On May 14, 1948, Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the creation of the State of Israel. The new, old nation started with high aspirations, but in great danger. Attacked immediately by the armies of surrounding Arab countries, massively outnumbering the embryonic state, Israel was expected by many to be wiped out at birth.
Yet the promises of God and the words of the prophets said otherwise. After a short, intense war, Israel was left with more, not less, territory than it had expected. And over time, that territory itself began to fulfil the words of the prophet Ezekiel:
“You, O mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel… I am concerned for you and will look on you with favour; you will be ploughed and sown, …. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field… The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, "This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden….”
Ezekiel ch. 36, verses 8, 9, 29, 30, 34, 35
The opposition didn’t stop, of course. Two decades later another, even shorter war saw Israel win control of perhaps the most significant patch of land of all – the Old City of Jerusalem, calling to mind the words of Jesus:
“Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Luke ch 21, verse 24
The aftermath of the 1967 war led to four decades of strife between Israel and the Palestinians, with the city of Jerusalem a particular international bone of contention. Or rather, “an immovable rock for all the nations” – the words of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah, 2500 years old and uncannily accurate…..
Some may question how far Israel has honoured its Declaration of Independence commitment to “freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel”, and it certainly can’t be claimed that its people are all actively loyal to the faith of Abraham. Nor does Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remotely match up to the Old Testament commands:
“When foreigners reside among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
Leviticus ch. 19, verses 33-34
“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”
Exodus ch. 23, verse 9
But the fact remains that against all the odds, despite the worst that human wickedness could throw at them, the Jewish people have survived. The Biblical promises of regathering to their historic homeland, and its restoration to productive fertility, have come true.