Israel at 60: Blinded in Part, Sees in Part
by Shira Sorko-Ram
Sixty years ago this month a nation was born in a day - but at great cost. Emaciated Jews from 1945 to 1948, stumbled out of Europe’s death camps liberated by the Allies, but they had no place to go. Their homes and possessions were destroyed or confiscated and their family members murdered. Many of the survivors believed that the only place in the world they might find safety would be back in their ancient homeland - the land of Israel.
But there was only one catch. The British army had conquered the Holy Land at the end of World War I, and for the thirty-one critical years they controlled Israel’s ancient land, they did all in their power to keep Jews from entering so-called Palestine (from the word Philistine). Their close ties with the Arab world and its oil was persuasive enough for them to impose increasingly strict quotas for Jews entering Israel each year. Arabs were free to settle the land, but the quota for Jews was absurd.
Decimated and heavily weighted with flashbacks of Nazi slaughter, all through WWII and after, Jews attempted to board rickety boats and land secretly on deserted beaches, trying desperately to avoid the British occupying forces who were there to put them back on boats to Europe. Those who succeeded (most did not) to set their feet on the holy ground in the middle of the night, were met by local Jews in the underground who gave them guns and told them they must fight for their lives - or another Holocaust was awaiting them - this one by the surrounding Arab nations, themselves only a few years old.
The pitifully small number of 46,000 Holocaust survivors who were admitted into the land after World War II (plus those who were smuggled in) celebrated with the local Jewish community Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948 - 60 years ago. Most of these recent immigrants hadn’t yet learned much Hebrew, and many knew none at all. But when five Arab armies invaded the newborn nation the next day, all able men and women took up whatever weapons they had. 6,000 Jews died in that war, some of them because they could not understand their officers’ commands.
As for your birth…when I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood,
I said to you in your blood, “Live!” Ezekiel 16:7
Sixty years ago, 600,000 Jews lived in this land. Some came from families who had inhabited the Promised Land for many generations - Safed, Tiberius, Jaffa, Hebron and above all, Jerusalem. There were always Jews living in the Holy Land, though most were wanderers among the nations of the world.
WHY DIDN’T THE JEWS FLEE TO ISRAEL BEFORE WORLD WAR II?
When Hitler rose to power in the 1930’s, and the black clouds gathered over the millions of Jews living in Europe and Russia, a few sniffed the wind, saw the present danger and heeded the call. Instead of declaring the ancient hope, “Next year in Jerusalem,” at Passover, they decided, “This year.” Of those who left Europe, some 150,000 made it to Palestine between 1933-1935.
But as a rising Hitler became more brazen against the Jews, hundreds of thousands who recognized the danger would have made their escape but were heartlessly blocked from coming to Palestine. The British saw that few nations were ready to take in the European Jews, and feared that the Holy Land would be flooded with millions of them. They cold-bloodedly directed their navy to intercept the few desperate boatloads of Jews that managed to flee Europe before the war started. The refugees were stopped in the water and turned back to Nazi-controlled Europe by the British navy.
The demons of World War II ascended out of the pit. Now it was too late. As the ovens burned, the gates of British occupied Palestine were mercilessly locked tight, stranding 6,000,000 Jews in Europe who went to their deaths.
Unless you look at the situation close-up, you cannot possibly comprehend the heinous sins done to the Jewish people by the Allies - especially Britain. One small incident: A group of Jews hired a dilapidated boat called the Struma, which quickly developed a leak and a malfunction in the engine. It was allowed into a Turkish port, and the Turks worked long and hard for two months to get the British to give the passengers visas to Palestine. The British absolutely refused, and relentlessly pressured Turkey not to take them either!
Finally a tug boat simply pulled the boat out into the sea where suddenly an unexplained explosion blew the ship out of the water and 763 women, men and children perished. Only one man survived.
No doubt England itself survived the war because of the praying men and women of Great Britain who interceded day and night on behalf of their nation and for the Jewish people.
After the war ended, 70,000 Jews boarded more ramshackled boats and were smuggled into the Holy Land, as the British, even after the death of 6,000,000 Jews, continued to block their immigration except for a tiny quota. Still, here and there, another boatload of more souls landed in the dead of night at some isolated beach, silently following their Jewish guides to evade the British. Their descendants are here in Israel today.
I will take you one from a city and two from a family,
And I will bring you to Zion. Jeremiah 3:14
WAVES OF JEWS BEGAN COMING HOME IN EARLY 1900’S
Around the turn of the 20th century, only some 40,000 Jews lived in Israel. (There are many different numbers given by various sources) They faced abject poverty, famine, roving marauders and expulsion by the Turks. But steadily, every year, in the early 1900’s, because of persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe, they kept coming.
But what they found was a land despised and forsaken of men. A land of no trees, of desert, and in Galilee, a land of malaria-ridden swamps. A lonely land with few inhabitants.
They cleaned the swamps. They fought the roving bands of Arabs. And the emerging local Arab leaders continued to attack under the permissive eye of British rulers. Still, before the British cut off Jewish immigration in 1939, 450,000 Jews had come home.
The Atlantic Monthly wrote in its July 1919 magazine:
“There is no chapter in the colonizing history of any people finer than the story of these Jewish pioneers. They came to Palestine ignorant of agriculture, ignorant of the land, ignorant of the people, miserably equipped. The [Turkish, then British] government laid its dead hand on all development. It was only by stealth, and with the assistance of baksheesh [money], that a house or a shelter could be erected. There was no security for land property or life, and fever and pestilence raged. The settlers had to compete with native labor accustomed to a very low standard of life. They had to make their own roads, furnish their own police, their own schools, their own sanitary apparatus; and while the government of Palestine offered them nothing but the privilege of paying taxes, the governors of the countries from which colonists came extended them no protection.”
The Jewish immigrants created an enterprise unknown anywhere else in the world. Under the harsh conditions of a barren land and dangerous neighbors they created the kibbutz - a communal society where a group of people built their houses together, ate together, built factories together, farmed together, and even had special homes in the kibbutz for the children. Though the structure of the kibbutz has radically changed in modern times in the direction of a normal village, the kibbutz was a vehicle that had a tremendous impact in building a Jewish state from scratch. Many of Israel’s most well-known politicians and military officers were raised on a kibbutz.
Now here is an interesting point that is crucially important to understand. Wherever Jews settled, Arab immigration grew exponentially. “The Arabs who went to Palestine sought economic opportunity created by the Zionists. As Europeans, the Zionists brought with them to Palestine resources and skills far in advance of anything possessed by the local population. Jews initiated advanced economic activities that created jobs and wealth and drew Arabs.” (www.danielpipes.org/article/1110)
MAY 15, THE DAY AFTER INDEPENDENCE DAY
Nevertheless when the new Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, declared Israel an independent state, the Islamic nations had absolutely no intention of permitting such a state to rise out of the ashes of this devastated people. Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq immediately invaded Israel. Their intentions were declared by Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” (Jewish Virtual Library, The 1948 War, Mitchell Bard)
For reasons only God can give, the Jews survived. Both Jews and Arabs fought until exhausted, and the 1949 Cease Fire was signed by all. However, Arab attacks continued without cessation. The Islamic god categorically refused to accept the reestablishment of a Jewish state on the land God gave Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
But with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Jews in Arab countries began to suffer great persecution. Arab riots broke out, and Jewish property was burned and looted. Jews lost their holdings, their bank accounts were frozen and their property confiscated. 856,000 Jews from Arab countries fled for their lives, forced to leave their property behind. (In comparison, about 700,000 Arabs fled from Palestine when the five Arab nations invaded Israel in 1948). In three years, the population of Israel doubled, and by 1957 900,000 Jews had found refuge in Israel because the new State had opened its gates to all Jews. Israel absorbed them all.
THE ISRAELI PERSONALITY
The souls of the Jews who came to Israel from the Holocaust were marred and broken. Most became hardened atheists. They reasoned that if there were a God, He would not have let the Holocaust happened. There are still 250,000 Holocaust survivors alive in Israel today. Not only they, but their children and their children’s children bear scars.
Some European ultra-Orthodox Jews managed to escape to the Holy Land before the death trains caught them. They are haters of Christianity. They see Christians as Nazis, or as the Russian-Orthodox priests who slaughtered Jews in Russia in the pogroms. They see Christians as the Spanish inquisitors who drove a million Jews out of Spain. They see Christians as the Crusaders galloping towards Jewish towns and burning down synagogues full of Jews.
But I am very angry with the nations. . .for while I was only a little angry,
they furthered the disaster. Zechariah 1:15
They see Jews who believe in Yeshua as the descendants of the above - traitors to the Jewish people, betrayers of the God of Israel, followers of a Man who caused His disciples to become the modern Hamans - enemies of the Jewish people. In persecuting us they think that they are offering service to God.
THE WORLD VIEWS ISRAEL AS NEGATIVE
Today there are just over 5,500,000 Jews living in Israel - fewer than the number killed in the concentration camps. The nation has seen continuous war for 60 years - in her cities and along her borders.
A BBC poll released on April 2 found Israel to be the second most disliked country in the world. Only Iran is seen as surpassing Israel in unpopularity, with Pakistan coming in as a close third. As the Jerusalem Post described it, “Welcome to the Axis of the Unloved.” The nation with the most negative feelings toward Israel is Egypt with an incredible 94% of the population. (And we have a peace agreement with Egypt?!) Israel was seen as playing a harmful role in the world by more than half of the 17,000 respondents who were questioned in 34 countries. Israelis have watched with incredulity the monster of Islamic tyranny rise - not only with bombs and guns, but with sophisticated skills to manipulate the world media as its greatest ally. Israel has watched in amazement and unbelief as virtually the whole world, through the United Nations, has turned against Israel.
Israel has witnessed the top universities in the western world and the east, join the haters of Israel by placing hordes of professors who preach and teach the up-and-coming generation of world leaders the illegitimacy of Israel, the occupiers, who built their nation on another’s land.
Israel watches the Middle East burn as Europe and the U.S. fiddle over which sanctions to impose on Iran and her nuclear installations - (which sanctions are best - the nations ponder - the weak ones or the weaker ones?). Iran is already invading Israel - through Hizbullah and Hamas. It is no secret - these terrorists are trained in Iran and their weapons are coming from Iran.
In a little anger I hid My face from you a moment;
But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,
Says your redeemer. Isaiah 54:8
There are areas of spiritual reality that Israel sees better than any country in the world. She understands the existential threat of Islamic theology. She understands, as no one else does, that the spiritual powers that revealed the Koran to Mohammed are planning a complete takeover of the world.
There is one area where Israel has been blinded - the most important of all. Satan has seen to it that Jewish people associate Yeshua, the King of the Jews, the Redeemer of Israel, as the Person most responsible for the persecution of the Jewish people over the last 2,000 years.
Therefore she is confused as she sees Evangelical Christians from America, Canada, Britain, Germany, Japan, Korea, South America and even the islands of the sea, becoming the only friends left in the whole wide world who support Israel. How can it be? What has happened to Christianity that has caused it to evolve from a fierce enemy of the Jews to the only friend left? What happened to all the liberals and the leftists, the intelligencia of the nations that were her erstwhile best friends? Where did they all go?
And Christians of all people! Jews have felt more uncomfortable around Christians than any other group of people anywhere! How is she to respond to the outreached hand of her new friends?
Some Jews, like President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Eric H. Yoffie, has warned everyone to stay away from Christians. Besides the constant fear of all Jews that Christians want to convert them to Christianity, he says the differences in theology between Reform Judaism and Evangelical Christianity are simply a gap too wide to bridge. Gay lifestyle and abortions are championed by the secular (Reform) Jewish community in the Diaspora, who after thousands of years of persecution, instinctively believe that freedom to believe whatever you want and to do whatever you want is the best climate for Jews to survive.
Jews have long memories. Those who are alive are survivors.
REVOLUTION IN THE AIR
But here is where the Orthodox Jewish community - especially in Israel - comes to the fore. Their theology agrees in many areas with Evangelical Christianity. The Orthodox are against abortion, gay lifestyle, and believe that this land was given to the Jewish people - as do Christian Zionists. And there are many other Israelis and Jews from the Diaspora of all persuasions who are saying, “We really can’t be picky about our friends. If Christians are reaching out to us, we are willing to accept their friendship.” This is an enormous paradigm shift in the way Israelis perceived Christians in the past.
Furthermore, Israelis are seeing that Arab Christians living in the land are very very different than Muslim Arabs. As a whole, Christian Arabs have received the revelation of God’s love for the Jewish people and His plan to plant them back in this land. Evangelical Arab Christians understand that one day the Jews will return wholeheartedly to their God and usher in the Kingdom of God where the King will rule from Jerusalem.
The differences between Muslim and Evangelical Arabs are growing starker. Christian Arabs in the Palestinian Authority are themselves fiercely persecuted. And you cannot imagine the deep, all-consuming hatred the Muslim Palestinians have for Israelis. Westerners simply do not experience this kind of passionate, burning hatred. You have to hear it to believe it. We are inundated with their rage pouring forth on the BBC, CNN or when interviewed on Israeli TV.
And the hatred will not change because the Palestinians are teaching their children from birth to see Israel as a hideous, monstrous occupier, murderers who kill babies and children, thieves who have stolen Palestinian land - although the Palestinians as a people only appeared in human history a generation ago and they have never ever had their own land.
Even though the United Nations miraculously endorsed Israel’s right to birth a nation on her ancient homeland on November 29, 1947, the Arabs did not accept it, do not accept it and will not accept it in the future.
JUDAISM SEARCHES FOR HOLINESS
Many Jews seek to live a holy life before God, but alas, their forefathers have led them astray. Instead of opening their hearts to all of God’s redemptive revelation, they have walked in the way of their fathers, choosing ritual and tradition over intimate relationship.
You too have done evil, even more than your
forefathers; for behold, you are each one walking
according to the stubbornness of his own evil
heart, without listening to Me. Jeremiah 16:12
Religious Jews still talk to God today, but they do not know He wants to talk to them. Orthodox Jews relate to the Biblical text only in reference to what ancient and modern rabbinical authorities say it means. Thus the great, deep veil over the eyes of the Jewish people concerning Yeshua, the only Hope of Israel.
There is not yet the concept of the God of Israel dwelling inside a life. The Jewish people don’t understand the meaning of, “I will give you a new heart and a new spirit . . .and I will put My Spirit within you...” Ezekiel 36:26
Today, they seek Judaism as their savior. Repentance is a turning back to Judaism. But one day, their eyes will turn to God.
In those days and at that time, declares the Lord, the sons of Israel will come,
they and the sons of Judah as well; they will go along weeping as they go,
and it will be the Lord their God they seek... that they may join themselves to the
Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten. Jeremiah 50:4-5
Today, in Israel’s 60th year, the Messianic Jewish community has been mandated one of the most important assignments of all ages - to pour Light and Life into the darkness covering our people towards the Messiah. We are the light. We have been given the truth of God’s Word.
But we are considered a sect, Jews who have lost their way. Rejection by the general public and harassment and even expulsion by the Orthodox establishment are our daily bread. Many Jewish public figures who have embraced Christians - some wholeheartedly - still despise the Jews who are followers of Yeshua.
But how will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard
[in a way that they understand what is being said about Yeshua]?
And how will they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Romans 10:14-15
Israel still has a calling. And since the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable, Israel will one day be a light to the gentiles, and their acceptance of their Savior will cause the dead to rise.
What will their acceptance be but life from the dead? Romans 11:15
Isn’t it interesting that God has promised to redeem all Israel and turn her back to Himself when He pours out His Spirit and washes away all her guilt? And isn’t it equally interesting that God will bless whatever nation stands with Israel, and prays for her peace, but curse the nation that opposes her?
Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram are the founders of Maoz Israel Ministries. The mission of MAOZ is: 1) To declare the Message of Messiah and make disciples in the city of Tel Aviv and throughout Israel. 2) To raise up Israeli leaders to prepare for the coming spiritual awakening among the people of Israel. 3) To educate and inform Christians world-wide of the strategic importance of Israel and the Jewish people in God's plan for world revival. The MAOZ web site is http://www.maozisrael.org/.