In this consideration we will look at events of more recent origin relating to the circumstances leading to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

In the late 19th century, Palestine was under the control of the Ottoman Turks and had been so for 400 years. Relatively few impoverished Jews lived in the land. What chance then was there for a Jewish State on this territory? The Ottoman Empire may have been aptly described as “the sick man of Europe” but the Turks were not likely to give up Palestine to the Jews to create a state of their own!

Israel and Bible prophecy

And yet the Bible had spoken eloquently of the revival of Jewish aspirations in the land. The prophecies particularly in Ezekiel 37 were relevant, compelling and insistent: “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest … Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel … And say unto them, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all” (v1–3, 11–12, 21–22). A miraculous, remarkable political restoration of Israel had to occur!

The Basle Congress – 1897

In 1897 at the first Zionist Congress held in Basle, Switzerland, the convenor, Theodore Herzl confidently made the following statement, “If I am to sum up the Basle Congress in a phrase … then it is this ‘In Basle I established the Jewish State’. If I were to say that aloud today, universal laughter would be the response. Perhaps in 5 years, certainly in 50, everyone will recognise it.” He also said that the Congress was the first sign of the renaissance of the Jewish People. “The decisive moment was that in which we first perceived the first breath of life in a body that seemed to be dead”, recalling the words of Ezekiel 37.

The Congress was held in the Concert Hall of the Basle Municipal Casino where no doubt dices were rolled every day as gamblers attempted to beat the odds and reap a fortune. What were the odds of Herzl’s dream becoming a reality?

Turkey, Britain and World War One

The years rolled by but then came the First World War when the Ottoman Turks, previously neutral in the conflict, decided to ditch their neutral status and join the Central European powers, dominated by Germany. In doing so, Turkey automatically became an enemy of Great Britain and her allies.

Britain as part of the conflict was fighting a war in the Middle East and so in 1917, in Palestine, Britain and the Commonwealth nations were fighting against the Turkish forces. To Great Britain, Palestine was a desirable strategic tract of territory to be gained as part of her general Middle East objectives. Not only that, the government was of the view that something should be done to help the Jewish people in their desire for a homeland. In the providence of God it surely was no accident that a number of ministers in the British Cabinet at the time had been brought up to respect the Bible and its promises concerning the Jewish people, and were believers in the prophecies concerning the restoration of Jewry to their land. It was also felt that if the government showed favour to the Jews in this respect then it would help the British war effort by gaining the support of Jews all round the world, particularly in Russia and the USA.

The Balfour Declaration

One such Bible believing minister in the cabinet was the Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, whose name has gone down in history as the author of the famous “Balfour Declaration” issued on 2nd November, 1917 and sent to Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community. In this declaration, Great Britain pledged to come behind, providing a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. This significant edict, which could be put on a par with the decree of Cyrus some 2,500 years previously, was issued even before Great Britain and the allied forces had even taken control of Palestine from the Turks, and only 20 years since the grand statement of Theodore Herzl!

The Declaration reads: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

It is interesting to note that after a parliamentary career spanning over half a century, including 3 years as Prime Minister, during which time many significant events and decisions were made, Lord Balfour, not long before he died, said that nothing he had done or tried to do would prove of more permanent value to the world than his support for the Jewish national cause. Lord Vansittart, who spent most of his career at the British Foreign Office once remarked that he had never known Balfour to care for anything but Zionism.

Britain and her allies liberate Palestine – 1917

Then in December, 1917, British and allied forces under General Allenby, subsequent to the famous charge of the Australian and New Zealand Light Horse Brigade against Beersheba, were able to capture Jerusalem and Palestine from the Turks, who after 400 years were ousted from the territory.

Who would have thought that such remarkable events – the issuing of the Balfour Declaration, the capture of Jerusalem and the freeing of Palestine from the Turks would have occurred in such a short space of time from the apparent wild dreams of the 1st Zionist Congress in 1897?

These were events that from a human standpoint could surely be classed as “against all odds”.

The United Nations vote: Israel reborn – 1947

But what about Herzl’s dream that within 50 years from 1897 everyone would know that at Basle he created the Jewish State? Well many are familiar with the remarkable vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the 29th November, 1947, where the Assembly, by the required 2/3rds majority, voted to partition Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish State! This vote was influenced by a general sympathy for the Jews following the devastating Holocaust in which 6 million Jews perished. There was the feeling that one of the family of the nations had almost been annihilated.

So exactly 50 years from Herzl’s 1897 declaration, a Jewish State was voted to become a reality. We cannot escape from or downplay the remarkable vision of Herzl, who whilst no doubt recognizing the almost insurmountable di culties facing the Jewish people, was able to proclaim “against all odds” that “certainly in 50 (years), everyone will recognise it”! But it wasn’t Herzl who created the Jewish State – it was Yahweh the God of Israel who rules in the kingdoms of men, and who also brought about the proclamation of the State of Israel on the 14th May, 1948. The creation of the State of Israel is the greatest sign of the nearness of the return of our Lord and Israel’s Messiah. The stage has been set for the last and final drama, Armageddon. And of course the survival of this new Jewish State against the forces of the surrounding 6 Arab Nations is nothing short of a miracle – against all odds.