In the Eye of the Storm

The Middle East is experiencing upheaval, much of which is concentrated in the countries along the borders with Israel. Syria and Egypt have become embroiled in conflicts that began as the “Arab Spring” but have evolved into all out civil war. Jordan is also not immune, with growing rates of dissatisfaction. Yet in Israel, a tiny country approximately the size of New Jersey and surrounded by much larger states, life mostly continues as normal, as if in a bubble.

Not that Israel has been completely immune or apathetic by any means. For example, Israel’s northern border with Syria has seen a number of small rockets that were meant for rebel forces stray into Israel. Thanks to God’s protection, none have hit where there were people.

Sadly, the Syrian conflict does not look to be abating any time soon as both sides blame the other for horrific crimes against children, women and innocent civilians. There is also no easy solution as both the rebels and government forces have shown themselves to have no value for life and both hate Israel. According to United Nations estimates, the death toll from the conflict topped 120,000 two months ago!

Israel is also very concerned about the use of chemical weapons on either side and about these weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah. For this reason, Israel has made a few attempts at thwarting any transfer of weapons, conventional or otherwise. This past summer, there was also a huge push by the government for all Israelis to obtain gas masks in case of sudden conflict with Syria or Hezbollah.

Furthermore, the Syrian conflict is involving many regional actors, making its implications much broader than only Syria. I already mentioned Hezbollah, which is a terrorist organization that has a lot of power in Lebanon and that Israel has fought two wars against, making it all the more critical that weapons not fall into their hands. They are currently supporting and assisting Assad’s government forces in Syria, fighting against the rebels. They are joined by the Iranians who also support the Assad regime. The rebels are getting a lot of support from al Qaeda, another group that would not bode well for Israel or the Western world if they gained power.

Despite all of these threats along the northern border, Israel continues to treat wounded Syrians who approach the Israeli border and ask for help. They are brought to Israeli hospitals on an almost daily basis and word has spread in Syria about the care that they can receive in Israel. Hopefully, they can also receive spiritual and emotional healing, receiving God’s heart for the region in place of the hatred they experience.

On the southern border with Egypt, Israel continues to monitor the lawless Sinai. Due to Egypt’s own civil war, many terror groups are taking root in the Sinai and acting with impunity, kidnapping tourists and killing police. There have been a few attempts to launch rockets from the Sinai too but, again, none landed in populated locations.

In Egypt, interestingly, an Islamic government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood was democratically elected in November of 2011, but was overthrown in June of 2013 by the secular army. Since then, Egypt has also had its own bloody civil conflict between the Islamists and the secular with potential to worsen and several thousand already killed since the Arab Spring began.

On Israel’s eastern border, Jordan has been much more peaceful. However, even there people are discontent. However, according to reports from Jordan, many people don’t want conflicts similar to Syria and Egypt and so they are remaining quiet. There is a discontentment under the surface, though and many Jordanian citizens would be happy to see the monarchy removed and to end relations with Israel. Furthermore, with close to a quarter of Jordanians unemployed and over 60 percent under the age of 30 (World Bank’s 2013 World Development Report on Jobs), things appear to be getting worse, not better.

In all of these countries, believers are increasingly being targeted by Islamists, with many churches being torched and families being threatened or even killed. In Israel, we have been spared so much of the chaos and pain surrounding us and many wonder when and if it will touch us. It already seems that God has supernaturally spared Israel, the “apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8). There are scriptures that imply that Israel will have amazing protection but then there are also many that speak of great battles and attacks over Israel, some of which could be brewing even now. In Isaiah, the prophet speaks of those coming against Israel being “confounded” and Israel seeking their contenders and they are gone (Isaiah 41:11-12).  Isaiah also describes Israel not being burned even after walking through the fire and not being swept away when passing through the rivers (Isaiah 43:2).

We also know that Israel has battles still to come both with the surrounding nations and with other nations of the world. However, we can also be grateful that eventually all of Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26) and that God has a beautiful plan for the people of the entire region following these conflicts, including Syria and Egypt (Isaiah 19). How all of Israel being saved or God’s reconciliation for the region will happen or what it will look like, we don’t know. However, we can be confident that there is hope despite the storm that is brewing!

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