The Golan Heights and ChristiansDr. John Neufeld
The Golan Heights and Christians will be forever linked because of God’s promise in the Bible about Israel. Why does this mean with the U.S. decision?
On Thursday, March 21, President Trump announced that the U.S. will recognize Israel’s sovereign authority over the Golan Heights. What does it mean, and should Christians care?
The Golan Heights is located on the Eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, stretching up Northward from there. The territory in question once belonged to Syria. But Israel captured the Golan Heights in what has been called, “Six Day War”, back in 1967. The territory was considered an essential plank in establishing peace for Israel, as Israel was especially vulnerable to hostile invasion and rocket attacks from that location.
The move by the Trump administration is surely a historic occasion.
Years later, the 1973 Middle Eastern War saw Syria try to retake the territory. Indeed the Syrians inflicted heavy losses on the Israelis in that short war. In spite of those losses, Israel managed to repel the invasion and retained control of the territory. In 1981, Israel officially annexed the territory, but no country recognized Israel’s jurisdiction. That is until now. The move by the Trump administration is surely a historic occasion.
Christians must always recognize the crucial difference between our political views on such matters, and the essence of the Gospel. No Christian should think that Israel has always acted in a blameless fashion. Israel, like every nation of the world, is under the dominion of sin.
But Christians will always have a tender heart and an eager ear to hear from Israel. We remember Paul’s words in Romans 9:4-5. “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”
Were it not for Israel, we would have no faith.
All Christians know and recognize, were it not for Israel, we would have no faith. In spite of the fact that the majority of Israel does not believe in their own Messiah, we still feel a warm affection towards them. We pray for the salvation of Israel. But we are also aware that we owe to these ancient people, a never-ending debt of gratitude. If Paul wrote that he had unceasing anguish of heart as he prayed for the salvation of Israel, our hearts too should reflect the same passion.
For this reason, the matter of Israel’s security from enemies is close to our hearts. The Golan Heights, if it were occupied by a hostile neighbour, would render Israel vulnerable to attack. Indeed, the complete destruction of Israel could come from that very location. Christians might agree or disagree with Trump’s decision, but we are reminded afresh to pray for the people whom we are commanded to love.
Israel must have a homeland that is defined by borders she can defend.
Does this mean Christians should be on Israel’s side in the matter of building settlements on the West Bank or about a one or two-state solution to the Palestinian problem? Clearly, a great many of us may see these matters differently. This is expected and is a reflection that Christians also care for justice for all people. This does include the Palestinian people.
But, in light of the enormous tragedy of the Holocaust, in light of the echoes of anti-Semitism that never seems to go away, and in light of extremist nations that want to destroy Israel completely, Israel must have a homeland that is defined by borders she can defend. Anything short of that is unacceptable.
I for one, am grateful for this recent action by the American administration. Furthermore, I pray that peace might yet come and that Israel and her neighbours can live in harmony.
Let us remember the words of Zechariah 2:8, speaking of Israel. “For he who touches you touches the apple of his eye.”
Dr. John Neufeld