Several things stood out when I last visited Jerusalem several years ago.
The first I noticed on the ramp that all non-Muslim tourists must ascend to visit the Temple Mount. There in a bend in the ramp were several dozen riot shields, obviously placed there by the Israeli police for quick access when things start to get ugly.
The second was particularly disconcerting to me as a student of biblical archaeology. In one corner of the Temple Mount hundreds of tons of dirt had been bulldozed out, loaded on dump trucks and secretly hauled away to make room for a huge underground mosque. Here in one of the world’s greatest and most significant historical sites, a vast amount of archaeological evidence had been discarded or destroyed with no oversight and in direct violation of Israeli law.
The third I encountered after descending from the Temple Mount to a parking lot to meet up with my ride. There a dozen or so Israeli police officers were strapping on body armor, checking their weapons and loading tear-gas launchers.
Why? Because Friday prayers would soon begin at the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque atop the Temple Mount, and it was common for the Muslims there, after being stirred to a frenzy by the imam giving the Friday sermon, to hurl stones at the Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall below. The Israeli police were donning riot gear for this sometimes-weekly occurrence.
Later as we were touring the City of David our Israeli guide pointed out the bright green flags flying in the Arab Silwan neighborhood on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley from the Old City of Jerusalem. The flags signaled the inhabitants’ allegiance to Hamas, the Islamic terror group sworn to Israel’s destruction.
On the final night of our trip our Israeli taxi driver picked us up at our Jerusalem hotel for the hour-long trip to the airport. He was visibly worried. That afternoon his eight-year-old nephew had been playing in his Jerusalem neighborhood when an Arab man suddenly appeared out of nowhere, stabbed the boy several times and ran away. Late that night surgeons were still trying to save his life, and our driver didn’t know if his nephew would survive.
Such is the tenuous state of peace in “the city of peace.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love visiting Israel and Jerusalem, and I recommend that anyone wanting to gain much deeper insight into the Bible spend some time there. I’ve never worried about my safety there, and it’s safer than many Western cities.
These occurrences just show the sad reality that Israel exists in a dangerous neighborhood, surrounded by people who want to destroy her. The charter of Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza along Israel’s southwest border, illustrates why peace is unlikely to break out anytime soon. Some excerpts (emphasis added throughout):
“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
“The Islamic Resistance Movement … strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” (which to Hamas means the whole land of Israel).
“There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”
The Palestinian National Authority, which governs the West Bank, is little better. The Palestinian Covenant, which lays out its ideology, states in Article 9: “Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine . . . The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country …”
The real issue, as these statements make clear, is Israel’s very existence. Both the Palestinian National Covenant and the Hamas Charter call for violent jihad until the land is ethnically cleansed of Jews and Israel is no more.
But against all odds, Israel manages to not just survive but to thrive. It’s an astounding story and one that, amazingly enough, was indicated ages ago in Bible prophecy.
In the pages of Beyond Today we provide a much-needed biblical perspective on our world. The land of Israel is pivotal in the Bible, and you need to understand why. As Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding as a modern state, you need to read this issue carefully to better understand God’s hand at work in this amazing land!