Dear Friends of Israel,
The visit to Israel this past June by the Russian President, Vladmir Putin, received relatively little attention in the media, although in some ways, it was particularly noteworthy. Isi Liebler, an Israeli reporter, wrote in retrospect that Putin’s trip to Israel was his first foreign visit since winning the last election. In contrast, the first foreign visits made by America’s President Obama after winning his election were to Turkey and Egypt; but he has yet to visit Israel. Besides the recent trip, Putin also visited Israel in 2005.
Among other things, the occassion for Putin’s visit was the official opening of a memorial at a museum in Netanya, built as a reminder of the contributions made by Jewish soldiers during the Red Army’s victory over the Nazis. In his speech, Putin spoke in glowing words of Israel’s value and the greatest diaspora ever of Soviet emigrants.
Recalling the time when Jewish dissidents in the Soviet Union were oppressed and persecuted, the visit by the former KGB officer who became the Russian President seems almost unbelievable, an event that no one would have imagined in their wildest dreams. He even visited the wailing wall with a yarmulke on his head, unthinkable in even the worst nightmares of his bolshevik predecessors.
Liebler then warned that all this should not lead to the conclusion that the autocratic President Putin has become a true ally of Israel or the Jewish people. In spite of the glowing words, one should not overlook the fact that Putin leads a nation that supports Israel’s greatest enemies, such as Syria and Iran. Putin also has a tendency to support the position of the Palestinians. He reassured PLA leader Abbas of that position during his visit to Bethlehem.
In the end though, Liebler indicated that Putin appears to have real empathy toward Israel, where so many former Russian citizens now live. Putin has undoubtedly noticed that Israel, like Russia, is threatened by Islamic fundamentalists, thus leading to Russia’s tense relations with Turkey. Putin’s visit to Israel has almost certainly sent a message to Arabs that Russia is not a partner in their efforts to destroy Israel, even though Russia and Israel have differences of opinion in regard to Syria and Iran.
As the relationship develops between Russia and Israel, in ways that couldn’t have been imagined thirty years ago, we are challenged to re-examine our understanding of biblical prophecies, particularly Ezekiel 38 and 39. Many years ago, a traveler visiting Israel brought up this subject and asked me, “Where is Islam found in the Bible, and what will its role be in the end-times?“ The question caused me to think. We see today a growing, new power north of Israel, namely Turkey; a nation that was once well-disposed toward Israel but has now become quite hostile. The secular character of Turkey, established in its constitution, has become just the opposite under the leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan in the past ten years. Erdogan has managed to effectively change the constitution, denying the military leadership its right to preserve the secular character of the political leadership and even topple the government, if necessary; something that has occurred four times in Turkey’s modern history. Thus Erdogan has managed to concentrate all the power in his hand. As we look to the prophetic word, it is important to look at the developments in Turkey, too.
In the knowledge that God is redeeming His word in a fascinating and surprising way,