Just yesterday a colleague of mine grabbed me in the hallway, pulled me to the side, and said quietly, "Okay, I know you know, and I also know you won't make fun of me for not knowing. Give me a 30-second rundown of what is going on in Israel and if this is the end of the world."
Since "no man knows the hour," I'll leave the apocalypse prophesying to someone else, but I don't think it's absurd to say that there are more than a few folks who could use a brief summary of the current state of affairs. So at the risk of coming across patronizing or condescending to Middle East scholars, allow me to offer a CliffsNotes version to the rest of us who could maybe use it.
For four centuries leading up to and through World War I, the area we currently call Israel was part of a much larger kingdom controlled by the Ottoman Turks. During their rule, the Turks permitted the migration of Muslims from Egypt and Sudan into the area. Those migrants became the ancestors of many now calling themselves Palestinians. That's important to remember - there was never a sovereign country called "Palestine" occupying that territory. Rather, it was a region under the authority of the Ottoman Empire.
At the conclusion of WWI, the Turks ceded the land to the League of Nations, which then authorized the British to exercise jurisdiction over it. The "British Protectorate of Palestine" then existed through the conclusion of the second great world war and into 1947. Following the surrender of the Axis Powers, postwar conferences yielded the creation of a successor to the League of Nations. This multinational governing body, called the United Nations, was tasked with securing a just, fair, and peaceful world. Part of their efforts would include finding a new homeland for millions of ethnic Jews who had suffered through Hitler's Holocaust and a continent-wide persecution.
In late 1947, the UN officially divided the former British Protectorate of Palestine between the Arabs who had been living there, and the Jews who would be given a portion of it, their ancestral homeland, to forge a country of their own. Jews celebrated the new arrangement while surrounding Arabs seethed.
When the British officially withdrew on May 14, 1948, the modern State of Israel was born - a reality so displeasing to her neighbors that Israel was immediately attacked by Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and other Arab nations. Though Israel successfully fended off the assault, the war ended with two territorial arrangements:
- A large portion of eastern Israel (the West Bank) would be administrated by the country of Jordan.
- A small southern strip called Gaza would be controlled by Egypt.
This arrangement lasted until 1967 when Egypt and its Arab allies attacked Israel in an attempt to eradicate the Jewish state permanently. This conflict became known as the Six Day War, since it took less than a week for Israel to score a decisive victory over her foes. Israelis took the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and even captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.
Over time, Israel gave back the Sinai, while Egypt let the Gaza Strip remain under the complete control of the Jewish state. That began to change in the early 1990s when, under pressure from Western allies like the United States, Israel began to hand back authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Palestinian people. That transfer became complete in 2005 when Israel officially withdrew all her settlements and military presence from Gaza.
The very next year, in 2006, the Palestinian people permitted a radical Islamist group named Hamas to seize power. Allied to and funded by Iran, the charter of Hamas calls for the violent destruction of Israel and the conquest of the entire region for Muslim Palestine. So for the better part of two decades, Israeli citizens have been on the receiving end of innumerable Iranian-financed rocket attacks from Gaza. In response, Israel has attempted to retaliate against Hamas rocket sites, which due to their intentional placement, has resulted in the deaths of innocent Palestinians.
On October 7th, Hamas initiated its most provocative and bold attack into Israel, intentionally targeting and successfully murdering over 1,000 Israeli citizens. The State of Israel has now declared war on Hamas and has vowed to wipe them from the face of the earth.
So suffice it to say, this war is anything but new, and despite Israel's best intention, it is foolish to believe it will end anytime soon whether Hamas is destroyed or not. That's why Scripture wisely advises us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6). Not just for a temporary peace that removes innocent civilians from the conflict's crosshairs, but an eternal peace, that comes only through Christ.
Jews need Jesus, Palestinians need Jesus. Because ultimately, oppression, violence, and terror of this magnitude only ceases through the will and rule of the Prince of Peace Himself.
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