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We are a Christian Fellowship meeting in North London with a strong interest in teaching the Bible and understanding our time in

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In the Land of Israel

T

On the Mountains of Israel

 

June 9th 1996. - Two weeks after the Israeli election gave a narrow victory

to Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party over Shimon Peres of the

Labour Party, Nikki and I were standing at Alfei Menashe, just over the

Green Line (pre 1967 border of Israel and Jordan) in the hills of Samaria.

Below us a magnificent view of the coastal strip of Israel, taking in the

cities of Tel Aviv, Netanya and Hadera, Israel's most populated region. Not

just a beautiful view. A strategic high place. One of the reasons Peres lost

the election? Whoever controls this place has a bird's eye view of the heart

of Israel.

 

The following week we visited Kiryat Shemona in the north of Israel, where

over 500 katyusha rockets fired from southern Lebanon fell earlier in the

year, prompting 'Operation Grapes of Wrath.' Suffering and destruction for

people on both sides of the border.

 

If Israel hands Alfei Menashe to the Palestinian Authority will katyushas

fall on Tel Aviv?

 

Even as we were visiting Israel, Arab leaders were gathering in Akaba,

Jordan for an emergency summit to discuss Israel's change of government.

They made their demands, backed apparently by the world powers, the United

States, Europe, Japan, Russia. Israel must continue down the road of the

'peace process', withdraw from the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria (the

West Bank) and east Jerusalem. Arafat announced that he is ready to proclaim

the Palestinian State with east Jerusalem as its capital. Behind the demands

there lies a hardly veiled threat, made by Nabil Shaath, leading negotiator

for the Palestinian Authority: 'If and when Israel will say, "That's it, we

won't talk about Jerusalem, we won't return the refugees, we won't dismantle

the settlements and we won't retreat from the borders", then all the acts of

violence will return. Except that this time we'll have 30,000 armed

Palestinian soldiers who will operate in areas in which we have

unprecedented elements of freedom.' (NB Under the Oslo accord the

Palestinians were allowed 9,000 armed police, not 30,000 armed soldiers).

Nor were they allowed to 'proclaim a Palestinian State.')

 

If Israel does not hand Alfei Menashe to the Palestinian Authority will Arab

missiles fall on Tel Aviv?

 

In the land with Amos Oz

 

We were staying with friends in Kfar Sava, an Israeli town right on the

border with the Palestinian Authority town of Kalkilya. I picked up a book

on my friend's bookshelf, 'In the Land of Israel', written by Amos Oz in

1982 after the Lebanon war. The book is a series of interviews with various

people living in the land, mainly about the issue, 'Should Israel give up

land for peace?' There are ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist Jews who say they are

'laying the groundwork for the days to come, God willing, after the State

(of Israel).' There are Gush Emunim settlers in Tekoa and Ofra, believing

that the Jewish return to these biblical sites in Judea and Samaria is the

beginning of the dawn of Messianic redemption for Israel and that therefore

there are no circumstances in which it would be right to leave these

territories.

 

There are Palestinian intellectuals working for a Palestinian state, which

they hope will be 'a model State, open, enlightened, democratic,

progressive', 'A Light unto the Arabs.' I wonder how they feel now that

another repressive Arab police state is being set up by Yasser Arafat. The

Director of the Gaza Mental Health Programme has recently stated: 'I say

this with sadness, but during the Israeli occupation I was 100 times freer.

There are so many arbitrary arrests now, without charge, without reason. The

Authority (PLO) has nine security organisations each with its own detention

centre. And people are systematically tortured. We are oppressed by our own

Authority.'

 

No one should really be surprised at this. Yasser Arafat applauded Saddam

Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, the Chinese Communist Party's massacre of

students in Tianamen Square, the attempt of hard line Soviet Communists to

overthrow Gorbachev's regime. And when he had control of areas of southern

Lebanon from 1975-1982, the civilian population, especially the Christians,

were subjected to indiscriminate murder, rape and the plunder of their

property. But people have short memories.

 

What about Amos Oz, the writer of 'In the Land of Israel', himself? He has

been a leading spokesman of 'Peace Now', advocating 'land for peace'. In the

book he pleaded with Jewish settlers in Ofra not to 'drag the people of

Israel into Judea and Samaria against its will. ... If the price of a

Greater Land of Israel is a split in the nation, a split so deep that people

will go to the battlefield with the feeling that they were being dragged

into giving up their lives for an issue on which at least half of this

nation sees, unlike you, a possibility of compromise - if the price of a

Greater Land of Israel is to tear this nation apart and create a life and

death issue, is it worth this price, in your terms?'

 

However Oz himself saw the other side of the question. He interviewed the

Palestinian intellectuals who produced the East Jerusalem newspaper, 'Al

Fajr' ('The Dawn'). They appeared moderate in their demands and prepared to

live in a Palestinian State alongside Israel. However Oz noted that behind

them stand the PLO 'and behind the PLO, the mighty resources of Libya and

Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the power of the Islamic bloc, the resources of the

Soviet alliance, the masses of the third world. Behind them stand the

phalanxes, the mouthpieces of the simplistic New Left and of the reactionary

old right, as well as of humanitarian do-good liberalism aching for symmetry

and light.' Some of those alliances may have shifted since 1982, but they

have been replaced by a New World Order determined to impose a settlement on

Israel, which for the most part fails to address the core of Arab rejection

of Israel's fundamental right to exist.

 

If the PLO control Alfei Menashe, how long before they seek to push the Jews

into the sea?

 

Comfort My People

 

Back in the Old City of Jerusalem Nikki and I found ourselves in the Hurva

synagogue, partly sheltering from the heat, partly praying for the peace of

Jerusalem. A Jewish group came in and the guide explained how this ancient

synagogue was destroyed by the Jordanians when they expelled the Jews from

the Jewish Quarter after the 1948 War. He pointed out how Israel never

expelled Arabs or touched Muslim or Christian holy places after they

regained the city in 1967. He told of the visit to the synagogue in 1922

(when it was still a regular house of prayer) of Sir Herbert Samuel, the

British Consul in the city. Many saw the appointment of a Jewish official

representing a Great Power as a sign of divine favour. Herbert Samuel was

given the Haftorah reading in the synagogue service. (Every week in the

synagogue there is a Torah reading, a portion of the five books of Moses,

and a Haftorah reading, which is taken from selections from the Prophets.)

Nikki asked the guide if he knew what the Haftorah reading was.

 

'Nachmu, nachmu ami,' he replied. 'Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, says

the Lord.' (Isaiah 40:1)

 

What message of comfort can we give Israel today? Surely not that her

warfare is accomplished and her iniquity pardoned. We see the approaching

time which Jesus spoke of, 'the distress of nations in perplexity', 'the

great tribulation', which will have its focal point right here in Jerusalem.

We see the suffering of people on both sides of the conflict and can only

look to the one of whom Isaiah spoke in that chapter for the answer:

 

"He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs with his

arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those who are with young."

Isaiah 40.11

 

We know also that 'The word of our God stands for ever.' Nations may come

and go, but Israel remains and today the return of the Jewish people to the

land of their fathers is a sign to all who have eyes to see of the

faithfulness of God to his word and the soon coming return of the Messiah

Jesus to sort out the mess which humanity has made of this planet. As the

United Nations try to resolve the problems of the Middle East they would do

well to heed the ancient prophecies of the Bible:

 

"Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off,

and say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a

shepherd does his flock.'" Jeremiah 31.10

 

"And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy

stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in

pieces, though all the nations of the earth are gathered against it."

Zechariah 12.3

 

The one who will finally resolve this problem is one who has been here

before, laying down his life as a sacrifice for sins in fulfilment of Isaiah

53, Psalm 22 and Daniel 9.26, Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah. The current focus

of world attention on this little strip of land is a sign of his soon return

and the coming day when the Jewish people will look to him for deliverance:

 

"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem

the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on me whom they

have pierced; they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and

grieve for him as one grieves for a first born." Zechariah 12.10

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