PHOTO: Jaffa Road, Jerusalem, where it is generally the case that Arab and Jew mingle happily together.
The controversial subject of Israel, with its political and spiritual significance for the nations and for Christians in particular, was aired in a most helpful way through an online webinar on Sunday night.
Hundreds of people from all over the country took part in a marvellously interactive discussion triggered by the centenary of the San Remo Conference of 1920, where international legality was granted for a Jewish homeland in what was then known as Palestine.
Britain, who had promised to do all in its power to make this happen through the Balfour Declaration of 1917, was subsequently given the League of Nations mandate to prepare the Jews for self-government.
Tragically, knowledge of the San Remo resolution was hidden in the British war archives and the minutes of World War I peace negotiations until recently uncovered, allowing far too much time for Israel’s legitimacy to be questioned.
But now that it is becoming more widely known, efforts are being made to inform politicians and others of Israel’s true position – that there should be no dispute over the land they have inherited.
It is also being pointed out how we betrayed them through the mandate period and beyond in order to appease the Arabs and protect our oil interests.
We were given the sacred trust of enabling Jews to re-settle the land, but in fact went out of our way to obstruct them, even turning away ships laden with Holocaust survivors.
A petition seeking a formal apology from the government is being organised, though some acknowledgement of our negative role was made by Jeremy Hunt when, as Foreign Secretary in January 2019, he referred to the White Paper of 1939, severely restricting Jewish immigration to the Holy Land, as a “black moment” in our history.
The webinar, under the banner of Pathway for Peace and organised by Love Never Fails, an umbrella group of Israel-related Christian organisations, is seen as the ‘start of a conversation’ about Israel, particularly among the younger generation, who are generally – even among Christians – unaware of the background to these events.
A lively Question and Answer session followed a series of short talks by experts including international lawyer Andrew Tucker, Bible scholar Dr James Patrick and Rev Clive Urquhart, lead pastor of the Kingdom Faith Church.
Dutch lawyer and historian Dr Emilie Noteboom, no doubt mindful of current regret over our colonial past, described the return of Jews to the Promised Land as “the ultimate reversal of colonialism” in that the original settlers were being given their land back – Jewish history in the region can be traced back over 3,000 years.
One of the most challenging comments came from Dr Patrick when he said that “the generations most known for treasuring the Bible were also the most loving to the Jews”. He was, of course, referring to the essential part played by 19th century evangelicals – such as Charles Spurgeon, William Wilberforce and Bishop J C Ryle – in persuading the British government to aid Jewish restoration to their ancient homeland in fulfilment of many Bible prophecies.
Ryle, who became the first Bishop of Liverpool, said: “It is high time for Christians to interpret unfulfilled prophecy by the light of prophecies already fulfilled. The curses of the Jews were brought to pass literally; so also will be the blessings. The scattering was literal; so also will be the gathering. The pulling down of Zion was literal; so also will be the building up. The rejection of Israel was literal; so also will be the restoration.”
Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, speaking in 1864, said: “Israel is now blotted out from the map of nations; her sons are scattered far and wide; her daughters mourn beside all the rivers of the earth. Her sacred song is hushed; no king reigns in Jerusalem; she bringeth forth no governors among her tribes. But she is to be restored; she is to be restored ‘as from the dead’.
“When her own sons have given up all hope of her, then is God to appear for her. ‘I will place you in your land’ is God’s promise to them. They shall again walk upon her mountains, shall once more sit under her vines and rejoice under her fig trees.
“And they are also to be re-united. There shall not be two, nor ten, nor twelve, but one – one Israel praising one God, serving one King, and that one King the Son of David, the descended Messiah.”
Not only that, but Jews who acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah will also be reconciled with their Arab brothers – as Rania Sayegh, an Arab Christian from Nazareth, testified to webinar participants. Jesus is the only answer to the conflict in their midst, she declared, pleading: “Pray that the gospel will reach out to both the Arab and the Jewish people… The only hope for real peace is through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Dr Patrick agreed and, when asked whether striving for peace was practical, said reconciliation resulted when hearts are transformed upon meeting the Jewish Messiah, as is evident in congregations all over Israel.
I have witnessed this myself – in Jerusalem and elsewhere – where Arab and Jew are embracing one another because the “dividing wall of hostility” has been broken by the sacrifice of Jesus. “His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Eph 2:14-16)
So, a huge thank-you to Pathway for Peace for flagging up real hope for the future of Israel and the world – but only through the Prince of Peace. (Isa 9:6)
The webinar was recorded and will soon be made available on www.pathwayforpeace/webinar where people can sign up to hear more about the proposed petition.
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International; and King of the Jews, also available from Christian Publications International.