Tag Archives: Zionism

Book Review: My Promised Land

My Promised Land Cover

My Promised Land is a controversial, thought provoking and important read for those wanting to understand the Middle East from an Israeli perspective.

The well known Israeli journalist, Ari Shavit, weaves a delicate story of the ever changing doctrine of Zionism from its utopian non-sectarian, communist vision of the early 1900s to its current identity of self-preservation. He shows a modern Israel stripped of its stereotypes and what it really is — a country mired in an identity crisis. A place that is part-libertarian, hedonist, Orthodox, Western European, Middle Eastern, and everything inbetween. These competing forces along with the ominous threat of a much larger Arab community around them leads Shavit to be cynical of Israel’s future.

The story of the forced expulsion of the Arabs from the city of Lydda is the shocking highlight of this book. This may be the most controversial as well. Shavit claims that Israeli based soldiers massacred Arabs and caused further deaths during the forced exodus of the residents. The homes, cars, businesses and all that the Arab residents owned were confiscated and pillaged by the Israeli conquerors. The people of Lydda were never allowed to return. Martin Kramer refutes this in an article entitled, What Happened at Lydda for the Jewish based Mosaic. However, Kramer omits any recognition on the death march or expulsion of the Arabs from their community, nor address that they were never allowed to return.

Lydda is just one example among many others shown in his book. Shavit offers these historical travesties unapologetically. He doesn’t like this history but never goes beyond being trite. He takes the role of an intimate narrator and offers little solutions or apologies. This attitude can be understood later on in his works when he outlines the Israeli mantra of self-preservation. This appears central to the Israeli psyche even if it is often irrational.

My Promised Land is a story of the oppressed turned to oppressor. It is puzzling how this reversal occurred. Shavit often touches on this, and teases the reader, but does not adequately tie this part of the plot together.

The book begins to lose momentum after the historical portrayal of Zionism and shifts into contemporary observations. This is the same problem found in Michael B. Oren’s bestseller, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present, whose factual accounts and writing style were very engaging until he reached the history relating to the formation of Israel from 1948 until the present.

The romantic stereotype of the modern Israeli and their Masada mentality is also broken by Sharit. It is not the religious symbolism, or the prophetic voice that has integrated Masada into the Israeli psyche, as most Evangelicals or Christian Zionists are led to believe, but an alternate identity based on the recent past, not the historic religious one. Zionism is charting its own identity regardless of external stereotypes or expectations and seeks to define itself on its own terms. Shmaryahu Gutman, according to Sharit, observed in the early 1940s that Zionism was losing its mission and needed to redefine itself. Masada was the answer Gutman was looking for.

”He knows that Zionism is on the brink and need a poignant symbol that will be a substitute for church and theology and mythology. In Masada he finds this symbol that will unite and Inspire Zionism’s followers. He finds a pillar for Zionist identity that is at once concrete, mythic, and sublime. In Masada, Gutman finds both the narrative and the image that will give the young Hebrews the depth they lack.”

Gutman succeeded in instilling this image within the Israeli soul — a perception that many non-Jewish readers may easily overlook. My Promised Land fortunately covers this important aspect in a comprehensive and modern way.

Hope is not found in this book, rather it is one of skepticism. The current roadmap to him is more war, not negotiation — not that he entirely subscribes to this, he simply believes it is inevitable. The rise of Iran’s nuclear program is one of his greatest fears for the future of Israel.

He neither makes any moral call for repatriation of the Arabs forced out of their homes by gunpoint, nor of compensation to their losses, or dismantling illegal settlements.

It is also a tale told from an isolationist perspective. When Shavit outlines the Israeli nightlife along with its sexual and hedonistic offerings, he thinks it an internal reaction to the problems Israel faces rather than recognizing the external forces that have molded the modern Israeli identity. Neither does he recognize the historical political and religious effect of Evangelical belief that played an integral part of Zionist dreams. Unlike Sharit’s caricature, it wasn’t Jewish Zionism or hardiness alone that succeeded in their settlement of Israel. It was cooperative effort that included a variety of foreign sources that made it happen.

This self-determination that Shavit describes may be the source of the Israeli success over such great odds, and can easily be titled modern miracles, but this can also be a serious weakness. This is something that the author failed to take a close look at.

He also believes that the introduction of Hebrew as the primary language in Israel has significance in stripping Jewish immigrants of their past identity and forcing the formation of a new Israeli based one.

My Promised Land slightly picks up some momentum towards the end but much of the second half of this book could have been significantly reduced in length.

This book is especially recommended for the Evangelical reader who has many default stereotypes about Israel and its people. This book will help build a proper modern understanding.

The Alliance between Israel and Evangelicals.

  • Is Middle East News Coverage Balanced?
  • Anti-Semitism in the Ancient Church
  • Pentecostals and Israel

    The connection between Pentecostals, Christian Zionism, Judaism and the State of Israel.

    Many people do not realize that Pentecostalism is the fastest growing Christian religion in the world with an estimated 497 million followers world-wide and expected to top 1 billion by 2025.(1) This is according to noted Pentecostal statistician David Barrett as found in http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/pentecostalism_polomaart1.html, The Spirit Bade Me Go: Pentecostalism and Global Religion by Margaret M. Poloma. The University of Akron. August, 2000 This is a sharp contrast to the 13 million people who call themselves fundamentalists.

    It hasn’t gone unnoticed in Israel, who have wanted their share of this Pentecostal growth in their country. They see it as a serious economic contributor and a powerful political alliance.

    Pentecostals have inherited and modernized the fundamentalist end-time system that believes a number of prerequisites must occur before the end of the world: the establishment of Israel as a geographical entity with borders very similar to what was outlined in the Bible, the return of the Jews from exile, and Armageddon — a final war between Israel and all its enemies.

    Pentecostals and Christian Zionism

    Persons of Jewish heritage that support the formation and expansion of Israel on religious grounds are called Zionists. Most media outlets define Christians who align with the Zionist movement as Christian Zionists. The greater Evangelical community, Pentecostals in particular, do not use the term themselves. The majority, if asked directly whether they are Christian Zionists, would not even know what the speaker is talking about and would categorically say no, though the overwhelming majority do fit within the definition. Some Pentecostals may even feel insulted with them being identified this way. Most would simply think they are following what the Bible tells them to do.

    The difference between Pentecostalism and fundamentalism.

    Pentecostalism has a major doctrinal difference over fundamentalism that is important to understand: it promotes personal involvement rather than being a third party observer.

    This may seem trivial, but it has serious ramifications.

    The Fundamentalists who previously monopolized the Evangelical perspective on Israel do not believe Christians can personally intervene in the events and circumstances that will ultimately unfold into the end of the world. Their support is done en masse with visible spokespersons such as Hal Lindsey, Bob Jones or John Walvoord.

    The role of prophecy, dreams, and prayer for Israel.

    Pentecostals understand the future events from a prophetic perspective. Prophetic can mean God speaking directly to a person to complete an objective. The cause does not necessarily need to be rational, predictable or major.

    This could be a financial commitment, planting trees, political involvement, volunteering, helping in immigration, all night prayer vigils, fasting, raising specialized cattle, evangelism, etc.

    For example, some have heard God call them to help Jews return to the Holy Land. One of the better known Christian organizations, Ebenezer Emergency Fund’s Operation Exodus, was started by a prophetic vision to the South African Steve Lightle.(2) http://www.ebenezer-ef.org/UK/frameset.htm “In 1974 God showed Steve Lightle in a vision that it was His plan for the Jews to return to Israel from Russia, as prophesied in Jeremiah 16:14-16. When Gustav Scheller heard of this vision in 1982 he went to Jerusalem in search of Steve. From that time on they worked together to bring this message to the Church, and to pray together with others, for its fulfilment. During an Intercessory Prayer Conference in Jerusalem in 1991 Gustav heard God say ‘Now you can begin helping my people to go home’ – and this was confirmed by others, including Johannes Facius, international speaker and bible teacher.”

    Dreams facilitate some to unusual acts. Like Bruce Balfour, a Canadian affiliated with the pentecostal based Maranatha Evangelistic Association. He believed he was called of God in dreams to plant trees in Lebanon.(3) http://www.christianweek.org/Stories/vol17/no11/story3.html in an email sent to Christian Week, Canada’s National Christian Newspaper, Balfour stated, “Months before I came on this journey, my Master showed me through many dreams that I would be imprisoned for His sake so He could mold and shape me into a vessel of His choosing, to accomplish His purpose here. I did not rejoice over this.” I asked him in a phone- conversation to confirm this, but he refused.

    Others feel called to expedite God’s plan for the end. Clyde Lott, a cattle rancher and an ordained National Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ Minister in the United States, had an epiphany from God to raise red heifers according to Old Testament requirements for the new Temple.(4) http://www.aasfe.org/morrison.html, Believers, breeder await sacred cow. By Kara G. Morrison, Lincoln Journal Star. Lincoln, NE

    It can be financial giving. Maoz Israel Ministries — a messianic Jewish ministry in Israel relates on their website about a 9 year old boy, Christian, who believed God had called him to send his $10.00 of birthday money for Israel.(5) http://www.maozisrael.org/site/PageServer?pagename=maoz_partners_say This may not seem like much, but this is a grassroots event that Christians are doing all over the world. One Jewish fundraiser, Yechiel Eckstein, has raised over $250 million dollars from roughly 400,000 Christian donors(6) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/24/magazine/24RABBI.html alone. This market is seen as a veritable gold mine by the Israeli Government.

    Some may feel inspired to accelerate armageddon. In 1969, Dennis Michael Rohan, an Australian sheep shearer and Pentecostalist, “acting upon divine instructions”(7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Dennis_Rohan attempted to and almost succeeded in burning down the Al-Aksa Mosque situated on the Temple Mount.(8)Kate Miriam Loewenthal. Religion, Culture and Mental Health: Cambridge University Press, 2007. pg. 18. http://books.google.com/books?id=jbhbK-ypBHYC&pg=PA18&lpg=PA18&dq=denis+rohan+israel&source=web&ots=k9_GH8w9mG&sig=DhTPlZ5C2QiNDfd8Es3P7IOE23g&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=7&ct=result

    The call to prayer for Israel is big with Pentecostals. Robert Stearns, who grew up in an Assemblies of God Church, the world’s largest pentecostal denomination, helped organize the annual Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, “instituted with the endorsement of hundreds of Christian leaders from around the world, representing tens of millions of Christians.”(9) http://ew.us.churchinsight.com/Groups/1000002767/Eagles_Wings/DaytoPray/Day_of_Prayer.aspx It is arguably the biggest annual protestant rite held in the world.

    The mystic side of Pentecostalism exists as a doctrine that transcends denominations and religious institutions — even parts of the Catholic Church. It is also a physical entity as expressed in Churches like the Assemblies of God in the US, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. There are hundreds, if not tens of thousands, independent Pentecostal Churches around the world with little or no denominational affiliation. Jack Hayford, Jimmy Swaggart, T.D. Jakes, and Pat Robertson are leading Pentecostals.

    Pentecostal organizations and leaders in Israel.

    The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, one of the largest and few growing denominations in Canada, founded a Church in Jerusalem. It was originally called Jerusalem Christian Assembly, but is now known as the King of King’s Community Jerusalem.(10)http://www.kkcj.org/ The Senior Pastor of King of King’s, Wayne Hilsden, is an ordained Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada minister.

    Wayne Hilsden is an important key in the administration of Christian Zionist causes. He describes himself as a pastor, and preacher, and one who, “travels the world sharing with the nations about the restoration of Israel.”(11) http://www.kkcj.org/people/info/wayne-hilsden/ He was also in charge of Aliyah Ministries Network, a logistical centre for other Christian Zionist based Jewish immigration agencies that existed at least until 2001, (12) Jerusalem Post, “On Wings of Faith”, December 14, 2001. By Patricia Golan. There has been no mention in any recent literature that this organization exists today. and a board member for the Ebenezer Emergency Fund — a Christian organization with the expressed aim of helping Jewish people abroad emigrate to Israel.(13) He was a board member in 2007, as listed on Ebenezer’s UK website at that time, along with a photo. It has since been removed and there is no mention that he has continued or discontinued in any documents. The Sector.ca records him in 2011 serving on the Canadian board of Bridges for Peace(14) http://thesector.ca/cyclopedia/charity/9433 a large, well-known Christian organization who “. . . are giving Christians the opportunity to actively express their biblical responsibility before God to be faithful to Israel and the Jewish community.”(15) http://national.bridgesforpeace.com/index.php?page=canada.

    The King of King’s Community Jerusalem is the largest evangelical Church in Israel and has the strongest pro-Christian Zionist sentiments as a Church body in Israel. The PAOC was asked by the Israeli Government to come.(16) http://www.visionledd.com/about-visionledd/our-team/ Jim Cantelon was the founder of Jerusalem Christian Assembly and has this bio on his website: “In 1981, at the invitation of the Israeli government, Jim, Kathy and their three children moved to Israel where they helped pioneer the Jerusalem Christian Assembly, now called King of Kings, which is the largest evangelical congregation in Israel.”

    The International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, one of the largest and most prominent pro-Israel Christian organization in the world, is a world-wide non-profit Christian group that supports Israel. Stephen Sizer, a researcher and writer on Christian Zionism, described it as a self-regulated entity that “draws its support almost exclusively from charismatic, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians particularly in the USA, Canada and South Africa.”(17) http://www.cc-vw.org/articles/icejmelisende.htm A look at the leadership list substantiates Pentecostal and Charismatic leanings. The present executive director, Jürgen Bühler, is a licensed minister with the German Pentecostal Federation.(18) http://int.icej.org/dr-jürgen-bühler Juha Ketola, the ICEJ’s International Director, has both credentials with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada and Finland.(19) http://int.icej.org/rev-juha-ketola-0 The previous executive director was South African born Malcom Hedding. He, along with his Dutch predecessor, Bill van der Hoewen, are also from the Pentecostal/Charismatic realm.(20) Malcolm was the pastor for my Hebrew University Bible study group in 1985. He is from the South African Assemblies of God http://www.uptozion.com/hedding.htm. Bill van der Hoeven’s is based on personally witnessing his public acts of piety, which are consistent within the P/C community. The ICEJ, has an annual Feast of Tabernacles held in Jerusalem, which is attended predominately by Pentecostals and Charismatics.(21) This was my observation from attending the ICEJ’s Feast of Tabernacles in 1986.

    Problems related to Pentecostal fervor.

    The problem of Pentecostal prophecy is unpredictability. Mainline Pentecostal Churches are quite conservative on prophetic impulses and inspiration. However, it does suffer from a great amount of denominational and independent fragmentation and these elements can especially lead to concern. For example, it is not out of the question that one of these independent Pentecostal groups or individuals could be prophetically inspired to actively participate or encourage the destruction of the present artifices of the Temple Mount.

    On the other hand this prophetic impulse is a financial and political bonanza for the State of Israel, but as the Pentecostal community grows, extreme expressions may become more commonplace.■

    For further reading see, The Alliance Between Israel and Evangelicals.

    This article was originally published on ScribD, Edocr and WordPress.com websites in 2007. It is republished here with some major changes.

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