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Israel - an Introduction

Let's be clear about this now. Israel is a little place, about the same size as Wales. Surrounded by thousands of miles of oil-rich desert, it is populated by a vast seething melting pot of different colours, cultures and cuisines. It's the holiest place for great religions whose scriptures argue against having holy places! It has a geography of extremes; snow capped mountains in the north, lush green orchards in the west, barren desert in the south and the lowest place on the earth in the east! It is possible to start a car journey needing an overcoat in Jerusalem and be sunbathing an hour later by the Dead Sea! Can Wales boast all of that? It's also the world's foremost political and religious hotspot, giving rise to more United Nation resolutions than all other nations put together! It's both hated and loved by more people than any other. It's the most fascinating, mysterious and intriguing strip of land in the world.

Israel is the most misunderstood and confusing place. Its history is a murky web of truth, half-truth and no-truth, depending on your perspective and allegiance. Even its very name provokes dissent. To Jews it is Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel. To most Arabs it is Palestine. To many Christians, confused by the whole issue, it is the simple fudge of the Holy Land.

The world has changed a great deal since the end of the Second World War. The cold war came and went as Eastern Europe passed from repression to liberation. Two superpowers became one and Britain more or less lost her empire. The rest of Europe has voluntarily unified, by mutual consent rather than by Nazi domination. Populations moved eastwards and westwards and northwards and southwards, prompted by war or deprivation. No continent has been unaffected by this mass movement.

Yet, in one slip of land, a mere green and gold scar in the deserts of Araby, time has frozen. The people concerned are still arguing and killing each other over events that happened over 50, 60, 70 years ago. The year 1948 provokes contrasting emotions for the people of the land - to Arabs it was the Nakba, the catastrophe, to Jews it was liberation from 1900 years of persecution.

The next set of articles will look at the origins of the current crisis in Israel and indeed has been written to help you in your understanding of what is a very thorny, but vital, topic for the Church today. Starting with the earliest Biblical promises, it includes a history of the land from Biblical times through to the modern day. Finally there is a summing up and a look to the future, with the Bible and its promises as our reference.

Steve Maltz
May 2013 (This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation)

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