During the wee small hours a few nights ago, I caught a bit of your broadcast on television. You were most convincing. You must be a wonderful salesman. You must understand, however, that to many of us, while the actions of Israel are historically normal, no attempt should be made to excuse those actions morally.
For example, it was normal for the colonists to take over the land they found on the North American continent. It was not morally right that they annihilated the majority of the native population they found there and have not to this day stopped persecuting.
It sounds an off-key note when you revile Arafat as a terrorist, but never mention Begin's rather unsavory history. When one compares the number of casualties between Israelis and Palestinians during the past years, it is obvious that the Israelis are winning the war. Does it place the Israelis in a higher moral position? The answer is, of course, that it does not.
I, for one, do not blame Israel for any actions taken in conquering Palestine. They are historically normal. The strong (and those with strong allies) always take what they want from those who are weak or without strong friends. Yes, alas it is true — might makes right. It is also true that might does not make moral right. I am offended when you try to convince me that it does.
I recall a moment years ago in school, during a "Current Events" reading and discussion, when I asked the teacher, "But where will the people who live there now go?" Her reply showed her a fool, although I did not know it at the time. She said, "Oh, they are all Bedouin. They just move around all the time. They don't need homes."
The Israelites must do what they must do to oust the Palestinians. I have no quarrel with that. Christians in quest for wealth, power and territorial rights have always followed the same path. That does not make it a Christian ethic. I cannot appreciate your effort to make me see it that way.
Most sincerely, P.K.
Regarding your first point, yes, we Americans did annihilate the population on this continent. The Israelis, however, did not do this to the Palestinians. As for the Israelis winning the "war," during the five years or so of the Intifada there were something like 750 Palestinians killed (some by their own people for being "collaborators" with Israel). The Israelis had 2,500 casualties in the 1973 war alone.
You compare Arafat with Begin, but Arafat is a self-proclaimed terrorist who gladly took credit for his terrorist activities. Begin was a freedom fighter, opposed to the British occupation of Israel. Arafat has certainly been responsible for far more deaths than Begin was. And these were innocent civilians, as with the Munich athletes, the Achille Lauro cruise ship, and Pan Am 103, just to mention a few PLO exploits, proudly claimed. Begin was an official elected to serve the people, and he retired at the end of his career. Arafat has been a dictator for 30 years, only "elected" now for the first time.
You state that the strong take what they want from the weak, but the Palestinians are not weak and Israel is not strong. In the Middle East, there are 250 million Arabs, compared to 4.5 million Israelis. And the current situation is the exact opposite of that stated in the first sentence of your final paragraph: the Palestinians are doing what they can to oust the Israelis, and with the blessing of the whole world.
In all candor, I think your letter betrays you as simply a person who dislikes Israel, and probably the Jewish people. Generally when one argues passionately, he or she may accidentally distort one or two facts. But every "fact" in your letter is a distortion. While I am plainly in favor of Israel and say so gladly, you hide behind some intellectual neutrality, calling the supposed sins of Israel "historically normal." To tell you the truth, I don't think you are being perfectly honest.
The teacher you mentioned was obviously not well-informed about the Israeli situation, and that is probably why you quote her. In reality, the Palestinians live better than Arabs in any Arab country. They certainly don't have to "move around all the time." They're the only Arabs in the Arab world privileged to live in a democracy (despite the recent PLO "elections"). If they would cooperate with Israel rather than fight them at every turn, they would be embraced into a democracy, as were your ancestors and mine in the United States. When my father came from Latvia, he did not claim this land for Latvia or say, however preposterously, that his people were here first. He was glad to participate in a democracy. He got a job and put three kids through graduate school.
In the last paragraph of your letter, you tie Christians in with the
moral "wrongs" you are addressing. Those you accuse of these crimes
obviously are not Christians, as defined by the Lord's dictum, "By this
shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to
another" (John 13:35).
Perhaps the surest way of generating mail is to say that you don't want it. In our March Levitt Letter, we ran an article on the anti-Semitism of Pat Buchanan. I ended the article by requesting that our readers not spend their time lecturing me about my views on Buchanan. That seems to have been the trigger for an avalanche of mail. The letters we received came in only two varieties: extreme disagreement or total support.
Of the readers who protested my assessment of Buchanan, very few were even civil. Some demanded to be removed immediately from our mailing list. I had thought that interest in (and support of) a ministry was an inspiration from God and not dependent on agreeing with absolutely everything the minister says. Imagine throwing out a ministry such as ours, with our television programs on location in Israel, our books, our music, our tours, and all that we do, because of a disagreement over a passing politician!
The main criticisms of most of the negative letters were that I quoted from the mainstream media and that I was against an anti-abortion candidate. The media I chose to cite were highly varied: conservative and liberal, Democrat and Republican, male and female, Jewish and Gentile. Rather than deal with the issues we brought up or the words quoted from Buchanan's own lips, people chose to defame the media members I cited. They pointed out that I myself criticize the secular media, and I do. The fact is, I don't trust them on the subject of Israel; on an American election, however, I believe that sampling a variety of them is a reasonable thing to do. I used probably 20% of what we could have printed on Buchanan's racism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigration sentiment, etc., but our newsletter just did not have enough room to include it all.
Many readers took me to task for criticizing a pro-life (i.e., anti-abortion) candidate. Some even accused me of advocating murder! But we should not evaluate a political candidate on one issue alone. One good characteristic does not cancel out everything else — we must look at the whole picture.
I would like to mention that I take it unkindly when people say that I need to be saved just because I criticized their candidate. It reminds me of a time I had Dr. J. Vernon McGee on my radio program. He was an Amillenialist who thought that Israel did not matter. Naturally, I disagreed with him. When I ended my program in Hebrew, as usual, with "Sha'alu shalom Yerushalayim" ("Pray for the peace of Jerusalem"), Dr. McGee felt that it was aimed at him. I received umpteen letters from listeners telling me that I had lost my salvation. I hadn't known you could lose your salvation just by disagreeing with Dr. McGee.
Another time, I mentioned on the radio that I played the organ for a Messianic congregation. I heard from the Church of Christ that I needed Jesus, to be saved from the sin of playing a musical instrument. Oddly enough, in my Bible when it lists the requirements for salvation, it doesn't include avoiding musical instruments, agreeing with certain radio preachers, and abstaining from criticism of all pro-life politicians. Perhaps I need a more exhaustive concordance.
But we also received many positive letters, which I appreciated. The following letter is representative of those:
Dear Brother in Jesus:
I know that this letter may not ever get as far as your desk, for I know that your schedule does not permit you to read every piece of mail that comes to your ministry. However, I would be guilty of not supporting my brother whom I know is almost constantly under attack from cruel, biblically uneducated people, some of which even dare to call themselves "Christians." My husband and our children have been monthly supporters of your ministry now for over six years, and we wanted to go on record both in your office and in heaven as saying THANK YOU for speaking out honestly and with factual information on Pat Buchanan.
I particularly want to let you know that we, like yourself, do not trust the media who are obviously bought and paid for by biased, prejudiced corporations. Your newsletter is one of the only informative pieces of mail that we allow ourselves to read, and we regard your newsletter with the utmost of trustworthiness. Your statements are always backed with references, dates and names. And we always enjoy your "editorial comments" since they speak out what our heart feels.
I hate to publicly announce our stupidity, but if it will encourage you and other readers, then I must confess that my husband and I were almost convinced that Pat Buchanan was the man to vote for. We had no idea that he was such a debased, fascist scoundrel. We did read an article in Newsweek (another piece of media that we do not deem trustworthy) a few weeks ago that my father-in-law gave us to read about Buchanan's anti-Semitic attitude. Yet even then, we thought perhaps the media was trying to "kill" him by spreading slander.
To make a long thank-you short, I was just about to write you and ask you to please give some factual, unbiased information on this man. I know of many people who would not vote for him if they could hear these things from someone other than a national media source. You read my mind and heart when you published your March 1996 newsletter and article, [Do We Really Want a] "Poison Pill?" And again I say thank you for not allowing this information to go unpublished regardless of the repercussions that you will doubtless receive.
Right-On and Right-Up in the Lord!!
First View: The Church is Israel
The predominant view has been that the Church is the "new" Israel, a continuation of the concept of Israel which began in the Old Testament. In this view, the Church is the refinement and higher development of the concept of Israel. All of the promises made to Israel in the Scriptures find their fulfillment in the Church. Thus, the prophecies relating to the blessing and restoration of Israel to the Promised Land are "spiritualized" into promises of blessing to the Church. The prophecies of condemnation and judgment, though, are retained literally by the Jewish nation of Israel.
This view is sometimes called Replacement Theology, because the Church is seen to replace Israel in God's economy. One of the problems with the view, among others, is the continuing existence of the Jewish people, especially with regard to the revival of the new modern state of Israel. If Israel has been condemned to extinction, and there is no divinely ordained future for the Jewish nation, how does one account for the supernatural survival of the Jewish people since the establishment of the Church, for almost 2,000 years against all odds? Furthermore, how does one account for Israel's resurgence among the family of nations as an independent nation, victorious in several wars and flourishing economically?
Second View: Israel and the Church are Different
The other view, we believe, is clearly taught in the New Testament, but it has been suppressed throughout most of Church history. This view is that the Church is completely different and distinct from Israel, and the two should not be confused. In fact, the Church is an entirely new creation that came into being on the Day of Pentecost after Christ's resurrection from the dead, and will continue until it is taken to Heaven at the Rapture return of the Lord (Eph. 1:9-11). None of the curses or blessings pronounced upon Israel refer directly to the Church. The Church enters into the Abrahamic and New Covenants, for instance, only by divine application, not by original interpretation (Matt 26:28).
This leaves all the covenants, promises, and warnings to Israel intact. Israel, the natural Jewish nation, is still Israel. To be sure, Israel has been side-lined during these past 1,900 years of the Diaspora. The Church has taken center stage in the Lord's affairs as the Gospel has spread throughout the world. Nevertheless, God has carefully preserved the Jewish people, even in unbelief, through every kind of distress and persecution. Sometimes, the professing Church itself (I speak to our shame) has been a cause of these persecutions to the Jews.
Not only has God preserved the Jewish nation, but He has also kept His promise to save a remnant of Israel in every generation. The remnant of Israel in this age are the Jewish believers in Christ who have joined the Gentile believers, and form the Church, the Body of Christ (Rom. 11:5). In this respect, then, a part of Israel (the believing remnant) intersects with the Church during the Church Age. But this does not make Israel the Church, or vice versa.
In the future, both God's warnings and promises to Israel will come to pass. After the Lord is finished with the Church Age, and has taken the Church to Heaven in the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:16-18), God will restore Israel to center stage on the world's divine theater. First comes the devastating "Time of Jacob's Trouble" (Jer. 30:7) also known as the Great Tribulation. This is a dreadful period of seven years, which begins relatively lightly during the first half, but intensifies into full focus during the latter half. During this time the world is judged for rejecting Christ, but, more specifically, Israel is judged, purged and prepared through the fiery trials of the Great Tribulation for the Second Coming of the Messiah. This is the bad news.
The good news is that, when Christ does return to the earth at the end of the Tribulation, Israel will be ready, willing, and eager to receive Him, and proclaim, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:39). As the stumbling of Israel brought blessing to the world at Christ's First Coming, the reception of Israel to Christ at His Second Advent will be like "life from the dead" (Rom. 11:15). The remnant of Israel which survives the Tribulation (some one-third of the Jewish people who enter the Tribulation), will be saved, and the Lord will establish His kingdom on the same earth and the same capital city, Jerusalem, that rejected Him centuries before. Israel will be the head of the nations, and no longer the tail, and all nations will send representatives to Jerusalem to honor and worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Isa. 2:2-3; Micah 4:1). The Church will return with Christ, and will rule with Him for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-5). He Himself told His disciples that they would rule over the 12 tribes of Israel in the restoration (Matt. 19:28). Thus, Israel has not been forgotten in God's plan. While the Jewish nation still has a dark period facing it, there is a glorious finale to Israel's long history.
How Did the Church Decide the Demise of Israel?
The New Testament Church was very much involved with the vicissitudes of Israel. Jesus is an Israeli, as were all the apostles, and the concerns of Israel, spiritually and politically, were very much a part of their lives. The greatest struggles the early Church had were over the relationship between Israel and the Church, law and grace, and the fellowship between Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ (Galatians). Many of the Jewish believers were not comfortable with the Gentile believers at first; and as time went on and Gentiles began to predominate numerically, the attitudes were reversed. Galatians shows how the Jewish party tried to impose the Mosaic Law on Gentile Christians, and Romans shows how the Gentile party began to "boast against the branches" (Rom. 11:18), resenting the place of Israel in history and theology.
It took some time, perhaps a couple of centuries, but eventually the vast Gentile majority in the Church began to view Israel as a vestigial organ that had outlived its usefulness. In fact, the predominant Christian view was that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD signaled the official and divinely-ordained end of the Jewish nation, never more to be re-instituted as a national entity. The fact that Jerusalem lay in ruins and the Jewish people were scattered over the world was seen as conclusive evidence that God was forever finished with national Israel. If there were any purpose for the existence of the Jewish people, it was to remind the world of the severe judgment of God upon a disobedient people.
If this harsh view of Israel were true, though, what of the promises of God to Israel in the Old Testament? For those who claimed to believe in the entire Bible as the Word of God, this was a great problem. How could a faithful God not keep His promises to His ancient people? To deal with this took extraordinary theological dexterity and alchemy. The theologians had to propose that Israel in the Scriptures did not really mean Israel, especially when it came to the promises of eternal blessing. Instead, Israel meant something else, something that came to be known in the New Testament as the Church. The Church became the new Israel, and through this remarkable transformation, wherever blessing is promised to Israel in the Old Testament, it was interpreted to mean the Church. This is Replacement Theology, in which the Church has become Israel.
Replacement Theology was already around before the end of the First Century, but did not become the official position of professing Christian leadership until Augustine popularized the concept, primarily in THE CITY OF GOD, in the latter part of the Fourth Century. Augustine actually states that he was previously a Chiliast, meaning that he was a believer in the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth after His return. This is the same as our current description of Premillennialism. However, he had come to the conclusion that this view was "carnal," and had adopted the view that the reign of Christ would be something more "spiritual," and would actually occur during the Church Age. Such a view necessitated the extinction of Israel, and the cancellation of all promises God made to the Jewish nation. These promises of blessing would now be fulfilled within the framework of the Church.
This view, which had been latent in Christendom, now flourished throughout the Byzantine world. From this point on, the theological legs were cut out from under Israel, and the predominant Christian theology was that there was no future for Israel. Replacement Theology has been the rule that has survived the Middle Ages, the Crusades and the Reformation in Church History. Only during the last Century or so has the Premillennial concept of the future of Israel come to the forefront in evangelical Christianity. Even so, it is a minority view.
Does Israel's Future Demean the Church's Glory?
Some suggest that if Israel has not ceased to exist in its covenant relationship to God, and if Israel still has a future in the divine plan, this somehow diminishes the position of the Church. Is such a concern valid? It is almost as though the Church has been jealous of Israel, and afraid that if it recognized Israel's future promises, it would somehow demean Christ and the Church. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is when the Church recognizes Israel that the true distinctiveness and glory of the Body of Christ becomes evident. This called-out body, composed of believing Jews and Gentiles during the Church Age, is the highest entity the Lord has created, superior to the universe, all the Angels, the nations, and Israel. Our Head, our Husband, our Friend is the Son of God Himself. We shall reign with Him when He rules the earth, and our 12 Founding Apostles will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel. The Angels themselves will study us forever as the greatest exhibit of God's grace, and we will actually judge the Angels. This is our destiny, and this writer, for one, would not trade his position in the Body of Christ with any creature in the universe! Why, then, be disturbed over what God has promised the Jewish people? Why be jealous over the future destiny of Israel? How short sighted of us! Indeed, the Church's finest and most distinctive hour will be when Israel is restored nationally and spiritually to the Lord at the Second Coming of Christ. We will return from Heaven with Him as His glorious Bride to rule Israel and the world. What more could we ask?
So, if we are not to suffer from spiritual myopia, we must recognize what the Lord is doing with Israel, not shrinking from it as though our own interests will be overshadowed. Rather, we rejoice in these developments, with full assurance that our own redemption draws ever closer.
This article is scheduled to appear in the Dictionary of Premillennial
Theology, to be published by Kregel Publications.
By the time you read this article, I will have returned from our Spring Tour, and I'm sure I will be reporting to you once again that peace has broken out all over Israel. Despite the dire reports on CNN and the other networks, Israel remains one of the safest countries in the world. Admittedly, the political problems cause casualties, but nothing on a scale with almost any American city. Oklahoma City, for example, has had more casualties from terrorism than Israel has sustained in her history since 1948.
The present situation in Lebanon tends to give Israel another black eye in the media, although their actions there were certainly provoked. (One ecstatic Lebanese woman who gave birth during the crisis named her new little daughter "Katyusha" after the rockets the Hezbollah guerillas are lobbing into the Israeli village of Kiryat Shemona. How proud that little girl will be to someday recount how many civilians were killed by her namesake, a Russian rocket.) Truly, it is the arms suppliers who are to blame in Lebanon, in Palestine, in Liberia, and elsewhere — wherever what amount to gangs attack innocent civilians. If the Hezbollah did not have Russian weaponry paid for by Iran, then they could not have started this entire crisis by repeatedly shelling a civilian town. (In passing, we might say that the lawyer for defendant McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing claims that international terrorists were responsible, and wonders if the U.S. is still protecting some Arabs.)
The media bias against Israel is overwhelming. The New York Times began an article, "Charging that the Party of God (Hezbollah) had gone too far in their shelling of northern Israel. . . ." That makes one wonder how much shelling of northern Israel would be the proper amount. Hezbollah bombs civilians mainly, as in Kiryat Shemona, whereas the Israelis have been fighting back against the guerillas themselves at their bases. Nevertheless, CNN was able to produce a Lebanese doctor who said he had seen only Arab women and children who were injured, and no "warriors" at all. Why any network would give international publicity to such an obviously false statement is one question. Another might be why people who launch rockets at unarmed villages are called warriors.
While civilians have been killed on both sides, the Israelis always drop leaflets before firing to warn them to get out of the way because Hezbollah has the practice of hiding behind civilians, as in the case of the U.N. base in Lebanon. No leaflets were dropped by Hezbollah at Kiryat Shemona, at Metulla, or other civilian targets they have shelled. In fact, Hezbollah shells only civilian targets.
When the U.S. gave Lebanon to Syria in order to get some TV pictures of Syrian troops allegedly joining our war with Saddam Hussein, we sowed the seeds of the present conflict. And when we forced Israel into this disastrous "peace process," we set the stage for the terrorism within Israel. Frankly, I think we should leave the Middle East alone. There have been more Israeli deaths since the Oslo agreement was signed than in the past ten years, which included the Intifada.
We have our own "Palestinians" in this country, which are presently called the Montana Freemen. These are people who resist the government in a democracy; want their own autonomy, their own courts, and cover for their crimes; and will resort to terrorism to make these things happen. We would not dream of creating a "peace process" between the American government and the aberrant American militias, but we strong-arm the Israelis to do just that with their own internal problem. The comparison even extends to the "private armies," which we call militias here and the Palestinians call Hamas over there. It is equally unclear in both countries as to whether there really are separate militant and peaceful groups among the dissidents.
At the moment, the closure of the Palestinian areas is being blamed for their civil strife, and they are said to be "confined." But the area in which they are confined is the one they want to have for their own country. What will they say then? Will they always be dependent on the Israeli economy for their survival? If so, why would they want their own country?
I could go on and on with the injustices in the Middle East and the unfairness of Iran, the PLO and the media — Israel's three worst enemies. Suffice it to say, however, that there are happy times in Israel at this moment, also. After all, what other city besides Jerusalem in this whole world could claim to have a 3,000th birthday? I look forward to every single trip there, and I sleep like a baby in that Holy City.
And you can sleep there too, in the Holy City on the holiest day of the Jewish year: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Our Fall Festival Tour is designed to encompass both this festival and the start of the Feast of Tabernacles. The Basic Israel tour runs from the 18th to the 27th of September, and includes such spiritually significant sites as the Mount of Olives, the Garden Tomb, the Temple Mount, Bethlehem, the Galilee, and much more. Our Grand Tour begins on September 18 and returns October 1. Our Grand passengers will have a trip into Jordan to see the ancient city of Petra, as well as Mount Nebo, where Moses looked upon Israel before he died. They will then head to the resort city of Eilat, rounding out the pilgrimage with time to relax on the shores of the Red Sea. Our free, full-color brochure is available by calling Cynthia at 214-690-1876 or our answering service at 1-800-WONDERS (966-3377).
Our television producers, Berg Productions, are now beginning work on our next series. Using footage taken during our Spring Tour, they will be putting together a film version of our Israel tours for those of you who are presently unable to join us on our pilgrimages. We look forward to running these programs later this year. We have been getting good responses to our most recent series, Jerusalem 3000, and are planning to run it again. So if you have missed any of the programs, you have a second chance to catch them. Thank you for your fine support of our work. We appreciate your prayers and encouragement.
Copyright © 1996 by Zola Levitt Ministries, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. All rights reserved. Brief passages may be quoted in reviews or other article. For all other use, please get our written approval.