Apocalypse Now?

 

Back when the modern state of Israel was first being conceived by secular Zionists like Theodore Herzl (1860-1904) there were ultra-orthodox Jews who had grave misgivings about the whole thing. To them this idea of a modern secular Jewish state was presumptuous, perhaps even tantamount to blasphemy, since only a future messiah sent directly from God could restore the Jewish homeland which had been destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and yet again by the Romans in 135.  Until then, they believed that Jews, scattered around the world, must continue to suffer as a result of their repeated infidelity to God. Even today there is a small group of Jews living in the shadow of the walls of old Jerusalem who, although they are constrained to live under Israeli law, still refuse to recognize the modern state of Israel--at least until such a time when the Messiah finally comes.

 

Although there already were small Jewish settlements here and there in Palestine under the Turkish Ottoman empire, it was the British, who with Arab help, had defeated the Turks during World War I yet had, unknown to the Arabs, promised the Zionists to work for the eventual establishment of the Jewish state.  Understandably the Palestinians, who now felt they had been betrayed by the British, resisted, so much so that the British plans had to be put on hold until the influx of Jewish refugees after World War II put so much pressure on the British that they were forced to give in and the UN, in 1947, sanctioned the creation of the state of Israel. Foolishly, in 1967, the United Arab Republic (Egypt and Syria) thought they could destroy Israel and lost miserably, which gave the Israelis the opportunity to expand their borders -- borders which the UN only provisionally recognized, leaving the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to the remaining Palestinians while the rest of them had fled as refugees, mostly to Jordan and Lebanon.

 

Today, several wars later, we see the remainder of these refugees and their descendants, who probably far outnumber the Israelis, regaining their determination to regain their homeland and to eliminate the modern state of Israel.  They see this state, as one Egyptian Christian told me, as just the latest instance of western--this time American rather than European--"Colonialism" in the Middle East.  Our incursion into Iraq only confirms this view, and despite our claims to be trying to spread democracy, the American reluctance to join the rest of the world in calling for an immediate cease fire in Lebanon is seen as undermining one of the few democracies that actually exists in the Arab world.

 

Some see the present crisis as the beginning of a new world war--this time between the Muslim world and the modern secular West.  I don't believe it is quite that bad, at least yet, although the potential for

nuclear confrontation is already there, with our old friends the Pakistanis already having proudly produced the first "Islamic Bombs" and the Israelis refusing to confirm or deny what everyone knows--that they have enough of them to wipe any Muslim country off the map. But all of them--one fifth of the world's population? One dares not think so.

 

So where do we go from here?  One cannot wonder if those old ultra-orthodox Jews were not right: there can be no restoration of Israel or for that matter, any peace in this world before the Messiah comes--or from the Christian viewpoint, comes again.  In any case, it seems to me that slim chances of peace that once seemed possible under the first Camp David and the Oslo Accords are long gone.  Wiping out Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon will at most only give temporary respite.  As the Middle Easterners like to say, "Terrorism is the war of the weak: war is the terrorism of the powerful."  As long as the US (and Israel) wages war on terrorists rather than addressing the injustices foisted upon the weak, we can only expect terrorism in return.  Until that realization finally sinks in, it may well be that the fate of Israel and of Jerusalem predicted in Matthew's Gospel--the so-called "Little Apocalypse" where we are told--"that there will not be one stone left upon another"--will be repeated yet once again.

 

R W Kropf     7/21/06                                         Apocalypse.doc  06-07-21.html