Why the US and Israel were right to leave UNESCO
The Temple Mount, Jerusalem
In October 2016, UNESCO’s executive board ratified a resolution that attempted to erase 3,000 years of Jewish religious history in Jerusalem.
The resolution was drafted by Jordan and submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan — with the enthusiastic support of the Palestinian Authority, a full member of UNESCO since 2011.
The central aim of the resolution was to formalize criticism of Israel’s conduct in Jerusalem. It referred to Israel as the “occupying power” and blamed the Jewish state for the spike in violence in the region.
Condemnation of alleged Israeli aggression has long been a standard talking point in the United Nations; that alone did not set off any alarms. What disturbed Israelis about the UNESCO resolution was that it made Jerusalem’s Holy Basin an exclusively Islamic prerogative. By only referring to the Temple Mount by its Arabic name “Al-Haram al-Sharif,” the resolution’s language severed ties between Judaism and the Temple Mount. The Western Wall was reduced to Al-Buraq Plaza — the place where Muhammad tethered his horse.
In the resolution, the Arabic name was only twice followed by the Western Wall’s Hebrew name; but when that happened, it was placed in quotation marks — a grammatical detail that Israelis took as direct belittling of Judaism’s linkage to the site.
The resolution made no mention of the Jewish temples that stood at the site for a thousand years, or the next 2,000 years of continuous Jewish attachment to Jerusalem. Only once did the drafters soften their bias by making a generalized reference to the importance of the Old City and its walls to “the three monotheistic religions.”
The resolution also accused Israel of restricting Muslim worship on the Temple Mount and inciting violence. Yet no mention was made of the ban on Jewish worship or the regular assaults on Jewish visitors to the site. The same week as the vote, two Israelis were killed in Jerusalem by a Palestinian man on a rampage with a knife.
Twenty-four countries voted in favor of the resolution, 26 abstained, and six countries voted against it, including the US, UK, and Germany.
It was considered a diplomatic victory in Israel that the 33 countries that originally supported the draft resolution dropped to 24. France and Spain’s abstentions were especially appreciated. Even the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, made statements after the vote that reflected her disapproval. In her official statement, she said, “To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified the Temple Mount’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.”
Bokova received death threats from Islamic terrorists shortly after her statement.
The UNESCO resolution was more than a public insult. It raised the stakes in the battle over the Temple Mount. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied UNESCO’s authority to rewrite human history. He stated, “These distortions of history are only reserved for the Jews. Does anyone claim that the pyramids in Giza have no connection to the Egyptians? That the Acropolis in Athens has no connection to the Greeks? That the Coliseum in Rome has no connection to the Italians? It is ridiculous to try and sever the connection between the Temple Mount and the Jewish people.”
And Israelis refused to cower and lick their wounds. Two days after the ratification of the resolution, 50,000 Jews gathered at the Western Wall to receive the blessing recited annually during Sukkot. A record number of Israelis — 3,000 in three weeks — also ascended the Temple Mount, including IDF soldiers in uniform. The message was clear: Jerusalem is the center-point of the Jewish faith; its holy places are not the exclusive domain of Islam.
Since UNESCO’s public insult, Jewish visits to the Temple Mount remain historically high. Though the drafters of the UNESCO resolution tried to abuse an international body to sever the ties between Judaism and the Temple Mount, the results have had the opposite effect, at least for Israelis.
One year ago, Donald Trump announced that the United States was pulling its membership from UNESCO and canceling the $80 million that we paid in dues each year. In fact, even under Obama, the US had withheld its dues since 2011 because of a US law passed in the 1990s that allowed our country to withhold American funding to any international institution that unilaterally recognized an independent Palestinian state. That meant that we owed $500 million to UNESCO in back dues. President Trump declined the bill.
This, however, hasn’t stopped UNESCO’s anti-Israel aggression.
UNESCO has most recently gone after Hebron and Bethlehem. On October 10 of last year, UNESCO’s executive board adopted two resolutions labeling the two holy cities as Palestinian. Praising their consensus-building efforts, current UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay proudly endorsed the outcome as a result of UNESCO’s ability to “foster international dialogue and cooperation” and “show goodwill.”
Is it any wonder why Israel joined the US and formally severed ties with UNESCO? The Psalmist said it best: “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.”
Shelley Neese is the author of the newly released book The Copper Scroll Project and Vice President of the Jerusalem Connection.
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HOW? … “All Israel will be saved”
“In this way”… in what way? This is an important question because this is the way in which “all Israel will be saved,” and that is really important to me!
This comes from Romans 11:26, a well-known verse to anyone in Jewish ministry. It is the climax of Paul’s discourse on the connection between natural Israel and the Gentile believers in Romans 11. This is where he is informing and teaching the Roman church about God’s plan for Israel. The church in Rome seemed to have embraced an unbiblical, anti-Israel theology—that God was finished with her (Israel) and had, indeed, rejected her.
No! May it never be!
He explains that God has not rejected Israel (v. 1, 11) saying literally in the Greek, no, may it never be. He expounds on the beauty of God’s plan, that the enlightened Gentiles will make Israel jealous. Israel’s future acceptance of Yeshua will lead to a “greater riches” revival (v. 12) that could be characterized by the phrase, “life from the dead.” (v. 15)
But then Paul makes a dark statement, warning that, while born again Gentiles are grafted into the household of God/olive tree, they can be cut off if they judge Israel, God’s firstborn (v. 17—23). Why? Because it will take the embracing of their backslidden older brothers, not rejection, to bring about God’s plan—the “in this way.”
Paul then illuminates his readers to the mystery of God’s plan for Israel and the nations. And caps it off with one of the most exciting statements in the New Covenant, as we say in Hebrew, col yisrael yivasha—all Israel will be saved.
Don’t be Ignorant!
Well, he gives us a clue in those few words before: In this way. So, our question must be: What way?In order to understand that, let’s go back one verse.
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25)
Let’s break it down:
- Paul is concerned that the Romans had become arrogant.
- They became arrogant because of ignorance.
- They were ignorant of something that was not obvious—he calls it a mystery.
- If they remain in arrogance, they could be cut off.
- Thus, Paul seeks to reveal this great mystery.
Whenever Paul uses the word mystery, he is mostly referring to Jew/Gentile relationship in light of the New Covenant. In Ephesians, he uses this word seven times and, in chapter three, he uses it four times, in verses 3, 4, 6 and 9, to explain the mystery of the ecclesia, the one new man, made up of Jew and Gentile.
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Messiah Jesus. (v. 6)
So let’s go back to Romans 11:25. Paul is concerned that the Romans had missed this mystery, that God has an awesome plan for natural Israel, in the end times, which will release revival in the nations. And missing this mystery led the Romans to become conceited or proud against Israel. He is worried, because he loves the Roman congregation and wants to see them prosper. But he is also prophesying to the future global Church, begging them to not turn against the “natural branches,” Israel.
He knows that this anti-Israel attitude could bring judgement upon generations. As he said earlier:
Do not be arrogant (against Israel), but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches (unbelieving Israel), he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness (to Israel). Otherwise, you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:20-22)
God’s Plan is Important to Him
This is a terrifying passage. This is the value God places on his plan. And the church missed it violently. They ignored God’s plan and, sadly, there is a massive 1,900-year break here. It is as if through disobedience, the pause button was hit on Gods plan. The Church, now nearly completely non-Jewish, did not listen to Paul’s prophetic warning and instead became the greatest persecutor of the Jewish people. Yes, even Hitler quoted Martin Luther to justify his actions!
But, thank God that in our lifetime we are seeing a reversal of this attitude towards Israel. It has been brewing ever since the Guttenberg press shattered the shackles that the Catholic church had placed on every believer, forbidding them to read the scriptures for themselves. However, even once the Bible began to be massed produced, replacement theology was so ingrained that only a small pocket of believers rejected it.
China, Africa, India!
Now, we are seeing revival in traditionally non-evangelical regions such as China, India and Africa. These people are reading the Bible without 1,900 years of European anti-Israel (and in many cases anti-Semitic) theology and are able to grasp God’s heart for Israel—His firstborn. Now, we are back on track to the “in this way” path to Israel’s full spiritual restoration—even world redemption (Tikkun Haolam).
It has already begun! There are more Jewish believers than ever before. And, unlike in centuries past, most continue to identify as Jews. This Jewish acceptance is releasing revival in many nations of the world (Romans 11:12, 15).
God used Israel to bring the Gospel to the nations and now God will use believers from the nations to provoke Israel to jealousy (v.11) and bring her to Yeshua. This plan was stymied by Christian anti-Semitism for 1900 years! But now God is opening up the eyes of the believing Gentiles to this truth and Jewish people are embracing Yeshua like never before! The act of Gentile believers loving Jews is completely connected to Jewish people finding Yeshua.
So, let’s go back to our original question. What does Paul mean, “In this way”?
- Israel receives the gospel.
- The majority of Jews and the leadership reject the gospel.
- The gospel then goes to the nations.
- Breaking from God’s plan, the church of the nations turns against Israel for roughly 1,900 years.
- But getting back on track, the nations then seek to “provoke Israel to jealousy.” (v. 11)
- Israel’s acceptance of Yeshua in the end-times, leads to a greater richesrevival in the nations.
- This leads to the final move of God amongst the Jews, so great that people could say: All Israel has been saved.
- And Yeshua returns on a white horse (Rev. 19:11) to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:3-4) and becomes King of all the earth!
So yeah, in this way, all Israel will be saved.
This article originally appeared on Messiah’s Mandate, January 11, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Ron and wife Elana make their home in Tel Aviv. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua—a Tel Aviv-based, Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Ron is a published author with Destiny Image Publishers, having written books like “Identity Theft”, “Leave Me Alone, I’m Jewish” and “The Jerusalem Secret”. Ron is a sought-out conference speaker and shares passionately about the Jewish Roots of the New Testament and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel.
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PARASHAT BESHALACH (WHEN HE SENT)
SHEMOT (EXODUS) 13:17–17:16
One of my favorite accounts in God’s Word is found in this week’s Parasha. It is a story that has not just greatly influenced me personally, but in many ways, has been a driving force behind the work of Hope for Israel. This blog entry will be slightly different from the ones I’ve written before, as I would like to make it a little more personal with the hopes it will encourage each of us to reflect upon our own lives and what we do with them.
Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us, and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” And Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
In 2007, I was introduced to a wonderful community, which is situated about a mile away from the Gaza Strip. The people who live there suffered a reality back then of daily rocket attacks. On my first visit, I noticed that the streets of the community were empty; no one was walking around, children couldn’t play outside, and in many ways it was “dead”.
I was told that there were many elderly people who lived there and they really needed to have a secure meeting place since, back then, when a rocket was fired at them, the alarm wouldn’t always work and even if it did, they only had 15 seconds to find shelter, which is not enough.
Hope for Israel joined forces with that community and we built a secure cultural center for the elderly in the community. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the start of a long-term relationship with this community. Since then, we have stood with this community through the various military “operations” (wars), through the discovery of underground terrorist tunnels, and the latest tragedy of their fields being destroyed from the fire kites and balloons sent from Gaza.
Throughout the years of walking alongside this community, I saw our role as believers as that of Aaron and Hur. We are the ones who came alongside these wonderful people, whose home happened to be right next to the Gaza Strip, who try to raise their families in a very complex reality, and who are also weary of the constant war and terrorism. Like Aaron & Hur supported Moses when his arms grew weary, our role is to help them lift up their hands, and not give up.
Today, this wonderful community is growing and even thriving. Today, you see people walk in the streets, and kids running around playing with each other. Today, you see the border of this community expanding because people want to live there! If before there was maybe one baby born in a year, today we see quite a few. Today we see life and a glimpse of victory.
My dear brothers and sisters, sometimes you may be like Moses, you will get tired and need your own Aaron and Hur to come alongside you and help you raise your hands up, to even find creative ways in order for you to win the war. Sometimes, you will be like Aaron and Hur, and you will need to strengthen someone else. Regardless, when we decide to stand together in Him, there is no power that can stand against us.
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.
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Let us go with you
Ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ (Zechariah 8:23b)
This is a passage often quoted by Christians who seek to love the Jewish people and join them in their celebrations and commitment to Israel. Some as well quote this passage in their connection to Messianic Jewish congregations. One of the features of Messianic Jewish congregations is the number who have joined who are not of Jewish descent. Yet others find this quote and its use particularly offensive. Are they as followers of Yeshua to join themselves to the followers of Yeshua, especially when the referent is to Jewish people who have not embraced Yeshua the Messiah? In addition, there is now a worldwide Jewish roots movement which means different things to different people. Some teach that all Christians are to live a Jewish life or at least a Jewish Biblical life. They thereby reject the traditions that have become part of the Christian community and seek to make the whole Church Jewish. Others are concerned more with supporting Israel and see their faith from a more Hebraic perspective.
I believe that God is in the phenomena of Christians joining Messianic Jewish congregations, supporting Israel and seeking the Jewish roots of their faith. However, there can be imbalanced. We need to address this.
The prophecy of Zechariah 8 is ultimately a millennial promise. In the Age to Come, Israel and the nations will be one under the rule of the Messiah and ruled by His Bride Queen, the Body of Messiah, which is made up of Jew and Gentile. Yet there are foreshadowings of the Age to Come in this Age, for the Kingdom of God has broken into this Age, and indeed, Jews and Gentiles being one in the Messiah is already a manifestation of the Age to Come. Yet, the New Covenant Scriptures do not lead us to believe that the expressions of New Covenant faith are to be uniform. Let us look more closely at the issues.
- Those who have become true Christians already fulfill part of the prophecy of Zechariah 8 because they have joined themselves with Israel through embracing the Messiah and the doctrine of the Apostles. They have already chosen to go with the first century Messianic Jews and have embraced Yeshua who is Jewish, the Bible which was written by Jewish people, and faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The existence of the Christian Church is a partial and prophetic fulfillment of this verse.
- Christians have a calling to identify with the Jewish people and seek their salvation. Paul notes his life as an example for them to follow in seeking to make the Jewish people jealous (desirous) of their Messiah and the power of the Spirit (Romans 11:15). Paul teaches that this is to be done by showing mercy to the Jewish people (Romans 11:31).
- Some Christians experience a special calling to give themselves to a primary identification with the Jewish people for their salvation. This is parallel to those who have a call to a special mission field such as China, Nigeria, or France. Those who have this calling live out their faith in the midst of a Jewish community and join Messianic congregations. They participate in the whole of the life of the community. Some have become leaders of congregations. Without them, the Messianic Jewish movement would be a shadow of its self. This is of God and should be embraced. Such folks need to learn how to live according to Jewish life just like the other members of the congregation. They are a special sign of the Age to Come and the joining of peoples with Israel.
However, I want to address especially the issue of Jewish roots. Yes, God is calling all to understand the Word in its original Hebraic context. This is taking place in many seminaries, Bible schools, Church educational programs and more. It is a key to attaining greater unity in the Body. But some are teaching a new view of Galatians 3:28 where it is said that there is neither Jew nor Gentile or Male or Female in Yeshua. This is then interpreted to mean that all are called to keep the same Law or Torah and at least keep all the commandments that constituted Jewish Biblical life in the Hebrew Bible. Some add much in the way of Jewish tradition to this orientation. While it is true that those who are in Messiah are in Abraham and form one Body of Messiah, and are indeed of equal status and worth, this does not mean that there are no distinctions of covenant responsibility.
We started this article by noting with gratitude that there is a foreshadowing of the Age to Come in the growing identification of the Church with the Jewish people. This has taken three legitimate forms and fulfills the commandment of Paul that the Gentiles are to show mercy to the Jewish people. The first is that many in the Church seek to understand their faith from a more Hebraic mindset according to the context of the New Testament writings. Secondly, many are showing mercy by supporting Israel and Jewish ministries. Lastly, some have been called to actually live their lives with and before the Jewish people. These join Messianic Jewish congregations. Not all are called to this last way of identification. This is a special calling.
However, we also noted that some have been teaching that there should be no distinction not only with regard to salvation but in any significant regard. It is said that Jew and Gentile together now constitute Israel. This is understood in such a way that it is taught that all have the same covenant responsibilities in the Body of the Messiah and are to keep the same Law. I believe this teaching is contrary to the Word of God and violates the Scriptural teaching that those from the nations are not responsible to live by the whole Law in the same way as the Jewish people. So in this article, we want to point out the distinctions which release most Gentiles, who are not called to Messianic Jewish congregations, from Jewish covenant responsibilities.
Gentile Believers and Acts 15
We immediately find ourselves noting that the Book of Acts records the decision of what was known as the Jerusalem Council. The issue was whether or not Gentiles had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses to be saved. (Acts 15:1) A great decision was reached by the Apostles and Elders and was voiced by James. Without going into detail, we simply note that they affirmed that Gentiles are not responsible to be circumcised or to keep the whole Law of Moses. My view is that Gentiles were, of course, taught to keep the basics of the moral life as was taught in epistles of Paul and the teaching of Yeshua. Though James notes that “Moses is read every week in the Synagogue,” there is no exhortation in the decision that they should submit to the Synagogue teaching. It was assumed that there would be a growing appreciation for Jewish roots as well as understanding what was necessary to enable Jewish people to relate to Gentile believers. Circumcision was the key sign of entrance into the Jewish covenant and its responsibilities. It is very important to note that there is not one word to contradict the expectation that Jews were responsible to circumcise their sons and to maintain their covenant responsibilities to the whole Torah.
With regard to Jewish believers, James urges Paul to give testimony in Acts 21 that Jewish people are still to maintain the covenant Torah responsibilities in the New Covenant. In verse 24 Paul is urged to pay the sacrifice price for those under a Nazarite vow to show that he lived in an orderly way. The NIV translates this as in obedience to the Law of Moses. However, the language actually conveys the idea of the right order. James is saying that while the Gentiles have been released, it is right to order for Jewish believers to maintain their Torah life. This was not a stretch for Paul. For he himself, with no outside pressure, had been under a Nazarite vow and cut his hair at its completion (Acts 18:18 and Numbers 5). So we see a distinction. Some want to play down this distinction as only one of the entry requirements for Gentiles who will later be trained to keep the whole Torah. Yet, we would say, if this was the case, why not urge them to be circumcised someday? Why is there not one word that teaches this in the New Testament.
The Teaching of Galatians
In Galatians 5:3 Paul teaches that if one is circumcised, he is ‘obligated to obey the whole Law.’ The implication is airtight. If one is not circumcised, then one is not obligated to obey the whole Law! With regard to the whole thrust of covenant circumcision, Paul’s general advice for Gentiles who come to faith is DON’T!
It is remarkable that there is hardly one verse that we can point to encouraging the Gentiles to keep the feasts literally. One may only point to a veiled reference in I Corinthians 5, which may only be metaphor concerning congregational discipline and purging out the leaven — keeping the Festival (the whole of New Covenant life?) without the yeast of malice, but with sincerity and truth.
The Teaching of Colossians
Furthermore Colossians makes it clear that the heart circumcision that had been received was fully sufficient for those who had come to Yeshua. They are told, ‘Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day’ (Col.2:16). These are a shadow of the things to come. The substance is the Messiah. Some in a most twisted way turn interpretation on its head and actually teach that this is saying that believers are to be rigorous in their observance so that no one will be able to judge them. Romans 14 gives further evidence that there is now liberty for Gentiles with regard to such practices. This is really the Apostles’ application of the authority given them from Yeshua to bind and loose with regard to behavior and practice. The whole thrust of the New Covenant Scriptures makes this quite clear. So in what way are Jewish and Gentile believers distinguished? It is not in regard to worth or status in the New Covenant. It is rather in regard to calling and responsibilities arising therefrom. Can we list some distinctions?
The Distinctions between Jew and Gentile in the Messiah
Jewish believers are responsible to: circumcise their sons and to observe the Torah as it can be applied in the New Covenant order. We are to observe the feasts. We also are to identify with Jewish history, both its good and bad, as our history. We repent for what is bad and embrace what is good. This ties us to our national heritage. It honors our fathers and mothers. In addition, we identify with the land of Israel as promised to us as a national people. This ties us to Jewish culture as our culture. Jewish life is an irrevocable calling (Romans 11:29). In addition, we are given the responsibility to say the words – ‘Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord’ – that are the catalyst of World Redemption. Many of us are called to return to the Land of Israel.
Gentile believers are responsible to obey the commandments of Yeshua as He applied the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures in a way that is universal. His teaching gives us the keys for applying the universal dimensions or principles of the Hebrew Bible. In addition, Gentile believers are responsible to love the Jewish people and to understand the Bible according to the original Hebraic meaning, for all are called to understand the Word with accuracy. In addition, they are called to love the Jewish people and show them mercy. In so doing, many will want to join in Jewish celebration to deepen their understanding and identification with the Jewish people. They are free to do so and encouraged. The physically uncircumcised are invited to the Passover meal if they are circumcised in heart. However, those from other nations are also free to develop styles of worship and cultural expressions that are creative expressions of Biblical truth. The hymns of J. S. Bach, Charles Wesley, Vineyard folk styles, the classic liturgy of the churches, and Black Gospel are all wonderful and valid expressions. Not all are called to a primary Jewish cultural expression of faith. This shows both a regard for Jewish roots and for liberty in creative development.
God loves variety and thus created many peoples to be a source of mutual enrichment. It is a mistake to seek to homogenize the whole Church and to turn all congregations into Messianic Jewish Synagogues. Some Gentiles are called to join Messianic Jewish Congregations. When they do so, they largely give up corporate worship styles and expressions that are deep and wonderful which were developed by godly saints through the history of the Church. Yes, they may still have times to reconnect to such expressions, but their primary experience will be in sights and sounds that are Jewish, albeit New Covenant in emphasis. This is also deep and wonderful. Jewish roots can be maintained without cultural conformity. We do ask that truly pagan and Greek ways that are not compatible with the Bible be abandoned.
It is crucial that Messianic Jews attain to an appreciation for the Church and seek to live in unity with all true believers. For this was the prayer of Yeshua (John 17:21). It is also crucial that the Church gain appreciation for the Messianic Jewish communities that now exist in every nation where there is significant Jewish population. Let us join together in mutual blessing.
This article originally appeared on Tikkun Ministries International, January 13, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.
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[Israel 101] Explaining the Israel-Syrian-Iranian connection
According to a recent interview between the N.Y. Times and outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Israel has “dropped 2,000 bombs on targets in Syria in 2018 alone.”
In order to understand the Israel-Syrian-Iranian connection, one has to explore the unusual and unlikely partnership between Syria and Iran and what each hopes to gain from it. Oddly enough, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s late father, Hafez Assad carried on a long-time feud with those he considered to be revolutionary Islamists in the 1970’s and 80’s in order to prevent a revolution in his own country, one which has seen itself as more secular than religious.
So it’s ironic that today Syria is closely connected to Iran, a country whose revolutionary army has been among the most extreme Islamic purveyors of theocracy where all of its laws emanate from the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Yet, Syria and Iran, despite these differences, came together back when Saddam Hussein was viewed by both of them to be a threat in the region. Another common thread between the two countries was their mutual hatred for Israel. For Syria, there was a tremendous loss of face after the 1967 Six Day War when Israel successfully won control of the Golan Heights, a sore spot which has festered with the Syrians since that time. Iran simply loathingly looks upon Israel as the “Little Satan,” (the U.S. being the “Big Satan), calling for death to the Jewish nation at every turn.
America also considers both of these countries as enemy nations and, finally, few others in the region support them, so this makes for a strong partnership between them. In short, Syria is happy to have strong Iranian intervention and Iran is happy to utilize neighboring Hezbollah as proxy forces in order to do its dirty work against Israel. In fact, Assad admires and nurtures Hezbollah who he encourages to be the thorn in the side of Israel who he feels constitute a threat to Syria. Neither Israel nor the U.S. has been able to reign in this imposing partnership and has sometimes had to do their best to make unhappy compromises in order to avoid more serious catastrophes.
Yet, as a result of the stockpiling of Iranian weapons being brought into Syria, as well as tunnels being built by Hezbollah in order to penetrate Israel and attack her population, Israel has had no alternative but to protect its interest and that is why so many bombs have been dropped on Syria over the past year as these threats unfolded. This included strikes both in the capital, Damascus, as well as on their airport where arms warehouses were discovered.
The problem is that Russia has also been part of the mix in its desire to prop up the Assad government, and so although Israel and Russia have been able to coexist relatively well, Israel’s need to defend herself has complicated that Russian relationship since an Israeli attack on Syria is seen by Russia as one which is contrary to their interests and agenda in the region.
Of course, Israel has no choice but to protect its citizens and failure to seal up tunnels or eliminate weapons’ factories would prove disastrous for the small Jewish country which must fight for its survival by those who are set on her destruction. Russia, also understanding this dilemma has tried to get Iran to reduce weapons’ smuggling, knowing that the only way to stabilize the Assad government would be to not risk further Israeli attacks on it.
But Israel has not always openly admitted attacks upon Syria and has done its best to operate covertly in order to sow some ambiguity on who really is behind the attacks. However, as more and more tunnels began to be discovered and the location of large caches of weapons was disclosed, Israel’s attacks became apparent and even openly threatened to be intensified. It was just recently that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly admitted that “the IDF has succeeded impressively in stopping Iran’s military buildup in Syria and in this context the IDF has attacked Iranian and Hezbollah targets hundreds of times.” (JPost, January 14, 2019)
Lt. Gen. Eisenkot confirmed this by saying, “We struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit.” (JPost, January 14, 2019) However, these disclosures by the Prime Minister and his general have been met with harsh criticism from the opposition who believe that such admissions put the nation’s security at risk. Of course, with the upcoming Israeli elections only a few months away, many among the opposition also accuse these disclosures as being intended for political gain.
Whether or not this is true, Syria, Iran and Lebanon all have a vested interest in doing great harm to Israel and ridding the region of its strong Jewish presence once and for all. But “Moscow promised Jerusalem that it would keep the Iranians 80 kilometers away from Israel’s border in the Golan Heights,” (HaAretz, Dec. 26, 2018) in order to maintain the continuation of the Assad regime.
So the cooperation between Russia and Israel – another strange bedfellow relationship may be a helpful buffer in making sure that no Iranian or Hezbollah threat to Israel is met with a strong response by the Jewish nation, even though Russia has condemned these recent Israeli strikes in Syria, calling them “provocative acts.“
What is for sure is that Israel’s enemies will continue to try to put an end to her existence and Israel will continue to defend herself, even at the risk of alienating those whose agenda is hurt by future Israeli actions.
Chava Stein, the granddaughter of Jewish European immigrants to the U.S., made Aliyah to Israel in 1993. Married to an Israeli, they live in the center of the country.