Ha Aretz (The Land)
To Whom Does the Land of Israel Belong?
During his time as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger popularized the word “geopolitics.” By using this word he emphasized what we all know: control of land is the main cause of conflict and war. This is certainly true in the case of ha aretz, the land of Israel, lying at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and Europe. Canaanites, Hebrews, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Christians and Arabs have all called this land their own. Currently, the geopolitical struggle is between Jews and Arabs/Muslims -- both of which claim the land.
During the Byzantine Period, 324-640 CE, Christians lived in the land together with Jews. There were also those of Arab ancestry – many of them having become Christians (Islam being non-existent). After 640 CE Christians were forcibly driven out or forcibly converted by Muslim armies – not only in the Middle East but also in Africa and parts of Europe – two-thirds of all Christian lands falling into Muslim hands. During the Crusader Period, 1099-1250 CE, Christians tried to reassert control over ha aretz, but Muslim forces again took charge.
Muslims restricted access to the Holy Land with its Christian sites, and the Crusades were intended to again gain access for pilgrims to Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem etc.
Thanks to the Israeli government since the birth of Israel in 1948, Christians have had free access to travel anywhere in the country. This has not always been the case when Muslims were in control.
Today there is a groundswell of Christian support for the nation of Israel – especially among Evangelical Christians. The Israeli government has officially recognized this fact – realizing it does not have too many other friends in the world. Each year hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims visit Israel representing the largest group of tourists – 1.8 million of the 3 million 2008 tourists – a majority of these 1.8 million being Evangelical Christians.
A large majority of Evangelical Christians support the existence of the State of Israel and its right to the land. There is a minority of Evangelicals, largely of the Reformed tradition, who do not accept Israel’s historic right to the land since they see the Church as recipient of the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Evangelicals of Dispensational persuasion, however, are very vocal in their support of Israel and are largely responsible for the high numbers of Evangelical tourism to Israel.
The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict:
Roman Emperor Hadrian, 135 CE, designated the area of ha aretz as Palestine. Palestine has never been a nation nor has it ever had a language: it has always been referred to as a general area. During the British Mandate, 1923–1947 CE, Palestine included what is now Jordan and Israel. At the same time Israel received its independence as a nation in 1948, Jordan also received its status as a nation receiving about 80% of the land known as Palestine. So, at the time of partition Jordan was considered the Arab part of Palestine and Israel the Jewish part of Palestine.
The current conflict stems largely from the 1967 Six-Day War when Israel defeated aggression on three sides and gained the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the West Bank – including East Jerusalem. The Sinai was returned to Egypt (which made peace with Israel) – and Gaza to Palestinians (which has rained rockets on Israel in return for Israel’s “land for peace” gesture). The Golan is claimed by Syria which is still technically at war with Israel. Jordan, which also made peace with Israel after the Six-Day War, has renounced sovereignty over the West Bank and East Jerusalem – a combined Palestinian population of about one million. The status of these one million Palestinians is the focus of world attention.
Every major world organization wants Israel to give control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Palestinians – the US, the EU, the UN – and even the Vatican. This is rather curious since it was the intention of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq to completely crush Israel at the time of the Six-Day War. In other words, they wanted to push Israel into the Mediterranean Sea! Now the world wants Israel to give back the land they won with Israeli blood – in defense of their country! If the Arab/Muslim coalition had won the Six-Day War, how many square meters of land would they have given back to Israel? NONE! Absolutely none! Yet, Israel must now concede the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Palestinian control? Israel has no obligation to do so.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has laid down three preconditions for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem: that Israel be recognized by the Arab/Muslim world as the Jewish homeland, that a Palestinian state be totally demilitarized, and that Jerusalem be the capital of Israel. It is noteworthy that Arab/Muslims control 99.9% of the Middle East, but that is not enough for them. They will never accept anything less than 100% -- including the .1% which is Israel. That is why PM Netanyahu’s preconditions will never be accepted by Palestinians -- or the Arab/Muslim world in general -- and that is why all the talk of peace in the Middle East is just that -- talk.
Christian Support for Israel:
Although the Christian Church was born during the time of Jewish persecution, as the centuries have passed Christians have become increasingly aware of their Jewish roots.
Indeed, the New Testament cannot be properly understood without a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament. Although many Jews in Israel are secular and do not believe in the historicity of their Hebrew Scriptures, they are nationalistic enough to value their heritage in ha aretz. They recognize there is no Jewish homeland other than the State of Israel. Most US Evangelical Christians are sympathetic to the nation of Israel because Jews finally have a homeland after 2000 years of wandering and persecution -- and are proud that US President Harry Truman was the first world leader to recognize the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. Most Evangelical Christians concur with the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion: “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the State of Israel