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What Would Jesus Do?

Friday, April 16, 2021

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Every week, we post 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.

Is Israel Behind the Blast at Iranian Nuclear Facility—Again?

by Kate Norman

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Tuesday, 13 April 2021 | Iran is blaming Israel for yet another mysterious blast at its Natanz nuclear facility that reportedly set the Islamic regime’s nuclear program back nine months.

A year after a mysterious fire at the facility that caused significant damage—also attributed to Israel—another attack has caused a power failure in the Natanz uranium enrichment site. The explosion was attributed to either a physical explosion or a cyberattack, according to conflicting reports. Some Israeli media attributed it to the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency.

The explosion caused significant damage to the nuclear site’s internal power system, the New York Times reported, citing “two intelligence officials briefed on the damage.” The officials attributed it to an Israeli operation and said Iran will need nine months to recover from the setback.

Iran initially labeled the event a power failure but quickly switched gears to blame Israel, calling the alleged act of sabotage “nuclear terrorism.”

“The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress on the way to lift sanctions…they have publicly said they will not allow this,” said Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Iranian television.

“But we will take our revenge on the Zionists,” Tehran’s spokesman vowed.

Israel never responded to the allegations that it was involved in sabotaging Natanz, but the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) hinted at it on Sunday.

“The IDF’s actions throughout the Middle East are not hidden from our enemies’ vision, who are observing us, seeing our capabilities and carefully considering their next steps,” IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said at a ceremony.

The timing is nothing short of poetic, falling just a day after Iran celebrated National Nuclear Technology Day and also a day after the regime inaugurated new advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium at a higher purity more quickly.

The attack was also unveiled during a visit by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Jerusalem—the first high-profile diplomatic visit to the Jewish state under the Biden administration.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not sidestep the issue during Austin’s visit.

“In the Middle East, there is no threat that is more serious, more dangerous, more pressing than that posed by the fanatical regime in Iran,” Netanyahu told the visiting diplomat.

Netanyahu continued to list Tehran’s crimes throughout the region, including its never-ending “quest for nuclear weapons” and the fact that it “consistently and outrageously calls for Israel’s annihilation and works toward that goal.”

“My policy as prime minister of Israel is clear: I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel,” Netanyahu vowed. “Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran’s aggression and terrorism.”

The crippling of Iran’s infamous nuclear site also took place while talks are still ongoing in Vienna to resuscitate the 2015 Iran deal—an accord US President Joe Biden has indicated he is keen to rejoin and a move that Israel has vehemently protested.

However, the setback in Tehran’s nuclear development at the site likely compromises a few of the regime’s playing cards in the accord negotiations.

Former President Donald Trump exited the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions against Iran in a “maximum pressure campaign”—a move the new administration is looking to backtrack. However, a year after the US exited the deal, Iran began openly violating its restrictions under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in a bid to pressure the remaining nations to stand in the financial gap caused by the sanctions.

However, Biden will not reenter the deal until Iran resumes compliance to the JCPOA, and Iran will not resume compliance until the US lifts sanctions.

But perhaps the sabotage of Iran’s Natanz plant will change the game.

“The struggle against Iran and its proxies and the Iranian armament efforts is a huge mission,” Netanyahu said during a toast at an Israeli Independence Day event on Sunday. “The situation that exists today will not necessarily be the situation that will exist tomorrow.”

This isn’t the first time the Jewish state has allegedly attacked the Natanz facility—and it may not be the last, depending how the situation pans out­—whether there is a negotiated return to the 2015 accord and whether Iran responds.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 13, 2021)

Photo Credit: U.S. Mission/Eric Bridiers/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Pray for Israel’s success in its ongoing efforts to keep Iran from attaining its goals, which are clearly to obtain nuclear capability and destroy the nation of Israel. Beseech the Lord for cooperation between Israel and the US as allies in the struggle against the Iranian threat.

Scripture

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up.


- Psalm 57:1–3a

Yom HaZikaron: Remembering Israel’s Fallen

by Kate Norman

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An IDF soldier standing guard at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Kotel last night

Wednesday, 14 April 2021 | Last night ushered in another somber day on Israel’s calendar. On the fourth of Iyar, the second month in the Jewish calendar, the Jewish state sets aside time to remember the 23,928 people who have fallen in service of Israel and in terror attacks.

Starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday night, a one-minute siren wailed across the nation, bringing everything to a stop. Traffic halted and people got out of their cars, families having dinner exited their homes and hung their heads, people on the streets paused, remembering their dead. And in Israel, just about everyone knows someone who has died, either a soldier or a terror victim.

Since the last Memorial Day, 43 people—both soldiers and civilians—were killed, according to Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Last night a large ceremony was held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, attended by Israel’s top political and military leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

Speaking to the crowd, Rivlin reiterated the importance of the Jewish state.

“From here, I want to speak to you, the commanders, the soldiers, those soon to enlist, the young generation,” the president said. “I grew up as a child at a time when we did not have a state. For me, for those of my generation, the State of Israel is not something to be taken for granted. This strong and powerful country you see was established by the heroism and dedication of young people of your age.”

“Today, the task of protecting the State of Israel, is on your shoulders,” Rivlin charged. “Remember, without love of the homeland, dedication to mission, aiming for victory, comradeship, purpose, personal example and the purity of weapons, a free people will not be established here.

“The Israel Defense Forces [IDF] and the State of Israel, we need you young, strong, united, united, united, determined to lend a hand, determined to continue to prevail, ready when necessary, to pay a price.”

The IDF chief of staff in his speech highlighted the value of Israel’s soldiers and their safety.

“Out of a commitment to the current generation of soldiers and their families, we will do everything to only send them on worthy missions,” Lt.–Gen. Aviv Kohavi said.

“We will improve the IDF’s capabilities: first of all, its ability to successfully carry out missions, but no less, to protect and defend the soldiers,” the military chief vowed.

This morning at 11 a.m., another two-minute siren called out remembrance for each and every fallen Israeli, just before the traditional ceremony at Mount Herzl and many other smaller ceremonies at cemeteries across the country.

Entertainment venues across the country are shut down and stories of the fallen are being broadcast on every available platform to ensure each person is remembered.

The somberness of Holocaust Remembrance Day and Fallen Soldiers Memorial Day are paired together before the joy and celebration of Independence Day for a purpose. Remembering the Jewish people who have fallen, whether murdered senselessly or in defending the nation, serves as a reminder for why the Jewish state is so important. It is a safe place for the Jewish people to live and worship in freedom and peace.

“In Israel, it was decided in accordance with the law that the Independence Day needs to begin the moment that Remembrance Day ends,” the IDF website said. “This is because the State of Israel wouldn’t be able to celebrate its existence if it weren’t for those who gave their lives for it.

“We wouldn’t be able to have one of those days without the other one,” the defense army’s website concludes. “We honor their memory and everything they fought for, so that today, we can celebrate our independence.”

At sunset, as the new day begins on the Hebrew calendar, the mourning and solemn atmosphere will give way to one of joy and celebration as Israelis begin celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.

After remembering the Holocaust survivors, fallen military personnel and terror victims and remembering how important the Jewish state is to the Jewish people, Israel will celebrate its rebirth in 1948. People will don blue and white—a nod to the Israeli flag—and flood the streets to celebrate.

But first, they remember.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 14, 2021)

Photo Credit: Jenna Solomon/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will comfort and encourage the loved ones of the 43 people who have been killed in the past year in the service of Israel and in terror attacks. Thank Him for the IDF, its leaders and the countless young men and women who put their lives on the line to protect His Land. Cry out to Him for their safety and for their success in defeating His enemies.

Scripture

Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.


- Psalm 25:19–20

Israel’s Population at 9.3 Million ahead of 73rd Independence Day

by Yaron Druckman

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Israel’s population has reached 9,327,000 million according to the Central Bureau of Statistics

Tuesday, 13 April 2021 | Israel’s population has reached 9,327,000 million, the Central Bureau of Statistics [CBS] said Monday in its annual report, published ahead of the country’s 73rd Independence Day.

According to the report, some 74% of the population (6,894,000) are Jews, about 21% of the population (1,966,000) are Arabs, while 5% of the population (467,000) are non-Arab Christians, those from minority religions and people listed as non-religious in the census.

The report added that since Israel’s 72nd Independence Day a year ago, the country’s population has increased by 1.5% or 137,000 people.

Additionally, over the past year, some 167,000 babies have been born, about 16,300 new immigrants have landed in the country and more than 50,000 Israelis have died.

The report also states that during the establishment of the State of Israel, on May 14, 1948, the country’s population stood at about 806,000 people. Around that time, the percentage of Jews was about 82%.

Since 1948, about 3.3 million immigrants arrived in Israel, of whom about 1.5 million after 1990.

The CBS report also revealed that about 28% of Israelis are under the age of 14 and about 12% are over 65.

The CBS estimates that by 2030, Israel’s population will reach 11.1 million people. By 2040, it is set to reach 13.2 million and by Israel’s 100th Independence Day, which will take place in 2048, the population is set to reach some 15.2 million people.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on April 12, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Precious/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for the growth Israel continues to experience. Pray for His hand over every individual represented in these statistics. Thank Him for babies and new immigrants, for the young and the old who are the apple of His eye. Thank Him for Israel’s diversity and pray for true peace among all who reside in His chosen nation.

Scripture

“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’”


- Hosea 1:10

Israel Tells ICC it Does Not Recognize Court’s Authority

by Itamar Eichner

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The flag of the ICC

Friday, 9 April 2021 | Israel does not recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and will not cooperate with its investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians, senior government officials decided at the end of a Thursday meeting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a round of consultations with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit as well as several other higher-ups in the defense establishment ahead of a Friday deadline to respond to an ICC notification letter.

Israel could have opted to launch an independent probe, but senior military officials warned that such a move could create a precedent, effectively recognizing ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s authority to investigate the Jewish state and forcing it to report to the court on the status of the investigation every six months.

Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC and therefore by definition not a party to the court.

Israeli officials could have also requested to postpone its reply to the court’s letter due to technical difficulties as the country grapples with a political deadlock following four indecisive election cycles in just two years and the lack of a permanent government.

The Israeli decision comes against the backdrop of the United States lifting sanctions on the court imposed by former President Donald Trump—a move that went against Israeli requests to keep the sanctions in place at least until after Bensouda’s departure in June.

In a speech on Wednesday marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, Prime Minister Netanyahu launched a scathing attack on the court, accusing it of “trampling human rights.”

“The court seeks to investigate Israel on absurd claims. There is no one more ethical than our soldiers and commanders. IDF commanders are fighting Iran—and we’re the ones being condemned. What hypocrisy,” Netanyahu said.

“The Hague court’s founding was inspired by the Nuremberg tribunal, which tried Nazi war criminals after World War Two. But a body set up to defend human rights became a body that, effectively, protects those who trample on human rights.”

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on April 8, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for the strong stand Israel is taking in the face of the non-legal, non-binding and ludicrous actions being taken by the ICC. Pray that other nations will continue to stand with Israel against what is clearly anti-Semitism on the part of the court and its chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Ask the Lord to vindicate His people.

Scripture

Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your strength. Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen up against me, and oppressors have sought after my life; they have not set God before them.


- Psalm 54:1–3

To Honor their Memories, We Must Spread Hope

by Dr. Shmuel Rosenman

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The Hall of Names at Yad Vashem

Friday, 9 April 2021 | Coronavirus, as we have seen repeatedly over the past year, does not discriminate based on nationality, race or gender. The accursed pathogen attacks everyone equally.

On the bright side, it served to remind us that we are all equally human. On the downside, any hopes we had that humanity will transcend petty racism and hate in order to combat a shared foe have been utterly shattered.

A study by Britain’s Oxford University found that almost 20% of adults in England believe that Jews created the coronavirus for financial gain, while in the US, the spread of white supremacy theories increased by 86% throughout 2020.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has also recently warned of “comprehensive human rights regression in Europe,” especially against communities of Asian descent and also due to the worrying rise in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

The Holocaust serves as a reminder to humanity as a whole of the unfathomable, horrible abyss to which hatred may drag us all. That is why we must make it our lives’ work to remember and remind, not to let the world forget about the horrors of the Holocaust—ever.

Each year, thousands take part in the March of the Living in Poland, during which thousands silently march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp, on ground saturated with our people’s blood.

This year though, for the second time since the first march took place in 1988, we cannot partake in this most important of ceremonies.

Now, when the world is finally starting to emerge from life under the heel of the virus, it is up to us to create a new normal. We must work to create new standards that sanctify life, brotherhood and unity—all while shunning hate and racism.

In many ways, COVID has given us an opportunity to start anew. The world now finds itself at a crossroads, and we must help it choose the path of understanding, compassion and equality.

Let us help society disregard the hate-mongering voices that incite and are looking for someone to blame.

This year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day is of extraordinary significance. It is not enough to bow our heads in memory of the millions who perished.

In honor of their memory, we must warn those who do not yet know where hatred can lead. We must carry the stories of those who survived in order to show that compassion and unity can triumph.

This year, there will be no 10,000 people marching from Auschwitz to Birkenau as part of The March of the Living. Instead, let us make it our mission to spread stories of hope and bravery to millions worldwide.

Dr. Shmuel Rosenman is the chairman of the March of the living organization.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on April 8, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Photo taken by Noam Chen for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Pray that millions of voices worldwide, particularly among Christians, will be raised with fresh anointing to remind the world of the horrors of the Holocaust and the danger that exists for all mankind when conspiracy theories are commonly accepted and hatred is allowed free reign. Pray that truth will be heard above the clamor of animosity, and beseech the Lord for His protection to surround the global Jewish community as anti-Semitism continues to rise.

Scripture

“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us; then the waters would have overwhelmed us…Blessed be the LORD, Who has not given us as prey to their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.


- Psalm 124: 2–4a, 6–8

The Palestinians Try to Bully Israel on the Jerusalem Issue

by Yoni Ben Menachem

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PA President Mahmoud Abbas

Monday, 12 April 2021 | The PA [Palestinian Authority] launched an international campaign against Israel to bully and force it to agree to the participation of east Jerusalem residents in parliamentary elections on May 22, 2021.

At a meeting of the Palestinian government, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh revealed that the PA had sent letters on the issue to the UN [United Nations], the European Union [EU], the United States and Russia, explaining that from their perspective, there was no impediment to allowing east Jerusalem residents to participate in the elections as they did in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Wasel Abu Yousuf, a member of the PLO’s [Palestinian Liberation Organization] Executive Committee, said that the participation of east Jerusalem residents in the parliamentary elections was of great importance when Israel was trying to make the city its unified capital.

Senior PA officials say that the PA wants to use the campaign for the participation of east Jerusalem residents to quash and erase the Trump administration’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The PA sent an official letter to Israel in February requesting its approval for the participation of east Jerusalem residents in the elections. Israel responded with an official letter that a response would be given after the Knesset [Parliament] elections. The PA has not received any official response from Israel. The EU also appealed to Israel’s Minister of Justice last month to approve of the arrival of international observers to the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and east Jerusalem in preparation for the elections.

The EU has not received a response from Israel, either. However, Israel’s political echelon dispatched General Security Services [GSS] [Israeli internal security organization] Chief Nadav Argaman to Ramallah for a meeting with the PA chairman, insisting that he cancel the elections due to the danger of Hamas participation for the security of the PA and Israel.

[PA President] Mahmoud Abbas rejected the Israeli demand outright, and he also turned down a similar request from Egypt and Jordan.

Meanwhile, things have gotten complicated inside the Fatah [leading secular Palestinian political party] arena: Marwan Barghouti (sitting in prison for five murders) decided to establish a joint list with Nasser al-Qudwa (Yasser Arafat’s nephew) to run in the parliamentary elections, which threatens to overwhelm Abbas’ party list.  In this scenario, the Fatah movement will run on three separate tickets (led by Abbas, Barghouti/al-Qudwa and Muhammad Dahlan). This split will weaken Fatah and increase Hamas’s chances of winning the elections.

Abbas’s Options

Abbas does not give up, although he is in a severe political predicament. He continues to offer enticements to Marwan Barghouti to withdraw from the joint list with al-Qudwa, but senior figures in Fatah, who fear losing the elections, demand that Abbas postpone or cancel the elections.

Israel’s security cabinet has not yet convened to discuss east Jerusalem residents participating in the elections, but there is a consensus in the security establishment that the Palestinian elections are dangerous for Israel. After the head of the GSS was sent to warn the PA chairman, it is unlikely that the political echelon in Israel will change its mind, going against the recommendations of the security establishment and approving the participation of east Jerusalem residents in the elections.

It is possible that Abbas appreciates the danger as well, and therefore he ordered the political campaign against Israel over east Jerusalem to show…that he is fighting to the end on the issue of Jerusalem, the “red line” for the Palestinians. This campaign can serve as the ladder that will allow him to climb down from the electoral tree.  He will then rationalize the elections’ postponement, having tried all possible ways to get east Jerusalem to participate in the elections, but with no success.

On April 5, 2021, the PA chairman left for Jordan and then Germany for medical treatment, and he was scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. On April 7, the German Deputy Government Spokesperson said, “their personal meeting during Abbas’s visit in Berlin this week did not take place due to the pandemic-related issues and Merkel’s busy schedule.”

The PA insists that the condition of 86-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is good and that his medical visit was for a routine scheduled appointment. The PA rejects the possibility that the medical treatment was intended to prepare Palestinian public opinion that the elections have to be postponed due to Abbas’s medical condition. Those explanations should be treated with caution. Abbas is scheduled to return to Ramallah on Thursday, April 8, and any change in the schedule would flash red lights regarding his medical condition and the future of the elections.

Photo Credit: (Excerpt from an article originally published by the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs on April 8, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Kremlin.ru/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that no decision will be reached or action taken that will threaten Jerusalem’s position as Israel’s eternal capital. Cry out to the Lord that every possible step will be taken to keep this election from further endangering Israel, even if it means cancelling the election outright to prevent the unconscionable scenario of a win for Hamas.

Scripture

In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear, Zion, let not your hands be weak. The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save.


- Zephaniah 3:16–17a

Report: Israel Strikes Targets in the Damascus Area

by JNS

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An airstrike in Syria on June 24, 2020

Friday, 9 April 2021 | Israel struck a number of targets in the Damascus area early on Thursday morning, according to Syrian state media.

The Syrian Arab News Agency quoted a Syrian military source as saying that four soldiers had been injured in the strikes. The source said the strikes were launched from Lebanese airspace and had also caused material damage.

UK-based war monitor group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that three militiamen were killed in the strikes and several more were wounded, some seriously. The attacks, which SOHR also attributed to Israel, destroyed a munitions warehouse believed to be used by militias affiliated with the Lebanese Hezbollah. There were unconfirmed reports of additional casualties, according to the group.

Thursday’s strike follows an alleged Israeli attack on militia warehouses in the Damascus area on March 16.

Source: (This article was originally published by JNS on April 8, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Twitter/Majd Fahd/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for great wisdom for Israel’s leaders as they strategize the use of force to prevent Iran and its proxy Hezbollah from strengthening their positions and from the eventuality of an attack on Israel’s northern border.

Scripture

Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones.


- Psalm 83:1–3