Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, When they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: All that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, Though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it… In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, And like a torch of fire in a sheaf; And they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: And Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem. – Zechariah 12:2-3, 6, KJV
On a scale that measures the significance of biblical prophesy, that one ranks pretty high, I think. It’s merely the tip of the iceberg (of significant scripture), of course, but, today, this one ought to be rather compelling, even to an unbeliever. After all, this particular book (Zechariah) is understood to have been written around 520 B.C., some 1,100 years before Mohammad and 2,400+ years before we learned to convert oil into gasoline.
And, now, here we are. Today, Israel has, indeed, become a “cup of trembling” and a “burdensome stone” for all people. More importantly, the seduction of the world (including many self-proclaimed Christians) into an alliance against Israel is well on its way. It seems that almost anyone I might speak with on the subject of Israel is rather eager to enter the “fire among the wood“.
It’s probably not worth much of an effort arguing over the modern history of Israel…the how and why of its existance. Such facts, after all, don’t really seem to matter much to those who’ve drunk of that cup. The word “trembling”, by the way, is – in some translations – rendered as “drunkenness”. And, that may be more accurate when you consider the general lack of rational discourse on the subject of Israel.
Still, it should suffice to say that the apportionment of areas of what became known as “Palestine” (as inherited from the Ottoman Empire after WWI) to the Jewish people was, conceptually at least, not altogether different from any other post-war, post-colonial, or post-Imperial mapping exercise. While I can’t think of many of these that have worked all that well, in Palestine, at least, some bit of care was given to protect what was an ethnic minority at the time.
Regardless, the age-old maxim holds true to this day: to the victors go the spoils (for however long they can keep them). It’s as true in Texas or California (or Uzbekistan, for that matter) as it is in Israel. The Ottomans – and their Turkish remnant, we might recall, had the misfortune to align themselves with the losers in both of the last “great wars”. Same for most of the Arab world. Bad luck or bad judgment…you decide.
Either way, the British and French “victors” were free to manage these conquered territories as they saw fit. They, at least, held some measure of concern for the general well-being of the various people living in those lands. It matters very little to me (or to history) that their consideration of a delineated Jewish homeland was and continues to be vehemently opposed by the Arab world. Old grudges tend to be like that.
The simple truth is that these old grudges (be they tribal, religious, or resource driven) just don’t go away with the drawing of new maps. That is the history of conquest in the world. Israel’s claim (and their right to exist), of course, has been tested and contested rather continuously by the Arab world.
Still, we might also recognize that this particular “feud” hasn’t been limited to the Arab world. Try this particular reference on for size:
“My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their resting place. All who found them have devoured them; And their adversaries said, ‘We have not offended, Because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice, The LORD, the hope of their fathers.” Jeremiah 50: 6-7
If that doesn’t describe the general history of the Jews since, well, almost forever, I don’t know what does. In particular, it happens to rather accurately describe the usual sort of justification offered for the genocidal efforts of everyone from Antiochus IV Epiphanes to Pope Urban II to Adolph Hitler to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Since Israel’s statehood in 1948, attempts to “drive them into the sea” (the Muslim Brotherhood’s long-standing threat) has been near constant and has included several direct military actions (in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973). Terrorist attacks and other para-military attacks continue unabated to this day, carried out by Hamas and other similar organizations.
It is true that the disposition of the Palestinian refugees is a continuing aggravation. That they pose a (constantly reiterated) strategic threat to the ongoing existence of Israel should be obvious. Were it not for their unceasing insistence that Israel must be destroyed, they might well have been successfully absorbed and this problem would never have developed. (Note: We need only consider what sort of immigration policy we’d have if all Hispanics in the US were declaring their intent to remove all Europeans from the face of the North American continent.)
But, these are merely “practical” considerations. They do very little to explain the age-old seduction of those who choose to hate the Jewish people, regardless of where they happen to be living. Of course, today’s “trembling” is being further fueled (pun intended) by the simple fact that Israel’s most passionate enemies “just happen” to control a significant majority of the world’s oil supply. That alone will, in the end, mostly likely prove to be sufficient encouragement for an oil-starved society such as ours to throw Israel under the bus.
We Westerners, ostensibly Christian in orientation, might otherwise recognize the irrational and genocidal madness that seem to motivate so much of the Islamic world today. But, many are finding rather easy to excuse those who punish unbelief with the sword and the stone, who openly declare their genocidal wishes, and who refuse peace at every turn.
We might still ponder how wise it is to drink of that cup. Maybe we’ve had enough already.