For as long as I can remember the Middle East has been a hot zone for conflict. In my thirty plus years of life I can not recall a time when there was ever a long standing peace in that part of the world. If there weren’t rockets being exchanged back and forth they were armed and ready to go at a moments notice. Tensions in the Middle East have always been there. If one were to look at history they can trace those tensions all the way back to the end of first world war. The Middle East had been under the control of the Ottoman empire for 400 years. While the decline of this once great empire was occurring as early as 1914 the final nail in its coffin came in 1918 with its defeat at the end of World War I.
The ending of the empire that once united all of the Middle East allowed the UK and France to help create and form new nations in the region. At that point in history the United Nations as we know it today did not exist. Instead the people of the early 1900s had what was known as the League of Nations. The League of Nations was the forefather of the modern day United Nations and had given its approval on these new nations.
There were political conflicts within the new regions but they did not have the worlds attention like they do today. These conflicts would become a normal part of life in the Middle Eastern nations up until World War II. In the year 2018, there are still political conflicts among the Arab neighbors, but none of these conflicts are as serious as the one between Israel and its neighbors.
After the Jews had tried to find a place to call their homeland in the Middle Eastern part of the world for the last 300 years the British foreign secretary had issued what was known as the Balfour Declaration. This declaration was meant to give the Jews a place that they could call their own. Despite their promise there were many in the British government at that time that were against the idea of the Jews having their own country. Those in higher power who were against the Balfour Declaration made things as hard as they could for the Jews to settle the land of Israel. Instead of supporting the Jews they did everything possible to keep the Jews out of Israel.
The failure of the British to keep their promise left the Jews with a bitter taste in their mouth as they felt betrayed. During the events of World War II over half of the Jews in Europe found themselves killed at the hands of the Nazi’s. Inadvertently, the failure of the Nazi’s to get rid of all the Jewish may have actually helped the Jewish get their own country. The events of the Holocaust made it impossible to ignore a homeland for the Jews. Shortly after the formation of the United Nations a promise that was long overdue to be kept had been fulfilled as the State of Israel officially became recognized.
Many modern Christians who study the Bible and perhaps some non believers who question the existence of God would be surprised to know that it was always known the Jews would return to their homeland of Israel. Over 2,000 years passed between the time that they lost their land when they were defeated and taken as captives in 586 in 586 B.C. and their return to Israel at the end of World War II.
Before He sent His son to the world to pay the price for the sins of man, Prophets would carry the word of God to man. Through the prophet Zecharia God informed the world of the return of Israel when He said, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” This statement can be found in the KJV version of the Bible. The book of Zechariah chapter 12 verses 2 and 3.
Just as God promised over 2,000 years ago Israel has always been in the middle of the conflict of the Middle East. The Arab countries that border Israel have not succeeded in getting rid of this small country again. No sooner than she took her first breath Israel as a nation found itself under attack. Through the logic of man there is no reason why Israel should not have been easily defeated by now, but the poorly armed nation has never been conquered by her Arab neighbors since she came into existence in 1948. It is through divine intervention that the nation of Israel still exists today. Just as the Bible tells us in the Old Testament “All that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all people of the earth be gathered together against it.”
There are a lot of people in the world who would not have to acknowledge the existence of this great country if they had their way. They don’t want to acknowledge that it exists to that it even has the right to exist. Something that the Arabs and Jews share in common is that both of these groups of people acknowledge their lineage going all the way back to Abraham. There are three groups of people who hold any sort of claim over Israel, more specifically Jerusalem.
THE CLAIM OF THE JEWS ON JERUSALEM
Jerusalem has been at the center of religious conflict for over 4,000 years. The three groups of people who hold claim over Jerusalem are referred to as the “Abrahamic religions.” They are the Christians, Jewish, and Muslims. Abraham himself has the distinct recognition as being the first of the Jewish people. Although he has this recognition he was actually Hebrew. It was Abraham who first entered into a covenant with God. When Jerusalem first became the capital of ancient Israel King David who we read about in the book of Samuel moved the tabernacle to this location. It is also in this great city that we learn that King Solomon built his temple when we read the book of 2 Chronicles. The division of Israel did not stop the Jews from worshipping in this temple.
Although the temple was destroyed in 586 it was rebuilt in the time of Ezra. After many additions were built on to the second temple it became known as Herod’s temple. The word of Jesus Christ was fulfilled when the Romans tore down Herod’s temple in 70 A.D. The only thing that remains of the temple today is a small portion of the outer wall that once surrounded the temple itself. It is more commonly known as the wailing wall. It was the Roman empire that separated the Jewish from their promised land. A small remnant of the Jews took up residence in Palestine. Before they came back together many subcultures had formed among the Jewish people. Many of those subcultures came with their own histories, languages, and traditions.
The orthodox Jews believe that their law is absolute. There is no grey area or leniency to be found within their laws. Meanwhile the conservative Jews believe that Gods laws change and evolve with time. Reconstructionist Jews believe that the laws are only a guideline that people can choose to or not to follow. Just like anywhere else in the world there are also those who are secular and do not believe in God. Instead they see Judaism as a culture that they came from and not a religion that they practice. But in general Jews believe in one God and the prophets. Moses is given special recognition by the Jews because he was the one that God gave the ten commandments to.
THE CLAIM OF THE CHRISTIANS ON JERUSALEM
Through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the Christians have a claim to Jerusalem. Jesus Christ founded Christianity in the city of Jerusalem during the first century. Prior to the destruction of the city the first Christians scattered and settled in cities throughout the Roman empire in order to avoid persecution for their beliefs. During the first and second century the first Christians were considered a group of the Jews due to their roots.
Persecution of the Christians did not end until the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 324. By the time of the Emperors conversion to Christianity, Christian practices had already started to change. Although Christianity had started to change the city of Jerusalem was important to Constantine and the Roman church, because of the holy sites that it contained. Rome built several Christian churches around the city of Jerusalem.
Numerous Christian religions find their roots in Jerusalem. The Orthodox church separated itself from the Roman catholic church in 1054 because of political and religious differences. While the division of the Christian church lead to the creation of other Christian religions Jerusalem has always remained a city that is important to all Christians.
THE MUSLIMS CLAIM TO JERUSALEM
It is a common belief among Muslims that Allah sent the angel Gabriel down to enlighten their prophet Muhammad in the seventh century. According to their beliefs Muhammad shared his enlightenment with his companions and they wrote his words down. This belief is how they explain the creation of the Koran.
Today the religion of Islam is based upon the Koran and Muhammad’s teachings. Muslims world wide recognize Muhammad as Gods final prophet. Islam is a hybrid religion that is a mixture of Christian traditions and the values of nomadic tribes of Arabia.
The numbers of Muslims grew as Islam expanded its influence across areas controlled by the Byzantine empire. It had stretched west into parts of Europe and North Africa, as well as east into parts of Asia. As it expanded many Muslims would adapt parts of the different cultures they found themselves living in into parts of their every day life. These adaptions created different cultural traditions for Muslims.
The three most holy shrines of Islam are found in the cities of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. In line with their faith Mecca is where the Koran was first revealed to the people, Medina is the burial site of Muhammad, and Jerusalem is where Muhammad found his way into heaven. The Muslims have control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
It is important for people to know the history of this great city that three different groups of people claim so that they can understand the hatred that is felt toward Israel. According to the Christian Bible this hatred of Israel can be traced as far back as son of Abraham. Abraham had a son, Isaac, who in turn gave his father two grandsons named Esau and Jacob. When Isaac grew older he was deceived and tricked by his son Jacob. Due to his sons deceit Isaac gave Jacob the birthright that should have gone to his older brother Esau. Their father was not able to take the blessing back and this act of deceit created a divide between the two brothers.
Esau would continue to feel a hatred for his brother Jacob even after their father died. Those who are familiar with the Old Testament know that Jacob went on to become Israel. In the New Testament the Prophet Ezekiel speaks of this hatred when he said, “Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity had an end: Therefore, as I live, saith the LORD GOD, I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee: sith thou hast not hated blood, even blood shall pursue thee.”
It is this hatred between two brothers that planted the roots for hatred between the rest of the Middle East and Israel. While peace treaties have been able to be signed and agreed upon with countries like Egypt and Jordan with Israel, the Palestinians and other Arab nations of the region have not entered into treaties with Israel. This absence of peace is not because nobody has tried. Over the years several nations have tried to negotiate peace between Israel and Palestine. Almost 20 years ago there was an offer to establish a Palestinian state but Palestine rejected the offer. During the last 20 years there have been an increase in rocket launchings, kidnapping of soldiers, and retaliatory strikes performed between Israel and those who oppose her Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon.
When President Trump took office he declared his own intent to try and broker peace between Israel and Palestine. It was supposed to be the “deal of the century.” Those who are of the secular world feel that the odds of his succeeding in accomplishing this goal have dropped dramatically since the U.S. embassy opened in Jerusalem. The embassy move was a great day for Jews and Christians alike. While those of the secular world may believe that President Trump had a chance of reaching a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine the rest of us who are familiar with the Bible both from a historical perspective and a faith perspective already knew that this was never going to happen. There will be a time for peace with Israel, but when that time gets here it will only last for three and a half years.