Israel and World War I
When the first World War occurred the Arabs helped the British fight the Turks. D.E. Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia - was instrumental in achieving the victory over the Ottoman Empire.
In October in 1917 General Allenby launched an invasion on the land of Palestine. On Sunday, December 9th, the Turks were driven out of Jerusalem. Two days later the General made his entry into conquered Jerusalem on foot. He said no one could enter the holy city except in humility on foot. He said upon entering:
Since your city is regarded with affection by the adherents of three great religions of mankind, and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and the pilgrimages of devout people of these three religions for many centuries, therefore I do make known to you . . . that all sacred buildings will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those who faiths are sacred. (Ref. 8)
Britain, France and Russia then forged what became known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement which was a plan to carve up the old Ottoman Empire following Turkey's defeat in World War I. Britain gained control of Palestine under this agreement. For the first time in four hundred years the Holy sites of Christianity were delivered from the domination of Islam.
The Balfour Declaration
On November 2, 1917 the British government, in the Balfour declaration, pledged its support for a nation home in Palestine for the Jews. British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour wrote a letter to Baron Edward de Rothchild as a representative of the Jewish people:
His majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing and non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. (Ref. 9)
The Arabs believed they had been betrayed. Because the Arabs had help the British oust the Turks they expected to receive full control of Palestine. Britain said that Arab independence did not include the land of Palestine.
The situation was bad for both Jews and Arabs. The Turks were no longer in control it was now the British who were their new masters.
The Riots of 1929
The land of Palestine saw riots occur in 1929. Agents of the Grand Mufti began spreading false rumors among the Palestinian Arabs that the Jews planned to attack the Dome of the Rock. An armed Arab mob, inflamed by these claims, descended upon the Jewish part of Jerusalem on August 23. The following week the violence spread throughout the entire country. By the time British reinforcement arrived 133 Jews had been killed as well as 116 Arabs. This outbreak had an important impact on British policy concerning the Holy Land. Again the Temple Mount was at the center of the controversy.
As we have already observed, history has afforded many example of anti-Semitism among "Christians." Yet there are many examples of others who helped the Jews. One person who made a significant contribution toward the rebirth of the State of Israel was Orde Wingate.
From 1936-1939 the Arabs of Palestine revolt in an attempt to halt the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. British army units as well as Jewish settlements come under attack.
Captain Wingate, a Bible-believing Christian, was posted as an intelligence officer to Jerusalem in 1936. At the time of his arrival, a new wave or terrorism had broken out among the settlements. To counter this terrorism, Wingate trained special units that helped defend against the Arab attacks. He introduced successful techniques in countering the marauding bands. His heroic efforts did much to insure the security of the Jewish settlers.
Wingate explained why he felt responsible to help the Jewish people:
This is the cause of your survival. I count it as my privilege to help you fight your battle. To that purpose I want to devote my life. I believe that the very existence of mankind is justified when it is based on the moral foundation of the Bible. Whoever dares lift a hand against you and your enterprise here should be fought against. Whether it is jealously, ignorance or perverted doctrine, such as have made your neighbors rise against you, or "politics" which make some of my countrymen support them, I shall fight with you against any of these influences. But remember that it is your battle. My part, which I say I feel to be a privilege, is only to help you. (Ref. 10)
The example of Orde Wingate serves as a reminder that those who accept the Bible literally cannot help but have a love for God's Chosen People the Jews. Wingate's story is in contrast to the unspeakable things said and done in the past by those who claimed they were doing it in the name of Christ. To those individuals who persecuted the Jews, desecrated the Temple Mount and other Jewish Holy Places, all in the name of Christianity, Jesus said: "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! (Matthew 7:23).
The United Nations Partition Plan
The British finally gave up and turned the problem of Palestine over to the United Nations. The United Nations votes to partition the land of Palestine into two states: one for the Palestinian Arabs and the other for the Jews. War was inevitable.
The British mandate was slated to end on May 15, 1948. The Arab leaders promised they would invade Palestine at that date and crush the Jews. Poised on the border were the armies of Egypt, Syria and Iraq. They were ready to deliver the death blow to the newly formed state. The Jordanian army had already strategic positions within Palestine. The Jews had no planes, tanks or artillery to handle a full-scale invasion. Furthermore, there was no place for them to retreat. Everything looked hopeless.
May 14, 1948 - Israel Reborn as a Nation
On May 14, 1948, against all the odds, the modern state of Israel was reborn. At four o'clock that afternoon the members of the provisional national council, led by David Ben-Gurion, met in the Tel Aviv Art Museum. Ben-Gurion rose and read the following proclamation to the assembled guests:
The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here there spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.
Exiled from Palestine, the Jewish people remained, faithful to it in all countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and the restoration of their national freedom. . .
Accordingly we, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assemble today, the day of the termination of the British Mandate of Palestine, by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish people and the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL . . .
With trust in Almighty God, we set out hand to this declaration, at this session of the Provisional State Council, in the city of Tel Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the fifth year of Iyar, 5708, the fourteenth day of May, 1948.
The War of Independence
As promised by her enemies, the new state of Israel was attacked by Arab forces as soon as their independence was declared. The result was victory for Israel and defeat for their Arab enemies. Jews started to return to Israel. Time magazine reported:
Out of the concentration camps, ghettos, courtrooms, theatres and factories of Europe the Chosen People had assembled and won their first great military victory since 166-160 B.C. Israel's victory came after the worst of a thousand persecutions.
As we have noted, the Bible had predicted the Lord would scatter His people as a consequent of their disobedience under the Palestinian covenant:
Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither your nor your fathers have known---wood and stone. And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. (Deuteronomy 28:64-66).
But also under the terms of the same covenant and in keeping his other covenants with Israel, scripture also predicted God would bring the people of Israel back to their own land:
Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among the nations where the Lord your God drives, you, and you will return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I commanded you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the Lord will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord God has scattered you. (Deuteronomy 30:1-3).
Yet now they were back, but not totally. The Jews did not control the Temple Mount area or the Old City of Jerusalem. In 1948 full Muslim control of the Old City of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount returned to Islamic rule when King Abdullah took that part of the city in the war with Israel. Israel without a Center
From the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, there has been no real center for the Jews. They have not been able to perform their religious duties as the Scriptures call for. Synagogues are not the same thing as the Temple---all Jews recognize this fact. Synagogues are places of prayer, reading, and training. The priesthood has been inactive since Jerusalem's fall. This also was predicted in Scripture:
For the children of Israel will abide many days without a king and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod and without teraphim (Hosea 3:4).
The ephod and teraphim were vestments of the priest. The priest was not able to perform his duties without them. For two thousand years the nation Israel has had a religion without a Temple; believers without a sanctuary; and a liturgy without the ability to sacrifice.
From their dispersion world-wide the Jews have wished for access to the Temple site, any remnant of the Second Temple, and the possibility of building a Third Temple. This has been their dream.
Since the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews have suffered repeated humiliations as the Holy Places in Palestine have been desecrated. The domes of the two buildings on the Temple Mount stand high and reflect the bright sunshine. This serves as a reminder to the people that "pagan" holy places are on the site of their sacred Temple.
The words of the prophet Ezekiel are true today as ever:
"And their Holy Places shall be defiled . . . The enemy has said against you, Aha, even the ancient high places are ours in possession." (Ezekiel 7:234; 36:2)
From the time of the destruction of the Second Temple until June of 1967 the city, except for three short years under Bar Kochba, had never been in Jewish control. The story of the Jews is one of wandering, humiliation. Yet after twenty centuries the Jews came back and the modern state of Israel was reborn - in one day.