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Why Israel Matters: A Classic Conversation with David Siegel

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
February 27, 2021 3:00 am

Why Israel Matters: A Classic Conversation with David Siegel

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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February 27, 2021 3:00 am

In this classic interview, Pastor Greg Laurie sits down with then Consul General for Israel, David Siegel, for a conversation about the significance of Israel in world history. They also discuss more contemporary issues facing the nation.

Siegel is highly knowledgeable in U.S. and Israel relations, Scripture fulfillment, and current events in the Middle East. 

This conversation explores the threats of other countries to the nation of Israel, the altruism of Israel toward global disasters, and the relationship of Israel with other countries.

Siegel served as the senior representative for the State of Israel for the Southwestern United States from 2011–2016.

This interview originally took place on the evening of April 30, 2015.

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Hey everybody, Greg Laurie here. You're listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, and my objective is to deliver, hopefully, compelling practical insights in faith, culture, and current events from a biblical perspective.

To find out more about our ministry, just go to our website, harvest.org. So thanks for joining me for this podcast. Welcome. Great to be here. Great to have you. Thank you.

Thank you very much. You're dressed much better than I am. That's because you're the Consul General, and I'm just me, so. You know, the longer the title, the less the significance. Well, it's great to have you here again.

We've actually spoken before. We did an interview before on the radio and the pastor's perspective broadcast, and here's kind of a heavy question to start with, but we alluded to this in my little talk. What role did the Holocaust play in the establishment of the nation of Israel? Well, you know, the Holocaust was a defining moment in our history.

It was devastating. One third of our people were destroyed. Six million people over almost a decade.

1.5 million children. But the modern miracle of Israel begins 2,000 years before that. The promise of next year in Jerusalem, which we say every year during our Passover holiday and three times a day as we pray, was the light at the end of the tunnel.

So we were people that were dispersed in 100 nations all over the world, and we came back 2,000 years later. So the Holocaust was maybe a final chapter in it. And it's amazing that the same generation that almost saw the end of the Jewish people in 1945, that same generation fought for its rebirth in 1948.

So I would say the last chapter, but certainly not the reason. There's that word out there that because of the Holocaust, Israel was created. Well, Israel was created 4,000 years before that. 2,000 years before Christianity. Both of our religions have been here for a very long time and are here to stay.

But yet there's a force on the move in our world today. Militant Islam. And anti-Semitism is on the rise. I read a headline in the newspaper that said that 2014 was the worst year for anti-Semitic attacks since 2009. Of course, we remember what happened not that long ago in Paris where Jewish people were specifically targeted, I believe, in maybe a kosher market of some kind. So why do you think, I mean, after all that happened in the Holocaust, you would think that anti-Semitism would just stop, but yet it's growing.

Why do you think that is, David? Well, you know, Europe spread the virus to the Middle East, the virus of anti-Semitism in the 19th century and the 20th century. It found its home in the Middle East in hatred of Jews in Israel, and now it's migrating back to Europe because as the Middle East is in flames, you have populations shifting and moving and extremists moving out.

They're not well integrated in the European countries. You have the old anti-Semitic forces converging with the new ones, and it's a very dangerous moment. So seven decades after the Holocaust, here we are again in Europe where you cannot be a Jew safely in public places. Two-thirds of Jews polled say that they feel the danger of anti-Semitism in their everyday lives in Europe.

It's terrible. It's one of the great threats. Iran, the delegitimation of Israel, and the hatred of Jews, which is anti-Semitism, are the three major threats that we face today. You take these threats seriously, don't you?

We do very much. Iran is a huge danger to the world. They're the number one sponsor of terrorism in the world today, according to the State Department, not just according to Israel. They're a major threat in the Middle East.

They are now in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya, and now in Yemen, and they're part of this endless war that is going on throughout the Middle East between all of these collapsing states and societies. They're very, very dangerous, and over the last 25 years, they've been developing a nuclear weapons program, an ICBM program that now reaches deep into Europe and it's on its way to the United States. It's way over the heads of Israel. So the threat is not just to Israel. It's to the entire world and the Middle East. But when they call for our destruction and they deny the Holocaust and they have cartoon competitions for denial of the Holocaust by all the world participants, this is a force of evil that has to be confronted.

It has to be stopped before it's too late. Well, the last time a nation threatened to eliminate the Jewish people, look how many Jewish people died. So you have to take these threats seriously, and so should we in the United States. They call us the Great Satan and call Israel the Little Satan, and then they have their proxy forces. In addition to developing these nuclear weapons, they have Hezbollah, who we were talking earlier, has how many potential rockets aimed at the nation, Israel, right now? 120,000. Wow. That's more than Russia has today.

It's unbelievable. And they say they want to threaten Israel or they want to destroy Israel. To be specific, they say they want to wipe Israel off the face of the map.

They make no bones about that. So when we enter into a negotiation with this nation, can we trust what they say? Well, we cannot trust the Iranians because it's a dictatorship.

It's oppressing 70 million people. They've been lying about their program for the last three decades. You go and you inspect them. They don't let you in.

They don't let you into all their secret sites. So the inspectors don't really know. And it's very similar to North Korea, only more dangerous.

So you cannot trust them. And we believe that it has to be rolled back. It has to be dismantled. Just like the chemical weapons were removed from Syria before Syria collapsed or in the midst of its collapse. So Iran should not have nuclear weapons because they're dangerous, but they'll breed a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Other Arab countries are threatened by Iran just like Israel is, and they will arm with nuclear weapons in order to contend with Iran. This is no way to heal the Middle East over time. It's very, very dangerous. Well, I think Prime Minister Netanyahu said something along the lines of, you know, to win the conflict with ISIS and to lose with Iran is to win the battle and lose the war. It's a formidable foe. And in years past, Israel had to take matters into their own hands when Iraq was building the nuclear reactor.

And, of course, roundly criticized. But that was a great move, I think, for all of the world, as we entered into a conflict later in the United States with Iraq. But if Iran develops or enriches uranium to weapons-grade status, what do you think Israel would do? And is it even possible through a military solution to stop this program? We have no doubt that it's possible.

And certainly if the United States, with all of its capabilities, took those steps to make sure that the Iranians understand that the world is serious, Iran would pay notice. But Israel, even though we're small and we are a tiny country, we're smaller than New Jersey. As you said before, we're number 160-something in the world. But we know how to defend ourselves. We are very, very quick on our feet. We also have faith in a God that has sustained us for 4,000 years, that he will sustain us in this as well.

Thank you. You know, Isaiah promises that no weapon formed against us will prosper, that any tongue which rises against us in judgment, they themselves will be condemned for those who curse Israel, and so on. So we're aware of this, but it doesn't mean that it's not in our hands to do what we need to do to defend ourselves. And we work very hard at it. The smartest missile defense systems in the world, Iron Dome that has taken down 90% of the rockets that were fired at us. Israel is probably the most strongly equipped country in terms of its own self-defense after the United States in the world. We work together with America, with the military. We just met with a group of firefighters from Arizona yesterday who came back from Israel. You should see the passion in their eyes and in their hearts of this real camaraderie that they have with their Israeli colleagues, the first responders, and how we learn from each other how to do our jobs better to service our own communities.

That's what democracies do. That's what America and Israel do together. Yeah, I think that's one of the unknown things about the nation Israel, is all the amazing things that you do around the world. We were talking earlier about how you've been involved over in Haiti and Nepal. With a huge group of people, even more than the United States supplied. Maybe you could elaborate on that.

Yes, absolutely. This is something, a terrible tragedy in Nepal, but a moment of great pride for Israel. We're a small country. We're far away from Nepal. We sent the largest medical delegation in the world. We have 260 medical professionals, surgeons, doctors on the ground right now. We set up the only field hospital in Nepal today. An Israeli team rescued a young woman in her early 20s who was under the debris for five days.

Thank you. But interestingly, the other people on the ground are American, and they saved a young boy today. Both the young woman and the young boy were taken to the Israeli field hospital for life-saving treatment.

Babies are being born. Operations are being conducted. This is an amazing story of hospital directors that leave their hospitals at a moment's notice, join this crew of 260 people, planning the hospital as the plane is flying into an earthquake. They get there so quickly they can't even land because of the aftershocks, and they have to wait a further eight hours. The hospital is up and running.

It will be there as long as it's needed. This is what Israel does in Nepal, in the Philippines, in Haiti, in Japan, in Turkey. That's just in the last five years. That's fantastic. Real light is being spread in the world. Do you think that's because your people have suffered so greatly that you have an empathy for others who are suffering, and you want to do something for them? Yes, absolutely. It's a Jewish ethic. It's an Israeli ethic. It's a biblical ethic, isn't it? It's a biblical ethic. It's a Judeo-Christian ethic about repairing a hurting world. There was a medical conference in Israel last year during the Ebola crisis in Africa, and that was really scary, because when you went in, you went in at your own risk. There were hundreds of doctors in a hall, and they were asked, are you willing to go to Africa right now to treat Ebola patients?

Eighty percent of the people in the room raised their hands to go. So this is the ethic, the medical ethic, the humanitarian ethic, which we share as two democracies, and it's something we're very proud of. Well, there's so many similarities between our countries. You know, I mean, you guys did it first, of course, with the Ten Commandments and God choosing you, but we took, as you said, that Judeo-Christian ethic, and we built a nation on those principles. And I think one of the reasons that our nation is struggling today is we've gone so far from that foundation, and we need to return to it again. But do you think that most Jewish people in America today support the nation Israel?

I think the short answer is yes. You know, we support but we debate at the same time. So, you know, we have this joke that the difference between a Christian who doesn't believe in God and a Jew who doesn't believe in God is that the Jew continues arguing with God. So we have our arguments, we have our politics, you know, everything is very partisan. But I, you know, as a representative of Israel here, I embrace anyone who wants to have a relationship with Israel, whether they disagree or not.

It's not about the politics. It's about 4,000 years of history and the redeeming miracle of returning. You know, Israel is almost 70 years old. We celebrated Israel's 67th anniversary last week. Happy birthday, Israel.

Thank you. The kingdom of David was 80 years. And then Solomon came and built the temple, and that was another 40 years. That was 120 years.

That's our golden era. We're well-disposed to reach that goal and to even go way beyond that because we're a democracy. This is something, and I'm looking at my kids and the next generation after us. They're smarter. They are just as patriotic, even more passionate in defending this cause of the nation of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, the only place where everyone can practice their religion freely and in peace, whether you're Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Baha'i or anything else. And this will continue in perpetuity.

The prophecies say there were two dispersions, not three. And that's a very, very significant thing to keep in mind. We are here to stay. We're the only democracy and the only pro-American country in the Middle East.

That's true. And that brings us to a topic where, you know, there are people that maybe oppose Israel because they don't understand what's going on because you're sometimes criticized for not letting the Palestinians have a homeland. And they don't understand the relationship that Israel has with Arab people and how they're allowed, as you said, to freely participate in the elections in your country, to vote. And what is it, 20 percent of your population, did you tell me earlier, is Arab? So let's talk a little bit about this, the Palestinians and their plight right now. And what would you say to the critics who would say, why don't you let them have a homeland? Why won't you give them more territory? Well, first of all, the Palestinians do have a homeland. And right now on the West Bank, what we call Judea and Samaria in historic terms, they have their own government and we wish them well.

The problem is, and I'll maybe give you an anecdote just to drive it home to you, a few years ago there was a terrible tragedy. There was a Jordanian soldier who evidently had emotional problems. He opened fire into Israel and seven schoolgirls were killed.

And this was a good 15, 20 years ago. The King of Jordan was on his way to Great Britain and he flies his own aircraft. He's a pilot. The moment he heard, and he already had peace with Israel, Israel and Jordan have a peace treaty, the moment he heard about this tragedy, he turned around the plane and he asked for permission to land in Israel.

And he went to each and every one of those seven grieving households and begged for forgiveness and repentance. That's what a peace leader does. The leader of the Palestinians today calls public squares in the names of mass murderers, terrorists, calls soccer stadiums in the names of terrorists, hails and glorifies and pays bonuses and salaries to the families that bred terrorism, educates to hate in the schools. This is a peace partner that is deeply flawed. Now, Israel is tiny.

At the narrowest point, we are nine miles wide between ISIS and Iran and the ocean. We have to be very careful when we give back more territory or make those compromises, which we're willing to do with a partner that is safe, reliable and bold enough to make peace with us. The tragedy is we're not there yet, but even if we're not there, many other good things are happening on the ground because people, human beings are human beings. Most Palestinians want a future for their children and a good education for their children, health care for their parents and jobs for themselves.

These are what normal people want, and the majority of Israel want a peaceful solution. And I believe that eventually we'll get there because the Middle East needs Israel. We are number one in the world in creating water.

We need your help now. Yes, we do. There is a reason why California chose Israel as its strategic partner in fighting the drought and signed an agreement with us last year. The problem is it's complicated. You have 2,000 water authorities and utilities in this state.

We have one. So we're number one in the world in recycling water, in desalinating water, in plugging leaks under cities. Tel Aviv is losing less than 10 percent of its water. Jordan is losing 60 percent. We have taken water and the desert and science and culture and cybersecurity now as national priorities.

We tackle them, and we're very, very good at it. After California, Israel is the number two innovation center in the world. There's a reason why Apple, your iPad maker and iPhone maker, is now opening its second largest research and development center in the world in Israel, hiring 1,000 engineers and computer programmers and Facebook and Google and IBM. And Intel is the largest private employer in Israel with six plants, including a $6 billion plant.

They must be doing good because they're blessing us, and we're blessing them. Half of Israel's exports are high tech. Much of it is coming from the global American companies that are sitting in Israel gobbling up startups as we speak.

And I want to say one more thing. We're known as a startup nation, but we're also a startup. We're a 67-year-old startup, and so is America. It's a little bit older than us, but in historical terms, we're two startups. We're two democracies.

The arc of history is not about democracy. This is very special, which is why we're very close, which is why I believe that the deep roots that connect us from the Puritans until today and connect us with Israel are roots that are here to stay. So we may have political disagreements in the news, but that comes and goes. The basics are there. Absolutely. That's great.

Thank you. You sort of answered it, but I would ask, what's the biggest misconception about Israel? I don't think people realize how high-tech you guys are. And really, in many ways, with all that you've developed, it's because you have to. You have to know how to defend yourself because your enemy could strike and be in your country within seconds, I suppose, perhaps minutes. And not that long ago, Hamas was firing rockets over into Israel, and then you discovered all these intricate and complex tunnels that they had built, probably with money that's been sent for aid for the Palestinian people that they were using to come into your nation, and you destroyed those tunnels.

But you have to be on your toes, as they say, because your very survival depends upon it, doesn't it? It absolutely does, and we are on our toes, and we have to be very strong and very smart to continue doing what we're doing in the Middle East, and we'll continue to do that. And we'll do that together with America and Congress and future administrations and friends that we have and people of faith, because this is what will save Israel. The biggest misconception is looking at us and looking at the Middle East and judging us only by the headlines on CNN, because if you did that to yourself, if you judge your communities by your local news, it wouldn't be a very welcoming place either.

Yeah, true. Israel is a real, it's not a political campaign that needs to be won. It's a real country with 8.3 million human beings, Jews from over a hundred countries, the ingathering of the exiles, the prophecies have come true, speaking over 80 languages, and 20%, as you said, that are Arab, that are Christian, that are Muslim, Baha'i people that are persecuted in Iran and throughout the Middle East are converging in Israel.

Their world headquarters is in Israel. Christian groups come to Israel. Do you know that the Middle East used to be 20% Christian? It's now less than 4% Christian because of the persecutions in Egypt and in Syria and in Lebanon and in Iraq and everywhere else you look and Hamas and Gaza, what they did to the Christian population, it really doesn't exist there anymore. Many of them escaped to Israel. Israel has become a refuge for the minorities in the Middle East, for the Christian community in the Middle East. They sit there, they broadcast TV and radio back to their communities in the Middle East because they can't do it elsewhere. So I think it's a very special place. It's misjudged by the headlines that just flatten out everything.

There's no soul in that and we need to bring the soul back into this conversation. Whenever we lead a tour to Israel, people say, Are you crazy? It's so dangerous over there.

And I'll say, You know what? I feel safer in Israel than I would feel in many American cities at night. And that's the absolute truth. For starters, you have soldiers everywhere who if something were to happen, if a terrorist were to do something, there would be an immediate response. But you know, I mean, relatively speaking, every time there's an act of violence in Israel, it's on the front page of the newspapers, but we have cities in America that would far surpass the violence of Israel. But those things, you know, people don't get the perspective on that.

Do you think it's, I mean, we can only speak relatively. There's danger everywhere. But do you think it's safe to take a tour to Israel?

I'm the father of three kids. And I would go today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year with no questions asked. I have complete confidence in Israel's ability to defend itself. We're probably the best organized in the world in defending ourselves.

The crime rates in Israel are almost nonexistent. If you would come to my community and please don't come all at once, but come when you want. We live in the mountains of Jerusalem. It's beautiful. We live in a place that is so special that you can't build without a permit from the archaeological society in case you're building on ruins from Byzantine times or what have you. Our kids walk our streets at 9 o'clock at night, 10 o'clock at night, completely safe.

You'll see kids completely free. It is a completely different reality than what you might assume from the headlines. And I'll just end by telling you that Hollywood has become enamored with Israel. I don't know if that's good or bad, but anyway.

I don't know if you've seen the show Dig, which is about antiquities in Jerusalem, so that is very interesting. And they had a debate last summer whether to continue or not because of the situation. And they brought in a consultant from Chicago. And it was 4th of July, after 4th of July weekend, and there were 32 shootings in Chicago. And they asked him, is it safe to go to Israel?

And he started laughing. And he said, just like you said, think of what we just went through this 4th of July weekend in Chicago. So, again, everything has to be taken into context.

You can't live a risk-free life. There obviously are challenges that Israel faces, but I think it handles them very, very well. Every tourist feels very confident in Israel.

Yeah. You know, we've done many tours over there over the years, and I've taken my grandchildren over. And I've actually had Israeli people thank us for bringing our grandchildren. But we feel it's a safe place.

They have a great time. And what great memories for a child to have and for anyone to have. I think a trip to Israel literally can change your life. I mean, there's a lot of beautiful places you can go in the world. And to be very honest, you know, you'll go to more beautiful places than Israel, but you'll never go to a more significant place. You'll never be able to walk in a place and look at things that Jesus would have seen. The Sea of Galilee and the roads that He walked and all the rich biblical history.

That's just unbelievable. And I find that these memories stay with you. And then later, you know, when you're reading your Bible, you remember, you know, the sound, the smell, the feel, the warmth of the air as you read these stories. Especially when you go to a place like Galilee, which is so much like it would have been in the time of Christ and much more. But, you know, when we go to Israel, David, we don't just visit biblical sites. We take people to Yad Vashem because we want people to understand. Because you have to understand the suffering that your people have experienced to understand what Israel is about today and what you have faced and what you are facing still. And we want to educate Christians on that so they have an understanding and a love for the Jewish people. But speaking of antiquities, we have some of your amazing antiquities in California right now, don't we? We have the book of portions of Isaiah.

We have one of the world's oldest marriage certificates between a man and a woman. We almost got the Ten Commandments here, but they wanted it in the vault. So we have a replica, and this is amazing, of those 13,000 fragments, most of the books that we know of the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments were found intact.

Not torn, completely intact. The entire verse that includes that. So we feature that. We have a three ton stone from the western wall here.

Hundreds of thousands of prayers. Did he take that as carry-on on the plane? I'll just put this in the overhead.

If you'll indulge me for a minute. So the scrolls are so precious that you can't fly all the scrolls on the same plane. So two scrolls per expert, they have to take at least two or three different planes to get here. But the entire 600 artifacts were sent on one transport plane, 40 tons, with the rock from the western wall. And we said to them, aren't you worried if it crashes, it will all be lost. They started laughing. They said, we'll open our hangers and you'll see how much we have.

This is nothing. So it just gives you a sense of, it is incredible. There are antiquities there from the time when the Israelites left Egypt and entered the Promised Land.

There are a line of ancient vases from that journey that are being featured. It is unbelievable. That's fantastic. So please come.

Yes. Doesn't that sound great? We want to see that. You know, David, we want to thank you for coming out here tonight. And we want you to know that sometimes you guys might get mixed signals over there as to where our country stands. But we want to know, speaking for this church and for thousands and thousands of evangelical believers around the United States, that we love the nation Israel.

We love the Jewish people. We pray for you and we stand with you. Thank you. So we're your friends.

Right. So thank you for coming. Thank you very much. Let's thank David Siegel for coming. Thank you very much.

Everybody, Greg Laurie here. Thanks for listening to our podcast. And to learn more about Harvest Ministries, please subscribe and consider supporting this show. Just go to harvest.org. And by the way, if you want to find out how to come into a personal relationship with God, go to knowgod.org. That's K-N-O-W-G-O-D dot org.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-20 15:36:41 / 2023-12-20 15:48:03 / 11

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