In The Beginning

by Joseph Hunting

The most perplexing problem facing Israeli and Arab leaders at the present time is the determining of rightful ownership of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Holy City of Jerusalem. The Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt does not provide a solution, but rather compounds the problem.

The influence of Gentile politics following World War One was responsible for the geography of the Middle East and laid the foundation for the seemingly insurmountable difficulties that now confront the Israelis and the Arab Palestinians and the future possession of what was called Judaea and Samaria in Bible times.

At the time that the miracle of Israel's regathering was unfolding, the world was plunged into the most frightful war that engulfed all Europe, Russia, S.E. Asia and the Pacific. In the midst of this inferno six million Jews were wiped out in the darkest days of Jewish history.

The desperate need of the shattered Jewish communities of war-ravaged Europe, plus the resolution of the U.N. in November 1947 to partition Palestine, combined to bring to the birth the State of Israel in the midst of chaos as the British mandate for Palestine drew to a close.

Intransigent Arab hostility plunged the newly-born State into a fresh crisis as five Arab states immediately invaded Israel with the intention of wiping out the infant nation, thus settling the so-called "Jewish problem" for good.

The history of thirty-one years of Statehood has been punctuated with four attempts by the Arabs to wipe the Jewish State off the map, plus thirty-one years of terrorist incursions, resulting in hundreds of innocent children and civilians being ruthlessly slaughtered. This is the scenario against which the current negotiations are placed.

Is there any glimmer of hope that a solution will be arrived at that will satisfy both parties? A glance at the very beginnings of both the Israeli and Arab peoples throws light on the present problem.

Abraham's firstborn was Ishmael, son of Hagar, an Egyptian handmaid whom Sarah gave to Abraham to wife as she (Sarah) was childless. Hagar despised Sarah after she had conceived and the bitterness became so great that Hagar fled from Sarah's wrath. Whilst Hagar was in the wilderness near Beersheba "the Angel of the Lord said unto her, behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him ..." (Genesis 16:11-12).

Ishmael was greatly loved of Abraham and in later years it grieved Abraham when Ishmael mocked Sarah. "Wherefore she said unto Abraham, cast out this bondwoman and her son." (Genesis 21:9-10).

Thus Ishmael, son of Abraham, was progenitor of the race of peoples known as the Arabs. Generally, they have lived a nomadic existence and the prediction regarding Ishmael that he would be a wild man and that his hand would be against every man is descriptive of his descendants.

Two generations later another drama was enacted when the Matriarch Rebekah was about to give birth to her firstborn. She was to give birth to twins and the two unborn babes struggled within her. "And she went to enquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be born of thee; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger." (Genesis 25:22-23).

The elder son (if only by a few minutes) would naturally inherit the birthright. However, in this case the mother of the babes had been told by God that the elder would serve the younger. Everything seems to point to a normal homelife as the children grew up until the fateful day when Esau came in faint from hunger after he had been out in the fields. He evidently saw no value in his birthright as it was traded to Jacob for a mere plate of soup.

Later, Rebekah overheard Isaac tell Esau to prepare him a meal of venison "that I may eat, that my soul may bless thee before I die." (Genesis 27:4). Remembering the instruction given her by God Rebekah told Jacob to get a kid of the flock which she then prepared for Isaac. When Jacob questioned his mother's actions saying, "I shall seem to him as a deceiver, and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing, his mother said unto him, upon me by thy curse, my son. Only obey my voice ..." (Genesis 27:12,13).

Whilst Jacob has often been maligned as a deceiver and whilst it is true that he lied to his father saying that he was Esau, it must be acknowledged that he was obedient to the command of his mother who was in turn obedient to the word which God had spoken to her before the children were born.

Thus we see that both the firstborn sons of the Patriarchs Abraham and Isaac were divinely set aside in favour of the younger in spite of the patriarchal system by which the birthright was passed on to the firstborn. It is also interesting to note that in each case the rejected firstborn shared as the progenitor of the Arab race.

It is also an interesting fact that there was enmity between the elder and the younger in both cases. Indeed, Jacob and Esau strove together before they were even born.

In view of the Biblical origin of the current deadlock between the State of Israel and her Arab neighbours it is important to observe that Egypt is not an Arab nation in spite of the Egyptian claim to be part of the United Arab Republic. Now Egypt is under severe criticism by the Arab states for having abandoned her position in favour of a peace treaty with Israel.

This peace treaty demands that Israel return the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai and the Old City of Jerusalem to Arab control. Sinai has already been traded as part payment for peace with Egypt. But Jerusalem is not negotiable. And what of the West Bank and Gaza Strip? These two areas were (and still are) part of the territory promised by God to Abraham, reiterated to Isaac and again to Jacob and his seed. Whilst it may appear politically expedient to trade territory for peace with Egypt it is well to remember that this territory was deeded to Abraham and his seed by none other than the God of Israel. And it would be as well to have a look at the "fine print" regarding this land deal. "And the Lord said unto "Abram, after that Lot was separated from him. Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, eastward and westward: for all the land that thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever." (Genesis 13:14-15).

There is just one further point to clarify just in case Abraham may be accused of being short-sighted concerning the extent of the territory deeded to him and his seed for ever. "In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt (the wadi El Arish just south of the Gaza strip) unto the great river, the river Euphrates." (Genesis 15:18).

Should Israel be coerced into surrendering even the smallest part of the land God has granted to them it would possibly be the greatest mistake made by the nation since the turbulent days that surrounded its rebirth thirty-one years ago. Had Israel been like other nations which in the past have either colonized or taken by force their present territories she would have every right to trade back land as a bargaining point for peace. However, by turning back the pages of Bible history to the very origins of this nation's title deeds to the land in question it is revealed that all the land Israel now possesses is theirs by Divine decree and as such is non-negotiable to even the highest bidder.