President Donald Trump visited the Western Wall this week during his visit to Israel. That was wholly unthinkable 50, 70 and 100 years ago.
Israel marks this year three major anniversaries: 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, 70 years since the UN General Assembly voted to create the State of Israel, and 50 years since Israel conquered the Old City of Jerusalem, the Sinai, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the West Bank in the Six Day War.
After two millennia, the Jewish people have returned to the Land of Israel, sovereign again in the land promised to the patriarchs. Israel returned to history, taking its rightful place in the register of nations.
The modern state of Israel is not unequivocally the same as biblical Israel. The biblical texts do not provide a direct application to contemporary disputes between Arabs and Israelis. However, it is suggestive to look upon history with biblical eyes of faith and see the finger of God in the ingathering of the exiles, the return of Jews to their ancestral land, the deliverance of the Chosen People in the shadow of the Shoah.
Being chosen is a blessing and also a burden. Abraham was told that he was chosen to be a blessing for all the nations of the world; the blessing was greater and so too the burden. Thus the Jewish people have borne the blessed burden of history more than others. At the high point of their history, King David ruled in peace in his capital, Jerusalem, where his son Solomon would build the temple, a house of prayer for all nations.
After Solomon would follow division and exile, restoration and the Roman occupation in the time of Jesus. After the destruction of the holy city in 70 AD, the Land of Israel would be conquered by different empires. The Jews would be scattered, becoming a diaspora nation without a homeland. Over the centuries, as no prospect emerged for Jews to return to Israel, Christians often understood history as an ongoing punishment for the Jewish people. The 20th century, that most awful of centuries, especially for Jews, paradoxically changed all that.
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