It is difficult, in carefree Australia, to imagine what it must be like to live in daily fear of sudden death, blown apart on the bus or in the local café. Or to wait for the day when the missiles might fall, bearing some fearful chemical or biological cargo to maim or kill our children. Iraq has used such weapons, against both the Iranians and its own Kurdish citizens. And amongst other perils, Israel has had to prepare for such an attack.

Israel—Living Under The Gun

The Shelter

Keep the shelter clean and appropriately maintained. The shelter’s doors and windows must be looked after to prevent rust, and make sure that the rubber seals are intact. Check the ventilation pipes and water containers for cleanliness.

The entrance to the shelter and the emergency exit must not be blocked. Make sure the shelter is dry and the electricity is working. The shelter in a high–rise residential building must have rescue and emergency equipment including a pick, a spade, a crowbar and a 20 metre long piece of rope. If the shelter is adjacent to the house, it may be prepared for chemical and biological attacks by sealing it. A ventilation and filtering system should be installed in the shelter…

What to Do When The Siren Sounds

The sound of the siren: an ascending and descending sound. The All Clear signal will be given via the radio and television. Immediate actions to be taken on hearing the siren:

Shut down all electrical appliances and airconditioners and close all water and gas taps in the home. Get into the Protected Space, easy-to-reach shelter, or sealed room already prepared for this event, and take with you the protective kit. Do not put on the protective mask unless you receive a specific order to do so on the radio and TV. Do not leave your apartment for a shelter unless you can reach it within two minutes. Note: You may bring pets with you into the Protected Space to protect them.

When all the members of the family have entered the room, complete the sealing of the room by using adhesive tapes between the door and the frame and between the frame and the wall. The space between the door and the floor should be covered with a wet towel. When at home, it is recommended to leave the main door unlocked, so as to allow rescue units to get into the house if needed.

These instructions, perhaps all the more chilling for their matter of fact tone, are part of the Emergency Civil Defense Procedures issued in Israel. We recoil in horror at the awful realities of today’s world that necessitate such instructions. How true it is “that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions”. How terrible that God’s people, albeit “in unbelief of the Messiahship of Jesus”, should live overshadowed by such terror. Their land, declared faithful Joshua and Caleb, “is an exceeding good land” (Num 14: 7). Isaiah adds that it is “thy land, O Immanuel” (Isa 8:8), a place where, far from its inhabitants cringing terrified in their “Protected Space”, Israel will at the last “sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree and none shall make them afraid” (Mic 4:4).

Bush vs Hussein or Tarshish vs Magog and Gomer

For some time now, Stratfor on its website has been running a daily Iraq war report. They have long regarded a US led invasion as inevitable, with their suggested timing being in February or March 2003. Although anti-war activists speak almost wistfully of America becoming bogged down in Iraq as in Vietnam, it is almost certain that the US would crush Iraq militarily with relative ease. The US has achieved currently a huge preponderance of military power. Its air force is said to be more powerful than all the air forces of the rest of the world combined. Its annual defence budget is greater than the annual GDP of all Australia. With this power has come a dismissive arrogance. The US would prefer to act within a large coalition and with overt UN support, but it will act alone if it cannot achieve this. This attitude, expressed by a resolute President, is further exacerbating the split between the US and Britain on the one hand and Continental Europe on the other.

About a year ago, The Spectator in Britain ran a feature article, “War between America and Europe”. The writer referred to “the battle of two cultures: on one side is the freedom-loving US, on the other the anti-democratic EU”.

More recently Stratfor commented that “U.S. military action against Iraq could reconfigure the entire geopolitic dynamic in the Persian Gulf and, in the process, highlight a nascent strategic split between the United States and Europe.”

And Commentary, a magazine of political and social commentary published by the American Jewish Committee, had a recent lead article under the heading “Goodbye to Europe?” The opening paragraph commenced: “In the aftermath of the catastrophe that struck the United States last September 11, few things can have been more dismaying to Americans than the attitude adopted by many of our closest European allies, whose sympathy for the loss of life was quickly replaced by scepticism, if not outright hostility, toward American motives and American policy. The ensuing months seem only to have heightened rather than dismissed their animosity.”

The US administration, though seeking cooperation with Europe, is in no mood to compromise to achieve this. Indeed Donald Rumsfeld, the United States Secretary of Defense, recently responded strongly to Franco-German opposition to the US approach to Iraq, by referring to France and Germany as the “old Europe”. “Relations [with the US] are in the ice age”, one German foreign policy advisor said.

The hostility of “Old Europe” has been directed also against Britain. The European correspondent for The Australian newspaper Peter Wilson, wrote that, “Historic hostility between Britain and France has been rekindled… he (French President, Jacques Chirac) has been the most important Western opponent of Bush’s plans for military action against Iraq.

“At home he has been lionised for restoring French power, supporting the UN and reining in Bush, who is widely seen in Europe as dangerously cavalier towards the opinions and rights of other nations. It is only Blair, Chirac believes, who has stopped him from forging a common European stand to counterbalance the superpower in Washington.”

The outworking of the events in the Middle East, the September 11 attacks in the US and the US responses are combining to contribute to the division we expect between the powers of Europe and the Tarshish nations of Britain, the US and Australia. Should the US and Britain act against Iraq as seems increasingly likely, there will of necessity be a long term military presence in the very region of Sheba and Dedan. We need to be alert watchers of these unfolding events.

Mega Europe

Although Europe is not currently in a position to challenge the US militarily, the expanding EU represents a huge and growing population and economic base. Business Week magazine in November 2002 ran a Cover Story with the heading “Mega Europe”. “Proud and ancient states from Portugal to Latvia are voluntarily giving up huge swaths of sovereignty on a scale not seen since Charlemagne tried to unify the continent 1,200 years ago”, the article noted.

“Brussels’ embrace will add 23% to the EU’s land mass and bring in 75 million additional citizens, making a new Mega Europe of more than 450 million people. Its economy of $9.3 trillion will approach that of the U.S. The new entity could easily eclipse America if Europe rediscovers growth.”

The Cover Story devoted a page to the involvement of Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted: “Our priorities are firmly in the direction of Europe”, he said. “Many Russians agree. One recent poll showed 52% of Russians think the country should eventually join the EU. By embracing Europe, the Russian President is following the model set by his country’s first great modernizer, Peter the Great, who opened Russia to the West. Putin’s goal is to help create what he calls a ‘single economic space’ in Europe. He envisions a free-trade zone stretching from Glasgow to Vladivostok.”

As Europe, East and West, comes together, we are seeing the rapid development of the state of affairs revealed to John on Patmos: “These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast…For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled” (Rev 17:13,17).

Murder By Starvation

In Zimbabwe today, the effects of famine are being magnified by a cruel policy of deliberate starvation of non Shona people. A number of reports of this behaviour have come out of that tormented country. An article from The Times, reproduced in The Australian, reported: “In the town of Binga, the manager of the state-controlled Grain Marketing Board, which has a monopoly on maize sales, admits that food is sold only to Zanu-PF supporters. ‘We only sell to Shona speakers’, he said”.

Zanu-PF’s administrative secretary, Didymus Mutasa, the party’s senior bureaucrat, is reported to have said he would not mind if Zimbabwe lost half its 12 million population because of the collapse in agricultural production. “We would be better off with only six million people, with our own people who support the liberation struggle”, Mr Mutasa reportedly said. “We don’t want all these extra people.”

The “extra people” are principally the Matabele tribe who constitute the bulk of the political opposition to Mugabe’s Shona-based Zanu-PF party.

These dreadful circumstances are part of the tragedy of a world that knows not God. It is our wonderful blessing to be called to know God and His purpose. At the conclusion of the parable of the unjust judge in Luke 18:1–8 Christ asks a question uniquely relevant to this generation: “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

He is not referring to “faith” as some abstract belief. Nor is he particularly referring to “the faith” in the sense that we speak of “the truth”. Rather he asks whether there will be in his servants when he comes that kind of faith demonstrated by the widow of the parable. A faith which is resolute. A faith which, as the widow to the judge, cries out in prayer “day and night unto him” for the coming of His glorious Son. Do we have an answer for our Lord?