Who constitues todays "Israel of God"? Paul makes it very clear that "not all Israel is Israel"! Most gentile Christians would probably say that todays Israel of God are "Messianic believers" in Jesus.
But on a recent unusual tour of Settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip we found another Israel of God", the future Israel of God; the Settlers and their children, who have come from many lands to possess the Land, in the last days, prior to the coming of Messiah, as prophesied by their prophets of old!
The tour was made up mostly of Canadian and Amercan orthodox Jews; a total of 27, six being Canadian (and three of that six being invited members of "Canadian Friends of the I.C.E.J.") Led by Rabbi Bruce Rudolph of New York, the tour was his eighth visit to encourage the Settlements strung out along the mountaintops of Judea and Samaria, and those hanging on to their fortress enclaves in the heart of Gaza (in each case surrounded by Arabs dedicated to their corporate and individual extinction).
These Settlers live in communities that are either totally "religious", totally "secular", or "mixed" Fifty years ago their forerunners were the Kibbutzim, mostly from Eastern Europe, and today we might be tempted to look at them that way, but we would be badly mistaken for several fundamental reasons.
In summary, a total contrast exists between Kibbutzim (socialist, anti-religious, with an entirely agricultural economy) contrasted with Yesha Settlements today (mostly religious, necessarily anti-Labour politically, with a broad-based economies, mostly off the actual Settlement).
We three Canadian Christians felt like foreign correspondents dropped behind "enemy lines" in order to find and report the true facts "back home". We travelled under heavy military protection throughout the areas captured by Israel from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 miracle Six-Day War; often in bullet-proof buses and/or armor-plated trucks, with armed escorts ahead and behind. One needed no imagination to realize that we were in "enemy territory".
And who are these enemies of the Settlers ?
Not surprisingly the Arabs with their new-found post-war nationalism, and their new weapons, diplomacy and terrorism combined in a deadly cocktail.More surprisingly, often their own Israeli leaders, many of whom (beginning with Mr. Begin) were bullied by Washington into giving away Land for presumed Peace. Most often however by Labour Governments, particularly the recent Rabin-Peres Labour government which entered blindly into the Oslo Accords,hoping for a good outcome at the end of the day. Inexplicably giving away Israel's heritage including 80% of Hebron, all of Jericho and district, Bethlehem and four other cities; without any reciprocity whatsoever from Arafat and his gang. Not even the cancellation of the notorious Palestinian National Covenant, still dedicated to the total destruction of the Jewish State..
Also, surprisingly, Israel left-wing military officers, including Generals, appointed by the former Labour government, who are totally hostile to the Settlers and the Settlements; yet still in charge of their security and defence. These officers, being in charge of "facts on the ground" rush to destroy attempted Settlement expansion, and/or establishment of any new Settlements. The European Union, the United States America, Canada and the majority of nations which demand through the United Nations Resolutions that Israel withdraw ("redeploy") to the 1967 Green Lines; being armistice lines drawn on a map to break the 1949 stalemate between Israel and her 21 Arab neighbors, (only two of whom..Egypt and Jordan... have officially ceased war with Israel). Further demanding that Israel surrender Jerusalem as capitol of a future Palestinian state !
Another enemy of the Settlers and Settlements is Israeli secular society as a whole, whIch couldn't care less about Israel's God, land, or destiny. Not living on the borders or under attack they feel "safe and secure from all alarm".
Finally, in it's conduct, though not in it's retoric or election promises, the present Natehanyu Likud government, which although ideologically sympathetic to the Settlers and Settlements, is walking a political tightrope daily, internationally, nationally and even within the Likud coalition; where one miscalculation could topple the government and possibly restore Labour with it's new leader Barak.
The settlers are hoping and praying that Natahanyu, given more time, can work things out so that they can retain the Mountains of Israel so necessary to Israel's survival. Some even say "until God again delivers us from our enemies who are more numerous and stronger than we"
It is impossible to imagine, and nearly impossible to satisfactorily describe, the situation and predicament of these Settlers and Settlements. As in the days of Joshua, the Israelis are on the hilltops and todays Philistines (Palestinians) gathered in the farming valleys below. Also the situation of Israelis living within "Israel proper" (within the Green Lines) where they have to build and travel on "bypass roads", and through tunnels so as to avoid rock-throwing and gun-totting Palestinians. While peaceful Arabs travel freely within most of Israel, not molested by Israelis, the Israelis can not safely travel within their own sovereign country ! It is all very ludicrous!.
Sometimes I felt it was with Alice in Wonderland....unreal !
Returning to the Settlers, what is life like on a Settlement ?
But no one knows when that peace will be shattered, or by what alleged provocation.
For example, in a northern Arab town called Nablus (ancient Shechem to Israel), where the Patriarch Joseph's bones were buried when brought out of Egypt, there exists a small synagogue built around and over Joseph's tomb. Two years ago, without warning or local provocation the Arabs rioted, attacked and burned the synagogue and compound to the ground; and killed nine Israel soldiers who were trying to defend the few Jews in the town.
Why the riot?
Because sixty miles away, in Jerusalem, the government extended the Western Wall tunnel (in existence for some three thousand years) a few meters north to allow tourists to exit on the Via Dolorosa (rather than having to retrace their steps to the beginning for exiting).
The whole issue was to accomodate tourists, more of whom could go through the tunnel; and all of whom would in fact exit the tunnel near the stalls of Arab vendors on the street above.
The Rabin-Peres government had planned it, but delayed the opening. The new Likud government went ahead with the opening as planned.
Arafat, not too happy with the delayed Israeli "redeployments", called on Muslims all over the Middle east to demonstrate and protest "the undermining of our Holy mosque in Jerusalem" (implying that the Israelis intended to cause the collapse of the Temple Mount mosque).
In fact, the tunnel extension ran north, away from the mosque which lies entirely south-east of the short tunnel extension. Everyone, including Arafat and the media knew this, but the world attacked Israel for being "aggressive", and "insensitive" to Islam.
Riots took place in Jerusalem, and throughout the Middle East, including Nablus ( Shechem) one hundred miles away. As a result an Arab mob burned the synogogue, Joseph's tomb, killed Israeli soldiers and injured local Jews. We visited the site under heavy armed guard, met and talked with Jewish students studying Torah in the midst of the burned-out synogogue ( none of whom are allowed to remain overnight on the premises). This is only one of numerous such murderous uprisings.
Let me end with an observation. Our New Testament contains a catalogue of Jewish heros of faith, in Hebrews, Chapter 11; heros from Israel's past history.
After much reflection, I believe that if such a catologue of faithful heros was being drawn up today, the list would surely include many of todays Settlers in Judea, Samaria and Gaza who, while vilified by their enemies, mocked by the world and the media, ignored by their politicians and secular countrymen, have nevertheless overcome by faith in the promises of the One God of Israel's Torah.
Today these Settlers stand firm among Israel's many heros of faith, and in a prophetic but yet future Biblical context do, and will, with their offspring, constitute the future true "Israel of God" !
(The book, "The Mountains of Israel" explains all this Scripturally, and geographically: Price $10.00)