Where is Israel located?
The question of where exactly Israel is located, and what continent it’s on, is a loaded one. We can talk about regions and specific tracks of land, each with its own confusing history. At the same time, we could talk about nations — people groups — and who we think belongs where.
Ultimately, the real answer comes down to knowing the difference between two things. What do international news reports say, and what has God had in His heart from the beginning?
The Nations’ Answer: Israel is in Asia
Geographically speaking, Israel is located in Asia, and more specifically in its section called the Middle East. While it’s a common international regional reference today, the term “Middle East” is a recent one (in the scope of history).
Back in the 1850s, when “the sun never set on the British Empire”, there were 3 regional designations. From the Empire’s perspective, that is.
First of all, everything from the British capital of London was “east”.
So, the Near East referred to today’s eastern Europe, Turkey, and the Balkans. The Middle East covered Northeast Africa and Southwest Asia. And finally, the Far East were the countries that bordered the Pacific Ocean.
This is answers the question of what continent Israel is on – it belongs to southwest Asia, while being a part of the “Middle East” region. The Americans began using this name in the early 1900s. Then, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War 1, the title stuck.
Nevertheless, the term “the Middle East” tells us nothing of the peoples or cultures that we find within this far from homogenous region.
God’s Answer: Ezekiel 5:5
If God has created “every tribe, nation and tongue”, then He as a plan and intent for each of them. You, as the reader, and your nation are included in this. Yet this is what God has said to Israel about where they are to be:
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. (Ez 5:5)
Without getting into geo-political arguments, this verse refers to Him as the Sovereign Lord.
If God is sovereign, then doesn’t He have the right to choose any people group He wants? Can He place them on any piece of land that He chooses for however long as He desires…. AND to do so without our opinion?
The answer is a resounding yes! If God were not sovereign, then He wouldn’t be God! From the Sovereign Lord’s perspective, where is Israel located? It is not so much in the Middle East, as it is in the middle of the nations.
But why did the Sovereign Lord choose that for the Jewish people?
The Real Question is Not “Where” but “Why”
This is the more important aspect of where Israel is located. The reason God wanted Israel to be in the center of the nations goes back to their original calling in Exodus 19:5-6:
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Before the covenant established on Mount Sinai, God reaffirmed the everlasting promise He made to Abraham. His desire was to choose Israel to pour His heart and soul into this family to bless all people.
As a result, God’s intent for the Jewish family was to be God’s treasured possession among all peoples. And as such, they were to demonstrate His character to the rest of the surrounding nations through them.
God’s desire was for the entire nation to function as “kingdom of priests” to the rest of the world. He wanted Israel to show the world what God was like.
But Wait, When Has Israel Obeyed God Enough to Represent Him?
Israel today is a primarily secular country. With that in mind, do they still represent God’s character to the rest of the world? The answer may seem surprising, but it is also yes!
How do we know about God’s enduring faithfulness, love, patience, mercy, justice and desire for forgiveness? We have learned these from Israel’s repeated biblical and historical failures matched with God’s repeated devotion to the covenant He made with them.
Today we are seeing this in plain view.
The restoration of Israel is proof that His undying faithfulness throughout the generations has already spanned two millennia.
No other people group in recorded history has been on one piece of land, forcibly removed twice… To then return again 2000 years later to the same piece of real estate. All the while, they are the identifiable descendants of those who were removed.
What is more, this entire process was foretold 2600 years before it happened!
Throughout all human history, only the Jewish people can claim such a feat. Israel today is the same people the Sovereign God had made an everlasting covenant with – between Himself, the people and the land. Only a kind, loving and sovereign God could do these things.
Is Today’s Israel Located Where Biblical Israel Was?
Ezekiel 36:36 says that when the Jewish people return to the covenant land, the land will physically respond to its rightful ownership and the forgotten cities will be rebuilt. God promised He would do that for the sake of the surrounding nations:
Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it. (Ezekiel 36:36)
Israel’s restoration is also proof that God’s desire for the nations has not changed. We see that even just in her region! As Israel has developed, it has also benefited the surrounding people, specifically the Arab people who choose to embrace her.
Israel’s Impact on the Region
Israeli-British historian, Efriam Karsh wrote a piece called “What occupation” in 2002. While the data is over 20 years old, it is still historically accurate and demonstrates how God used Israel in the most stunning fashion.
Karsh writes that under Israeli rule in the 1970s, the West Bank became the 4th fastest growing economy on earth. Read that fact again. To remind you, this was immediately after the Six Day War, when Israel reclaimed the biblical Judea and Samaria, AKA “the West Bank”.
In the 1970s and 80s, Palestinians living under Israeli rule had the highest life expectancy and the lowest infant mortality rates than any other surrounding Arab nation. Childhood diseases like polio, whooping cough, and measles were eradicated in the West Bank by Israeli inoculation programs.
The basic standard of living dramatically and measurably increased during that time for the local Arab population. Things like constant electricity, running water, refrigerators, TVs, and cars became commonplace and were no longer a novelty.
Even today, the statistics show that Arabs who live under Israeli sovereignty are more educated, make more money and have more religious freedoms that any other Arab nation.
If we look at the local statistics of the last 75 years (meaning, since Israel was reborn), Israel has been the answer to peace and prosperity, not the problem.
Why Israel’s Content is the Center of the Nations
When Israel was reborn in 1948, it was known for Jaffa oranges, Dead Sea mineral plants, desolate wastelands, and low-value textiles.
Today, Israel is a startup nation with world renowned leadership in medical technologies, cyber-security, and multiple fields within the tech industry. They are also pioneers in life sciences, desert agriculture, water technologies and overall, in making the desert bloom.
I could list a lot more here (or you can check it out for yourself here).
What better place for all these innovations than “in the center of the nations” — so the nations can see this miracle of God and partake in its blessing. Today, the covenant descendants of Abraham are blessing people’s lives throughout the world in every way.
God is simply doing what He said through the prophets that He would do. And He’s doing it so “the nations will know”. Through Israel’s reestablishment, we are seeing perhaps one of the greatest demonstrations of God’s covenantal faithfulness that the world has ever seen.
But there is more.
Location, location, location (of Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple)
Just as the Scriptures say that Israel is the center of the world, the center of Israel is Jerusalem. And the center of Jerusalem is the Temple Mount. But let’s not stop there.
The center of the Temple Mount is the Temple (even though it is not currently there as we know it). The center of the Temple is the holy of holies – which is where the Messiah will rule from. Zachariah 14 says all nations will come to worship the King here, in Jerusalem, during the Feast of Tabernacles.
God has placed Israel in the middle of the nations in the same way that He desires to be in the middle of His people.
So, while Israel is located in Asia and is a part of the Middle East, more importantly God has placed Israel at the very center of the nations.
Visiting Israel: In the Footsteps of Jesus: Free PDF Download
It is quite exciting to think that while touring Israel you are walking on the same land that Jesus did.
Whether it is the reason why you came to Israel or not, it is worth noting which locations were significant to His life and ministry. God chose this piece of land to send His Son to live on earth. Many archeological findings confirm the locations mentioned in the Bible.
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