Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.—Ezekiel 37:11, NAS
On November 29, 1947, Theodor Herzl’s dream came close to fruition when the
United Nations partitioned the land of Palestine into two states, one Arab and
one Jewish. The British evacuation on May 14, 1948, led the acting Israeli
government to declare its independence, about 2,500 years after it had been
totally destroyed by the Babylonian armies. That declaration initiated a period
of trouble in the land that continues today. Ezekiel 37 describes prophetically
the bringing back to life of the once-destroyed nation, a position not
experienced since prior to the Babylonian captivity of Ezekiel’s own day.
Ezekiel’s Prophecy Fulfilled
God asked Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel answered “O Lord GOD, thou knowest” (Ezekiel 37:3). Ezekiel knew it would take a miracle to revive the glory of Israel. Only God could provide the answer: “Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!” (verse 4). As Ezekiel spoke (verses 5 and 6) there was “a noise and … rattling, and the bones came together … The sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them” (verses 7 and 8). The separated skeleton came together reuniting the houses of Judah and Israel in a prophetic description of the restored nation.
What began with a small gathering of Zionist Jews in Petah Tikvah in 1878 culminated seventy years later in the birth of a nation—Jewish people in a Jewish land under Jewish rule. But independence did not come peacefully.
As British troops began to exit the land in March 1948 upon the expiration of the mandate of 1917, they exposed the Jewish convoys bringing food into Jerusalem. An Arab ambush killed many of those carrying supplies, and these Arab enemies went on to attack Jews in Jerusalem. On April 9, members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi (the National Military Organization) and the Lohamei Herut Yisrael (fighters for the freedom of Israel) struck back, attacking the Arab village of Deir Yassin to the west of Jerusalem. The struggle for Israel’s right to exist had begun.
Arabs hit Jerusalem again the next day. Three days later Arab mortar fire struck
kindergartners in the Jewish Quarter and hit a Jewish medical convoy bound for
Hadassah Hospital. The Arab Higher Committee proclaimed that no Jew would have
been spared had the remaining British troops not intervened. Fighting became so
intense in the five-month period between December 1947 and April 1948 that more
than 3,500 Arabs, 1,100 Jews and 150 Britons were killed. But that was only the
The War of Independence
British rule over Palestine ended formally at midnight on May 14, 1948, the Jewish Sabbath. David Ben-Gurion, head of the provisional government of Israel, read a Declaration of Independence (see p. ) aloud on a live radio broadcast two hours prior to the beginning of Sabbath. Israel would become an independent state at one second after midnight. Although one third of the world’s population of Jews had been annihilated by Nazi Germany, the 600,000 that now populated Israel were ready to stand on their own.
Within hours the new nation was surrounded by armies of the Arab League. Many of these new citizens had survived the Holocaust but none were prepared for this war.
Possessing only three tanks and without air force fighters or bombers, Israeli fighters held off 74 Arab fighters and bombers. Six thousand Israelis were killed. In an eerie similarity to the 70 A.D. siege of Jerusalem, food became so scarce that people survived on dandelions and weeds. Severe rationing of water made proper sanitation almost impossible.
Then a miracle happened. Jewish soldiers halted Egyptian tanks moving up from the south and pushed back the Syrian army attacking from the north while carving out by hand a three-mile stretch of road through rock and steep hillsides. The resulting “Burma Road” brought convoys to Jerusalem with food, water, and supplies—a hundred tons every twenty-four hours. A pipeline constructed over this road provided the city with a water source once again.
The war ended on November 28, 1948, after several false armistices. Armistice
borders were set. Israel now possessed more land than it had been given in its
original partition. But one percent of the population had been lost in the war.
And Jerusalem, the most sacred city in all of the world, was divided into two
parts, one Jewish and one Arab, under the armistice agreement signed on April 3,
The Six-Day War
Two years later in July 1951 King Abdullah of Jordan was assassinated by a lone gunman while regularly attending Friday prayers with his grandson at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Arab East Jerusalem erupted in violence. It began a hostile fourteen-year period of fighting between Arabs and Arabs, and Arabs and Jews.
When attacks on Israeli citizens grew increasingly harsh, Syrian Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad asked Egyptian president Gamal Nassar to sign a three-way treaty with Jordan. Nassar agreed and also expelled the ten-year-old U.N. military contingent from the Sinai Peninsula. Israeli Intelligence learned of an imminent attack by the new trilateral alliance. It supervised a preemptive air strike on Egyptian military bases on June 5, 1967.
Joshua conquered Jericho in seven days; Israel took just six to turn back the combined forces of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. When the fighting was over, Israeli fighters had captured the Sinai Peninsula (later returned to Egypt), the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria (West Bank), the Jordan River, the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.
Here is how Randolph S. Churchill and Winston S. Churchill described the miraculous victory: “By a feat of arms unparalleled in modern times, the Israelis, surrounded by enemies superior in quantity and quality of equipment and overwhelming superiority in numbers, had fought a war on three fronts and not only survived, but had won a resounding victory” (The Six Day War, p. 191).
In the early afternoon of June 7, the entire Old City fell into Israeli
hands—868 years to the day after the Crusaders first appeared there in 1099
is said that when soldiers reached the remains of the Western Wall of the temple
compound, they burst into tears and began to pray. For the first time in
nineteen years, Jews had access to their most sacred site. Rabbi Sholomo Goren,
senior Israeli military chaplain, blew the shofar and prayed on an Israeli radio
broadcast from the wall. God had delivered the temple site into Jewish hands
once again. But peace would not last long.
The Yom Kippur War
In October 1968 two Arab girls entered the Zion Cinema in Jerusalem with a bomb. Providentially, they had been observed and the bomb was removed. The following month a dozen Israelis shopping at the Yahuda market were killed in the first of multiple car bombings. Bombs also exploded at Hebrew University and at an Israeli supermarket. Tension rose throughout the early seventies in Jerusalem as car bombings, grenade launches and letter bombs introduced a new round of violence and the use of terrorism on civilians. Finally, on October 6, 1973—the Great Day of Atonement—all-out war broke out when Egypt and Syria once again attacked Israel.
Although Israel ultimately won that war and pushed Syria from the Golan Heights, it discovered the vulnerability of defending multiple borders against multiple enemies. When Egypt’s early victories gave it a new credibility among its Arab neighbors and the Western world, Israeli leaders agreed to meet in 1978 with Egyptian leaders at Camp David and to sign a formal peace treaty with Egypt in 1979.
Meanwhile a new enemy had arisen within Israel’s borders. On July 4, 1975, an abandoned refrigerator in Zion Square exploded, killing fourteen people and wounding seventy. An old organization, The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), under its new head, Yasser Arafat, claimed responsibility. The dawn of the 1980s brought the PLO to the forefront. Israel would still not be able to live in peace.
Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League, was arrested for plotting to destroy the Dome of the Rock. Alan Goodman, an American volunteer in the Israeli army, opened fire with a machine gun at the Dome of the Rock and killed two Muslim guards. Eighteen Orthodox Jews were arrested while planning a bomb attack at the Dome. Finally, a full confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians broke out in December 1987.
What began innocently with a small group of Arabs quickly escalated into an organized rebellion that lasted nearly a year. The PLO’s Arafat proclaimed an independent state of Palestine with Jerusalem (Al Quds Ash-Sharif) as its capital. In a speech on New Year’s Eve, Arafat later proclaimed that we “are the active volcano in the Middle East which will only calm itself when one of the youths of the revolution and the Intifada hoists the flag of your state over Jerusalem and our homeland Palestine.”
Violence finally subdued when Yasser Arafat and
Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords on September 9, 1993. Arafat pledged to
recognize the right of Israel to exist in both peace and safety. Israel, under
pressure from the U.S., agreed to recognize the
the representative of the Palestinian people. When Israel signed a peace treaty
with Jordan a year later, fifty years of constant conflict were put to rest. Or
so it seemed at the time.
The Second Intifada
Militant Palestinians never gave up the goal of an independent Palestine without Israel. To accomplish the task of wiping out Israel, they introduced a new style of terrorism: the suicide bomber. On February 25, 1996, a Palestinian man boarded bus #18 in Jerusalem and detonated a bomb strapped to his chest. Seventeen Israeli civilians and nine Israeli soldiers died. Hamas (a word meaning “zeal”), claimed responsibility. Since then, suicide bombings have become an integral part of terrorist activity in Israel and throughout the world.
When Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in September 2000 Yasser Arafat and the PLO used the event as an excuse to incite a new round of violence.
Although the Second Intifada has yet to be officially ended by a stable Palestinian leadership, Israeli intelligence has managed to curb the level of violence against its citizens. However, during the Intifada periods of 2000 through 2007, over a thousand Israelis have been killed.
During the past sixty years as Israel has sought genuine peace with its neighbors and the right to determine its own destiny, it continues to discover new enemies and receive interference from the rest of the world. This is prophetically pictured by Zechariah: “And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it” (Zechariah 12:3). Under pressure from the West and other countries, Israel has given up land it fought to defend since 1948. Today even Jerusalem is being split and negotiated away.
God warned Moses: “I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” (Exodus 23:31-33, NASB, emphasis added). Israel’s desire for peace will not thwart God’s intention for the people: to occupy all the land which he gave to Abraham and his heirs.
Jeremiah prophesied of a regathering of Israel in our day that would be more notable than when Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt (Jeremiah 23:7,8). This prophecy’s fulfillment is occurring today. The Jewish population in Israel has grown from 600,000 in 1948 to 5.7 million today. Since 2006 and for the first time since 135 A.D., there are more Jews in Israel than in any other country in the world.
While much prophetically remains to be fulfilled for the nation, its history and
growth since 1948 is a tribute to God’s love and care for his chosen earthly