A Nation of Extremes
Patty and I have been living in Israel now for just three months. The nature of our experience is typified by the statement of Asher Intrater that it is a nation of extremes. For those of us involved in bringing the message of Yeshua to the people of Israel, this is a most wonderful period. Among the Sabras many are seeing a supernatural revelation of the Spirit and turning to Yeshua. Certainly this is the product of great world wide prayer. Yet at the same time, there is a continuing decline in the moral tone of the nation as a whole. The light gets lighter and the darkness gets darker. Young people are giving themselves to the Lord in wonderful ways. Praise and worship with passion is becoming characteristic among young Israeli believers.
Two Religious Options
It is well to to take note of the extremes in Israel. Among Israelis who have not embraced Yeshua, there are only two religious options. The first is Orthodox Judaism in its many varieties. The other, Modern Orthodox, is more flexible. They serve in the army, support the state and wear normal clothing. Yet they are still committed to the myriad distinctions of traditional Jewish law. The rest follow various brands of Ultra-Orthodoxy, including wearing 18th century clothing (black coats, hats and trousers). Even in 100 degree (F) weather, such clothing is worn. There are no large-scale movements like Reform and Conservative Judaism that are more moderate with regard to traditional observance - although they exist, they are small and marginalised. Hence the secular Israeli despises the religious and the religious the secular. On the Sabbath the Orthodox go to Synagogue and the secular go to the beach.
Lawlessness Characterizes the People of the Law
With regard to dress, there is either extreme modesty as practised by the Orthodox community or extreme immodesty among the young secular people. This leads into the question of morality. While the Orthodox arrange marriages, the secular Israeli youth practice a promiscuity that is beyond even the decline in America. One has to be here and see it to believe it. This leads to another thought about extremes. The nation that gave the world the Law, even the ten commandments, does not keep the Law. The abortion rate is very high, and the level of fraud and corruption is great as well. Cheating on the exhorbitant taxes is a way of life.
We do not Know the Way of Peace
The Israeli people are extremely uptight. Living in an economic pressure cooker where income is below expenses and both spouses work many hours produces a feeling of great uptightness. I grew up in the New York area where aggressive driving is a professional sport. Horns constantly beep. Yet here in Israel there is a new common phenomena: some drivers beep their horn at the driver in front of them before the light turns green! The horn is used to vent irrational frustration. You would think therefore that Israelis would not have the time of day to give. However, this is not true. I have found Israelis everywhere to be sympathetic and helpful, especially to new Olim (immigrants).
Our Best Intentions are Thwarted
The Jewish situation is full of irony. After many, many centuries in the Diaspora, the scattering, the Jews come back to their land. It is largely uninhabited, desolate. They make this land productive in a way that could not have been envisioned. Over many decades, Arabs from Egypt and Syria move to the land to work because the economic opportunities are great due to the efforts of the Jews. Yet the world allows the "Palestinians" to claim to be the indigenous people of the land. Only a minority of Palestinians are people descended from long time residents of the land (see 'From Time Immemorial' by Joan Peters). The majority of the population of Jerusalem was Jewish under both the Turkish Empire and the British Mandate, yet we are told we must give up the Old City for peace.
Our people have come back to the Land and thank God the overall population continues to grow, but many actually leave and go to America, Canada and other countries because it is so difficult. The Land we fought for is abandoned by many.
We are not Supposed to Defend Ourselves
Arab terrorists blow themselves up and when our people respond in defence they are told that their response will bring revenge! Yet will not the same ones do the same things whether or not there is a response? Many say that the violence is justified because of lack of self-rule, but why then did the uprising begin 3 years ago when most Palestinians were under self rule. The contradictions are amazing. So our people who sought a haven of self determination after 2 millennia of persecution in non-Jewish lands are still in a battle for their very survival.
Is this God's Set Up?
Some harshly criticize Israel for its sins: religious legalism, secular immorality and much more. Amazing writings have come from Christians saying that Israel will be destroyed once more because they have not returned in repentance to God. Yet the Bible shows our re-established nation first as dried bones and only at the end are we filled with the Spirit (Ezekiel 37). I rather think that the extremes are a product of a people who have been extremely abused. It seems that our people do everything wholeheartedly, to an extreme. We are made for large commitments. So if our commitment is pleasure in this life, we go all out for it. Yet it is thwarted in disappointment, for the way of pleasure is a dead end and not fulfilling. If our people seek the Law we follow an extreme legalism. We speak of the importance of heart intent in the prayers, but to get them all in, the Orthodox rush through their prayers at break neck speed! We can only follow the Law in right Biblical fashion if we are extremely passionate about Yeshua!
The Greatest Contradiction
Here is the biggest contradiction of all. The greatest Jew who ever lived is not embraced by our people, at least not as who He claimed to be. The Jew that has had the greatest influence for good is not proudly embraced as a Son of Israel and part of our gift to the World. Yes, some Jews now claim that He was a good man or even a prophet. Yet the attitude toward Him in general is still negative.
The total situation of Israel: its extremes, its contradictions, its conflict with Arabs, is just that situation that is preparing the way for the only answer. How privileged we are to bring that answer. Yeshua said in Luke 21, that "Jerusalem would be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." This is the time when our people will also embrace Yeshua, saying "Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord." (Matthew 23:39). "So all Israel will be saved," and it will be "Life from the dead" for all peoples. (Romans 11:26, 15)
It appears to this observer that all of this is the very situation through which our people will come to the end of themselves and call upon Yeshua. The ways of Orthodoxy and Secular Liberalism will not bring the solution. The power of the State can not bring peace, but only the Prince of Peace. In Him, Jewish people and Arab people can be reconciled. What a privilege to be in Israel and what an opportunity we have.