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Friday, April 3, 2020

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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.

The Corona Coalition: Netanyahu and Gantz Unite to Lead Israel Together

by Ilse Strauss

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Former IDF Chief of Staff and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has decided to form a unity government with PM Netanyahu.

Friday, 27 March 2020 | In a dramatic about-face that sent shockwaves through the Israeli political sphere, Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz announced yesterday that he will side with the Likud-led right-wing bloc and partner with his main political rival, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to form a unity government.

After more than a year without a functioning government, three national elections in less than 12 months and what seemed like a never-ending stalemate between Netanyahu and Gantz, the political deadlock has shattered.

Ironically, it took a global pandemic—and more importantly, the need to curb its spread—to do what repeated trips to the polls and fruitless negotiations could not. In what Israeli media dubbed the “corona coalition,” Netanyahu is set to remain in office for another 18 months, while Gantz will throw his weight—and Knesset (Parliament) seats—behind the Netanyahu-led government and take over the premiership in September 2021.

The terms of the unity government deal are still being hammered out. However, Israeli media reports that the partnership will likely entail a rotating agreement with Netanyahu serving as prime minister and Gantz as deputy prime minister and defense minister for 18 months, before the latter steps in to lead the country for the remainder of the term.

“This is not the time for fighting and splits,” Gantz told his fellow lawmakers in the Knesset last night. “This is a time for responsible statesmanship, patriotism and leadership.”

Gantz also issued a clarion call to the people of Israel: “Let’s join hands and lead Israel out of this crisis.”

Yesterday’s U-turn saw the former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff walk away from his stance that he would under no circumstances serve as co-leader alongside Netanyahu and discard his Blue and White partners, collapsing the party and breaking up the centralist bloc.

Following its collapse, the three parties that comprised Blue and White—Gantz’s Israel Resilience, Yesh Atid and Telem—scattered in different directions. Gantz will bring the seats held by Israel Resilience into the Netanyahu-led government, while the other two are preparing to sit in the government opposition.

According to Gantz, the urgency of curbing the COVID-19 coronavirus prompted the two bitter rivals to put their enmity aside to face the invisible enemy threatening Israel and the rest of the world as a united front. However, his Yesh Atid and Telem partners were set against such a partnership with Netanyahu’s Likud party, resulting in the parting of ways.

Addressing his former partners who are fuming at what they decry as anything from a sellout to a bitter betraying, Gantz tweeted: “At the end of the day, I believe we must not drag Israel to a fourth election at such a challenging time, when the country is dealing with the coronavirus crisis and its fallout. We disagree on that point.”

Over the past year, Israel has gone through the political wringer, facing several surprise twists and turns, bitter disagreement, a steadfast stalemate, three trips to the polls and a number of unsuccessful attempts by both Netanyahu and Gantz to form a coalition. However, even in the midst of the political and COVID-19-related upheaval, the past week proved particularly eventful—and decisive.

In third round of elections on March 2, Netanyahu’s Likud party received a three-seat majority over Blue and White at 36 to 33. Netanyahu also managed to stitch together a right-wing bloc of 58 seats, compared to Gantz’s centralist bloc of 46. However, in a near repeat of the previous two elections, neither party had a clear path to secure the required 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

However, in a twist, 61 Knesset members recommended Gantz as their pick for prime minister, resulting in President Reuven Rivlin handing the mandate to form a government to the Blue and White party chief. While Gantz in theory had a 61-seat backing, forming an actual coalition remained impossible. Fifteen of the 61 voices saying yes to Gantz belonged to the Joint List of mostly Arab parties, many of whom indicated that they merely backed Gantz to oust Netanyahu and would not join a Gantz-led government.

The final, eventful week that would break Israel’s political stalemate saw Blue and White leveraging Joint List backing in an attempt to wangle control of the Knesset, trying to pass a number of bills that would block any chance Netanyahu would have of forming a government or serving as prime minister. The week progressed with a Blue and White attempt to oust Likud member and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who stood between them and the bills passing, and a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court forcing Edelstein to resign rather than bow to Blue and White’s bullying tactics. Finally, two Blue and White members threatened to shift their support to Netanyahu’s camp over Gantz’s refusal to form a unity government during such critical times. Tensions within the Blue and White leadership camp continued to mount to breaking point, resulting in the biggest fallout in the party’s short history.

Hours later Gantz made the decision he had been avoiding for nearly a year—and Israel was on its way to a fully functioning unity government. As part of the emerging unity deal, an overwhelming majority of the right-wing bloc elected Gantz as the temporary Knesset speaker. Once the unity deal is inked, Gantz will reportedly resign the speakership and the position will once again go to a member of Likud, most probably Edelstein.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, the unity government will be a partnership of Likud, Israel Resilience, Labor, Yamina, Shas and United Torah Judaism, and will comprise up to 79 seats.

As Israel prepares for the start of the Sabbath at sunset, talks are ongoing. We invite our readers around the world to pray for Netanyahu, Gantz and the rest of Israel’s lawmakers as they put together the next government to lead the Jewish state.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 27, 2020)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/Yehudah Gross/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that PM Netanyahu and Benny Gantz have reached an agreement to form a unity government. Pray that the Lord will bless their efforts as they plan for the future and give them great wisdom as they deal with the immediate threat of the coronavirus.

Scripture

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.


- Daniel 2:20b–21

Health Minister Tests Positive for COVID-19; Near 7,000 in Israel Infected

by Kate Norman

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Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman

Friday, 3 April 2020 | As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel approaches 7,000, the nation’s top brass are being forced into quarantine after multiple exposures in high places.

Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman was confirmed to have the virus. He has recently met with several top officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, who will now have to be quarantined. Netanyahu had just exited quarantine after possible exposure to the coronavirus from one of his advisers. The premier has already tested negative for carrying the virus, but he will continue to work from his home in Jerusalem.

Litzman attended a session of the Knesset (Parliament) last week, and security officials are reportedly reviewing footage of the session to see who else came into contact with the health minister. More officials will likely be sent into isolation after possible exposure.

Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov will also quarantine after meeting with Litzman recently. Both Litzman and Siman-Tov as Israel’s top health officials will continue their battle against COVID-19 from home.

“Needing to go into quarantine can happen to anyone, and we must abide by the orders,” Siman-Tov said, as quoted by the Times of Israel. “I continue to call for citizens of Israel to abide by the Health Ministry’s directives.”

The head of the Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency) and Israel’s national security adviser will also be quarantined after possible exposure from other sources, the Times of Israel reported.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff Aviv Kochavi has been quarantined and is working remotely this week after possible exposure at a conference last week. The IDF chief has reportedly tested negative for the virus.

Ten Israelis died on Thursday—the highest casualty count in one day—and another this morning, raising the total death count to 37. The victims have largely been elderly citizens or suffered from preexisting health conditions that compromised their immune systems.

Some 338 people have recovered from the illness, Ynetnews reported.

Medical workers have conducted over 87,000 tests, the Times of Israel reported, noting that most of the people confirmed to be infected—23% of those tested—were in their 20s.

The virus has proven most dangerous to the elderly and people who are immunocompromised. Younger people often experience milder symptoms or no symptoms at all, meaning they can be carriers of the virus without realizing it.

Israel, like much of the world, is imposing strict restrictions on its people in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. Israelis are restricted to their homes except for necessary errands, such as buying groceries or going to work (for the few who have not been sent home to work remotely or on leave). The Health Ministry also recently required people to wear face masks when going out in public.

The Jewish state is also arming itself for the battle against the virus and converted a missile production factory to begin producing ventilators for people who are in serious condition.

More than 900,000 people have been infected by COVID-19 worldwide with over 45,000 reported deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The nations with the most reported cases are the US, Italy, Spain, China, Germany, France, Iran and the United Kingdom.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 3, 2020)

Photo Credit: REUVEN FRIZI/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Plead with the Lord for an end to the virus. Pray that He will comfort the families of those who have lost their lives, strengthen those who are suffering with the illness and move mightily on behalf of His people to remove any trace of COVID-19 from His chosen Land. Beseech Him for His protection for PM Netanyahu and other key leaders, shielding them as they perform critical roles in leading the nation and working to keep the spread of the virus at a minimum.

Scripture

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge.


- Psalm 91:3–4a

Despite Coronavirus, Gaza Terrorists Fire Rocket at Israel

by Joshua Spurlock

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Israeli children hiding in a bomb shelter (illustrative).

Monday, 30 March 2020 | While much of the planet—including both Israelis and Palestinians—are fighting the coronavirus, terrorists in Gaza decided Friday was time to fight Israeli civilians.

A rocket was launched at southern Israel, with the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] Twitter feed noting that “thousands of Israeli men, women and children” were in bomb shelters. The IDF retaliated, with the IDF saying in a follow-up tweet, “A rocket was fired from #Gaza at Israeli civilians earlier tonight. We just responded by striking Hamas terror targets in Gaza. As•the•world•fights•COVID19 We•must•also•fight•terror. And we’ll defeat them. Both.”

While no injuries were reported by the IDF, spokesman for the IDF Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said on Twitter the attack occurred during Friday night dinner, which honors the weekly Sabbath—a key religious and family time in Israel. More globally, the incident shows a troubling trend from Iran.

Jason Greenblatt, former Middle East envoy for the Trump Administration, tweeted about the Gaza attack and a separate attack against Saudi Arabia from Yemen, “While humanity battles coronavirus Iran-funded terrorists fire rockets at Saudi Arabia & on Friday Iran-funded terrorists fired a rocket at Israel. All while Iranians suffer too. Will Iranian regime/it’s terrorist puppets ever learn or realize it’s time to build a new normal?”

Meanwhile, it’s not entirely normal these days, even for Gaza terrorists. The Times of Israel, citing a Channel 13 report, said that a major Gaza protest marking the so-called “Land Day” and set to occur on the second anniversary of the so-called “March of Return” Gaza riots had been cancelled due to coronavirus.

Yet while some of the Gaza riots and violence may have subsided, Hamas’s call for it has not. In a report posted to the Hamas website, Raafat Morra, head of Hamas’s Media Division Abroad, was paraphrased as saying Palestinians were sticking to their “right to resist the occupation with all means possible until ending the occupation.” The term “resistance” is often used by Hamas as a reference to terror attacks.

So, while Israel and the Palestinian Authority have worked to join forces to fight coronavirus, Hamas and the terrorists in Gaza are still taking time to reiterate their violent approach, and even continue violent actions.

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on March 29, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Dima Vazinovich/Israel Defense Forces/flickr.com

Source: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will protect those thousands of Israelis from spreading the virus as they are forced into crowded bomb shelters to find safety from rocket fire. Ask the Lord to deal swiftly and harshly with Iranian and Gazan leadership as they ignore the plight of their own people and further the suffering of innocent Israeli families.

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

From Rockets to Ventilators: Israel Converts Missile Factory to Produce Breathing Machines

by Kate Norman

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Israel has begun producing ventilators at a former missile factory to help those suffering from the coronavirus (illustrative).

Thursday, 2 April 2020 | The nation of Israel is constantly on the defense against external enemies. Historically the enemies were Israel’s neighbors seeking to wipe the Jewish state off the map. Today, a more covert enemy has infiltrated the nation in the form of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Israel’s defense leaders are adapting and have altered their tools to meet the new enemy, converting a missile factory to produce ventilators that will save the lives of infected patients in respiratory distress.

Since the COVID-19 coronavirus entered Israel and began spreading across the nation, nearly 6,000 people have been infected. The Health Ministry has warned that the Jewish state currently has access to about 2,000 ventilators—not enough to meet the demand should hospitals receive a sudden influx of infected patients.

The Israeli government, heeding the call of the Health Ministry, has imposed strict regulations on the public in order to curb the spread of the virus, requiring Israelis to stay home unless they need to run necessary errands, such as going to work or buying groceries.

The start-up nation is also utilizing its technological prowess to prepare for battling the coronavirus.

Israel’s Defense Ministry partnered with Inovytec medical company, which produces medical equipment, and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the state-owned aerospace manufacturer for civilian and military use.

The collaborating partners teamed up to begin quick design and production of lifesaving ventilators, the Defense Ministry said. In just a few days, they produced 30 respirators in the IAI’s missile production factory and delivered them to the Health Ministry.

Ventilators are just one of many types of medical equipment that have skyrocketed in worldwide demand due to the pandemic. Nations are reportedly competing to buy the respiratory machines as well as protective suits, testing kits and other necessary equipment.

Producing its own ventilators is one way the Jewish state can become self-reliant, according to the defense minister.

“The State of Israel must develop independent capabilities in everything related to dealing with the COVID-19 virus pandemic,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett stressed. “We cannot remain dependent on procurement from other countries. We must develop independent, advanced capabilities.”

The Jewish state has done just that, using its strengths and experience to adapt to a new type of enemy.  

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 2, 2020)

Photo Credit: Tim Gee/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for Israel’s determination and ability to produce the medical supplies and equipment needed to fight COVID-19. Pray that the entire nation will remember that it is their God who is their provision and their ever-present help in times of trouble.

Scripture

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…the LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah


- Psalm 46:1–2,7

Half a Million Unite Online to Pray against Coronavirus

by Kate Norman

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Half a Million Unite Online to Pray against Coronavirus

Friday, 27 March 2020 | With nearly half a million people infected worldwide and over 21,000 dead from the COVID-19 coronavirus, the world is changing as governments across the globe close their borders and restrict people to their homes to curb the spread.

In Israel, people are restricted from going further than 100 meters (328 ft) away from their homes except for essential errands like buying food or going to the pharmacy. Synagogues, churches and other places of work are shut down and seats lie empty.

However, to misquote Dr. Ian Malcom from Jurassic Park: “Humanity always finds a way.”

Though people aren’t allowed to gather or even be in the same room, across the globe they are finding ways to connect using technology and social media.

Israel has closed down its schools and universities—as well as its yeshivot (religious schools)—but that hasn’t stopped students and rabbis from meeting together for prayer, teaching and encouragement. Only instead of meeting in synagogues and classrooms, they are meeting virtually in online venues like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Facebook Live and other streaming platforms.

One such meeting featuring chief rabbis from around the world drew half a million viewers, the Jerusalem Post reported. Rabbis from Israel, China, the US, France and other places united to offer prayers, supplications for deliverance and healing for the sick, words of encouragement and to blow the shofar (ram’s horn.)

Though most of the broadcast was conducted in Hebrew, the CEO of the Orthodox Union (OU) in Israel, Rabbi Avi Berman, offered encouragement in English.

“This evening we are looking up to heaven and connecting communities all over the world…Countries’ borders have been shut down,” Berman said. “People are staying at home, and in some wondrous way, this physical distance is connecting our hearts.”

“We are all loving each other more as one man with one heart,” he continued. “A prayer like this brings with it unity in which we are not praying only for ourselves but also for our fellow human beings, has a special power to it. Each community is praying not only for itself but for each and every other community in the world as well.”

“May Hashem our Father in heaven send us and all humanity a full and complete recovery,” he concluded.

The global prayer event was organized by a yeshiva student and a group of his friends partnering with the OU.

“On mad days like these, when everyone is locked inside their homes, and we can’t even get together to pray or learn to help combat the epidemic, we’ve decided that while the situation could separate us physically but not spiritually,” yeshiva student Yarden Leitner told Israel National News. “We decided we could try and unite like the people of Israel have never united before.”

“Through a global prayer, together with other Jews all over the world, we have joined together leading rabbis from around the globe with hundreds of thousands of online viewers in a prayer to combat the virus and for a speedy recovery for the infirm,” Leitner concluded.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 27, 2020)

Photo Credit: Himsan/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Pray the blessing of the Lord on those half a million people who joined together in prayer for deliverance from COVID-19. Pray that the numbers will snowball and millions will join with the Jewish people in seeking the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for healing and relief. May Rabbi Berman’s poignant words touch the heart of the Father.

Scripture

When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.


- 2 Chronicles 7:13–14

Anti-Semitism on the Rise, Jews Blamed for Coronavirus

by Itamar Eichner

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The annual Carnival of Aalst in Belgium has come under international media scrutiny for the anti-Semitic depictions (illustrative).

Thursday, 2 April 2020 | An internal Foreign Ministry report warns of a sharp rise in anti-Semitic posts around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a document prepared by the ministry, malicious conspiracy theories, some contradictory, are being spread blaming Israel and Jews for the spread of the virus in order to thin out the world population and profit from a vaccination.

These posts are most common in the US, France and Germany where anti-Semitism has been on the rise, but are seen in the Arab and Muslim world as well.

The ministry is monitoring these posts and has instructed embassies to urge their host government to act in order to remove them from social media and block the disseminators of such content.

Ran Yaakoby, who heads the Department for Combating Antisemitism, said social platforms are being asked to act. Some have promised to investigate and block these posts but some have politely declined, claiming they are swamped by coronavirus content and do not have the manpower to deal with this problem.

A 23-year-old man was arrested on Sunday in New Jersey after he announced on underground sites favored by white supremacists his intent to target Jews he blamed for spreading coronavirus.

Some of the conspiracy theories claim there is a Jewish Zionist plot to thin out the world’s population. In the Arab world, Israel is blamed for the spread of disease.

Cartoons disseminated on Twitter and Telegram showed planes marked with an Israeli flag spreading coronavirus over people on the ground. Similar theories were spread in Turkey and Iran where the annual Holocaust denial cartoon competition was recently announced.

Some cartoons show the Israeli flag with the coronavirus replacing the star of David.

Other conspiracy theories claim Israel is already in possession of a vaccine and will make a fortune from its sale at the expense of human lives.

Foreign Ministry officials say they have found links between Holocaust deniers and these conspiracy theorists linking the number of deaths in China and the number of bodies burned to the claim that the number of Holocaust victims cannot be true because China was unable to burn as many bodies.

Other posts of this kind quote from the anti-Semitic manifesto of the Elders of Zion as proof of Jewish attempts at world domination through the spread of coronavirus.

“We have identified these posts and are warning against their dissemination. We would like legislators to be more vigilant and take action against them,” Yaakoby said.

“We are aware of certain people mapping companies owned by Jews in the United States so that they could later be accused of profiteering from the pandemic if they survive,” Yaakoby said.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on March 31, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: wikisid/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that social platforms will respond positively and be diligent to quickly remove such anti-Semitic hate speech. Pray that legislatures will take strong action against the creators of such vile content, and beseech the Lord for His supernatural protection over the global Jewish community during this time of vulnerability.

Scripture

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.


- Psalm 121

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