As the war draws closer to Armageddon, the end times don’t seem so far away

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According to the Book of Revelation, this is the top of the mountain where everything will end.

Armageddon. Or today’s Megiddo. The place where, the Bible says, international armies under the leadership of the Devil will wage war against the forces of God.

“And he gathered them together to a place called in the Hebrew language Armageddon,” the passage states, adding brilliantly: “And the seventh angel poured out his vial (of God’s wrath) into the air; and a great voice came from the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done.”

Well, Armageddon does exist, derived from the Hebrew Har Megiddo, or Mountain of Megiddo; and while the end times might have seemed a little far-fetched, it doesn’t seem so improbable now.

Israelis and Palestinians say the Book of Revelation has become more than a far-fetched passageIsraelis and Palestinians say the Book of Revelation has become more than a far-fetched passage

Israelis and Palestinians say the Book of Revelation has become more than a far-fetched passage – JULIAN SIMMONDS

From the top of Megiddo there is a magnificent view of the West Bank, less than three kilometers away.

To the north, Hezbollah rockets – in total around 160,000 – are pointed in that direction while to the south, Hezbollah rockets are pointed in that direction. Israeli Defense Forces (FDI) are engaged in violent armed combat with Hamas in a war that lasted almost four months.

Israel is running out of steam. In Megiddo, right in the middle of the country and now home to a vast archaeological site, a feeling of foreboding permeates the region.

It is no accident that the Book of Revelation chose this location for its Armageddon.

Megiddo lies on the ancient trade route between Egypt and Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and Syria) and was the scene of many Old Testament battles. In modern times, General Allenby defeated the Ottomans here in a decisive battle in 1918 to conquer Palestine. (He later took the title Viscount Allenby of Megiddo.)

The “I Visited Armageddon” T-shirts (only color available: black) sold in the otherwise deserted shop at the archaeological park don’t seem like the fanciest purchases to bring back to the kids. Likewise, baseball caps in a variety of colors and styles, including attractive pink and camouflage.

Caps and t-shirts at the archaeological site shop virtually unsold as tourist numbers decline due to conflictCaps and t-shirts at the archaeological site shop virtually unsold as tourist numbers decline due to conflict

Caps and T-shirts at the archaeological site shop virtually unsold as tourist numbers decline due to conflict – JULIAN SIMMONDS

No one is really going to Megiddo right now – a sign that the country remains in shock more than 100 days after the disaster. October 7 attacks. The tourist trade has disappeared and Christian visitors who came to Armageddon stay away because they fear… Armageddon.

Inside the store, the national park ranger (who is not authorized to speak to the press) says he had 1,000 visitors a day. Now that’s a handful. T-shirts and baseball caps remain unsold. “We are in the dark,” he said. It’s a metaphor for the country as a whole.

Out of nowhere appears Sergei Puzanov, 62, on a day trip with his wife. A Jew of Russian origin, Mr. Puzanov left his country of origin ten months ago to escape the warmongering of Vladimir Putin and to visit his children who are studying abroad. “I just wanted to see Armageddon before it was real Armageddon,” he said with a slight smile.

He came for a day from Nahariya, a coastal town just six miles south of the border with Lebanon.

“It is entirely possible that there will be a war in the north. It’s necessary but I’m afraid,” says Mr Puzanov, a retired IT engineer. He supports Benjamin Netanyahuthe Israeli Prime Minister, whose grip on power in Israel is fragile.

Sergei Puzanov, a Russian-born Jew and his wife visit Armageddon Sergei Puzanov, a Russian-born Jew and his wife visit Armageddon

Sergei Puzanov, a Russian-born Jew and his wife visit Armageddon ‘before,’ he says, ‘there was a real armageddon’ – JULIAN SIMMONDS

Opinion polls suggest that most of the country wants him removed from office, blaming him for the security failures of October 7, in which 1,200 people in southern Israel were massacred by Hamas terrorists. They also hold him responsible waging a war in Gaza which shows no signs of slowing down and which has allowed the release of less than half of the 240 hostages held in the enclave.

“He (Netanyahu) is doing the right thing,” says Mr. Puzanov, “I support him.”

Shirley Dear, 38, who lives in neighboring Kibbutz Megiddo and brought her 10-year-old son for a quick visit, fears the worst and hopes for the best.

“Even before this war, I was not pro-government. It’s a very problematic government,” she said.

“They just want us to fight. They don’t want to find a solution to the situation.

“I anticipate there will be something up north. There are still problems here, but I hope it won’t be soon.

In reality, a war with Hezbollah, a much more dangerous adversary than Hamas, is looming.

Border towns have been evacuated and tens of thousands of Israelis have been displaced for months. Every day, the IDF issues statements detailing bombings on southern Lebanon or missiles fired at Israel by Hezbollah. The tension is high.

Just down the hill from ancient Megiddo is the busy Megiddo intersection and the location of one of Israel’s most notorious prisons, where activists say around 1,000 Palestinians are detained, including a small number of adolescents.

East of Megiddo is the Triangle, made up of three Palestinian towns and one of the few places in Israel with an Arab majority. Known colloquially as the 48ers, these were the Palestinian citizens who remained behind after the formation of Israel in 1948. These were distressing times for them, too.

Six miles from Megiddo is Umm al-Fahm, the largest of the Triangle towns, where Mamdooh Igbarie, a writer and social activist, denounces Netanyahu’s regime, the most right-wing in Israeli history.

The city of Umm al-Fahm, the largest of the Triangle cities, and home of Mamdooh Igbarie, writer and social activistThe city of Umm al-Fahm, the largest of the Triangle cities, and home of Mamdooh Igbarie, writer and social activist

The city of Umm al-Fahm, the largest of the Triangle cities, one of the few places in Israel with an Arab majority – JULIAN SIMMONDS

It is Israel’s third-largest Palestinian city, its buildings clinging to the hillside, densely packed against the wall that separates it from the Palestinian Authority territories in the West Bank.

“We stand in solidarity with Gaza,” says Mr. Igbarie. “We feel very nervous all the time. We can see that no one wins the war. Nobody wants this war. All of us – Arabs and Jews – ordinary citizens are against the war and we demand that the war be stopped immediately.

“The Jews are our friends,” Mr. Igbarie said. “The problem is Zionism. This gives a privilege to the Jews; that they are better than us.

The current conflict, he believes, will expand because “the whole world is now against Israel,” adding: “There is already a war with Hezbollah. The reality says that there are bombings every day in Lebanon. Every day you make martyrs. Every day, martyrs die. It makes things worse every day.

“I think the whole war will spread. It is very difficult to reach an agreement between big countries like China, the United States and London.”

Mr. Igbarie sips his coffee in a chic cafe in Umm al-Fahm. “World War III is going on right now,” he said spontaneously.

I look out the window and head up the road toward Armageddon. I couldn’t be sure but I thought the clouds were starting to darken.

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