Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. (Isaiah 66:8)
The well-being of the Jewish people has always hinged on their obedience to God. In general terms, when God’s people obey Him, they prosper. When they do not, judgment falls upon them. This principle comes from Deuteronomy 28 and has been repeatedly seen in action in the history of Israel (Judges 2:6-23).
The Jewish History of Suffering
Over the millennia, Jacob’s descendants have suffered greatly and have been greatly blessed as well. Bible teacher Lance Lambert says of them:
“Israel has twice lost its statehood and its national sovereignty, twice had its capital and hub of religious life destroyed, its towns and cities razed to the ground, its people deported and dispersed, and then twice had it all restored again. Furthermore, no other nation or ethnic group has been scattered to the four corners of the earth, and yet survived as an easily identifiable and recognizable group.”
The first exile took place under Babylonian rule. In the second great exile, Roman forces destroyed and dismantled Jerusalem in August, A.D. 70, exactly as Jesus prophesied 37 years earlier. The Romans killed 600,000 Jewish residents and deported 300,000 more to locations around the Empire.
Sixty-five years later Roman Emperor Hadrian’s forces crushed the last Jewish uprising led by Bar-Kochba. Those forces hated and persecuted Jewish and Gentile followers of Christ. Some observers believe this might have helped plant early seeds of anti-Semitism in the fledgling Church.
Jerusalem Declared “Off-Limits”
Hadrian’s hatred for the Jews burned so bright that he changed Jerusalem’s name to Aelia Capitolina (his given name was Aelius) and declared it “a Roman city forever which no Jew could enter under pain of death.” He built a temple to Jupiter on the site of the former temple where sacrifices had been made to Jehovah. Then he renamed the land Syria Palaestina (Latin for Philistia). Caesar overlooked one “minor” detail: Unlike the powerless gods of Rome, the God of Israel was and is alive and well.
The devastated city of Jerusalem became the most contested urban real estate on earth, as for two thousand years, various nations, empires, and religious factions battled for its possession. All the while, its builders and original residents – the Jewish people – were forced to seek refuge in Gentile nations around the world but could call none of them “home.” That all changed in one day eighteen hundred and thirteen years after the destruction of Jerusalem. A new nation emerged from the birth pangs of World War II and the horrible Holocaust.
The Rebirth Begins
In 1881, Russia’s tsar, Alexander II, was murdered, and his son, Alexander III, succeeded him. Alexander III hated the Jewish people, and that year a “pogrom” (an organized massacre or persecution of Jewish people) swept through Kishinev, the capitol of Moldova, adjacent to Romania and Ukraine.
As life for the persecuted Jews became more difficult under the tsar, Zionist ideas about a Jewish homeland gained strength and followers. Some Jewish leaders began to search for a place of refuge – a homeland for the world’s displaced Jewish population. The first aliyah, or immigration to Israel took place in 1882. The word “anti-Semitism” entered the English language in 1882 as well, and it was defined as “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.
The First of the Fishermen
During this time of rebirth God sent prophetic voices of Christian and Jewish “fishermen” to His chosen people. These divine messengers never used force as gently and persistently they warned the Jewish people and wooed them toward God’s plan to deliver those who took heed. In virtually every case, His goal was to preserve a remnant and return them to their ancient Land of Promise.
In the same year the first aliyah to Israel took place, a prominent Jewish leader named Joseph Rabinowitz journeyed from Kishinev to Palestine (as Israel was called at that time). He was an unofficial delegate who wanted to see if Palestine was the right place to establish a Jewish homeland.
During his brief stay in Palestine, Rabinowitz went to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem at the beginning of a Sabbath day. He watched in dismay as Jews who had gathered there for prayer struggled to worship and weep at the wall amid “the jibes and harassments of the Muslims.”
As he pondered the troubling scene, a passage from the Hebrew New Testament he had read fifteen years earlier flashed in his mind: “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). In that moment, he began to realize that Jesus was the King and Messiah, the only One who could save Israel. Rabinowitz returned to his temporary residence, where he read John’s gospel. He was struck by John 15:5: “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”
In 1888, Rabinowitz said, “I have two subjects with which I am absorbed: the one, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the other, Israel.” A year later while visiting London he said: “Russia is like an ocean; the Jews there are like shipwrecked people; and since by God’s mercy my feet are on the Rock (which is Jesus)… I am shouting and signaling to my shipwrecked people to flee to the Rock.”
Herzl Dreams of a Sovereign Jewish State
Fourteen years after Rabinowitz, Theodor Herzl, a Jewish attorney and writer, penned an essay titled Der Judenstaat (“The Jewish State”). That essay, published in 1896 and subtitled An Attempt at a Modern Solution to the Jewish Question, changed the course of Jewish history. Herzl dreamed of reestablishing a sovereign Jewish state on Jewish soil.
In 1897, Herzl orchestrated the first worldwide gathering of Jews since A.D. 70. The delegates to this Zionist Congress established the World Zionist Organization. Herzl became its first president. In his inaugural address Herzl prophesied, “We are here to lay the foundation stone of the house which is to shelter the Jewish Nation.”
Rabinowitz was right. In November 1947, fifty years later, the United Nations General Assembly decided to recognize the right of the Jewish people to have their own state.
Britain’s Role in Israel’s History
During the war, Britain ran out of acetone, which is a component used to gelatinize a highly explosive mixture of nitroglycerine, guncotton and a petroleum substance called cordite. Cordite was the primary element of explosives at that time. Until war broke out, Britain had purchased all of its acetone from Germany, now its principal enemy. The acetone shortage literally put the entire nation at risk. In desperation, Winston Churchill, then the first lord of the admiralty, summoned a brilliant Jewish chemist named Chaim Weizmann to the British War Office. He asked him to develop a synthetic version of cordite that did not require acetone and placed every available government facility at his disposal.
While British forces under General Edmund Allenby battled Turkish troops for control of Palestine, Dr. Weismann developed and produced 30,000 tons of an acetone-free synthetic cordite that was even more explosive than the original version. When Weizmann was asked what he wanted in return for his vital service to Great Britain, he said, “If Britain wins the battle for Palestine, I ask for a national home for my people in their ancient land.”
Weizmann received his answer on November 2, 1917, when British Foreign Minister Arthur James Balfour issued a statement on behalf of the British government, with the approval of the Cabinet:
His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object.
Britain finally forced Turkey to sign an armistice in October of 1918. The area the world called Palestine was in British hands.
At the end of the war Britain was given a mandate, or official authority, to administer most of the Middle East. After years of political maneuvering and high-level betrayals, more than 70 percent of the land promised to the Jewish people was placed in Arab hands and named “Trans-Jordan.”
The British government imposed severe immigration quotas on Jewish immigrants who wanted to go to the Promised Land. Yet despite seemingly impossible obstacles, determined Zionist groups defied the quotas and established colonies in Eretz Israel.
The World’s Birth Pangs
The nation of Israel’s labor pangs grew stronger and more violent with each decade, signaling that birth was imminent. As always, the dragon of old waited and schemed to destroy the divine seed of God’s will before its birth or immediately after delivery.
Nuremberg and Concentration Camps
While the world observed, Hitler established five concentration camps for Jewish people within Germany’s borders (they included two sites that would gain horrendous infamy: Buchenwald and Dachau). The League of Nations, the toothless precursor to the United Nations, had neither the power nor the will to stand up against the bully ruling Germany.
Nazis Begin the Holocaust
According to author Steve Lightle, Hitler’s spies reported to the Fuhrer, “You can do anything you want to the Jews; the whole world does not want them.” Lightle said that one German newspaper, referring to a Nazi plan to sell Jewish lives to the nations at the meeting, declared in a headline, “Jews For Sale, Who Wants Them? No One.”
By 1942, Hitler was ready to expand his extermination of Jewish people beyond the borders of Germany and Austria to include all of Europe. At the Wannsee meeting in Berlin, he essentially authorized the total annihilation of the Jewish population in Europe, exactly as he envisioned in his demonically inspired book, Mein Kampf.
First God sent Jewish and Gentile fishers to warn the Jewish people of their danger, but only an estimated 600,000 heeded the warning in time to flee. Once the hunters gained momentum, they exterminated two-thirds of the nine million remaining Jews. Not one nation represented at the Evian meetings had clean hands. Nor was the Church guiltless in this unspeakable tragedy.
In spite of the hatred that led to the massacre of six million Jewish victims, God still had a plan to restore His ancient covenant people to their land. The world would learn firsthand that nothing and no one could stand in His way.
Fighting the “Other War”
Throughout World War II the British had fought another war: a war to end Arab-Jewish conflict in the Holy Land. Still administering official authority in the Middle East, the British were caught in an age-old struggle. The Arabs rejected Jewish immigration by conducting a nonstop campaign of vandalism and terrorism against the settlers. To defend themselves against the Arabs, the settlers organized underground vigilante and defense groups such as the Irgun, the Stern Gang and the Hagana. At first, most of these groups limited their activities to defense, but as Arab atrocities increased, the Jewish groups kept pace. In an effort to appease the Arabs, the British limited Jewish immigration to the Promised Land. Despite Britain’s best efforts to stop them by imposing severe quotas on Jewish immigrants, the Hagana worked tirelessly to help rescue desperate refugees from the Holocaust in Europe.
By 1947, the British occupation forces and the British people were exhausted. The Empire returned the “Palestine problem” to the United Nations.
Excerpted from The Coming Israel Awakening by James W. Goll. Copyright © 2009, Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission. James W. Goll is the President of Encounters Network and International Director of Prayer Storm. The coauthor of twenty books, Goll is also a contributing editor for Kairos magazine.
James W. Goll