It has been the site of the most military battles and wars than anywhere else on earth. The greatest Empires of all time have fought to control this small stretch of land. Throughout history, it has been said, “Whoever controls this land, controls the world.” Even today, events that happen in this vicinity and on the streets of Jerusalem make headline news.
This powerful truth doesn’t seem to be logical when you look at a map. Although it has been larger at one time under King David’s rule, present-day Israel is only 264 miles long of which half of that total is desert (The Negev). God does good work with shades of brown, but those nearly 131 miles of desert are totally barren. At the narrowest point, the Israel is 9 miles across with its widest point being 71 miles across. From east to west, the topography moves quickly from fertile plains (the Fertile Crescent) to the rough terrain of the Judean Hills to the Judean Mountains then to the drop-off of the Jordan Rift Valley.
There is only one road to travel north to south (The Via Maris-Way of the Sea), one road east to west (the Jericho Road) and one water supply (the Jordan River). There are no oil reserves in the country so all gas products are imported. The possibility of natural gas has only recently been discovered and the economy of Israel depends greatly on mining minerals for the Dead Sea (mostly for cosmetics). To top things off, the state of Israel is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the west and then surrounded on all of the remaining border by the enemy nations of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. Logistically, Israel should be a “sitting duck.”
What makes this land the most priceless property on earth? In ancient history, the answer would have been two-fold: Military and Money. If you controlled the Via Maris roadway, you controlled a powerful military upper-hand thus you were able to stop supplies to the enemy and hold a perfect military stronghold to keep the enemy at bay. In times of peace, the trade route was limited to the Via Maris as the only road from which to carry products from Egypt or to Egypt. King Solomon secured both military protection and monetary strength by marrying one of Pharaoh’s daughters near the beginning of his reign.
Today, the struggle for control of the land of Israel is primarily Political. For the last fifty years, the major battle for control of the land of Israel has taken place in the United Nations. This battle began in 1967 and continues today. In fact, Israel’s greatest threat to existence is the United Nations, not Hamas or Hezbollah. Let me give you a brief history of how our present situation came into being.
The term Palestine came into formal existence during World War I (1914-1918). The French and British armies were overseeing this barren area during WWI. These soldiers nicknamed the area Palestine which has its root in the word Philistine (enemies of King David). The history of the word can be traced back to a combination of Egyptian and Jewish languages. It was not a loving or respectful term for the area, but a derogatory term for the barren land they had to guard. If you lived in that area, you were a Palestinian. There were Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs. Just as there are Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs today. In fact, the term first referred just to the Jews in the area. Palestine (root word is Philistines) is only a little over 100 years old.
One hundred years ago, what is today’s state of Israel was a barren land of desert and swamps. Many areas were infested with disease-carrying insects. When the Roman army burned the city of Jerusalem in 70 A. D., they scorched the area until few if any trees were left. A large majority of the trees in Israel today are about 70 years old, because the Jewish Israeli government created a program through which 1 million trees were planted. The beautiful orchards and flowers were developed after the Six-Day War of 1967.
One of the things that amazed me when I went to Israel was the fact that Jews used orange trees to dry up the swamp areas. Orange trees absorb more water than other trees and have provided land to be reclaimed and citrus fruit to become a major source of export monies. The Jewish people have also reclaimed parts of the desert and used the Dead Sea as a source for cosmetics that are sold world-wide.
Although there have always been Jewish people living in what was known as Palestine, immigration to the area increase greatly with the rise of power of Adolph Hitler in 1933. Hitler believed that only two pure races still lived on earth: the Germans and the Jews. His goal outlined in Mein Kampf was to destroy all Jewish people. Hitler began by isolating Jewish people in “ghetto” areas under his control. The persecution of the Jews by Hitler intensified until many Jews were moved to concentration camps where multitudes of people were starved to death.
During the years of Hitler’s reign, 6 million of the 9 million Jew on earth were executed in the vilest of ways. The increasing atrocities motivated people to immigrate to other parts of Europe and to Palestine. Even under such horrid circumstances, there was a limit on how many Jews could immigrate to Palestine.
The Jews who were able to reach Palestine would use money sent from the Jewish League in the United States to purchase land. The Jewish families would then build communities in the new location. They would establish communal farms and form new communities. It is important to note that the Jewish families bought the land from their Arab neighbors. The land was not taken from Arab families by any means of force, especially by not any military action. The Jews were a peaceful people who had escaped the horrors of Hitler and left much of what they had behind.
After World War II, the issue of Palestine needed to be settled. Using the two-partition plan first drawn up in 1917, the UN designated an area of Palestine for the Jews and another partition for the Arabs. Although the United Nations was not willing to recognize Israel as a nation, they were willing to allow a state of Israel. In May 1948, the United Nations officially recognized the state of Israel. Using the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (today’s peace plan format that has never worked), the land was divided between Jews and Arabs with the Jews being given the Negev Desert (southern Israel today), the area of Galilee to the north and “strips of land” in the middle of the area. There was no access to Jerusalem and the only water source was the Jordan River in the northern section of the country. Notice also that the southern strip of land in the yellow is the Negev Desert.
Although the Jews were willing to settle for the land arrangement, the Arab nations in the surrounding area were not. The Arabs were not willing to allow any type of Jewish recognized area. In 1948, Arab forces began a war against a rag-tag group of Jewish fighting men with the purpose of destroying the Jews. This was is referred to the War of Independence for the state of Israel. In May 1948, the State of Israel declared its independence. The Jewish forces prevailed.
In 1956, Egyptian President Abdul Nassar tried to force to Israel into submission by closing the Suez Canal and Israel’s most important port at the southern type of the Negev. The Suez Canal was vital to trade in Israel, leaving them with only the Port of Eliad. Although outnumbered, the Israeli forces were able to gain the upper-hand. This blockade was ended with a United Nations presence.
The biggest turning point in the history of the state Israel happened in June 1967. At that time, there was a build-up of 500,000 Arab forces surrounding Israel. President Nabbar stated the goal of the conflict was to “drive the Jews into the Sea (Mediterranean).” The Jewish forces numbered 50,000 and had a small air force. A request for fighter jets was made to President Lyndon Johnson, but LBJ refused to give any planes to Israel unless the Israelis allowed the Arab forces to strike first. Under those conditions, the Israeli soldiers would have been defeated quickly. Israel had to take the initiative. Using French-built jetfighters, the Israeli small Air Force won what would be known as the Six-Day War in two hours
Knowing that Muslims start each day with a coffee break from 8-8:30 a.m., the Israeli Air Force carried out an air strike during that thirty-minute window of opportunity to destroy the Egyptian Air Force while the jets were on the ground. Over the next six days, the Israeli army drove the stronger Egyptian army out of the Sinai Desert, took control of all of the city of Jerusalem, drove the Arab forces all the way to the West Bank, took control of the Gaza Strip and pushed Syrian forces out of the Golan Heights. It would take six days of negotiations at the United Nations to end the conflict. I can still remember watching the negotiations on television.
In a series of miraculous battles, the Israeli forces took possession of land from the southern tip of the Sinai desert to the northern tip near Mount Hermon. The reason that we hear so much about “going back to the borders of 1967″ is that the Arab nations want to act as if the Six-Day War never happened. They want to take back by political action what they have never been able to take back by military action.
The Arab forces attacked again on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) 1973. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated a “land for peace” plan in which Israel gave back the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Desert. There have been assaults on the people of Israel, but each time, Israel prevailed. Israel did build a 20-foot concrete wall at between Bethlehem and Jerusalem to stop suicide-bombers from wreaking havoc in Jerusalem. At the time of my visit, there had not been a murder in Jerusalem (population 750,000) in four years.
When you lose a conflict militarily, what do you next? You start a political movement by creating a “Palestinian People” who came into existence in the middle-1960s. The historical storyline with these politics goes back only 50 years, but goes like this:
1. The Palestinian People are Arab people who have always owned this land
2. The Palestinians have a right to demand the establishment of a Palestinian State based on the Balfour Declaration.
3. Israel must return to the boundaries of 1967 as if the Six-Day War had never happened.
4. Jerusalem must be recognized as the capital of the Palestinian state in order for peace negotiations to begin.
Today, the United Nations have passed more resolutions against Israel than any other country in the world. In 2015, the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) passed 20 resolutions against Israel and 2 against all other nations. In October 2016, UNESCO (United Nations Education, Science Culture) passed a resolution that stated that the Temple Mount had no Jewish history. They have tried to politically re-write the history of God’s People. Please know that the motivation behind these actions has more to do with destroying the Jews than designation of the land.
They want President Trump to reverse his declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and remove the United States Embassy out of Jerusalem. You may remember the recent condemnation vote of Trump’s declaration in which only 9 countries voted with the United States. The opposition’s reasoning is that the possession of Jerusalem is key to present-day peace plans. Nothing could be further from the truth. Trump’s declaration is the boldest affirmation of our loyalty to Israel by any American President since the state of Israel was formed in 1948.
In the summer of 2016, the pressure to reclaim the land of Israel have been passed by different UN organizations which would attempt to destroy the history of Israel, reclaim land lost in the 1967 war and claim Jerusalem as the capitol of the future Palestinian State. The attempt by the Arab world is to win a political victory that they could not win militarily.
What does that political climate have to do with prophecy? That is the topic for my next blog.