The Philadelphia Road and Spiritual Warfare
© May 2004 by Asher Intrater
The 1967 war was won quickly and handily by Israel. The 1973 war, which started on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, took Israel by surprise, and came close to ending in a total destruction of the nation of Israel. Most analysts point to a self-deceiving over-confidence on the part of Israel after the '67 war, which left it unprepared for the '73 attack.
Although the Yom Kippur war eventually ended with a victory for Israel, its early losses were terrifying. Many Israelis who were heavily involved in the fighting (who today are in their 50's and 60's) still carry psychological scars and nightmares from that time.
To give some perspective for Americans, those two wars coincided more or less with the beginning and end of the main fighting in Vietnam. Golda Meir was the PM, Moshe Dayan the Defense minister, and Richard Nixon was president of the U. S. (Golda Meir was reported as saying that if Nixon had not helped with an emergency airlift of supplies, Israel would have lost the war.)
Despite the heavy losses, the '73 War ended in a victory for Israel and much land expansion (the Sinai from Egypt, the Golan from Syria and solidification of the West bank from Jordan). The hero of the tank brigade in the south that pushed back the attack of the Egyptians and eventually captured the Sinai was General Ariel Sharon. It should be noted that at no time was there land owned by "Palestinians". All the land exchanges and fighting were with Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
In the years following 1973, Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt, made the strategic decision to go for peace with Israel. In 1978 the Camp David accords were signed with Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin. In those years there were new Israeli settlements built on the formerly Egyptian side of the border at a place called Yamit. The conditions of the peace accords were full Israeli withdrawal in exchange for full peace with Egypt. The settlers at Yamit refused to leave, and eventually had to be evacuated forcibly, in a painful and embarrassing episode.
Did this peace accord work? Basically yes, in the sense that there have been no wars with Egypt since that time. Israelis flood over the border near Eilat to go camping on the beaches and mountains of the Sinai Peninsula. They and their shekels are welcomed by the Egyptian Bedouins living on the lower side of the Sinai near the Red Sea. However in the main sections of Egypt, including Cairo, there is much hatred of Israelis. No real relationships have been built. Egyptians have not reciprocated.
The part of Israel closest to Egypt on the upper side of the peninsula bordering the Mediterranean Sea is Gaza. Until the '67 and'73 wars, Gaza was in the hands of the Egyptians. After the Camp David accords, Gaza was left in Israel's hands, even though Arabs populated the area. At that time the Israeli settlements in Gaza began to grow and today number 7,500 settlers.
The Philadelphia Road is a strip inside Gaza that runs along the Israeli side of the border with Egypt. One reason there has been such intense fighting on this strip of land is because tunnels have been dug from the Egyptian side into Gaza for the transport of weapons for Hamas and Jihad. Rafiah is the Gaza town across from the border of Egypt. It has become a center for the gathering of weapons and the headquarters for the terrorists there.
It is an inevitable place for confrontation. Israel has been clearing buildings out from that area to expose the weapons tunnels, which has displaced a number of Palestinian families there. This week Islamic Jihad organized a "demonstration" or "attack" depending on how one looks at it. A large crowd of civilians led by armed, masked terrorists in the center, began to move down the street toward an Israeli position. What is to be done in a situation like that? Tough question.
Israel brought in a battle helicopter and shot a missile into a blank field near the demonstrators as a warning in hopes of deterring them. Then a tank was brought up which fired several cannon shots into an abandoned building on the side of the crowd. Unfortunately, one or more of the tank shots (investigation is still in process) went through the building and into the crowd.
Some were killed and injured. A definite tragedy. International media jumped on the story. Figures of killed and wounded were more than doubled. (After the investigation when the real figures come out, no one will notice.) Israeli government and military officials issued a statement of regret for the incident, yet insisted on their right to continue clearing out the weapons and terrorist cells.
The operation (called "rainbow in the cloud") continued for another five days on intensive house to house search and combat. In all the fighting this week, 31 terrorists and 11 civilians have been killed among the Palestinians. In the Givati brigade, which has carried out the operation for Israel, 15 soldiers were killed. This has been some of the worst fighting and loss of life in years. It comes on the heels of the confusion in the Israeli government after the vote in the Likud party against Sharon's plan to disengage from Gaza.
An important issue here is the role of the Egyptians. If they have a peace treaty with Israel, why haven't they stopped the weapons tunnels from their side of the border? Since Gaza borders on Egypt, should they be included in some kind of settlement to help police weapons influx in the future?
Israel has been woefully ineffective in dealing with the media and propaganda aspects of its struggle with terrorism. Terrorism from the beginning was a manipulation of public opinion more than a direct form of combat. There are spiritual, religious and media aspects of the conflict that are beyond Israel's capabilities and comprehension at this time. Perhaps that is an area where prayer and the support of international evangelical Christians can be of help.
Both Bush and Sharon are "fighting for their lives", so to speak, in a political sense. A seemingly small but significant factor is the unity within their own cabinets. While Netanyahu has not opposed Sharon, he has not come out in full support either, which considering his position as number 2 in the Likud, is keeping the government from moving forward. While I am not that familiar with the American political scene, it is possible that an even small division between Bush and Powell would also be damaging to the unity of Bush's cabinet.
We need to continue to pray fervently for God's will to be done in all these matters. The war against terrorism and for the establishment of basic moral values is very complex. Let us not be passive in our prayers.
Both of these enemies must be fought at the same time. The horrible pictures from the "El Gareb" prison in Baghdad are particularly shameful because of the sexual perversion elements implied. American and Israeli society must fight against sexual immorality and decadence from within as much as they fight terrorism from without. Israeli papers this week, along with the coverage of the fighting in Gaza, carried a story, replete with large color photos, of a "strip tease" show with professional prostitutes at a 12 year old's birthday party, performing their "acts" on the birthday boy.
Let us pray for a deep spirit of repentance and purity both within Israel and the Church. If we humble ourselves on the moral issues, God will change the humiliation to humility, and then give us the victory. God is not embarrassed when we repent of our sins. And He doesn't lack the power to change a horrible defeat into a historic turning point of victory.
Another version of this dual problem of decadence and violence was seen this past week in the "millions" of Arafat. Forbes magazine reported that they estimate Arafat's personal wealth at 200 million dollars (taken from funds that were meant to help his people). The same week Israeli press filmed a speech of Arafat's in Arabic in which he called for "millions" of Palestinians to attack (liberate) Jerusalem as suicide terrorists. We must be heartbroken at the plight of the Palestinian people, and yet stay determined to root out all forms of terrorism.
My wife Betty read a book this week called "An Evil Cradling" (Penguin Books 1992) about Brian Keenan's captivity in Lebanon for almost 5 years at the hands of Islamic Jihad. Here is a quote from Keenan's analysis of the young Muslim men who served as his guards:
"Often we talked about how the violence of men like our guards was at least partly conditioned by the glut of American video violence, and how their twisted, obsessed concern with sexuality was in part a response to the slew of nudity in the western films they saw. In our own way we were subject to a violence and perversion conditioned by products of the West."
Betty's comment: "Although the ignorance and brutality of the guards from the Islamic Jihad were rooted in their own sin, the Western decadence seen in movies, which we deem 'freedom of speech', helped fuel the fire. We are ignorant to think that this aspect of our culture does not influence reaction in the Islamic world."
Betty also took note of Keenan's comment of the inability of the guards to think critically or even read. There was no analytical thought process at all, just a visceral reaction combined with religious brainwashing. I see a parallel of that in the world of Western sexual immorality. In order to promote sexual immorality, there needs to be a brainwashing of the women involved. Giggle. "Well, all I want to do is have some fun." What are teenage girls or Hollywood sex stars thinking in being provocative to a level that ultimately hurts themselves and the rest of women in society? Nothing. That's just the point. They're not thinking.
How could anyone with critical thinking be involved in drug use, sexual immorality, homosexuality, etc.? Certainly the same is true concerning terrorism and racism. Thinking and asking analytical questions is a good thing. God gave us a brain. Spiritual warfare has to do with thoughts. We are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and tear down propaganda and philosophies that are contrary to the word of God (II Corinthians 10:3-5).
In order to think clearly, we have to repent of intellectual pride. However that does not mean we are not to think. Faith involves thinking through issues on all sides, and analyzing them according to moral principles and the standards of God found in the Bible. We are for faith, not religious brainwashing. Humility, clear thinking and prayerful consideration of the issues are part of what makes the difference.
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