Competing Claims to the Holy Land Have Led to Endless Wars, Yet Israelis Are Living the Good Life and, for Now, They Don't Care About Peace
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child;
And they shall not escape.
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day:
We are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
For they that sleep sleep in the night;
And they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
But let us, who are of the day, be sober,
Putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
(1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people is not surprising, for they have rejected Christ as the Messiah, along with His message to love your enemies. The Zionists in the State of Israel (who follow the Talmud rather than the Torah) are looking for a physical kingdom from which a physical king will reign (just as the Jews of the first century who rejected Christ were looking for a physical kingdom and a physical king), which is why they believe (along with many misguided Christians) that they are entitled to the land occupied by the Palestinians and, most importantly, the temple mount.
The deception by the devil in guiding the Zionists to construct a physical temple for a physical king to reign from Jerusalem for a "millennium" will serve the plan of God — it will be upon this final scene, with the false messiah ruling for "a little season" from the holy place in Jerusalem, showing himself that he is God, that Christ will return in the clouds of heaven for the judgment of the nations. (This deception by the devil will serve the purpose of God just as the rejection of Christ by some in Israel served the purpose of God — and this was to deliver the Gospel to the Gentiles, who now, through faith, partake of the blessings to the fathers and join with believing Jews to constitute the true Israel of God, the Church of Jesus Christ.)The true Messiah, Christ, will never reign from a physical temple made by human hands; however, the false messiah will reign on this earth for "a little season" from the holy place in Jersualem, and he will deceive many with his signs and wonders — "and all the world, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder after the beast who shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition." This is "the abomination that maketh desolate set up," spoken of by Daniel the prophet. "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand), then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains."
The rejection of Christ by some in Israel in the first century was used for God's good purpose (the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as an atonement for sin of both Jews and Gentiles) just as their continued rejection of Christ will be used again for God's good purpose in the last century (the return of Christ and the gathering of His elect from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven for eternal life in a new heaven and new earth).
By Karl Vick, TIME Magazine
September 2, 2010
Heli and Eli sell condos on Exodus Street, a name that evokes a certain historical hardship in a neighborhood that suggests none at all, the ingathering of the Jews having entered a whole new realm here. The talk in the little office is of interest rates and panoramic sea views from handsomely appointed properties on the Ashdod waterfront selling for half what people are asked to pay in Tel Aviv, 18 miles (29 km) to the north. And sell they do, hand over fist — never mind the rockets that fly out of Gaza, 14 miles (22.5 km) to the south.
"Even when the Qassams fell, we continued to sell!" says Heli Itach, slapping a palm on the office desk.The skull on her designer shirt is made of sequins that spell out "Love Kills Slowly."
"What the people see on the TV there is not true here. I sold, this week, 12 apartments. You're not client. I tell you the truth."The truth? As three Presidents, a King and their own Prime Minister gather at the White House to begin a fresh round of talks on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They're otherwise engaged; they're making money; they're enjoying the rays of late summer. A watching world may still see their country as being defined by the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land and whether that conflict can be negotiated away, but Israelis say they have moved on. (See pictures of 60 years of Israel.)
Now observing two and a half years without a single suicide bombing on their territory, with the economy robust and with souls a trifle weary of having to handle big elemental thoughts, the Israeli public prefers to explore such satisfactions as might be available from the private sphere, in a land first imagined as a utopia.
"Listen to me," says Eli Bengozi, born in Soviet Georgia and for 40 years an Israeli. "Peace? Forget about it. They'll never have peace. Remember Clinton gave 99% to Arafat, and instead of them fighting for 1%, what? Intifadeh."Another whack for the desk.
"The people," Heli says, "don't believe."Eli searches for a word.
"People in Israel are indifferent," he decides. "They don't care if there's going to be war. They don't care if there's going to be peace. They don't care. They live in the day."The Good Life Is Real
And what a day it is. When it reaches the eastern Mediterranean, the sun strikes molecules at an angle that erases the possibility that anything can matter except this sky, that sea and the land between. In Ashdod the sensation travels on golden dunes that march up from the beach through a shimmering new city center and out to a crisp, clean perimeter marked by yet another row of splendid new high-rises, white towers that hold the light for an instant, then release it into the realm of general good feeling. Breakfast here is cucumbers, yogurt, honey, bread and crumbly white cheese. You never felt better.
"The good life in Israel is real, while all the rest is somehow blurred," says Ari Shavit, a good man, a serious man, who writes a regular column for Haaretz, the influential daily that has made hand-wringing a thing of frequent beauty since 1918.Still, a few years ago Shavit left his family home in Jerusalem, the capital, where more and more of life is so serious — all that stone — and settled in Tel Aviv, a beach city. (See TIME's photo-essay "Palestinian 'Day of Rage.' ")
"There was a time when people felt guilty about the Tel Aviv bubble," says Shavit. "Then it turned out the bubble was pretty strong. The bubble was resilient."Indeed, there are times when you can think most of the nation is within it. Polls are clear on the point. In a 2007 survey, 95% of Israeli Jews described themselves as happy, and a third said they were "very happy." The rich are happier than the poor, and the religious are happiest of all. But the broad thrust, so incongruous to people who know Israel only from headlines, suits a country whose quality of life is high and getting better.
But wait. Deep down (you can almost hear the outside world ask), don't Israelis know that finding peace with the Palestinians is the only way to guarantee their happiness and prosperity? Well, not exactly. Asked in a March poll to name the "most urgent problem" facing Israel, just 8% of Israeli Jews cited the conflict with Palestinians, putting it fifth behind education, crime, national security and poverty. Israeli Arabs placed peace first, but among Jews here, the issue that President Obama calls "critical for the world" just doesn't seem — critical.
"There is no sense of urgency" about the peace process, says Tamar Hermann, a political scientist who has measured the Israeli public's appetite for a negotiated settlement every month since 1994, the year after the Oslo accords seemed to bring peace so close, Israelis thought they could touch it.They couldn't. It flew farther away in 2000, when Yasser Arafat turned down a striking package of Israeli concessions at Camp David. What came next was the second intifadeh, a watershed of terror for an Israeli majority who, watching and suffering waves of suicide bombings, saw no reason to keep hope alive.
"They watch less and less news," Hermann says of her compatriots. "They read political sections of the newspaper less. They say, 'It spoils my day, so I don't want to see it.'"The market responds. Newspapers print fewer pages of politics — as little as half as much now as just a few years ago in the popular daily Maariv, says editor Yoav Tzur — and more pages of business news.
"The rise in real estate prices is more interesting to the public than future talks ... that no one knows will lead to something," says Hadas Ragolsky, executive producer of the 5:00 report on Channel 2, Israel's leading news station. (See pictures of the Pope visiting the Holy Land.)It's not just real estate that serves as a measure of economic success. Israel avoided the debt traps that dragged the U.S. and Europe into recession. Its renown as a start-up nation — second only to the U.S. in companies listed on the Nasdaq exchange — is deserved. A restless culture of innovation coupled with the number of brainiacs among the 1 million immigrants who arrived from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s has made Israel a locus for high-tech research and development, its whiz kids leapfrogging the difficult geography to thrive in virtual community with Silicon Valley.
All this has combined to make the Palestinian question distant from the minds of many Israelis. And the distance is not only figurative. The concrete wall Israel erected on its eastern side during the second intifadeh sealed out not only suicide bombers but almost all Palestinians. An Israeli Jew can easily pass an entire lifetime without meeting one.
"The wall," marvels a former Israeli negotiator, "put the Palestinians on the moon."Looking for a Partner
It's quiet there, over on the Moon. In the West Bank, the territory administered by Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, technocratic Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is taking a serious stab at governance, starting by professionalizing security forces. Even before the shooting deaths of four Jewish settlers by Hamas operatives on Aug. 31, the worst such incident since March 2008, Fayyad's security forces had arrested more than 300 Hamas supporters in dread of an attack like that. The Gaza Strip — the dark side of the moon, sealed off and ruled by Hamas — has been largely quiescent since the thunderous military operation Israel ended in January 2009. (See pictures of Mahmoud Abbas.)
Israel's walls work so well that its foremost security challenge is now what's thrown over them. Hizballah has an estimated 40,000 missiles pointed at Israel from its Lebanon redoubts, and Hamas collects a wide assortment of arms that enter Gaza through tunnels. In the peace talks, the "final status issues" are supposedly the borders of a Palestinian state, the question of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinians who fled their homes six decades ago. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his first priority will be to make sure that if Israel pulls its 10,000 troops out of the West Bank, its high ground will not become the latest launchpad for yet more rockets. He wants Israeli inspectors stationed on the Jordanian border to ensure nothing is smuggled in.
All that, of course, is a way for Netanyahu to talk about what he really wants to talk about, which is Iran. Tehran supplies the missiles to both Hizballah and Hamas and is closing in on the capacity to put nuclear warheads on its own long-range missiles. It is that danger that consumes Netanyahu, not the one posed by his immediate neighbors.
"The Palestinian is no longer seen as a strategic threat anymore," says Hermann. "A nuisance, yes."So the Palestinians need to make themselves listened to again. A few days before leaving for Washington, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat looked into a camera.
"Shalom to you in Israel," he said. "I know we have disappointed you."In a bold, not to say desperate, bid to rouse ordinary Israelis, seven senior Palestinian officials addressed themselves to Israel directly in online videos. Each clip concludes with the words:
"I am your partner. Are you mine?"The videos spoke straight to the core doubt of the huge Israeli majority who in poll after poll say a two-state solution is best but are dubious that it will ever happen because the Palestinians won't play ball.
"During the elections, a lot of people told me there is no partner on the other side," says Tzipi Livni, head of the opposition Kadima Party and a former Foreign Minister. She clicks on the video spots with evident relish. "This is good," she says.Gadi Baltiansky, of the pro-peace Geneva Initiative that made the videos, argues that the moderate Palestinians in them will not be around much longer. Teddy Minashi, looking at wannasurf.com in his Ashdod law office ("Crowded by screamy locals," reads a comment about the Ashdod beach. "War keeps away foriners"), doesn't hear that.
"We're not really that into the peace process," he says. "We are really, really into the water sports."Minashi and his friends organized to block a fishing port that would have undone the best break on the beach.
"People here now concentrate on improving their lives, in the sense that they don't think too far ahead," he says. "Me, myself, I don't believe in this era we'll achieve peace with our neighbors. So now we concentrate on what we can do, how we can improve our lives." Ashdod, Minashi says, "is a very good example of that."Involved, Like It or Not
And so it is. Dating from the 17th century B.C., the city is among the world's oldest. Its biblical history alone features the Ark of the Covenant, one plague of boils, another of mice, and an Ethiopian eunuch. But all that was deep beneath the dunes when a handful of Moroccan Jews were dropped here by Israel's government in the mid-1950s. Modern Ashdod would be a "development town," Israel's version of housing projects in an American city, down-market and all the grittier for its massive port.
"Some people, it's not the war," says Heli in the condo sales office, ready to defend his hometown. "They hear, Ashdod?"But they show up and find a city that is part resort, part microcosm for an immigrant nation turned inward.
"It basically reflects the big picture in Israel," says Mayor Yechiel Lasry, who has remade the city with the help of Soviet immigrants, some 60,000 of whom settled in Ashdod.Educated and conservative, the Russians flexed their political muscles and accelerated the rightward political drift that had begun with the second intifadeh.
The Russians also made the good life better, and not just because of their technological skills. Their taste for high culture means Ashdod has a ballet, a music school, a museum and the Andalusian Orchestra, which specializes in compositions from Moorish Spain, where Muslims and Jews made beautiful music together. Perched above the beachfront promenade that runs 6 miles (10 km), a new performing-arts center evokes a baleen whale.
"It's a concept," says Lea Divan, scanning the immaculate seafront from a table at the Puzzle Café, her view framed by palm fronds. "It's a state of mind."It's not a Middle Eastern state of mind, though; the freeways and beaches, universities and start-ups bring to mind California, not Cairo.
"That's kind of what they're going for," says a waitress, taking away the breakfast Divan shared with Carmela Balosher-Orovan, her friend of six decades — a relationship that spans the lifetime of Israel.Divan was born on a kibbutz and was still nursing when it was attacked in the fighting Israelis call the War of Independence and that Palestinians know as the Catastrophe.
"She suckled fear with the milk of her mother," says Balosher-Orovan, whose experience in Haifa was in its way no less unsettling.Jews and Palestinians got along well in the mixed city until 1947. Then Arabs attacked the local refinery.
"It was a shock," she says. "These were my friends!"(See pictures of heartbreak in the Middle East.)
In the late 1800s, a group in Europe decided to colonize this land. Known as "Zionists," this group consisted of an extremist minority of the Jewish population who wanted to create a Jewish homeland. They considered locations in Africa and the Americas before settling on Palestine, where the Jewish State of Israel was established in 1948.
Largely due to one-sided special-interest lobbying by AIPAC, as of November 2008 the U.S. taxpayers have given more funds to Israel than to any other nation: $85 billion in grants, loans and commodities since 1949, with an additional $50 billion in interest costs for advance payments, for a total cost of $135 billion or $23,240 per Israeli. During fiscal year 2009, the U.S. taxpayers gave an average of $7 million per day in military aid to the State of Israel and gave nothing in military aid to Palestine.
Palestinian Loss of Land 1946-2005
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are cut off in walled ghettos, which former U.S. President Carter has likened to "apartheid." An international human rights group warns that a two-state solution to the 62-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been made a practical impossibility due to Israel's continuing expropriation of Palestinian property and denying Palestinian refugees the right to recover their orginal homes and lands. This is one of the main conclusions of the May 2005 report, "Ruling Palestine: A History of the Legally Sanctioned Jewish-Israeli Seizure of Land and Housing in Palestine." It reveals in stark detail how Zionist leaders and later successive Israeli governments manipulated key Ottoman and British laws, as well as the Israeli legal system, to dispossess Palestinians of their land and property. The report clearly documents how Israel has built a domestic legal framework which seeks to legitimize what are clearly discriminatory land and housing policies.
While "the good life is real" for Israelis in Ashdod, an estimated 57 percent of Palestinians live in poverty, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in January 2008. The figure is higher in Gaza where 79 percent of people live in poverty compared with 49 percent in the West Bank. OCHA also said two-thirds of Palestinians were not connected to a sewage system. More and more people aren't getting enough food, with many relying on food aid from the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) and flour, oil and rice from UNRWA. Chronic malnutrition and dietary-related diseases are on the rise, especially among children (AlertNet, July 2009).
Sixty-three years and eight wars later, Divan and Balosher-Orovan have seen enough to know that for all the surf breaks, the palms and the coffee, the conflict is never truly done, never far away; that it shadows the good life like the soldier — in civilian clothes but with an M-16 slung across the back — who trails schoolchildren chattering down the sidewalk on a field trip. When Divan moved to Ashdod eight months ago, her first question to prospective landlords was always, Does this apartment have a bomb shelter?
"I'm on vacation," says Balosher-Orovan with a determined look. "Part of my vacation is not to listen to the news every half-hour."But she knows — as many Israelis affect not to know — that the news matters. New talks? Experience offers small hope, the women say. But if the sides are talking, they're not fighting. And thinking of her old neighbors, Balosher-Orovan still believes that people will naturally get along if their leaders allow it. So they are paying close attention and insist that anyone who claims otherwise is telling a tale.
"You have a son in the army, and your sister's son is in the army. You're involved!" Divan says. Ignore the peace talks? "It's impossible. You can't do it. You'd have to live in a bubble."Read more:
Zionism vs. Peace in the Middle East
The Age to Come: 'The Kingdom Age' vs. 'The Eternal Age'
In the Age to Come, We Shall Have Eternal Life
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write;
These things saith the First and the Last, which was dead, and is alive;
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)
And I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer:
Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried;
And ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;
He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write;
These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is:
And thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith,
Even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
But I have a few things against thee,
Because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam,
Who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel,
To eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone,
And in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write;
These things saith the Son of God,
Who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass;
I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works;
And the last to be more than the first.
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee,
Because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess,
To teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation,
Except they repent of their deeds.
And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts:
And I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira,
As many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak;
I will put upon you none other burden.
But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write;
These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars;
I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die:
For I have not found thy works perfect before God.
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.
If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief,
And thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments;
And they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment;
And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life,
But I will confess his name before my Father, and before His angels.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write;
These things saith He that is holy, He that is true,
He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it:
For thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie;
Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation,
Which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out:
And I will write upon him the name of my God,
And the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God:
And I will write upon him my new name.
"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ,
Both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in Him."
"And I [John] heard another voice from heaven, saying,
'Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities...
Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine;
And she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her...
Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her'...
And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth...
I [John] heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying,
'Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God;
For true and righteous are His judgments: for He hath judged the great whore'...
And I [John] heard as it were the voice of a great multitude... saying,
'Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him:
For the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white:
For the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.'
And He saith unto me, 'Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb'."
(Revelation 18:4-5,8,20,24; Revelation 19:6-9)
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh.
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter;
Whose praise is not of men, but of God.
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? (Romans 3:1)
Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. (Romans 3:30)
Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also?
For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?
Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised:
That he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised;
That righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only,
But who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. (1 Corinthians 7:19)
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision;
But faith which worketh by love.
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written,
There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel. (Romans 9:6)