Every week, we post from seven to ten news stories from Israel with a suggested prayer focus and scripture for each one, guiding readers how to pray for Israel's most urgent needs. This Prayer Update is also sent to over 19,000 subscribers every Friday by e-mail. Fill out the form on the side if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.
- Passover Begins April 14
- Netanyahu: Palestinian State Only by Direct Negotiations
- Mortar Hits Sha’ar Hanegev Community
- Nuclear Talks between Iran and the West
- Anti-Semitic Parties on the Rise in Europe
- President Peres Goes East
- Assad Still Using Chemical Weapons
- Egyptian Army Moves against Islamists, Tunnels in Sinai
- IDF Welcomes the “Samson” Squadron
- First Arab-Israeli Woman Wins Israel’s Master Chef
Passover Begins April 14
Bridges for Peace wants to wish everyone a Hag Sameach (Happy Holiday) for the coming Passover (Pesach) holiday, which begins Monday evening (April 14). For those who are not familiar with the traditions practiced throughout the world during this biblical feast (Leviticus 23:5–8), we have used excerpts from a chapter in our book, Israel and the Church: God’s Road Map, to explain some of them: Passover, an eight-day holiday, is one of three pilgrimage festivals during which all the men of Israel were to come up to Jerusalem. Celebrated on days 14–21 of the Hebrew month of Nisan, it falls this year in Israel April 14–21.
The holiday begins with a special meal called the seder (meaning “order,” referring to the order of the evening’s story-telling) on the eve of the first day of Passover, called Erev Pesach. The meal often takes four to six hours. During the seder, the story of God delivering the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt is told in detail with song, symbolic foods, and liturgy. In virtually every Jewish home this holiday is observed, to some degree, as families gather together to remember God’s protection and provision.
Leviticus 23:5–8 says that during this holiday, no leaven is to be eaten. For eight days, no bread is eaten, or anything else with a leavening agent in it. In the days leading up to Passover, the nation has spring cleaning on a scale most of us have never imagined.
Every crumb of leaven must be found and removed from the home. For example, every item of clothing is taken out of the closets, pockets turned inside out, and everything washed. Pots and pans are taken to communal centers where they are boiled in large vats to ensure no leaven remains. On the last day before Passover begins, the last vestiges of bread or other leavened products are gathered up and ceremoniously burned.
This holiday is rich in significance for both Christians and Jews. The Apostle Paul tells us that leaven is symbolic of sin. Oh, that we were as diligent about removing sin from our lives as the Jewish people are about removing every crumb from their homes.
In biblical times, a spotless, perfect lamb was sacrificed for the Passover meal. Many Christians do not realize that the Last Supper was a Passover meal. Our celebration of Resurrection Day (Easter) commemorates the resurrection of Jesus, and it actually was during Passover.
Bridges for Peace extends a warm Hag Sameach to all our Jewish friends here in Israel and around the world and pray that our Christian friends will enjoy a special Resurrection Day during this Passover week.
- (Excerpts from “A Year in the Life of Israel,” Israel and the Church: God’s Road Map, Bridges for Peace)
As the Jewish people commemorate their freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt, thank the Lord God that they have the ability to relive and experience the freedom that their ancestors gained.
On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.- Leviticus 23:5–7
Netanyahu: Palestinian State Only by Direct Negotiations
[Netanyahu’s remarks] At the weekly Cabinet meeting (6 April 2014): "In recent months the State of Israel has conducted negotiations with the Palestinians in order to reach a peace agreement. Israelis expect peace, a genuine peace, in which our vital national interests are assured, with security first and foremost.
"During these talks we carried out difficult steps and showed a willingness to continue implementing moves that were not easy, in the coming months as well, in order to create a framework that would allow for putting an end to the conflict between us. Just as we were about to enter into that framework for the continuation of the negotiations, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] hastened to declare that he is not prepared even to discuss recognizing Israel as the national state of the Jewish People, which we have made clear to both the President of the United States and to other world leaders as well.
"To my regret as we reached the moment before agreeing on the continuation of the talks, the Palestinian leadership hastened to unilaterally request to accede to 14 international treaties. Thus the Palestinians substantially violated the understandings that were reached with American involvement. The Palestinians' threats to appeal to the UN will not affect us. The Palestinians have much to lose by this unilateral move. They will achieve a state only by direct negotiations, not by empty statements and not by unilateral moves. These will only push a peace agreement farther away and unilateral steps on their part will be met with unilateral steps on our part. We are ready to continue the talks but not at any price."
[In conclusion] Prime Minister Netanyahu: "I would like to take this opportunity to wish the entire Jewish People a Happy Passover. This is the festival of going from slavery to freedom. A free and independent person also knows how to say 'No' when it is necessary and 'Yes' when it is possible. We are a free people in our land."
- (Excerpts of press release by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, April 6, 2014)
- Photo Credit
- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Praise God for the free nation of Israel and pray that Christians will stand with those who God has chosen to be a people for Himself, even in the difficult times when a “No” is necessary.
For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.- Deuteronomy 7:6
Mortar Hits Sha’ar Hanegev Community
A mortar rocket launched from the Gaza Strip exploded in a community in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council in the Gaza parameter area Wednesday [Apr. 9]. The rocket landed near the swimming pool and caused damage to surrounding infrastructure. No injuries were reported and no alert siren was sounded.
Local residents described hearing an immense blast which they said inspired quite a scare. Residents are requested to remain indoors for the meantime and refrain from reaching the blast site. "This is a scary event, despite the quiet of recent days," a local resident told Ynet. "It caught us off guard, because usually there is some kind of an alert. Thank god this time it fell far away from residential areas where kids are running around.
Earlier Wednesday a “Code Red” siren was heard in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council on Wednesday. The rocket that was fired from the Gaza Strip fell inside Palestinian territory.
Last Saturday the Israel Air Force attacked five terror targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a rocket fired towards southern Israel earlier in the day. An IDF statement said all targets were hit.
The rocket fell in an open field in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. No one was hurt from the rocket fire and no damage was caused.
Last month was scene to the latest round of escalation, when dozens of rockets were launched towards southern Israel over the course of two days. The IDF struck dozens of terror targets in response from the air and with artillery fire.
After two days, Islamic Jihad, took responsibility for the rocket fire and announced a truce. Following the shooting, Israel stationed Iron Dome batteries in Beersheba and near Ashdod.
- (By Matan Tzuri, Ynetnews, April 9, 2014)
- Photo Credit
Praise the Lord that no one was injured as the rockets hit the swimming area in this community. Pray for calm steady nerves and restful nights for those citizens in Israel whose regions are targeted by the rockets of terrorists.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil…- Psalm 34:15–16a
Nuclear Talks between Iran and the West
The third round of nuclear talks between the P5+1 (US, Britain, Russia, France, China and Germany) and Iran was held in Vienna on April 8–9. These monthly meetings are part of the interim agreement between Iran and the West which saw a short-term freeze on portions of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for decreased economic sanctions.
The parties plan to begin drafting the text of the permanent agreement at their next meeting, scheduled for May 13. However, “significant gaps” remain between the two positions. Iran refuses to discuss its ballistic missile program at the nuclear talks which is an issue in the eyes of the US. Compounding matters is a reported plan that would see the exchange of oil-for-goods between Russia and Iran, essentially bypassing the oil export limit defined by the interim agreement.
The parties hope to reach a permanent agreement by July 20. This agreement is intended to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.
Israel’s PM Netanyahu has consistently warned the world that Iran’s talk does not match their actions. Iran is simply using diplomatic channels such as these talks to buy the time needed to develop a nuclear weapon.
- (By Janet Aslin, Bridges for Peace, April 10, 2014)
Acknowledge that the protection for Israel and the world comes from the Lord God, our Rock. Thank Him for the consistent warnings from PM Netanyahu and pray for discernment and insight among those in authority who are making agreements with Iran’s government.
I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.- 1 Timothy 2:1–2
Anti-Semitic Parties on the Rise in Europe
The rise of far-right politics in Europe reached new heights in last Monday's [Apr. 7] elections in Hungary when "Jobbik," the self-professed “radical right-wing” political party which has often been accused of blatant anti-Semitism, won 20.54% of votes, making it the third largest party in the country and the single largest extreme right party in Europe.
Hungary however, is not alone. In the last decade, in particular in the wake of the EU's economic crisis and ongoing influx of immigrants into Europe, the continent's far-right parties' popularity has made dramatic leaps.
"Anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Europe are always connected to citizen's financial difficulties," Professor of Political Science at Bar Ilan University Shmuel Sandler told Ynet. Sandler, who is also a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, added that: "When life is hard, people look for someone to blame, and populist parties know how to use this momentum to ride the wave of racism."
"The large amount of immigration into Europe scares the local population, especially when coupled with a low birth rate. There is a fear of letting in different cultures, different religions, and people who are generally different," said the professor.
"Europe is mostly secular, and suddenly immigrants from whom religion is extremely important are coming in, for example Jews and Muslims. The far-right hates everyone, and their hatred of foreigners manifests differently for different groups."
- (Excerpts of article by Lital Gana and Itay Blumenthal, Ynetnews, April 10, 2014)
- Photo Credit
- www.wikipedia.org/Michael Thaidigsmann
- Photo License
Ask the LORD to help fearful peoples and nations see that blessing the people of Israel can bring blessings to their nations also. Thank the Heavenly Father that He is a “forever promise-keeper.”
I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.- Genesis 12:3
President Peres Goes East
President Shimon Peres arrived this morning [Apr. 8] in the Chinese capital Beijing for the start of an official three-day visit to be greeted by President Xi Jinping. This will be one of the last official trips abroad for President Peres who will complete his presidency this spring.
The visit has been described as an opportunity for Israel and China to advance diplomatic and economic relationships. China is reported to be especially interested in Israeli advances in science and technology. China also has an interest in helping to stabilize the Middle East and exchange ideas on how to combat terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. For her part China also has problems connected with terrorist activities.
The last time an Israeli president officially visited China was ten years ago. In the next few days Peres will be meeting leaders of many of China's biggest companies, particularly in the field of high-tech, scientific and technology research.
- (By Edgar Asher, Ashernet, April 8, 2014)
- Photo Credit
Thank the Lord that nations in the world recognize Israel. Pray for wisdom on behalf of leaders that they may represent Israel in a way that God of Israel will be glorified.
Many nations will come and say,- Micah 4:2 (NASB)
Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths.
Assad Still Using Chemical Weapons
According to a senior defense official, Israel has evidence that a nonlethal chemical weapon was used by Syrian President Assad’s troops in a March 27th attack on opposition fighters. The chemical agent causes breathing problems and temporarily incapacitates the soldiers on whom it is used. The information provided by Israel confirms reports from the rebel forces of the use of “poison gas” by the government. These forces indicate the same chemical agent was used several days later in a similar attack.
Last September Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons and destroy its production plants. Among the chemicals included in the agreement are mustard gas and nerve agents VX and Sarin; however, the agent used in the recent attacks was not on the list of materials to be removed.
Israeli officials are keeping a close watch on the process to ensure that these chemical weapons do not fall into the hands of Hizbullah. The Times of Israel reported Defense Minister Ya’alon as saying that 60% of Syria’s chemicals have been removed. Syria did not meet the February 5th deadline for complete removal of their stockpile and a new deadline has been set for the end of April.
- (By Janet Aslin, Bridges for Peace, April 8, 2014)
Pray for the protection of the people of Syria, as their leaders attempt to use these chemical weapons again. Ask God to guide Israel in staying vigilant in protecting the nation from chemical weapons that Hizbullah might try to hoard for use against Israel.
For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue. Pronounce them guilty, O God! Let them fall by their own counsels…- Psalm 5:9–10a
Egyptian Army Moves against Islamists, Tunnels in Sinai
The Egyptian army launched an operation against Wahabi Islamists in the northern Sinai Peninsula on Saturday [Apr. 5]. Official sources report soldiers killed four members of terrorist groups and destroyed eight tunnels connecting the Sinai to the Gaza Strip.
The troops also detained at least 36 men identified as members of armed groups including the wanted leader of a group that has claimed responsibility for recent attacks on Egyptian security personnel. Weapons, explosive devices, cars, motorcycles and trucks were confiscated during the operations. Wahabi fighters are actively fighting government troops since the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi.
- (Excerpts of article by The Media Line, April 06, 2014)
- Photo Credit
Petition the Lord that the violent intentions of terrorists will exposed and that innocent blood will not be shed.
Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men who devise evil things in their hearts; they continually stir up wars.- Psalm 140:1–2 (NASB)
IDF Welcomes the “Samson” Squadron
Today [Apr. 9], the Israel Air Force [IAF] strengthened considerably with the arrival of the “Samson” plane, the new generation C-130J Super Hercules. This new acquisition will give the IDF a major strategic advantage against those who seek to threaten the security of Israel—those both near and far. Colonel A., deputy commander of the unit in charge of the “Samson,” reveals the capabilities of this new transport plane.
The IAF purchased the long version of the Hercules C-130J from Lockheed- Martin which allows for an improved carrying capacity: instead of 64 paratroopers the short version can carry, the Hercules C-130J can accommodate in its cargo hold 94 paratroopers and their equipment. Alternatively, the cargo hold can accommodate four military SUVs instead of three, or transport 128 soldiers. More importantly, the range of flight for the “Samson” is nearly 4,000 km [2,486 mi], allowing the IAF to neutralize all threats, both near and far.
A tour of the cockpit of the Hercules C-130J reveals cutting-edge technology: in addition to the digital screens and the advanced displays, the new plane is equipped with new systems that streamline the aircraft maintenance work and allow the technicians to gain information on the routine operations and the malfunctions. Now that the “Samson” has arrived in Israel, many more computer systems designed by Israel will be added to the plane. These Israeli systems will assist the “Samson” in its jobs of transportation of troops, rescue, and efficient and safe supply.
With its great holding capacity and technological innovation, this new giant of the skies will bring a major strategic advantage, which will strengthen the IDF’s ability to carry out its mission of protecting Israel’s borders and citizens.
- (Excerpts of article by Israel Defense Forces, April 9, 2014)
- Photo Credit
- Israel Defense Forces
Praise the Lord that He hears and answers! Thank Him for His timely provision for the long-range protection of the nation of Israel, as rocket attacks increase.
It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.- Isaiah 65:24
First Arab-Israeli Woman Wins Israel’s Master Chef
Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, an Arab woman with a PhD in marine microbiology, has won Israel’s highest honor for an amateur chef—the title of Master Chef. “The moment they announced it, I couldn’t contain my joy…it means I’ll be able to fulfill my dream.” That dream, says Atamna-Ismaeel, is to open an Arab-Jewish cooking school in her area of northern Israel.
“Near my village there are a lot of Arab towns and Jewish towns—it’s a mixed area, but it’s very sad,” she said. “Although we live very close to each other, there are very limited connections and few friendships between Jews and Arabs here.”
Atamna-Ismaeel beat out thousands of Israelis who came to audition for one of 14 spots. She formed a close friendship with an unlikely candidate—an ultra-Orthodox British rabbi named Josh Steele, who was eliminated halfway through the competition. “She is the first Israeli Palestinian I’ve had a close relationship with,” Steele said. “She calls me every Friday to wish me a good Sabbath. We can talk for hours.” Atamna-Ismaeel says that her friendship with Steele shows the power of food to bring people together.
Atamna-Ismaeel specializes in modern Arab cuisine—taking traditional Arab cuisine and giving it a modern twist. She uses a lot of traditional Arab foods like fava beans (ful in Arabic), tahini, and eggplant to create dishes that are visually enticing as well as delicious. The hardest challenge for her on Master Chef was when the competitors were asked to make a dish using only canned food. “Arab cuisine is very seasonal and we never use cans,” she said. “On the show I decided to use only vegetables and not touch the canned meat. I wouldn’t want to eat it and neither would the judges.”
She hopes her cooking school will start to break down barriers that still exist between Arabs and Jews. “I’m just Nof and I can’t solve the Arab-Israeli conflict,” she said. “But all change starts with small acts. If I can bring a few hundred Arabs and Jews to my school, and break down some stereotypes, I will be glad. Through food, you can bring people together in a good atmosphere and they can begin to understand each other.”
- (By Linda Gradstein, The Media Line, April 08, 2014)
- Photo Credit
- The Media Line
Thank the Father for Nof Atamna-Ismaeel’s desire to bring greater understanding between Israelis and Arabs in her community. May her cooking school be blessed and may it further the cause of peace and understanding.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.- Matthew 5:9