For the next couple of weeks, I will be in Israel, with a group from Riverview Church. We’ve invited you to join us on-line each day each day as we visit the home of our faith: Israel where it all began.
Today is an orientation. Israel sits in a crucial location where continents meet: Asia, Europe, and Africa. This whole region has always been strategically important, and so it continues to be a trouble spot.
In 1948, following the holocaust of World War II, the nation of Israel was re-established. Of course, there were people living in the land of Palestine, so Israel was to share the territory with the Palestinians.
This sharing hasn’t worked out very well. There has been a great deal of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. We won’t be visiting the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, with one exception: Bethlehem is in Palestine.
The Gaza Strip is the narrow coastal region between Israel and Egypt: 41 km long, and only 6-12 km wide. 1.8 million people live in this tiny space, making it the third most densely populated place on earth. More than half of them are refugees.
You will also be aware of the civil war in Syria, northeast of Israel. A quarter of a million have died in that conflict. Four million have fled to other countries. 6.6 million are displaced within Syria.
Neighbouring countries are struggling to cope with the refugee crisis:
- Jordan has 650,000 refugees. (Its population is 6.5 million.)
- Lebanon has 1.5 million refugees. (Its population is only 4.5 million.)
It seems to be a region that encapsulates the struggles of humanity.
All the struggles of Israel and of humanity came together at the person of Jesus, at his crucifixion in the first century. Then, starting from Jerusalem, the message of his resurrection and enthronement began to spread to the rest of the earth: north into Syria and Turkey, south into Egypt and Ethiopia, west into Europe, and east into India. We’re heading to Israel, where it all began.