Violence and unrest has once again exploded in the Middle East between the Jewish state and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip in southwestern Israel. So far, seven Israelis and 84 Palestinians have been killed as Palestinian rockets and Israeli military strikes rock the small and fragile country.
At this point, there is no end in sight.
This most recent clash, which has included a barrage of rockets fired from the Palestinian and Hamas controlled Gaza Strip into civilian sections of Israel, started in April after Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Mahmoud Abbas cancelled elections in the territory. According to reports, it was likely that Abbas and the PLO would lose.
As explained by The Daily Wire editor emeritus Ben Shapiro, who is a practicing Jew and has friends in the country, Abbas blamed Israel and the Jews for its cancellation and started increasing the violence and the rhetoric. This led Hamas, a terrorist group in the Gaza Strip that was poised to defeat Abbas, engaging with the PLO in essentially a violent tit for tat.
“Because the way that you garner support is to show that you hate the Jews even more than the guy next to you,” Shapiro said on his daily broadcast.
This culminated in recent violence on the Temple Mount, between Jewish police and Palestinian rioters. The conflict has now escalated with Hamas constantly lobbying rockets, with 1,050 fired within the span of 38 hours, mostly indiscriminately into Israel, threatening the public and causing citizens to constantly seek shelter in their homes to escape the incoming bombardment.
Due to Israel’s tiny size, some have only seconds to find a bunker.
Israel has responded in kind by conducting airstrikes and there are even concerns that a land invasion into the Gaza Strip may occur in order to reestablish control and quell the violence.
“We’re in a struggle spread across several fronts: Jerusalem, Gaza, and other areas in Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “The terror groups in Gaza crossed a red line on Jerusalem Day evening.”
He continued, “Israel will respond with great force. We won’t tolerate harm to our territory, capital, citizens, or soldiers. Whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price.”
Tor Wennesland, a U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told NPR, “We’re escalating towards a full-scale war.”
That the Middle East is once again on the brink of war isn’t necessarily a surprise, and perhaps to understand why, a history lesson might be in order.
The area known as Israel has been the ancestral home of the Jews for centuries, ever since the faith’s patriarch Abraham settled in the region, known at the time as Canaan. The Jews continued to maintain a strong presence there and eventually established a kingdom under the rule of King David between 1010-970 BC (though the nation did split in two about a century later). However, the country was invaded by the Assyrians in 721 BC and then by the Babylonians in 597 BC, who then took a chunk of the population back to their home country. The most notable among those refugees was the prophet, Daniel.
Then the Babylonians were invaded and conquered by the Persians, and the Jews were allowed to return to their land and reestablish Jerusalem and, most notably for Christian history, rebuilt the Temple where Jesus Christ eventually taught.
Around 331 BC, the Jews were invaded by the forces of Alexander the Great, the brilliant Greek general who conquered most of the known world. He died before he could really reign over his new realm, and the territory was split between his four generals, starting Israel on a period known as the Seleucid Empire and then eventually a brief period of independence.
Fast-forward 300 years and the nation was under the rule of the Romans and Jesus Christ was born. It was a period of turmoil. Within the next 100 years, most of the Jews would be exiled from their homeland after the Jewish Rebellion or Great Jewish Revolt. The forced exile by the Roman forces, who wanted to avoid another uprising, became known as the Diaspora.
The territory of Israel, after Jewish exile, fell under the control of various successive Arab and/or Muslim dynasties. That changed after the fall of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War, when the territory fell under the control of the British.
Though there were some Jews that remained in the Holy Land, most ended up in Europe, where they faced ostracization and persecution throughout the next two millennia. This eventually culminated in the Holocaust.
After the Second World War and the Holocaust, the Jews were given permission by the Allied authorities to reclaim Israel in 1948. That has led to a seemingly never-ending conflict between the Israel state and the Palestinian authorities, the displaced Arabs.
Will there ever be true peace? Likely not. As history has shown, Israel will always be immersed in conflict, as it’s essentially been since its inception. This latest battle is just another in a never-ending conflict that has been alive and well since creation.
That’s why it’s important for Christians to pray for Israel and for peace in the region.
Photo from REUTERS