Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days

Last week Israel just observed two days that play a significant role in the life and culture of their country. Established just 70 years ago, the State of Israel remembers their fallen soldiers one day, and then the next they celebrate their Independence Day. On back-to-back days, Israelis go through a wide spectrum of emotions. To be in Israel during these two days is quite remarkable and moving.

Yom Ha’Zikaron

Israel’s Memorial Day is called Yom Ha’Zikaron. It is not a day of picnics, fun, and fireworks. Rather is a solemn day of remembering those who gave their lives for their country. Only one TV station plays through the day. It is a continual stream of honoring and remembering fallen soldiers. To honor these fallen, an alarm is sounded simultaneously throughout the country for one minute. This happens once in the evening and again the following morning. As the siren pierces the air and penetrates the heart, even all traffic comes to a halt as everyone stands in silence.

Yom Ha’Atzmaut

The following day is Israel’s Independence Day called Yom Ha’AtzmautUnlike the solemness of the previous day, this day is a day of joy and celebration. This year Israel celebrates 70 years since May of 1948 when they were recognized as an official country. The Ha-Tikvah (Israel’s national anthem) is once again sung (as also on the eve of Yom Ha-Zikaron).

Ha-Tikvah

The words of Ha-Tikvah were written in 1886 by Naphtali Herz Imber, a poet originally from Bohemia. The melody was written by Samuel Cohen, an immigrant from Moldavia. Ha-Tikvah means “the hope.”

The following are the words of Israel’s national anthem:

As long as Jewish spirit
Yearns deep in the heart,
With eyes turned East,
Looking towards Zion.

Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two millennia,
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

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Israel’s Growing Population

From our friends at United with Israel, the following article features a new update on the growing population in Israel. It is quite amazing! For the full article, go HERE.

On its 70th Independence Day, Israel can be proud of its booming population and thriving economy.

By: United with Israel Staff

Tel Aviv

The coastline of Tel Aviv

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) released its traditional statistics report on the citizens of Israel in honor of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, which is celebrated this year on Wednesday night and Thursday.

Israel boasts 8,842,000 citizens, more than 10 times as many as the 806,000 at the time of the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948.

On Israel’s 100th birthday, in 2048, the CBS estimate that Israel’s population will grow to about 15 million citizens. According to CBS projections, Israel’s population will surpass 10 million some time between 2025 and 2030.

The Jewish population stands at 6,589,000 million, 75 percent of the entire population. Israel’s Arab citizens constitute 20.9 percent of the total population, numbering approximately 1,849,000. Non-Arab Christians and other religious groups constitute 4.65 percent of the population.

1948 Newspaper

The Statehood of Israel declared in May, 1948

Since last year’s Independence Day, Israel’s population grew by 163,000, constituting a 1.9 percent growth, including 177,000 newborn babies; 41,000 people have died.

Israel’s population is young in comparison to other Western countries. Children up to the age of 14 constitute 28 percent of the population.

Israel welcomed 28,000 new immigrants. Some 3.5 million people have made Aliyah (immigration to Israel) since 1948, making up 42 percent of the total population.

About 75 percent of Israel’s population is Israeli-born – known as “sabras” – half of them second-generation. In 1948, only 35 percent were sabras, and their numbers have since more than doubled.

In 2018, over 70 years after the Holocaust, the largest Jewish population lives in Israel. This figure represents 43 percent of world Jewry.

Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, is the most-populated city, with some 882,700 residents – almost 10 percent of the population.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem at night

In 1949, Israel had merely 500 cities and towns. Today, it boasts over 1,200.

In 2018, over 70 years after the Holocaust, the largest Jewish population lives in Israel. This figure represents 43 percent of world Jewry.

Israel boasts 63 academic institutions, as opposed to only two in 1948.

Israel was the 11th happiest country in the world in 2017, the fifth consecutive year Israel received this high ranking, after reaching 14th in the first 2012 report. Israel came out ahead of the US, Germany, Japan, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Britain, Brazil, France and Mexico.

According to data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, over 93 percent of Israelis say they are happy or very happy with their lives.

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The Geography of the Christmas Story

Biblical Stories

Nazareth to Bethlehem

Route from Nazareth to Bethlehem

The Bible is filled with stories. They are narratives that don’t take place in a vacuum. For each story of the Bible, there is a cultural context in which it takes place. Many Bible commentators consider the cultural contexts of these stories in order to extract an accurate meaning. There is also an historical-political context to each story. This means paying attention to what took place historically in the region surrounding the events of the story.

“Connecting the Dots”

Additionally, there is also a geographical context to each story. Understanding the geographical surroundings of the story helps the student of the Bible connect the dots between the regions or cities that are part of the narrative. “Connecting the dots” between regions and cities is an integral part of every Israel tour we lead. The Christmas story is one of those narratives where understanding the geographical context sheds light on the amazement of God’s redemptive story.

Nazareth, Israel

The city of Nazareth today

According to the Gospel text, Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth. It is located in the Lower Galilee region (today Nazareth is a city of about 80,000 consisting of primarily Arabs who are citizens of Israel). The town of Nazareth was a small city, so insignificant that it is not even mentioned in the Jewish Talmud. The village consisted of perhaps as few as a dozen families. Located just 4-5 miles away was Sepporis, the primary city in the region.  So in this geographical region of Lower Galilee, Nazareth was insignificant in light of Sepporis.  Yet this was where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary (and later an angel spoke to Joseph in a dream (Matthew 1:18f). Isn’t that just like God, to call, use, and inspire common people from common places for His redemptive purpose!

When the Time Came

When the time came, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem. The direct distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is about 60 miles. However, most Jews traveling from the Galilee in the north to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to the south took the Jordan River Valley route.  Intentionally avoiding the region of Samaria, this would have made the trip about 15 miles longer, for a total of about 75 miles.  This route would have taken the young couple through the eastern branch of the Jezreel Valley and past Bethshean before turing south in the Jordan River Valley. This means the journey to Bethlehem would have taken them a good 5-6 days. In regard to Mary’s condition, how about covering this distance while very pregnant? That’s quite impressive actually! Tradition places Mary riding on a donkey led by Joseph walking on foot. However, there is no reason not to believe that she would have walked most of this herself even in her pregnant condition. It was a difficult trip either way!

The Route

Ascent of Adummim

The Ascent of Adummim. This is the route taken by Jospeh and Mary from Jericho to Jerusalem & Bethlehem (credit: Bible Places)

The route would have continued from Jericho, located just north of the Dead Sea, to Jerusalem. This was the ancient “Jericho Road” that ascended about 4,000 feet in elevation up the Ascent of Adummim (the most difficult section of the route) through the Judean Desert to Judea’s capital city in the Judean Hill Country. Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph’s final destination, is located about 5 miles south of Jerusalem. While Bethlehem was probably not as small as Nazareth, it, too, was overshadowed by the awe and glory of Jerusalem. Additionally, located just about 4 miles east of Bethlehem was Herodium, one of Herod the Great’s “palace-fortresses.”  While we can’t specifically place this wicked king residing at Herodium at the precise time of the birth of Christ (he was most likely in his palace in Jerusalem though just 5 miles north), this towering fortress represented something “grand and mighty” in comparison to the humble birth of Jesus.

Now enter the “wise men or Magi. Whoever they were, they traveled from the east quite a distance, crossing the desert region. They must have traveled for months before finally first arriving in Jerusalem and staying there for some time before eventually finding the “house” of Joseph and Mary (Matthew 2:11). The geographical distance these Mede / Persian astronomers would have been at least hundreds of miles, up to 500 miles, depending on where they were from.

Real Places with a Real Reason

Jesus light of the worldWhat does knowing a little about the geography of Christmas do for us?  It helps put into context the remarkable ways that God prepared the scene for the coming of His Son. It places the narrative of Christmas in various and unique geographical regions. Some of these regions are hilly (Lower Galilee), flat (Jezreel Valley, Jordan River Valley), and mountainous (Judean Desert, Hill Country of Judah). Most of all, it places the birth narrative of Jesus in real places with a real reason!

Jesus came “just at the right time” (Gal. 4:4) to provide an answer to sin and its consequences. He came to bring light. He came to be the Light in a dark world!

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Oct-Nov 2017 Egypt-Jordan-Israel Tour Update – Day 7

DAY 7: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4:

Today we would enter our third country, Israel. After a very unique and special night sleeping in tents, we woke at dawn. Greeted by the sun once again rising in the east, the day would be a sunny yet warmer day.

The Jordan-Israel Border Crossing

Wadi Rum Captains

Our “camp in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Following breakfast, about half the group rode a camel about 2 miles to the visitor center (where the bus was all night), while others took a ride in the jeeps. After packing up the bus, we drove to Aqaba, the southern most city of Jordan. We read Deuteronomy 6 on the way. After picking up some more lost luggage in Aqaba, we drove to the Rabin Border into Israel where we said goodbye to Sammy our “wild and crazy” guide. It was a delight to have him with us the last 2 days.

The Red Sea

Red Sea

Red Sea in Elat, Israel

Crossing the border into Israel all went fine (and quite quickly actually … 40 minutes!). David (our driver) and Shlomo (our guide) greeted us after we finished with the crossing procedures. We then went to Coral Beach where we met up with the 16 others in our group who began their tour in Israel only a couple of days ago. It was wonderful to be all together! We all enjoyed the beach here, with a number in the group swimming in the water of the Red Sea. The water was very clear, with colorful fish and coral.

Timnah & the Tabernacle

Timnah Tabernacle

The Tabernacle Model at Timnah

Leaving from here, we drove north in the Aravah Valley to Timnah. Back in the 13-12th century BC, this was the location of an ancient Egypt copper mine. The highlight here was seeing a full-size replica of the Tabernacle. The size was 150 x 75 feet. We saw the sacrificial altar the bronze laven, the Holy Chamber that included the Menorah, the Table of Showbread, and the Incense Altar. We then entered the Holy of Holies where we saw the replica of the Ark of the Covenant. We paused to celebrate God’s redemptive plan fulfilled by Jesus, our High Priest and Savior. We read from Hebrews 9 about Christ fulfilling the sacrifice “once and for all.”

Ostrich Hai Bar

An ostrich at the Hai Bar Nature Preserve

From here we continued to drive north in the Aravah. Since we had a late check-in at our hotel, we made an extra stop at the Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve Safari. It is an Israel national park. It was fun to see man ostriches, the white oryx, the addax, and the Solami wild donkey. The ostriches came right up to the bus window.

Dead Sea

After a brief stop at Yovata (a dairy-kibbutz known for its ice cream), we drove about an hour and a half to our hotel in Ein Bokek along the Dead Sea. While we waited for our rooms to get ready, many went down and floated in the Dead Sea. It was a remarkable and unique experience!
Following dinner, we retired for the evening.

DAY 8 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, JERICHO, GALILEE

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June 2017 Israel Tour – Days 1 & 2 Summary

DAYS 1 & 2 – MONDAY-TUESDAY, JUNE 12-13: DEPART FOR & ARRIVE IN TEL AVIV

Jaffa

The alley ways of Jaffa

Our departure day finally arrived! God brought together a total of 34 people for this trip. Most of us met at the JFK Airport in NY for our non-stop flight to Tel Aviv. Unfortunately however, four in the group missed the departure because their domestic flight had mechanical issues (they will arrive on Wednesday).

Following our 10 hour night flight, we landed at the Ben Gurion Airport (named after Israel’s first Prime Minister in 1948). After getting through the long passport lines, we grabbed our luggage and boarded the bus. We were greeted by both Shlomo (our guide) and David (our driver). Before arriving at the hotel, we made a brief stop in Jaffa. Here we enjoyed walking through the alleyways of the town. We also recalled the stories of Jonah (Jonah 1) and Peter (Acts 9-10).

sunset in Israel

A sunset on the Med Sea, Tel Aviv-Israel

We arrived at our hotel in Tel Aviv and checked in. Following dinner, we gathered for a brief orientation meeting. Following the meeting, some walked on the beach of the Med Sea before retiring for the evening. We are all excited for the life-changing experiences that await us!

DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14: GEZER, BEIT SHEMESH, KH. QEIYAFA, ELAH VALLEY, BEIT GURVIN, LACHISH, BE’ER SHEVA

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Biblical Israel & Jordan Tour, March 2017 – Day 8 Summary

DAY 8 – MONDAY, MARCH 20:

Wadi Rum

The desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan

This morning we left Wadi Rum. We were greeted by bright sun yet cool morning temps. The afternoon high would recover to about 70.

After loading the busses, we drove to the Rabin Border crossing back into Israel. With patient spirits, we proceeded through the usual security checks and passport control. Being greeted by David and Itzaq, our Israeli drivers, we loaded our buses and drove to the southern end of Elat. Here we entered the coral reef national park where we enjoyed the beach and the crystal-clear water of the beautiful Red Sea. A number of people went swimming among the colorful fish and coral.

The Red Sea

The Red Sea – Elat, Israel

About noon we drove north to Timnah. This was an ancient Egyptian copper mine in the 14th century BC. However, our focus was to visit the full-size model of the Tabernacle. We were guided by Allison, a Messianic believer. She made numerous connections with the OT Tabernacle (the altar, the laver, the Holy Chamber consisting of the Table of Showbread, the Menorah, and the Incense Altar, and the Holy of Holies containing the Ark of the Covenant) with how Christ fulfilled all the sacrificial requirements through His death. We read from Hebrews 9. It was an eye-opening lesson.

Traveling further north, we made a brief stop at Yotvata, a dairy kibbutz located hee in the Aravah/Rift Valley. Many enjoyed the ice cream!

Tabernacle Model Timnah

The Tabernacle Model at Timnah

Driving about 2 hours further north, we arrived at our hotel at Ein Bokek. Many experienced the uniqueness of floating in the salty waters (33% salt and minerals) of the Dead Sea. A wonderful dinner followed.

DAY 9 – TUESDAY, MARCH 21: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, JERICHO, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH

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Israel… Whose Land Is It?

Israeli settlements

A Jewish community in the so-called “West Bank.”

In referring to the physical land of Israel, the question “Whose land is it?” has been a popular one among world leaders, politicians, and even theologians and pastors. Some would argue that the whole peace process is based on being able to answer this one question. In some ways, it is complicated in terms of defining modern borders in a very ancient region of the world. In other ways, it is quite simple: We have one group of people (the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, or PA) who don’t want peace and who wishes for the total destruction of another group of people, Jewish Israelis. Very simply (and sadly), the PA doesn’t want peace with Jews (it’s in their Charter), while the Israelis want peace for everyone!

About this issue of land and so-called “settlements,” I came across a very interesting article written by Rachel Avraham. Rachel, a Jew, lives in one of these Jewish communities (a much better term than “settlements”) in the biblical region called Samaria (called the “West Bank” today). Her own experiences and perspectives are very interesting and insightful.

Jewish settlements, West Bank map

A map of Judea & Samaria (called the “West Bank” today).

Here is what Rachel Avraham (in a Jerusalem Online article) said –

Nevertheless, despite Israeli lobbying on the issue, US Secretary of State John Kerry also appears to think that the settlements are an obstacle to peace and make the two-state solution very difficult to implement: “The facts speak for themselves. The number of settlers in the roughly 130 Israeli settlements east of the 1967 lines has steadily grown. The settler population in the West Bank alone not including East Jerusalem has increased by nearly 270,000 since Oslo including 100,000 just since 2009 when President Obama’s term began. This is not to say that the settlements are the whole or even primary cause of the conflict. Of course, they are not. Nor can you say that if they were removed, you would have peace without a broader agreement. You would not. And we understand that in a final status agreement, certain settlements would become part of Israel to account for the changes that have occurred over the last 49 years including the new demographic realities on the ground. But if more and more settlers are moving into the middle of Palestinian areas, it is going to be that much harder to separate, that much harder to imagine transferring sovereignty and that is exactly the outcome that some are accelerating.”

“However, supporters of Israel often point out that the Fourth Geneva Convention specifically refers to belligerent occupations and the forceful transfer of people, not the voluntary transfer of civilians to areas that previously belonged to the Jewish people throughout the history that were recaptured during a war of self-defense.   They emphasize that Israel only regained the areas after the 1967 War, which was initiated only after Egyptian and Syrian troops amassed along the Israeli border, former Egyptian President Abdul Gamal Nasser ordered the withdrawal of UN forces, closed off the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and engaged in incitement on a daily basis and Jordanian forces attacked Israel. Furthermore, they note that the Mandate for Palestine that includes Judea and Samaria as well as East Jerusalem, which was incorporated into international law by the League of Nations at the Sam Remo Conference in 1922, recognized ‘the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine’ and sought to ‘encourage close settlement by Jews on the land.” According to UN official documents, all League of Nations resolutions are also valid for the UN.

In addition, when Jordan conquered the West Bank and Egypt took over Gaza, no one recognized their rights to these lands and at that time, there was no movement to establish a Palestinian state.  Furthermore, when Israel made peace with both Jordan and Egypt, both countries gave up their claims to these territories. Given this, the Israeli side argues that the pre-existing Palestine Mandate resolution that permits Jews to settle in the area is still valid for these areas and therefore the international community has no legal basis to tell Jews not to settle in areas over the green line.  As Professor Eugene Rostow, a former US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, has written: “The Jewish right of settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the local population to live there.”

“In legal terms, the West Bank is best regarded as territory over which there are competing claims which should be resolved in peace process negotiations – and indeed both the Israeli and Palestinian sides have committed to this principle,” the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs proclaimed. “Israel has valid claims to title in this territory based not only on the historic Jewish connection to, and long-time residence in this land, its designation as part of the Jewish state under the League of Nations Mandate, and Israel’s legally acknowledged right to secure boundaries but also due to the fact that the territory was not previously under the legitimate sovereignty of any state and came under Israeli control in a war of self-defense. At the same time, Israel recognizes that the Palestinians also entertain claims to this area. It is for this reason that the two sides have expressly agreed to resolve all outstanding issues, including the future of the settlements, in direct bilateral negotiations to which Israel remains committed.”

Jewish settlement or community in Judea

A Jewish community in the region of Judea

I think Rachel’s perspectives are grounded not only upon her own experiences, but with a good grasp of history as well. In answering the question, “Whose land is it?,” facts really do matter!  Sadly, one side (the PA) don’t care about facts. And until this changes (along with the hate for Jews), there will be no peace.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem & Israel. Pray for peace for Arabs and Jews alike!

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Israel and the Recent UN Resolution

The ISraeli flagIsrael is a very tiny country surrounded by 22 Arab nations. With the exception of maybe a couple, these surrounding Arab countries wish there wasn’t a country called Israel. Most of these countries hate the Jewish State. As we like to say while on tour, Israel lives in a “very nice house in a very lousy neighborhood.” All Israel wants for herself is peace with her neighbors. Regrettably, because of the bias media against Israel, most of the world simply don’t believe this. But this in itself is quite a daily challenge when your “neighbors” (e.g. Palestinian Authority, Hamas) want nothing less than to see the complete end of a Jewish nation. They want nothing less than Israel to be pushed out into the Mediterranean Sea for good. What makes it even more challenging for Israel is an world organization called the United Nations (UN).

It has now been about a week since what I would personally call the horrendous Anti-Israel UN Resolution 2334 deeming Israeli settlements are illegal and all the land beyond the so-called Green Line as illegal as well. This would even include the Western Wall within the Old City of Jerusalem.

gathering of UN

The United Nations

Given their long-standing animosity towards the Jewish State, the UN’s actions were predictable (more on this below). Regrettably however, so was the action (or should we say non-action) of the U.S. Administration. Abstaining from vetoing this UN Resolution, Obama’s true bias against Israel was revealed loud and clear. Interestingly, according to the US State Department’s definition of “anti-Semitism” (“demonizing Israel, double standard against Israel, and a delegitimizing of Israel” – see HERE), this would make this Administration anti-Semitic!  Yet I am thankful to God for the bi-partisan strong and non-anti-Semitic voice against the actions of our President and against this resolution!

Make no argument about it – this UN Resolution was not about so-called settlement activity of the Israelis. Rather, it was all about delegitimizing Israel’s right to the land and her right and need to protect herself amidst the neighborhood of nations who deny Israel’s right to even exist. This especially includes the Palestinian Authority leadership led by Fatah terrorist Mahmoud Abbas (historically, the two branches of Palestinian terrorism in the region are Hamas and Fatah). According to ex-Palestinian terrorist and now Christian believer Walid Shoebat, Abbas says words of peace in English for all the world to hear. However, but in Arabic he honors and praises terrorists who kill Jews.  Abbas also condones Palestinian education that teaches some Arab children to hate Jews. Additionally, he calls for the total destruction of Israel by driving them into the sea.

Many do not know that Israel’s border with the so-called West Bank or Territories at the heart of the middle of the country (called the Sharon District) is only 9 miles wide. That’s right, that is the distance between the Mediterranean Sea and the Palestinian city of Kalkilya. In between lie the Jewish cities of Kfar Saba, Ra’anana and Herzliya. Looking at a map of the region and the 1967 West Bank line, it becomes quite clear how limited Israel is for growth, especially in the Hill Country of Judah.

Israel map

Israel is surrounded by Muslim Countries.

So how does the UN go about demanding Israel to not build or expand so-called settlements in any area of the West Bank? They simply pass a resolution co-signed by other countries who oppose Israel. A dozen countries consented with the resolution, while the U.S. abstained from the vote.

In the words of Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, explained that there has been a history of the United Nations ganging up on Israel but normally the United States would defend Israel. But this time Obama’s administration was behind the attack. Dermer stated, “What is new is that the United States did not stand up and oppose that gang-up. And what is outrageous is that the United States was actually behind that gang-up.” He further went on to say that Israel has “clear evidence of it and we will present that evidence to the new administration through the appropriate channels.” (stay tuned about this!)

Dermer went on to share what this UN Resolution 2334 will do:

  • It gives the Palestinians ammunition to wage a diplomatic war against Israel with the world’s support instead of negotiating peace with Israel. The Palestinians clearly would rather do diplomatic end-runs, thus avoiding the bargaining table and seeking instead to internationalize the conflict.
  • This allows the Palestinians to blame Israel on the lack of peace (even though their Charter calls for the annihilation of Israel).
  • The pre-1967 border lines must now be observed. This means places like the Western Wall, the most holy Jewish site in the world, is on illegal land now. This means biblical places like Hebron, Bethlehem, Shechem (Nablus today) are also outside the so-called border and thus are on illegal land.
  • It will lead to the lack of peace instead of furthering the potential for peace. Why? Because it removes any incentive for the Palestinian Authority towards peace with Israel. This is tragic for both peace-loving Israelis and Palestinians.

And now to see that this current Administration abstained from the vote (and even may have helped propose the resolution, but we’ll have to wait to see if this is true or not) is sickening.

In the aftermath of the resolution, Secretary of State John Kerry took the liberty to share remarks. Once again, he proved himself to be one of the worst person to hold the office. It is important to give careful analysis of what he shared. Mark Levin describes the Kerry speech perfectly,

John Kerry just delivered the most outrageous speech of any top American official in modern times. As if a special pleader for the Palestinians, his speech was an exposition in propaganda. He distorted history, cherry-picked facts, selectively used quotes by other political figures, gave a completely dishonest portrayal of Israeli society and policies, omitted endless examples of Israeli restraint in the face of endless examples of Palestinian terrorism and threats of war by surrounding regimes, and on and on. Not once did he bother to provide the full pre-1967 history of the region, including the Palestinian involvement with the Nazis; moreover, not a word about the PLO, the 1967 war, the 1973 war, etc.

Indeed, Kerry repeatedly positioned the Israeli government as controlled by extremists and their defensive efforts to protect their citizenry as acts of aggression in an attempt to marginalize Benjamin Netanyahu. Of course, Kerry ignored the 5,000-year-old connection the Jews have to the land, which even the League of Nations recognized in its 1922 Mandate for Palestine. 

Kerry and Obama have emboldened Israel’s enemies in unimaginable ways. They lit the match lighting up the Middle East, they facilitated Iran’s nuclear program with billions of dollars, and now they seek Israel’s effective demise — a long-time Obama infatuation well before his ascendency to the presidency. ” (Conservative Review, December 28, 2016)

map of israel

Map of Israel. The green represents the so-called “West Bank” or Judea & Samaria

Andrew McCarthy added these his thoughts about the Kerry speech as well,

“Kerry did not mention that Jordan was never subjected to international pressure to grant the Palestinians their own state during the 19 years that Jordan occupied Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem; nor did he acknowledge that the Palestinians would long ago have had their own state if they had recognized Israel’s right to exist and abandoned jihadist terror. Leaving all that aside, Kerry accused the Israeli government of undermining any hope of a two-state solution.)  (National Review, December, 28, 2016)

As I wrote above, this UN resolution is not about Jewish settlements being built on disputed land, but rather is about the delegitimizing Israel’s right to the land and her right and need to protect herself. Yet if… if this was only about settlements, from an International Law point of view, Daniel Horowitz contends that Israel actually has the right to build. He writes,

“The only binding resolution of international law, a resolution which has never been countermanded to this very day, is the July 1922 Mandate for Palestine. Adopted by the League of Nations, that resolution recognized the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” It called for the creation of a Jewish national homeland anywhere west of the Jordan River.” (Conservative Review, December 27, 2016)

Horowitz continues with a history lesson,

“The legality of the 1922 Mandate was adopted that same year by the U.S. Congress in H.J. Res. 360 and signed by President Warren Harding. The newly created Arab country of Jordan attacked Israel in 1948 seeking to annihilate its inhabitants and illegally occupied Judea and Samaria until 1967. That year, Israel won back the territory originally allocated for a Jewish State as part of the 1922 League of Nations agreement. There is no such thing as “’pre-67 borders.” They were merely 1949 armistice lines between Israel and neighboring countries after they launched an illegal war of extermination. It has nothing to do with the notion of a unique Arab “Palestinian” entity west of the Jordan River. There was never any internationally recognized legal sovereign occupying Judea and Samaria from the time the British Empire fell until 1967. Jordan’s occupation of the area west of the Jordan River was never recognized. To the extent there is an Arab Palestinian state it is the modern state of Jordan, which already sucked up 77% of the original Mandate of Palestine allocated for a Jewish State under the first plan of the Balfour Declaration.”

About the whole concept of the “West Bank” in today’s political discussion within the United Nations and around the world, Horowitz concludes, “In many respects, this is the biggest global fake news story of our time.”  I fully concur!  May I also add that from a Biblical point of view, the land has eternally been given to Israel. And the borders given to Abraham far exceed the present borders given to Israel by the United Nations.

Personally, I have always opposed a “two state” solution. I personally feel the Palestinians already have a State – and it’s called Jordan! About 70% of Palestinians today who live in the West Bank have Jordanian passports. Yet these west-bankers have been left as political pawns by the Arab world for one reason – to use them for political leverage against the legitimacy and rights of Israeli Jews. This really is a shame for true peace-seeking Arabs I know and love, those who want to simply live side-by-side with Israelis in peace and synergistic harmony.

2014 UN bias against israel

A 2014 illustration of the UN’s bias against Israel

Yes, the UN hate for Israel will continue. To the UN, Israel is the only occupying force in the world. The hate and bias against Israel is blatant. As stated by Eugene Kontorovich in a recent Wall Street Journal,

“According to our research, the U.N. uses an entirely different rhetoric and set of legal concepts when dealing with Israel compared with situations of occupation or settlements world-wide. For example, Israel is referred to as the “Occupying Power” 530 times in General Assembly resolutions. Yet in seven major instances of past or present prolonged military occupation—Indonesia in East Timor, Turkey in northern Cyprus, Russia in areas of Georgia, Morocco in Western Sahara, Vietnam in Cambodia, Armenia in areas of Azerbaijan, and Russia in Ukraine’s Crimea—the number is zero. The U.N. has not called any of these countries an “Occupying Power.” Not even once.” (Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2016)

The article continues,

“It gets worse. Since 1967, General Assembly resolutions have referred to Israeli-held territories as “occupied” 2,342 times, while the territories mentioned above are referred to as “occupied” a mere 16 times combined. The term appears in 90% of resolutions dealing with Israel, and only in 14% of the much smaller number of resolutions dealing with the all the other situations, a difference that vastly surpasses the threshold of statistical significance. Similarly, Security Council resolutions refer to the disputed territories in the Israeli-Arab conflict as “occupied” 31 times, but only a total of five times in reference to all seven other conflicts combined.

General Assembly resolutions employ the term “grave” to describe Israel’s actions 513 times, as opposed to 14 total for all the other conflicts, which involve the full gamut of human-rights abuses, including allegations of ethnic cleansing and torture. Verbs such as “condemn” and “deplore” are sprinkled into Israel-related resolutions tens more times than they are in resolutions about other conflicts, setting a unique tone of disdain.

Israel has been reminded by resolutions against it of the country’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions about 500 times since 1967—as opposed to two times for the other situations.”

Prime Minister of Israel - Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu.

Prime Minister of Israel – Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.

Kontorovich concludes,

“Our findings don’t merely quantify the U.N.’s double standard. The evidence shows that the organization’s claim to represent the interest of international justice is hollow, because the U.N. has no interest in battling injustice unless Israel is the country accused.

Not surprisingly, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared his own views on the UN Resolution. He was exact in his language as well,

“Citizens of Israel, I would like to reassure you. The resolution that was adopted yesterday at the United Nations is distorted and shameful but we will overcome it. The resolution determines that the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem is ‘occupied territory’. This is delusional. The resolution determines that the Western Wall is ‘occupied territory’. This too is delusional. I would like to tell you that the resolution that was adopted, not only doesn’t bring peace closer, it drives it further away. It hurts justice; it hurts the truth. Think about this absurdity, half a million human beings are being slaughtered in Syria. Tens of thousands are being butchered in Sudan. The entire Middle East is going up in flames and the Obama administration and the Security Council choose to gang up on the only democracy in the Middle East – the State of Israel. What a disgrace.But as it relates to Israel, don’t expect anything different. This is all good reason for the next US Congress & Administration to defund the UN, or simply leave it (I prefer the latter). But in all of this, remember that God and His greatness rises above the UN and all the world nations. It is God who ultimately is sovereign over all the nations.” 

Despite all of these saddening and sickening developments, I invite you to pray for Israel and her citizens … all of them, Jews and Arabs alike (there are 1.5 million Arab Israeli citizens if you didn’t know). Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Also, pray for the Palestinians who want peace, those caught in the middle of the conflict, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ who are unjustly being treated by their own people. Pray for the UN. Pray also that this hate, injustice and anti-Semitism against Israel would end.

But also remember that God is greater than the United Nations!  Remember and rejoice in these words from the Bible:

  • For the kingdom is the LORD’S And He rules over the nations.” (Psalm 22:28)
  • “He rules by His might forever; His eyes keep watch on the nations; Let not the rebellious exalt themselves.” (Psalm 66:7)
  • Who has aroused one from the east Whom He calls in righteousness to His feet? He delivers up nations before him And subdues kings He makes them like dust with his sword, As the wind-driven chaff with his bow.” (Isaiah 41:2)
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Israel – A South African Perspective

South Africans at western wall

A picture taken at the Western Wall in Jerusalem of 5 South Africans who toured Israel.

I usually write/blog about things like historical geography, biblical archaeology, and the culture and context of the Bible. After all, the mission of Biblical Israel Ministries & Tours is all about making the Bible come alive for people all over the world.

In this blog I take exception to the rule of not talking about the political aspect involving Israel. But I found this recent excerpt particularly interesting. Written by the South African who had a distorted view of Israel prior to coming to the land, the article is all about his experiences and encounters within Israel and the so-called Palestinian Territories. His new perspectives gained on coming to Israel challenged his previous understanding that Israel was an Apartheid country like his homeland in S. Africa.

Here is the article written by Tshediso Mangope. He grew up under apartheid and believed that Israel had the same policies. But seeing the country for himself changed his perspective. I hope it also brings to you a counter perspective of what the United Nations, the anti-Israel world mediaand even some Christian sources continually and regrettably report.

While there are items within this article that I would personally challenge, I still feel the article is well-worth reading.

Here is the article that appeared in The Tower:

I’m a South African Activist Who Used to Fight Against Israel—Until I Went There

As a black South African and member of the African National Congress (ANC), I have often heard the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state—and therefore a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to be based on a single state of Palestine between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. I recently made a trip to Israel and the West Bank in order to understand the issues and the prospects for resolving the conflict.

Traveling through the country encouraged me to reflect upon the suggestions by some sections of the Palestine solidarity movement—particularly those advocating for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel—that it is possible to establish one country between Israel and Palestine based on a “one-state” solution, like the one we established here in South Africa. Though supporters of this solution claim it is democratic, the rejection of a Jewish state is in fact a modern way of institutionalizing anti-Semitic posturing.

First and foremost, my visit to the region confirmed for me that there is no meaningful comparison between the State of Israel and the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

Apartheid museum

The entrance to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. Photo: Ben Sutherland / flickr

I grew up under apartheid. I saw my parents being humiliated under apartheid. The scars of apartheid still live with us to this day and are strongly embedded in the psychology of my people. Therefore, in considering what a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves, I reject both the analysis that Israel practices apartheid and the demand that Israel should be dismantled and replaced with a single state of Palestine.

It appears that those who compare the State of Israel to apartheid South Africa do not understand the fundamentals of apartheid, nor have they experienced it. Let me explain.

I grew up during an era in South Africa when there was structured, state-imposed control of black lives. The apartheid regime created conditions that were exclusive to black people. Colonialism and apartheid had deliberately made poverty, bad education, landlessness, and cheap labor part of what it meant to be black. Under apartheid, our legal status was that of an inferior people.

South Africa was divided into two distinct worlds: one white and wealthy, the other black and poor. The mines, factories, and farms all depended on black workers forced into wage labor through government legislation. Accordingly, white-owned businesses did not hesitate to support a racist government that denied blacks the vote, because they accumulated huge profits and paid their workers artificially low wages.

Blacks lived in townships and slums, and whites lived in comfortable suburbs. Blacks earned subsistence wages and whites were their masters. The black maid took care of the master’s children in the suburbs, but only saw her own children once or twice a year. The black security worker guarded the rich white areas for white comfort, but had to travel back to violent townships after each shift. This was apartheid and everything it represented.

I recall witnessing the humiliation of my parents and watching the persecution of our political leaders on the news. It became hard for me to continue having conversations without actually doing something. So I joined the liberation movement, the ANC, to end the humiliation of our parents and the suffering of black children.

I was elected chairperson of the Young Communist League, the youth wing of the influential South African Communist Party. Upon entering law school at the University of Witwatersrand, I was elected to the South African Students Congress, and as branch chairperson of the ANC Youth League.

During this time, we called for a radical economic program of land expropriation and reparations, as well as the nationalization of mineral resources in order to expand the economy and undo the apartheid legacy. It was also at this point that I joined the BDS movement with similar enthusiasm.

However, after actually visiting Israel, my views on BDS have changed drastically. I am no longer involved in the BDS movement and don’t believe it to be a legitimate cause.

For me, learning about the history of the region and trying to separate the truth from lies was a life-altering moment.

First, studying the history was crucial in terms of fully grasping the truth of the situation. I learned that Jewish people are indeed indigenous to the land from which they were forcibly removed. Following this expulsion from their homeland, Jews suffered the indignity of being the skunk of the world.

The oppression and mass murder of Jewish people did not only take place in Nazi Germany, but in many parts of the world, wherever Jews sought to live among other nationalities. From the time of the Seleucid Empire, when all cultural and religious practices of Jewish people were banned by law without cause; to the persecution at the hands of Christians, who were taught by the Church that Jews were collectively responsible for the murder of Jesus; and from the massacres of more than four thousand Jews in Granada during the tenth century; to the mass murder of about six thousand Jews in Morocco around the same time, the suffering of Jewish people in many parts of the world is recorded fact. It is important to reflect on this history in order to understand the origin of this conflict.

Not surprisingly, fervent critiques of Israel erase this history and focus all energies upon the conflict immediately before and after the declaration of a Jewish state in 1948. Those who butcher the history of Israel in this manner are themselves guilty of causing and perpetuating conflict. They deliberately do this to conceal the truth, which to them is an inconvenience.

However, this is not too difficult for me to grasp as a black man, whose painful past is always used as a footnote by others. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things that, in my view, Israel should have handled differently, but it is grotesque naiveté to reduce Israel to an apartheid state. The insistence of the Arab world on denying Jewish people, the indigenous people of Israel, the right to sovereign existence is a main reason this conflict has lasted for so long.

The argument by BDS supporters that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be solved with a one-state solution, following the South African model of democracy, is false and dangerous. This assessment is heavily supported by my experiences in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, as well as my experiences as a black South African who experienced apartheid.

Let’s start with the lessons we learned from the peaceful transition into a democratic, single state in South Africa following the Convention for a Democratic South Africa negotiations.

First of all, Israel’s struggles are not the same as South Africa’s. Apartheid in South Africa was designed by white settlers who had moved from the Netherlands and Britain to conquer African land and turn the indigenous people into virtual slaves.

However, Israel is not a settler state. The Jewish people are indigenous to Israel, including the contested West Bank and the holy city of Jerusalem. These are descendants of Jewish refugees who were displaced centuries ago and they are back to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination. There is no self-respecting, sober intellectual who will argue that returning to your ancestral homeland from whence you were displaced makes you a settler.

Secondly, the oppressed black people in South Africa were the overwhelming majority and could, therefore, still mobilize themselves even after suffering multiple defeats. We could also rely on the support of other neighboring African countries, which had gained independence before us and helped us to the democratic victory of 1994.

Jewish people, on the other hand, are a religious and cultural minority in the middle of the Arab world. All neighboring countries have fought against the state of Israel in one way or another since 1948. Each of these countries has at some point vowed to wipe Israel off the map.

Thirdly, the oppressed black majority of South Africa made it expressly clear that the content of our struggle was not to annihilate the white minority, who designed and were profiting from apartheid. The history of all black struggles in South Africa is the striving for peace and reconciliation. From the beginning of the twentieth century, all petitions and representations we made to Britain were rooted in the best traditions of peace and cooperation. We refused to kill white people, particularly women and children, who are the most vulnerable in society. We even declared in 1955, when the machinery of apartheid was at its most repressive, that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.”

In South Africa, the ANC’s armed wing, the Umkhonto we Sizwe, understood that the conventional rules of war prohibited the attack and killing of innocent civilians. Any transgression, intentional or otherwise, was punishable in the Umkhonto we Sizwe camps to prevent a recurrence. We sent a message to the world that, as blacks, we were fighting against an unjust system and that we were not engaged in a terrorist enterprise.

However, the situation is different in Israel. Despite the fact that Jewish people have a legitimate claim to Jewish land, most Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist. They have essentially supported the call for the genocide of Jewish people—and, indeed, a single state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River could only be achieved by killing and expelling the majority of Jews currently living there.

It is quite apparent that the conflict has escalated to a point where peaceful coexistence within one border is impossible. The younger generation in Gaza and the West Bank, many of them influenced by the Islamist Hamas movement, are angrier and more determined to wipe Israel off the map, as urged by Hamas.

During my visit to the Palestinian Authority, I made two important observations that further underline the fact that Israelis and Palestinians cannot live harmoniously in a single state.

The first concerns a young female entrepreneur, in her mid-twenties, who, by her own admission, has been working with Israeli companies to grow her businesses. Although she supported cooperation with Israeli businesses in order to boost the local economy, which is frowned upon by most of her people, she told us that she too was not prepared to live with Jews in one state.

When asked if Palestinians would be willing to allow Jewish people already living in the West Bank to have citizenship, she responded, “They (Jews) would have to accept that they will be treated like second-class citizens.”

Out of shock, our Palestinian tour guide, who until now was sitting and listening to her presentation, stood up to make a point. He objected that this viewpoint was against their concessions in the 1995 Oslo accords, to which she responded, “It was foolhardy of you to make such concessions when we are treated like this.”

The second concerned two young Palestinian boys, aged 14 and 16, who had been shot by Israeli soldiers a week earlier after they stabbed two young Jewish women to death, one of them seven months pregnant. Entering Ramallah, we were welcomed by huge posters of these young boys. And what was more horrifying was that those boys were celebrated as martyrs.

The suggestion that it is possible to establish one country, based on a one-state solution, is just not possible. Expecting people with a bitter history of persecution, like the Jewish people, to abandon the idea of a Jewish state, the only state that has guaranteed them freedom and security, is not only unreasonable, but also unfair.

Tshediso Mangope

Tshediso Mangope

The only true and possible solution to this conflict is a two-state solution. A two-state solution is important, not only to ease tensions between the two sides, but also to ensure that the Jewish state is protected. The only way to protect Jewish people from all the hardships they have suffered the world over is to defend their inalienable right to self-determination.

***

This article is excerpted from “New Perspectives on Israel and Palestine,” a pamphlet published by Africans for Peace and available here.

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The Olive & Its Harvest

I wish I liked olives, but I don’t. Bummer! Olives are served virtually at every meal in Israel. This means that for those who enjoy eating olives, you can eat as many as you like!  But I’m sorry to say that I just don’t like them. I actually remember a back-packing trip I took in the Sinai Desert. This trip took place in January, 1982 (before the Israelis gave back half of the Sinai to Egypt in June that same year) while I was a student in Jerusalem. This was a trip involving only two of us. Prior to going, Karl (a fellow student) and I pre-packed our food for this week of hiking 100 miles up the coastline of the Sinai. … Continue reading