UPDATED: As the modern State of Israel turns 68 years old, the citizens and residents of this tiny country find themselves facing serious threats. But amidst all the sobering headlines, there is much good news, too.
Here are five big things I’m celebrating — I hope you will, too.
First, the very fact that the State of Israel exists today, and is celebrating her 68th modern birthday, is evidence of the dramatic fulfillment of ancient Biblical prophecies, and a powerful testimony that the Bible is the very Word of God.
- Many ancient Biblical prophecies — notably Ezekiel 36, 37, 38 & 39 — indicated that Israel would be reborn as a geopolitical nation state in the “last days” of history, that Jews would return en masse to the holy land, and that the Jewish people, with God’s help, would rebuild the “ancient ruins.”
- For much of the past 1,900, many people around the world — including, unfortunately, many Church fathers — did not believe these prophecies would literally come to pass. Yet they have come to pass, and are continuing to do so.
- This is both exciting and encouraging because it shows that God is faithful to His promises and merciful to His people, even when His people are not all seeking after Him, reading His Word, and/or obeying Him.
- True, there are many Jews today who don’t believe in the prophecies, or their fulfillment. But according to a fascinating new Pew Forum study, 61% of Israeli Jews believe that God literally promised the Land to the Jewish people in the Scriptures, while only 40% Americans Jews believe Israel in the “Promised Land.” (see page 106 of the topline results.)
Second, despite innumerable threats by Israel’s neighbors to annihilate the Jewish State — and despite so many wars, intifadas, terrorism, boycotts and other attacks aimed at bringing such threats to pass — Israel is alive and growing.
- Israel’s population just hit 8.5 million people.
- That’s ten times what it was in 1948.
- This includes 192,000 babies born over the past year.
- It also includes 36,000 immigrants (Olim Chadashim) who arrived in the country as new citizens this year.
- In a world of 14.5 million Jews, almost half (43%) of the Jewish population now resides in Israel.
Third, despite innumerable efforts to isolate Israel from the rest of the world, Israel now has diplomatic and growing economic relations with 161 countries, including behemoths like China and India, and even increasingly close working relations with a number of Sunni Arab countries.
- Israel has a formal peace treaty and increasingly close working security, diplomatic, economic and other ties with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, as Lynn and I saw first hand on our recent visit to Jordan and meetings with King Abdullah II.
- Israel also has a formal peace treaty and increasingly close working security and diplomatic ties with Egypt, relations that have noticeably and significantly improved since President al-Sisi came to power.
- Remarkably, evidence is growing of warming ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well. On May 5th, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy held a “path-breaking” forum, involving a “public dialogue between senior national security leaders from two old adversaries — His Royal Highness Prince Turki bin Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief and one-time ambassador to Washington, and retired IDF Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, former national security advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu.” Watch here.
Fourth, the majority of Israelis believe that God exists, and are growing increasingly curious about reading the Bible. Consider the following:
- 77% of Israeli Jews say they believe God exists, compared to 72% of Americans Jews, according to the 2016 Pew Forum study (see page 104).
- 50% of Israeli Jews are absolutely certain about the existence of God, compared to 34% of American Jews. (see page 105 of the Pew study)
- A 2015 survey found that “a majority of Israeli Jews, while identifying as ‘secular’ or ‘traditional,’ are nevertheless interested in gaining a deeper knowledge and understanding of the Bible,” reported Israel Today. “Conducted by the Motagim Institute on behalf of the religious website Maimonides Daily, the poll revealed that 54 percent of Israeli Jews feel they only have a ‘basic grasp’ of their national faith, and that 57 percent would commit at least five minute a day to reading the Bible.”
Fifth, there is new and compelling evidence that many Israelis believe faith in Jesus (Yeshua) as Messiah is not a contradiction to being Jewish, and many are exploring what faith in Jesus really means. Consider, too, the following data:
- According to the sweeping 2015 Pew Forum study of Israeli religious attitudes, a stunning 18% of all Israeli Jews say that a Jew can believe that Jesus is the Messiah and still be Jewish. (see page 48 of the Pew study)
- Remarkably, 19% of “Haredi” Israelis — very religious Orthodox Jews — say a Jew can believe that Jesus is the Messiah and still be Jewish. (see page 48 of the Pew study)
- Fully 22% of “Hiloni” (or secular) Israelis say a Jew can believe Jesus is the Messiah and still be Jewish. (see page 48 of the Pew study)
- While these numbers are lower than in the U.S. (fully 34% of American Jews say you can believe Jesus is the Messiah and remain Jewish, according to a previous Pew survey), they are still dramatic given the utter taboo “Messianic Judaism” has been — and remains — in Israel over the past 20 centuries.
- What’s more, Israelis are growing increasingly curious about who Yeshua is, what He taught, and what it means to follow Him.
- The Hebrew language evangelistic videos produced by the Israeli-based ministry One For Israel — run by Israelis for Israelis — were seen by more than 1.2 million Hebrew speaking Israelis just since early 2015. This is according to the latest numbers I received from the ministry’s director.
- This means that of approximately 9 million Hebrew speakers on the planet, more than 1 in 9 have now chosen to watch one or more videos about the teachings of Yeshua just since the beginning of 2015.
- There are now some 15,000 Jewish followers of Yeshua in Israel, up from just a few dozen in 1948.
- In addition, there are several thousand Evangelical Arab followers of Jesus Christ, as well.
- What’s more, there are growing ties of unity and fellowship between Jewish and Arab followers of Yeshua. There is a long way to go. There remains tension and distrust within both communities. But now that I’m living here, I can see some significant signs of progress. That’s a subject for another day. But this too is a reason to rejoice — and let us pray this unity grows and deepens.
Yes, sadly, darkness is falling in this region. But there is much good news and much to be encouraged by. Please pray for Israel and her neighbors. Pray for the Church here and throughout the region. And pray for the Lord to show you how you can be involved in blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. Thanks, and God bless you.
Joel C. Rosenberg