Adventurous emergency calls about the situation in Israel paint a dramatic picture. They are about compulsory vaccinations, which are supposedly exercised here. Israel is accused of a two-class society or even apartheid. The Jewish state is compared with Nazi Germany, the Netanyahu government with Adolf Hitler’s regime, the green passport with the yellow star, current regulations concerning the pandemic with the Nuremberg race laws and Pfizer’s vaccine with the poison gas Zyklon B.
Since these reports come “directly from Israel,” they are readily spread in Christian circles. They are accompanied not only by the request to share them, but also by comments such as: “From a biblical point of view, I wouldn’t be surprised if Israel did this.” Some Bible experts are certain that the Antichrist will come from Israel and that the Jewish people will succumb to this lawless master seducer willingly. “Is Israel the forerunner of evil,” I am asked by confused believers. Some suspect that the “mark of the beast” of Revelation 13 behind the vaccination campaign.
The situation in Israel
One cliché assumes that the last sentence of a dying German is: “But, we always did it that way …” – The Israeli, on the other hand, has no time for a last sentence because he dies completely surprised of something that no one else before him would have dared to do.
Clichés often contain a grain of truth. It is definitely the enjoyment of innovation that has made Israel the world’s number one start-up nation. The stereotypically suggested difference in mentality is certainly also one explanation for the fact why Germans are so easily stifled by guidelines or tend to get under the wheels of some law, while it is almost impossible to get Israelis march in lockstep.
The gruff behavior, the straight-forward expression of what one feels, thinks and wants of Israelis who grew up in “Hebrew”, often appear to other cultures as impolite, cheeky, callous. Immigrants to Israel from North America, Europe or Russia will never get used to this tone in a lifetime.
Parents shake their heads in horror when their offspring fluently repeats in the holy language what they picked up in kindergarten: “I’ll kill you!” In another language and culture, it is hardly understandable if a daily newspaper, as happened in mid-March, describes farmers as “enemies of the people” in the context of an economic conflict.
These and many other mentality differences need to be considered if you want to understand from abroad what is happening in Israel with regard to Corona and the vaccination campaign.
Guinea pig Israel
Some characteristics and perspectives of Jewish people have ancient historical roots. Their ancestors have been the test case par excellence since ancient times. God tried out on Israel what it is like to call, elect, gift, test and punish a person; to entrust His Word to a group of people, to lead them through a challenging landscape with a little known goal or to confront them with the Messiah. The list goes on and on.
The Jewish nation has been the guinea pig of fanatics, racists, mass murderers since millennia, and has evidently been the laboratory for all kind of possible and impossible resolutions of the United Nations since World War II. For decades, the super powers have been developing and testing their latest armament technologies with the help of the conflict over the Jewish state.
So it shouldn’t really surprise anyone if the people of Israel are now also a test case for the Covid-19 vaccination. It remains to be noted, however:
Israel is a democracy
If there is now a fourth election in barely two years that reflects a society in which two Jews have three opinions. In addition, Israel is home to an almost unmanageable variety of non-Jews of all religious and ethnic stripes. The crime of fleeing the republic, which was almost omnipresent in our good old German Democratic Republic, is unknown in this country.
There is no subject in Israel that is not discussed quite emotionally. This includes the Covid-19 vaccination. According to public radio, about thirty percent of Israelis do not want to get vaccinated. It is quite conceivable that these discussions will lead to fights at one point or another. After all, in certain areas of the country, stones are thrown at you if you dare to drive a motorized vehicle on the Sabbath.
And this spring, in addition, there is an election campaign. In the heat of a political battle, it happened in the past that an opponent was referred to as “Amalek” (compare Deuteronomy 25:19) – which does not necessarily have to prevent coalition talks right after the election results are published. Political correctness is neither one of the natural strengths of character of Israelis, nor one of the innovations of their country.
Nobody is being forced to get vaccinated
The Netanyahu government, in cooperation with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, has set itself the clear objective of becoming vaccination world champion. Because there is obviously a lack of other threats and successes, the election campaign seems to be quite tough for the challenged Prime Minister. These circumstances may have led to statements that cannot be justified.
Much of what Israeli politicians say and decide is most certainly worth discussing. A whole range of measures against the corona pandemic may be pointless and may have cause unnecessary suffering. That has to be talked about – and it is discussed within Israel’s society vehemently, controversially and not always politically correct.
To be clear, however: Nobody in Israel is being forced to get vaccinated, any more than anybody is being forced to get a driver’s license. I know firsthand that some healthcare workers and senior officers in the army have not been vaccinated.
There are Jews in the Land of Israel who reject the modern Jewish state as blasphemy. Therefore, they do not possess an Israeli passport and do not belong to any health insurance – which both is possible. Of course, this deprives them of certain privileges that one would have with an Israeli passport or a social insurance card. Whether it should be considered right when these Orthodox Jews refer to Israelis as “Zionazis”, and whether this should be spread abroad, is open to question.
The so-called “green passport”
is simply a vaccination certificate that shows who was vaccinated with which vaccine and until when this vaccination is valid. It should be clear that vaccination makes a difference in how you are treated. This applies to every vaccination. If this were not the case, a government would by means of its own procedures declare the required vaccination to be a farce.
Before traveling to Africa, I had to endure a whole list of vaccinations, none of which were healthy or subject to amusement tax. Without the official proof of these vaccinations, I would not have been allowed to enter my destination country. Nevertheless, my body temperature was measured again upon entry.
Of course, Israel discriminates between people with a driver’s license and people without a driver’s license, between people with a gun license and people without a gun license. Anyone who violates these discriminations will be prosecuted. I am grateful for that.
The comparison with the Nazis
I do understand that people who were persecuted by the Nazis as children, suffered terrible things and then had to spend their lives in the Soviet Union, now have trauma and smell dictatorship everywhere. I am able to understand that Jewish people who have been terribly persecuted over the past three millennia feel existentially threatened. However, this does not mean that their political views have to be correct, especially if they originate from traumas and not from rational analyzes.
Anyone who compares the situation here in Israel with Germany at the time of the Nazis either has no idea who the Nazis were or has no idea of the reality in today’s Israel – or is maliciously anti-Israel. In my opinion, the same applies to those who suspect the “mark of the beast” (Revelation 13:16-17) behind Netanyahu’s ambitions or claim that the Antichrist must come from the Jewish people.
Some guidance towards a spiritual orientation
Now I do understand quite well that a lot of people are confused. The events of the past year have shaken much of what we have believed to be absolutely imperturbable. And of course I take it very seriously when Bible readers feel that the Holy Scriptures speaks concretely into our time and are aware that what happens around Israel is decisive for the world as a whole.
A realistic view
The Bible enables me to realistically view this world we live in. I am grateful for all scientific achievements that make my life easier. This does not only apply to the means of transport that turn the once life-threatening journey of the Apostle Paul today into a vacation cruise or allow me to fly from one end of the ancient Roman Empire to the other within three hours.
When I feel physical ailments that come along with age I am whole-heartily grateful, that my Heavenly Father puts experts on the wayside to straighten me out, clear my eyes with all sorts of devices on my nose, pick and mend my teeth, or prescribe all sorts of medicine for me.
At the same time I am aware that all the efforts of doctors and scientists cannot bring any salvation. Their efforts will always remain experiments, at the end of which there will always be a corpse as final result. Experts cannot spare us the journey to the grave. In the best case, they may extend it a little and maybe make it a little more comfortable. Because of me being influence by the Bible, I am firmly convinced: Without exception, all of us headed full steam towards the resurrection from the dead.
That shapes my basic attitude. I do not expect anything unrealistic for my existence. I am calm about my future. And I am compassionate with professionals who make mistakes or have to admit that they not know what to do anymore.
A time of testing for the Church
I have the impression that we are living in a time that is a test for the Church of Jesus worldwide. The decisive questions are: How do we relate to the truth? Do we actually allow the Word of God to determine our orientation? How do we deal with prophecies that, in retrospect, have simply been proven to be wrong? How do we behave after having passed on false statements or untrue prophecies? How seriously do we take slander and defamation?
Yes, I am convinced that Christians should distinguish themselves in dealing with social media by living according to biblical commandments, respecting the dignity of other human beings and expressing themselves responsibly – fully aware that each of us will have to give account of every useless and unfruitful word that we have said or passed on (Matthew 12: 36-37).
Who has the final say?
And then during this time, perhaps like never before, the challenging question arises: Who actually is “God” in my life? This shows in my behavior. Do I exude the freedom, peace, confidence, and tranquility that I was redeemed to?
Do I really serve the Lord, who taught His disciples that it is not that which goes into him from without that defiles a person, but that which comes from one’s heart (Mark 7:14-23)? Am I on the road on behalf of the Lord, who knew quite well: “You are afraid in this world …” (John 16:33)? But, nevertheless, He sent His beloved disciples into exactly this world because He knew: “All power has been given to me in the invisible world and in the world that appears to us to be comprehensible…” (Matthew 28:18)?
When the risen Jesus said “all power” this means that nothing can happen in this world without His permission. He sent his disciples even though He foresaw the possibility that they might have to swallow something poisonous in performing His commission (Mark 16:18). He knew that following Messiah means “cross” and that “cross” somehow always smells of “risk of death” (Mark 8: 34-38).
Can we do it economically?
No, I do not have a message of hope for the economy. But I serve the Lord who has an army of ravens at his disposal to provide for those who are unwilling to bow their knees to the Baal of the Zeitgeist (compare Romans 11:3-5; 1 Kings 17-19) – and I would like to invite you to join us in doing this; that we encourage each other to straighten up instead of frightening or panicking one another.
Yes, I admit that there is a whole series of quite practical, rationally real existential questions that give rise to unrest. I would also prefer the ravens to steal the meat they bring me from King Ahab’s table or from a sausage booth in Thuringia rather than pluck it from some run-over wild boar or a dead camel lying somewhere in the desert…
How do we treat each other?
And then, there remains the question: Who is right? – When I listen to Yeshua, the Messiah, I learn that it is neither our orthodoxy nor our know-it-all that brings others to the knowledge of the truth, but “by this all will know that you are my disciples when you have love for one another” (John 13:35). And none of us is able to fulfill this desire that springs from the very heart of our Lord just by himself. We have to do this together.