Help us bless the people of Israel.

Friday, August 27, 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.

Washington Officials Voice Support for Israel during Bennett’s US Trip

by Kate Norman

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III

Thursday, 26 August 2021 | Washington’s top officials assured visiting Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of the United States’ unwavering support for Israel and its security, ahead of Bennett’s meeting with President Joe Biden today.

In his first visit to the United States since taking office, Bennett met yesterday with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other DC officials. The main topic of discussion: Iran.

No doubt the US and Israel have much to discuss on the subject, amid Tehran’s continuing violations of the 2015 nuclear deal and developing nuclear program, as well as the regime’s continued regional aggression.

And that’s just what Bennett and the defense secretary talked about at the Pentagon on Wednesday, according to a statement from Bennett’s office, which said they covered “a series of regional, diplomatic and security issues, especially the ways to block Iran’s regional aggression and the progress of its nuclear program.”

The US Department of Defense’s readout said the discussion covered “the wide range of threats posed by Iran’s nuclear program, support of terrorism and maritime aggression,” and that Secretary Austin “affirmed the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security and Qualitative Military Edge.”

The Department of Defense also committed to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system, which was severely depleted in May, when terrorists in Gaza fired more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel.

The Department of State’s readout on Bennett’s meeting with Blinken was less specific, only summarizing the topics of their meeting: Iran, reiterating the “US commitment to Israel’s security,” reiterating Washington’s commitment to reaching a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and reaching an agreement to include Israel in the US’s visa waiver program.

Today the talks continue, as Bennett is slated to meet with Biden at the White House—the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders, though they have had phone discussions and their administrations have had frequent contact since both took office.

Bennett’s trip comes while Washington is battling a storm of condemnation for the handling of the US military pullout of Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to retake control and prompting US allies in the region to question the White House’s reliability.

An unnamed “senior administration official” told reporters in a teleconference ahead of Bennett’s visit that the US bailout of Afghanistan “frees up resources and attention and ultimately allows us to better support our partners like Israel.”

The official added that the Biden administration is not pursuing “unachievable goals. We’re not trying to transform the Middle East. We’re not trying to overthrow regimes. We are pursuing a very steady course, centered on achievable aims…

“And, first and foremost, support to our partners, and of course, Israel being second to none.”

Nonetheless, Washington and Jerusalem fundamentally disagree on the approach to curbing Iran’s aggression. The Biden administration favors a diplomatic approach and endless talks to coax Tehran back into compliance with the nuclear deal—which Prime Minister Bennett and other Israeli leaders have vehemently protested.

And seeing what is happening in Afghanistan, Israel, though remaining on friendly and cooperative basis with the United States and the Biden administration, is coming to terms with likely having to act on its own in the region.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz even said this week that Israel will likely have to act alone against Iran, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff told reporters yesterday that Israel is preparing for a possible strike on Iran, in the event that it is necessary to thwart the regime’s nuclear program.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, August 26, 2021)

Photo Credit: Lisa Ferdinando/U.S. Secretary of Defense/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that Israel’s relationship with the United States remains solid and that all existing agreements that benefit Israel will remain in place. Pray that the Lord will open the eyes of American officials in terms of their approach to Iran, and beseech Him that America will do a better job of living up to its agreements with Israel than it has done with Afghanistan.

Scripture

The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.


- Proverbs 11:3

Israel Accelerates Preparedness for Military Strike on Iran

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IDF commando units exercise (illustrative)

Thursday, 26 August 2021 | The Israeli military was accelerating plans for a possible strike on Iran, IDF [Israel Defense Forces] Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

“The progress in the Iranian nuclear program has led the IDF to speed up its operational plans, and the defense budget that was recently approved is meant to address this,” Kohavi said, speaking to military correspondents ahead of the Jewish New Year.

The military chief’s briefing took place as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett began his first official visit to Washington.

Bennett [met] with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin later in the day, as well as President Joe Biden on Thursday.

Kochavi said that a dedicated team has been assembled to increase the military preparedness to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, should the government order such military action.

The IDF has increased its intelligence-gathering capabilities and is developing military responses to Iran’s anti-aircraft defenses.

During a briefing held earlier on Wednesday with foreign envoys regarding the security situation in Israel, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he does not rule out that Jerusalem would have to act alone in the future against the Islamic Republic to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“Iran is two months away from accumulating the material needed for a nuclear bomb,” he said. “We do not know whether the regime is ready to reach a [nuclear] agreement and return to the negotiating table, but the world must prepare ‘Plan B’ and halt its progress right now.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on August 25, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will strengthen Israel in every way and ensure that they are prepared for every eventuality as they deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Pray that the world would in fact be ready to stand with Israel in whatever steps must be taken to end the Iranian threat to the region and the nations once and for all. But should Israel be forced to act alone, pray that the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, would go before them and be their rear-guard as well.

Scripture

Blessed be the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle—my lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge.


- Psalm 144:1–2a

Community Life Experiences Renaissance at Bahrain’s Sole Synagogue

by Itamar Eichner

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Bahrain Jewish community synagogue (illustrative)

Monday, 23 August 2021 | A little over a year after Israel and Bahrain agreed to normalize ties in the form of the Abraham Accords, the Gulf country’s only synagogue is experiencing a renaissance that saw it host several joyous and historic events.

The ancient synagogue was built at the end of the 19th century in the kingdom’s capital of Manama and serves as a house of prayer for Bahrain’s Jewish community, which currently numbers no more than 40 people.

On August 21, the synagogue hosted a minyan [quorum, minimum of ten Jewish men required for prayer and other religious activity] prayer for the first time since 1947, as well as a bar mitzvah [religious coming-of-age for boys] for the first time in 16 years, during which the guest of honor read from a Torah [Gen.–Deut.] scroll donated by former White House adviser Jared Kushner in honor of Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

On Sunday, the synagogue hosted a historic selichot [penitential] prayer ahead of the High Holidays, which over a thousand Jews from Israel and the Diaspora [the Jewish population outside Israel] attended via video call in an expression of solidarity with the tiny community.

“These are very exciting times for the Gulf’s Jewish community, with more families celebrating special events in public,” said Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie, the senior rabbi in residence of the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE)—an umbrella organization that unites congregations from six principalities in the Gulf.

“In addition to the bar mitzvah in Manama, we recently celebrated a bat mitzvah for a Jewish girl in Oman and there are a number of other family events that will take place before the end of the year. This ensures that Jewish life will persist in the area.”

“It is very special to use the Torah scroll donated by Kushner in honor of the king for the first time,” said JCE President Ebrahim Daoud Nonoo.

“Even more special is the timing: On the anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, which aim to create a better life for young people throughout the region, including this bar mitzvah boy.”

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on August 22, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: US Embassy Jerusalem/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for these times of joy and strengthening for the Jewish community in Bahrain and other Jewish communities throughout the region. Thank Him that Jews are able to publicly celebrate their Jewishness after so many years, and pray that many will be drawn to the God of Israel as they witness His faithfulness to His people.

Scripture

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


- Psalm 16:11

As Many as 1,000 Palestinians Riot near Gaza–Israel Border

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Palestinian protesters at the Israel–Gaza border, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip

Thursday, 26 August 2021 | As many as 1,000 Gazans took part in protests near the Israeli border on Wednesday, four days after an Israeli Border Policeman was critically injured by a Hamas gunman over the weekend. As a result, on Monday, the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] built new mounds as reinforcements to give security forces better control of the area.

In Wednesday’s incident, rioters gathered in southern Gaza and mostly stayed between 100 to 200 meters (325 to 650 feet) from the border fence, while the IDF positioned a significant number of soldiers, backed up by tanks, on the other side, according to multiple Israeli media reports.

A number of Palestinians ran towards the fence sporadically, triggering tear gas and limited Ruger bullet fire by Israeli forces, according to a report by Ynet.

An explosive device was hurled at Israeli soldiers as well.

The Hamas-controlled Gazan Health Ministry said at least 14 people were injured in the clash, including five moderately from bullet wounds.

According to Ynet, Israeli forces included IDF paratroopers, snipers and tanks. No rioters breached the border fence, [unlike] Saturday’s incident when attackers crossed the border and reached a concrete wall situated on Israeli territory.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on August 25, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord for an end to the rioting along the Gaza border. Pray for His protection over the soldiers whose lives are on the line in defense of their country. Ask Him for new and innovative strategies that will put an end to this tragic waste of lives and resources that is constantly forced on Israel.

Scripture

Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just; for the righteous God tests the hearts and minds. My defense is of God, who saves the upright in heart. God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.


- Psalm 7:9–11

PM Bennett: “We’ve Got to Win” the War on COVID

by Janet Aslin

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Jerusalemites during COVID

Tuesday, 24 August 2021 | Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was inaugurated on June 13, 2021, and within two weeks his fledgling government faced a significant challenge—a fourth wave of COVID-19. One of the main weapons in the nation’s arsenal is vaccination, and on July 30, Israel became one of the first countries in the world to administer a “third jab” of the Pfizer vaccine to those over 60 years of age.

In the weeks since, the health ministry has gradually expanded the age groups eligible for the shot to include those over 40. As Israel nears a million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, officials told the Jerusalem Post that eligibility for the booster shot may soon be opened to individuals 30 years of age.

Since Israel began administering the booster shot, 1.52 million people have lined up to receive it. Sixty percent of the population has received at least one shot, making Israel one of the most highly vaccinated countries in the world.

This is not a war that is easily won. However, there are some hopeful signs. Although the number of new cases each day has been hovering between 7,000 and 7,500, and yesterday 6.3% of those tested were positive, the reproduction rate has remained stable for several weeks.

The R, or reproduction number, is a means of showing how many others are infected by someone who has the virus. Israel’s R number dropped to 1.2, the lowest since the fourth wave began in late June. And the number of seriously ill patients appears to have leveled out a bit, ranging from 657 on Saturday, rising to 679 on Sunday and dropping back down to 664 on Monday.

Israel is doing what it can to avoid a crippling lockdown. In his opening remarks at this week’s cabinet meeting, Bennett spoke of his government’s strategy when it comes to waging war on COVID-19. “There were two alternatives before us: The strategy of the broad hammer, called lockdowns, or a campaign replete with actions to block the morbidity. We chose the second option.”

The prime minister has been a strong advocate for vaccination since the fourth wave began in late June. After he received his third dose last Friday, Bennett said: “Israel is the pioneer of the third dose of the vaccines against the COVID virus. We’re seeing profound effectiveness, efficacy of the vaccines. It’s working, it’s safe and it’s the way to defeat this virus.”

Although proactive use of vaccinations is the heavy hitter in Israel’s fight against COVID, the Jewish state is also actively researching different drugs that may be effective. A team from Hebrew University in Jerusalem has discovered that fenofibrate, a generic drug that has been widely prescribed to reduce triglycerides, or fat in the body, looks promising when it comes to COVID-fighting properties.

Recently the drug was given to 15 seriously ill COVID-19 patients who were on oxygen. All but one were able to come off oxygen and be discharged from the hospital, while none suffered from an overreaction of the immune system called cytokine storm, which causes many seriously ill COVID patients to worsen.

The research team’s next step will be to conduct a study with a group receiving a placebo and compare the results. Based upon results so far, it looks very hopeful that fenofibrate will be able to contribute significantly to efforts to defeat the coronavirus.

Bennett sees the fight as a global one, and Israel is committed to sharing what it learns. “We need all together to work together. We from Israel are going to share all the data, all the information, all the insights in this pioneering. I’m happy to hear that many other countries are following suit [administering third shot], because at the end of the day, this is a global war on COVID and we’ve got to win.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, August 24, 2021)

Photo Credit: Jenna Solomon/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that all of Israel will cry out to the Lord their God for healing and deliverance from this dreadful illness and the impact it is having on the nation. Thank Him for the success Israel is having with their vaccination program, and beseech Him that no further drastic measures will be required to achieve victory over COVID-19 and all its variants. Pray fervently for all those who are ill, especially those in the hospital.

Scripture

O LORD my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.


- Psalm 30:2

Amid Regional Upheaval, Egypt and Israel Seek to Strengthen Ties and Border Security

by Ariel Ben Solomon ~ JNS

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamel in Israel on Aug. 18, 2021

Wednesday, 25 August 2021 | Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi invited Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for an official visit in the coming weeks, which would be the first state visit by an Israeli leader in nearly a decade.

The invitation, offered last week, comes amid the backdrop of ongoing violence emanating from the Gaza Strip, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the ongoing Iran nuclear threat, which Israel and its Arab regional partners perceive with alarm.

Zvi Mazel, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt and a senior analyst with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS that he views the state visit as a possible sign of warming relations between the two countries.

“It’s good news, especially that the invitation is for an official visit, which means an honor guard at the airport and lots of journalists present—a message to the Egyptian people that the government favors business with Israel,” he said.

While Israel and Egypt have maintained a cold peace since the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978, their mutual ties are largely limited to top government officials and secretive visits. They also both actively work to keep the volatile enclave that is Gaza and the Hamas terror organization that runs it in check.

Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity and Reflection on the Revolution in Egypt, told JNS that the visit is a positive step, and that “Egypt has always shied away from an open relationship with Israel and discouraged its own citizens from normal relations, as well as fomenting anti-Semitism in its own state media.”

“Egypt has not invited an Israeli prime minister to visit despite increased intelligence cooperation since Sisi came to power in 2013,” noted Tadros.

The decision shows that the Egyptian government is more welcoming of working with this Israeli government, despite its possible reservations about Bennett’s ideological background, he assessed.

However, Mazel said that interest in Egyptian relations with Israel is narrowly based, with one main goal being the selling and buying of gas. He said this is not normalization in the plain sense of the term but a move based on commercial interests.

Old Pattern of Hamas Attrition War against Israel

The head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel, met in Israel last week with Bennett, who later tweeted a photo of the two. The prime minister said they discussed “diplomatic, security and economic aspects” of the two countries’ relationship, as well as Egyptian mediation vis-à-vis the security situation regarding Gaza.

For years, Egypt has served as a mediator between Israel and Hamas leaders.

Indeed, the visit comes as tensions in Gaza have flared up in recent days.

“Surely, Egypt is very important to Israel, and its role of mediator with Hamas is vital,” said Mazel. “Yet I don’t see any important achievement that would have changed the situation, and it seems we are going back to the old pattern of a Hamas attrition war against Israel.”

“Egypt only intervenes to stop Hamas attacks against Israel when it is afraid of a major flare-up that might endanger it,” he added.

Multiple fires broke out near the border with Gaza on Monday, which Israeli authorities believe were started by explosive-carrying balloons launched from the Hamas-controlled enclave, reported Ynet. In retaliation for the arson attacks, Israeli fighter jets struck several Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Monday night.

It comes as Israel and the United Nations allow the transfer of Qatari funds to Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Meanwhile, Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday amid increased tensions with Hamas. It represents the first time the crossing has been shut down during a workday since early 2021, reported the AP.

Israel’s Kan news reported on Sunday night that Cairo is also furious with Hamas leaders over violent riots at the Gaza-Israel border on Saturday that resulted in an Israeli Border Police officer being shot in the head. Bar-El Hadaria Shmueli, 21, was wounded as Gaza rioters at a Hamas-run rally surged toward the security fence; he remains in critical condition at Soroka Hospital in Beersheva.

A Mediator in the Conflict

The announcement of the Egyptian invitation comes as Bennett is scheduled to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday. Egypt and Israel, close allies of America, certainly view power changes in the Middle East with concern, and the perceived success of the Taliban in the eyes of terror groups affects regional stability.

At the same time, the Biden administration has prioritized human-rights concerns as part of its foreign policy, a matter that Egypt has long been accused of violating by outside groups.

The Israeli media has reported that el-Sisi seeks Bennett’s help in making its case to Biden this week, said Mazel, which has been part of a working system that has gone on for years.

According to Tadros, the Egyptian invitation signifies “a realization in Egypt after the last Gaza war that its historical role as a mediator in the conflict is highly beneficial to its position and relations with Washington.”

He added that “Egypt may thus see its role in the Arab-Israeli conflict as again useful in overcoming criticism of its human rights record, especially with the Biden administration.”

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on August 24, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Twitter/PMO/JNS

Prayer Focus
Pray that a visit to Egypt by PM Bennett would indeed lead to warmer relations between the two countries. Pray that diplomatic and security aspects of the relationship will all be strengthened. Pray that this will be a stepping stone to a relationship that will go beyond commercial interests to true normalization and bring further stability to the region.

Scripture

My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.


- Isaiah 32:18

Hezbollah Leader Raises the Intensity of His Challenge to the United States and Israel

by Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira ~ JCPA

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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

Tuesday, 24 August 2021 | Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah raised the bar in his challenges to the Lebanese state, the United States and Israel. Nasrallah, who almost certainly acts upon the instructions of and in coordination with the Iranian leadership, called on Lebanon in his August 22, 2021, speech to allow Iranian companies to drill in Lebanon’s economic waters to search for gas and oil. Nasrallah stressed that these drilling companies “are not afraid of Israeli bombings; let Israel bomb it.”

Hassan Nasrallah accused the US Embassy in Beirut of seeking to damage Lebanon’s economy and internal stability since 2005 when Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated.

The Hezbollah leader revealed that a second fuel tanker will leave Iran on its way to Lebanon in the coming days following the departure of the first ship for Lebanon. Other Iranian fuel tankers will follow them. Their mission is to meet the needs of the Lebanese people and alleviate their suffering. Nasrallah stated that these tankers are sovereign Lebanese property, and any harm to them by the United States or Israel would provoke a response from Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, despite Lebanon’s resistance to Nasrallah’s moves and warnings that Hezbollah will drag Lebanon into a new war, Nasrallah continues to intensify the challenge to the Biden administration and the new government in Israel, whose determination he continues to test.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on August 23, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: unknown/khamenei.ir/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that Israel will meet Nasrallah’s threats and posturing with courage and wisdom, protecting Israel’s interests and security while taking whatever measures they deem necessary to keep Iran from achieving yet another goal in its plans to dominate the region.

Scripture

For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. Pronounce them guilty, O God! Let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions.


- Psalm 5:4,10