I read the news like everyone else, and often get consumed in the political situation in the Holy Land. I follow the peace talks, noting the outrageous demands put on Israel to make painful sacrifices for peace and the anti-Israel rhetoric Palestinians and other Arab leaders engage in when western media outlets aren't looking. The latest demand upon Israel came from the U.S., for a 90-day construction freeze on Jewish "settlements" in what is technically disputed territory – the West Bank (biblical Judea and Samaria) and East Jerusalem.
All this was on my mind as last week I visited some Fellowship-sponsored projects in the Samarian settlement of Ariel. I was completely amazed at what I found. Inside the town of 25,000 people as well as in the surrounding area, there are ancient biblical ruins where the Israelites lived over 3,000 years ago. Along the security fence which was built to keep out Palestinian terrorists from the Jewish city, historic Jewish villages lay in ruins, a reminder of what once was. Just a stone's throw away – on the other side of the fence – waves a Palestinian Authority flag, representing to many residents of this embattled town the deep desire of Israel's enemies to rid the Holy Land of her Jewish inhabitants and take it for themselves.
The great Jewish prophet Joshua is buried just five minutes away from Ariel, together with his father, Nun. Yet Jewish people are unable to visit this holy site because there is now an Arab village built around the graves. Although Arabs often work in Jewish towns and are free to enter at will, Jews are completely banned from Arab villages and face the threat of violence or arrest if they attempt to enter. How sad I felt when I was turned away from praying at my ancestor's grave which rests on the holy soil of Israel!
To many people, the settlement freeze the U.S. is proposing seems like a small sacrifice to bring peace to the region. Yet to Israelis, demands like this indicate that the world questions Israel's sovereignty. If Israel rightfully belongs to the Jewish people, we should be able to build as necessary to accommodate our growing population. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many Israelis, too many steps are now being taken – even by Israel's allies – to ostracize the Jewish state.
So often I get discouraged by reading news about Israel. On a practical level, there are times when it seems to make sense for Israel to make sacrifice after sacrifice to satisfy her Arab neighbors. But we know that those sacrifices have never resulted in real peace. And, on a spiritual level, we are anything but discouraged – in fact, we have more hope than anyone in the world. God promised this land to us, and His word is stronger than any man's. My faith lies in the Bible and God's word, which keeps me strong, willing, and faithful in the face of adversity. As the famous Jewish saying confidently declares, Od Avinu Chai, Am Yisrael Chai – our forefathers' legacy lives, and the nation of Israel will live forever.
With blessings from the Holy Land,
Baruch atem b'Shem, Yeshua