inspired predictions about Israel and their fulfilment, with emphasis upon the last hundred years of their history and on prophecies yet to be fulfilled.

First, it should always be remembered that Israel is the most important nation in the Bible. The Lord Jesus who was a Jew by his mother Mary, said `salvation is of the Jews.' (John 4.22) Other than the Lord Jesus, most of the outstanding Bible characters such as Abraham, the father of the faithful and king David, the man after God's own heart, were also Jews. Israel is the nation through whom God chose to reveal His plan of salvation for the human race.

THE ORIGIN OF ISRAEL

In view of Israel's importance in Scripture, it is not surprising that there are literally hundreds of prophecies about the Jews. Israel's national history was marked out in advance, in a way no other nation can begin to rival. Abraham was of course the progenitor of the Jewish race. Because of his faith, promises were made to him which form the basis of the Gospel. These promises indicated that Abraham would father a nation through whom all nations would be blessed. (Galations 3.8) He was told that his descendants would grow in number and flourish despite being enslaved for hundreds of years in Egypt. They would afterwards escape and possess the land of Canaan. (an old name for Palestine or Israel - see Genesis 15.13-21) This period of their history is known as the Exodus.

THE EXODUS

Israel were chosen by God as His special people. (Exodus 19.1-8) During the Exodus not only were they given a uniquely moral and just set of laws and a system of religious worship but also through Moses more prophecies were given about their future. These prophecies told them in unflattering terms that they would not be faithful to their calling as the people of God but would soon go astray from His laws. Israel were offered great incentives for faithfulness and the threat of dire punishment for unfaithfulness as we can see from a number of passages. (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28; 31.24-29)

In fulfilment of such prophecies, the whole history of the nation of Israel is a story of blessing and cursing - of high points in their history and of extreme low points, depending on whether they obeyed or disobeyed their divine calling. During their wilderness wandering prior to occupying Canaan, thousands perished due to their lack of faith and obedience to divine injunctions. On the other hand, it was those wanderings which produced a generation of faithful men and women who in the main obeyed the voice of God and showed great discipline and faith in the face of their enemies during the conquest of Canaan.

THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL

The period of the Judges followed and then Israel became a kingdom, just as Moses had predicted. (Deuteronomy 17.14-20) Their kings were divinely appointed, in the case of the first two kings (Saul & David), through the work of Samuel the last Judge of Israel. David was a man of great faith and he was the ancestor of a line of kings through whom it was prophesied that Christ the Messiah would come. (Messiah (Hebrew) = Christ (Greek) and means anointed; see 2 Samuel 7.12-16; Psalm 89:34-37)

As prophesied, Israel's kingdom became so corrupt that it was brought to an end. (Jeremiah 5.1-18; Ezekiel 21.1,2, 24-27) The Babylonians took Israel away captive to Babylon for seventy years. When they returned (see the books of Ezra and Nehemiah) Israel remained subject to oppressive gentile powers right up to and including the time of Christ.

A NATION SCATTERED

But it was Israel's rejection of Christ (their Messiah or anointed king) which finally brought about the destruction of the nation including the city of Jerusalem and its splendid temple. Christ himself predicted this in his well-known Mount Olivet prophecy found in three of the Gospel accounts (Matthew 24.1,2; Mark 13.1,2; Luke 21.5-7, 20-24) However, in the last of these accounts, Christ also predicted that one day the Jews would again recover control of Jerusalem a development which only took place as recently as 1967, so this prophecy about Israel took around 1900 years to be fulfilled! (Luke 21.24)

A NATION REGATHERED

However, the great prophets of Israel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel had predicted the scattering and regathering of Israel back to their land and chief city long before. (Isaiah 8.12-22; 52.1-10; Jeremiah 30.10,11,18; 31.4-14; Ezekiel 37.1-14) Indeed those prophecies of Moses, the blessing and cursings of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, had predicted even earlier, the many sufferings and persecutions that Israel have endured in the period of their exile from their land. These persecutions commenced in AD 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews throughout the Roman world. They have continued to our time, when they have returned to their original homeland in increasing numbers. Despite being persecuted like no other nations (think of the 6,000,000 killed by

Hitler in the second World War), Israel would always survive because they are God's chosen people and for the sake of the covenant made with their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. ( Jeremiah 30.10,11; Romans 11.25-29)

THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS

Let us now focus our attention upon the last hundred year of Israel's history. Around AD 1850 Palestine had for many centuries been ruled over by the Turkish empire and had become a desolate wilderness for the most part. The Turks were certainly not in favour of any mass immigration of Jews back to the land, even if it could be made to sustain them and many of the millions of Jews scattered across the globe. Centred as they were in Europe and the Americas, they enjoyed a level of prosperity which was hardly likely to motivate them to leave their homes and businesses for the hardships of the deserts of Judaea or the malarial swamps of Galilee. Yet prophecy demanded that Israel must return to their land and the charts overleaf highlight some historic dates.

Consider the following quotation, selected from many that speak of Israel's restoration:

`I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased. And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again. I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them.' Zechariah 10.8,9

Speaking in typically beautiful imagery of Zion (another name for Jerusalem) God declared through Isaiah:

`Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee...Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side...Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations...Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.' (Isaiah 60.1,2,4,15,18)

Shown a valley full of dry bones in vision, Ezekiel was told: `these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.' But the word of God through Ezekiel predicted a national resurrection: `Thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel...I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, (the nations) whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land.' (Ezekiel 37.11,12,21)

So it was that, despite being scattered from their land, persecuted like no other nation and separated from their land for many centuries, the Jews not only retained their identity, but towards the end of the 19th century they began to hanker (fuelled by renewed persecution) for a return to their land and the Zionist movement was born.

ISRAEL TODAY

Map of Israel following the 1967 six day war

This brief survey of the last hundred years of Zionism illustrates the amazing, indeed miraculous survival of Israel despite all appearances to the contrary and the direst persecutions ever meted out to any people. Israel has not only survived but also revived as a nation and as a State. All this must demonstrate the hand of God at work to fulfil the many prophecies in His Word about the restoration of His people.

The Jews have returned to their land in fulfilment of the words of their ancient prophets, but Scripture reveals that the most important event yet to happen is that Israel will return to their God. Today Israel is a wealthy modern country with a western style democratic government and market economy. It is reckoned that only 10% of Israelis are religious. By religious is meant (for the most part) Jews who practise Judaism, not Christianity. This means that very few Jews living in Israel today believe in Jesus Christ as their Messiah, although central to Judaism is the belief that their Messiah is yet to come. A return to their God must involve acceptance of Jesus Christ, as the son of God and the heir to Israel's throne in the line of king David. (Luke 1.26-33) The many prophecies about Israel's restoration demand not only that they return to their God but also promise the restoration of their kingdom amid a time of great exaltation for the nation. (Psalm 2; Psalm 72; Isaiah 9.1-7; 11.1-12; Micah 4; Zechariah 12)

THE FUTURE FOR ISRAEL

How then is Israel to be brought back to their God and to acceptance of Christ as their Messiah? Again, prophecy provides the answer (See Ezekiel 38 and 39; Daniel 11.40-45; Joel 3; Zechariah 14). These passages combine to give a picture of a devastating war which is to come upon Israel, which Scripture describes as `the time of Jacob's trouble.' (Jeremiah 30.7) This conflict which will follow a period of peace and prosperity (Ezekiel 38.10-13), will completely shatter their State and leave them with only part of the city of Jerusalem under their control but besieged. (Zechariah 14.1,2) It is at this crisis, when Israel seems to face certain destruction that Scripture tells us that Divine intervention in the person of Jesus Christ will vanquish their enemies and claim back their allegiance to Him. God speaks of Israel as: `the apple of His eye.' (Deuteronomy 32.10) and Ezekiel reveals that when the great invasion takes place God will intervene: `... my fury shall come up in my face...surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel...and I will known in the eyes of many nations and they shall know that I am the LORD' (Ezekiel 38.18-23)

It will not be the Almighty in person who will come to deliver Israel but it will be one invested with His full power and authority. Who could this be other than the one born to be Israel's king, the one who was exalted to God's right hand and now awaits the appointed time for his return. What better opportunity could there be to win Israel over to faith in Christ other than for him to effect the complete overthrow of Israel's latter day enemies and persecutors? Without actually naming him, the Old Testament prophets leave us in no doubt that it will indeed be Christ who returns from heaven to save Israel and reconcile them to their God. They will then recognise Christ as their Messiah as foretold by the prophet Zechariah: `...they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son...' (Zechariah 12.10)

When Israel at last recognise Christ as their Messiah, then the kingdom of God on earth, with it, consequent outflow of blessings for all nations as promised to Abraham, will become a reality. We long for that day described by the Apostle Paul as `the Hope of Israel.' (Acts 28.20) and which is the hope of salvation for every true Christian likewise.

We pray that you will make every effort to look into these things and to share with us this certain Hope.

Foreign Office November 2nd 1917

THE BALFOUR DECLARATION

`Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations, which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet:

His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely,

Arthur James Balfour'

 

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