JERUSALEM – A Christian organization here has decided to move its headquarters from Jerusalem to a West Bank community in protest of Israel’s announced withdrawal from the area and is calling on Christians worldwide to help save the territory, which many refer to as Israel’s “biblical heartland.”
The move comes on the heels of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s revelation yesterday his administration will seek to unilaterally pull out from most of the West Bank, including strategic areas many military analysts consider crucial for Israel’s defense.
“Christians worldwide must unite and help stop this tragedy before such a withdrawal creates an Iranian-backed fanatic Muslim Hamas state on Israel’s border and only 20 miles from Israel’s major airport where terrorists can fire at will at incoming airplanes,” Jan Willem van der Hoeven, director of the International Christian Zionist Center, told WND.
The ICZC, a Christian pro-Israel advocacy organization, is moving to the Benyamin community of Beit El in the West Bank in solidarity with the areas resident and to protest any withdrawal from the territory.
“We are moving to the heartland of the people of Israel to where the God in Whom also Christians believe promised this land to one people, namely His own, as an everlasting possession,” said van der Hoeven.
Officially stating what had long been assumed by many here, Olmert yesterday said Israel will unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank and take other moves aimed at changing the borders of the Jewish state.
“[Israel] will separate from most of the Palestinian population that lives in the West Bank, and that will obligate us to separate as well from territories where the state of Israel currently is,” said Olmert in his first media interview since assuming his job as premier after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s massive stroke last month.
Olmert said under his West Bank withdrawal plan, Israel will maintain select security zones and some of the area’s major West Bank Jewish communities, alluding to evacuating West Bank towns that fall outside Israel’s security fence.
About 200,000 Jews live in the West Bank. The security fence, still under construction in certain areas, cordons off nearly 95 percent of the territory from Israel’s pre-1967 borders. More than half the West Bank’s Jewish residents reside on the side of the fence closest to Israel. About 80,000 more Jews live on the other side of the barrier.
Sharon this past summer withdrew entirely from the Gaza Strip.
Charged Van der Hoeven: “Is Olmert crazy? Israelis unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and created a Hezbollah terror zone in the south that continually attacks. Sharon withdrew from Gaza in August and now there is a Hamas-al-Qaida state bordering the Negev that resulted in the election of Hamas, the flying of rockets regularly from Gaza, and the moving into Gaza of all the areas terror groups ready to attack. Gaza is a terror refuge. Now Israel wants to withdraw from the West Bank and surround itself by essentially three terror states that do Iran’s bidding?”
Van der Hoeven, also the founder of Jerusalem’s International Christian Embassy, said his organization is calling on “the 60-80 million Bible-believing Christians from Brazil to South Korea” to visit the West Bank and petition their governments against supporting any Israeli withdrawal.
“If they truly care about Israel, Christians must bring the cause to [President] Bush. I can’t understand his duplicity. Bush is wasting American money by doing everything to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet he helped create a terror state in Gaza and is helping create another one in Judea and Samaria. He is giving a gift to terrorism and putting Israel’s existence at risk,” said van der Hoeven.
“Christians should visit Hebron, Beit El, the Golan, Bethlehem … all the areas so they can see for themselves what might be given up and stand in solidarity with the Jewish people.”
Van der Hoeven volunteered the services of his organization in organizing group tours.
He pointed to the West Bank’s rich biblical history as impetus for “every Christian to absolutely oppose any Israeli pullout.”
Many villages in the West Bank, which Israelis commonly refer to as the “biblical heartland,” are mentioned throughout the Torah.
The Book of Genesis says Abraham entered Israel at Shechem (Nablus) and received God’s promise of land for his offspring. He later was buried in Hebron.
The nearby town of Beit El, anciently called Bethel meaning “house of God,” is where Scripture says the patriarch Jacob slept on a stone pillow and dreamed of angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven. In that dream, God spoke directly to Jacob and reaffirmed the promise of territory.
And in Exodus, the holy tabernacle rested in Shilo, believed to be the first area the ancient Israelites settled after fleeing Egypt.
The West Bank is considered landlocked territory not officially recognized as part of any country. Israel calls the land “disputed.” The United Nations claims the West Bank is “occupied” by Israel, which maintains overall control of most of the area while the Palestinian Authority has jurisdiction in about 40 percent. The Palestinians claim a population of roughly 2.4 million, but new demographic studies show the numbers likely are inflated. The actual Palestinian population could be up to 1 million less.
The territory remained under Jordanian rule from 1948 until Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 after Jordan’s King Hussein ignored Israeli pleas for his country to stay out of the Six Day War. Most countries rejected Jordan’s initial claim on the area, which it formally renounced in 1988.
The West Bank borders most of Israel’s major cities, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Military strategists long have estimated Israel must maintain most of the West Bank to defend its borders from any ground invasion.
Van der Hoeven said he hopes group’s move to the area will “give strength and courage to many in Israel and motivate Christians to take up this most crucial cause.”