Gaza behind the scenes

Part 2 of a visitor’s perspective on the ongoing conflict in the land of the Bible.

IN our last article, we saw the volatile situation in Israel flare up into an all-out war between Israel and the Gaza based terrorist group, Hamas. The war lasted for 11 days before a ceasefire was brokered by Egypt. Cross-border firing of rockets from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli aerial bombing of Hamas military sites have largely ceased. But how long will this lull last?Last week, we also saw that Hamas used the pending court cases for eviction of illegal Palestinian residents in the Sheikh Jarrah suburb as the excuse to start the war. Coupled with this was the fact the Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank (leader of the Fatah faction), deferred the elections, also using the housing case as an excuse. That angered many Palestinians and it also played conveniently into Hamas’ hands. They psyched up the people to create civil disobedience, especially at the Temple Mount. It was the holy month of Ramadan, and apart from prayers, with the accompanying fiery sermons denouncing Israel as the aggressor, it was only a matter of time before trouble would erupt. And erupt it did!Now the war is over, we ask: was it necessary for Hamas to fire rockets at Israel just because they opposed the alleged eviction of the residents? Over 2,000 rockets were fired at Israel, killing 13 people, including two children. Does their insatiable desire to attack Israel justify the loss of over 140 Palestinian lives, including 66 children? Was it worth it? In the 2014 Gaza war, a BBC reporter, when interviewing an Islamic Jihad fighter was told that the 2,000 plus deaths of Gaza’s residents was worth it because “we stood our ground against the occupier”! Yet the cause for the 2014 war was the murder of three Jewish teenagers at a Hebron bus stop by Hamas terrorists. The retaliatory fatal attack by some Jewish youths on a young Palestinian boy in East Jerusalem became the perfect excuse to start the war.The world was in an uproar, condemning Israel, yet none condemned the Hamas killers. The Jewish youths who killed the Palestinian were caught, tried and jailed, but the terrorists who murdered the 3 Jewish boys were celebrated as heroes! Certainly different standards to live by.

Gaza and West Bank, the troublesome neighbourhoods in Israel!.

The cost of war
As in the 2014 war, lives were lost on both sides and property was damaged. The aerial bombings resulted in Gaza having their sanitation facility disrupted. Moreover, each household now receives three to four hours of electricity daily, as opposed to 12 hours before the war. The Hamas authorities claim that 16,800 houses were damaged of which 1,800 are completely unfit for living, and 1,000 were destroyed completely! The energy and agricultural sectors also lost millions of dollars, not to mention loss of income for business houses and small time entrepreneurs. Israel had been reeling from the coronavirus crisis where its economy contracted by 6.5 per cent. The financial burden was heavy when the war erupted. Just like in Gaza, the war caused the business sector to incur losses in millions of Israeli Shekels. This certainly wasn’t a war Israel wanted, but what do you do when you get rockets fired into your residential areas. No country in the world would just sit down and take it. Somehow, the world expected Israel to sit still and get bombed. Certainly not! After warnings, Israel retaliated with air strikes specifically to take out enemy targets. But when the cowardly enemy fired rockets from schools, hospitals, and residential areas, firing back only resulted in casualties who were then used as propaganda material to portray Israel as heartless murderers!

The ‘real’ catalyst
The ‘real’ catalyst for this war, the previous wars, plus the wars coming ahead – will all revert to one issue – ownership of the land of Israel! Intrinsic to that is the issue of ownership of Jerusalem, and to that, of Temple Mount. Palestinians claim to be the owners of the land even before Israel became a state in 1948. Israel state their claim back to Biblical days. Not to be outdone, the Palestinians also play the religious game with their version also going back to their common father, Abraham, albeit from differing sacred sources! So who is right? Or maybe we should ask, which ‘holy book’ is right on ownership of the land?The land of Israel, and indeed the city of Jerusalem, is home to the three monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.Interestingly, there is zero mention of Jerusalem by name in the Moslem’s Quran. They only have ‘Al Kuds’ mentioned, which they claim refers to Jerusalem. Moreover, Jerusalem is the third most important city in Islam, after Mecca and Medina; and they pray towards Mecca, not Jerusalem! Whereas, in the Judeo-Christian Bible, there are over 800 references to Jerusalem.
Many nations and peoples have staked their claims for Jerusalem. However, like the ugly sisters in the Cinderella story who tried unsuccessfully to wear the shoe that was not theirs, these nations found that the ‘shoe’ doesn’t fit them, and they are hurting their ‘feet’ trying to force it on! Zechariah says it like this: “On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.” (Zech 12:3).Many nations tried to move this ‘heavy stone’ over the centuries, such as Ancient Egypt, the Philistines, Assyrian Empire, Persian Empire, Babylonian Empire, Greek Empire, Roman Empire, the Byzantines, Moslem invaders, Crusaders, Ottoman Turks, the Spanish Empire, and Nazi Germany. Where are they now? All gone! Yet, Israel remains. Why? Because her God is the covenant-keeping God who never fails (Jer 31: 31-37)! Believers in Jesus Christ are also beneficiaries to the covenant this same God cut on Calvary for our redemption! He is faithful indeed (Gal 3:14; 1 Thess 5:24)!

Why unrest in East Jerusalem?
Whenever the Bible speaks of Jerusalem, it is referring to East Jerusalem. No verse of Scripture refers to West Jerusalem, which is the modern city that arose in the past 100 years. East Jerusalem includes the Old City, Calvary, Golgotha, Mount of Olives and many other places in our Bibles which are important to our Christian faith. It was ethnically cleansed of Jews during 19 years of Jordanian control, until it returned to full Jewish control after the Six Day war of 1967. Now, the nations want to split the city so the Jews can only have the western part, while the Palestinians have the east! A “Two-State Solution” may sound politically correct – but does that line up with God’s word?Since Islam has its claim to Jerusalem, let’s see what God says in the Judeo-Christian Bible: 2 Chronicles 6: 6 says, “I (God) have chosen Jerusalem that my name might be there”. Opponents say the USA is responsible for ‘planting’ Israel in the heart of Moslem countries in the Middle East to be their ‘spy’ nation. However, God says clearly, “The Sovereign LORD said, ‘look at Jerusalem. I (God) put her at the centre of the world, with other countries all around her’”.God chose Israel to be the place where His plan of salvation for the whole world would be carried out. Many hundreds of years before, on the ranges of Mt Moriah, Abraham offered up Isaac. Later David’s temple stood there, followed by Solomon’s temple. Then, on the same mountain range two thousand years ago, the Lord Jesus was offered up for our sins. Today the Moslem golden dome mosque stands on the site, now called Temple Mount! Hence the tension for the city. Jerusalem has a history of pain and sorrow. The Lord Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41 -44) when He saw calamity coming her way. This proved true when the Temple was destroyed by Rome in 70 AD, the city burnt down, and the people scattered. But the God who prophesied their destruction and dispersion also prophesied their return (e.g., Ez 36:19-26). After suffering tremendous persecution for 2,000 years, Israel was born again on May 14, 1948 – sending a message to the world that the God of Israel was still on His throne! Thankfully, God has a special place for this city and her people, the Jews. He says Jerusalem is like the “apple of His eye” (Zach 2:8), and that He is a “wall of fire” around her (2:5). Just like you would react when someone sticks finger in your eye, God reacts when His nation is being ‘touched’! He cares for His city and His people. The Bible tells us that God watches the nations, and He will bring judgement on those who do evil to His people and divide up His land. He says in Joel 3: 1-2, “I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land…” Zachariah 12: 9 also says: “And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”However, for the nation and people who choose to stand with God’s purposes for Israel and the Jewish people, this is God’s promise to them: “I will bless anyone who blesses you (Israel), but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you.” (Gen 12: 3).What does God expect of the nations, even as we see the heat turned up on Israel? Boycott, divestment, sanctions, international trial to try a nation defending her tiny land given in a covenant by the One who created the world. How should the Church respond to the situation? We will see answers from Scripture in the next article. Again, stay vigilant!

Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.