Seventy years ago today — on November 29th, 1947 — history was made.
The United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of Resolution 181 (aka, the “Partition Plan”) to divide the land of British Mandated Palestine to create a sovereign Israeli Jewish state and a sovereign Palestinian Arab state.
The plan was controversial. It was by no means clear the resolution would pass. Jews and Christians around the world listened by radio to the vote anxiously, prayerfully. And to their astonishment, in the end the resolution passed.
- Thirty-three states voted in favor, including the United States.
- Thirteen states voted against.
- Ten states abstained.
True, Jewish leaders living in Palestine at the time wanted much more land than the U.N. plan offered. But in the end they accepted the plan. After two thousand years in exile from the Biblical land of Israel, the world was finally giving the Jewish people legal permission to re-gather and rebuild the ancient ruins.
Six months later — on May 14th, 1948 — David Ben Gurion formally declared Israel’s independence. Tragically, five Arab states immediately launched a war to destroy the reborn State of Israel.
Seventy years later, the conflict still is not resolved. Millions of Palestinians live in poverty and discouragement. Their leaders have been offered peace treaties multiple times by multiple Israeli leaders, but thus far have not agreed.
That said, there has been progress in the region.
- In November 1977, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat stunned Israel and the world by making a historic and completely unexpected visit to Jerusalem to address the Knesset.
- In September 1978, President Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Began spent thirteen days at Camp David with President Jimmy Carter hammering out the framework of a peace treaty.
- On March 26, 1979, Sadat and Begin met at the White House and formally signed a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel, ending that conflict and establishing full diplomatic and economic ties.
- On October 26, 1994, Jordanian King Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed a comprehensive peace treaty between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel.
- In recent years, a growing number of Sunni Arab nations — including Saudi Arabia — are quietly building diplomatic, intelligence and security relationships with Israel.
In Psalm 34:14, believers are commanded to “seek peace and pursue it.” In Psalm 122:6, believers are commanded to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” The Lord Jesus told His disciples, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9)
As a Jewish person (on my father’s side), a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, and a follower of Jesus, I am grateful for this anniversary, as I believe it marks in no insignificant way evidence of God keeping His Abrahamic Covenant with the Jewish people. Despite our history of sin and rebellion, the God of Israel continues to be gracious and merciful to His people. He promised in the Scriptures through the ancient prophets to bring us back to the Land, and He is keeping His promise. He is giving us a Land we don’t deserve as He calls us back to Himself and His Word.
At the same time, because I love Israel and want her to be safe and free and prosperous and to know and faithful to the Lord God Almighty, I also pray for peace, and seek to be a peacemaker, and seek to love and bless my Palestinian neighbors. How I want to see them flourish, to have safety and freedom and prosperity and to know and be faithful to the Lord God Almighty, as well.
Ultimately, I believe only the Messiah can heal these wounds and bring true and lasting peace and justice in the Middle East. Until then, I pray and work for the Church to be kind, wise and gracious Ambassadors of Jesus Christ, loving both sides, praying for both sides, proclaiming the Word to both sides, and faithfully seeking peace and pursuing it. Amen.
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