West Bank of What?

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The parting words of Yeshua (Jesus) have inspired his followers for two millennia:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8 ESV

Judea and Samaria in the time of Jesus, 4 BC-30 AD. (Library of Congress)

Many Christians (including Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers) regard this verse as a job description, made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit. That’s the emphasis I usually hear in teachings from this text. Some messages cover the geographic aspect, demonstrating how the expansion of the Early Church was exactly as Yeshua directed: from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria, and then to the end of the earth. That is true, but it’s also historical, which is a problem. If the Bible is, as we profess, the living Word of God, applicable in our present just as it was in the past, then the places of the Bible should be relevant to us as well. They are, of course, but few people know why those biblical places are relevant because they don’t know what they are called today and where to find them on a map.

That explains an awkward moment at church recently when I asked a friend whether the Jewish people should be allowed to live in the West Bank. This friend is an accomplished Bible teacher and a model disciple of Yeshua. Thus, it was a surprise when my friend said, “I don’t have enough information to answer that question.”

I appreciate my friend’s honesty, but the answer is alarming. It means my friend doesn’t know that the modern invented name, “West Bank,” refers to Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria – the very places where Yeshua told his followers to be his witnesses. The reason Yeshua mentioned those places is because they are the heartland of God’s Covenant Nation of Israel. In his day, as in ours, the Jewish people were the visible remnant of that nation. Much of the world’s Jewish population lived in Israel’s eternal capital city, Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria was home to descendants of Israel’s conquered and scattered Northern Kingdom. Yeshua and the apostles traveled and ministered throughout Judea and Samaria, both to Jews and non-Jews living there. It is sacred land to Christians, but it was sacred land to Jews long before Yeshua was born in Bethlehem of Judea. Many events recorded in the Bible took place in Judea and Samaria, including the stories of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the prophets Elijah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah; and the kings David, Solomon, and Hezekiah. That is why Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria are the Biblical Heartland, and the core of the land God gave as an inheritance to Israel.

So how did the Biblical Heartland become known as the West Bank? That happened in 1950, when the Kingdom of Jordan annexed the region after Israel’s war of independence. That region was to have been part of an Arab state according to the United Nations plan of partition for Palestine in 1947. However, the Arabs rejected that plan, as they rejected every offer of a Palestinian Arab state ever since. The Jewish people of Palestine accepted the plan, and in May 1948 declared independence in the land allocated for a Jewish state. The Arabs then went to ar, with backing of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, intending to drive the Jews out and occupy all the land. Even the intervention of sizeable forces from the Arab nations could not bring victory, however, and Israel’s independence was established.

Judea and Samaria since 1947. Top Left: UN Partition Plan for Palestine, 29 Nov 1947. Top Right: Armistice Lines, 1949-1967, showing Jordanian occupation of Judea and Samaria. Bottom Left: Israel After the Six Day War, June 10, 1967. Bottom Right: Current map of Israel illustrating topography. (Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The war’s end left the Jordanian military in control of East Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. Rather than accept that land as an independent Arab Palestine, the Arabs living there opted to become part of Jordan. In April 1950, Judea and Samaria became the West Bank of the Kingdom of Jordan. That is the name by which the world still calls the region, even after Israel gained control of Judea and Samaria in the 1967 Six Day War, and after Jordan relinquished all claim to the land in 1988.

It should be evident how this name change plays into the political issue of who has title to Judea and Samaria. By calling them something other than the historical, biblical names, opponents of the Jewish State of Israel and of Jewish presence in their ancient homeland can build a case that Jews are the occupiers of Arab land. Sadly, the people who should be most supportive of the Jewish inheritance of Israel’s Biblical Heartland are unaware of this issue, and in their ignorance play right into the hands of Israel’s enemies. That’s a perilous place to be when we remember what God promised to Abraham and his descendants:

“And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Genesis 12:3 NASB

This is why a concerted effort is needed to educate both Christians and Jews about the truth of Judea and Samaria. For that reason, the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), along with the Israel Allies FoundationIsrael 365, and The Israel Guys announced the Biblical Heartland Resolution on February 22, 2024, pledging to drop the name “West Bank” and use the true names of Judea and Samaria. This cooperation of Jewish and Christian organizations to set the record straight has never been as important as now, when Israel is fighting for its very existence, and Jews around the world face a growing threat from antisemitism.

This is a point of action for all who love Israel and believe the promises of Israel’s God. Now is the time to advocate for the Jewish inheritance of the Promised Land of Israel, and endorsement of the Biblical Heartland Resolution is a great place to start.

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