Israel is turning 60, and soon Gan Sacher will be covered with wall-to-wall people. Celebration in this country means barbecues and people eating in clumps by the thousands, bringing Israelis together as family.
Sixty years is indeed a reason to celebrate, yet one can't help but notice it isn't all that long a time span relative to the age of this ancient people living in their ancient homeland.
As Israel approaches its sixtieth anniversary of independence, Christian Zionists around the world are paying special attention to this celebration. It represents for them a momentous day in the unfolding of salvation history.
Travel back a few years and picture a bookish boy, 12 or 13 years old, raised in south Virginia Beach, bored with the hum drum of a small 200-student school. Then along came Polly, the girl who got this young man's heart pumping -- a fellow academic and bookworm.
…she would read Nancy Drew novels and he the Hardy Boys. They would compete and compare who'd read more books each week. The academic challenge put a bounce in his step until his mother upped the ante and entrusted him with the book that would change the rest of his life: While Six Million Died, by A.D. Morse.
David Parsons is now the head of the Media and Public Relations Department of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. Yet while he was still just a child himself, he learned about other children -- Jewish orphans his age -- who were sent on ships back to Germany. He learned about kids who had to fight against British soldiers with nothing to defend themselves but potatoes and cans.
"I remember in places I just had to put it down and stop reading," he said.
It was at this very young age that Parsons remembers being called by the Lord -- that he would use his life for the Jews and for Israel.
While many Christians remain indifferent to or simply unaware of Israel, others, like Parsons, describe a sense of special calling not only to the Jewish people and their restoration to the Promised Land, but also to educate others about the importance of a proper understanding of biblical Zionist theology.
Christian Zionism. Now here is a fully loaded term that has, for many, much ambiguity surrounding it.
"I am very comfortable with the word 'Zionist,'" Parsons told CBN News, and he is proud to be identified as one. As long as the word refers to biblical Zionism, he feels strongly that as Christians, a Zionist perspective has everything to do with a proper understanding of God's character. "…that He is faithful and His promises are everlasting…" Parsons said.
Parsons now works with the ICEJ to educate others about the crucial impact a Zionist perspective has on one's understanding of God. He accomplishes this through media ventures and very effectively through academic and theological dissertation. In part of a well-written apologetic series called Swords into Ploughshares, Parsons fights back against the many misconstrued ideas portraying Christian Zionism, especially in the media.
In the work he reminds readers of the "Second Coming of Christ media frenzy" and the Y2K bug. Many news agencies including AP, Reuters, BBC, CNN… totaling some 200 interviews, engaged with ICEJ reps concerning the subject of the Apocalypse during the 18 months preceding January 1, 2000.
"Approximately half of these reporters were intent on focusing on all the Christian fanatics who were supposedly coming to Israel that would either contract Jerusalem Syndrome or try to blow up the Dome of the Rock shrine on the Temple Mount and thereby 'force the end.'"
"We only want the crazies! Just give me the crazies! Where are they? Do you have their phone numbers?" said one unnamed journalist from a German magazine.
While many consider Zionism just another manifestation of Christian conspiracy theorists and modern "end-times" fanatics, Parsons traces Christian Zionism "back to the very infancy of the Protestant Reformation in the late 1500s." He also points out the interesting connection and Christian involvement in the restoration of the State of Israel.
Around the world, Christian Zionism is on the rise. There seems to be an escalating phenomenon of mainstream Christians having their hearts tugged regarding Israel. And most describe their 'awakenings,' like Parsons, as being experienced from a very young age.
Parsons represents a theology of those concerned with what the Old and New Testament scriptures say about the Jews and the return of the Lord, with praying for the peace of Jerusalem, with seeing restoration, and with teaching about the faithfulness of God's character.
Israel's 60th Anniversary
Anniversaries of special and momentous occasions.These are times to look over our shoulders -- to look at the year that has passed. They are times to take a minute to sigh and to smile. Anniversaries are often a time to reflect on our lives, get some perspective, be thankful.
As of May 8, 2008, modern Israel will be 60 years old. Through this anniversary eschatology is brought to life -- brought near in a fresh way -- as we are reminded that God really is taking this Story somewhere, that He really is coming back again.
And for those who keep a biblical watchful eye on the unfolding story of modern Israel, they hold close to their hearts that the existence of this tiny little country is having a ripple effect on the course of salvation history.