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Friday, August 28, 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.

A Serious Warning Sign for Hezbollah

by Ron Ben-Yishai

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IDF troops along Israel’s northern border (illustrative)

Thursday, 27 August 2020 | The exchange of fire across the Lebanese border between the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and Hezbollah on Tuesday night was no random incident.

The altercation was a calculated move by the Iranian-backed terror group, with its militants sniping at IDF forces on operational duty along the border—apparently an ambush near an outpost on a possible infiltration point on the border fence.

The Israeli soldiers who were already prepared for such a scenario returned fire in an effort to catch the snipers, firing smoke bombs to fend off any other possible forces in the area.

The incident merits a serious investigation. It can be assumed that the incident was another attempt to avenge the death of a Hezbollah fighter in Damascus following an alleged Israeli bombing in the area.

This time, however, the ambush came from inside Lebanon and was not followed by a further attempt to infiltrate the border. The IDF reacted accordingly and suffered no casualties on its end. 

Whatever the true reason for the incident, Hezbollah has failed again and is becoming aware that any aggressive action along the border with Israel will be answered with increasing ferocity.

The IDF took destructive action following the ambush. For the first time in years, Hezbollah’s outposts along the border came under attack, whether they were unmanned at the time or not.

An IDF spokesperson said on Wednesday that “Israel sees any attempt to violate its sovereignty seriously.”

The statement sends a message that the army knows for sure that Hezbollah was behind the incident and that next time Israel will see fit to respond not only to Hezbollah’s observation posts on the border, but could also hit other targets through various means—not only with combat helicopters and other aircraft.

If Hezbollah continues to ignore Israel’s warnings, the response to the next incident could be far more catastrophic despite a lack of desire on both sides to escalate tensions.

Escalation is still on the table if the terror group does not end its efforts to avenge the death of its fighter in Syria.

Hezbollah leaders have already threatened several times that they will avenge the death of its logistics official who was also in the service of Iran, thereby creating deterrence from Syria as well as Lebanon.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has dispatched fighters to avenge every attack on its men in Syria over the past two years, but most have failed.

The IDF’s main focus—despite remaining on high alert—has been to reduce the visible presence of forces and facilities that Hezbollah could view as targets, while at the same time thwarting an attempt by the terror group to infiltrate into Israeli territory or hit its troops.

And while there are currently more than 100,000 vacationers in the north, Israel could not ignore a second serious violation along the border that was intended to cause casualties among IDF forces. This is why the IDF for first time in years attacked Hezbollah’s border observation posts close to the Ramim Ridge and Kibbutz Manara.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published in Ynetnews on August 26, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord for peace on the northern border. Pray that Hezbollah will take seriously the warning sent by the IDF’s reaction to their attempted ambush, and pray that any attempts to infiltrate will be quickly quashed. Pray for the Lord’s protection over northern Israel.

Scripture

Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy.


- Psalm 61:1–3

Retaliation Strikes Continue as Arson Balloons Terrorize Southern Israel

by Elior Levy, Yoav Zitun

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IDF tanks (illustrative)

Wednesday, 26 August 2020 | IDF [Israel Defense Forces] aircraft and tanks attacked Hamas military targets and infrastructure in the southern Gaza Strip in response to arson balloons launched from the coastal enclave into Israeli soil, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported on Tuesday.

“The attack was carried out in response to the launch of explosive and incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory during the day,” read a statement. “The IDF conducts an ongoing situation assessment and acts firmly and decisively against any attempt at terrorist activity against the citizens of the State of Israel and the violation of its sovereignty.”

This was the IDF’s twelfth attack in Gaza in the last 13 days.

Monday evening, officials in the Gaza Strip declared a full lockdown for the first time after the Hamas-run Health Ministry announced the first cases of community spread of coronavirus.

Until now, the cases reported in Gaza were linked to quarantine facilities for residents returning from abroad.

The Strip’s Health Ministry said that four people from the same family have tested positive for the virus in central Gaza and investigations were underway to track the source of the infection. A full lockdown was imposed on the al-Maghazi refugee camp, where the family lives.

The Hamas-run government announced a 48-hour curfew in the entire territory, closing businesses, schools, mosques and cafes.

Hamas also asked the World Health Organization on Tuesday for assistance and the transfer of medical equipment to the Gaza Strip due to the uptick in confirmed coronavirus infections.

The organization asked the Palestinian Authority to take responsibility for the residents of Gaza.

Qatari envoy to Gaza, Mohammed al-Emadi, is expected to arrive in the Strip Tuesday evening, despite the curfew.

Emadi will first arrive in Israel and is expected to meet with senior members of the defense establishment, after which he will cross to the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing.

Emadi’s visit comes as cross-border tensions between Israel and Gaza terrorist factions were on the rise.

Islamic Jihad [the second-largest terror group operating in Gaza] reported on Tuesday that four of its activists were killed in an explosion that took place on Monday at the organization’s facility in Sajaiya, in eastern Gaza City. The blast is estimated to have been a result of an accident.

The [Israeli] National Fire and Rescue Services reported that 36 fires broke out on Monday near the border with the Gaza Strip due to incendiary balloons launched by Gaza militants and 28 on Sunday.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on August 25, 2020. 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
Beseech the Lord for wisdom as Israeli leadership deals with rocket fire and incendiary terrorism in southern Israel. Ask Him for an innovative and effective means of combatting arson balloons and for a quick end to the fires that are already burning. Pray for peace and for His protection over southern Israel.

Scripture

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.


- Psalm 18:30, 34

The UAE’s Jewish Community Thrilled Over Peace Deal with Israel

by Alexandra Lukash

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The UAE’s chief rabbi, Yehuda Sarna

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 | The improving relations between Israel and the Gulf state [United Arab Emirates] has been felt in both countries, no more so than by the UAE’s Jewish community, who has become much more free, vocal and prominent in the country.

During June, the UAE’s Jewish community released a prayer in Hebrew in honor of the leaders of the UAE.

A few days later, over a hundred of Dubai’s Jews attended the biggest virtual Shabbat [Sabbath] gathering the Arab world has ever seen, led by the UAE’s chief rabbi, Yehuda Sarna, and the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Pinchas Goldschmidt.

In his first-ever interview with Israeli media, the leader of the UAE Jewish community, Solly Wolf, described to Ynet in great detail the everyday lives of some 2,000 Jews who live mainly in the capital of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

“We were surprised by the timing, but we knew it was coming,” said Wolf during a recent interview. “We have been feeling more free for a while now, but even more so now. We kept a low profile in the past, but over the past year, the authorities have given us permission to open synagogues.”

According to Wolf, the change in the way the Jewish community is perceived within the UAE is immense.

“A few months ago, some might have had an issue if you were seen walking inside a mall with a yarmulke on your head,” says Wolf. “Today there is no issue with that whatsoever. You see ultra-Orthodox Jews walking around the street with a Tzizit [tassels] and no one says a thing.”

The agreement between Israel and the UAE means that travel between the two countries will finally be possible, and according to Wolf, the locals are very excited.

“Just like the Israelis are excited to visit the Emirates, the people of the UAE are extremely happy they will now be able to visit Israel, Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock. They are also excited they will be able to welcome Israeli tourists and businesses without any problems.”

Wolf adds that the UAE also presents vast financial opportunities to Israelis.

“Dubai is an emirate with a lot of money,” says Wolf. “Israel is a country with vast technological accomplishments in agriculture, medicine, high-tech, cyber. Israel has many things for which they will find buyers here.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by August 16, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Saint Joseph/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord that the relationship between Israel and the UAE is having such a positive impact for the Jewish community in the UAE. Thank Him that synagogues are opening and pray that their newfound freedoms will not be short-lived.

Scripture

For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies.


- Psalm 44:6–7a

Father of Four Murdered in Palestinian Terror Attack

by Ilse Strauss

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The knife that was used in the attack

Thursday, 27 August 2020 | It was supposed to be a day like any other. Rabbi Shai Ohayon (39) left the religious seminary where he was studying early to buy groceries for his wife and four children waiting at home. The shopping trip put him in the path of a knife-wielding terrorist.

Khalil Abd al-Khaliq Dweikat (46) butchered Ohayon at a bus stop in a Tel Aviv suburb, stabbing him repeatedly with a large butcher knife. His bloody work done, Dweikat then calmly turned and strolled away from the scene of carnage towards a bustling nearby junction.

A civilian who witnessed the attack gave chase and apprehended the terrorist, holding him until the police arrived. Footage filmed by a passer-by shows several police officers with guns drawn arresting Dweikat. He was still carrying the knife stained with Ohayon’s blood.

Paramedics dispatched to the scene found Ohayon unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse. Their efforts to perform CPR and resuscitate him proved fruitless. Doctors pronounced the father of four dead soon after arriving at the hospital.

Ohayon was laid to rest in the predawn hours of this morning. Some 200 family members, friends and fellow students gathered for his funeral, but due to coronavirus restrictions, only 40 people were allowed into the cemetery for the service.

Ohayon’s father-in-law, Ofer Karaz, described him as an exemplary husband, father and Torah (Gen.–Deut.) scholar and teacher.

“He was like a son to me,” Karaz said. “People loved him very much. Everyone would come to hear his Torah lessons. People would say the lessons could give those who heard them goosebumps.”

Ohayon’s friend and study partner described him as “righteous.” “The Holy One took a holy man,” Mugrabi lamented.

Heart-breaking footage from the funeral shows Ohayon’s weeping widow crouched in the dirt next to her husband’s grave, saying her final farewell to him. The responsibility of raising their children—aged 13, 11, 9 and 4—now falls to her alone.

As Ohayon was laid to rest, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) raided Dweikat’s home outside the Samarian city of Nablus in a predawn operation to begin drawing up demolition plans for the structure. Israel employs the practice of razing the family homes of terrorists as a necessary and effective deterrent against terrorism. Although the preparations for demolition are usually made in the hours or days after the attack, the actual demolition follows weeks or months later, after the conclusion of a full investigation.  

Dweikat has been handed over to the Shin Bet (Israeli internal security organization) for questioning. Although investigators currently concur that the attack was terror-related, they concede that Dweikat does not fit the usual lone wolf terrorist profile.

Perpetrators of these types of attacks are typically young—often in their teens—and single. Moreover, they often pursue terror attacks against armed Israeli soldiers, seeking the honor of certain death as a martyr. Dweikat, on the other hand, is middle aged, married and the father of six. He reportedly chose his target because his clothing identified him as ultra-Orthodox and thus unlikely to be armed. His calm demeanor following the attack also meant that the police would refrain from shooting him during arrest. The investigation is ongoing.

Family and friends of Dweikat have already spoken out on his behalf, saying that he was incapable of such cruelty. Surely, they claim, this is some sort of sinister plot in Israel’s master plan to malign and destroy Palestinian lives. Moreover, international human rights activists are gearing up to decry Israel’s attempts to demolish Dweikat’s home, seeking to portray Jerusalem as the antagonist and the Palestinians as the hapless victims.   

Meanwhile, Ohayon’s wife and four children today for the first time face the reality of life without a husband, father, protector and best friend—a life that Dweikat purposefully chose to end.

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

Photo Credit: Micky Rosenfeld/Police foreign press spokesman

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will bring great comfort and consolation to the family and friends of Rabbi Ohayon. Beseech the Lord that his attacker will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and may his sentence be a deterrent to others who would take the lives of innocent Israelis.

Scripture

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; defend me from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloodthirsty men.


- Psalm 59:1–2

Pompeo: US Will Guarantee Israel’s Military Superiority in Middle East

by Kate Norman

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivering statements to the press yesterday in Jerusalem

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 | US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US will ensure that Israel maintains its military superiority in the Middle East, despite a potential weapons deal with the United Arab Emirates, during a visit to Jerusalem yesterday.

“The United States has a legal requirement with respect to [Israeli] qualitative military edge,” Pompeo said in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We will continue to honor that.”

“But we have a 20-plus year security relationship with the United Arab Emirates as well,” the secretary of state added.

The US will work to ensure that it provides the UAE with military equipment to defend itself against Iran, Pompeo said, “and we’ll do it in a way that preserves our commitment to Israel as well.”

The secretary of state was indicating the probability that the US will sell F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE after the kingdom’s normalization deal with Israel.

As of now, the Jewish state is the only nation in the region to possess the advanced jets and is not keen to have others join the club. Netanyahu said in his speech that “this deal did not include Israel’s acceptance of any arms deal and I don’t know of any arms deal that has been agreed upon…our position hasn’t changed.”

The US government agreed after the 1973 Yom Kippur War to deal Israel the upper hand in the Middle East, giving it a “qualitative military edge.” Since then, Washington has turned down multiple offers from Arab states to purchase advanced American weapons systems, the Times of Israel reported.

Netanyahu nonetheless praised the historic Abraham Accords with the UAE, hailing it as a “boon to peace and to regional stability” and an “alliance of the moderates against the radicals.” Moderate states such as the UAE are changing their stance toward Israel in light of the fact that they share a common enemy in radical Islamist Tehran.

Both Netanyahu and Pompeo reiterated their frustration with the United Nations Security Council for voting down a US resolution to extend an arms embargo against Iran that is due to expire in October under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Netanyahu thanked President Donald Trump and Pompeo for initiating a snapback sanction on the Islamic regime that will resume the sanctions that were lifted under the 2015 deal.

“President Trump’s made clear: Iran will never have a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo reiterated. “And we are determined to use every tool that we have to ensure that they can’t get access to high-end weapon systems.

“The people most impacted by Iran having weapon systems are all in favor of this arms embargo being extended. The rest of the world should join us.”

The US diplomat pointed out that the European nations who failed to support the American resolution in the UN Security council vote still privately voiced their concern over the embargo expiring. The Gulf Cooperation Council, comprised of six Arab states, also joined Israel in asking the UN to extend the embargo. 

“I would suggest to our friends, especially our European friends, this point: that when Arabs and Israelis agree on something, it makes sense to pay attention,” Netanyahu said.

Pompeo met with Netanyahu yesterday as well as Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to discuss regional security issues and advancing agreements between Israel and more Arab states in addition to the UAE, according to the US Department of State website.

The secretary of state will then continue to Sudan and Bahrain to encourage ties with Israel before traveling to the UAE to further discuss the historic Abraham Accords peace with Israel as well as regional threats.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, August 25, 2020)

Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy Jerusalem photo by Matty Stern/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for America’s commitment to Israel’s security and for their joint efforts to neutralize the Iranian threat to the region. However, pray for great wisdom for both American and Israeli leaders as they strategize, making sure that Israel’s military supremacy remains a reality.

Scripture

There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.


- Proverbs 19:21

Israel Welcomes British Foreign Secretary to Jerusalem

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British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab

Thursday, 27 August 2020 | Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi hosted British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and his staff this week in Jerusalem. During the meeting, the two discussed bilateral issues, including trade ties following Britain’s exit from the EU. They also discussed regional issues including the Iranian threat, the situation in Lebanon, including the entrenchment and increasing power of Hezbollah, and the normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates.

Ashkenazi said: “Iran poses a threat to stability and peace in the Middle East and around the world and the lifting of the arms embargo will lead to Iran accelerating its re-armament. We were disappointed to see the E3 [France, Germany and Italy, the three large founding members of the European Union] vote against extending the arms embargo on Iran in the UN Security Council. The E3 countries need to understand that regional stability and stopping Iranian armament is a global interest. The global effort to stop aggression needs to be seen in actions and not just words. There is still time to change direction.”

Ashkenazi thanked his British counterpart for the decision of the British government to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization and he called on Britain to support the Israeli position that UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon] should be able to carry out its mandate in Lebanon and to prevent the strengthening of Hezbollah.

Ashkenazi added: “The historic agreement with the United Arab Emirates is proof that we are able to achieve peace through direct negotiations between countries. We hope that more countries in the Middle East will join the process.”

Source: (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs originally published this article on August 25, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Richard Townshend/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for a strengthening of Israel’s relationship with the UK. Pray that British leaders will be strong in their ongoing support at the UN and in the international arena.

Scripture

Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.


- Psalm 55:22

11-Year-Old Gazan Boy Slammed for Seeking Reconciliation with Israel

by Ilse Strauss

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11-year-old rapper Abdel Rahman al-Shantti performing at his school in Gaza City

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 | The residents of Gaza are up in arms. The target of their fury is not their terrorist government under Hamas for subjecting them to untold hardships in the pursuit of the destruction of Israel. Instead, they are shaking their firsts at an 11-year-old schoolboy who gained international recognition—and the praise of famous artists—after an amateur video of the Gazan youth showing off his rapping skills went viral. The cause of their ire? Abdel Rahman al-Shantti dared to advocate for a future of peace with Israel.

The video that made Shantti famous shows the pre-teen decked out in his school uniform, a baseball cap jauntily covering his dark curls, flanked by a semicircle of his wide-eyed friends cautiously cheering him on as he shows off his amateur rapping skills in perfect English.

It was the lyrics rather than the performance that gripped hearts around the world. Hours after the video was shared via Shantti’s social media platforms, praise came pouring in. Soon, more than a million people had watched him rap about the hardships of life in Gaza, where Hamas’s singular obsession to annihilate Israel turns schools, hospitals and mosques into weapons caches and the entire coastal enclave into a target.

However, Shantti’s message is ultimately one of peace and unity, of hope for a better future for him and his friends by seeking reconciliation with Israel instead of seeking its demise. And therein, the residents of Gaza feel, lies the rub.

“I would like to spread love between us and Israel,” the budding young rapper told Russia Today. “There’s no reason for fighting and wars. We need to let this relationship become better and better.”

In any democratic society, Shantti’s call for reconciliation, peace and prosperity would have been applauded. Yet Hamas-ruled Gaza is far from democratic. In fact, calls for coexistence and normalization with Israel—including communication and activities with Israelis—are akin to treason and often considered crimes. In April, Hamas arrested a number of Gazan peace activists for the heinous crime of video chatting with their Jewish neighbors, according to the New York Times. Four months later, the organizer of the peace initiative is still in jail.

While Hamas did not take action against Shantti, the teenager faced an outpouring of scorn from fellow Gazans on social media. The cyber tongue lashing was so severe that Saleh al-Shantti, the young rapper’s father, asked Russia Today to remove the incriminating evidence of his son advocating for peace.

Saleh went on to make a video of his own in which he claims that his son misspoke. Shantti does not desire the unthinkable—peace and love for Israel, his father assured a seething Gaza. What Shantti meant, his father explained, was peace with the rest of the world (excluding Israel presumably).

Hopefully the 11-year-old budding rapper from Gaza will continue to speak up for a people suffering the reign of a radical terror regime. Sadly, Shantti learned at an early age that staying alive under such a terror regime requires sticking to their script.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, August 25, 2020)

Photo Credit: mca_rap/youtube/screenshot

Prayer Focus
Pray for Saleh al-Shantti, that his heart will be changed and he will courageously support his son. But pray also that the Lord will protect this family from scorn and from very real physical danger as well. Beseech the Lord that this young boy’s message will touch the hearts of his peers, causing many to seek the path of peace.

Scripture

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.


- Psalm 4:8

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