As I read the news from Israel last week I was struck by two of the stories. The first was about Arabs who had vandalized the cars of those who were gathered at the Western Wall for prayers on Tisha B’Av. The second story was about Shmuel Greenbaum’s reaction to the loss of his wife and first child in the Sbarro terrorist bombing on August 9, 2001. He took his personal loss and grief and used it as a springboard to highlight acts of kindness throughout the world.
I felt these two stories epitomize the crux of the Middle East conflict in human form. On the one hand, you have a people who choose to look for goodness in humankind to defeat their personal tragedy and pain; on the other hand, you have a people who take pleasure in bringing others pain, especially those who are in a place of worship and prayer.
How do these two contradictory sides meet? How do you bring reconciliation and peace between two peoples whose core beliefs are polar opposites? The simple answer is you can’t. It is impossible, unless one side changes their core belief system enough so that the two can align and run parallel courses. This begs the question, who is going to change? Will the Jews change and resemble their hostile Arab neighbors, living with no regard for their fellow human beings? God forbid! For then they would violate God’s standards and commands to value life. It is the Jewish reverence for life that has brought so many of the advances we see today in medicine and technology. Their strict adherence to the inner code that God has written indelibly on their psyche has brought so much good throughout the world.
So for the Jews to violate all that they hold dear, for them to change course and align themselves with their hostile neighbors would certainly not bring peace to the Middle East but it would bring certain destruction to the entire world.
On the other hand, if we could imagine a world where the Arabs changed their core beliefs to value human life the way the Jews do, the possibilities are endless. I realize this is a utopian fantasy given today’s realities in the Middle East, but I feel that it is important to imagine what could be possible. To see neighbors living side by side respecting their different faiths, respecting each other’s right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. If this fantasy were to become reality by some miracle, it would radically and drastically change the world!
So often, when I defend the Jewish right to live in Judea and Samaria, I find those who are completely blind not only to the Biblical facts and promises, but to the underlying problem of terrorist states whose only intent is the complete and total annihilation of Israel. There is so much screaming going on about “occupied territories” or “illegal occupation” or “apartheid state” that many have not stopped to objectively consider the facts. If one sits down and objectively looks at the historical facts over the past 100 years it easily weighs in on the side of the Jews. And yet, because it is politically correct to vote for the perceived “underdog,” many fall for the lie that the Jews rule the world, that therefore they must be evil and stopped at all costs.
If one were to objectively list the facts and then add the Biblical mandates and promises of God the scale REALLY tips in favor of the Jews living in the Land of Israel. So why is it the most hotly contested issue in the world today? Why are phrases like “Peace in the Middle East” or “Middle East Conflict” burned into my consciousness from my earliest childhood memories? It really should be a non-issue that was settled decades before I was even born! Which brings me to the conclusion that there is something larger at work; there is something of great magnitude, something of significance that is beyond our understanding. I do believe that those who read the Bible have a small glimpse of this greatness. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:9-10, For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
God has a grand plan, a grand design not only for individual lives, or this planet, but for His purposes and His plans that the entire world may know, I AM, WHO I AM. I believe God has a plan and a purpose for the Jewish people, and for the nation of Israel. He promised that through them He would bring redemption to the entire world. This passage from Isaiah is very specific in the plans that God has for His chosen ones (emphasis added by me):
1 “Listen, O coastlands, to Me, And take heed, you peoples from afar! The LORD has called Me from the womb; From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name.
2 And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword; In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me, And made Me a polished shaft; In His quiver He has hidden Me.”
3 “And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, In whom I will be glorified.’
4 Then I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain; Yet surely my just reward is with the LORD, And my work with my God.'”
5 “And now the LORD says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, So that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, And My God shall be My strength),
6 Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'”
7 Thus says the LORD, The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One, To Him whom man despises, To Him whom the nation abhors, To the Servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise, Princes also shall worship, Because of the LORD who is faithful, The Holy One of Israel; And He has chosen You.”
As I read these scriptures, what runs through my mind is the scene in “Fiddler on the Roof” where Tevye says, “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?” The truth is God chose the Jewish people. They didn’t ask to be chosen. God chose them for His plans and His purposes as stated in Isaiah, “to be a light to the gentiles and be salvation to the ends of the earth.”
I feel that often, in Christianity, we assume that God’s total plan of redemption is Jesus, and we stop there. We never see the amazing greatness that is “I AM WHO I AM”. As a Christian, Jesus is certainly the consummate plan of redemption to me; however, I feel strongly that God’s ultimate plan for world redemption involves ALL of mankind and is so much bigger than anything we have yet imagined. If it ended with Jesus, then final redemption would have happened as the disciples expected 2,000 years ago when Jesus lived in Israel. But it didn’t end then.
Today, we have the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel against all odds. This did not happen by accident! God has a plan and it involves the Jewish people, the nation of Israel and gentile nations of the world. I believe there will never be peace in the Middle East, until God performs His final act of redemption and ALL nations, ALL kingdoms, ALL peoples, ALL kings and princes bow before Him, to worship the one true God.
Director, US Office