Our Special History With Israel
On September 4, we celebrated a very special day. We officially opened the Armstrong Institute of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem. With our staff, the family of the late Dr. Eilat Mazar, subscribers to this magazine, Hebrew University associates and archaeologists, Israel Antiquities Authority officials, and journalists, around 80 people attended the opening of our building and library.
In my address at the Institute opening, I shared our unique and special history with Jerusalem and its archaeology. I would like to share this history with you in this article. (You can watch this speech here, as well as the special presentation by Hebrew University archaeologist Prof. Uzi Leibner.)
A Harmonious History
This history began with Prof. Benjamin Mazar, president of Hebrew University (1953–1966), launching archaeological activities in Jerusalem. In December 1968, Hebrew University, along with the Israel Department of Antiquities, entered a 50-50 partnership with our namesake Herbert W. Armstrong and Ambassador College. They established what they called an “iron bridge” relationship, which jointly began the most significant excavation ever to occur in Israel!
Mr. Armstrong wrote on Dec. 10, 1968, “Ambassador College has just been given the great honor and responsibility of entering joint participation with Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the most important archaeological excavation of our time—uncovering 3,000 years of history!” We feel exactly the same about the privilege we have in contributing to Jerusalem’s archaeology today. It is a great honor to be a part of. That honor, and that responsibility, is the reason for our founding this institute. We have a responsibility to help sustain biblical archaeology in Jerusalem!
Mr. Armstrong visited Jerusalem 50 times in four years. That testifies of how deep his love for that city was. Between 1967 and his death in 1986, Mr. Armstrong met more than 30 Israeli leaders, including five prime ministers and four presidents. The Israeli leaders he worked with also loved Jerusalem. That is why I believe they had an unusual harmony.
Their passionate unity revolved around Jerusalem! The elites, intellectuals and leaders of Israel today may have differing opinions about this history; they may see it differently from the way we view it. But the truth is, this history is all of our history—whether members of the Knesset, professors of Hebrew University, or members of the institute that continues the legacy of Mr. Armstrong. I have studied more deeply into this history, and it bears tremendous lessons for all of us. In my study, I looked into the private conversations between Mr. Armstrong and Israeli leaders, not the public messages. I think you will find their personal comments to each other surprising. I certainly hope you find them interesting. This is something more people should know, yet almost nobody truly understands.
In 1971, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir held an exclusive 45-minute meeting in her Knesset office with Mr. Armstrong. She was the first such prime minister to do so. Mr. Armstrong presented her with a beautiful Steuben crystal. “[S]he is just an ordinary, plain, down-to-earth, unpretentious homespun woman and mother,” he later wrote affectionately. “[W]hen speaking of soldiers risking their lives for her country, this woman sees them through a mother’s eyes” (Plain Truth, June 1971). Mr. Armstrong greatly respected Prime Minister Meir. “Without apology to anyone, I have to attribute to this so common, yet so uncommon a woman, humanly, the quality of greatness, such as is possessed by so very few,” he wrote. He then added, “Emphatically, that is not flattery. I never flatter” (ibid).
Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek was another warm friend of Mr. Armstrong’s. They would often walk arm-in-arm. During one of Mr. Armstrong’s visits, Mr. Kollek presented him with a silver-and-gold sculpture of David defeating Goliath. “All your life, you have been a fighter of giant lies and of giant untruths,” Kollek said. “And as you regard yourself a descendant of David, and rightly so, here in the City of David, we would like to present you with this symbolic sculpture.”
Mr. Armstrong told Mr. Kollek that Jerusalem was destined to become “the greatest city in the world and in fact in the whole universe. This city is someday going to be the capital of the universe, because this city is going to exist forever” (emphasis mine). That was a strong statement. And amazingly, those Israeli elites who heard him seemed to agree—they certainly showed no negative reaction to what Mr. Armstrong said.
These men were in a fascinating harmony! It is uncommon to have two men like that operating together so in sync. On one occasion, Prime Minister Menachem Begin was in a meeting in Tel Aviv when he heard Mr. Armstrong was in town; he abruptly left the meeting and drove one hour to Jerusalem. When Mr. Armstrong told him that he should not have left his meeting just to visit with him, Begin said, “Mr. Armstrong, I would get out of bed at 2 in the morning to see you.”
Mr. Armstrong had visited with Jordan’s King Hussein, who expressed a desire for peace with Israel but was struggling with internal problems. Later in this trip, Mr. Armstrong visited Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and told him about King Hussein’s comments. He said that although more troubles were coming, world peace would ultimately come, “but it isn’t going to come easy.”
Mr. Armstrong was talking this way with top leaders in Israel! These men had a certain faith in what they were talking about, and they really did love each other.
Taking It Public
In November 1974, a banquet was held in Tel Aviv to honor Mr. Armstrong. It was at this occasion that this warm friendship between Mr. Armstrong and Israeli leaders finally went public. Government officials, parliamentarians, ambassadors, diplomats and national journalists were all in attendance. And Prof. Benjamin Mazar wanted this relationship revealed. Professor Mazar spoke and told all the banquet attendees that Mr. Armstrong had “a firm faithfulness in the prophecy of Isaiah,” which I believe many of those leaders did as well. He then paraphrased Isaiah 2:2-3, which reads: “And it shall come to pass in the end of days, That the mountain of the Lord’s house Shall be established as the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; And He will teach us of His ways, And we will walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” These men were thinking beyond biblical archaeology! They had a belief in certain biblical prophecies!
This passage in Isaiah is not unique: You’ll find this same prophecy in about 20 different passages in the Hebrew Bible. According to this prophecy, all nations will come to be taught at Jerusalem. That is going to bring peace to this world! If someone believes Isaiah 2:2-3, they will be motivated to have a certain hope in their lives. I believe these leaders had a special hope in their lives. Professor Mazar was trying to get this message out to everybody. Mr. Armstrong connected archaeology to Isaiah 2:2-3. He was clearly interested in more than just biblical archaeology. But he didn’t take this to the public himself. Professor Mazar did. Why did he do that? We may have to answer that question individually. But he, along with quite a few of those other leaders, did want this message to get out to the people of Israel. It is, after all, taken from the Hebrew Bible.
Professor Mazar continued his public statement, “Mr. Armstrong loves and admires Jerusalem, and wholeheartedly he believes in the future of Israel and the Holy City, and for him Jerusalem, the unified Jerusalem, is not only the metropolis of Israel and the spiritual center of the monotheistic religions, but also the symbol of the great past and the hope for a better future of mankind.” I find that incredibly moving. There are so many problems facing our world. You can see that so clearly. But you don’t see a lot of hope. What are we going to do without hope? Lacking hope, we won’t be doing the positive things we should. We must find hope!
I believe most of these leaders of Israel believed what Mr. Armstrong was saying and reacted to it in a very positive way. To me it appears they looked upon Jerusalem as being a city of hope. This harmony between Mr. Armstrong and Israeli leaders was so unusual; it is rare in the world today! How could they be so united and believe so many similar truths? Notice Mr. Armstrong’s perspective: “The favor we were given in their eyes— the warmth of their attitude toward us—was inspiring, astonishing and most unusual” (co-worker letter, May 28, 1971). It certainly is an unusual example. And I believe it stands out all the more in an increasingly divided world. This is our history. When you fully understand it, it can be a great help.
Ambassador for World Peace
These leaders knew something about world peace. Mr. Armstrong was called an unofficial ambassador for world peace. In the 1970s and 1980s, he met with hundreds of world leaders: presidents, prime ministers, kings, emperors, princes, legislators, ambassadors, generals, officers, mayors, judges, scientists, educators, magnates and executives. He talked with heads of state and heads of government in their offices. But he never approached them to visit; they called on him. These leaders wanted to speak to somebody they believed understood something about world peace. He understood how to have it, and recognized that despite humankind rejecting the path to peace, the Hebrew Bible says world peace certainly will come!
A 1975 Ambassador International Cultural Foundation publication wrote about “a companion brochure to present in a pictorial fashion the activities of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong throughout the world during the past seven years as an ‘ambassador for world peace’—a term that people such as Prince Mikasa of Japan, Ambassador Ronn of Israel, Minister Kol of Israel, Dr. Singh of the International Court and others have used publicly ….” You could include Margaret Thatcher, Deng Xiaoping, Anwar Sadat, Hosni Mubarak and many others in that list as well. That work of visiting so many world leaders started at almost exactly the time of the great archaeology project in Jerusalem. These leaders recognized that we desperately need world peace. Looking at this world, you really do see a need for world peace. These leaders were excited that somebody would speak out and talk about Isaiah 2:2-3.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told Mr. Armstrong, “I know a great deal about you, and we all do deeply appreciate your interest in Israel.” Mr. Armstrong truly did have a great interest in Israel. He boldly said on one occasion that for the next 1,000 years of his life, he would be living in Jerusalem. That’s the kind of faith Mr. Armstrong had. And these men praised him for that, and they had similar ideas.
In our booklet A Warm Friend of Israel, we write about this conference with Rabin: “During the 45-minute meeting, the two leaders discussed Mr. Armstrong’s friendships with Arab chiefs of state and peace among nations. Prime Minister Rabin thanked Mr. Armstrong for bringing other nations closer to Israel, especially the Arab nations.” At one point, for example, Mr. Armstrong supported an initiative by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to build a peace center at the base of Mt. Sinai. Mr. Rabin said Mr. Armstrong brought those people closer to Israel! This wasn’t a man who didn’t know what he was talking about—this was a prime minister of the Jewish state saying this!
Regarding those words, Mr. Armstrong said, “He was very appreciative of my efforts toward world peace.” World peace is certainly a noble cause. I believe those Israeli leaders were trying very hard to bring the world closer to peace. Prime Minister Meir said, “What we need most of all is peace.” What can we do if we lack peace? Without peace, we tear one another apart! Somehow we must learn to have peace and have hope. The Bible is full of statements about that. I believe Herbert W. Armstrong and these Israeli leaders can teach us some important and invaluable lessons. This is a vital and valuable part of our history! I have worked to make sure I understand this the best I can. And that is something we all need to do.