Bruised and bleeding from centuries of suffering, the Jews came home to the land of their fathers. They bought their ancient land at premium prices from its Arab owners, fulfilling the words of their prophets:
For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. And fields s hall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans. Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the Lord (Jeremiah 32:42-44).
Paying the Price
But in bringing about the birth of their nation, the Jews also had to pay the price of blood. Desiring to retrieve the land they had sold, the Arabs battled the Jews for decades. And after the nation’s birth, the struggle continued still.
Considering the odds for survival in a conflict with the Arabs, some Jews wondered whether they had bought a beachhead or established a nation. Their tiny land hardly compared in size with its neighbors, and the population of 650,000 at the time of the nation’s birth seemed minute compared to that of the Arab nations surrounding them (approximately fifty million). Still, the promises of scattering and persecution had been fulfilled, so why not the promises of restoration and blessing? Size or strength of opponents certainly did not alter the promises of God:
Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey. For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal the e of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after (Jeremiah 30:16,17).
Although the Jews began their return to Palestine in unbelief, still not having accepted their Messiah, they did cling to the biblical promises concerning their land. In 1956, when they again found themselves fighting for their lives, Radio Jerusalem broadcasted the words of the prophet Amos:
And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God (Amos 9:14,15).
Victory came easily in 1956. Israel quickly conquered the Gaza Strip and the major powers intervened to bring about a cease-fire in order to save Egypt from complete collapse.
Between 1956 and 1967, tensions continued to mount. Egypt’s President Gamel Abdel Nasser, the leader of the Arab world, boasted of his intention to destroy Israel completely — to push her into the sea and annihilate her citizens.
On May 15, 1967, the anniversary of Israel’s independence, Egyptian forces moved into the Sinai. On May 17, Cairo Radio’s Voice of the Arabs proclaimed: “All Egypt is now prepared to plunge into total war which will put an end to Israel.”
Following the movement of his troops into the Sinai, Nasser demanded the removal of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force stationed there, and on May 18 the Voice of the Arabs announced:
Hoping to exploit the dangerous situation in the Middle East, the Russians sent exaggerated accounts to both Syria and Egypt of the movements of Israeli troops and war materials along their borders. Through these inflated announcements they were successful in fanning the flames of patriotic passion and fear among the Arabs. On May 28, Nasser declared,
On May 30, he announced,
The Six-Day War of 1967
In an overt act of war, Nasser then closed the crucial Israeli port of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba.
The war was on.
The Jews had heard and seen enough, and on June 5 Israeli jets struck a death blow to the Egyptian air force. Israeli tanks rolled into the Sinai. Fierce battles took place in the Golan Heights and in Jerusalem. Russia warned the world to keep hands off, expecting a quick Arab victory. But the dry bones of Ezekiel’s vision had begun to come together, and nothing in the prophecy gave any hint of annihilation or a return to the graves of other nations from which they had come. The Jews would not be destroyed, for God had promised to preserve them.
Within six days the Arab forces were in serious retreat. Israeli soldiers had captured the Sinai and the Golan Heights, and Russia was demanding peace in the Middle East. It is significant that Israel had captured all of Jerusalem. All of this ancient and beloved city was in Jewish hands for the first time since A.D. 70, causing Bible students to take a fresh look at Luke 21:24: “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
The Six-Day War of 1967 gained world respect for Israel as a military power. Friends of Israel who had feared for her safety now respected her ability to defend herself. The Russians were appalled at their loss of three billion dollars’ worth of military aid to the Arabs in a six-day period. Nasser was humiliated; in an attempt to save face he manufactured stories of American and British intervention on the side of Israel.
Israeli soldiers had distinguished themselves as fighting men. Against overwhelming numbers and immense firepower, they had been victorious. The whole experience was reminiscent of Gideon’s successful campaign against the Midianites when greatly outnumbered, or of Joshua’s conquest of the land of Canaan.
It is clear that God protected His ancient people. But this raises questions: If the scattering of the Jews resulted from their rejection of Christ, why has God brought them back to the land? Why have the Jews been allowed to return to their land in unbelief ? Why has God protected the people of Israel when they have not received His Son?
The answer to all these questions is simply that God promised through His prophets that in the end time He would bring the Jewish people back into their land, though still in unbelief, but that after arriving there they would turn to Him:
Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord (Ezek. 37:12 — 14, emphasis mine).
The War of 1973
The war of 1973, or the Yom Kippur War, began on October 6. Most Jews were in their synagogues observing Yom Kippur. Egypt attacked the Sinai Peninsula and Syria attacked the Golan Heights. Eleven Arab nations sent personnel and equipment against Israel. Once again the Jews had their backs to the wall.
Having taken the first blow in the Yom Kippur War, Israeli military forces suffered severe casualties. Within a few days, however, the Jews were on the offensive and the tide of battle was turning in Israel’s favor.
On the Egyptian front, Israeli soldiers crossed the Suez Canal and headed for Cairo. They were in a position to cut off the Egyptian Third Army that had ventured into the Sinai; had that been done, the Israeli air force would have been able to destroy the Egyptian force without fear of the missiles positioned along the canal. With the two major Arab nations in deep trouble, Russia again demanded peace.
Eager to avoid a major confrontation, the other great powers also brought pressure upon the Jews and Arabs to cease fighting. Once again tiny Israel had successfully defended herself.
Although the Arabs lost the 1973 war to Israel, they did make certain gains. Their fighting was greatly improved and their soldiers more disciplined. At the end of the war the Arabs were far more united than in the past. This new Arab unity brought about the use of a new weapon, perhaps the most deadly that has yet been used against Israel. That weapon is oil.
We will continue on this in our next newsletter.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE