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A Fresh Look at Israel

19 June 2024

6.9 MINS

I have just returned to Australia after a week in Israel, with six nights in Jerusalem. For me, it was a return trip after 53 years. Much has changed, but much was just as I remembered! It was such a privilege to walk the streets and alleys of Jerusalem again.

Yes, I was a stranger in a foreign land, but I felt right at home in the footsteps of the Old and New Testament cast of thousands who witnessed the creation of a nation, a people, after God’s own heart. God referred to Israel as “His people” (Deuteronomy 7:6), His “treasured possession” (Psalm 135:4), and the “apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

We hear so many different perspectives on the land and the people of Israel. I am not going to debate the relative merits of these perspectives, but I am simply trying to report my own experience as a reference point, as faithfully as I can.

Jerusalem – entry to one of the markets

Jerusalem – entry to one of the markets

The Israelis and Palestinians were so happy to see us

We stayed in a predominantly Jewish part of town, but our exploration on foot most days took us into Palestinian neighbourhoods for some of the day. The only area we had to pass through a checkpoint was to access the Temple Mount, where we had a time restriction, and there we, as Christians, weren’t permitted into the two mosques.

The Palestinian parts were a little more rundown than the Jewish quarters, but it was quite clear the Jews and Palestinians were peacefully living side by side with each other in Jerusalem and had been doing so for generations.

The mixture of mosques, churches and synagogues was most bewildering, with Bible sites to be found on nearly every corner amongst them. Perhaps one of our oddest experiences was not being able to speak or be heard over the sound of the Muslim call to prayer from a minaret as we walked up the Via Dolorosa, searching out the Stations of the Cross!

Often, we were the only ones passing the wares in the markets, offered by either Palestinians or Jews. Their chorus, in unison, was, ‘Please come on in and buy something, as the war has frightened all the tourists and pilgrims away.’

Despite their obvious pain and heartache, they were peaceful and happy. In fact, I had to use earplugs every night, bar Friday night, on account of the partying going on in the street below our apartment that went on into the small hours. This was a nation at war!

How far could we wander in Israel?

In booking our trip months ago from Australia, I had no idea what we would see on the ground on our arrival. In fact, the barometer I used as to whether or not we would go was whether or not our plane, EL AL Airlines, was flying. It was, so we went!

The streets were clean and tidy. All the shops were open, except on Shabbat, naturally. The restaurants were jampacked each night, making it super hard to find a table unless we had booked.

We had hoped to visit Bethlehem, but being in West Bank territory, we did not find any tour company going there. I think that was as much a reflection of the low numbers of potential tourists as any potential danger.

However, we had two brilliant excursions out of Jerusalem. Our first was to the east and south, down into the Jordan Rift Valley and up to Masada to explore the last stronghold of the Jews against the Roman invaders in AD 73. Then back to Kalia Beach, where we got to float in the Dead Sea and cake ourselves in reputedly therapeutic mud.

Our second trip was to the north, to Galilee, taking in Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum, and the Sea of Galilee itself. The day finished with another visit to the River Jordan, this time to a baptismal spot, where we got to witness a string of baptisms.

We were in Israel for just one week in late May 2024; we heard no gunfire, heard no air raid sirens and saw no tourists or citizens showing any fear. In fact, the guest house we would have liked to stay in, Christ Church Guest House, was fully booked for our dates. Is Israel open to visitors? An emphatic yes!

The Garden Tomb, a Muslim neighbourhood, north of the Damascus Gate

The Garden Tomb, a Muslim neighbourhood, north of the Damascus Gate

One of the things that assured us of our safety was the presence of police and army with automatic weapons over their shoulders. They were most often to be seen in cafes, ice-cream parlours and bars, laughing and having fun together.

So, what’s really going on in Israel?

Much has been said and written these last eight months. I am not going to parrot anyone, but I do recommend Chuck Holton (12/06/24) for a journalist’s take.

1. The fight between the globalists and the nationalists.

It is amazing to realise that here we have a nation defending itself and its people against a national terrorist organisation, and it is actually a struggle between globalism and nationalism.

The globalists want open borders with no national sovereignty. They simply want everyone to live in harmony with one another, respect diversity and so on. In that case, why are the globalists not pressing the aggressors, Hamas, to lay down their arms and live at peace with Israel?

I think that the nationalists are winning. The pride, courage and tenacity of the Israelis against the tide of globalist world pressure is amazing. I would encourage all peoples who value their own culture and values to get behind Israel, as it might be our nationhood and existence that is at stake next.

2. Can there ever be a just war?

That’s a huge question. But let’s remember, prior to October 7th, 2023, there was relative calm. The Abraham Accords were on a roll — peace agreements with a number of surrounding Arab nations. But Hamas shattered this peace with their brutal, barbaric and demonic attack on Israel and the capture of innocent civilian hostages.

On Jerusalem’s Main Street

On Jerusalem’s Main Street

In my living memory, as a pacifist with an abhorrence for all war, I would nevertheless argue that Israel going after Hamas to destroy its capability of ever mounting such an attack again, and the launching of operations to rescue hostages from the grips of Hamas in Gaza, is justified.

I don’t see Israel’s operations as a retaliation against hostilities, but rather the eradication of the potential for future aggression. It is my understanding that this war could cease today if Hamas laid down its arms, released the remaining hostages, including the dead, and pledged to never again attempt to eradicate Israel ‘from the river to the sea’.

3. Do the Palestinians have any justification for their attack on Israel?

Their claims of ‘apartheid’, and comparisons with ‘white supremacy over the blacks in South Africa’, don’t stack up in my eyes. In 1971, when I was first in Israel, Arabs were living amongst Jews in Israel. In 2024, Arabs were still living amongst Jews in Israel with no barriers between them, confining them to their respective quarters.

It is my understanding that what has happened over the years is that Israel has had to erect barriers between some Arab neighbourhoods within Israel to contain the terrorist activity perpetrated in these zones. But it was my observation that the majority of Arabs simply want to coexist with Jews in Israel. If they don’t, they have the choice to move to a neighbouring Arab state that more closely mirrors their culture and customs.

However, the freedoms and democracy in Israel cannot be matched in the Arab world. So I can’t imagine many wanting to move. I got the impression that the Arabs in Israel appreciate the prosperity Israel has brought them.

So no, I don’t think the Palestinians have any justification for their attack on Israel other than their radical Islamist ambition to rid the land of Israel and the Jews.

4. The real war is being waged through the media, the propaganda war

Mainstream media, the mouthpiece of the globalists, only pushes one narrative, namely the suffering of the Palestinians and the brutality of the alleged genocide by the Israelis. It seems to me that the propaganda war is being won by the Palestinians, and as Chuck Holton says, the sooner Israel finishes the job in Gaza, the better, both for world opinion and for the support of the war within Israel.

Why is the propaganda war never talked about in mainstream media? Because that would be an admission that they were engaged in such a war! It behoves the citizens of the world to wake up to this war and call it out for what it is.

The wave of Jews returning to Israel from all over the world because they no longer feel safe bringing up their children anywhere else is a direct consequence of this propaganda war and its collateral damage.

On our flight out to Israel from England, I had the privilege of sitting next to an orthodox French Jew who had worked for nearly a decade in England but was now returning to Israel to join his young family who had already returned.

Consider the impact of this immigration on Israel and on the nations they are leaving. I think that there is certainly no appetite for the Jews to flee and leave their homeland solely to the Arabs.

How, then, should we live?

For the sake of peace and security for our children and grandchildren, I think we should push back as much as we can, against the rhetoric that would annihilate the Jews and destroy the state of Israel. We should stand with movements such as Never Again is Now.

We should pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for them that love her (Psalm 122:6). I love to see the photos from around the world on Amir Tsarfati’s Telegram channel of groups and churches standing with and praying for Israel.

Let’s challenge our church leadership if they are being silent on the Israel question. Ask them to justify to their congregation the reasons for their ambivalence. I know there are a variety of theological positions to be had, but I fail to see how any can justify the destruction of a nation, especially one that is the “apple of God’s eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

Finally, we should challenge each of our political representatives, if we live in a democracy, to clearly state where they stand on Israel. Are they for the destruction of a sovereign nation and the support of terrorism?

___

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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3 Comments

  1. Stephen 19 June 2024 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Thanks Jim for sharing your insights into Israel from your recent visit. The picture you present is very different from that of the news media. I acknowledge that they have a particular narrative to uphold and so choose stories and footage that enhance their story, whether true or exaggerated. You give a fresh perspective.

    • Jim Twelves 19 June 2024 at 4:54 pm - Reply

      Stephen, thank you. Yes we were wonderfully protected on our trip. Naturally, the same cannot be said for the thousands killed and the hundreds of thousands dispossessed of their homes for eight months and counting, as a result of the current conflict.

  2. Stephen L 24 June 2024 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    thank you Jim ..It is great to rexeive rent first had restepgeports ftom Israel

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