Israel Leaders

By: Dr Jürgen Bühler

“When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream.” (Psalm 126:1)

Like a dream. This is indeed how it felt here in Israel in the first weeks of 2020. In the 72nd year of Israel‘s independence, Israel and the world commemorated 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz. Israel indeed rose like a phoenix from the ashes. From the lowest point of Jewish history, the Holocaust, when hope was lost, Israel was resurrected as a nation state after 2000 years. On May 14, 1948, it was like the prophet Ezekiel declared: “… I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” (Ezek. 37:11-12)

Israel started as a pioneering agricultural state, surrounded by enemies. The past 72 years the Jewish enterprise has become the most miraculous success story in modern history. Israel became a lead nation in many areas of technological advancement and became a leading contributor of quick and unbureaucratic aid whenever a natural disaster strikes around the world. Although for decades, Israel was an isolated state with virtually the whole world against it, this picture is dramatically changing before our eyes. Everywhere we see signs that not only has Israel’s restoration process not stopped nor slowed down but we see an acceleration of even more amazing changes taking place. Just during the first few weeks of this year we witnessed several amazing developments that underline the Lord’s continuing process of restoring Zion in our days.

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” (Isaiah 44:3)

The biggest and most important water reservoir in Israel is the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee. The water level of this comparatively small lake is notorious for continuously bouncing on and off the lower red line and at times even dropping far below its red line: a line when no more water can be pumped from the Kinneret, thus endangering Israel’s supply of fresh water.

This ongoing water crisis (like most crisis in Israel) led to groundbreaking and innovative political decisions. Israel recycles 85% of its water for agricultural use, the highest rate of any nation worldwide and has, in recent years, become the world leader in water desalinization. Today 90% of the water coming from faucets of most private households and hotel rooms originate from the desalination plants along the Mediterranean Sea. Israel‘s water production is growing and is turning Israel into a main water supplier for the region.

In spite of all these technological advances, the shore of the Kinneret continued to recede to dangerous levels, threatening a biological collapse of the lake. The past two years however saw record-breaking rainfalls, positioning the Kinneret on a fast pace to reach maximum capacity. When it is reached, the floodgates to the Jordan river will be opened to avoid flooding in the cities around the Kinneret. Already last year we witnessed a historic down pouring in Jerusalem, when rivers and waterfalls were seen all around Jerusalem. This weather not only impacts the Sea of Galilee but also the Negev and Israel’s aquifers have been receiving much-needed water. The desert is blossoming and ‘streams in the desert‘ are frequently sighted in the Negev and Judean desert.

The prophet Isaiah foresaw such a time yet not just in the natural but also in the spiritual: “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.“ (Isaiah 44:3) Here in Jerusalem our prayer is this will remain not just a natural weather phenomenon but will also find a spiritual reality in Israel. Please pray with us.

The Gathering of 50 World Leaders

“When the Almighty scatters kings there, let snow fall on Zalmon.“ (Psalms 68:14)

Uniquely related to the weather was another historic event in Israel. On January 23 the Haaretz newspaper showed snow covered mountains across Israel on the same day world leaders arrived from around the globe to attend the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem.

Close to 50 heads of State, Royals and Government leaders arrived in Israel to make a joint declaration that each one of them would stand with determination against all forms of antisemitism in their own countries. Seeing the snowy mountains of Israel I was reminded of Psalms 68:14 “When the Almighty scatters kings there, let snow fall on Zalmon.” Mt Zalmon is one of the mountains in central Israel. The sentence ‘the Lord scatters kings’ could also be translated as ‘when the Kings spread out’, like a bird spreading his wing. I showed the Bible passage to a Jewish orthodox friend.

“Jürgen this is exactly what’s happening today. The world leaders come to Jerusalem to spread their wings over us,” my friend said. “They came to Jerusalem with a confession to stand with the Jewish people in their countries and not to tolerate any form of antisemitism.” Their determination of course needs to be proven by practical acts in the years to come, but it was indeed a historic moment. Never before in Israel’s 4000-year long history have so many national rulers arrived in Jerusalem solely to show their support to the Jewish people.

The big litmus test of these nations’ dedication will be their stand against the most antisemitic nation in the world today: the Islamic Republic of Iran. The only international leader to address the subject in his talk was American Vice President Mike Pence, who called upon the world community to take a clear stand against Iran the only nation that calls for the destruction of the only Jewish State, the State of Israel.

In an almost prophetic call the former Chief Rabbi of Israel Meir Israel Lau, chairman of Yad Vashem, solemnly challenged the heads of State: “We heard your pledges today and we will remember them.“ He continued, reminding them they are men of great power: “Your signatures can change the fate of people and nations.“ He admonished when they leave Jerusalem to use their power to be a blessing for mankind.

Sitting at the ceremony witnessing this event, I was reminded of the prophets of old. I could not help but think of Isaiah 2:3; “Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; …. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.“ For me it felt like a powerful foreshadow of days to come. 

Further economic breakthrough

“Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs.” (Isaiah 61:7)

Israel’s economy has grown in recent decades, far outpacing the average OECD countries around the world to become a world leader in so many areas, including in the high-tech sector and research. With many global companies (Apple, Microsoft, Intel, BMW, etc.) establishing research and development centers in Israel, it has become a hub for new technology. Yet while Israel has an incredible pool of brainpower it always suffered a major lack of natural resources.

While neighboring nations enjoyed huge oil fields, it appeared Israel was left out of the wealth of this regional bounty. For many years oil drilling endeavors took place across several places in Israel, all to no avail. But a few years ago, off the Mediterranean coast, huge gas fields were discovered. The field has proven to be so big that it will not only provide enough energy for Israel for decades to come but will allow the Jewish Nation to become a significant energy exporter in the region.

This past January was a historic moment as Israel’s economy took a major step forward when the gas pipes were officially opened and gas exports are starting to flow to Egypt and Jordan. It is expected that the resulting billions of shekels will provide another major boost for Israel’s already strong economy.

The deal of the century

“… for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.” (Genesis 13:15)

Towards the end of January another historic juncture arrived when the US government released what they called the ‘deal of the century.’ This new peace plan revealed by the Trump administration was historic in many ways, characterized by an entirely different spirit than all other plans presented in the past decades. The historic component was not only is this proposed plan not biased against Israel but is the first one perceived as even friendly towards the Jewish state. It was also the most realistic plan ever presented as it recognized certain facts on the ground over which Israel would never compromise, namely that Israel would never allow millions of Palestinian refugees to return after half a century of absentee to Israel. It recognized that the major settlements in Judea and Samaria would never be abandoned by Israel and that Jerusalem would always remain the undivided capital of the Jewish State. At the same time a historic high financial stimulus was offered to the Palestinians plus a land swap for what they would perceive as lost territory.

What was most surprising and equally historic was the reaction of the Arab world. Instead of the default rejection of Arab countries, they were this time the first to publicly endorse the plan. This was even more surprising as the plan declared undivided Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State. These developments underline not only a shift on the international parquet but demonstrated also an even more significant and ongoing transformation within the Arab world. Israel had become – for many Gulf States and Egypt – not a liability but an asset to fight Islamic terrorism and a welcome ally against the regional rouge state, Iran.

This plan’s success still remains to be seen. Reading through the main points of this ‘deal of the century’ made me rejoice on one side that for the first time a plan emerged fully recognizing Israel‘s security needs and its right in large part to the land they settled on. But at the same time, I was concerned that the plan would keep ancient Jewish towns like Shechem, Hebron, etc. off limits for Israel by internationally recognized borders. I was reminded that God calls this land ‘My land’ (e.g. Ezek. 36:5; 38:16; Jer. 16:18). Also, the prophet Joel warns against any nation trading off pieces of the land of Israel. God clearly warns the nations against this, through the prophet Joel who announced judgement on the nations because they traded for and divided ‘my land‘ (Joel 3:2).

We need to recognize that it is not always wise for politicians to be making official decisions based on their interpretations of biblical prophecies. Thus, this is definitely a matter we are all called to pray about, for discernment and for God’s will to be manifested on earth as it is in heaven.

A historic undecidedness

“And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:21)

As Israel experienced these amazing developments, the nation also found itself in a political and equally historic limbo. After two elections within one year (2019), Israel was not able to establish a functioning government. The surprising fact about this unique season is that the elected representatives (and their parties) did not disagree so much about political programs but more about personality. The big matter of contention was the person of Benjamin Netanyahu. The papers widely covered various corruption allegations leveled against Netanyahu, while at the same time recognizing that much of the current economic success story of this Startup Nation is due to his stellar leadership.

Many in Israel just desire change because they have become ‘tired’ of the same face in Israeli news. For many of the believers in Israel Netanyahu has the best understanding of the strategic importance of the global evangelical movement. It is true that the relationship to President Donald Trump and his evangelical constituency was a key factor in the US embassy move to Jerusalem and the favorable paradigm of the new peace plan. The same can be said of the historically good relationship to Brazil‘s president who enjoys great support of evangelicals and confessed just a few weeks ago in Brazil his personal faith in Jesus. Netanyahu is also seen by many as the architect of the historically good relations with Israel’s Arab neighbors.

The word of God reminds us however that the appointment of leaders is ultimately in the hand of God. The most important thing we can do in the nations is to pray for Israel and its leaders, and that God would appoint a man after his heart to lead the nation in justice and righteousness.

Exciting developments in Israel give us a lot to give praise and thanks to God. Israel continues to be restored even beyond what many hoped and dreamed. It is indeed a privilege to be alive in these historic days. Many prophets of old must have dreamed to see what we can witness with our own eyes.

But in spite of all these exciting developments, Israel needs our prayers. Israel urgently needs a functioning government. Wisdom is needed for any government that will be elected and formed in March this year. Israel will need to make strategic decisions that will alter the future of Israel for the decades to come. We all are called to stand with Israel in prayer and intercession as never before that God‘s will be done ‘as in heaven so on earth‘.