Who Is The New Israel
Magazine Volume 12 Number 4 December 1989 Page 25-28
THE NEW ISRAEL
John W. Morris, PH.D
May 14, 1948, thirty-eight people gathered in Tel Aviv to establish the modern
state of Israel. The establishment of this state provided a cause of great
rejoicing for the Jews who had waited and prayed for an opportunity to return to
a land they believed rightfully belonged to them. For the Palestinian residents
already living in this land as they had for centuries, the news was the
beginning of yet a new chapter in a history filled with tragedy, oppression, and
struggle. Even before that fateful day, war and bloodshed had already begun to
curse the Middle East as two peoples fought for control of the same land.
Both the Jews
and the Palestinians claim the Holy Land as their ancient ancestral home. As a
result, Israel has fought a series of wars with its Arab neighbors, invaded
Lebanon, and carried on raids against Palestinians throughout the Middle East.
The Palestinians have responded with terrorist attacks against Israeli targets
both within and outside of Israel. More recently, the native Palestinian
population of the East Bank of the Jordan and the Gaza, occupied by the Jewish
State following the war of 1967, has revolted against their conquerors,
unleashing yet another series of clashes as the Israelis frequently use brutal
tactics to halt the uprising.
bloody recent history of the Middle East, the United States has been a steadfast
ally of the Jewish State, sending billions of dollars in military and other
assistance. Much of this unconditional support has come from a surprising sector
of middle class America: conservative and evangelical Christians. The reason for
this support has been the adamant conviction among these Christians that the
establishment of modern Israel is the direct fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.
Is such unconditional support warranted? Do the
Scriptures in fact teach that the establishment of modern Israel constitutes a
direct fulfillment of Biblical prophecy? Is the only appropriate Christian
response to the violent events of the Middle East one of unconditional
support for the Jewish cause and unilateral resistance to the plight of the
A TIME FOR REFLECTION
in the recent history of the violent Middle Eastern powder keg has there been
more reason for neutrality and objectivity on the part of the United States. The
events of the past few years have revealed to many that the Palestinians on the
West Bank and the Gaza have legitimate claims to land and self-government. At
the same time, moderate Arab leaders like Hosni Mubarek of Egypt, and even
Yassir Arafat of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, have realized that the
Palestinian people will never regain complete control of all of Palestine. Thus,
they have expressed a willingness to recognize Israel in return for Jewish
recognition of a Palestinian State in those areas with a Palestinian majority.
Many Israelis, including
Shimon Peres and Yitshak Rabin of the Labor Party, are now realizing the
futility of continued struggle with the Palestinians and have expressed a
willingness to trade land for peace. Thus, after over 40 years of bloody
fighting, a real possibility for peace in the Middle East exists on the basis of
a compromise between the warring parties, provided that the moderate voices in
Israel are able to win the support of the majority or persuade the members of
the hard-liners to moderate their position.
seem that such occurrences would and should persuade most Christians to abandon
unconditional support for Zionist [see inset] expansion and to enter
wholeheartedly into the process of reconciliation. However, a group of largely
conservative Protestant leaders continue to steadfastly support the Zionist
cause in its most extreme form. The Rev. Jerry Fallwell, a leading
Fundamentalist, once wrote: “If this nation wants her fields to remain white
with grain, her scientific achievements to remain notable, and her freedom to
remain intact, America must continue to stand with Israel”
(Listen America; New York, 1980, p. 98).
A CHART FOR ALL SEASONS
Fallwell and the
others who demand unconditional support for Israel consider the modern Jewish
State a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. They are heavily influenced by
dispensationalism, a method of Bible interpretation which became popular through
the writings of John Nelson Darby (died 1882). Darby, a one time cleric of the
Church of England, joined the Plymouth Brethren in 1831 and developed a
complicated system of Biblical interpretation that divides God’s saving action
into individual eras or dispensations. This scheme influenced thousands of
American Protestants through the Niagara Bible Conference of 1895 and the
publication of the Scofield Reference Bible by Cyrus Ingerson Scofield the next
makes a strong distinction between the promises made to the Jews before Christ
and the reality of the Church after Pentecost. Thus dispensationalists teach
that God’s promises to the Jews were not fulfilled through the Church but
remained unfulfilled during the Church age. They consider the Church a new and
separate creation by God with its own separate agenda, not the heir to the
promises made by God to ancient Israel. Therefore, it is natural that the
dispensationalists should see the founding of the modern state of Israel as a
fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.
NOT MY TYPE
interpret the words, phrases, and sentences of the Bible in a very literalistic
manner. Thus they reject or fail to see the importance of an ancient and almost
universal principle of Biblical interpretation known as typology. Typology is
the method of Biblical understanding which seeks the spiritual meaning of the
historical events described in the Old Testament.
Fundamental to the
typological method of Biblical interpretation as practiced by the early and
later Fathers is the belief that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment and completion
of the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament. For example, the near
sacrifice of Isaac points towards the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The ark
that saved Noah and his family from the Flood is a type of the Church which
saves the faithful from sin and death. The burning bush is seen as a type of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, who bore God in the flesh, yet was not consumed by the
presence of the divinity within her womb.
The typological method is not
just the invention of the Fathers, but is based firmly on the New Testament. Our
Lord Himself used the example of Jonah as a type of the three days that He would
spend in the tomb (Matthew 12:40). He also compared the lifting up of the
serpent by Moses to his own ascent of the cross (John 3:14). Saint Paul
considered the passing through the Red Sea as a type for baptism (I Corinthians
10:1-2). Saint Peter even uses the term “antitype” to compare the ark with
baptism (I Peter 3:20-21). Thus the typological method of interpretation is
firmly grounded in the Holy Scriptures.
TYPOLOGY AND THE NEW ISRAEL
According to the typological
method, God’s promises to Abraham and his descendents were fulfilled through
Christ and His Church. One Orthodox scholar has written: “In Christ, then, the
covenant with Israel was fulfilled, transformed, and transcended. After the
coming of the Messiah—the Incarnation of God the Son—only those who are
‘built into Christ’ are counted among the people of God. In Christ, the old
Israel is superseded by the Christian Church, the new Israel, the body of
Christ; the old covenant is completed in the new covenant in and through Jesus
Christ” (George Cronk, The Message of the Bible; St. Vladimir Seminary
Press; 1982, p. 80).
of the covenant with Abraham and his descendents as fulfilled through Christ and
His Church is firmly grounded in the witness of the New Testament. In the
parable of the Vineyard Owner, our Lord uses the unfaithful tenants of a
vineyard to illustrate this point. The owner, representing God, sent his
servants, representing the prophets, and finally his son and heir, representing
Christ, to collect his rent. The tenants, who represent the Jews, ignored the
request for the rent and killed both the servants and the son of the owner of
the vineyard. At the end of the parable our Lord said, “Therefore what will
the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and
give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:1-9). In other words, those who
faithfully believe in Him will inherit the status that Israel had before it
rejected the Messiah.
Saint Paul wrote, “Therefore
know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham . . . if you are
Christ’s then you are of Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the
promise” (Galatians 3:7-9). Indeed, Saint Paul called the body of believers
“the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Saint Peter illustrated this point by
applying terms used to describe Israel in the Old Testament when he wrote,
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own
special people” (I Peter 2:9).
Thus, according to the New
Testament, the standard against which all doctrine and Biblical interpretations
must be tested, God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendents has been
fulfilled through Christ and His followers, not through a secular state, for
Christ said, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
It is true that there are some
Old Testament prophecies that speak of a restoration of Israel following the
destruction of Israel by Assyria and of Judah by Babylon. For example, Isaiah
wrote, “It shall come to pass that the Lord shall set His hand again the
second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left” (Isaiah 11:11).
Jeremiah prophesied, “For I will bring them back into their land which I gave
to their fathers” (Jeremiah 16:15). Micah said, “I will surely gather
the remnant of Israel” (Micah 12:12).
Indeed, God did restore Israel. The book of Ezra tells
how Cyrus, the King of Persia who had conquered Babylon, allowed the Jews to
return from exile and to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. Significantly the
beginning of Ezra states that the events recorded are in fulfillment of the
prophecy of Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1). Thus the Old Testament prophecies cited in
support of the modern state of Israel were fulfilled long ago when the Jews
returned from the Babylonian captivity.
SONS OF ABRAHAM
The time has come for Christians
to carefully reevaluate an attitude towards modern Israel which is based
on faulty premises. Both Church history and the Holy Scriptures teach clearly
that Christ and His Church are the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.
Saint Paul tells us that those who follow Christ in faith are the true children
of Abraham and heirs to the promises made by God to the Old Testament patriarch.
The prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel have already been fulfilled
and should not be applied carte-blanche to the modern state of Israel.
The Zionist State
was born in conflict between the claims of Jews to a homeland and the rights of
the native Palestinian inhabitants of the Holy Land. Christians should,
therefore, judge Israel on the same basis as other nations, and not accord to
the Jewish State a special status above reproach. Indeed, it is clear that while
both sides have committed atrocities, the Zionists have disregarded the rights
of the Palestinian people to national self-determination. Christians owe no
special allegiance to Israel, but should expect the Jewish State to adhere to
the same principles of justice and decency demanded of other nations. Indeed,
Christians should call the people of Israel to recognize the legitimate right of
all people to the same national selfdetermination that they claim for
Although the current leaders of
Israel claim Palestine as their homeland, it was not their home for a period of
almost 2000 years. In 63 B.C. Pompey conquered Israel and placed the Hebrew
people under Roman rule, After two abortive Jewish revolts in A.D. 70 and 130,
the Romans expelled all but a handful of the Hebrew people from Palestine. Thus
the Jewish people lived for centuries in Europe and other parts of the world as
an often persecuted minority in countries dominated by others.
Even before the horrifying
murder of millions of Jews by the Nazis in this century, many Jews had begun
looking toward the possibility of re-establishing a nation of their own. In
1895, Theodor Herzl, a Hungarian Jew, published an influential case for a Jewish
homeland. In The Jewish State, Herzl called for the Jews to leave Tsarist
Russia and the other countries where they lived to organize a Jewish State.
Herzl’s arguments persuaded Jews from all over Europe to gather in Basil,
Switzerland, for the First Zionist Congress in August, 1897. This Congress
launched the campaign for the establishment of a Hebrew State in Palestine.
Zionism, the movement for the
foundation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, received a new stimulus with the
outbreak of the First World War. Hoping to win the sympathy of Jews living in
the lands of their enemies, the British issued the Balfour Declaration on
November 2, 1917. In this declaration, the English government pledged to
“favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish
At the end of the war, Palestine
was placed under a British mandate, giving Britain the opportunity to fulfill
her earlier commitment. As a result, Jews began moving to Palestine in large
numbers. By 1939 the Jewish population of Palestine had risen from about 85,000
before the war to 445,000. Palestine, the proposed Jewish homeland, was not,
however, an uninhabited land open to foreign colonization. Instead it was
occupied by about 650,000 Arabs, many of whom could trace their ancestry back to
Biblical times. After centuries of domination by the Ottoman Turks, these
Palestinian people now hoped for national self-determination as a part of Syria
or as an independent state following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at
the end of the First World War.
Instead of respecting the wishes
of the Palestinians, the victors placed them under another foreign government by
establishing the British mandate. The Palestinians had no desire to trade
British domination for Jewish domination through the establishment of a Jewish
State in their homeland. Thus the Palestinians, who numbered 1,056,000 at the
beginning of the Second World War, resisted the efforts of the Zionists through
a series of riots, attacks on Jewish settlements, general strikes, and refusal
to pay taxes to the English.
The Zionists, however, were
better organized and financed than the native Palestinians, who were mostly poor
tenant farmers on land owned by Lebanese or Syrian landlords. As a result, the
Jews were able to buy large tracks of land and to dispossess the Palestinian
tenant farmers. They also organized a secret army, the Haganah, in 1919. The
Haganah fought both the Arabs and the British, who attempted to find a
compromise between the conflicting sides. In 1937 an even more militant group of
Zionists formed the Irgun to fight the British and Palestinians. The result was
a series of bloody clashes between the various parties in the dispute.
The Nazi tyranny and the Second
World War created a large number of Jewish refugees and radically intensified
the struggle. In an effort to prevent further conflict between Jew and Arab, the
British attempted to limit Jewish immigration to Palestine. The Zionists
responded with a campaign of terror against both the Arabs and the British
authorities. Jewish terrorists assassinated Lord Moyne, the British minister in
the Middle East in 1944, and carried on other attacks against the English. In
1946, Zionist extremists blew up the British headquarters at the King David
Hotel in Jerusalem killing almost 100 people.
Finally, the British grew tired
of trying to find a solution that would pacify both the Palestinians and the
Zionists and turned the matter over to the newly formed United Nations. After
much discussion, the United Nations voted on November 29, 1947, to partition
Palestine into two states, a Jewish State and a Palestinian State. The
Palestinians rejected the plan because it would place an Arab minority of 45% in
the proposed Jewish State. Thus the Palestinians resorted to violence to oppose
the partitioning of their homeland with the support of neighboring Arab States.
The Jews, however, accepted the
UN resolution and gathered forces to respond to the Palestinian attacks. The
violence reached a climax on April 9, 1948, when extremists massacred the entire
population of Dier Yassin, an Arab village near Jerusalem. Although the Haganah
and the Jewish Agency condemned the murder of 250 men, women, and children, many
Palestinians panicked lest they too fall victim to Zionist atrocities. As a
result thousands of Arabs fled to neighboring countries, vacating most of the
Arab villages in the proposed Jewish State, and creating the Palestinian refugee
problem. By the end of 1949, there were almost 750,000 Palestinian refugees in
Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile the Zionists accepted
the UN partition and proclaimed the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, the day the
British left Palestine. The next day, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq came to the aid of
the Palestinians. However, the Jews were victorious and the war ended in a truce
in early 1949. The new Zionist State was even larger than the Jewish State
proposed by the UN resolution. This only intensified the Palestinian refugee
problem and resulted in the destruction of 374 Arab villages. Throughout the
next twenty years, Israel successfully defended its territory during a series of
wars with its Arab neighbors. Finally, the Jewish State conquered the West Bank
and Gaza in 1967, bringing over 1,000,000 Palestinians under Zionist domination.
The Rev. Fr. John Morris is pastor of Saint John
Chrysostom Orthodox Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.