A Call To Prayer for a Divided IsraelPublished on: 27.7.2023
By: Dr. Jürgen Bühler, ICEJ President
“And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.” (Ezekiel 37:22)
As we all saw over the past week, Israel is currently in one of its worst crises since the nation’s rebirth in 1948. The previous dire threats which Israel faced all came from the outside – such as the War of Independence, the Six-Day War, and the Yom Kippur War. However, the present conflict over judicial reforms is an internal threat. It is a crisis of brother set against brother. Some say it is the secular state of Tel Aviv versus the religious state of Jerusalem. But it is not that simple. In many ways, it is a question of whether a nationalist and religious governing coalition can impose its views on the entire public. This concerns not only secular Jews but also traditional Jews, as well as the Arab Christian and Muslim minorities, and even the local Messianic Jewish community.
On both sides the lines are not as clear cut as they seem. Everyone knows there is a need for some measure of judicial reforms. Yet even among the more conservative and religious Jewish sectors, many feel that the State still needs a strong judiciary to provide checks and balances on government decisions, especially in a country where extremes exist in both camps.
This week, an Israeli political cartoon played off the biblical story of Solomon counselling to divide a baby being fought over by two women, in order to determine the true mother. The cartoon showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not just proposing but actually dividing the baby in half, which was meant to represent the nation of Israel. It appeared in the leftist newspaper Ha’aretz, which is known for its disdain for Netanyahu. In truth, I sense that both sides in this dispute are unwilling to compromise and both are threatening to divide the nation. While Israeli President Isaac Herzog showed great statesmanship in offering a pathway to a workable compromise, both sides walked away from those talks, and the Opposition did so first.
This week also marked Tisha B’Av, the Jewish day of mourning over the destructions of the Temples in Jerusalem. The Talmudic sages claim that the reason for the sacking of the Second Temple and the resulting exile was sinat chinnam, or “baseless hatred”. Israel was too internally divided, and God judged them.
A recent opinion article also compared the current situation with the Yom Kippur War exactly 50 years ago, when modern Israel faced its greatest existential threat. The columnist, however, noted the difference this time is that it is not a sudden, surprise attack but that both sides are walking into a disaster with their eyes wide open.
This current crisis is indeed a real threat to the unity and social fabric of the nation. Yet I remain optimistic – not because I trust politicians but because the Bible clearly states that God has brought His people back “never to be uprooted again” (Amos 9:15). On the contrary, He vows that Israel’s return will result in them becoming “one nation” (Ezekiel 37:22), and it will end in a glorious spiritual restoration; for surely, “I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 36:24-36).
Amid the dispute over judicial reforms, remember that the Lord promises: “I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and her penitents with righteousness.” (Isaiah 1:26-27)
Let us pray for a God-given unity in Israel, and for leaders with wisdom and humble hearts to bring peace to the nation. I know God will answer our prayers because that is what He already promised to do in His word.
Warm greetings from Jerusalem!