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Friday, October 20, 2017

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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.

Israel, Regional Allies Applaud Trump Call to Better or Bust Iran Nuke Deal

by Joshua Spurlock

Monday, 16 October 2017 | United States President Donald Trump on Friday delivered a message that American allies in the Middle East have been waiting to hear: either improve the Iran nuclear deal, or cancel it altogether. “I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons,” said Trump in comments posted to the White House website. “…However, in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated. It is under continuous review, and our participation can be cancelled by me, as President, at any time.”

In particular, Trump wants changes to the so-called “sunset clauses” that cut back on restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities in coming years. The Iran nuclear accord is a controversial multilateral agreement between the major world powers and Iran that was put in place during the administration of Trump’s predecessor, former-President Barack Obama. The deal offered sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for concessions by Iran limiting their nuclear activities.

In addition to Trump’s ultimatum to fix the nuclear deal or else, he also announced plans to place “tough sanctions” on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the powerful government-sponsored paramilitary group that has been involved in terrorism around the world. Israel, Saudi Arabia and others in the region expressed their support for Trump’s new approach to Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, in comments released by his office, commended Trump for “his important decision on Iran.” Said the Israeli leader, “I believe that any responsible government, and whoever seeks to promote peace and security in the world, needs to take advantage of the opportunity that President Trump’s decision has created in order to improve the agreement or abrogate it and, of course, stop Iran’s aggression.”

Supporting IRGC sanctions

Earlier, the leader of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, called Trump to offer his support. The official Saudi Press Agency reported that the Saudi king on Friday welcomed Trump’s “firm strategy” towards Iran and what the report noted as Iran’s “aggressive activities and support for terrorism in the region and the world.”

A separate report from the Saudi Press Agency said Yemen also welcomed the Iran strategy, highlighting Iran’s involvement in that nation’s civil war. Ahram Online reported that Egypt’s Foreign Ministry expressed shared concern with Trump about Iranian actions in the region, without specifically commenting on the Egyptian views of Trump’s overall Iran policy.

Israel, too, is troubled by Iranian belligerence in the region and Netanyahu said it is “self-evident” that Trump’s intention to impose sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards “needs to be supported.”

Said Netanyahu, “The Revolutionary Guards are Iran’s main arm in spreading terror around the world and, of course, in spreading its aggression throughout the Middle East.”

In a press release posted to the White House website, the Trump Administration noted that the IRGC answers only to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has sought to grow its economic power in Iran, and has been involved in terror and conflict around the world.

Nuclear deal threat

Regarding the nuclear deal, Trump announced that he would not certify that the nuclear accord is “appropriate and proportionate” in his review to the U.S. Congress, while not outright calling for withdrawal from the international arrangement at this time. The Atlantic reported that Congress has 60 days to decide if they want to introduce legislation to again implement sanctions on Iran’s nuclear activities, which if passed would effectively remove the Americans from the multilateral agreement.

In his comments last week, Trump argued that Iran has had some technical violations of the agreement and that Iran is “not living up to the spirit of the deal.”

Said Trump, “By its own terms, the Iran Deal was supposed to contribute to ‘regional and international peace and security.’ And yet, while the United States adheres to our commitment under the deal, the Iranian regime continues to fuel conflict, terror, and turmoil throughout the Middle East and beyond.”

Trump pointed to North Korea as an example of how “the longer we ignore a threat, the worse that threat becomes.” Netanyahu offered a similar warning in highlighting the danger posed to leaving the Iranian nuclear deal as is.

“It is completely clear, if one examines this agreement, if nothing changes, that Iran will have an arsenal of nuclear weapons within a few years,” warned the Israeli leader. “This agreement does not block this. It creates a sure path to the production of an enrichment system that could quickly bring Iran to dozens of atomic bombs and even more; therefore, the [Trump] decision is very important.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on 15 October, 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Fastfission/Wikimedia

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray for wise counsel among Israel’s allies, as they seek to promote realistic, responsible peace and security in the Middle East, through improvement or cancellation of the Iran nuclear agreement.

Scripture

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but counselors of peace have joy.


- Proverbs 12:20

Netanyahu Tells Russians: We Will Not Allow Iran into Syria

by Itamar Eichner

Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu and PM Netanyahu

Wednesday, 18 October 2017 |  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu Tuesday that Israel will not allow Iran to entrench its military forces in Syria.

“Iran has to understand that Israel will not allow this,” Netanyahu said during the meeting in Jerusalem, which was also attended by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Also during the meeting, Lieberman and Netanyahu also discussed the Iran nuclear deal which President Donald Trump refused to recertify last week.

Netanyahu warned the Russian defense minister that unless the deal is altered, Iran will be able to build up a stockpile of nuclear weapons within 8-10 years.

Prior to the meeting, Shoygu, as part of his two-day trip, was escorted by Lieberman around the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Shoygu arrived in Israel on Monday evening to kick off what is the [first] visit in years by a Russian official in his position to Israel.

His landing came against a background of an attack by the Israel Air Force [IAF] on a Syrian aerial defense battery on Monday morning, which earlier launched a surface-to-air missile towards IAF planes

“This is his first visit, and as his first visit as defense minister, it is of extraordinary importance,” Lieberman said on Monday.

“We greatly appreciate our relationship with Russia, especially the openness and frankness. We don’t always agree but we always speak frankly and openly. We believe that the moment there is open and frank dialogue, any problems can be overcome.”

A day after Shoygu concludes his visit, Lieberman will take off for Washington to meet with US Defense Secretary James Mattis, with Iran occupying the bulk of their focus and Trump’s announcement of a new policy review of the US’s approach to the Iranians and the situation in Syria.

Source: (Ynetnews originally posted this article on 17 October 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Haim Zack/GPO

Prayer Focus
Seek the Lord God’s defense and deliverance for Israel from Iran’s efforts to take territory in Syria and expand their nuclear arsenal. Pray that Russia will clearly understand the significance of PM Netanyahu’s message.

Scripture

O Lord my God, in You I have taken refuge; save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me


- Psalm 7:1

Israeli Jets Destroy Syrian Anti-Aircraft Battery in Retaliatory Strike

Tuesday, 17 October 2017 |  Israeli Air Force (IAF) jets destroyed an anti-aircraft missile battery in Syria following an attack on Israeli planes carrying out reconnaissance over Lebanon, The Jerusalem Post reported Monday.

Earlier, the SA-5 anti-aircraft battery, located about 30 miles [48 km] east of Damascus, fired at Israeli planes conducting “routine” reconnaissance over Lebanon. Israel reported that the missile missed the IAF jets.

“We see the Syrian regime as responsible and see these missiles as a clear Syrian provocation, and it will not be accepted,” IDF Spokesman Brig.Gen. Ronen Manelis said. Manelis asserted that Israel had no intent of getting involved in Syria’s civil war, but would react to threats emanating from Syria.

According to the spokesman, Russia was informed of the incident and the matter will be discussed with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and other security officials to ensure that the Israeli and Russian militaries do not accidentally come into conflict in Syria.

First the SA-5 battery fired a missile at Israeli planes over Lebanon, The Times of Israel reported. Later, a second group of Israeli planes re-entered Lebanese airspace identified and attacked the SA-5 battery.

Syria’s military subsequently threatened Israel with “dangerous consequences for its repeated attempts of aggression.”

Syria also claimed that the Israeli jets were targeted after they entered Syrian airspace, a claim that Israel denied. IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said that both the reconnaissance planes and the ones that targeted the anti-aircraft battery “were in the skies over Lebanon, and not in Syria.”

Both the Israeli and Syrian accounts agreed that the incidents occurred about three hours apart. According to the Times, the exchange of fire was unusual because Syria doesn’t usually target Israeli reconnaissance flights and Israel doesn’t usually wait to respond.

The Syrian boldness, according to some experts, may have been a product of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent battlefield successes. It was also speculated that the delay in the Israeli response may have been due to concerns with Russia’s reaction to the airstrike.

In a conference call with The Israel Project, which publishes The Tower, Ephraim Segoli, a retired IAF general, now with the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, said that the unsuccessful Syrian attack against the Israeli planes was something “unique” that Israel might have to address. “The fact that the missile was launched from Syria to our planes in Lebanon, the fact that we are attacked [by] a SAM battery after so many years … something different has happened. Does it mean that there’s a new direction in the ongoing campaign between us and Syria? I do not know,” Segoli added.

Source: (Excerpt of article by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower, originally published on 16 October, 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Major Ofer, Israeli Air Force/Wikimedia

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Intercede for Israel’s military forces doing the reconnaissance necessary to protect the nation, specifically in the area of the northern border. Pray that they will receive accurate intelligence information in a timely manner. Pray for clear communication between Israel and Russia.

Scripture

LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head.


- Psalm 3:1, 3

Netanyahu: Israel Has No Better Friends than Christian Communities around the World

by Ilse Posselt

PM Netanyahu speaks to Christian journalists

Tuesday, 17 October 2017 | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday welcomed representatives from the Christian media to the gala opening of a first-of-its kind four-day summit on covering news emanating from Israel and the Middle East.

The Christian Media Summit saw editors, reporters, journalists and photographers from some 70 Christian outlets around the world flock to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to listen to Israeli and international experts discuss the Jewish state’s biblical and modern history, its security challenges and its warming diplomatic relations with a number of countries in the region and beyond.

Netanyahu’s keynote address kicked off the summit. “I want to welcome you all to Jerusalem, the eternal, united capital of the Jewish people,” the prime minister said. “You know, you are joining us as we celebrate 50 years since the holy city [Jerusalem] was liberated and united; 50 years of religious freedom for all. You know that, because you walk around, you go to the holy sites, you go to the churches, others go the mosques, and you know this is a free city.”

Netanyahu had a special word of thanks for the Jewish state’s international Christian allies. “Israel,” he declared, “has no better friends—I mean that—no better friends in the world than the Christian communities around the world.”

The prime minister continued to highlight the vast difference between the treatment of Christians in Israel, a country that stands as one of the only safe havens for Christians in the Middle East, and other nations in the troubled region, where Muslim extremists have persecuted religious minorities mercilessly. “Israel,” Netanyahu pointed out, “is the one country in a vast region where Christians not only survive, they thrive.”

To illustrate his point, the prime minister held up Iran as a prime example of a country in the neighborhood where religious minorities suffer routine victimization and maltreatment. “Iran is a threat to the entire world, but today I want to focus on Iran’s war against Christians. As you all know, Christians are brutally persecuted in the Islamic Republic. Pastors are jailed for no reason, no reason other than for being Christian leaders. Christians have been lashed. You hear this? Christians have been lashed for sipping wine during prayer services; Christians have been brutally tortured for doing nothing more than practicing their faith.”

“Some world leaders are willing to ignore this repression and seek to appease Iran,” the prime minister said, “but I am not one of them.”

Netanyahu then called on the Christian editors, reporters, journalists and photographers seated in the audience to speak out on behalf of those who are targeted because of their religion. “Today I have a simple request for the media outlets in this room: Dedicate this week to highlighting the plight of the countless Christians suffering under Iran; profile the brave Christian leaders jailed for practicing their faith; sit with the families of the school teachers jailed for years merely for converting to Christianity; call out the lie and the lies of President Rouhani, who promised in 2013 that all religions would, quote, ‘feel justice in Iran,’ while so many Christians live there in constant terror.”

The prime minister also addressed Israel’s commitment to rush to the aid of disaster-stricken nations. Asked why the Jewish state, which has more than its fair share of threats and challenges to deal with, continues to come alongside nations in distress with humanitarian aid, Netanyahu answered, “Because we are a light unto the nations. That is the great fulfillment of that great prophecy, and in fact what Israel is doing.”

Mentioning a few examples of Israel’s recent missions to disaster-stricken areas, the prime minister addressed the question that many the world over ask: what does the Jewish state stand to gain from such missions? “The answer is we are not getting out of it anything. We are fulfilling our deepest values—Israel is a light unto the nations.”

The prime minister then turned his attention once again to the security threat posed by the Islamic Republic. “Now you talk about those who want to extinguish that light: Iran… It wants to build a Shiite arc, which is Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. I said in the UN a few weeks ago that what they want from Tehran to Tartus, from Iran to the Mediterranean, they want this Shiite arc, to colonize it and control it, and everyone is concerned. All the countries… everybody is really concerned and wants to stop it, because this is an act of unadulterated aggression.”

Netanyahu also made it clear that Israel will not stand by idly as the Islamic Republic strengthens its grip on the region. “Clearly, we will not tolerate it, and we will act against any threats to our security.”

The prime minister concluded his address by expressing his appreciation to the summit attendees. “I want to thank you all for your continued support for the State of Israel. I think when you and your readers and viewers and listeners, when they look at the Middle East and they see the forces that are aligned against the values we hold dear, you see a beacon of light, a towering beacon of light.”

“Israel is not that big a country,” he said. “It is a small country, but it is a gigantic country, because we stand on the shoulders of giants: the giants of the Bible, the giants of Jewish history, the people who gave us our deepest values, which we share and which we cherish.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 17 October 2017)

Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Photo License: Government Press Office

Prayer Focus
In gratitude, thank the Father for bringing Christian journalists into Israel and the region. Thank Him for the recognition by PM Netanyahu of their work and shared values with the Jewish nation.. Pray for Christian journalists in the region, that they will seek God’s will and diligently pursue truth in their reporting.

Scripture

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.


- Proverbs 17:17

Report: Israel is not Compensation for the Holocaust, Says Israeli President

by Ilse Posselt

President Rivlin

Friday, 20 October 2017 | Those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state have a number of anti-Israel libels in their arsenal. One of the most popular slanders claims that the modern State of Israel was born out of guilt over the atrocities committed against the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin addressed this particular slur on Wednesday during the culmination of the first-ever Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post reports. “We did not get compensation,” Rivlin told the audience of some 130 Christian broadcasters from 30 countries across five continents. “We returned home.”

The Israeli president used his own personal history to prove his point. “I am a son of Jerusalem; the son of a son of Jerusalem; the son of a son of a son… a seventh generation Jerusalemite,” he held. The Rivlin family, he explained, left Lithuania for the Promised Land in 1809—more than a century before the Holocaust—and settled down in Jerusalem. The reason for the relocation, he continued, was that certain signs on the Hebrew [calendar] indicated that the Messiah would come during that particular year and “it was impossible for the Messiah to come to Jerusalem if the Rivlin family was not there to welcome Him,” The Jerusalem Post quoted the president as saying.

“We are still waiting for the Messiah,” Rivlin conceded. “But while we were waiting we achieved a lot in Jerusalem and all over Israel.”

Just over four decades after the Rivlin family returned to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, the president continued his tale, Jerusalem’s population reached a Jewish majority, living side-by-side with Christians and Muslims. Then, just over a century later, the City of Gold was finally reunited under its rightful owners and now, another half a century on, stands as a model of “modern innovation and ancient inspiration,” The Jerusalem Post reports. “Just yards from the world’s holiest places, are technology companies, making self-driving cars. This is a miracle.”

“We are seeing the words of the prophets of Israel come true before our eyes,” Rivlin told his audience.

Touching on the Israel’s biblical mandate to be a light to the nations, the president explained that while the Jewish state is in the crosshairs of nearly every terror organization in the region, it continues its efforts to bless the nations. Blessing nations with “food, security, fresh water and new drugs and treatments for all kinds of diseases in Asia, Africa and South America, and together with countries around the globe, is fighting terrorism and extremism.”

Yet more remains to be done, he added. Hailing the City of Gold as a microcosm for coexistence, he offered, “If Jews, Muslims and Christians can live together in Jerusalem, we can do it all over the Middle East.”

Looking to the future, Rivlin had a message of hope. “Israel will never stop trying to find a way to bring an end to the tragedy between us and the Palestinians. I am hopeful. Israel has built new and better friendships with many in our region, economic and diplomatic cooperation. This is an important step.”

The president’s address marked the conclusion of the first-of-its-kind Christian Media Summit, which saw editors, reporters, journalists and broadcasters from around the world flock to Jerusalem to hear Israeli and international experts discuss the Jewish state’s biblical and modern history, its security challenges and its warming diplomatic relations a number of countries in the region and beyond. According to The Jerusalem Post, the summit gave participants the opportunity “to view Israel beyond the conflict, and, most important, to experience all the diversity and excitement of Jerusalem.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 20 October 2017)

Photo Credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/Ashernet

Prayer Focus
Proclaim the purposes of the Lord for His people and the Land of their inheritance. Pray that all anti-Israel libel and slanderous myths being set forth by those attempting to destroy Israel will be exposed as rebellion against God’s stated intentions.

Scripture

For God will save Zion and build the cities of Judah, that they may dwell there and possess it. Also, the descendants of His servants shall inherit it, and those who love His name shall dwell in it.


- Psalm 69:35–36

U.S. Withdraws from UNESCO, Citing Anti-Israel Bias

Friday, 13 October 2017 | The United States is withdrawing from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the U.S. State Department announced on Thursday, citing concerns over “continuing anti-Israel bias” at the institution.

“The Department of State notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the organization and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO,” government spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” she added.

UNESCO has been suffering from funding shortfalls since it accepted the Palestinian Authority’s request for membership in 2011. The U.S. administration cut $80 million a year from its UNESCO budget in response to the organization’s decision.

Over the past years, UNESCO has been making headlines due to their continuous anti-Israel bias. In October 2016, Israel suspended ties with the organization following a resolution that criticized Israel’s actions in and around Jerusalem’s holiest site and denied Jewish ties to the region’s holy sites.

In July, UNESCO declared the Old Town of Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs as a Palestinian World Heritage Site. In May 2017, UNESCO passed a series of resolutions that denied Israeli claims to Jerusalem as Israel celebrated its 69th Independence Day.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, reacted to the U.S. decision by saying that UNESCO had become a forum for Israel-hatred and had betrayed its original mandate. It was now “paying the price” for the “shameful” decisions it has adopted against Israel, he said, citing “a new era” at UN-linked institutions in which “anti-Israel discrimination” has consequences.

UNESCO member states, meanwhile, are voting on a new director-general, in a process marked by intense diplomatic tensions. Qatar’s former culture minister, who has disseminated anti-Semitic material, both in the course of his official duties and personally, is a leading candidate to succeed Irina Bokova as head of UNESCO, Ben Cohen reported for The Algemeiner on Monday.

The U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO will take effect on December 31, 2018.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 12 October, 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: International Bureau of Education/wikimedia

Photo License: wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray for truth and justice to replace UNESCO’s denial of Israel’s historic ties to the Holy Land. Thank the Lord for the stand taken by the US and ask for other nations to join in insisting on just reforms in UNESCO.

Scripture

He has made known to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure.


- Psalm 111:6-7

Report: Fatah Demands Hamas to Stop Terror Attacks from West Bank

by Elior Levy

Fatah and Hamas leaders finalizing reconciliation agreement

Monday, 16 October 2017 | Fatah has reportedly demanded Hamas to stop efforts to launch terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank [Judea-Samaria] as part of their reconciliation agreement, a Palestinian source told Ynet on Sunday.

Hamas, meanwhile, has set a condition of its own, demanding the Palestinian Authority stopped its arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank, the source said.

In another report that seems to support this thesis, Hamas sources told pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday that one of the conditions of the agreement is that Fatah and Hamas will make decisions on important issues together, such as signing a peace agreement or launching a war against Israel.

Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, who is in charge of terror attacks in the West Bank, signed the reconciliation agreement on behalf of the group, giving further credence to Hamas’s commitment to stick to the terms of the agreement.

As part of the agreement, which was signed on Thursday, civil control of the Gaza Strip—including control of its border crosses—will be transferred to the Palestinian unity government on December 1, 2017 after 10 years of exclusive Hamas rule in the enclave.

Israel criticized the reconciliation agreement, saying “Any reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas must include honoring international agreements and the Quartet conditions, first and foremost among them recognizing Israel and disarming Hamas.”

Israel set a series of additional conditions that must be met before it would recognize the agreement, including a halt in the digging of tunnels and manufacturing of missiles, an end to terror attacks against Israel, the immediate release of Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Said and the return of the remains of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.

Source: (Ynet originally published this article on 15 October, 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/France24/YouTube

Prayer Focus
As the enemies of Israel align with each other, beseech the Lord that he will nullify any agreement that brings harm to the land and people of Israel. Praise Him that the “nation whose God is the Lord” is blessed. Praise Him for the blessing of strong wise leadership within Israel.

Scripture

The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever; the plans of His heart from generation to generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.


- Psalm 33:10-12

Israeli Flag Banned from International Judo Competition in Abu Dhabi

by Ilse Posselt

Israeli judoka at prior competition (Illustrative)

Wednesday, 18 October 2017 | In less than a week, the best of the best judokas from around the world will flock to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to pit their strength and skill against one another in the annual Judo Grand Slam. Each athlete will step onto the mat with the national flag of his or her country proudly sewn onto the uniform. Yet the blue-and-white flag of Israel will be conspicuously missing from the myriad of national emblems.

The reason for the absence? The organizers in Abu Dhabi ruled last week that participating Israeli judokas will not be allowed to have the flag of Israel on their judo uniforms. The ruling also stipulates that the team from the Jewish state will not be allowed to have “ISR” (Israel) inscribed on their backs or next to their names on the scoreboard. Moreover, should any of the Israeli athletes win a medal, the Hatikvah—Israel’s national anthem—will not be played during the prize-giving ceremony. The UAE organizers thus demand that instead of representing Israel, the blue-and-white delegation compete under the banner of the International Judo Federation (IJF).

Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister, Miri Regev, denounced the decision and expressed the Jewish state’s outrage in a letter to Tomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“This morning, just a few days after I so happily received your invitation to the Judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi, I was surprised to learn that members of the Israeli delegation would not be able to appear in this important competition with the identifying symbols of our country—the State of Israel,” Regev’s letter said.

“The demand to appear without national symbols is contrary to the mandate of international sports associations, the main aim of which is to separate politics from sport, and strengthen sport as a bridge and connection between peoples, cultures and countries. It is the obligation of any country which has the privilege of hosting an international competition to allow the competing athletes to represent the country honorably while ensuring their security.”

Israel Judo Association Chairman, Moshe Ponte, offered to withdraw from the event in protest, yet Regev advised him against such a move. The association subsequently released a statement clarifying its position. “We will not be dragged into the political arena and will not award prizes to those who want to deter us from appearing all over the world. Our goal is the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the competitions on the way are a means of achieving the goal. There are some who are trying to prevent us from achieving this goal, who would be happy if Israelis do not appear at the Olympics, but we will not let them disturb us.”

This is the second time that the Abu Dhabi-based tournament has not permitted Israeli athletes to compete under their national flag. The first incident took place in 2015.

The organizers in Abu Dhabi have failed to comment on this year’s decision. The UAE does not recognize Israel as a country and the two nations have no diplomatic relations.

A team of 12 Israeli athletes will participate in the Grand Slam, which takes place on 26 – 28 October. The delegation includes Rio de Janeiro bronze medalist, Ori Sasson, current European judo champion, Sagi Muki, and World Championship bronze medalist, Tal Flicker.  

This is not the first time that the sports field is being used as a platform to discriminate against and boycott Israel. In fact, athletes from Arab countries are known for forfeiting matches to avoid competing against an opponent from the Jewish state.

During the last Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the often appalling treatment of Israeli athletes made international headlines when Egyptian judoka, Islam El Shehaby, refused to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent, Sasson, after their match. El Shehaby was sent home and Sasson went on to win a bronze medal. Moreover, the Lebanese Olympic delegation also barred the team from Israel from boarding the bus that was supposed to ferry the two teams to the opening ceremony. The IOC later reprimanded the Lebanese team.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 18 October 2017)

Photo Credit: Facebook/Israel Judo Association

Prayer Focus
Pray for the Israeli judokas as they represent their nation in a hostile environment. May they be like Joshua, strong and courageous, knowing the Lord their God is with them...wherever they go.

Scripture

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.


- Joshua 1:9

Final Frontier: Israeli Elected to UN Space Committee

by Ilse Posselt

Israel from outer space

Thursday 19 October 2017 | The general stance of the United Nations (UN) towards the Jewish state can hardly be described as positive. The list of anti-Israel resolutions passed by UN bodies over the past few years alone is a long one, including various motions denying any Jewish ties to Jerusalem and denouncing a Jewish connection to Hebron, the spot where the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives are buried.

Yet in what is hailed as one small step to victory against the bias and hostility within the international body, the UN General Assembly voted on Tuesday to elect an Israeli representative to sit on the bureau of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

Keren Shahar, the director of the Treaties Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will act as Israel’s COPUOS bureau representative. She will serve alongside six other countries, including Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Poland, South Africa, to lead the 84 member states in the organization.

The UN General Assembly established COPUOS in 1959 to “govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity: for peace, security and development,” the committee’s official website explains. It is tasked with “reviewing international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space… encouraging space research programs, and studying legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.” Israel was elected as one of the COPUOS member states in 2015.

Securing Israel’s spot on the bureau was, however, no easy task. Even though the Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group selected Shahar as its candidate for the position, the Palestinians as well as diplomats from various Arab states made every effort to thwart the appointment. Canada and the United States were, however, quick to stand with the Jewish state and led the efforts to ensure a fair and unbiased selected process. These two countries’ backing, together with Israeli diplomatic efforts, resulted in the Jewish state clinching the necessary votes to secure the selection to the bureau.

Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, welcomed the decision. “We have proven once again that Israel can succeed in all roles as we spearhead positive new initiatives as an equal partner in the UN. We will continue to stand strong against attempts to harm Israel in the international arena.”

This is not Israel’s first diplomatic victory within the international body. Despite severe opposition from Arab states and the Palestinians, the Jewish state was elected earlier this year for the first time to stand at the helm of a permanent committee at the UN General Assembly. Since June 2017, Danon himself has been serving as the Vice President of the General Assembly. He presided over his first session last month, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the UN.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 19 October 2017)

Photo Credit: National Aeronautics Space Administration

Prayer Focus
Offer petitions to the Lord, asking that the appointment of a Jewish person to the UN Space Committee would bring understanding to the rest of the nations that the Lord, indeed, reigns over His creation.

Scripture

Offer petitions to the Lord, asking that the appointment of a Jewish person to the UN Space Committee would bring understanding to the rest of the nations that the Lord, indeed, reigns over His creation.


- 1 Chronicles 16:31

Ancient Theater Discovered Under Western Wall

by Edgar Asher

Theater-like structure

Wednesday, 18 October 2017 | It was revealed today that excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), with the participation of volunteers, have uncovered large portions of courses of the Western Wall that have been hidden for the past 1,700 years.  During the excavations an ancient Roman theater-like structure was exposed for the first time.

Eight stone courses of the Western Wall that had been buried under an 8-meter [26 ft] layer of earth were uncovered in excavations in the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem. These stone courses, completely preserved, are built of massive stones and are outstanding in the quality of their construction.

After the removal of this layer of soil, the archaeologists were surprised to discover that it covered the remnants of an extraordinary theater-like structure from the Roman period confirming historical writings that describe a theater near the Temple Mount. These unique findings will be presented to the public during a conference titled ‘New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Environs’, which will take place at the Hebrew University. This year’s conference will mark 50 years of archaeology since the unification of the city.

A great deal had been invested in the construction of the theater which contained approximately 200 seats.

From the very beginning of archaeological research in Jerusalem over 150 years ago, scholars have been seeking the public buildings mentioned in the historical sources. Particularly prominent among them, theaters or theater-like structures are mentioned. These descriptions are found in written sources from the Second Temple period (such as Josephus Flavius), and in sources from the period following the destruction of the Second Temple, when Jerusalem became the Roman colony of ‘Aelia Capitolina’. Many theories were advanced as to the location of these complexes, but they were without archaeological foundation. That is, until this latest discovery.

Wilson’s Arch was in fact until now the only intact, visible structure remaining from the Temple Mount compound of the Second Temple period. The arch, built of enormous stones, is the last of a series of such arches that once constituted a gigantic bridge leading to the Temple Mount from the west. The arch stands high above the foundations of the Western Wall, and it served, among other purposes, as a passageway for people entering the Temple Mount compound and the Temple. A huge aqueduct also passed over the arch.

According to site excavators, Dr. Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman and Dr. Avi Solomon.  “From a research perspective, this is a sensational find. The discovery was a real surprise. When we started excavating, our goal was to date Wilson’s Arch. We did not imagine that a window would open for us onto the mystery of Jerusalem’s lost theater. Like much of archaeological research, the expectation is that a certain thing will be found, but at the end of the process other findings, surprising and thought-provoking, are unearthed. There is no doubt that the exposure of the courses of the Western Wall and the components of Wilson’s Arch are thrilling discoveries that contribute to our understanding of Jerusalem. But the discovery of the theater-like structure is the real drama.”

The excavators pointed out. “This is a relatively small structure compared to known Roman theaters (such as at Caesarea, Bet She’an and Bet Guvrin). This fact, in addition to its location under a roofed space—in this case under Wilson’s Arch—leads us to suggest that this is a theater-like structure of the type known in the Roman world as an ‘Odeon’. In most cases, such structures were used for acoustic performances. Alternatively, this may have been a structure known as a ‘bouleuterion’—the building where the city council met, in this case the council of the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina—Roman Jerusalem.”

Interestingly, the archaeologists believe the theater was never used. A number of findings at the site indicate this—among them a staircase that was never completely hewn. It is clear that great effort was invested in the building’s construction but oddly, it was abandoned before it was put to use. The reasons for this are unknown, but they may have been connected to a significant historical event, perhaps the Bar Kokhba Revolt; construction of the building may have been started, but abandoned when the revolt broke out. Additional evidence of unfinished buildings from this period has been uncovered in the past in the excavations of the eastern Cardo in the Western Wall Plaza.

Numerous findings have been unearthed in the excavations beneath Wilson’s Arch, some of which are unique, including pottery vessels, coins, architectural and architectural elements, and more. Advanced research methods from various fields were employed to uncover remains invisible to the naked eye, but only viewable through a microscope. This enables conclusions to be drawn at a level of precision that would have been impossible in the past, transforming the study of the findings at Wilson’s Arch into pioneering, cutting-edge micro-archaeological research.

The exposure of finds beneath Wilson’s Arch began as a joint venture between the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and the IAA, in an interest to create a new tourist path in the Western Wall Tunnels, providing the visitor with a new perspective and exposure to the grandiose finds of recent years. The findings include portions of a magnificent structure from the Second Temple period, ritual baths and now the truly exceptional finds beneath Wilson’s Arch. Upon completing the excavations, the Israel Antiquities Authority, together with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, will begin to plan the preservation and presentation of the findings.

Source: (Ashernet originally published this article on 16 October 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Yaniv Berman/IAA/Ashernet

Prayer Focus
Praise the Almighty for this sensational archaeological discovery that adds validity to the historical accounts of Jerusalem. Thank Him for the commitment of volunteers and researchers who have uncovered a theater-like structure in the Western Wall tunnels.

Scripture

Therefore thus says the Lord, “I will return to Jerusalem with compassion; My house will be built in it,” declares the Lord of hosts, “and a measuring line will be stretched over Jerusalem.”


- Zechariah 1:16

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