Jerusalem is a complicated city.
So said an Armenian Christian I encountered last week in the Old City. As an American and an evangelical supporter of Israel, I have had many such visits with non-Jews in Israel. One member of a prominent Palestinian family once told me that he rejects the Old Testament promises to the Jews. I asked him why: "I don't want to believe them."
Complicated, yes, but then again not so much.
To reject the Jews and modern Israel is, to my way of thinking, a spiritual problem. It also rejects reality, a common ailment in our upside-down world. The Old Testament – the Hebrew Scriptures – are very clear that God intended from time immemorial to return the Jews to their ancestral Land. That the Exile was excruciatingly long did not abrogate the promises. Humans thought otherwise, and over time began to question whether the Jews would ever return.
A.D. 1948 changed all that. The people that British historian Sir Arnold Toynbee derisively termed "living fossils" (he couldn't explain the Jews' stubborn clinging to personal and national life) re-entered the stage of history on May 14, 1948, at 4 p.m. in Tel Aviv. David Ben Gurion read Israel's declaration (written on parchment in Hebrew) to an international radio audience. Eleven minutes later, U.S. President Harry Truman sent an aide to read a statement to reporters.
The United States recognized the fledgling Jewish state.
Later, Israel's chief rabbi told Truman, "God put you in your mother's womb, so you would be the instrument to bring about the rebirth of Israel after 2,000 years."
Tears rolled down the usually brusque and no-nonsense president's face.
I have seen amazing things this time in Israel, and my trip is not yet half over. The entire country, as a friend just said at dinner, "is a miracle." Innovation is one of the princes of Israel in 2023. The new train from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport (see image below) will get you to the Holy City in about 25 minutes. A journey from Jaffa to Jerusalem in the 19th century took five days.
Food production, enhanced immeasurably by literally ground-breaking irrigation methods, is staggering for a land once considered a moonscape by visitors like Mark Twain.
Pristine neighborhoods, such as Yemen Moshe across from Jaffa Gate in the Old City, would prompt jealousy from the world's wealthiest people.
Even the rocket attacks did not paralyze a people that went about their business.
Amazing is such a small word to describe modern Israel.
My Armenian acquaintance, from the generation that knew Yasser Arafat, believes it is Jewish arrogance that holds the match that will light a tragic fuse. "If they [the Jews] continue with their 'specialness,' well then it will be the end of the world."
The end of the world is certainly coming, perhaps fairly soon – but it won't be because of Jewish "arrogance." The country's health care system treats senior members of the terrorist group Hamas, sworn to Israel's destruction. Arabs sit in the Knesset. The emotions of certain Palestinians essentially control who can visit the Temple Mount and when, and Israel gives them a wide berth.
The list goes on. But added to the tragedy of cousins who don't get along very well is the plain fact that the Palestinian people are suffering under the brutal heel of their own corrupt leadership. Senior PA officials live in luxury while regular people struggle to eat. I have found that the average Palestinian wants only what we all want: freedom to live and work and raise families.
The one thing that has stunned me of late with regard to Israel and the unending conflict is the internal discord right now, especially within the military infrastructure. I had read reports of some pilots who said they would refuse to serve and fly, due to their dislike of Benjamin Netanyahu's policies, particularly his endorsement of judicial reform. I was dismayed to learn that these reports aren't, for once, fake news. Another Israeli friend put it this way: "Our institutions are stuffed with leftists!"
So, the United States shares another thing in common with Israel.
Still, we know from Scripture that there will be no rest for this nation, from antiquity to this moment, until the Messiah comes. As I heard someone say this week: "Before I made Aliyah [Hebrew for 'going up'] to Israel, it was like watching a play. Now I'm in the play!"
So he is, and I must say I'm a bit jealous, truly. We stand on the brink of history, because we live in the time the Jews have re-entered history. Conflict is coming. It will be the end of the world, yes.
But a new one will emerge – perfect, and without end.
Photos provided by author: (1) Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem's Old City, at dawn; (2) Israel's new train, taking passengers from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; (3) the ruins of King David's palace, Jerusalem's Old City.
Notice: This column is printed with permission. Opinion pieces published by AFN.net are the sole responsibility of the article's author(s), or of the person(s) or organization(s) quoted therein, and do not necessarily represent those of the staff or management of, or advertisers who support the American Family News Network, AFN.net, our parent organization or its other affiliates.