OK, you’ve bought a house and moved into a new neighborhood. Actually, you used to live in this very area, but events caused you to move away, and now you’re back. It’s a nice, albeit modest not fancy or highbrow neighborhood, and you’re looking forward to really settling in and getting to know your neighbors.
But before you’ve even unpacked, you come to realize that your neighbors don’t want you there. When they’re unable to keep you from moving in, a violent zealot next door proclaims that he will never accept your presence, no matter what concessions you offer or what friendly overtures you make.
Across the street lives a real fanatic, known to make and throw bombs, who declares he hopes your entire extended family moves in — because that “will save us the trouble of going after them wherever they are worldwide.”
Just up the block, a rich religious extremist has been buying weapons and providing them to your other neighbors, announcing that your home “must be wiped off the map”; and in his garage, he’s believed to be assembling an ominous-looking weapon that he might use to blow your home to smithereens.
And of course, there’s the house just behind you. Its owner declares he, too, wants you completely destroyed but not until you are “humiliated and degraded first.”
Rather inhospitable, isn’t it? But wait — there’s also the dilettante from a gated community in the suburbs who swoops in to tell you that the conflict is really your fault, that he finds it unseemly when you defend your family and your property, and that you ought to solve the problems by just giving your neighbors what they want, and moving away.
Welcome to Israel today.
And who are these “neighbors” I just described? The Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Fatah, and the terrorist group Hezbollah have made it abundantly plain they intend never to accept the presence of Israel in their “neighborhood,” no matter what or how long it takes to drive them out.
Hamas political chieftain Khaled Mash’al has declared “Before Israel dies, it must be humiliated and degraded.” And Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, announced “If the Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” And nobody could speak for the whole neighborhood more articulately and succinctly than the charming, diminutive Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran: “Israel must be wiped off the map.”
Hardly a welcome wagon. But Israel isn’t moving away; far from it. In fact, I know a number of American Jews who are selling all their assets in this country and moving, with their families, to Israel right now. I and other Christians have worked with Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and his Fellowship of Christians and Jews, in its “Wings of Eagles” project, bringing over 300,000 Jews emotionally and gratefully into Israel from former Iron Curtain countries to settle their families and their futures in the neighborhood.
After all, any believer of the Bible and any spiritual descendent of Abraham, knows that Jehovah God promised that little plot of ground to his descendents, and repeated that very same promise to Isaac and Jacob. That was, and is, a “trust deed,” conferred to a people humble by earthly standards. And especially since there never was a republic or nation or government of “Palestinians,” that trust deed is still in effect.
So there is absolutely no possibility that the state of Israel will be “wiped off the map.”
My wife and I, always deeply moved by the experience of literally “walking into the pages of the Bible,” are still tingling from our umpteenth visit to Israel. This time we accompanied 37 of our family and friends. We never felt unsafe; everybody we met was welcoming and hospitable, cheery and optimistic.
The economy is booming and the prevailing spirit seems indomitable. We were prohibited from setting foot inside Bethlehem, which was a major disappointment; this was because the whole area had been turned over to the Palestinian Authority, after the Church of the Nativity had been barricaded and occupied for 38 days in 2002 by terrorist members of the PLO and Al Aqsa Brigade, seeking refuge from Israel's IDF. But the historic residents of the land couldn’t have been more generous, or more seemingly secure.
I can hardly imagine any of us Americans, blessed and protected as we have been for so long, wanting to keep living under the constant threat and tension and pressure in that “neighborhood.” But we felt everywhere among the Israelis the sense, the confidence, that can only come from the assurance of a divine right, an irrevocable “trust deed” that guarantees their existence in their land.
It’s not necessarily a religious belief with many, since modern Israel is surprisingly “secular” in many quarters; but whether there’s a biblical connection or not, there’s a phenomenal determination that nobody — nobody and nothing — will ever displace them again. This is their neighborhood, their home.
Hopefully, their neighbors will eventually become just that — neighbors. Good neighbors.
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