Israel and Impossible Things

If you’re like me, President Obama’s words yesterday are discouraging [note: but see Rabbi Joshua’s comment and the possibility that I was wrong]. I know they’re not exactly anything new. But the world is so ready to tell Israel, “Give up Jerusalem.” No matter that when Jordan controlled Jerusalem all Jewish holy places were destroyed and desecrated. The whole attitude of the world is irrational.

But thinking about hope in a day of restoration for Israelis and peace with Arab and other neighbors got me thinking about things that seem impossible. Some things that once seemed impossible are now routine.

It seems impossible to imagine a balanced and mature Judaism instead of the kinds of illness and unbalance we see in the present situation. We see Orthodox extremists who use power and terror to dominate in Israel. We see a fractured Judaism in which the people who don’t believe Torah practice some parts of it better than the ones who do. It is impossible to imagine a faithful, believing Judaism that combines the best of Orthodox and more liberal forms of Judaism to look like the Israelite prophets, to enact the kind of Judaism Heschel and others lived for.

But, then again, there was a time when the Christian Church used power and domination to commit atrocities and religion was synonymous with murder, corruption, and the worst kinds of evil (you know, the Middle Ages). And while Christianity may have a long way to go, getting the political power out of the hands of the Church has done the Church much good.

Maybe it is not impossible to imagine a Judaism that looks like Isaiah’s preaching and Yeshua’s life.

It seems impossible to imagine the blessing over the Middle East that is spoken in the biblical prophets. It seems impossible to imagine that the hate and terroristic power of Muslim nations could ever abate and that peace could rule in this part of the world.

But, then, I remember there used to be a thriving Christianity in the Middle East. I’ve read how so many of the customs of the lost Christianity of the Middle East were so Jewish (see John Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity).

It seems impossible to imagine a day when Israel as a nation will have peace and when Jew and Arab will be friends.

But then, in the darkness of pogroms, in the horror of blind European anti-Semitism, it seemed impossible that Jewish people would ever have a place to be free. The birth of the State of Israel was and is a miracle.

Impossible things happen. I remember not so long ago when the imaginations of many Christians, Judeo-Christians, and Messianic Jews were stirred by a series of novels. In these novels, the Israelis and Palestinians discovered oil and became friendly. While the theology of the author, Joel Rosenberg, has some significant differences from my theology, the novels helped me envision hope.

No one could have predicted during the Middle Ages that one day the corruption and power of the Church would be greatly removed and alleviated, that the Church would become a voice from the lowly instead of the iron hand of tyranny.

No one could have predicted that “the Jewish Question” in Europe would have been answered by liberal Jews working together to found a state in the original Jewish homeland.

No one can fully imagine what Messiah’s love and peace will look like when Jew and gentile, Israel and the other blessed Middle Eastern peoples, Israel and the world, come together in the peace and redemption only God can bring.

But change does happen. And I believe in the agent of change. And I hope even in discouraging times. And times have been much more discouraging before.

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12 Responses to Israel and Impossible Things

  1. Rabbi Joshua says:


    To tell you the truth, although I did not agree with Obama 100%, I have the opposite perspective. Gideon Levy wrote a great piece in HAAretz today that basically sees Obama having destroyed any Palestinian chance for statehood:

    I agree with Levy, and having listened to the speech live, I’ve been trying to tell people there was more said between the lines than people realize. Furthermore, Obama took a very critical position against the Palestinians that cannot simply be overlooked (this is Levy point). Obama was making a clear statement to the PA and to the Arab world. Here are just a few quotes from the speech worth mentioning:

    -“For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”

    -“As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.”

    -“The recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.”

    We need to be able to politically read between the lines of what is being said. He also mentioned for the first time a “non-militarized Palestinian State,” with boarders that must be negotiated, and that recent PA efforts will not achieve a Palestinian State. He hardly restrained in criticizing the PA. And the only mention to Jerusalem was that it must be discussed and mutually agreed upon at a later date.

  2. Rabbi Joshua says:

    WHOOPS – In my attempt to paste in the link to the article it completely messed up the formating. Well, for those interested, here is the link to the Levy article in HAARETZ:

  3. Derek Leman says:

    Thanks, Joshua. You brightened up my day. I hope you will blog about it before Shabbes starts.

  4. “Obama …destroyed any Palestinian chance for statehood”

    Obama may have helped it, but only indirectly, through his naivete, his open hostility to Israel and his policy of appeasement of nations hostile to the only Jewish state (actually, Palestinians have been doing a great job at this themselves – they already turned down the pre-67-border offer once before). With Israel’s best (and only?) ally for the first time issuing a call for Israel to return to pre-war borders (which is the exact same thing that whole world has been clamoring for), this has helped to further delegitimize Israel and further isolate her on the world stage (if that were possible). Even the liberal American Jews are flabbergasted with Obama and are calling for him to tone it down.

  5. Benjamin says:

    Hello all:

    Interesting discussion. This is a total side-note (take it, leave it, delete it), but I was curious why we’ve stopped referring to presidents by their title (i.e. President Obama, Former President Bush, etc.). I don’t know…just sayin πŸ™‚

    • Derek Leman says:

      Thanks, Ben. I went back and put the word President in as per your admonition. Shabbat shalom, my friend.

    • Ben, interesting observation (although news outlets routinely drop the titles in the body of articles after only mentioned them once in the beginning).

      It got me curious too, so I thought of looking up “Herod” in NT and out of the 45 occurrence of that name there only one instance of a title king next to his name (Matthew 2:1), while Tanakh, for example, constantly refers to David as “King”. Perhaps the writers of NT didn’t have much respect for the Herod guy.

  6. Dan Benzvi says:


    Do you know who Gideon Levy is? Do you follow his writings? I suggest you check first before you post.

  7. “Do you know who Gideon Levy is? Do you follow his writings?”

    Only a guy you once wrote “Israel is a violent and dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council” ( Haaretz, 22/01/2009.)

  8. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Dan and Gene,

    Thank you for that head’s-up on Gideon Levy. I definitely do not support his more radical views (which may change the perspective I thought he was writing from). But, I thought he brought up some good points in the above article.

    However the quotes I mentioned were pulled directly from Obama’s speech posted on

  9. louise says:

    Did anyone read PM Netanyahu’s recent comments to the Knesset? This is part of the speech: “We must stop beating ourselves up and blaming ourselves..the reason there is no peace is that the Palestinians refuse to recognize the State of Israel as the Jewish people’s nation state…This is not a conflict about 1967, this is a conflict about 1948 about the State of Israel’s very existence. You must have noticed that yesterday’s events did not take place on June 5, the day the Six Day War erupted but on May 15, the day the State of Israel was established…..Finally,I insist that Jerusalem remain the State of Israel’s capital.” Regardless of anything else, PM Netanyahu has a better Biblical grasp of the situation than do other world leaders that is for sure. A website called Focus on Jerusalem printed the entire speech.

    Scripture reminds us all who are part of the true Israel to keep our focus on Jerusalem for one vital reason: Our Messiah the Lord Jesus will be seen by every eye when He returns and that is exactly where He will set His feet and from where He will reign. His first coming in the ‘fullness of time’ was with the message of repentance, rend your hearts people rend your hearts, so that the new birth, the new heart transplant would be in place as a result of what the Lamb of God would do for you. It is not unreasonable to assume that thousands of the ‘common people’ in Israel 2000+ years ago, when God Himself dwelled lived on the land, did rend their hearts and did repent. Who else but Messiah could have healed the blind and made the lame to walk, cast out demons, commanded the winds and waves: Who else but the One Whom we all now should be longing to Return?

    This time though He is coming with a two edged sword in judgment for the sins of the world and peoples’ sins and lack of interest in Him ruling the world, even aversion and purposeful rejection of Him ruling the world He made. All those prophecies from Isaiah 2, 9 –and hundreds and hundreds more in the Scripture show us that ONLY Messiah/God Himself can bring peace and end war and all those other horrible things. 1. ONLY Messiah/God could bring forgiveness of sin, our efforts could never have done that. Only the Lamb of God could do that. And He did. 2. Neither can human effort cannot either destroy the world or even solve the world’s visible problems because the root cause of them is invisible to mankind and visible only to God Himself. Both of these two, big things are God’s job and ours is to bow the knee now and ask HIm how and where we can occupy until He comes, and Watch and Pray.

    Focus on Jerusalem, Even so, come LORD JESUS.

  10. VirginiaMary says:

    Tell the Congress & Senate to:
    Keep the Focus with the United Nations a nation Born in a Day REMAIN and Grow.
    Jeremiah 17:11….so it is the one who gets riches by unjust means. He shall leave them in the midst of his days and at his end shall be a fool
    Friday at 10:25am
    ALL MEN Stand Up and Make a Joyful noise One Man One Voice One Heart. Though the minute details are as unique as we are individuals WE are One Nation Under G_d indivisible with liberty & justice for All. ONLY When Our Voices/Vote in unity LET THE UNITY FOR ISRAEL be KNOWN TO ALL.

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