Israel, its glorious past and majestic future-A A +A
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
MY COLLEGE Sociology professor once wondered aloud in class why God has a “chosen people.”
“Why do we have a God who plays favorites?” he said. It was one lazy afternoon when a lot of my classmates were drifting into dreamland. I was also halfway into a romantic daydream when he said it. But somehow, that question stuck in my head.
Fast forward to a couple of years and I found myself attending a weekly prayer group talking about Israel.
Week after week, I was just being awed by the victories God has given the Israelites.
That question came up again. “It’s because they believe and worship the One True God,” was what our prayer group leader said.
But after its glorious past, I learned during my visit there that Israel’s extraordinary story continues--with more wars in recent years.
If you look at the map of the world, particularly the Middle East, you will see how small Israel is compared to its oil-rich neighbors.
Until the recent discovery of natural gas there, Israel did not have any oil, which is the major product of countries surrounding it.
But still its neighbors are threatening to claim portions of its territory.
Amazingly, Israel kept winning against its enemies and believers of the God of the chosen people claim that they are the works of the One True God, also called Yahweh or
Jehovah. The Israeli military is also known to be one of the “best” in the world.
But these events in their history have made this country of only eight million people what they are now.
In Israel, military service is compulsory for both men and women when they reach 18 years old.
So don’t be surprised to find very young members of the Israeli army in some borders where they are stationed.
“What about the security there?” a friend had asked me after I visited Israel. Except for areas that were Palestinian territory, which I did not visit, everything else was filled with tourists.
Here are some things that you need to know or be reminded of when you go to Israel:
• It was visited by 3.5 million tourists in 2012. It has a population of 7.6 million.
The Philippine Department of Tourism said our country received 4.3 tourists last year. Our population is about 92.3 million as of 2010.
• There are very few Christians and Muslims there. According to the timesofisrael.com,
of its nearly eight million residents, 75.4 percent (6,015,000) are Jewish, 20.6% (1,648,000) are Arab (both Muslim and Christian) and the remaining 4% (319,000) are either non-Arab Christians or those who declined to state their religious affiliation to the Interior Ministry.
• Jesus Christ and his family were Jewish. Jesus of Nazareth taught in synagogues. In Capernaum, where he spent most of his life, he preached the sermon on the bread of life in a synagogue there. He also observed Jewish traditions like Sabbath and Passover.
• Jewish people eat kosher food. This is in obedience to the Torah or the Laws of God as revealed to Moses. It is the first five books of the Hebrew bible. They don’t eat pork but they eat the meat of chickens, bulls, cows, sheep, lambs and goats. They also only eat fish with fins and scales and all other seafood is prohibited.
• Israel was formerly under the Roman Empire. You will still see Roman architecture there. The beautiful fortresses of Caesarea and Massada are examples of these.
Although many Christians were killed for their faith during this time, a TV documentary I saw showed that the expansion of the Roman rule also allowed the spread of the gospel of salvation of Jesus Christ to the gentiles. Frustration over their lives pushed them to welcome the letters of Paul like our present-day “tweets” on Twitter.
At present, bible experts and doomsayers are looking at developments in Israel to see if end-of-the-world prophecies are being fulfilled.
Christians who believe in pre-tribulation rapture or that God will “rescue” his children before the world will end also believe Israel will play a big role during this time.
According to the Book of Revelation, Jesus Christ will return a second time to rule the world for 1,000 years. He will reign from Jerusalem, currently Israel’s capital.
Revelation Chapter 16 also gives details about the last war in the world. Dubbed as Armageddon, it is believed to occur in the ancient city of Megiddo, still in Israel.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 21, 2013.