Mark Twain is credited with having said, “History may not repeat itself but it does rhyme.” Rhyming aside, one can easily argue that history repeats itself in Israel. As of old, history has repeated itself at least fifteen times here since November of 1947 in the form of war. Twain visited the land (among other places) in 1867, before its restoration, and assessed the dire state of the Galilee in his humorous memoir of his travels, The Innocents Abroad…
“ …[Judea and Samaria is a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse…. A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action…. We never saw a human being on the whole route…. There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” – (Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad. London: 1881)
Time and the vision of several Hebrew prophets have proved Mark Twain only half correct. One hundred and forty-five years after the famous author memorialized Israel’s northern land as a “desolation” I walked the south shore of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) with my camera and snapped the confounding photos below.
They would certainly have surprised him.
I took these photos within walking distance of the hilltop upon which Mark Twain is said to have stood when he came to the Galilee and pronounced it dead, not far ironically, or rather prophetically, from where the first agricultural Kibbutz in Israel, Degania Alef was established by returned Jews soon after Twain’s visit, about to restore the promised land according to a larger, continuing plan.
Desolation, where’s thy sting?
Poor Mark, only human after all, should not be judged too harshly for having written off the Galilee; he was a profound observer of human nature but seems to have known too little about the God of Israel. Twain served as a gifted and accurate witness, at the time, of only half of God’s promises to his people, specifically…
‘But if you do not obey Me and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you… And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit. …when you are gathered together within your cities I will send pestilence among you and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy… (bold type added, of course)
I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste. Leviticus 26:33
You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. Leviticus 26:38
All has come to pass. Mark Twain recorded the land’s desolation in the late nineteenth century as the world witnessed the continued scattering of the Jewish people. The fury of the Holocaust seemed to seal the Jews’ fate forever with respect to the Levitical curses some seventy years later. But Israel has been restored in spite of her endless wars and tireless enemies, as God also promised over 2,500 years ago through his servant Moses…
Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations that I might be their God: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 26:44-45)
and through his prophet, Jeremiah…
For behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,’ says the LORD. ‘And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it. (Jeremiah 30:3)
and his prophet, Ezekiel…
“Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the valleys, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and My fury, because you have borne the shame of the nations.” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I have raised My hand in an oath that surely the nations that are around you shall bear their own shame. But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come. For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bear young; I will make you inhabited as in former times, and do better for you than at your beginnings. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 36:6-11)
Can anyone read the above with an open heart and not be amazed? And there’s much more. As is also written: Let him with eyes to see, see, and ears to hear, hear as God’s truth manifests itself in Israel to the astonishment of her enemies.
- War of independence (November 1947 – July 1949
- Reprisal operations (1950s – 1960s)
- Suez Crisis (October 1956)
- Six-Day War (June 1967)
- War of Attrition (1967–1970)
- Yom Kippur War (October 1973)
- Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon (1971-1982)
- 1982 Lebanon War (1982)
- South Lebanon conflict (1982–2000)
- First Intifada (1987–1993)
- Second Intifada (2000–2005)
- 2006 Lebanon War (summer 2006)
- Gaza War (December 2008 – January 2009)
- Operation Pillar of Defense (November 2012)
- Operation Protective Edge (July 2014)