In 1917, a resolution had been made by the British government, known as the Balfour Declaration, that committed Britain to "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
A more significant milestone was achieved in the San Remo agreement of 1920. Here, the victorious allied powers convened to portion out Middle East territories that had been conquered from the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. In that gathering, the world nations roundly called for a Jewish home in Palestine and handed the mandate to Great Britain to facilitate this.
This provided Jews in Palestine with exclusive legal and political rights. These rights to the Land have not been abrogated despite later UN attempts to redivide the Land to a much smaller partition for the Jews that was given in the San Remo Resolution.
Britain assumed the mandate of Palestine in 1922 from the League of Nations, the forerunner to the United Nations, mutually recognising "the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine", and set about the implementation of the San Remo resolution, reflecting also the original spirit and intention of the 1917 Balfour Declaration to establish a homeland for the Jewish people.
It took the next twenty six years for the State of Israel to become a reality and fulfilment of prophecy in the aftermath of the 2nd World War. With immense Jewish loss and suffering throughout Europe, the need to formally recognise a Jewish homeland in mandated Palestine became a matter of urgency. And so, it finally happened after a diaspora of almost 2000 years. Israel was reborn because it was the sovereign will of God working through human agency.
The State of Israel has a scriptural and historical basis from antiquity but importantly a modern right for Jewish determination founded in international law and the resolution of the world nations in 1920.
God made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 17:8 that this land will be given to him and his offspring. It was an everlasting covenant made by God, Genesis 15. God has a purpose for the nation that He chose. He called them His possession and they, the Jewish nation, were to be an example to other nations and show God's ways.
The Jewish people were eventually exiled from their land (Deuteronomy 4:27, Deuteronomy 28:64) because of their disobedience but, the promise God had made remained. It still stands as an EVERLASTING covenant promise. The land is for His people. God made the promise to Abraham, to Isaac an Jacob and confirms it again to Moses Exodus 6:2-4.
What does Aliyah mean? The regathering from the land of the north and from all the countries to which the Jewish people have been scattered is called 'Aliyah'. It is a Hebrew word meaning to go up or ascend. The Jewish people who emigrate to Israel are going up to the land they were given by God. Aliyah is all about restoration.
Why is it important?
What is the urgency and why is the return of the Jewish people important? Before the Lord returns there are prophecies to be fulfilled. Jesus speaks in Matthew 24:14 that before the end will come the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world. The gospel has now reached every nation on earth.
The other fulfilment is that the Jews must be regathered in their own land. Jesus speaks about this in Matthew 23:38 addressing the Jews in Jerusalem: ""See, your house (the Temple) is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more until you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.""
The hearts of the Jews will be turned to see their saviour Zechariah 12:10. Notice, it mentions the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Part of the restoration of the Jews is that they will be in their own land, Leviticus 26:40-42. Then, they will recognised Jesus as the Messiah.
The Jews were cut off, pruned, so that we, the Gentile world could be grafted in to the same root. Their disobedience brought us salvation, so how much more, their repenting and returning to God will bring riches, Romans 11:12 to the Gentiles. Through the Jews, we have our access to God's grace and salvation in Jesus. Their eventual repentance and restoration will make restoration for the whole world a reality, Romans 11:23-32.
This is what we look forward to. We await the Lord's return but we also must pray for the Jewish people to be blessed and recognise their Lord.
The significance of these events and the return of Jesus as Lord explains why Israel is the focus of much of the world's attention and the object of hatred and persecution. We are told in Joel 3:1-2 that God will judge the nations on the basis of their attitude toward the regathering of His people.
How Should We Respond?
We are able to play our part and contribute to God's will being fulfilled on earth. We are invited to assist the return of the Jews to the land they have been promised. We can participate in a number of ways:
1. We can stand with Israel and align ourselves with her. There is much negative press coverage and often the truth is stifled. Israel is often unfairly condemned and groups seek to taint her reputation and manipulate her to their own destructive agenda. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment Sanctions) campaign is one example of this. They claim that Israel is occupying the land that belongs to the Arabs. This is not correct but, the media often refer to the 'Occupied Territories' when talking about the West bank of the Jordan. The biblical terms for these areas are Judea and Samaria.
2. We need to be alert and active because our enemy is active. In John 9:4 Jesus says "...we must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day". We cannot rest and sleep while our enemy is alert and "the night is coming when no one can work". In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says that whatever we do for one of these, we do for Him.
3. We can respond by praying. Much of the church today is sleeping when it comes to the prophetic promises for Israel and the Jewish people. We need to pray for alertness. Jesus asked His disciples to stay awake and be alert while He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
4. We are called to watch and pray. In Isaiah 62:6-7, we are told that watchmen are to pray on the city walls and petition God until He establishes Jerusalem and make it the praise of the earth. We are to be involved in the restoration of Israel, Isaiah 40:1-5.
In Psalm 147:1-2, it says that Lord builds up Jerusalem and gathers the outcasts of Israel and in Jeremiah 30:17, the restoration of health and healing of wounds for those outcast. Psalm 122:6-9 states clearly to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem". There can be no doubt we have a part to play and it is important that we obey to the call to prayer. We cannot look the other way and pretend it is irrelevant.
We know that God's timing is perfect, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, and the timing of the prophetic outworking of events is at His timing. We can pray that He will remember His people and His promises and give God "no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth." - Isaiah 62:6-7.
5. We can intercede for the people in the land of Israel, both Jew and Arab. We can do our part to pray for Arabs in Palestinian controlled areas living under increasing Islamic extremism, with few human rights. We must pray against violent incitement from the Palestinian leaders for Arabs to kill Jews.
6. We can rejoice. Romans 15:10. Aliyah is prophecy being fulfilled. This is a wonderful reason to praise God.
7. Finally we can give God thanks for all that He is doing in bringing His people back to the land. We can give thanks for the organisations that assist their return. We can give in practical ways to show our support.
Let's make sure we stay awake and remain alert and take up our place standing on the wall as watchmen.