This Fourth Arab-Israeli War (or Fifth or Sixth) is more than an unprovoked attack on a country’s civilian population. It is a test of faith. These events are testing whether those of us who profess a belief in God, truly believe. But it also tests which faith or faiths are valid, and deserve respect.
Current events in Israel
As readers will recall, the current war began Saturday, October 7, 2023, at 6:30 a.m. Israel Daylight Time. It began with rocket fire, then with a massive incursion – that Israel’s intelligence services did not predict. Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu declared war within hours – the first time a Prime Minister has done that since 1973. Indeed this war began fifty years to the date (Gregorian) of the Third Arab-Israeli War, or the Yom Kippur War.
Why Israeli intelligence did not predict this incursion, will likely be the subject of multiple courts-martial in the Israeli armies. Sadly it has given rise to multiple canards that the Israelis wanted this to happen. Or rather, that Binyamin Netanyahu wanted it to happen.
Incredibly, former Vice-President Mike Pence blames President Donald J. Trump for this war! But very likely he is willfully misinterpreting some of Trump’s remarks.
Of all the motives Donald Trump might have for not wanting to involve the United States in endless wars, appeasement is not one. Pence is also making an apples-to-oranges comparison. Responding to a sneak attack is not the same thing as building an empire. Which is what Mike Pence obviously seeks to do. (Never mind him anyway; he can’t win, and is polling in single digits anyway.)
Israel has responded with massive bombing runs on Gaza City, and plans for a ground offensive. Telegram channels sympathetic to Gaza are not sounding so high-and-mighty about any “liberation”: of the Negev.
Faith as a guide
Israel, or at least the land on which it rests, is central to no fewer than three faith traditions. These are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, in order of increasing recency of founding. For simplicity’s sake, CNAV dates the founding of these various traditions as:
- 2136 BC: Judaism (as entry of Abraham through the Gateway to Canaan),
- 4 BC: Christianity (as the actual birth year of Christ), and
- 620 AD: Islam (as The Hegira, according to their own traditions).
Archaeology in Israel has official standing, as your editor observed first-hand in March-April 2011. Since its inception, the Israeli government has maintained an active Ministry of Antiquities that carefully preserves as many ancient foundations and other ruins as it can. (In sharp contrast, the Muslim attitude toward antiquities is to destroy anything that points away from their vision of history.)
The most obvious Jewish artifact is the Temple – though the present Temple dates not to Solomon, but to Herod. But Jerusalem itself is an artifact, since it dates to King David. Other sites of importance to Jews include Kefer Nahum (Capernaum), Beit She’an, and Qumran, from which we get the oldest manuscripts of the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Christianity has the Garden Tomb, just outside Jerusalem, and the Churches of the Nativity and the Holy Sepulchre. (This latter Church rests on a foundation of doubtful authenticity.)
Islam has the Dome of the Rock, and the Mosque of Al-Aqsa.
Judaism – are the Jews facing another test of faith?
The term Jew came into common usage during the Exile, and especially during the Persian Era. It derives from the name of the Southern Kingdom of Israel, called Judah.
Worth considering is that Israel had been falling away from its central faith of late. Less than a year ago, Israel swore in a government as close to a civilizational state as one gets. Before then, Judaism was largely a family heritage – and not a religion to take seriously. To be sure, many always have. But only with the last election have such people commanded enough strength to become part of a government.
Nevertheless, CNAV observed many disturbing facts about the start of this war. The most atrocious acts involved Gaza paragliders crashing parties – a “rave party,” and a “musical festival for peace.” This second incident resulted in the murder of a German female visitor. What happened to her body does not bear mention in polite company. Necrophilia as a sexual fetish springs to mind. But here’s the problem: a properly religious people would not have “rave” celebrations. Nor would any woman festoon her skin with tattoos.
Does this mean any of the victims of these incidents individually deserved what they got? No. One can no more suggest that than one can excuse a rapist. In fact, any individual, group or government that commits atrocious acts forfeits any consideration he or they might have deserved. So “Palestinian rights” become a non-issue. The Islamic Resistance Movement (Arabic Harakah al-Muqāwamah al-Islāmiyyah, abbreviated HAMAS) should have thought of that before they introduced hatred of Jews for being Jews into their curriculum. Or sent men to “liberate” a territory by killing anything that moved. Besides, as CNAV will show in its treatment of Islam, the Gaza case has its basis in lies, anyway.
Was God trying to get His people’s attention?
But the blame for these civilians being in harm’s way might lie with a society making light of its faith. Any student of the Bible knows the formula. “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD,” it begins, and continues with apostasy and idolatry. After that comes their “sale … into the hands of …” Fill in the blank. It could be Canaanites or Midianites or Ammonites (modern Jordan) or Philistines. (And because the Roman name Palaestina is Latin for Philistia, that makes these Arabs a third group of Philistines. What’s more, Gaza occupies one-fifth of the original land of Philistia.)
The most instructive passage of the Bible that applies here is Judges 2:10-22. Which reads:
After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what He had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, Who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger because they forsook Him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
In His anger against Israel the LORD gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as He had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the LORD’s commands. Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, He was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to Me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the Way of the LORD and walk in It as their ancestors did.”
Could Gaza represent one of those ancient “raiding” and oppressive societies of the era of the Judges?
The relationship between Christianity and modern Judaism has been under tension since the founding of the Roman Catholic Church. Jesus Christ, of course, began as a Jew, and specifically offered His Ministry first and foremost to them. Of course, “His own received Him not,” and He went to death on the Cross. But He is also credited, in many manuscripts, as saying,
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34
This rejection continued even after the Resurrection and the Ascension. All the Apostles faced that. But the Apostles, except for one, died at Roman hands, not Jewish. (John died quietly of old age, after Emperor Nerva recalled him from exile. Judas Iscariot either hanged himself or jumped to his death in a field he bought. Either way, Church tradition strikes his name from among the Apostles.)
All of which to say: Christians have no grounds to disparage the Jews for being Jews. Furthermore, we have every ground to accord them the respect Paul of Tarsus accorded them.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse. Genesis 12:3
Islam was perhaps the first faith that had revisionism as its basis. (The “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is another.) Muhammad, so the story goes, received several visions from Gabriel, telling him that the Word of God, as the Bible showed it, was corrupt and riddled with errors. The most obvious “corrections” Islam offers are:
- The son that Abraham almost sacrificed on Mount Moriah was Ishmael, not Isaac.
- God had no Son; Jesus was a Prophet of Islam who came before Muhammad.
- Salvation is by works, usually by walking a tightrope by balancing sin against right acts. But one who sacrifices his life in holy war can bypass this tightrope.
Furthermore, the Koran, or Recital, has two separate sets of books, or Surat. The Mecca Surat preach peace, and even friendship with Jews. But the Medina Surat preach war. Furthermore, the Koran has an Abrogation Principle that explicitly says that the verses handed down more recently take precedence. Lastly, lying is acceptable if it advances the faith.
Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock has its own interesting history. Abd al-Malik built it on the Temple site to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem from the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. He might have intended it to attract Muslims to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, not to Mecca. In this sense it is exactly like the Golden Calves of Tel-Bethel and Tel-Dan which Jeroboam I set up.
A valid faith?
Ultimately Jesus will prove the validity of His faith, removing all doubt, upon His return. But a faith that celebrates atrocious acts to prove the “greatness” of its god above other gods, cannot be valid. That could explain why comparatively few Muslims interpret their faith as HAMAS does. Or Hizbullah (Party of God), who are HAMAS’ current patrons. Or Iran, patron of Hizbullah. Those people glorify the current war as a holy war, like the wars of conquest by Muhammad and his successors.
This is what Laura Loomer meant over the weekend when she denied any prospect of peace in the Middle East. When one party (whose traditions have revisionism at their very core) not only teaches revisionist history, but has a moral code that regards other humans as no longer human, history becomes a succession of wars. That party will win or die.
Christianity has several controversial prophecies about the end of history. The Prophet Ezekiel predicted that a Russo-Arab-Iranian alliance would attack Israel when Israel was at its most complacent. (Ezekiel 38-39.) Could this be that war? The main reason it might not be is that only those having their own motives for lying, are suggesting a Russian role in this affair. (Remember: the Soviet Union is no more.)
Thus this event is a test of faith, in two senses. It tests whether those who profess to believe, really believe, and tests who among the three Abrahamic faiths has something true to believe in.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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