JERUSALEM, Israel — In just a few days, Israel will celebrate its seventieth anniversary, remembering the momentous events of May 14, 1948, when David Ben Gurion announced the establishment of the Jewish state and Israel took its place among the nations.
Israel's Deputy Minister of Public Diplomacy and historian Michael Oren explained to CBN News the precarious nature of the state at that time.
"Then there were 600,000 people here, about the size, half the size of a mid-sized American city and with basically handguns fighting six Arab armies that came within 25 miles of Tel Aviv. It's hard to imagine, [they] surrounded Jerusalem, not far from where we are sitting. [Israel had] no economy, no allies [and] a population that was still languishing in displaced person camps in Europe after the Holocaust. I mean, think about that."
Seventy years later, he says, Israel not only has survived but thrived.
"Our economy has one of the most highest growth rates in the world. We have one of the most powerful armies in the world; we're a world leader in technology and Israel is regularly listed as one of the seventh or eighth most powerful countries in the world."
Oren calls it a miracle.
"In historical perspective, I think that Israel's situation is nothing short of miraculous."
But the story goes on. Israel's continuing miracle is not only that it's thrived but now it helps nations in need.
During a press conference at the 2017 Christian Media Summit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu answered a question by this reporter. The question was, why does Israel reach out to help so many other nations when it's surrounded by enemies on all sides?
Netanyahu told the audience, "Because we're a light to the nations. It's a fulfillment of that great prophecy. In fact, that is what Israel is doing. It's doing it in places like Haiti and the Philippines or Mexico."
He gave an example. When Israel sent aid to Mexico after its recent devastating earthquake, Mexicans applauded them on the streets.
"They just love Israel and you see that elsewhere and in many places around the world. People say, what do you do? What is it that you get out of it? And the answer is, we're not getting out of it anything, we're fulfilling our deepest values. Israel is a light unto the nations.
But there's another prophecy Israel is fulfilling: Israel is not just going to the nations, but now the nations are coming to Israel.
That happened at a recent convention. It was called Our Crowd and it brought 10,000 people from 90 countries from around the world here to Jerusalem for a high-tech summit of innovation and investment.
Jonathan Medved, the founder of Our Crowd, explained that what's happening today is a reflection of what has happened in Israel for 4,000 years. CBN News talked with Medved overlooking the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
"Turns out that Israel is really the second most source of innovation and innovative companies in the world outside of the United States and Silicon Valley. We're called the startup nation. We're looking here across the walls of Jerusalem and our ancient history. We've always been dreamers here in Israel, whether it's in the time of Abraham and the prophets, there's always been incredible good news to come from this country. And today the good news is about innovation and technology."
Seventy years on, Israel is protecting the birthplace of the Good News and more.
We talked with Shahar Shilo, a consultant for the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem. He spoke at the entrance of the Old City in the area many believe was the palace of King Herod 2,000 years ago and the site where the trial of Jesus may have taken place.
Shilo says Israel since its founding has preserved the historical and biblical sites, dug into its ancient past and opened its door to people of all faiths. He says it's Israel's special mission.
"Tourism is much more than just making money. Tourism is making friends.Tourism is making advocacy. Tourism is making your partnership around the world a lot safer. You know, our mutual basis grows stronger with every tourist being in Israel, living back home and talking about Israel wherever he lives. This is something we cannot achieve without tourism."
Shilo serves as an Israeli tour guide and says a visit to Israel for Christians should be a personal mission.
"We're always saying, before coming to Israel when you read the Bible, you see it in black and white. Once visiting Israel, every chapter, every story, every time you read about Paul, Peter or Jesus or St. Mary, it's all vivid and vibe. And everything comes in full color, full HD, full 4k. Something happens in your soul. And you'll never. Well, we say you'll never be the same again. This is my message to our brothers and sisters from the Christian world. Visiting Israel is a part of your soul and your heritage, not mine only, yours as well. And if you wish to understand yourself better and the Bible and your friends and the next time you go to church, you need to be here. It's a mission for life."
Whether helping the world through humanitarian outreach, bringing innovation to global investors, or being the responsible stewards of history, many believe these are simply a fulfillment of Israel's mission to the world – Tikun Olam – the Jewish principle of repairing the world. And as the Hebrew prophet Isaiah wrote nearly 2,700 years ago, to be a light to the nations.
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