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How Dark the Night
The Middle East: A History of Searching for Peace
Part 2 of 5 Articles

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in September/October, 1993

“Anti-Semitism” is an ugly word. Just men have always abhorred it. But, like a bad dream, it refuses to go away. Historians, social scientists, philosophers, theologians – all are hard pressed to explain this phenomenon which is as ancient as Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, and as contemporary as the state of Israel in the last decade of the 20th century. In the Old Testament, the Amorites, Egyptians, Amalekites, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Philistines, Babylonians, Persians, and Macedonians were among the many nations who rose up to plunder and harass the sons of Jacob. In turn, each of these nations experienced the chastening hand of God and, with few exceptions, the nations of antiquity who persecuted the Jew are no more. For some, that they existed at all is often only known through the Bible, a few ancient manuscripts, or the archaeologist’s spade.

Following the death of Christ, anti-Semitism not only continued but intensified.

Among Israel’s antagonists were Roman soldiers, Islamic fanatics, “Christian” Crusaders, Spanish Inquisitors, Russian Cossacks, Nazi S.S. troops and, in recent years, Palestinian terrorists. No race, no religion, no nation, no ethnic group has experienced the continuous, almost relentless persecution that the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have known. Clearly, one of the great marvels of human history is the continued existence of the Jewish race. God, himself, gave the formula for destroying the Jew. He said, in effect, that if men could destroy the sun, moon, and stars – then, and only then, could they destroy Israel. But as long as those heavenly bodies were in the sky, Israel would continue to exist as a nation (Jer. 31:31-40). Here is compelling evidence to those with an open and honest mind of the existence of God and His faithfulness to His Word.

The universal dispersion of the Jewish people, with its attendant persecution, was prophesied by Moses almost fifteen hundred years before it came to pass.

He wrote:

And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shall serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life… (Dt. 28:64-66).

After the death of Christ, the hostility between the Jews and imperial Rome continued to fester for some thirty years. At that time, the Roman governor, for some unknown reason, chose to loot the Temple on Mount Moriah and interfere with Jewish worship – something meticulously avoided by Rome until that time. More than two hundred years earlier, in 165 B.C., the Jews had successfully revolted against the Greeks who had desecrated their Temple. Now they would try to revolt against the Romans. In response, Rome sent her powerful legions under the command of General Titus, son of the emperor. The Jews took refuge behind the strong walls of the city of Jerusalem. The Romans countered by building a barrier outside the city walls so that supplies could not get in, and people could not get out. The standoff continued until different factions among the defenders began to fight among themselves. Tragically, in 70 A.D., the city of Jerusalem fell to the invading army. The Temple was destroyed, the priesthood ended, the sacrificial system terminated; and precisely as the Lord Jesus had predicted, not one stone was left upon another by the time the Roman legions were finished (Mt. 24:2). Thousands of Jews were crucified, others were sold as slaves, or dragged off to be exhibited and ridiculed, or torn to pieces in Roman arenas. Those who could fled across the desert. Some went east toward Babylon; and others, southward toward Egypt and North Africa. Still others chose to sail to the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The worldwide dispersion (Diaspora) of the Jews had begun.

A remnant of Jews, however, stayed behind, preferring to bow to Rome rather than face the uncertainties and hardships of dispersion. Sixty-five years later, in 135 A.D., these remaining Jews would seek to throw off the yoke of Roman oppression one more time. It was on this occasion that the highly esteemed Rabbi Akiba identified a leader by the name of Bar Kochba (Son of the Star) as the long-promised messiah and deliverer of Israel. With rabbinic sanction, multitudes flocked to his side to fight against the hated Romans. It would end in disaster. Half a million men, women, and children died. Rabbi Akiba was captured and tortured to death. And now the Romans had had enough of the troublesome, rebellious, freedom-loving Jews. The holy city of Jerusalem itself, God’s home on earth, was leveled and plowed over. Jews were forbidden, by pain of death, to set foot in the new Roman city named Aelia Capitolina, which was built on the site. Even the name of the land itself was changed from Israel to Syria Philistina, from which later would come the name Palestine.

The Roman Empire, in the centuries which followed, began to decline and, in 476, fell by the weight of its own debauchery and corruption. And in the deserts of Arabia a new religion arose. It began with the flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 A.D. Familiar with both Judaism and Christianity, Muhammad took elements of both, added his own “revelation” and wrote the Koran (holy book of the Islamic faith, with Ishmael rather than Isaac the son to be sacrificed by Abraham). In the seventh century, his followers, with sword in hand, swept out of the Arabian desert of the Middle East and conquered lands from Persia (modern-day Iran) to southern France. Israel was one of the many victims who fell within the Islamic domain. And in Jerusalem, on the site where Abraham had consented to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to his God, and the Solomonic and Herodian temples once stood, they erected the “Dome of the Rock” (the place, according to Islamic teaching, where Muhammad ascended into Heaven) and the Al Aqsa Mosque, today the third most holy site in the Moslem world. The Moslems held sway for the next five centuries. Under their rule, the plight of the Jew would once again be difficult.

In the eleventh century, the “Christians” of Europe became aroused over the fact that the holy land was ruled by the Moslems. Under Richard the Lion-Hearted, the Crusades were launched in 1095. The intent was to deliver the holy land from the infidel. And, what some would argue began as a noble cause, degenerated into an occasion for wickedness and debauchery of every kind. As Crusader armies, seeking adventure, liquidation of debts, and assurance of Heaven, marched across Europe toward the promised land, they killed, raped, and robbed the Jews as they passed through their villages. The first contingent of Crusaders arrived in Israel in 1099. In their eagerness to “cleanse” the land from centuries of pollution, they rounded up the Jews, put them in the synagogue, locked the door, barred the gates and windows, and burned the men, women, and children to death. Thus began the “Christian” cleansing of the land in which Jesus had died to bring salvation to a sin-sick world.

The Crusaders managed to gain a foothold, and for about one hundred years they controlled Palestine from strategic fortresses along the coastline and inland. Eventually they were driven out by the troops from the eastern realm of Saladin, the magnificent. The holy land continued to be drenched in blood until it was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1516. Under Turkish rule, landowners were taxed based on the number of trees on their property and so trees were cut to reduce taxes. The forests were also cut down to fuel the trains of the famed Oriental Express, which had a spur that ran through Palestine to Egypt. The hills became barren. The topsoil was washed away by the rains. The land languished. The fertile plains became swamps, and swarms of mosquitoes spread malaria in much of the Galilee and the Sharon along the coastal plain.

But that was not the end – more wars were to come. In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte, with his great army, entered Israel from Egypt, hoping to destroy the Ottoman Turkish Empire. He was defeated in Palestine at the fortress of Acre (Akko), north of modern-day Haifa, and returned to France.

And the ancient land which knew greatness and glory in the days of David and Solomon, the land where Christ was born and the stage upon which redemption was acted out, lay in decay. It had become no more than a collection of sickly villages, with Jerusalem hardly more than a small town, and the whole country ruled by a governor, appointed (usually for a price) by the sultan in Turkey.

Not in all of the centuries during which the land was governed by Romans, Moslems, Crusaders, Saracens, and Turks did the people who lived in the land set up their own government. They fought over the land, they used the land, they abused the land. But only the Jew – linked to the land with an eternal love – would form a government, draw the land to her bosom, and make her to “blossom as the rose” (Isa. 35:1).

But what of the other Jews during all this time, most of whom had been scattered over the face of the earth? Had they fared better than their brethren who had stayed in the land?

In 1096, as many as 12,000 Jews were killed in Germany within three months. In 1290, Jews were banished from England. In 1306, Jews were banished from France. In 1348, Jews were blamed for the European plague. In 1492 (the year that Columbus discovered America), under Ferdinand and Isabella, who wanted to make Spain a purely Catholic nation, the Spanish Inquisition was launched. Jews, living in Spain in large numbers, were required to convert and be baptized or they would be killed, imprisoned, or driven out of the land.

As they were uprooted and driven from country to country, there was no haven at the end of the road, no protection along the way, and the ever-present danger of robbers and murderers. They were people without a land. Lies were spread that the Jews killed infant Gentile children and used their blood in the observance of Passover. In many lands they were often required to wear a badge of identification. The women had to wear bells on the bottom of their dresses as marks of shame. Jews normally could not own ground, hold governmental office, attend educational institutions, or work in the trade guilds. Usury (the lending of money for interest, which in those days was viewed as the lowest of activities), merchandising, and shoe repair were among the few areas of gainful employment available to the Jew (Parenthetically, it is for those reasons that when Jews arrived in America around the turn of the century, they went immediately into merchandising and insisted – now that opportunity presented itself – that their children take advantage of educational opportunity).

In 1516, the first ghetto – where Jews were herded together, placed within a restricted area, and deprived of normal opportunities – was established in Venice. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the largest Jewish population in the world was in Russia, and in 1883, the government permitted the infamous pogroms. Over 500 Jewish villages were affected by over 1200 pogroms. More than 60,000 Jews were killed, and many times that number were wounded. Here was the genuine “Fiddler on the Roof.” (It was these very pogroms which motivated this writer’s grandparents to seek refuge in America, and here his mother would find Christ through a godly missionary to the Jewish people.) The government encouraged and then looked the other way as Russians attacked, harassed, and robbed their Jewish neighbors. But this was nothing new. Through the centuries, when governments needed diversion to draw attention away from internal problems, the Jew was always a convenient scapegoat.

Between the years 1933 and 1945, the greatest attempt at genocide the world has ever known occurred. Under the depraved and satanically-empowered genius of Adolph Hitler, 5,800,000 Jewish lives were snuffed out in the death camps, gas chambers, and firing squads of the Third Reich. When many of the nations of the world (and religions, most notably the papacy) had it within their power to save tens of thousands of European Jews, they took no action. Most world governments not only took no action but they refused to increase immigration quotas and open their borders. Few raised their voices in protest. For nineteen hundred years, the words “No Jews Wanted!” could have been written over most of the nations of the world.

What had they done? What was their crime? Why this never-ending persecution? To blame it, as so many have, on the Jewish national rejection of Christ is to acknowledge a total lack of understanding of the Word of God. It is the worst kind of anti-Semitism – THEOLOGICAL! Some have suggested that hatred of the sons of Jacob was the result of their strange religion. In a day of polytheism, they believed in the one true, universal God. Their dietary laws, strange dress, code of conduct, and aloofness from other peoples all served to make them different and defenseless. Others have argued that abrasive character, excessive wealth, and disproportionate influence are the root cause of hatred of the Jew. These are fallacious excuses used as an attempt to justify ungodly attitudes and remain widespread right up to the present hour of history – sometimes, tragically, even among some who bring shame to the name of Christ by calling themselves “Christian.”

The only accurate explanation for anti-Semitism is to be found in the fact that God sovereignly chose Israel, through her greatest Son, to be the channel for universal blessing and the ultimate defeat of Satan. To retaliate, the secret purpose of Satan, therefore, has always been to destroy the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and thereby frustrate the divine plan for redemption of mankind. This is a foundational principle for understanding four thousand years of human history. In the Old Testament, had the Jewish people been killed off by marching armies, or assimilated during her captivities, Jesus never could have been born in Bethlehem as the Son of David, to die on Calvary for the sins of the world. And, in the ensuing years, if the Jews had ceased to exist as a people through her many vicissitudes; if she were not brought back to establish the land of Israel, Jesus could not return to consummate our salvation. Jesus is not a usurper. He will return as the rightful heir to the throne of David. He will be the King of the Jews and then King of all kings and Lord of all lords, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5).

Satan has used his considerable power through the ages to attack God’s chosen people through governments, religions, and individual hatred. But in spite of satanically inspired Crusades, pogroms, inquisitions, dispersions, ghettos, burnings, and butcherings, the Jews miraculously kept their identity. Their belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; their divine national destiny; and the promise of a land given by God in perpetuity was strong enough to enable them to grasp the tail of one of the cyclones of history and ride that cyclone through two world wars back to their ancient homeland.

The next article (3 of 5) is entitled “Can These Bones Live?”

How Dark the Night
The Middle East: A History of Searching for Peace
Part 2 of 5 Articles

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in September/October, 1993