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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.

Iran Needs Only “Five Days” to Up Uranium Enrichment to Weapon-grade if Deal Scratched

by Ilse Posselt

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Highly enriched uranium metal (illustrative)

Wednesday, 23 August 2017 | In the normal course of things, five days can hardly be considered a significant stretch of time. Yet according to Iran’s atomic chief, the length of a normal working week is all the Islamic Republic needs to up their uranium enrichment to 20%–the level required to produce an atomic weapon.

Ali Akbar Salehi’s threat came on Tuesday via the Iranian state television. It came in answer to US President Donald Trump’s increasingly firm hand in imposing sanctions on Tehran for circumventing the stipulations of the 2015 nuclear deal and his statements in recent months that the US might renegotiate or scrap the accord.

Salehi warned that any such action by the Americans will trigger a response from Iran—one that the US and other Western countries will find undesirable. “If there is a plan for a reaction and a challenge, we will definitely surprise them. If we make the determination, we are able to resume 20% enrichment in at most five days.”

While Iran has remained insistent that its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes, uranium enriched to 20% (and more) is suitable to build nuclear weapons.

Tehran’s atomic chief, who is also Iran’s vice president, continued to assure his audience that such a decision would be a last resort for the Islamic Republic, taken only in the event that the US forces its hand. “Definitely,” he assured, “we are not interested in such a thing happening. We have not achieved the deal easily to let it go easily. We are committed to the deal and we are loyal to it.”

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed between Iran and the P5+1 (the UN Security Council’s five permanent members, namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus Germany), Tehran agreed to curb its atomic ambitions in exchange for an end to the sanctions crippling its economy. As part of the agreement, Iran gave up the majority of its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium. The accord also restricts the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment to 5%.

Salehi’s statement on Tuesday echoes a threat made by Iranian President Rouhani last week, when he declared that Iran could walk away from the nuclear deal at any time to restart its nuclear program “within hours,” should the US impose any further sanctions.

“If America wants to go back to the experience (of imposing sanctions), Iran would certainly return in a short time—not a week or a month but within hours—to conditions more advanced than before the start of negotiations,” Rouhani pledged.

The Iranian president’s outburst followed a decision by Trump to sign a sanctions bill that inflicts penalties on those associated with Iran’s illicit ballistic missile program and anybody who does business with them. According to The Tower, Germany, France and the United Kingdom subsequently closed ranks with the US over the Islamic Republic’s missile program and agreed that it violates the Security Council resolution that underpins the nuclear deal.   

In the aftermath of a “bad deal”

At the time the agreement was signed in 2015, then-President Barak Obama vowed that the terms of the deal “permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb.” Not everybody shared his conviction.

During his election campaign, President Donald Trump publicly bashed the agreement, calling it a “bad deal,” making it clear that he considered Iran one of the US’s main threats. Despite his reservations, the US president last month recertified to Congress that Iran was sticking to the terms of the agreement. According to US media, Trump made the decision reluctantly and vowed to continue imposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its ballistic missile program.

Trump is not the only world leader with severe misgivings over Iran’s nuclear future. Israel has made no secret that it believes Iran’s nuclear program to be a quest for atomic weapons, one that could threaten the existence of the Jewish state and its people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labeled the accord a “stunning historic mistake.”

“We did commit ourselves to preventing Iran from arming with nuclear weapons,” he said at the time, “and in my eyes that commitment still stands.”

In the 24 months since the deal was sealed, the danger that Iran poses to Israel and the region as a whole has not diminished. In fact, Netanyahu and Mossad chief, Yossi Cohen, warned recently that the Islamic Republic stands poised to take over the territories left ravaged and teetering in the wake of ISIS’s retreat.

According to Israel’s spy chief, the Middle East is changing for the worse, as Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, continues to spread its reach and influence across the region. Cohen added that despite the nuclear deal in place, Tehran has not given up on its ambition to become a nuclear threshold state. In fact, instead of blocking Iran’s path to the atomic bomb, the agreement “only reinforced that trend and strengthened Iranian aggression in the region,” he warned.

Late last week, Netanyahu dispatched a delegation of high ranking Israeli defense officials—including Cohen—to Washington to discuss the threat of the mounting Iranian presence in the region, particularly in war-torn Syria. According to Ynet News, the delegation sought to secure a commitment from the US that any future agreement to put an end to the civil war on Israel’s doorstep would include a clause demanding Iran’s full withdrawal from the region.

Yet these hopes came to naught and the delegation returned to Israel more cautious than ever that Iran is “on the cusp of building naval, air and land bases” on the Jewish state’s doorstep, Ynet News reported. Moreover, Israel warned that “such a reality would constitute the crossing of a red line which Israel would not be able to live with.”

Later today, Netanyahu will meet with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to discuss “Iranian efforts to entrench its military inside Syria,” the prime minister said in a recorded message to the Israeli public.

Netanyahu told his audience that Cohen as well as the head of Israel’s National Security Council would also join the meeting.

Iran’s presence in Syria, the prime minister said, stands as “further proof that Iranian aggression has not subsided in the least following the nuclear agreement, something which poses a problem not just to Israel but for every country, in the Middle East and the entire world.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 23 August 2017)

Photo Credit: Public domain/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray for PM Netanyahu, asking for wisdom as the nuclear threat from Iran is turning into a highly probable threat. Ask God to extend His protection over the land but also pray that Israel’s leaders will have discernment, plans, precautions and solutions to prepare the nation for such devastation. Praise God for President Trump’s boldness to stand firm against any nuclear and atomic warfare.

Scripture

But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.


- Proverbs 1:33

New Report Details Iran’s Growing Influence in Syria

by Roi Kais

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Qasem Soleimani, commander of Quds Force of Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (IRGC)

Tuesday, 22 August 2017 | Growing Israeli concern over Iran gaining an ever increasing foothold in Syria has been impossible to miss lately, as evidenced by the prime minister’s statements along those lines. Mossad Director Yossi Cohen also alerted the government to the fact that Iran’s influence in Syria in particular and the region in general is growing stronger by the day.

Qasem Soleimani, commander of Quds Force of Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (IRGC)In light of these events, and moments before Prime Minister Netanyahu’s next meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of the more prominent figures shaping events in Syria, intelligence analyst Ronen Salomon has put together a project trying to trace the presence of Iranian forces in Syria.

Salomon’s research shows that Iranian presence is shoring up its presence in Lebanon through the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, headed by General Qasem Soleimani. This military-intelligence body works in tandem with the Guard’s intelligence division to carry out operations outside of Iran, with the assistance of the Ministry of Intelligence and other ministries and agencies.

Iranian presence in Syria, meanwhile, begins at the Damascus international airport region, through the Iranian embassy and the bases on Mount Qasioun, overlooking Damascus and near the presidential palace.

It’s pertinent to mention here that in the past, attacks meant to stop munitions shipments to Hezbollah both at the Damascus airport and in the Qasioun area have been attributed to the Israeli Air Force

“These are accompanied by ‘interests sections’ used by the Quds Force in aviation and transportation, such as Iran Air and Mahan Air, the ministries of Islamic culture and direction, science and technology, housing and commerce and trade,” explains Salomon.

“This has been well-documented in the list of sanctions imposed on Iran both in the past and today,” Salomon adds. “In addition, the Quds Force makes use of the Iranian Red Crescent on occasion both to insert Revolutionary Guard and intelligence ministry operatives and to transport shipment and military aid by air and by sea, as they have already done in Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen.”

By sea, air and land

The research shows that in the past few years, Iran was able to transport a large number of containers carrying advanced implements of war by sea under the guise of commercial shipments. Among other methods, transportation is carried out through companies connected to Iran’s international shipping company, IRISL.

Simultaneous to these actions, Iran started running an airlift to Syria out of Tehran’s airports and Iranian airbases adjacent to the Iraqi border. These flights fly civilian routes through Iran Air and Mahan Air but also use “laundered” 747 army transportation aircrafts under a company called Qasem Fares Air and transport planes made by Russian manufacturer Ilyushin, also operated by Syrian national air carrier Syrian Air.

The goods transported along those routes are armaments and fighters, especially those belonging to Shiite militias assisting the Assad regime in Syria. Estimates say 21,000 passengers and 5,000 tons of supply have passed between the Tehran and Abadan route to Damascus. Flights leave at night to prevent satellite monitoring. Salomon’s report also shows Iran has started operating assembly and unloading points, reflecting recent news the Islamic republic started constructing armament production infrastructures in Syria and Lebanon, including long-range missile manufacturing plants.

18,000 fighters at any given time

Iranian activity spreads four fronts. Main command is stationed in the Damascus international airport’s area and is entrusted with the airborne supply array and forces spread over greater Damascus. In central Syria, there’s a reported command outpost in the Dumayr area and airfields Shayrat and T-4 in the Homs region.

Meanwhile, witnesses report accelerated construction of military complexes in the coastal strip of northwestern Syria, reportedly linked to armament development and storage.

Lately, Salomon adds, Iran has made a concerted effort to gain control of the Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq with the goal of connecting Iran’s bases and those of her Iraqi branches—and to use them to achieve control of Iraq’s shared border with Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria. It’s entirely possible Iran intends to use these routes to transport advanced weaponry, armored vehicles captured from the Iraqi army and buses of fighters.

The order of battle Iran has constructed in Syria, under the watchful eye of Soleimani, is made up of elite Revolutionary Guard units called the Basij and the standing Iranian army, now appended to the Quds Force and numbering close to 1,500 men.

Other independent militias and organized forces on the ground are also supported by Iran. It’s entirely conceivable that Palestinian forces also cooperate with the Quds Force, and are integrated into Syria’s popular fighting forces.

Some 18,000 fighters of different militias are present in Syria at any one time, a number which includes Hezbollah and Iranian military personnel.

It’s also possible this number has grown in the past few months as a result of the aforementioned accelerated airlift.

As for the number of casualties, Salomon claims that including Hezbollah, other Shiite militias and army or Revolutionary Guard personnel, 2,600 men have lost their lives since the start of the conflict, as a rough estimate, most of them not necessarily Iranian.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 21 August 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: sayyed shahab-o- din vajedi/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Intercede for the senior IDF officers who make decisions, asking God to grant them the good sense, intelligence and efficiency to determine solutions for Iran’s increasing influence in Syria. Beseech God for His supernatural intervention in the current situation and lift up the IDF soldiers who defend Israel’s northern borders.

Scripture

When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things, from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness;


- Proverbs 2:10-13

US Diplomatic Team in Mideast Re-Establishing Ties with Allies

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Middle East

Thursday, 24 August 2017 | On Tuesday’s meeting with Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, Jordan’s King Abdullah II praised the United States’ commitment to working towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kushner, who was accompanied to the Middle East by US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, also discussed how to enhance the strategic partnership between the US and Jordan, the Jordan Times reported.

Kushner, Greenblatt, and Powell traveled to the Middle East Saturday night and have met with officials from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. They [were] scheduled to arrive in Israel last night.

It was announced earlier this month that administration officials would be making another trip to the region to work towards restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians with no preconditions.

Despite the administration’s interest in restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority [PA] is once again talking about pursuing unilateral moves to achieve statehood. PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told British Secretary of State for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt, “We convinced the international community that the best way to reach a state is through negotiations. But after 24 years of negotiations, we have not gotten anything,” The Times of Israel reported Tuesday.

Maliki called for the “imposition of peace” by the international community through the establishment of a Palestinian state, instead of achieving peace through negotiations with Israel.

In the final push to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians by the previous administration in 2014, it was Abbas who blocked any progress. PA President Mahmoud Abbas signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas—without informing Israel first—thus bringing about “the collapse of yet another gallant effort at Israeli-Palestinian peace-making,” Michael Herzog, a former Israeli peace negotiator wrote in March of this year.

A meeting between Greenblatt and Palestinian officials in June resulted in heightened friction due to the PA’s refusal to stop paying salaries to convicted terrorists and their families.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 23 August 2017. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Public domain/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Give thanks and pray for the US delegation as they attempt to restart the peace talks in the Middle East. Ask God to go before them and prepare the way as they attempt to resolve the issue of the land and two states in an impartial way, without any preconditions from Abbas. Ask God to bless and guide PM Netanyahu as he, too, will meet with the US delegation.

Scripture

Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,


- Deuteronomy 1:29-30

Abbas Slams Trump’s Peace Efforts ahead of US Delegation Visit

by Ilse Posselt

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President Donald Trump meets with President Mahmoud Abbas in 2017 in Bethlehem (illustrative)

Tuesday, 22 August 2017 | As a top US delegation prepares to head to the Middle East in a bid to further the peace process in the region, Palestinian Authority (PA) President, Mahmoud Abbas, on Sunday scoffed at the American efforts, slamming President Donald Trump’s administration as being in “chaos.”

Speaking to leftwing Israeli lawmakers in Ramallah over the weekend, Abbas critiqued not only current tensions in Washington, but also Trump’s approach to the push for peace in the Middle East. The PA president continued to bemoan what he viewed as the US’s lack of commitment to the Palestinian demands.

“I have met with Trump’s emissaries to the Middle East about 20 times since the beginning of his tenure,” Abbas held, “and they repeatedly emphasized to me how much they believe in and are committed to the two-state solution and to the cessation of construction in the settlements. I urged them to say the same thing to Netanyahu, but they refrain.”

According to the PA president, it is impossible to fathom what the Trump team is planning.

Three of Trump’s top aides—Senior Advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Special Envoy for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy, Dina Powell—are set to arrive in the Middle East this week. Apart from meetings with Israel and the PA, the delegation’s itinerary also includes get-togethers with leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt.

In preparation for these meetings, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the PA gathered in Cairo on Saturday evening to discuss strategy and coordinate positions.

During a joint press conference following the meeting, the PA’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki proclaimed, “There will be no peace without the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.”

Al-Maliki continued to highlight the importance of Arab states standing together, “especially concerning the Al-Aqsa Mosque…” He pointed out that the coordination should not be confined to the PA, Egypt and Jordan, but should also be “with the rest of our Arab brothers.”

Cooling relations

Abbas originally welcomed Trump’s commitment to the peace process. During their 3 May 2017 meeting in Washington, the PA president said that he was looking forward to partnering with Trump “in order to come to that deal, to that historic agreement, to bring about peace.”

Yet the initial enthusiasm has in recent months made way for discontent over what the Palestinians claim to be the US’s bias towards Israel’s position and a lack of commitment to a two-state solution.

Relations between Trump and Abbas also hit a snag in May 2017, when the US President took a startled Abbas to task over his role in spurring his people on to violence against the Jewish state. In a meeting in Bethlehem during Trump’s trip to Israel, the US President reportedly shouted at Abbas, “You talked about your commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me your involvement in incitement [against Israel].”

Trump’s private tongue lashing was underscored by a pointed public statement during a joint press conference that followed the Bethlehem meeting. “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded. We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice,” the US president said.

The relationship between the US and the PA has since grown increasingly strained, following strong reprimands by the Trump administration over the PA policy of paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists and their families.

While the US held out hope that the PA would choose a path of peace, the Palestinians have remained resolute. “We reject ending the subsidies to the prisoners and families of the martyrs. We will not apologize for it,” Issa Karaka, the PA’s Head of Prisoner Affairs confirmed in June.

US lawmakers have since taken action to ensure that this “sick” policy comes to an end. Earlier this month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation that would see America put a stop to its annual financial aid package to the Palestinian Authority (PA), unless the payments to terrorists are halted.

The Taylor Force Act, named after the 29-year-old US military veteran who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist while on a trip in Israel last year, will now go to the full Senate and House of Representatives for review and potential passing into law.

According to Palestinian legislation, convicted terrorists serving time in Israeli jails as well as the families of assailants who died while committing attacks are rewarded for the bloody acts with monthly payments of up to $3,500. According to The Tower, half of the foreign aid the PA receives is now earmarked for this purpose. The PA 2017 budget saw $153.4 million disappear into the pockets of Palestinian prisoners and their families.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 22 August 2017)

Photo Credit: Public domain/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that the US delegation will be successful in bringing to an end the appalling policy of providing subsidies to the families of martyrs. Cry out to God to guide Israel and pray that they will depend on Him and His will.

Scripture

And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are–northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.


- Genesis 13:14-15

US State Department Report: Anti-Semitism Pervasive in Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar

by Julie Lenarz

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Iran hosts Holocaust-denial cartoon contest (illustrative)

Tuesday, 22 August 2017 | On Tuesday, the US Department of State released its annual report on religious freedom in the world, which shows persistent levels of deep-rooted anti-Semitism in the Middle East, including in two neighboring Arab countries Israel has peace treaties with. The main sources of persecution vary among countries with Iran spearheading the group of regime-driven incitement against the Jewish people, while Jordan, Egypt, and Qatar face criticism for allowing widespread anti-Semitic sentiments in private and state-owned media with impunity.

Regime-driven persecution: Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran is classified as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. Both the US Department of State and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom list Iran as one of the worst religious freedom violators in the world. Since President Hassan Rouhani assumed office in 2013, religious freedom in the country has continued to decline due to intensified harassment, imprisonment, and execution of religious minorities, including Jews.

Iran has the Middle East’s largest Jewish population outside of Israel with an approximately 20,000-member strong community, which faces harsh conditions in the Islamic Republic. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and state-run television continue to foster a climate of hatred, propagating anti-Semitic rhetoric and demonizing the country’s Jewish community for real or perceived ties to Israel.

On June 30, 2016, the Kayhan newspaper, managed by a board appointed by Khamenei’s office, published an article claiming that the Holocaust was a myth and product of Jewish historians’ imaginations. Moreover, “Death to Israel” is a prominent chant heard at regime-sponsored rallies, such as on annual Al Quds day, and religious minorities, including Baha’is and Christians, are accused by the regime of collusion with Israel.

The US Department of State writes in its report that, “Government officials continued to employ anti-Semitic rhetoric in official statements and sanction them in media outlets, publications, and books,” adding that “On January 27, [2016], International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s official website posted a video that questioned whether the Holocaust happened and criticized the US and European governments for disapproving of Holocaust denial.”

In 2015 and 2016, Iran hosted a Holocaust denial cartoon contest. The organizers behind the event—Iran’s House of Cartoon, the Owj Media & Cultural Institute, and the Sarcheshmeh Cultural Complex—are directly linked to and funded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. On April 29, 2016, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum confirmed the Iranian regime’s partial funding of the contest, saying in a statement that “the organizations associated with the contest are sponsored or supported by government entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Islamic Guidance.”

Media Driven Persecution: Egypt, Jordan, Qatar

In Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar, the main source of anti-Semitic propaganda is private and state-owned media. These outlets operate with the passive support of governments, which routinely fail to condemn and prosecute incitement against the Jewish people.

Despite the peace treaty with Israel, the Egyptian government generally took no action against anti-Semitic cartoons and commentary demonizing Jews and Israel, which regularly appeared in state-owned and private media. They also failed to condemn academics, cultural figures, and clerics, who appeared on these outlets to spread anti-Semitic tropes and hatred against the Jewish people.

The US Department of State writes in its report that “in May lawyer and political commentator Nabih Al Wahsh appeared in a television interview during which he accused Israel of shooting down Egypt Air flight 804 with a missile and of ‘exporting AIDS, aphrodisiac bubble gum, and all kinds of catastrophes’ to the country.” It was further noted in the report that Al Wahsh “called on ‘any Egyptian or Arab man who comes across an Israeli person to kill him and mutilate his body’ and for ‘death squads to hunt down any Israeli anywhere in the world,’ according to the Middle East Media Research Institute.”

Furthermore, in May and June 2016, the state-owned newspaper Al Ahram published a five-week series of articles based on stereotypical anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Jews were accused of “plotting to enslave the world,” “claiming that their religion is the only religion,” “inventing atheism,” “leading countries to religious and political extremism,” and staging an “economic takeover of the world.” Most of these allegations of “evil” referenced the long-debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

There was some positive coverage of the country’s Jewish community. On May 30, an interview aired on state television, recorded in one of Cairo’s remaining synagogues, with the president of the Cairo Jewish community. During the exchange, she spoke about the religion of Judaism and corrected what she said were misconceptions about the Jewish community in the country.

Meanwhile, societal anti-Semitism remains persistent in Egypt. Copies of anti-Semitic literature, including translations of Mein Kampf, were widely available for purchase in shops across the country.

In Qatar, private media continued to publish anti-Semitic material. In January 2016, the newspaper Al-Sharq printed an editorial entitled “The Jewish Personality,” which labeled the “Jewish problem” as the “most dangerous and complex in the modern era” and described the “Jewish personality” as “distorted and malevolent” and an “imminent danger threatening the Islamic nation.”

In June, the same newspaper published an anti-Semitic poem entitled “The Plot of the Jews,” which accused Jews of corruption and malevolent intention against Muslims.  The Qatari government took no action against the outlet, despite legislation which explicitly prohibits defamation against Judaism.

A similar problem persists in Jordan, another Arab neighbor that signed a peace treaty with Israel. The US Department of State concludes that “cartoons, articles, postings on social media, and public statements by politicians continued to present negative images of Jews and to conflate anti-Israel sentiment with anti-Semitic sentiment.” The report also criticized the Jordanian government for taking no “action with regard to anti-Semitic material appearing in the media.”

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 18 August 2017. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Twitter/Benjamin Netanyahu

Prayer Focus
Ask God to call upon the hearts of the 20 000 Jews living in Iran, drawing them to return to their homeland, Israel, where there will be no persecution and they will be free to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Exalt God for His perfect plan and thank Him for the establishment of the modern State of Israel. Petition the Lord to intervene and protect His people from increasing anti-Semitism, especially in the Middle East.

Scripture

When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream.  Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, The LORD has done great things for them.


- Psalm 126:1-2

Israel, US Move to Broaden UNIFIL Powers in Lebanon

by Itamar Eichner

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The UN’s Lebanon peacekeeping force, UNIFIL

Thursday, 24 August 2017 | Israel and the US are gearing up to launch a new initiative aimed at expanding the powers and responsibilities assigned to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in its monitoring of Hezbollah, as the UN Security Council prepares to discuss this week the renewal of its mandate.

Ahead of the discussions, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, derided what he described as UNIFIL’s inaction as Hezbollah continues growing in strength. “Hezbollah is only increasing its power, while UNIFIL sticks its head in the sand,” the ambassador said.

Danon decried the force’s apparent lackadaisical attitude toward carrying out its intended mission, as Hezbollah terrorists continue to conceal military stockpiles inside civilian populations and dig inside residential buildings and homes.

“Hezbollah has been breaching UN Security Council resolutions on a regular basis and using civilian homes as military bases,” Danon said. “The UN can no longer stand by and let this happen. It’s time for UNIFIL to fulfill its intended task of bringing stability to the region.”

Israel and the US, wholly dissatisfied with the nature of UNIFIL’s actions which have not sufficed in preventing repeated violations by Hezbollah of Security Council resolutions, are working behind the scenes to change its mandate which would go into effect at the end of the month, in a way intended to transform the way it operates against Hezbollah.

In light of these events, Ambassador Danon communicated a list of Israeli demands to Security Council member states, delineating practical changes that needed to be taken in UNIFIL’s operational functioning.

These demands include permitting entry into villages in areas controlled by Hezbollah, a measure UNIFIL has avoided thus far, a significant increase in military patrols and active checks on the ground, as opposed to merely reporting to the Lebanese army, and real-time reports to the Security Council on violations of decision 1701 (the Israeli-Hezbollah ceasefire at the end of the 2006 conflict).

Firmly throwing its weight behind the move, the United States declared during these behind-the-scenes talks it won’t tolerate the Security Council “serving as a rubber stamp for UNIFIL’s futile reports.”

Concurrently, Israel sent chief army officers to the UN building in New York this week to brief Security Council delegates on the severity of the threat Hezbollah poses and the transformation of the organization into a state-like power.

UN Secretary-General to visit Israel

UN Secretary-General António Guterres will visit Israel next week accompanied by Danon. The Secretary-General will touch down in Israel Sunday, August 27, for a three-day visit. On Monday Guterres will visit Yad Vashem, meet the president of Israel Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Later that day Guterres will be attending a special event on Israeli innovation in the Israel Museum.

On Tuesday the Secretary-General will visit the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and meet with representatives of the Palestinian leadership. On Wednesday he’ll fly over Israel for an overhead view, tour the Gaza border communities and the Gaza Strip itself, before later speaking at the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv.

Ambassador Danon welcomed the Secretary-General’s visit, saying, “Especially in light of the attempts to harm Israel on the UN stage, we expect the Secretary-General to present the true face of Israel, its impressive accomplishments and contributions to the world and the complex reality and challenges it faces in the tumultuous Middle East.”

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 23 August 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Hdahlmo~commonswiki/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Continue to pray for the UN asking God to guide them with wisdom and a willingness to turn from their lackadaisical attitude and do the job assigned to them. Lift up Danny Danon and his efforts to strengthen the mandate of UNIFIL, holding them accountable to monitor Hezbollah's actions and to bring stability to the region instead of allowing terror groups to grow.

Scripture

The labor of the righteous leads to life, the wages of the wicked to sin. He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray.


- Proverbs 10:16-17

UN Blacklist of Companies Doing Business in Settlements to be Released by Year’s End

by Itamar Eichner

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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein

Wednesday, 23 August 2017 | The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, plans to publish by the end of the year a blacklist of international companies doing business in Israeli settlements in the West Bank [Judea-Samaria] and east Jerusalem, as well as Israeli communities in the Golan Heights, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

The commissioner has already submitted a draft of the list to the countries these companies are based in, so they could give their responses by September 1.

According to the Post, there are several American companies on the list—including Caterpillar, TripAdvisor, Priceline and Airbnb—and the Trump administration is reportedly putting pressure on the UN not to release it.

Israel and the US strongly oppose the release of such a list and have been waging a long campaign to thwart its publication, saying this list serves as a prelude for boycotting Israel.

“These types of resolutions are counterproductive and do nothing to advance Israeli-Palestinian issues,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called the list “an embarrassing move,” as well as “an expression of modern anti-Semitism reminiscent of dark periods in history.”

He went on to accuse the UN commissioner for human rights of becoming “the BDS movement’s most active member worldwide” who made it his goal “to harm the State of Israel instead of doing his job.”

Danon called on the international community and the UN “to immediately stop this dangerous move.”

During a UN Human Rights Council in June, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley slammed plans to compile such a database, calling it “shameful.”

“Blacklisting companies without even looking at their employment practices or their contributions to local empowerment, but rather based entirely on their location in areas of conflict, is contrary to the laws of international trade and to any reasonable definition of human rights. It is an attempt to provide an international stamp of approval to the anti-Semitic BDS movement. It must be rejected,” Haley said.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 22 August 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Public domain/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Call upon God to stir His people to support Israel and buy Israeli products like never before. Ask for the Church to embrace its calling to support Israel and realize that standing with Israel is standing with God! Pray that the nations will follow the example of the US and fight this ridiculous, shameful, disguised move of the UN to boycott, divest and sanction Israel’s trade.

Scripture

The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you; for in My wrath I struck you, but in My favor I have had mercy on you. Therefore your gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings in procession. For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish, and those nations shall be utterly ruined.


- Isaiah 60:10-12

World Humanitarian Day: Israel Reflects on its Efforts to Help Those in Need 

by Ilse Posselt

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IsraAid established an emergency aid center on Greek Island of Lesbos for Syrian refugees

Monday, 21 August 2017 | Saturday, 19 August, marked the United Nation’s (UN) World Humanitarian Day, a day set aside annually to honor humanitarian personnel who brave distress, danger and adversity to bring relief in disaster-stricken areas.

According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, nearly 300,000 aid workers worldwide sacrifice the luxuries of home and a life of safety and comfort to care for the close to 60 million people requiring humanitarian assistance every year. Yet even amidst the countless stories of bravery and selflessness, the efforts, dedication and professionalism of one nation stand out.

Israel’s population is but a tad over 8.5 million. The slight strip of land that constitutes the Jewish state is ranked 190th in land size in the world. Moreover, the country has limited resources of its own, domestic matters that require its funds, manpower and expertise and borders that need constant protection from neighbors calling for its annihilation.

Despite these factors, the Jewish state is considered among the best in the world when it comes to search-and-rescue operation, medical aid and constructing field hospitals, humanitarian efforts and disaster relief. Moreover, a team from tiny Israel is often the first, most experienced and best prepared on the scene when disaster strikes. In fact, for Israel, every day is World Humanitarian Day.

Ten years after the rebirth of the State of Israel, the people of the Promised Land insisted that the state develop and implement an official humanitarian aid agenda. The six decades since have seen the Jewish state remain true to that vision, coming to the aim of more than 140 disaster-stricken nations.

The highlights of Israel’s rescue efforts over the past ten years alone make for an impressive list. In 2007, earthquake-hit Peru benefited from Israeli help. The year after that, it assisted Myanmar in the aftermath of a major cyclone. In 2009, Israel sent help to Burkina Faso and aid teams to the Philippines. January 2010 the Jewish state won international acclaim for its fierce dedication and unparalleled skill when rushing to the aid of Haiti after a deadly earthquake devastated the island nation. March 2011 saw a mammoth 9.1 earthquake and subsequent tsunami shaking Japan. Within 48 hours, the Promised Land had dispatched medical personnel and equipment, setting up an advanced field hospital. Later that same year, when an earthquake hit Turkey, Israel was once again there to help. In November 2013, a super-typhoon tore through the Philippines. One of the first delegations on the ground—flying 12 hours over a distance of 6,000 miles—was the 148-member delegation from Israel. The following year in May 2014, when flood waters covered parts of Serbia and Bosnia, the Jewish state sent humanitarian relief. And more recently, the Jewish state dispatched medical personnel, search and rescue teams, medical equipment and other aid materials after a mammoth earthquake battered Nepal in April 2015.

In honor of World Humanitarian Day, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs created a video clip to highlight three of the ways in which the Jewish state is setting itself apart as a global leader in providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Since the UN designated this year’s day to recognize those who support and advocate victims of war, the three examples pertain to Israel’s efforts to aid those caught in the crosshairs of conflict.

The first example comes from the war raging on Israel’s northern border. Since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, the Jewish state has treated nearly 3,000 Syrians wounded in the fighting, the video says. Moreover, Israel has also transferred some 40 tons of medical supplies, food and clothing to Syrian civilians in the war-torn area.

The second example, the video proclaims, is that of volunteers from IsraAID, a humanitarian aid organization from the Jewish state that responds to emergency crises and facilitates international development around the world. Over the past decade alone, these volunteers have responded to almost 40 crises, helping civilians from conflict regions, such as Iraq, Sierra Leone and Uganda. In recent years, IsraAID has also established an emergency aid center on the Greek island of Lesbos to aid the thousands of Syrian refugees escaping the Syrian civil war and swarming to Europe.

The third and final example pertains to Israel’s Save a Child’s Heart initiative, which so far has provided urgent pediatric heart surgery to more than 4,000 children from developing countries and areas of conflict. Children from nations that do not recognize Israel and have no diplomatic ties with her, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia, have all received treatment in the Promised Land.

Repairing the world

Many have speculated over Israel’s motivation to help those in need. Some say that the Jewish state is expertly equipped to respond to emergency situations. The argument certainly has merit. In the 70 years since its rebirth, Israel has fought a significant war every decade. Aside from the major conflicts, the country also lived through two intifadas (uprisings) and continues to face the threat of rockets and missiles aimed at civilian populations and terrorists armed with knives, guns or explosives stalking women, children and the elderly.

Tragic circumstances have certainly forced the Israelis to hone their response procedures during times of emergency to a fine art. However, what their enemies meant for harm, the people of the Promised Land have used as a means to bless the nations. Israel is committed to take the expertise forged from these painful events and share it by dispatching its trained men and women to help those who suffer.

Yet external influences are possibly only part of the tiny country’s eager heart for help. Perhaps the driving force is more inherent, something rooted at the very core of Jewish belief. The age-old concept of tikkun olam, which literally translates to “repairing the world,” entails the conviction that all people carry within them the divine obligation to heal, to repair and to transform the world for the better and for good. It is a belief so deeply interwoven into the essence of Jewish society that when disaster strikes, Israel responds almost instinctively, with an innate desire to help, to repair and to transform for the better.

Israel helps—and blesses—because that is who Israel is.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 21 August 2017)

Photo Credit: Facebook/Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Prayer Focus
Thank God! Exalt Him as Israel helps and blesses the nations by repairing and transforming the world into a better place, one act of kindness at a time. Pray that the UN will recognize the aid Israel has given to over 140 disaster-stricken nations. Lift up humanitarian workers who serve with their hands and hearts all over the world.

Scripture

In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.


- Genesis 22:18

Ancient Inscription Unearthed Near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate  

by Edgar Asher

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Byzantine mosaics recently discovered near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate

Thursday, 24 August 2017 | An inscription in Greek mentioning the Byzantine Emperor Justinian was exposed on a mosaic floor in a room that was probably used as a hostel for pilgrims. The intact discovery surprised and excited the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists.

A 1,500-year-old mosaic floor, with a Greek inscription, was discovered this summer following groundwork for a communications cable infrastructure near the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.

David Gellman, the director of the excavation on behalf of the (IAA) said, “The fact that the inscription survived is an archaeological miracle. The excavation, in a relatively small area, exposed ancient remains that were severely damaged by infrastructure groundwork over the last few decades. We were about to close the excavation, when all of a sudden, a corner of the mosaic inscription peeked out between the pipes and cables. Amazingly, it had not been damaged. Every archaeologist dreams of finding an inscription in their excavations, especially one so well preserved and almost entirely intact.”

Dr. Leah Di Segni, of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the expert on ancient Greek inscriptions, deciphered the inscription. The inscription reads, “In the time of our most pious emperor Flavius Justinian, also this entire building Constantine the most God-loving priest and abbot, established and raised, in the 14th indiction.”

According to Dr. Di Segni, “This inscription commemorates the founding of the building by Constantine, the priest. The inscription names the emperor Flavius Justinian. It seems that the building was used as a hostel for pilgrims.” Dr. Di Segni added, “‘indiction’ is an ancient method of counting years, for taxation purposes. Based on historical sources, the mosaic can be dated to the year AD 550/551.”

According to Gellman, “The Damascus Gate served for hundreds of years as the main northern entrance to Jerusalem. Knowing that, it is no surprise that this area is rich with archaeological remains. In the Byzantine period, with the emergence of Christianity, churches, monasteries and hostels for pilgrims were built in the area north of the gate, and the area became one of the most important and active areas of the city.”

The two people mentioned in the inscription are well known from both ancient historical sources and archaeological finds. The emperor Flavius Justinian was one of the most important rulers of the Byzantine period, and was one of the most colorful and charismatic rulers of antiquity. Under his reign, the Roman Empire was at its strongest, and its conversion to Christianity was completed. In the year AD 543 he established a large church in Jerusalem, dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus, known as the Nea Church. This was the largest church built in Jerusalem and one of the largest in the entire empire. The abbot of the church was Constantine, whose name appears in the inscription discovered recently near the Damascus gate. Remains of this church were partially excavated in 1970, in the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, even then sparking interest among archaeologists and scholars of Jerusalem, throughout Israel and across the globe.  This excavation was a part of the Jewish quarter excavations carried out immediately following the Six Day War in 1967.

According to Dr. Di Segni, the inscription found near the Damascus gate is fairly similar to an inscription found in the vaults of the Nea Church, currently exhibited in the Israel museum. The same two people are mentioned in the inscription, the emperor Justinian and the abbot Constantine. Dr. Di Segni adds, “This new inscription helps us understand Justinian’s building projects in Jerusalem, especially the Nea Church. The rare combination of archaeological finds and historical sources, woven together, is incredible to witness, and they throw important light on Jerusalem’s past.”

The ancient inscription was recently removed from its site by the conservation experts of the IAA and is currently being treated and studied in the IAA ‘s mosaic workshop in Jerusalem.

Source: (This press release was originally published by Ashernet on 23 August 2017)

Photo Credit: Photo by Ashernet/IAA

Prayer Focus
Praise God for the preserved Christian history of Jerusalem hidden behind cabling, proving once again the importance of God's city. Pray for more finds to solve ancient mysteries and reveal the truth. Ask God to bless the archaeologists who have the knowledge to identify and place their findings in the history timeline.

Scripture

Yet I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there,


- 2 Chronicles 6:6a

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