To this very day, the location is a bit small and obscure. Not unlike a visit to the city of Philadelphia to experience the birthplace of our nation’s founding documents. There you will find Independence Hall nestled in a downtown filled with office buildings that surround it like a fortress. A place where thousands journey to see what the birthplace of freedom looks like.
There is another such place nestled in the modern-day city of Tel Aviv: Israel’s Independence Hall. As history records, it was 4 p.m. on May 14, 1948, in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, only eight hours before the termination of the British Mandate in what was then Palestine. The members of the People’s Council and Executive and invited leaders gathered in the museum hall. They listened with emotion as David Ben-Gurion, head of the People’s Council, the Zionist Executive and the Jewish Agency, declared the creation of the State of Israel.
The museum was originally the home of Meir Dizengoff and his wife Zina, who won lot #43 in the land lottery, which parsed out the acreage of this new settlement. They soon built their home there in 1909. He served as head of the new neighborhood committee, and later became the first mayor of Tel Aviv. This memorial serves as a reminder of not only the sheer determination of the courageous men and women who labored, fought, defended and are still defending their homeland to this very day. Placed prominently in the foyer of the museum one finds the words of Amos 9:14, “I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.” Hearkening back to the decision of King David, this young nation then declared the city of Jerusalem as their capital city. Their nation, their capital, their decision. This week’s recognition by the United States validating Israel’s decision. Let’s just say that it’s a decision of biblical proportions.
Two hundred and forty-two years ago, a brave group of patriots signed their names to a document that would change the course of human history. When I look upon the names etched on our beloved birth certificate, I am always reminded of the weight of that final sentence. It is a promise given by the signers, to “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Many of them, and their fellow patriots did, in fact, sacrifice their lives and fortunes in service to our country.
The relevance to our conversation today, to the nation of Israel, is found in the words of Benjamin Franklin in 1787. As delegates were assembled together in Philadelphia to construct the document we know of today as the Constitution of the United States of America. The weather was hot and they were about to adjourn for the day when Ben Franklin stood to address the assembly: “We, indeed, seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, some we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which, having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed modern states all around Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.”
So what did the founders rely on for the framing of our nation’s government? Let’s just let them tell us. John Adams, “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” Noah Webster said, “The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles. This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free constitutions of government. The moral principles and precepts found in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws.” Even our Congress in 1854 stated, “Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle… In this age, there can be no substitute for Christianity. That was the religion of the founders of the republic, and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants.”
So why is this little sliver of land situated in the heart of the Middle East so relevant to us as Americans? Because from there, and what happened there more than 2,000 years ago, we, as a nation, found the direction, the principles and the inspiration to begin an experiment that still stands today: the United States of America. For the sake of Israel, for the sake of our nation and for the sake of what lies ahead, may we never forget that.
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.