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The Battle for the Character of the State of Israel
An Israeli secular state, or an Israeli Jewish State?
May 18, 2014 - Audio, 8.50 MIN
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This week in Israel a small community near Bethel, called Givat Assaf (Asaph's Hill), was removed due to a ruling by the supreme court. This was based on a claim that the land was owned by Palestinian Arabs. On a trip to Israel a few years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Givat Assaf, hearing the story behind the community and meeting some of the residents. This incident, although small, highlights a very real struggle for the character and soul of the nation of Israel. Welcome to Bible in the News, this is David Billington.
This week, Moshe Feiglin an Israeli member of Parliament and Deputy Knesset Chairman, in a speech given in Toronto, started his address by praising the establishment of Israel as a divine act. Whether or not the modern state of Israel is the result of a divine act, or simply a time and chance event in history, is a fundamental question at the basis of the battle for the future character of the state of Israel. If the state of Israel is a divine act, then it follows that Israel is part of a divine purpose and that the modern state of Israel is a fulfillment of divine prophecies, such as the exert from Isaiah 11:11,12, read by Chaim Weizmann to the UN, shortly before the establishment of the state:

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left...And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."

If Israel is the result of a divine act, then it was a divine act that brought the Jewish people back to the land and one has to accept that it was a divine hand that restored them to the Biblical land of Judea and Samaria in the 6 day war. With this view it is almost impossible to support the idea of land for peace with the Arabs.

On the other hand, if Israel is not a divine act or a fulfillment of prophecy, but simply a coincidence of history, it only make sense to negotiate peace with the Arabs, it is easier to give away land of great Biblical significance. In order to stop antisemitism, it is best to be a nation like all the other nations and not to be different.

Moshe Feiglin asks if Israel is to be a Jewish state, or an Israeli state? He says that if Israel is to be a Jewish state, it follows Abraham's message to be a unique nation. The Israeli state, is the dream of Israel being a state like all the other nations of the world. These two ways of thinking are hostile to each other.

This week in Givat Assaf the Israeli supreme court, who follows the dream of an Israeli secular state, was behind the removal of the community of Givat Assaf. Here is the clash between two ideals. An Israel like the other nations, or a Jewish Israel, with ideals that originate from the Hebrew Scriptures.

The Israeli news site Ha'aretz, had an opinion piece with a very interesting headline on May 15. The headline was: "Back to the Israelite Kingdom". Amid the recent controversy in Israeli politics over the role of the president, the opinion piece asks, "Why not have a king"? The fist paragraph reads:

"Why a president? Actually, why not a king? King of Israel. As Israel gallops toward its past, basing its existence and character on what was here (or not) thousands of years ago, we cannot rule out reinstating the monarchy: the United Monarchy and the kings. Why not a king? There’s no lack of candidates, it’s a relatively simple procedure — certainly simpler than electing a president."

The last two paragraphs of the article are quite interesting:

"Now comes the next phase in Israel’s dubious journey into its past. It consists of a variety of nationalistic laws and “heritage” learning plans for schools, also based on mythology and theology, on religious and messianic beliefs, rather than current affairs. While Western states aspire, or at least claim to aspire, to being liberal and open, guided by universal values and globalization, Israel is advancing backward.

"Israel is withdrawing into itself, shutting itself up in its past. Religion occupies a central part of it. Its demands to be recognized as a Jewish state and the laws to turn it into one are leading it confidently toward a halakha state, based on Jewish religious law. Certain circles are already talking seriously about rebuilding the Temple. All that remains is to set up a dynasty and crown a king. That will be a royal closure of the circle, an inseparable link of everything happening here."

According to the opinion of the writer, Israel is moving - and has moved - toward its ancient past, toward its religious and messianic beliefs. Israel is undergoing a change from the secular socialist state it was in 1948, to a much more religious state today.

In January 1988 in the Milestones booklet by Graham Pearce, Graham commented on the swing toward religion, which could even be seen at that time. Today we can see the trend has continued and the swing is much greater. Graham commented on, "The pioneers of the state of Israel."

"The great characters that formed the State of Israel were nearly all secularists. They had a real sense of their Jewishness, of Israel as their homeland, of Hebrew language as the proper bond of all Jews. They recognized in a general way the superior moral standards of their visionaries--the prophets, but everything was seen on a natural basis. They did not believe in a real God, in a God who had shaped their destiny. When Ben Gurion, the outstanding leader in the beginning of the State of Israel, was asked by his daughter if God existed, "He replied that he did not know". Sadly Ben Gurion and his assistants had no faith in a living personal God, and the Law of Moses had little place in their lives."

In this quotation Graham aptly described those who dream of Israel being a nation like all the others. After describing the different religious groups in Israel, Graham asks the question, "Where is it pointing?" The answer:

"Now this increase in religion--in the law and the prophets--serious and genuine though it be, does not mean that the Abrahamic promises are understood, or they have given up heaven going, etc., but it surely can be regarded as a movement in the right direction, rather like the Non-Conformist movements of a century and more ago in this country. It can be a preliminary preparing of the ground for the work of Elijah... Elijah's mission to those in the land will bring greater enlightenment and preparedness among a proportion of the population concerning the appearing of Messiah, just as did John Baptist's preaching before the first appearing of the Lord."

Today we are seeing Israel being prepared for the teaching of Elijah, who will restore the heart of the fathers in the children and bring his people back to the true meaning of the law of Moses. It is truly exciting as we this preparation taking place. How long can it be before the resurrection and the return of the real King of Israel.

Malachi 4:4-5 "Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:  6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. "



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