Imagine yourself living 100 years ago, in a time where we barely had cars, electricity, or the toaster. Most people relied on well water, outhouses, and horses and buggies. It was a time when “world travel” meant traveling to the next state, or perhaps two states over, and this took days and weeks. There was no Facebook, supersonic jets, cell phones or wi-fi. There was no Hawaii or Alaska in the United States, Russia would look different, half of Africa was European colonies – and there was no Israel!
Most people called the Holy Land Palestine or Trans-Jordan. 100 years ago, the land was ruled by the Turks and it was later administered by the British. A century ago there were not many Jewish people living there – maybe 200,000 compared to today’s 7 million. The Jewish population center was in Europe, not the United States.
We are in the midst of a time of celebration, as we commemorate the independence of the modern state of Israel on April 23rd this year and the liberation of Jerusalem since 1967 on June 1st.
I was speaking in a church recently and explaining why Jewish people proclaim L’shana Haba’a B’Yerushalaim (Next Year in Jerusalem) at the end of the Passover Seder meal. One woman raised her hand and asked a question that I had never considered: “What do you say if you are in Jerusalem?” The question has real significance. For almost 2000 years, the overwhelming majority of Jewish people lived in the Diaspora (outside the land of Israel). But since 1967, the population of Jerusalem has become the second most Jewish in the world.
If you are an astute reader of the Bible, you understand that the gathering of Jewish people in the Holy Land has prophetic significance. Israel’s national anthem is called Hatikvah (The Hope) and it expresses the heart and soul of the Jewish people in relation to the land given by God to His people. The last part of the song goes, “Our hope will not be lost, the hope of two thousand years, to be a free nation in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.” When my father was a boy, he used to go around the neighborhood with a can and ask for donation for the JNF (Jewish National Fund) because through his synagogue and many others just like it, Jewish people all around the world supported the creation and growth of the state of Israel. The Jewish soul yearns for Zion and Jerusalem.
This deep-seated feeling within Jewish hearts exists because of the upbringing based on Biblical echoes in the teachings they hear. Over and over again within the Bible, we hear of the reestablishment of Israel both physically and spiritually. The most meaningful passage is Ezekiel 36 and 37, which speaks of the physical growth of the Land, the returning of the Jewish people to Israel, and finally spiritual renewal:
But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home.
For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.
As we celebrate Israel’s birthday and Jerusalem’s liberation, let us remember all that God has done in the Holy Land and eagerly anticipate what He is planning to do there in the future. I think that we are living in the midst of fulfillment of prophecy. The Lord has restored the Land, more and more Jewish people are moving back to Israel, and we just need that last part – salvation, new hearts, and recognition of Yeshua (Jesus).
Contributed by Ryan K.