It was a pivotal year in history; 1948 – only three years after a war that had engulfed the world. That conflict introduced weapons of destruction on such a massive scale that mankind has been trying to ban them ever since. New nations were being born (Republic of Korea) and old ones were either being freed from colonialism (India) or coming under Communism, the new colonialism (China). But of all the events that took place that year, it was the rebirth of an ancient nation, Israel, that signaled a seismic shift in world history.
A Sign Of The World’s End?
At the same time, the rate of technological change accelerated in a way that would eclipse all previous periods of discovery and invention. In the sixty years from 1948 to 2008 the world has hurtled into the space age, the information age, economic globalization and cloning. The scientific, electronic and mechanical advancements of the past sixty years have exceeded science fiction. I was also born in 1948. As kids in the ’50s we thought televisions and transistor radios were a big deal. We now hold in our palm, communication devices whose capabilities required an entire building in 1948. I’m typing on a laptop that lets me see the world from outer space! It sounds exactly like the Prophet Daniel’s prediction that knowledge would increase at the time of the end.
In 1970, sociologist Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock, a book predicting the effects of rapid technological change.
“This change will overwhelm people, the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaving them disconnected and suffering from shattering stress and disorientation.”
Preoccupation with the end of the world (albeit tongue in cheek) hit the pages of TIME magazine this January.2 Lev Grossman reported on the unusually high number of current films, books, music and TV shows dealing with the subject of “the Apocalypse,” the end of the world. The readers of TIME would do well to read the writings of Israel’s prophets. Ezekiel pictured Israel rising from the ashes of the Holocaust, in a book written 2600 years ago (see Ezekiel 37). The prophet knew that Israel’s resurrection would be God’s catalyst, inaugurating the “end of the age.” In the New Covenant, Yeshua also spoke of the latter days.
“When you see the fig tree (symbolizing Israel) blossoming, know that I will be at the door, ready to return.”
(my paraphrase of Matthew 24:32-34)
The Desert Shall Bloom
Israel is a miracle on the stage of history, a nation that came back from the dead. Her dramatic progress on every physical, economic, medical and scientific front is astounding. Here are just a few statistics:
In 1948, Israel’s Jewish population was 630,000. By end of 1951, that number had already doubled. It is now roughly 6,000,000, a growth of nearly 1000% in 60 years. Soon after Israel declared independence, Jerusalem was blockaded and the rest of the nation was fighting for its life. Food and supplies were scarce. Fourteen years later (1962) our economic condition improved but we were still struggling; our annual per capita income was $1800. By 2000 it had multiplied ten times, to $20,000 and last year it was a startling $31,767. Only 60 years after its establishment, Israel has become an economic and technological powerhouse. Today there are 120 Israeli companies traded on Wall Street, more than any other country outside North America. A recently-published United Nations study ranked us 23rd worldwide in standard of living.
Isaiah predicted that in the time of our lengthy exile, Israel would be
“forsaken and hated, so that no one went through …”
Yet afterward, this same land would become
“an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations.” (Isaiah 60:15)
The American author, Mark Twain, described Palestine in 1867 as a “desolate country … given over wholly to weeds – a silent mournful expanse. We hardly saw a tree. It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land.”3 Neither Isaiah nor Twain could have imagined the 77 million trees and 24 new cities that were planted in just the first 13 years of statehood. In contrast to the “bummer vacation” Mark Twain spent here 140 years ago, 2.3 million tourists enjoyed Israel’s sites in 2007.
Yes, a miracle. At the same time, we are a people whose very existence is challenged by the hatred of Islamic jihad. Tyrants, led by Iran’s Ahmadinedjad, openly promise our destruction. Rockets are raining down on the southern cities of Sderot and Ashkelon. In the midst of prosperity there is poverty; and many Israelis are struggling to find inspiration to offset the never-ending tension. Despite his professional success, a local veterinarian voiced the hopelessness of many. “I’m ready to leave this country. I’m not about to send my sons to die in this insane situation.” There is anger over the endless need to defend ourselves, even after Israel’s repeated and sacrificial attempts to make peace with the Palestinians.
Israel’s Struggle, Like Modern Man’s, Is Spiritual
The dilemma of modern Israel is the dilemma of modern man: what is the meaning of life? Israel’s struggle is a spiritual one. Will we be a nation like all others? This was the aim of David Ben-Gurion, our founding national father. He believed that Israel would take her rightful place among the nations when we had thieves and prostitutes like every other nation. After 60 years we can, with unfortunate certainty, say that we have entered the roll-call of nations in those respects. But isn’t there a different calling for Israel? God commanded us, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Has God pinned us in a corner, allowing us neither the smug satisfaction of modern materialism nor the cop-out of assimilation into the fashionable group of “enlightened” liberal democratic societies?
Hereare some relevant questions for Israel to ask herself as we enter our seventh decade: Is Israel chosen? If so, for what? What impact should this have on the daily life of the nation? Are we secular, religious or pluralistic? What is our responsibility for the poor and disadvantaged? How will we more fully integrate Israel’s one million legitimate Arab citizens into the Jewish State? How will we respond to the death threats of regimes like Iran, as they race toward nuclear capability?
Where Do We Go From Here?
I am 60 and Israeli is 60. At this stage I feel like there’s no time to waste. I want to live wisely rather than hastily. Israel, too, needs wisdom, not haste. Israelis are accustomed to reacting quickly. This is an asset when attacked, but a deficit when seeking the true meaning of life. This is the time for strategy, for surveying the chess board, for looking at the enemy’s moves. It’s also a time for examining priorities. I find myself doing that a lot lately. How many years do I have left? There’s no way to know. But I really want to use them well. Israel is a lot like my generation, the baby-boomers. We think we can never grow old, never slow down, don’t need to plan for the future. But It’s time to re-evaluate. We got accustomed to living fast, fulfilling cravings, not counting the cost. After all, we were the first generation to “enjoy” the drive-up window.
The significance of Israel’s 60th birthday is that we are poised at the edge of the most dynamic, cataclysmic and redemptive events in history. But we are not spectators. God has put us at the center of the action – the resurrection and revival of Israel. May we, as Jewish and Gentile followers of her King, be faithful to the opportunity of a lifetime!
- 1. Wikepedia, Future Shcok
- 2. “Apocalypse New“, Lev Grossman, Time Magazine, January 28, 2008, p.54-553
- 3. Quotes taken from Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain. For a real treat, see You Tube video, “Mark Twain and Israel” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpFhKpS67DQ