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Friday, February 16, 2018

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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 18,000 subscribers every Friday by e-mail. Please contact us at intl.office@bridgesforpeace.com if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.

What is Iran Doing on Israel’s Doorstep?

by Ilse Strauss

PM Netanyahu and the Security Cabinet receive an IDF briefing on the northern border earlier this month

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 │ Early Saturday morning the Islamic Republic of Iran launched an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from Syria into Israel, violating its sovereign airspace. The Jewish state’s answer to the violation was swift and decisive. By Saturday afternoon, Israel had already shot down the drone, taken out the launch site and struck a further eight Syrian and four Iranian military targets within Syria. The Israeli fleet did, however, come under heavy Syrian anti-aircraft fire and one of its F-16Is crashed in the Lower Galilee after shrapnel from an exploding missile damaged the plane.

In the aftermath of the most significant clash between Israel and Syria in decades and arguably the first official military action between Jerusalem and Tehran, Israeli and international media has been abuzz with speculation as to whether—and how—the situation might escalate. The question of whether the long-brewing tensions on Israel’s northern border may soon erupt into war is definitely a crucial one. However, there is perhaps a more fundamental aspect that needs clarification first: what is Iran—a country located 1,789 km (1,112 miles) as the bird flies from the Jewish state’s borders—doing on Israel’s doorstep?

The answer is both straightforward and complex. When it comes to Israel, Iran has never made any bones about its desire to see the Jewish state and its people annihilated. Moreover, Tehran has been vocal on the leading role it aims to play in the planned destruction. And while Iran remains hard at work developing long-range ballistic weapons in contravention of the sanctions imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal, the distance between the Islamic Republic and the country it wishes to annihilate certainly poses a challenge. Possible solutions would be to gain a foothold closer to Israel’s borders or to engage a proxy willing to do the dirty work. The Islamic Republic has arguably pursued both options.

Iran, Syria and the Lebanese terror group, Hezbollah, form the so-called “axis of resistance,” a Shi’ite alliance aimed at opposing Israeli and US interests in the Middle East. While Tehran stands at the helm of the alliance, Syria—by Iran’s own admission—serves as an indispensable pillar. The term was used as early as August 2010 when a senior advisor for foreign affairs to Iran’s supreme leader said, “The chain of resistance against Israel by Iran, Syria, Hezbollah…passes through the Syrian highway…Syria is the golden ring of the chain of resistance against Israel.” Then, two years later, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, remarked, “What is happening in Syria is not an internal issue, but a conflict between the axis of resistance and its enemies in the region and the world. Iran will not tolerate, in any form, the breaking of the axis of resistance, of which Syria is an intrinsic part.”

The Islamic Republic remained true to its word. During the nearly seven-year Syrian Civil War, Tehran’s military, logistical, technical and financial support proved instrumental in helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gain an upper hand in the conflict. For Iran, the survival of the Assad regime was not negotiable. It meant protecting Shi’ite regional interests in a neighborhood dominated by Sunni Persian Gulf monarchies.

Yet Tehran’s involvement went well beyond coming to a flailing ally’s aid. Syria proved the ideal spot for Iran to set up camp within easy striking distance of the country it wishes to annihilate: Israel. Throughout its six years of active involvement in the Syrian Civil War, the Islamic Republic has worked steadily at fortifying its military presence on the Jewish state’s doorstep.

Concrete evidence of Tehran’s long-term ambitions surfaced in November 2017, when BBC published footage of the Iranian military establishing a permanent compound just south of Damascus. The satellite images showed the ongoing construction activities between January and October last year, with a number of buildings—likely to house soldiers and vehicles—taking shape.

At the same time, Iran uses the war in Syria to help the third leg of the axis, Hezbollah, fortify its position against Israel. Dedicated to the Jewish state’s destruction, the Shiite terror group based in southern Lebanon currently has 150,000 fully loaded missiles trained on the Promised Land. Moreover, the Islamic Republic is using Syria as a funnel to stock Hezbollah’s arsenal with additional advanced weapons.

Following reports that Iran is playing a leading role in constructing missile manufacturing sites for Hezbollah to produce precision-guided missiles to be used in future conflicts against Israel, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Brigadier-General Ronen Manelis published an op-ed in Arab media last month, urging the people of Lebanon to open their eyes to the fact that Iran was taking over their country though its terror proxy, Hezbollah. “Lebanon has turned…into one large missile factory,” Manelis wrote. “It is no longer a transfer of arms, funds or consultation. Iran has de-facto opened a new branch, the ‘Lebanon branch.’ Iran is here.”

The Islamic Republic further highlighted both its involvement with the Shiite terror group and its foothold in southern Lebanon when Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, the leading contender for the position of Iran’s next supreme leader, visited the Israel-Lebanon border last month, accompanied by Hezbollah fighters. During his visit, Raisi promised, “Jerusalem’s liberation is near.”

Israel has warned that it would not sit by idly as Iran set up a permanent military outpost on its borders or allow them to build a Shiite land corridor from Tehran to Beirut for the free flow of weapons and fighters between its enemies. And while the Jewish state has guarded against becoming embroiled in the Syrian Civil War, it has admitted to acting beyond its northern borders to secure the safety of its citizens.

Critics, analysts and strategists do, however, agree that what happened on Saturday marks the beginning of new era. The war in Syria is in its final throes, with Assad poised as the victor and back in control of the majority of the country. Yet while Tehran succeeded in its aim of ensuring the regime’s triumph, the Iranians have still not packed their bags and headed home. In fact, argues Yaakov Katz, editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, the Islamic Republic has dug in its heels, more determined than ever to entrench itself on Israel’s horizon.

The former head of Israel’s military intelligence, General (ret.) Amos Yadlin agrees. “There is a determination by Iran to build a military force in Syria and Lebanon, and there is determination by Israel not to let it happen. And the two vectors are colliding,” Yadlin said in a conference call with The Israel Project.

The colliding interests, he says, “suggest that the chances for a war between Israel and Iran-led forces, the first Israel-Shia war, have increased.”

Katz offers a more resigned opinion. Saturday’s clashes, he warns, marks a shift in the “‘Shadow War’ between Israel and Iran and the proxies it funds and operates throughout the Middle East. The open war between Jerusalem and Tehran, he says, has now begun.

As an already tenuous situation teeters on the abyss of full-scale escalation, there is one more role-player in the area that holds the power to curb Iran’s dangerous admissions. According to The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon, Russia holds the key to determining whether Saturday’s confrontation remains a one-time incident or snowballs into an Israel-Iran-Syria-Hezbollah war.

Like Tehran, Moscow was one of Assad’s main allies during the years of civil war. In fact, Russia rushed to the Syrian president’s aid in 2015, as the regime faced the possibility of defeat. Russian President Vladimir Putin invested millions of dollars and the lives of its soldiers to ensure Assad’s victory. “And now, just as Moscow seems on the cusp of achieving its goals in Syria and serving as kingmaker in determining post-civil war arrangements, the last thing it needs or wants is for large scale Israeli military involvement that could threaten everything it hoped to gain.”

“Moscow wants to stabilize Syria right now,” Keinon explains. “A confrontation between Israel and Iran there would badly destabilize the country and could cost Russia its most important asset in the region.”

Israel is all too aware of Moscow’s influence. According to Bloomberg, Prime Minister Netanyahu has spoken with the Russians directly following Saturday’s clashes.

“We believe Russia wants to stabilize its achievements in Syria and that it understands that Iranian military presence and activity there is a source of tension and friction,” Bloomberg quotes Chagai Tzuriel, director-general of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry as saying. “Syria is the key arena, and what happens in Syria influences the whole region and beyond.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 13 December 2018)

Photo Credit: Israel GPO/Ashernet

Prayer Focus
Ask God to confuse the relationships between Israel’s enemies—Iran and their many terror proxies and put a stop to the evil they have planned against Israel. Pray for the IDF’s brave warriors who are willing to risk their lives to protect and fight for Israel’s existence. Thank God for being the Keeper of Israel protecting it against the 150,000 armed missiles aimed at the tiny Jewish state.

Scripture

Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper.


- Psalm 121:4-5a

The Iranian Game of Chess: More Moves are on the Way

by Nahum Barnea

Monday, 12 February 2018 | The Iranian UAV’s infiltration of Israeli territory may have been the result of an operational malfunction: The person on duty at the Palmyra airport fell asleep with his finger on the navigation stick. It’s more likely to assume, however, that it was intentional.

It’s no coincidence that the Iranians invented the game of chess. Recently, they have been playing a complicated game against Israel, across the Syrian and Lebanese arena. Up until Saturday, they were on the defensive. On Saturday, they launched an attack, sacrificed a pawn and took one of our rooks. Additional moves are on the way.

Iran and Israel have been fighting each other for years. It’s a cruel war, in which the Iranians haven’t hesitated to kill innocent civilians, Israelis and Jews. One rule has been strictly observed: Avoiding an open, direct conflict. Iran has been attacking through proxies, the most deadly one being Hezbollah. Israel has preferred covert activity, under the radar. On Saturday, for the first time, this barrier was broken. It was broken on both sides. This is a milestone.

Earlier this month, I participated in a series of conversations and tours with senior IDF officers, focusing on the battle in the north. I named the column I published following these talks “The first northern war.” I’m not the one who came up with this phrase. It was invented by a division commander in the area.

The goal of the conversations, I wrote, was “to prepare decision makers in the world and the public opinion in Israel for the possibility of a war, not an initiated one but a developing one, while indirectly making it clear to the Iranians that Israel is undeterred by a military conflict.”

The IDF doesn’t want a war, and neither does the political echelon. The warnings were aimed at preventing a war, not at creating one. The assumption was that if Russian President Vladimir Putin realized that a war could break out in the north, making it difficult for him to stabilize Syria and undermining his position as a supreme arbitrator between the region’s countries, he would make sure to stop the Iranians. That didn’t happen. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s huge effort to conquer Putin’s heart was in vain.

Putin knows how to shower endearments on Israeli prime ministers, giving them the feeling that he admires them and their country. They boast their ties with him to their voters. He is no friend. In a conversation with one of Netanyahu’s predecessors, Putin said candidly: I operate solely according to Russia’s interests as I understand them.

Netanyahu believed he would be able to enlist the American administration to curb Iran’s entrenchment efforts in Syria. US President Donald Trump, as we know, is much friendlier to Israel than Putin. Perhaps he’ll rescue us. Unfortunately, this move failed utterly too: The Trump administration isn’t interested in real involvement in determining Syria’s future. It is concentrating its efforts in the east, on the Iraqi border. On our front, we have no one to rely on but ourselves.

This big question is who will make the next move in this game of chess, when and how. The apparent scenario is the organization of another Hezbollah convoy to transfer precision-guided missiles, or components of such missiles, from Syria to Lebanon. Israel will have to decide whether to ignore it and risk losing its deterrence, or attack and risk sparking a war.

Source: (Excerpt of article originally published by Ynetnews on 11 February, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: stevepb/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Beseech God for peace in the north of Israel and for His guidance regarding the turbulent situation facing the nation. Intercede for Israel’s leaders in government and defense offices, praying that God will give them wisdom and strengthen their hearts and minds as they rely on Him.

Scripture

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.


- Psalm 73:25-26

Israel Thwarts Second Attempt in Two Days to Blow up the Samaria Military Court

by Ilse Strauss

Pipe bomb (illustrative)

Thursday, 15 February 2018 │ Israeli security forces yesterday thwarted an attempt by a trio of Palestinian terrorists carrying pipe bombs to blow up the Samaria Military Court—the second such attempt at terror in as many days.

According to a statement by the Israel police, a border police officer doing security checks at the entrance to the facility in Salem in northern Samaria noticed the three Palestinians acting suspiciously.

The officer approached the suspects and saw one of the Palestinians holding what appeared to be a pipe bomb. The commander at the post proceeded to aim his weapon at the man, called for backup and initiated the standard operating procedures when a suspect is feared to be hiding a concealed bomb or weapon.

The second suspect was holding a plastic bag containing a second bomb, which he threw at the security officers as they approached him. A subsequent search revealed that he was carrying two more bombs on his person.

Security forces arrested the trio who tried to smuggle their deadly stash into the courtroom, cordoned off the entrance to the facility and called for the bomb squad to safely disarm the bombs.

Yesterday’s incident marked the sixth failed attempt by Palestinian terrorists to bomb this particular target since October last year, the third attempt this week and the second in as many days.

On Tuesday, Israeli security forces stopped a Palestinian terrorist from smuggling a pipe bomb into the courthouse. The weapon, which was found concealed under his clothes, was packed with sharp metal shards to inflict maximum death and destruction upon detonation.

Last week Israel foiled a similar attack under nearly identical circumstances. Similar attempts were also thwarted twice in December last year and once in October 2017.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 15 February 2018)

Photo Credit: Public Domain/wikipedia.org

Prayer Focus
Praise God for the many Israeli lives that were saved thanks to the security forces’ alertness, vigilance and the bomb squad’s expertise Pray that God will continue to guide the steps of all Israel’s security forces and the IDF and pray for wisdom to know how to combat bombing attempts.

Scripture

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken.


- Psalm 34:19-20

Israeli Security Forces Continue Seeking Killer of Rabbi Who Was Murdered Last Week

by BICOM

A screenshot of the stabbing

Monday, 12 February 2018 | The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) remains on high alert across the West Bank [Judea–Samaria] over the weekend, as the search continues for Abed al-Karim Adel Assi, the Israeli-Arab man who stabbed and killed Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal on last week in Ariel.

The IDF increased its deployment of soldiers in the West Bank last week after concluding that two recent terrorist attacks could potentially inspire similar attacks. Security agencies are also concerned that protests following Friday prayers could result in increased violence.

Security assessments indicate that clashes are likely to continue over the course of the next few days. There are also indications that both organized cells and individuals intend to carry out additional attacks. The increased deployment of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, which includes elite counter terrorism units, will also bolster security on roads and bus stops at busy crossing points, a well-known security weakness where attacks have often taken place. Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces are also being deployed in greater numbers to reduce the likelihood of violent attacks.

On Thursday, the IDF detected a weapons smuggling depot in the village of Deir Razih, southwest of Hebron. Six Palestinian suspects were arrested and Israeli soldiers seized seven guns, four commando knives, thousands of bullets and other military equipment. According to the IDF spokesperson: “This was a compound that belongs to a weapons dealer who was arrested at the scene, along with five other suspects who were handed over for interrogation.”

Also on Thursday, a Palestinian man tried to stab an IDF soldier at a guard post outside the Al Fawwar refugee camp in the West Bank. The attacker was apprehended without causing any injuries and the suspect was detained for questioning.

Source: (The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower, originally published this article on 09 February 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/זורו 2014

Prayer Focus
Lift up the IDF this week, asking for strength (both mental and physical), energy, wisdom, selfless service, personal courage and integrity as they search for the killer of Rabbi Ben Gal and prepare for increased protests and clashes. Ask God to protect each one of them as they are often targeted as victims of terror—stabbing attacks and rock throwing.

Scripture

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.


- Psalm 28:7

Palestinian UN Diplomat Vows to Continue Inciting Children to Violence against Israel

by Ilse Strauss

Palestinian youth throwing stones

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 | Palestinians are highly proficient at lobbing stones at Israelis and are determined to pass the skill on to their offspring so the proud tradition can live on for generations to come.

This is the message that a senior member of the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations (UN) shared with a group of Canadian students as he led them on a tour of the international body’s headquarters in New York.

In a recording obtained by Israel’s Ynetnews, Abdallah Abushawesh, who serves as a member of the Palestinian UN mission and a senior adviser to the UN’s Development Group, is heard telling students from McGill University’s international relations program in broken English, “We are very clever and very expert at throwing the stones.”

While his comment is met with distinct snickers from his audience, Abushawesh remains unperturbed. “We are very proud to do that… We are very proud that we are stone throwers.” Moreover, the Palestinian UN diplomat continues, the current generation is committed to also train up its children in the fine art of rock throwing. “We will not stop to learn our kids (to do that),” he vows. “I am one of them. Now I became a little bit older, but I stay resistant in the name of my kids.”  

Abushawesh then shares with the students the highlights from his own violent history during the First Intifada (uprising), “I was in high school. I never missed an opportunity to throw stones. This is our life… We’re proud of it.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, harshly denounced the comments. “The Palestinians are no longer trying to hide the truth. The Palestinian leadership and its representatives are inciting against Israel and openly encouraging terrorism. The international community must not allow it.”

Danon pointed out that “it cannot be that inside the UN, which is supposed to make peace and protect human rights, a diplomat will incite to violence and terrorism, which wound and even kill innocent Israelis.”

Danon’s warning regarding the lethal consequences of this proud Palestinian tradition is no exaggeration. Since the start of the First Intifada in December 1987, at least 14 Israelis––including three Arabs who were mistaken for Jews––have been murdered in stone throwing attacks. The latest incident occurred in September 2015, when Alexander Levlovitz was killed when Arabs hurled stones at his car as he made his way home from Rosh Hashanah dinner with his family. And earlier that same year, four-year-old Adele Biton passed away after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a 2013 car crash caused by Palestinians hurling stones at passing cars.

The Palestinian leadership has long since come under fire for inciting its youth to violence against Israelis, glorifying martyrdom and indoctrinating young minds to commit terror attacks. The incitement starts early on using children’s toys, television programs, songs, video games and social media. Palestinian streets, squares, schools and cultural institutions also often bear the names of Palestinian terrorists convicted of murdering Israelis.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 14 February 2018)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/AP Archive

Prayer Focus
Cry out for the next generation of Arab children living in Judea and Samaria who are being taught to hate the Jewish people and learning that throwing stones at Israelis is acceptable behavior. Pray that the UN will treat this incitement against Israel seriously. Lift up Danny Danon as he faces a continuous daily struggle at the UN for to advocate for Israel.

Scripture

The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength.


- Proverbs 8:13-14

Investigation: Turkey Turns ‘Blind Eye’—Sometimes Encourages—Hamas Illicit Activity against Israel

by Joshua Spurlock

Turkish flag

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 | A Turkish citizen arrested in Israel for working with Hamas has helped unleash an investigation that led to accusations on Monday that Turkey has been ignoring—and at times enabling—Hamas fundraising and militaristic activity and has even indirectly allowed the terror group opportunity to research weapons for fighting Israel. The delve into the activities of Cemil Tekeli of Turkey revealed that not only has the law lecturer aided Hamas in his home country—including helping them get visas, set up business and even buy luxury vehicles—but so have some people who had key connections in the Turkish government.

In one example, the Israel Security Agency (ISA) said in the press release that “Turkey contributes to the military strengthening of Hamas” through the SADAT company that was set up at the request of an advisor who is “close to Turkish administration officials.”

Not only can SADAT provide money to Hamas, but an employee of SADAT even assisted senior Hamas officials attend a weapons show in Turkey a few years ago. There, the terrorist organization showed interest in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones. Said the ISA press release, “The company was founded to assist—with funds and war materiel—the creation of the ‘Palestine Army’, the goal of which is to fight Israel.” And it doesn’t end there.

A Hamas terrorist involved in the kidnapping of IDF soldier Nahshon Waxman actually has had direct contact with Turkish officials, according to the ISA investigation. Other Hamas terrorists who have killed Israelis and were released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap have found aid in Turkey from Tekeli, who was deported by Israel after the investigation into his activities was completed.

Meanwhile, Turkey is also the site of a Hamas scheme that has laundered millions of US dollars via the IMES company, which managed to keep the source of the funds secret from the authorities.

A significant portion of their ill-gotten money has been delivered to an Arab-Israeli, Dara’am Jabarin, who was also arrested for supporting Hamas. After being recruited in Tukey, Jabarin was tasked with bringing money for Hamas into Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank. Jabarin received hundreds of thousands of Euros for militaristic purposes and 91,000 Euros were found in his home in Israel.

Hamas has sought for years to rebuild a terror infrastructure in the Judea and Samaria region, so it’s not difficult to guess at the intended endgame for the funds. In view of these activities, Israel levied a sharp condemnation of Turkey’s troubling relationship with Hamas.

“The findings of the investigation underscore the fact that Hamas’ ramified economic and military activity in Turkey takes place unhindered as Turkish officials turn a blind eye and—on occasion—encourage it, and with the assistance of Turkish nationals, some of whom are close to the government,” said the ISA. “This activity relies on—inter alia—business platforms that serve Hamas in laundering funds that are transferred to Judea and Samaria and used in recruiting Israelis to its ranks.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on 12 February, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Burak Su/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Thank God for this investigation that revealed deep secrets of an already tense relationship between Turkey and Israel. Ask God to guide Israel’s leadership with direction, protection and clear instruction to protect themselves from further infiltrations. Ask God to open the eyes of the Turkish president that being Israel’s friend will be a blessing to his nation.

Scripture

Receive, please, instruction from His mouth, and lay up His words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; you will remove iniquity far from your tents.


- Job 22:22-23

Infighting between PA, Hamas Could Cause Health Crisis in Gaza

Inside Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 | While a feud between Hamas, the terrorist group that rules Gaza, and the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority [PA] that rules the West Bank [Judea and Samaria], has threatened Gaza with a major health crisis, two Arab nations have pledged money to keep the generators in Gaza’s hospitals and medical centers running, Reuters reported on Friday.

So far, due to disagreements between the two leading Palestinian factions, generators at three of Gaza’s hospitals and 14 of its 54 medical centers have stopped operating due to a lack of funds according to the enclave’s health ministry.

The United Arab Emirates donated $2 million to keep the medical generators running, which, it said, would “provide enough fuel to keep facilities running for several months.” Qatar donated $9 million, which was announced on the nation’s foreign ministry website.

Though Hamas and the PA agreed in October on a reconciliation agreement that would transfer administration authority in Gaza to the PA, the two factions have failed to work out all the details of their power sharing agreement.

Last week, American Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt blasted Hamas for causing “misery” to Gaza’s residents by choosing terror over “improving the lives it purports to govern” after Israel discovered explosive chemicals hidden in a shipment of medical supplies to Gaza.

Hamas has prioritized the building of tunnels and increasing the size of its arsenal, while most Gazans are limited to a few hours of electricity a day.

In December, it was reported that Yahye Sinwar, Hamas’s new chief in Gaza, seemed to confirm this assessment saying, “We made a mistake. We lack the ability and means to govern almost 2 million people, and in our arrogance we cast them into a state of indigence, hunger, and desperation.”

The problem of Hamas putting the building of its terror infrastructure ahead of the welfare of Gaza’s residents is not new.

The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff reported in March 2016 on a scheme where Hamas enriched itself using Qatari money that was intended to build homes for Gazans. Although the homes were meant to be free, Hamas charged families $40,000 each, ostensibly to connect utilities, collecting an estimated $38 million to fund its other activities.

Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out a month earlier that Hamas has prioritized building up its terror infrastructure over rebuilding Gazan homes, writing that “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

In December 2014, Neri Zilber observed that, while Fatah and Hamas fight over control of Gaza’s reconstruction, “Israel, of all the parties involved, has shown the greatest degree of flexibility towards a Gaza Strip still ruled by Hamas.”

Source: (The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower, originally published this article on 12 February 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/Al Jazeera English

Prayer Focus
Declare that future funds from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will truly reach the hospitals in Gaza to bring relief to the patients and not be intercepted by Hamas to fuel their agenda of tunneling into and harming Israel. Ask God to open the hearts and minds of Gaza’s residents and give them courage to stand up against the terror organizations that oppress them.

Scripture

Do not grant, O LORD, the desires of the wicked; do not further his wicked scheme, lest they be exalted.


- Psalm 140:8

Egypt Refuses Entry to Israeli Groups

by Itamar Eichner

Egyptian pyramids in Giza

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 | It seems that ever since US President Donald Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israeli tourists trying to get travel visas to Egypt are being turned down by the Egyptian consular services in Tel Aviv.

This comes at a time that an increasing number of Israelis are expressing interest in visiting Egypt, and despite the fact that Egypt recently started encouraging tourism in full force.

The Foreign Ministry brought the matter up with the Egyptian Embassy and asked for clarification but received a vague response.

The belief is that Egypt is uncomfortable with having groups of Israelis travelling around the country at this time.

Officials have expressed hope that the Egyptian policy will soon change their stance and are working the relevant channels to convince them to indeed do so.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 12 February 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Ricardo Liberator/Wikipedia.org

Photo License: wikipedia.org

Prayer Focus
Lift up the relationship between Israel and Egypt; praying that silent cooperation between the two nations in the fight against ISIS in the Sinai will continue. Pray for the safety of Israeli citizens visiting other countries as they can be singled out for anti-Semitic treatment. Also lift up the southern border between Israel and Egypt, praying for protection against any possible hostilities.

Scripture

There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the LORD’s counsel–that will stand.


- Proverbs 19:21

Revealing Ancient Caesarea’s Secrets

by Edgar Asher

Detail of legs from the mosaic

Friday, 09 February 2018 | A rare Roman mosaic was uncovered during an archaeological excavation that is part of the largest conservation and reconstruction project ever undertaken in Israel—with an investment of over $28 million contributed by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and the Caesarea Development Corporation.

The mosaic from the 2nd–3rd centuries CE, bearing an inscription in ancient Greek, is being uncovered at the Caesarea National Park. The mosaic was excavated during work by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Caesarea Development Corporation throughout Caesarea National Park, in cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA).

The excavations, by the IAA are part of reconstruction work on the impressive Crusaders-era entrance bridge to Caesarea. The project is part of the work on a promenade now under construction, led by the Caesarea Development Corporation, which will extend from the town of Jisr a-Zarqa to Caesarea National Park. The dig uncovered part of a large, opulent building dating back some 1,500 years to the Byzantine period. Scholars believe the building was part of an agora—large public area for commerce and socializing. To the archaeologists’ surprise, under the imposing Byzantine-era structure they found a spectacular mosaic from an even earlier building dating back about 1,800 years.

According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Dr. Uzi’ad, directors of the excavation for the IAA, “This colorful mosaic, measuring more than 3.5 x 8 meters [11.5 x 26.2 ft], is of a rare high quality. It features three figures, multicolored geometric patterns and a long inscription in Greek, which were all damaged by the Byzantine building constructed later on top of it. The figures, all males, wear togas and apparently belonged to the upper class. The central figure is frontal and the two other face him on either side. Who are they? That depends on what the building was used for, which is not yet clear. If the mosaic was part of a mansion, the figures may have been the owners. If this was a public building, they might have represented the donors of the mosaic or members of the city council.”

The rare mosaic was executed at a very high artistic level, of a type that can be found in places like Antioch in Turkey. The images were depicted using small, densely placed tesserae—with about 12,000 stones per square meter. The IAA Conservation Administration is now working to make sure that the exposed parts of the mosaic are preserved and will not disintegrate over time. The area of the bridge is also being re-planned to make the mosaic assessable to the public.

Aerial view of the area where the newly discovered Roman-period mosaic was found

Guy Swersky, deputy and acting chairman of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation says, “Old Caesarea never stops surprising, fascinating and thrilling us, time after time revealing slices of history of worldwide significance. This amazing mosaic is a unique find in Israel. This is especially true considering where it was found—in the northern part of the park, in an area that has hardly been excavated. This is more testimony to the importance of the unprecedented conservation and reconstruction project made possible by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation, headed by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild and his wife, Baroness Ariane de Rothschild. The foundation’s enormous investment of over $28 million enables expansion of intensive excavation to other areas in the Old City of Caesarea, and we are of course committed to continuing to unearth Caesarea’s hidden treasures.” 

Caesarea already provides one of the best and most exciting visitor experiences in Israel, and as a result attracts more than 700,000 Israeli and foreign tourists every year. Caesarea is one of the three most visited sites in the country.

Source: (Ashernet originally published this press release on 08 February, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: IAA/Ashernet

Prayer Focus
Glorify the Lord as excavations are continuously revealing the truth about history and no matter how many times you visit Israel there is always a surprise. Give thanks for all the faithful tourists who visit Israel over and over again. Pray that word of mouth experiences will bring many others to explore the land and change their distorted view of Israel for the better for good!

Scripture

And He said, My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.


- Exodus 33:14

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