Israel (MNN) — Israel's leader is quoting the Bible to stake claims on Jerusalem as being the nation's capital. Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a parliamentary session commemorating Israel's capture of East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war that "Jerusalem" and its alternative Hebrew name "Zion" appear 850 times in the Old Testament–Judaism's core canon. Citing such ancestry, Israel calls all of Jerusalem its "eternal and indivisible" capital — a designation not recognized abroad, where many powers support Arab claims to East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Netanyahu didn't talk about them being given Jerusalem in 1948 or mention any of the wars they had won.
Tom Doyle, Middle East expert with E3 Partners, says Netanyahu quoting the Old Testament is profound. "The Bible is clear on whose capital it is, and Israel has shown that they're willing to share it. But I think this is the first time I've heard bold statements like that, giving the sole justification for Jerusalem from the Bible."
Muslims reject the Bible, says Doyle. "Muslims say the Scriptures are corrupted, and they don't trust them. They may honor Jesus in some ways and say some things are good in the Bible," but they don't believe the Bible.
Ironically, Jerusalem isn't mentioned in the Koran. Doyle says Jerusalem only recently has been known as a Muslim holy city. "We don't see that until the 60's when Palestinian Leader Yasir Arafat coined that expression that Jerusalem was Islam's third-holiest city. Until then, there was a big debate on what was the third-holiest city."
While Netanyahu's citing of Scripture is unprecedented, Doyle says Palestinian Christians may face difficult days ahead. "Arab Muslims would know that they read the Bible and take the Bible literally. And so when you've got the Israeli Prime Minister saying that about Jerusalem, Arab believers will feel some heat."
Palestinian Christian are caught in the middle of this political turmoil. They're opposed by Israelis because they're Palestinians. Their called Zionists by Palestinian Muslims because they are so peaceful.
While tensions are high in the region, Doyle says, "We are not seeing any cutbacks because of the political tension. In fact, we're seeing exactly the opposite. We're seeing more believers, more disciples, and more churches planted throughout the Middle East."
E3 Partners provides training and resources to Christians in the region. Doyle says, "$30 a month can sponsor a Middle East leader. And, that will help him get the tools and the training he needs to be more effective within the region."