By Arun Dias-Bandaranaike –
Once, there was the land of the Philistines. This portion of the east coast of the Mediterranean sea stretched from the area known (even today) as Gaza, northward to about Tel-Aviv (or Jaffa in Arabic)- close enough to modern day Lebanon- and the territory also stretched inward toward the Jordan river a little less than 20 miles or so. The name given to that realm was “Philistia”. By about the 15th century BC [Before Christ –for the purpose of this article, the usage for dates will be, BCE –Before Common Era, and CE- Common Era, which corresponds with AD-Anno Domini (Year of Our Lord)] the Philistines were a well-established community of people, eager to defend their land with walled cities and a well-equipped army. They had a system of government with a monarch as head of state, and they were worshippers of various deities.
The Greek writers of a later day referred to this land of Philistia as “Palestine” [actually “Phae-lestine]. “The name was revived by the Romans in the 2nd century CE in “Syria Palaestina,” designating the southern portion of the province of Syria. After Roman times the name had no official status until after World War I and the end of Ottoman rule, when it was adopted for one of the regions mandated to Great Britain; in addition to an area roughly comprising present-day Israel and the West Bank, the mandate included the territory east of the Jordan River now constituting the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”[i]
Abraham, the patriarch of the “Jewish” people who many years after his day were known as Israel or Hebrews (as speakers of that particular Semitic Language), was originally a native of the Mesopotamian region, and came from the materially prosperous city, Ur of Chaldea. In accepting an invitation extended to him by the God who he worshipped, in the 20th century BCE Abram [later re-named Abraham] left the land he had occupied, and with his family moved to a new territory.
This ‘new’ land to which he was directed was way over in the west. Different people and cultures already inhabited it. They bore names such as Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites. [See Genesis 15:18,19] Many of these people have passed out of existence as separate entities or cultures, but archeology does confirm their geographical limits and their influence on contemporaries. The popular belief now held is that “Jericho”, a Canaanite stronghold, was one of the earliest examples of a city-state. Of interest too, is the location of “Jerusalem”- this was at one time the home of the Jebusites, and was also called “Jebus”, although in Abraham’s time, the name was likely “Salem” which means ‘peace’!
According to the Biblical account, Abraham was party to a divine covenant or legally established promise, when God indicated to him that Abraham’s ‘seed’ or progeny would inhabit the lands of the people mentioned above. Nevertheless, at the time in which Abraham lived and even at his death, he owned almost nothing of the ‘land of promise’!
A former Pharisee and a stalwart of Judaism, who later identified himself with the first century followers of Jesus, the man Paul, wrote in the year 61 CE to the Hebrew readers of his letter, saying: “ By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed in going out to a place he was destined to receive an inheritance; and he went out, although not knowing where he was going. …he resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. …..although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.” [Hebrews 11:8,9,13]
In fact, when Abraham died in his old age, all that he had, which might be termed a ‘stake’ in the land was his burial place near modern day Hebron, which is as described in the scriptural account: “So, Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite that is in front of Mamre.” [Genesis 25:9] It is noteworthy that Abraham never did consider this burial plot his ‘right of choice’ rather; he purchased it for 400 silver shekels from the previous owner, Ephron of the house of Heth (Hittites). [Please see Genesis 23:14-20]
A Land Of Promise-When?
Were the patriarchs of Israel not to inherit the land which was said would be given them? Here, we need to pay attention to a detail, which is found in the record written down by Moses. This shows that the land was not going to be ‘acquired’ at will by the descendants of Abraham. In fact, as we noted above in the comment by the apostle Paul, Abraham was aware that he was meant to live as ‘an alien’ in the ‘land of promise’. What does all of this mean?
For the answer we may look at Genesis chapter 15, and reading from verse 13, God addresses Abram saying: “ “You may know for sure that your seed [generations to follow] will become an alien resident in a land not theirs, and they will have to serve them, and these will afflict them for four hundred years. But the nation that they will serve I am judging, and after that they will go out with many goods. As for you (Abram), you will go to your forefathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they will return here (land of promise), because the error of the Amorites has not yet come to completion” ” [Genesis 15:13-16]
We see then, that for four hundred years, or until the fourth generation after Abraham, the land was not going to be given his descendants. In fact, it was here mentioned in advance, that the ‘seed’ of Abram was to be ‘afflicted’ or sent into slavery in a ‘land not theirs’ namely Egypt. Then the power of Egypt was to be ‘judged’ by God, and the ‘fourth generation’ of the sons of Israel (Jacob was renamed Israel, and Jacob was the grandson of Abraham, being the son of Isaac, and the generation after Jacob or Israel would be the fourth generation from Abraham) would be released and they would leave the land of captivity ‘with many goods’. This they did, as the Exodus account tells us, and which was during the tenure of Moses’ leadership.
So it was that 400 years after Abraham’s time, in the year 1513 BCE, the ‘seed’ of Abraham were permitted to enter the ‘land of promise’! Keeping in mind that Abram and his family crossed the Euphrates river on their journey away from Ur in Chaldea in the year 1943 BCE, and that the account recorded in Genesis chapter 15 (quoted above) is sometime after that, and just before the birth of his first son by the slave girl Hagar, then we can appreciate how accurate the time-keeping is in this instance.
Another factor that needs to be kept in mind is the reason why it was to take such a long time, i.e. 400 years: “because the error of the Amorites has not yet come to completion”. [Genesis 15:16] What does that mean?
The Amorites were among the several nations that occupied the ‘land of promise’, namely the land of “Palestine”. They and other nations such as the Canaanites were ‘cultivating’ their culture of brutality which included depraved sex worship and cults of demonic religion, which included the offering of children in sacrifice to Baal [in certain regions of southern Sri Lanka, these similar practices are known as “Bali (or Baal) Pooja” where children are ritually slaughtered in Payagala until recent times]. However, according to the “promise” given to Abraham, whose worship was considered pure in the eyes of God and even in the eyes of his un-related neighbours the Hittites (Please compare Genesis 23:5,6), the “Amorites” and their kind were going to be allowed as much as 400 years to see whether they might ‘reform’ and become better, morally upright, decent people. Yet, such was not to be, since it does mention that the “error” of the Amorites were to come to a completion. So, their error was going to multiply until it was time to halt their terrible practices and depravity and prevent any further unrighteous bloodshed. [Please compare with the principle as expressed in Psalm 92:7]
All of the above helps one to appreciate that the grant of the land of promise to the descendants of Abraham was only within the limits of Divine providence. They were not permitted to exercise their prerogative or claims of them being ‘inheritors’ unless and until it was seen fit by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham’s own conduct well illustrates this- in that he refused to accept a ‘free’ grant of land for his burial plot, but rather bought it for money that he willingly paid! Until the full time limit was spent, i.e. 400 years, the generations following had to wait, first as aliens in Egypt, and then after release from slavery, they left that land and then after a wilderness sojourn of another 40 years, they finally entered the “promised land”, the same “land flowing with milk and honey”. This they were able to do, only after they were helped to ‘cleanse’ the land of defilement caused by the now unrepentantly evil and delinquent inhabitants of Palestine and Canaan land. [ Despite the claim of some in the State of Israel that they subscribe to the now ‘out of date’ Law given through Moses, they certainly do not manifest in their attitude the same as advocated in the Leviticus 25:23, which is way way modest as compared with what is the blather stemming from Israel’s political elite]
Occupying The Land
Both the Bible as well as other history and archeological evidence suggests that the subjugation of the land of “Palestine” was not achieved overnight, although, under the successor to Moses, namely Joshua, Jericho was overrun rather dramatically and very quickly. The progress toward the complete overthrow of the different communities and tribes of people inhabiting the land was achieved gradually. Even at the time of the death of Joshua, the work of complete subjugation was still underway. Such setting up of the “land of Israel” continued even in the time of the Judges.
One of the key factors that the people of Israel needed to keep in mind, which they kept forgetting, was that they were not to merely ‘occupy’ the land and do as they thought fit. On the contrary, theirs was to be an exercise in “theocratic” nation building. In other words, the center of their whole national “focus’ was meant to be the “worship” of the God who provided them with the promise and favoured them with release from captivity. [Please compare with Joshua 24:14-20; Deuteronomy 10:15; Deuteronomy 11:10-17]
It was only during the reign of the second king of all Israel, David, when complete sovereignty was established, with full apportionment of the tribal lands on both sides of the river Jordan, from “Dan to Beersheba” [north to south]. In the 40 year reign of David’s son Solomon, this kingdom was consolidated, and then no more were the Israelites to be “alien residents’, rather they were residing in peace in the ‘land of promise’. It was also at this time, during Solomon’s reign, that the ark of the Covenant, which hitherto had been carried about from place to place and kept in tents under the strict jurisdiction of the tribe of Levi (priestly tribe of the sons of Aaron), was now moved to a “permanent dwelling” after Solomon constructed the magnificent temple on Mount Zion in the vicinity of Jerusalem, also called the “City of David”.
At this time, then, it could well be said that “Israel” referred BOTH to the tribes of people descended from the patriarch Abraham, AS WELL AS to the land they occupied. Was this ‘happy’ situation to continue uninterrupted?
Unfaithfulness Leads To Trouble And Division
Toward the end of King Solomon’s reign, matters began to unravel, and trouble started in his own household. This ultimately led to a weakening in the whole kingdom and the dividing of loyalty. In the very next generation, the nation of Israel was ripped apart! [Please see 1Kings 11:6, 31 & 2Chronicles 12:1]
Ten tribes of Israel of the northern part of the land broke away under a “king” of their choice, and that left two tribes in the south (with Jerusalem as the principal city and also the location of the center of worship at the still extant temple built by Solomon), known collectively as “Judah”. The family line of Solomon continued to reign and to sit on the throne of David their forefather in the Kingdom of Judah. From this time onward, by and large, the once ‘decorated’ nation slipped into levels of degradation as successive kings behaved abominably and brought disrepute both to their people and also upon their God’s good name. There were a few noble and wise kings who ruled on either side of the divide, and these WERE able to seek the favour of their God. [Please refer to 2Kings 22:8-11, 13,19 as an example of one of these pleasant exceptions to the dismal pattern, Josiah]
In time, the ‘land of Israel’ was virtually wiped off the face of the earth. First the northern ten-tribe Kingdom came under the rule of Assyria [2Kings 17:5,6]. Later, God also abandoned the southern two-tribe Kingdom, known as Judah; they came under the yoke of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. [Please compare with 2Kings 17:18,19 & 23:26,27]
By the year 607 BCE, there was no ‘land of Israel’. Those people of the northern ten-tribe Kingdom of “Israel” who escaped with their lives were now (already) captives of the Assyrians. Then, those of the southern two-tribe Kingdom of Judah, who were conquered by the Babylonians, were either killed off, or, as in the case of young men like Daniel (later a prophet) were taken captive and lived in a foreign land, completely bereft of any dignity, as aliens, with no rights or privileges. The magnificent temple at Jerusalem was completely gutted with fire and laid desolate. Judah was now just an ‘identity’ii that people possessed; no land “belonged” to them. [Please see Psalm 137 to know how the captives felt in their ‘foreign’ land]
In the meantime, ‘Israel’ was absorbed into Assyrian culture with them being forced to marry their captors. They were no more to be a ‘distinguishable’ nation or people. In time, this “mixed breed” of people would come to be known as “Samaritans” since they were by and large living in the area north of Judah, called “Samaria”. Traditionally, they held on to some aspects of the Jewish faith, and even accepted the writings of Moses from Genesis to Deuteronomy, but, much of their Samaritan religion was a mixture of Assyrian superstition and other worship of deities and holy-places [Please read John 4:7-22 to learn of a very interesting conversation that took place between Jesus and a woman of Samaria about her system of worship]
By the 6th century BCE there were changes in the world order of that time. Seventy years after the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the army of Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian, the Babylonians were themselves on the run from the rising power of the Medes and the Persians. [Please see Jeremiah 25:10,11] By 539 BCE, Koresh (or Cyrus the Great) the Persian vanquished Babylon; two years later in 537 BCE, he gave orders that the ‘captive’ Jews be allowed to return to their land, and for them to rebuild their capital Jerusalem. This was not surprising considering the fact of Koresh being a Zoroastrian (religion of the Parsees) and therefore very tolerant of and respectful of other religious faiths. Although he was not a worshipper of the God of the Jews, he nevertheless would have been well informed of the highly exalted worship of such a God and of the history of the people and wise judgments of his appointed kings and servants. [Compare with Isaiah 44:26-28, which was a document dating back to the 8th century BCE; whereas Koresh (Cyrus) was born only in the 6th century BCE]
The “rebuilding” did take place, but here again, the restoration of that land was very slowly accomplished, and perhaps was completed only in the 5th century BCE, during the heyday of the Persian Empire. However, nothing of the grandeur of the earlier times was possible. The Jews had no King sitting on David’s throne. There were well-motivated and righteous men (e.g. Nehemiah) and those who were governors (like Zerubabbel) and scribes (like Ezra) who preserved the writings of the prophets and copied the Law of Moses, and ensured the fidelity of the population to the degree possible. But as a nation, the Jews were at low ebb.
Things did not improve with the overthrow of the Persian Empire by the rising power of Europe, under the youthful Alexander the Great of Macedonia. Although the temple and its worship along with the priestly duties were maintained in Jerusalem, the former exiles, which had been in Babylon and elsewhere in the world, all did not return to their ancient homeland. There was a large contingent of Jews left remaining in Babyloniii, and from such like ones there grew a subculture of Jewry in different lands. They were well established financially, and were able to amass wealth from engaging in trade. Under the Persians, there was allowance granted for the Jews to prosper materially, but the centre of empire was not Judea (the area where Jerusalem was located), but elsewhere in the Persian Empire. The Jews just moved to those different places and took up living there. The marauding Greeks dismantled everything in their path as they took over power from the Persians.
During the time the Grecian Empire held sway, there was the phenomenon known as “Hellenization” – that is, the Greek language and culture began to overturn all others. Very soon, the Jews too began to adjust to their new rulers, and they began to forget their own language Hebrew. The centers of culture were now Alexandria in Egypt, where very large numbers of Jews moved, and also the other places within the Empire, as previously, Babylon continued to be important, as well as other locations and communities in Asia (Antioch) and Europe (Rome). As an index of the change, it was realized by the rabbis and other religious scribes and teachers based in Alexandria, Egypt, that no more were the emerging generation of Jews able to read for themselves the sacred books of their forefathers. And so, an initiative was taken to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into the common and current language, Greek, and so was born the famous Septuagint Version of the Scriptures. This was the same language version, which was used in the first century CE by Jesus and the apostles! Few spoke and read “old” Hebrew anymore. [The Syriac “Aramaic” was also common and spoken by people in Palestine, though not always in the diaspora, or among the dispersed Jews]
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem in Judea the temple was still there, and so were the religious services, but the people were so far away that they were in attendance only a few times in a year as pilgrims1. Things must have become weakened, because in the time of a later Selucid (break away component of the Greek Empire) ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the temple was even converted to the worship of Zeus in 167 BCE!
However, there were the zealots who defended the temple and cleaned it up, under the leadership of Judas Maccabaeus. It could possibly be said, that beginning about this time, during the Maccabaean period, there began the “politics” of Jewish people. Under the different world influences that were round and about them, they gradually began to follow men, and were weaned away from reliance on God and his word to govern their lives. The ‘reaction’ to that was a group, which later wielded a lot of influence, namely the Pharisees. They thought that they would insist on the “purity” of the worship of God; and there were others, who also combined Greek philosophy and the fashionable Platonic thinking of the time, and so rather than the worship of the God of Abraham, they were enticed into something related, known as Judaism; and that had a great deal to do with establishing the sense of exclusiveness and superiority of the Jewish people. In other words, a “nationalistic” sense of Jewish Pride was being generated, which had nothing to do with the ‘righteousness’ that was evident in the life of their patriarch Abraham. [Please compare with the essence of James 2:23]
With this serious breakdown in the affairs of the ‘seed’ of Abraham, and the very poor spiritual condition that prevailed, it can easily be appreciated why it was foretold through the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah, that the ‘covenant’, which was established with Moses as intermediary, would be cancelled out. [Please see Jeremiah 31:31] The “special privileges” formerly enjoyed by the seed of Abraham (sons of the kingdom) were going to be taken away from them. [Please see Matthew 8:10-12 & Matthew 21:43] When would this be fulfilled?
In the 2nd century BCE, the Caesars of Rome were the new leaders and conquerors in Europe. They quickly took over the Grecian Empire’s territories, and so the area of Judea in Palestine was now theirs. It was again time for “politics” to rear its ugly head; one very cunning politician who wished to ingratiate himself in the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Jewish people of Judea was Herod. He was an Edomite, and not a Jew of any of the tribes of Israel. Because of his being an Edomite, the Jews were very suspicious of him, but, because of his loyalty to Caesar of Rome, he was a useful man for them. Herod spent money and rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem; with this “popular move” he thought he would be able to win the hearts and the support of the Jewish people as he began to act as the largely self-appointed “King” Herod the Great.
1 Acts 2:8-11 is instructive, in that it helps one to realize the different communities and countries where Jews were living, and from where they would travel to Jerusalem on festive days to participate in the temple services, such as the particular event at the feast of Pentecost in 33CE had drawn many thousands together.
At the time of Jesus’ birth in Judea, Herod was ruler of the entire district and second only to Caesar of Rome. But, the Jews had no king appointed by God. The temple worship was conducted, but it is evident that there was a great deal which was lacking in the whole affair, which is why on two occasions at least, Jesus whipped and chased away the merchants, who desecrated the temple by turning it as a place to do their business!
In time, after Herod the Great had passed away, members of the same family who carried the “Herod” name, continued to be active as high political figures. Interestingly, names of places in Judea reflect these influences, as Roman names replaced the old Hebrew names in locations like Caesarea, Tiberias, Herodium, Caesarea-Philippi. At the time when Jesus began his ministry of three and a half years, the Emperor in Rome was Tiberias Caesar. All the taxes that were collected in Palestine were sent to Rome. In the meantime, the Pharisees and others of the Jewish political parties played their ‘games’ in trying to bring about changes in their circumstances and trying to regain some of the grandeur that was lost from the time when King Solomon ruled. [Please refer to John 11:46-48,53 to know why Jesus was a cause of their unhappiness, due to the possibility of his ‘upsetting’ their political plans!]
It was during the period of Rome’s domination of Palestine, that Jesus himself indicated the time had come for the “special privilege” granted to the fleshly seed of Abraham to cease forever. [For evidence of this please read Matthew 23:34-38 & also chapter 24:1,2 and also compare the account recorded at Luke 21:20-24]
As Jesus observed, the time had come ‘for meting out justice’. Neither he nor his God was going to tolerate anymore the huge stain of disreputability that was brought about by the collective action of the wayward Jewish nation. Just in the manner that Jesus described would happen at Luke 21:20, in the year 70CE, the Roman armies (encamped armies surrounding Jerusalem) under Roman General Titus destroyed Judea, destroyed the temple (originally built by Solomon, rebuilt by Zerubbabel, and later rebuilt again by Herod the Great) and razed it to the ground and those of the inhabitants that were left alive, were taken as captives. According to Josephus who was an eyewitness, more than a million inhabitants in Jerusalem alone were slaughtered, 97,000 were taken as slaves, some into Egypt, and some others to ‘entertain’ at the Roman theatre where they were required to amuse the bloodthirsty patrons by wrestling with vicious wild animals!
AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF 70CE
For a little more than 200 years after, no Jew was allowed in Jerusalem, which was now a Roman city, rebuilt on the ruins of the old, and re-named Aelia Capitolina. The Jews who did survive were in different parts of Asia, Arabia, North Africa, Western Europe, Babylon and other places beyond, such as Eastern Europe and Russia. At this time, “Israel” became a name for a people, and not a land. They were also known as the “Jewish Diaspora” or Dispersion. [This expression is to be taken differently from “exile”; the reason being that the dispersion occurred by choice, and the Jews themselves decided to spread far and wide, as opposed to being banished into captivity or slavery in one place or another. Wherever business opportunities and trade was available for them to pursue, that was where they went.]
As far as “Divine Providence” goes, Jesus made clear that there was to be an “abandonment” of the House of Israel. The Christian Apostle Paul makes clear in his writing to Hebrews, that the past was only a ‘shadow’ and that the reality after the Christ has little to do with that past, or even with that territory in Palestine. [Please refer to Hebrews 8:7,8,9 & chap 9:11-14 also chap 10:1. Please also compare with the letter to the Galatians chap 3:7-9]
One may observe the fact brought clearly forward by Paul, that the ‘sons of Abraham’ are not those who are his descendants by virtue of the ‘fleshly’ relationship, but rather, those who express their faith in the provision of God, namely Jesus. [Please note what Paul writes to the Romans in explaining the situation with regard to the Jews (his own relatives!), saying in Chapter 10:1-4 and also verses 11-13 and chapter 2:28,29 as he does]
AFTER ROMAN TIMES
During the time of Emperor Constantine of Rome, (3rd Century CE) who was known as Pontifex Maximus, and who made a very dubious “conversion” to “Christianity” [while still being a worshipper of pagan Gods of Rome, and violating all standards of decency in his personal and public life!!], his Queen began to show interest in the area of Palestine which was associated with the life of Jesus. She saw the possibility of making shrines and monuments of places thus linked with the Messiah. This was however, before the time when the Muslims of Arabia (who gathered strength only in the 7th and 8th centuries CE) took over the territory. The Muslim’s took over the region of Palestine; by the 7th century CE; there were two buildings on the same place where the former Temple of Solomon had stood, The Dome of the Rock and the Al’Aqsa Mosque. Matters have been irrevocably changed!
Some of those ‘shrines’ and so-called “holy places” were still of value to Christendom, even after the arrival of the Muslim powers. It was then that the Roman Catholic Church, and its own Pontiff the Pope of Rome decided that the “holy land” needed to be wrested from the control of the “pagans”, and so launched the infamous Crusades. Ultimately, the Frankish (French portion of the remnant of the Roman Empire) powers held the ‘holy land’. But there were no Jews there, at least, not very many, except a few who pursued a bit of agriculture and other quiet occupations as shepherds.
Later still, the Franks were roundly defeated and for the next 400 years the Turkish Ottoman Empire overran Palestine. There were times when Napoleon of France was eager to take over the holy land, but he was resisted- not least by the British.
“The prosperity of 16th-century Ottoman Palestine was followed by an economic and political decline in the 17th century. Ottoman control in the18th century was indirect. Ḍāhir al-ʿUmar (c. 1737–75) dominated the political life of northern Palestine for nearly 40 years. Aḥmad al-Jazzār, the Ottoman governor of Acre, had control of most of Palestine, and in 1799, with English and Ottoman help, he successfully defended Acre against Napoleon. Both Ḍāhir and al-Jazzār presided over a tightly controlled Palestine, where trade with Europe as well as taxation were growing. They used their new wealth from these sources to gain influence in Istanbul, which allowed them to gain local autonomy and even intermittent control of many areas outside Palestine. This period came to an end with Napoleon’s abortive attempt (1798–1801) to carve for himself a Middle Eastern empire. Egypt, always a determining factor in the fortunes of Palestine, was placed, after the French withdrawal, under the rule of the viceroy Muḥammad (Meḥmet) ʿAlī, who soon embarked upon a program of expansion at the expense of his Ottoman overlord. “In 1831 his armies occupied Palestine, and for nine years he and his son Ibrāhīm gave it a centralizing and modernizing administration. Their rule increasingly opened the country to Western influences and enabled Christian missionaries to establish many schools; at the same time, however, taxes were increased, and urban rebellions broke out against the harshness of the regime. When in 1840 the British, the Austrians, and the Russians came to the aid of the Ottomans, the Egyptians were forced to withdraw and Palestine reverted to the Ottoman Empire. Increased European interest, however, led to the establishment of consulates by the powers in Jerusalem and in the ports. After 1840 the reforms the sultan promulgated gradually took effect in Palestine. As the Ottomans extended the central government’s new military, municipal, judicial, and educational systems to Palestine, the country also witnessed a marked increase in foreign settlements and colonies—French, Russian, and German.
“By far the most important, in spite of their initial numerical insignificance, were the Zionist agricultural settlements, which foreshadowed later Zionist endeavours for the establishment of a Jewish national home and still later a Jewish state in Palestine. The earliest of these settlements was established by Russian Jews in 1882” [iv]
DOES ZIONISM REESTABLISH ISRAEL IN PALESTINE?
The increasing influence of British power in the Middle East did contribute a great deal to changes that were brought about in the 20th century. Notable was the expanding role of British Jewry, as well as Jews in Germany and France and across the Atlantic, where New York was the bustling centre of American Jewry. In the 19th century figures like the prosperous Rothchild Family wielded enormous power; Britain even had a Victorian Prime Minister who made no attempt to hide his Jewish identity, namely Benjamin Disraeli who was vocal and energetic whether he was in the opposition or during his two terms as PM. [He was born in Britain and was baptized a Catholic!] With the general influence of such prominent people, it was no wonder that by the time of the First World War, the “Jewish cause” was taken up at the highest levels, and found a ready advocate in the former British Foreign Secretary Balfour, who in 1917 proposed that a homeland be set up in Palestine for the Jews.
One of the driving forces for galvanizing Western support for some level of influence in the Middle East was the knowledge that there was oil underground. Whereas there was an alienation of the Muslims, it was thought that with the ‘friendship’ of Jewish communities developing and expanding in the Middle East, there would be better influence generated there. This fact has defined the politics of this region through much of the 20th century and continues in the 21st.
As the Encyclopedia Britannica says: “The Zionist movement of the late 19th century had led by 1917 to the Balfour Declaration, by which Britain promised an eventual homeland for Jews in Palestine. When that former Ottoman province became a British mandate under the League of Nations in 1922, it contained about 700,000 people, of whom only 58,000 were Jews. By the end of the 1920s, however, the Jewish community had tripled, and, with the encouragement of Amīn al-Ḥusaynī, grand mufti of Jerusalem and admirer of the Nazis, Arab resentment exploded in bloody riots in 1929 and again in 1936–39. For self-protection the Jews formed Haganah (Defense), an underground militia that by 1939 had grown into a semiprofessional army. The Zionist cause then began to benefit from the worldwide sympathy caused by the Nazi Holocaust and by Haganah cobelligerency in the British war against Germany.
“The newly formed Arab League, in turn, pledged in March 1945 to prevent the formation of any Jewish state in Palestine. Meanwhile, Zionists concentrated on the United States, whose large Jewish voting bloc was believed likely to influence policy. In the 1944 campaign Roosevelt endorsed the founding of a “free and democratic Jewish Commonwealth,” and U.S. policy subsequently clashed with Britain’s, which aimed at maintaining paramountcy in the region through good relations with the Arabs. Foreign Secretary Bevin opposed and Truman endorsed a proposal in April 1946 by an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry to allow another 100,000 Jews into Palestine, an idea dwarfed by David Ben-Gurion’s demand for 1,200,000. Jewish terrorism exacerbated British hostility through such incidents as the flogging and murder of British soldiers, culminating in the bombing of the King David Hotel on July 22, 1946, in which 41 Arabs, 28 British, and 22 others died. All told, Jewish terrorists killed 127 British soldiers and wounded 331 from 1944 to 1948, as well as thousands of Arabs.”
We note from the above references, that this endeavour on the part of the Zionists and other political parties in Palestine, as well as the newly arriving people of Jewish extraction into The State of Israel, is a phenomenon associated with world politics and forms of nationalism. As such, these do not reflect any action or program, which has any semblance to what happened in patriarchal times. The Government of the State of Israel claims to be ‘democratic’, and is certainly not in any manner or form “theocratic”. Also, at no time in their history of the past 60 years have the people had ONE party rule over them, but it has always been contending forces brought together into a coalition.
IS THE ISRAELI STATE THE NATION OF ISRAEL?
With regard to the period following the Second World War, the Encyclopedia Britannica also notes: “..heartrending tales of Jewish survivors of Nazi Europe being turned back from their “promised land” also tugged at Western consciences. On April 2, 1947, Bevin washed his hands of Palestine and placed it on the docket of the UN, which recommended partition into Jewish and Arab states. The United States and Britain feared that the Arabs would turn to the Soviets for aid, but the U.S.S.R. mystified all parties in October by agreeing with the American plan for partition. The Soviets apparently hoped to hasten British withdrawal, insinuate themselves into Middle Eastern diplomacy, and profit from the discord following partition.
“The General Assembly approved partition on November 29, granting to Jews some 5,500 square miles, mostly in the arid Negev. When the Arab League proclaimed a jihad (holy war) against the Jews, Truman’s advisers began to reconsider partition, for the loss of Arab oil might cripple the Marshall Plan and the U.S. military in case of war. When, however, the British pulled out and Ben-Gurion (leader of Israel) declared the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, Stalin and Truman (whether out of sympathy or domestic politics) immediately advanced recognition.
“At the moment of partition the number of Jews had risen to some 35 percent of the total population of Palestine, and they were faced with Arab League forces totaling 40,000 men. The Haganah fielded about 30,000 volunteers armed with Czechoslovakian weapons sent at the behest of the U.S.S.R. On the day after partition the Arab League launched its attack, but the desperate Jewish defense prevailed on all five fronts. The UN called for a cease-fire on May 20 and appointed Folke, Count Bernadotte, as mediator, but his new partition plan was unacceptable to both sides. A 10-day Israeli offensive in July destroyed the Arab armies as an offensive force, at the cost of 838 Israeli lives. Members of the Stern Group assassinated Bernadotte on September 17. A final offensive in October carried the Israelis to the Lebanese border and the edge of the Golan Heights in the north and to the Gulf of Aqaba and into the Sinai in the south. Armistice talks resumed on Rhodes on Jan. 13, 1949, with the American Ralph Bunche mediating, and a truce followed in March. No Arab state recognized Israel’s legitimacy, however. More than a half-million Palestinian refugees were scattered around the Arab world. Between 1948 and 1957 some 567,000 Jews were expelled from Arab states, nearly all of whom resettled in Israel. The 1948 war thus marked only the beginning of trouble in the region.”
The foregoing serves to prove that politics with its ugly handmaiden “terrorism”, manipulative diplomacy and selfish policies of powerful nations have already and continue to this day to dominate the region’s slide into mayhem.
The Six Days War of 1967 brought even further incursions by the army of the State of Israel into the territory that had for more than a 1000 years belonged to indigenous people of the area of Palestine, be they Muslim, or “Christian”, Jew or Gentile. From that date till the present, people known as “Palestinians”, have since losing their homes been languishing in refugee camps, while their houses and property have systematically been acquired and are habited by the “new” population of the State of Israel in ever expanding settlements. For more than 40 years the conflict continues with no promise of an end in sight. Eager peace makers have tried repeatedly and every time they have failed to bring about equitable solutions to urgent and tragic scenarios which are acted out daily in that troubled land, which is anything but “holy”, rather, fettered and threatened, hampered and despised, day and night!
The conclusion is inescapable; Israel is a political state in slavery to manipulation of men and women on the world’s stage, it is a clearly defined Republic which stands in sharp contrast to the “real” Jerusalem of which the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians chapter 4:22-26 “It is written that Abraham acquired two sons, one by the servant girl and one by the free woman; but the one by the servant girl was actually born in the manner of flesh, the other by the free woman through a promise. These things stand as a symbolic drama; for these women mean two covenants, the one from Mount Sinai, which brings forth children for slavery, and which is Hagar. Now this Hagar means Sinai, a mountain in Arabia, and she corresponds with the Jerusalem today, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.”
Surely, the “facts” as they are reflected in the Palestine of today, only proves the truth of that statement!
i “Palestine.” Encyclopedia Britannica Library. May 10, 2006.
ii “Judah” was thereafter applied as a name to the people who were descendants of Abraham; this, in some national cultures was transformed into “Juden”, and even a contracted or shortened form, and so was read as “Ju” or more properly, “Jew”.
iii In the first century CE, the Apostle Peter was obviously working with the established congregation of Jewish Christians (those that had accepted Christ, and left Judaism) living and working in Babylon, which allows one to realize how large the community who must have chosen to remain there after the deportation –see 1Peter 5:13.
iv “Palestine, history of.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Library, Inc. May 14, 2006