During the recent Sukkot holiday there was a storm which brought high winds, rain, thunder and lightning to much of Israel. This resulted in, among other things, a flood of videos on my Facebook feed showing Sukkot (booths) that Israelis had put up on their front lawns, balconies, etc. being wrecked by the inclement weather. This offers a metaphorical lesson to Israelis and supporters of Israel.
The First Zionist Congress in Geneva in 1897 and all the other things which occurred that culminated in the formation of the modern State of Israel in 1948 took place during a time of general upheaval in the world. However, the British Empire was the pre-eminent global superpower during this time and its policies were heavily influenced by Evangelical Christians who were very supportive of Zionism. So although Britain’s role in Israel’s birth and early development included much that was deeply problematic, that period between 1897 and 1948 could be said to have occurred in a “Sukka” formed by British military, economic and diplomatic power which dominated much of the world and physically controlled the Land of Israel. This “Sukka” offered some (often flimsy) protection to the Zionist project from the storms that were hammering at it from all around.
Since 1948 and up until the present day, the State of Israel has been in another “Sukka” of sorts called “Pax Americana” that has been very similar to the “Pax Britannica” which preceded it. Of course, like its British predecessor, America’s global hegemony and the role it was appointed to play in Israel’s protection and growth wasn’t perfect. Also, prior to the spectacular Israeli victory in the 1967 Six Day War, the US wasn’t such a great supporter of Israel as it would come to be later on. But almost any serious historian would agree that Israel benefited in many ways from “Pax Americana” even before that.
However, in the last few weeks we’ve seen dramatic evidence that the era of “Pax Americana” is coming to an end, with the most obvious example being the decision by US President Donald Trump to remove the US troops who had been deployed in north-eastern Syria assisting and supporting Kurdish forces, leaving them vulnerable to a Turkish invasion. The decision not to respond kinetically to Iran’s recent missile and drone strikes against Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure has also been noted by Israel’s strategic community, leading some of the Jewish State’s most respected analysts to declare that “Israel is alone” in its standoff with Iran and other regional problems. The consensus among these analysts is that if Washington is ready to not support Saudi Arabia against a blatant military attack and abandon the Kurds to their fate than Israel must face the reality that it too might soon be left to its own devices.
Here’s what I think.
First, the “Sukka” of protection that Israel enjoyed under “Pax Americana” was always just as fragile and impermanent as its British predecessor.
Britain pulled out of the Holy Land in 1948 (and continued in the following years to slowly retreat from the rest of the Middle East and indeed the world) because it was exhausted. The cost in blood, treasure and national will in being the “policeman of the world” for most of the 19th and early 20th centuries had worn it down and left it broken, penniless and unwilling/unable to continue. The same thing was bound to happen to the US sooner or later and Israel, along with Saudi Arabia, the Kurds and everyone else who counted on America being able to keep things together indefinitely, have no one but ourselves to blame for the situation we find ourselves in.
Many people want to blame President Donald Trump for “betraying the Kurds” and other regional allies, and there’s some truth in that. But this day WAS going to come, sooner or later, no matter who the President happened to be when it finally arrived. Because America might be “exceptional” but it’s not immune to the Laws of Physics and Mathematics, i.e. that if you continually take out without putting something back in and/or of you continually spend more money than you collect in taxes, you’ll eventually reach a breaking point.
It happened to the British in 1948 and its happening to the US in 2019.
I have written about this previously in blogs here at KNI entitled “When the mighty are fallen” and “America as John the Baptist” and I definitely don’t take any joy in seeing my grim predictions coming to pass. However, I also don’t feel any fear as I contemplate the near future which is bound to include some VERY intense storms, metaphorically analogous to the severe weather which wrecked so many Sukkot in Israel over the recent holiday.
Instability and threats confront Israel on every border, including the border with Jordan which is just a few kilometers east of the apartment where me and my children sleep at night, so I’m not speaking in the abstract here. I know that wherever you’re reading this, it’s likely that there are some serious storms threatening you and your way of life as well.
But the reason I’m not afraid is because I know there’s a God in Heaven who cares deeply about me and my children and He promises in His Word to look after and protect us. I also belong to a strong community of Believers, including those reading this blog right now, who pray for me and my family just as I pray for them.
The canopy of protection this provides is far stronger and more permanent than “Pax Americana” or any other earthly Sukka. I am just one man in Israel who has learned and internalized that lesson, and if you want to know how to pray for and support Israel and the storms approach, pray for more men and women here to come to that same understanding and take appropriate action.
As II Chronicles 7:13-14 says; If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.