Today, 23 September, 2011, is the day that Palestine will ask the United Nations to vote on its statehood. I have no idea whether this request will be passed or vetoed; and whether its aftermath will be peaceful or violent. However, 63 years after the establishment of modern Israel, its existence continues to be a hot issue in both the secular and religious worlds.
From a secular standpoint
Modern Israel was established in 1948 by the United Nations as a safe home for the Jewish people post WWII. Since then, conflict and demographic changes have meant a return to 1967 boundaries is like trying to unscramble an egg. The right of return principle is arbitrary. Why not return the Holy Land to the Italians (Romans) or Greeks or the Jews again, or the Canaanites? There is archaeological evidence that all those people groups occupied the same land before each other.
Historically, the West has politically supported Israel out of sympathy for the Holocaust and out of support for its democratic stability and economic growth in the Middle East region. Countering that, the West has been wary of Palestinian association with terrorism. Yet we cannot help but be moved by the suffering of the Palestinians. However, both of these secular position are changing. Western power and influence is fast declining in a post GFC world. Academia is leading a BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction) movement against Israel. Reports of regular skirmishes such as the flotilla raid or response to rocket attacks are resulting in Generation Y largely declaring themselves ‘pro-Palestinian.’
But the ripples of allegiances spread around the globe. Political commentators have blamed the Democrats’ loss of the Ny-9 seat on Obama’s policies toward Israel. While GOP Presidential candidate, Michelle Bachmann, has linked future US prosperity to its support of Israel. Even more broadly, much of Al Qaeda’s aggression is claimed to be justified on the basis of the West’s support for Israel. The Arab Spring uprisings are uncovering an anger towards Israel that was masked by corrupt dictators.
If the secular world could find a silver bullet to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then it seems much of the world’s ails would be solved. Many leaders have tried and so far all have failed. Yet, all of the above seem like only surface issues compared to the religious passions that surround the Holy Land.
From a religious standpoint there are different angles on Israel
The Islamic fundamentalist standpoint: The Islamic caliphate once included the Holy Land. Given a Jewish state has taken back part of the caliphate, Israel’s very existence is an affront to the validity of the Islamic faith. That is partly why Hamas and Iran are committed to Israel’s eradication. Many Muslims are waiting for the twelfth imam (Mahdi) to finally usher in the peaceful rule they seek.
The Jewish orthodox standpoint: The Jewish people are God’s chosen people who were given the Holy Land as a sign of their promised inheritance. The Jewish glory days of David and Solomon were centred on Jerusalem and the temple. The Jews connection to Jehovah and future redemption is linked to traditional practices surrounding the temple.
The Christian fundamentalist standpoint: One Christian view is replacement theology (which sees New Testament references to Israel as being replaced by the Christian church). An alternative understanding is dispensational theology (which sees a revived Israel as a focus of God’s attention in the end times). There are shades of interpretation in-between these two positions. The many Christian interpretations of Israel alone have resulted in anger and division.
While the above summary of secular and religious views is simplistic, they demonstrate why a peaceful resolution seems elusive.
Personally, Romans 9-11 convinces me that even in this church age, God is not finished with the Jewish people. However, I choose not to be dogmatic as to how this will unfold. Even if modern Israel is pushed into the sea, my faith in Jesus will not be shaken. Ultimately, peace in the Middle East—and the world in general—will only come once the Prince of Peace returns. Since Jesus is our focus, let’s seek Christ more than the anti-christ. Let’s pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Let us preach the salvation gospel to the Jews, Muslims, and gentiles living in the Middle East and the world at large.