Anne Graham Lotz plans to lead a women’s tour of Israel in May 2022. She’s visited the country many times and has a heart for its people.
Below, she answers 5 questions about the conflict going on there now, and offers a prayer over God’s chosen nation.
Q: Help the average American understand the conflict in Israel. Can you give a historical summary about why there’s so much turmoil there, and what it’s all for?
A: The conflict in Israel goes back millennia. In Genesis chapter 12, after God told Abraham of Ur to leave the Chaldees, He led him into Canaan. At the end of chapter 13, He says to Abraham, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south and east and west. All that you see I will give to your offspring forever” (see Genesis 13:14-15).
That commitment that God made to Abraham was confirmed with the covenant [to be the father of many nations]. (See Genesis 17:1-8.) It was confirmed repeatedly throughout Israel’s history. And she’s had a rough history.
It was Abraham’s grandson Jacob [also given the name “Israel”] who had 12 sons, and the sons sold one of them into slavery. That was Joseph, who ended up in Egypt. But God used Joseph to save the other 11 sons and his father Jacob from famine. They went down to Egypt, and they ended up being there for about 450 years.
Pharaoh, after Joseph died, put them into slavery. Then God delivered them under Moses.
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, but then they went back into that original land that God had promised Abraham and his descendants forever. They settled in that land, led by Joshua and other leaders in the Old Testament. They were there until the glory days of David and Solomon.
They had a civil war after Solomon died, so there were 10 tribes to the north that were separated from the two tribes in the south.
Both sections rebelled against God, so in time, He sent the Assyrians to judge the northern kingdom, and He sent the Babylonians in to judge the southern kingdom.
They were in captivity for 70 years, and then God moved [King] Cyrus to set them free so they could go back to the land of Abraham and his descendants.
During that time, you have the Maccabees, you have the Greeks who came in, you have the Romans who came in. The Romans were occupying Israel when Jesus was there, and 40 years after Jesus was crucified, the Romans annihilated Israel, destroyed the city. Its people were scattered all over the world.
In essence, she didn’t exist for 2,000 years.
In 1917, the Jews began trickling back to their covenant land, and in 1948, there were enough of them that they were declared a nation by the United Nations. America was the first to recognize her. Her neighbors went to war to try to move her out, but she won that war.
They tried it again in 1967, and in six days, she won that war and this time was able to exercise sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem.
There’s been conflict since. Certainly it’s physical and it’s historical, but it’s also a spiritual conflict because the descendants of Abraham are the Jews, but the descendants of Abraham are also the Arabs. The Jews descended through Isaac, Abraham’s son, and the Arabs descended through Ishmael, Abraham’s son. So they’re cousins.
God promised Israel—Jacob and his sons—the land, and He also gave land to the descendants of Ishmael, which is a lot of what we see in the Arab world. They’ve got a lot of oil under their land. He blessed them, but the covenant nation belongs to Israel. God is the one who ordained that.
I’ve been to Israel multiple times and the Arabs in Israel have been—until maybe recent past—law-abiding, good citizens. They can vote, they contribute to the economy, they are accepted. There are many Arab Israelis. Certainly the majority would be Jewish Israelis, but they live together side by side.
Yet there’s a wicked agenda, the leadership of Hamas and Hezbollah and in the Gaza strip and Iran and Syria. They don’t want to live with Israel. They want to destroy her. They want to push her into the sea.
I think it goes back to an anti-Semitic core and that fight that began when Isaac was born with his older brother Ishmael. There is wounding on both sides. … It’s a cycle. Unless you break the cycle, it’s self-perpetuating. What we’re seeing are the wounds between Isaac and Ishmael that have ricocheted throughout the centuries.
When you meet a Palestinian—and they’re called Palestinians not because they ever were but because the British mandate in the early 1900s labeled them that—I believe the Palestinians are being manipulated by their leadership. America and other countries have poured billions, if not trillions, of dollars into Israel’s neighbors to try to buy peace. …
But the leadership of the Palestinian people, they do not want peace. They want to push Israel into the sea. They want to annihilate her. And she has a right to exist. She has a right to her own nation.
I was there when Jerusalem was still divided … in the early 1960s, and the difference between the Palestinian-controlled land of Israel and Israeli control of the land was night and day. Israelis went in there and, as the Bible says, made the desert bloom (Isaiah 35:1). The people prospered, the land was fertile.
You would go into the Arab-run section and you would think you stepped back 200 years. It was still desert and dusty and the people were impoverished. …
Bottom line, God gave the land to Israel and her neighbors are not accepting.
Q: Many people have heard about fighting in Israel for as long as they can remember. What makes this moment in history different from the past?
A: There are nuclear weapons involved. They just went through a barrage of thousands of missiles, rockets that were sent in from the neighbors into Israel, not just down on the Gaza border but into Jerusalem and to Tel Aviv. It’s much more dangerous.
And then the media and the things that have whipped up the worldwide anti-Semitism. Jesus prophesied that that would take place at the end of human history, and I think that’s what we’re seeing. It’s really ugly.
They’ve turned on Israel as though it’s her fault that these missiles are raining down on her, and she’s done nothing. It was the enemy that unleashed their attack, but then somehow they spin it so that the [enemy] seems to have the moral authority, which they don’t. People who don’t know what’s going on just jump on that and think Israel is the aggressor, and it’s not true at all.
Q: We hear words like “Gaza,” “Hamas,” “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “airstrikes,” and maybe all of it seems so far away, so removed from day-to-day life. How do these current events relate to us? Put bluntly, why should we care?
A: Because God cares. These are His people and this is His land. Why do we care about anybody except ourselves? Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And then He said the second command is to love your neighbor as yourself. We care because of Jesus’ command that we’re to love others as ourselves.
I went there [in 2014] with the National Religious Broadcasters association, and we went down on the Gaza border and visited a farm kibbutz [a term meaning “communal”]. It was during one of those times the Palestinians were sending in missiles, so we had to go down into a bunker. While we were in the bunker with the leadership of the kibbutz, we could hear the explosions overhead.
I saw the fear. The woman who was in charge of security for the kibbutz was a woman who was expecting her fifth child, and I could see the fear on her face.
I read out loud Psalm 91. When we went out and were touring the kibbutz, the alarm sounded again and we had about 30 seconds to get into the bunker. We rushed into a bunker and hunkered down while the iron dome [a missile defense system] took out the missiles overhead.
When you come out, you look up and see a puff of white smoke. You have to be careful because there’s shrapnel that’s coming down. And the guy that was helping us, his home was hit.
The children go to school in bunkers. These are just farmers who are trying to make a living. They’re not soldiers, they’re not aggressive. In fact, they’d offered to help the Palestinians, to show them how to work the land, and they would be good neighbors.
I think the average Palestinian person would accept Israel; it’s the leadership that’s directing them. They raise [Palestinians] in the schools to hate Israel and to blame Israel for all of their poverty, their starvation, their bad housing.
A lot of Palestinians still live in refugee camps after 70 years. It’s because the leadership wants to keep them that way, because they use them like a weapon. It’s so sad.
God promised Abraham, those who bless you I will bless, those who curse you, I will curse (Genesis 12:3). The way we treat Israel, that’s closely related to the way God treats us.
The fact that America was the first to recognize Israel as a nation, I believe that’s one reason God has poured out His blessing on America. But if we back away, if we abandon her, He says those who curse Israel I will curse. It’s to our own benefit, actually, to bless the nation of Israel.
Q: As Christians, we know Israel is God’s chosen nation. And if He cares about it, we should, too. But what tangible ways can we do that? What does it look like to effectively support Israel?
A: It looks like prayer. The psalmist tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).
I subscribe to several Israeli news services. You can stay abreast of what’s happening in Israel, stay informed. And then pray. God told us to pray for Jerusalem and her peace. For me, that means not just praying for her national peace, but for her spiritual peace.
I don’t believe she’ll have real peace until the Prince of Peace comes back. In the meantime, we can pray that there would be a cessation of conflict—that people would not be fighting with each other and that there would be national elections that the whole country could support.
God has not abandoned His people. Pray that God would use this pressure and this turmoil—the attacks of the missiles and rockets and the election mess and the marching in the streets and some of the rioting—to cause Israel, the leadership, to look up and acknowledge the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that they would cry out to Him.
My prayer is that God would revive their relationship with Him that was begun when He called Abraham of Ur to leave the Chaldees. And then of course, when that relationship with God is restored, then I pray that their eyes would be opened as Zechariah says and that Israel will recognize Yeshua as their Messiah.
[For a recent Jerusalem prayer breakfast], I went back in 2 Chronicles 20 where Jehoshaphat was faced with a vast army. He prayed and said, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (See 2 Chronicles 20:12.) God delivered them from their enemies in a supernatural way.
We may not know exactly how to pray or what to pray, but we can say, Lord, our eyes are on you.
Q: There’s been a lot of talk about the May 14, 1948, anniversary that recently passed—the day Israel was declared a nation for the first time in 2,000 years. That was 73 years ago. How would you describe the changes in Israel since then?
A: Israel is a first-world nation. Their technology, their infrastructure, what they accomplish. They lead the world in science. Their intelligence, their air force. … They have built that from nothing. It was nothing and now it’s something. It’s a first-world country that the whole world seems to be fighting over.
In Matthew 24, Jesus listed all these signs of His return, and then He said the generation that sees all of this take place will be the last generation. That generation, I believe, started with the rebirth of Israel because He used the parable of a fig tree. He said when you see it put forth leaves, that’s the generation. (See Matthew 24:32-34.) That happened on May 14, 1948.
I was born on May 21, 1948, so that’s my generation, that’s my lifetime. For a generation in Scripture, it’s 70-80 years. I’m 73. Within the next seven years, we could be seeing Jesus come back because He said that the generation that sees all these things take place in one generation is the generation that’s the last.
The signs that He gave us—from the natural disasters to the false prophets to the false Messiah to the lawlessness—all of that happening in one generation, that’s since I was born.
I believe what we’re looking at, we’re looking at the end of all things. What’s happening in the world, I believe, is a setup for the tribulation and the antichrist.
But I know that Jesus sits on the throne, He’s in control, He’s orchestrating everything according to His plan. When everything is said and done, Israel will still be Israel, and He will reign and rule from Jerusalem. She will not just be restored, but she will be in her glory and be the preeminent nation in the whole world.
She has a brilliant future ahead of her, but there may be some hard days between now and then.
Anne’s Prayer for Israel
Pray along as you lift up this nation to God.
Father, we bow before you and we acknowledge that you are the Creator of the universe. You are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and—we believe—the Father of Yeshua, the Lord Jesus Christ. We come now and we bring before you a land and a people that you love. You told Abraham that you would give that land to Abraham and his descendants. You keep your word.
We’re asking now that you would work in Israel and in the government, the people, her neighbors, that you would cause there to be a cessation of conflict, that she would have peace within her borders. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
We pray that the leadership would work out details with the neighbors so that things would quiet down. That the Palestinians living in refugee camps and Israelis living on farms and living within the country would be at peace and could work to take care of their families without fear of something exploding.
We ask for your blessing on Israel, and we ask also that if it be your will, that you would cause the leadership of Israel—the religious leadership, as well as the political leadership—to look up, that they might call on you, that they would be revived in their relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
At some point, in your perfect time, that you would open their eyes and recognize that Jesus, Yeshua, is your Son, the son of David and the Son of God, even the Messiah.
We thank you for the blessing that Israel has been to the world. We also know that you’ve promised that those who bless Israel would be blessed. We thank you for the blessing America has received because we’ve been a friend to the nation of Israel. We see that you have kept your word in our history, and we pray that you would continue to bless Israel and use them to be a blessing.
We offer this prayer in the name of the one we believe who is the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ who is seated on the throne, in His name we pray, amen.