The establishing of the State of Israel, I have and do support. Finding a place for Jews in the 20th Century was the right thing to do. As well, God's covenant with the Jews stands and their place in the eschaton (the days of Christ's return) is assured. There is no equivocation in my mind of their critical place in the economy and agenda of the Lord.
However there are conflicting messages I find impossible to ignore. Eating dinner in a cafe overlooking over the Shepherd's Field in Bethlehem, I noticed that on the crown of the hill sits a recently built Jewish settlement.
We were sitting in the area where Boaz bought a field so he could marry Ruth, a Moabite, daughter-in-law to Naomi who had been recently widowed. Boaz – whose name means kinsman redeemer – is an Old Testament precursor to Jesus, our Redeemer.
Bethlehem is also the hometown of David, king of Israel, and in the paternal lineage of Jesus. Sitting just meters from where Jesus was born we saw the pasture land where shepherds in hearing the announcement, scrambled up the hill to celebrate the newly arrived king. It was in this Jesus, that all who come will be reconciled with God: no distinction of Jews and Greeks, male or female, slave or free.
In defining his kingdom he reminded his followers, it was not to be of this world: we were to live in service not in the domination of others. Forgiveness not revenge was to outline our behavior. Giving not getting would pave the way to blessing.
And 2000 years later, we uncritically approve the ways of a nation state based on our view that a particular biblical formula, which is, that for Jesus to return the Jews need to be living in the homeland secured by Joshua and the kings inducted following Saul.
The establishing of the state in 1947 had a distinct provision that it would not affect those already living there. The earlier Balfour Declaration said that ". . . the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people [with the understanding that] nothing should be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine . . . ." Land was to be divided for the incoming and resident Jews and for Palestinians, most of who had lived there for generations.
Now today, the state we support – including reasons supplied by certain biblical interpretations of prophecy, based on the Jews return being a critical sign of Christ's return – it turns out Jews are taking land from residents, many being Christian, who can trace their ownership of the land taken for Jewish settlements, back generations.
I asked my host how they got this land to build these many settlements. "Was it bought?" I asked. "No." "Was there negotiation?" "No." "Who owned it?" "Christians and Muslims." "Can you do anything about it?" "No. They are army."
Feel with me the intellectual and moral whiplash as I tried to reconcile these factors: Jesus was born in this very place as Savior with clear instructions that his kingdom was to be ruled by love and grace. Many of us, his followers, 2,000 years later ignore the land grab of the state which is seen as central to the Lord's return, action which violates what is essential to his kingdom. Why? Because we have been willing to ignore the moral and ethical violations embedded in this action, believing that their hold on this land, as preparation for Jesus' return, trumps everything Jesus said comprised his kingdom.