Social Unrest in Israel
Just as many countries have been experiencing a period of social unrest, so has Israel. Recent weeks have seen many protests over various issues, some of which have become violent and extreme.
First, there were violent protests against illegal immigrants, leading to racist riots against Africans that injured several people and damaged businesses. This was a reaction against the influx of thousands of African migrants/refugees from Sudan and Eritrea, most of who have settled in central Tel Aviv, which has led to a surge in crime in Tel Aviv. However, some of these migrants are truly refugees and have come in search of a better life; harming them just for their African origins is clearly unjust and racist and has led to counter protests in support of the migrants. On the other hand, a great number of the immigrants are not refugees and entered the country illegally. This opened the door to various criminal enterprises, causing many Israelis to resent their presence. Hence, this has become a very polarizing issue among Israelis.
Around the same time, there was a series of protests against the evacuation of an illegal outpost in the Judea and Samaria region, named Ulpana. The outpost was built on private Palestinian land without permission from the owners. However, the outpost’s evacuation raised many questions and sparked angry rioting by settlers and extreme right-wing groups in Israel leading to many “price tag” attacks against Arabs and even against some in the Christian/Messianic community despite being unrelated to the problem of settlements.
The most popular and largest protest has been the “social justice” movement. Similar to the “Occupy” protests in the US, “social justice” protesters are demanding that the government stop rewarding the rich and begin to enact policies that will help the poor and middle class. They have set up tent encampments and staged rallies in which hundreds of thousands of protesters have shown up. A few weeks ago, one such protest turned violent and the windows of several banks were bashed in and protesters clashed with Israeli police. Soon after, a disabled man who claimed the government would not give him public housing and had only given him a 2,000 shekel ($500) a month stipend to live on, forcing him into homelessness, set himself on fire to bring attention to his desperate situation. He died of his wounds several days later. Since then, numerous other self-immolations have occurred as a horrific new form of protest by desperate people.
With all of this extremism and discontent, it is easy to wonder where the “Holy” is in the “Holy Land.” It seems that many Israelis exhibit the opposite of God’s spirit by spewing hate, violence and being absolutely uncompromising in their positions, whether left-wing, right-wing, religious or secular.
It also seems that there is something “in the air” that is causing Israelis to become more extreme in all their various stances. As a Believer, I would conjecture that this is a spiritual reality, an additional sense of pressure that is on the world and, especially, on Israel. We have to remember that the Israeli people have not been restored and have suffered numerous hardships and tragedy. There is a sense of entitlement after having been through so much, combined with paranoia of being annihilated, that spills over on to the streets and affects nearly everything in daily life. In sum, Israelis are not always easy people. Because they do not recognize their Messiah or in many cases, their God, there is no sense of peace or trust in His protection, despite the repeated miracles that surround the state.
However, God has a beautiful plan for them, a plan of redemption and restoration. Yet, at times, it seems this is very distant. However, it is when it seems so distant that perhaps God is bringing Israel to a place of greatest desperation, so that Israelis will realize they cannot do it alone-they need a Savior!
Israel’s tendency to run after everything but God is mentioned over and over in scripture. In various places in the Old Testament prophets, God describes Israel as “stubborn” or as “idolatrous” and as an “adulteress.” Israel has also always searched for a physical solution to her problems. One can see this as far back as when Israel requested a king in place of God, Himself (I Samuel 18), similarly to how Israelis look to the physical government to solve all of their problems today, in place of God, which it never will. Despite all of this, God speaks in many places of bringing Israel to a place of desperation so that she can then turn to Him whole-heartedly, as He desires her heart and not just her words or customs (Deuteronomy 30:1-3).
As Israeli society becomes increasingly fragmented and extreme, there is still a hope that comes from knowing God’s ultimate plan. In Jeremiah 31:31-34, God says,
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Please pray that:
- Israelis would realize how much they need their Messiah & turn to Him in their desperation rather than resorting to violence or self-harm
- God would use this unrest for His glory in some way, bringing Israelis to a place of seeking Him
- Believers would be a source of light and strength during this time, drawing Israelis to the source: Yeshua
- God would protect Israeli society from being distracted from the many outside threats due to its internal unrest
- Israelis would ultimately see how empty all of the world’s solutions are
- God would give wisdom to Israel’s leaders to create just and wise solutions that are neither based on populism or on the selfish interests of the rich, but rather on what will really be best for the nation
- God would dramatically reach down to the desperate and give them hope and comfort, whether they be disenfranchised Israelis or African refugees
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