Compassion

Help Israeli families restore the lives, homes and security that went up in smoke.

Friday, December 21, 2018

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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.

Please note that we will be taking a break from our daily news stories over the holidays. Our regular prayer updates from Israel will resume on Monday, 31 December 2018.

The Hamas Plan to Take Judea and Samaria

by Khaled Abu Toameh ~ Gatestone Institute

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Support for Hamas is increasing among the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.

Friday, 14 December 2018 | It is clear by now that Hamas is behind some of the recent terror attacks against Israelis in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria]. These attacks serve the interests of Hamas and its friends and sponsors, especially the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization—and Iran.

Hamas and its allies have a plan, and they are not even keeping it a secret—to export their “armed struggle” against Israel beyond the Gaza Strip and ultimately to take control of the West Bank.

The latest terrorist attack took place on December 9 outside the West Bank settlement of Ofra, east of Ramallah. An Israeli–Canadian citizen, Amichai Ish-Ran, and his pregnant wife, Shira, were among seven people wounded in a drive-by shooting attack. The baby born prematurely as a result of the terrorist attack, died on December 12, after doctors fought to save his life for close to 72 hours.

Hamas, which later claimed responsibility for the attack, was the first Palestinian faction to commend the terrorists. So far, not a single Palestinian faction has come out against the attack, including Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction.

Describing the shooting attack as a “heroic and qualitative operation,” representatives of Hamas and several Palestinian factions said it demonstrated that the Palestinian “resistance was still alive in the West Bank.” They also called on Palestinians to “step up the Intifada (uprising) against Israel, specifically settlers and Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

“The West Bank has taken the initiative of resisting the occupation,” Hamas said in a statement published in the Gaza Strip shortly after the terrorist attack. The attack, Hamas added, “came to affirm our people’s legitimate right to resist the occupation at a time when the occupation, together with Israel, had tried to criminalize our resistance.”

This stance by Hamas points at two important factors; first, that Hamas and its allies are openly working and encouraging the eruption of a new anti-Israel uprising in the West Bank; and, second, that Hamas and its friends have been emboldened by the recent failure of the UN [United Nations] General Assembly to adopt a US-sponsored resolution condemning Hamas and other Palestinian groups for firing rockets at Israel and inciting violence.

Hamas’s dream of spreading its ideology to all Palestinians is as old as its foundation 31 years ago. Hamas is not interested in ruling only the Gaza Strip. It wants the West Bank, Jerusalem and all the land, “from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea.” Hamas does not believe in negotiations or peaceful settlements. Rather, it believes that the only way to “liberate” Muslim land is through jihad. This goal is why, it says, it remains committed to the option of “armed struggle” against Israel.

As Hamas clearly states in its charter:

“The Islamic Resistance Movement strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine, for under the wing of Islam followers of all religions can coexist in security and safety where their lives, possessions and rights are concerned.” (Article 6)

The Hamas charter leaves no doubt as to the methods it believes should be used to solve the Israeli–Arab conflict:

“There is no solution for the Palestinian issue except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” (Article 13)

The Hamas charter, which is relevant today more than ever, states unambiguously that the movement “believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [Muslim religious trust] consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day. It or any part of it, should not be squandered; it, or any part of it, should not be given up.” (Article 11).

From here, it is easy to understand why Hamas continues to celebrate and applaud every terrorist attack against Israel, whether in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank or inside Israel proper. Hamas sees these “heroic and brave operations” as an implementation of its ideology of waging jihad to “liberate the land of Palestine.” Even if the terrorists who carried out the recent shootings in the West Bank do not belong to Hamas, their attacks are completely compatible with Hamas’s declared goals and ambitions, the most prominent of which is seeing Israel removed from the map.

Hamas has good reason to celebrate not only the attacks, but what it perceives as a series of “achievements” that it has gained in recent weeks. These “achievements” include the [US] $30 million in Qatari cash grants that were delivered to Hamas in the past few weeks so that it can pay salaries and stipends to tens of thousands of its employees and supporters, as well as the failure of the UN General Assembly to adopt the anti-Hamas resolution. These two steps have left Hamas leaders laughing all the way to the next shooting attack on Israel.

The Qatari funds are being delivered to Hamas as part of unwritten understandings regarding a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. The purpose of the funds is to help solve the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and prevent the eruption of another major military confrontation between Hamas and Israel. Hamas, however, has thus far done nothing to stop the violence, including weekly protests that began last March along the border with Israel. On the contrary, Hamas is now saying—and there is good reason to believe it— that the demonstrations will continue. Hamas is also saying that it was not required to pay any “political price” for a purported cease-fire.

The cease-fire understandings between Hamas and Israel, which were reportedly achieved through the mediation of Qatar, Egypt and the UN, are only related to the Gaza Strip, and have nothing to do with the West Bank. Because these understandings are limited to the Gaza Strip, Hamas, believes it has a green light to continue launching and directing terrorist attacks from the West Bank without being accused of violating the cease-fire.

The UN, Qatar and Egypt should have demanded that any cease-fire agreement include the West Bank, where Hamas still has several armed cells as well as significant support.

The Hamas-engineered attacks are not only a threat to Israeli civilians and soldiers; they also undermine the Western-funded Palestinian Authority [PA] of Mahmoud Abbas. Each “successful” attack carried out by Hamas earns it more popularity in the West Bank, at the cost of Abbas and his regime.

Evidently, members and friends of Hamas have interpreted the failure to adopt the US resolution as a pass from the UN and the international community to continue their “resistance” against Israel. They perceive the failure of the US administration as a “big achievement”—one that permits the Palestinians to continue all forms of “resistance” against Israel, including the “armed struggle.” It is no coincidence, then, that Hamas has responded to the debacle at the UN General Assembly by pledging to remain committed to an “armed struggle” against Israel.

Every dollar and every concession that is being made to Hamas will only increase its appetite to continue its plan to extend its control beyond the Gaza Strip. From Hamas’s point of view, its plan has won legitimacy from the UN and important players in the region such as Qatar and Egypt. As long as Hamas feels that it is marching in the right direction, we are likely to see an increase in armed attacks and other forms of violence in the West Bank.

Now that Hamas is getting what it wants in the Gaza Strip—millions of dollars and no war with Israel—it is seeking to shift its attention to the West Bank, all with the help of its friends in Tehran. This has a twofold goal: to undermine or overthrow Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, inflict heavy casualties on Israel and thwart any peace plan brought forward by the US administration. In other words, Hamas and Iran now have their sights set on the West Bank, and this is reason not only for Israel to worry, but Abbas as well.

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

Source: (The Gatestone Institute originally published this article on December 13, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Hoheit (¿!)/wikimedia.org

Photo License: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yasin_Rantisi_Hamas_Wahlkampf.jpg

Prayer Focus
Pray that Hamas will be held accountable by the international community for its heinous acts of terrorism. Beseech the Lord that all of their funding from the nations will stop. Ask Him to protect all of Judea and Samaria from Hamas’s intentions and bring His promises to the Jewish people to fulfillment.

Scripture

Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, streaming to the goodness of the LORD—for wheat and new wine and oil, for the young of the flock and the herd; their souls shall be like a well-watered garden, and they shall sorrow no more at all.


- Jeremiah 31:12

UN Security Council Takes No Action on Hezbollah Terror Tunnels

by Kate Norman

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Despite PM Netanyahu’s pleas, the UN fails to act against Hezbollah’s terror tunnels.

Thursday, 20 December 2018 | After meeting Wednesday to discuss the attack tunnels dug from southern Lebanon into Israel, two of which crossed the border, the United Nations Security Council adjourned without taking any definitive action on the conflict.

Though several members of the council condemned the tunnels and their violation of UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War and established rules for both Israel and Lebanon in order to avoid further conflict, the council did not take any concrete steps or schedule further votes or meetings.

“It is important to understand what Hezbollah is doing here,” Netanyahu said in a speech before the meeting convened. “It is committing a double war crime. It’s targeting Israeli civilians, while jeopardizing, while hiding behind Lebanese civilians.”

The Israeli prime minister answered a reporter’s question about whether the Lebanese army knew about the tunnels before they were publicly exposed this month. Netanyahu said Israel believes the Lebanese army did not know about the tunnels then—few people did—but they know now and aren’t joining in the efforts to disable the tunnels on their side of the border.

“The fact that the Lebanese army is doing nothing means that they are either unable or unwilling, or both, to do anything about this, but it doesn’t absolve Lebanon’s culpability,” Netanyahu said. “Their territory is being used to attack our territory.”

The prime minister implored the international community to hold Iran, Hezbollah and Lebanon accountable and to act accordingly.

“I call on all the members of the Security Council to condemn Hezbollah’s wanton acts of aggression, to condemn Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization, to press for heightened sanctions against Hezbollah, to demand that Lebanon stop allowing its territory to be used as an act of aggression and its citizens to be used as pawns, to support Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian-inspired and Iranian-conducted aggression,” the Israeli leader admonished.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, accused the Lebanese army of passing Israeli intel to Hezbollah, who used the information to “conceal the tunnel’s operations and thwart Israel’s defensive actions.”

“Israel even revealed to UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) that a high ranking member of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) actively operates with Hezbollah,” Danon charged. “When UNIFIL forces told the Lebanese army about the tunnels, the Lebanese army sent the information straight to Hezbollah immediately, which then sealed the tunnels to destroy the evidence.”

UNIFIL has been able to independently verify the existence of the four tunnels that the IDF has exposed so far and has also confirmed that two of them entered into Israeli territory in violation of UN Resolution 1701. However, after UNIFIL was given precise information about the location of the tunnel by Israel, the UN force was unable to investigate it on the Lebanese side after the LAF passed the intel on to Hezbollah, Danon asserted.

Netanyahu referred to this in his speech before the meeting.

“I call on the Security Council to demand that UNIFIL fully meet its mandate and deepen its operations. This includes ensuring that UNIFIL has unrestrained access to any area in southern Lebanon, including private and public lands,” Netanyahu said, referring to a private compound that UNIFIL forces were prevented from entering in their investigation on the Lebanese side of the border.

“The Lebanese government, which should be the first to challenge this and to protest this, is doing nothing at best and colluding at worst,” the Netanyahu said.

Danon pointed out that some of the tunnels that have already been discovered trailed only meters away from UNIFIL observation points.

“On UNIFIL’s watch, Hezbollah has been digging tunnels from Lebanese villages, such as Kafr Kila, and using its own people as human shields.”

Both the prime minister and the ambassador strongly asserted that Israel will do whatever it needs to in order to protect itself and defend its citizens and territory.

“What you are seeing is Hezbollah’s Conquest of the Galilee battle plan in action,” Danon said. “This is just the ground component of an offensive that will use Hezbollah’s arsenal of over 100,000 rockets and missiles to strike all of Israel.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 20, 2018)

Photo Credit: PM of Israel@IsraeliPM/twitter.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the UN will bring the complicity between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah to an end. Pray for the effectiveness of UNIFIL and the cooperation of the Lebanese in protecting the northern border. Pray for the safety of civilians on both sides of the border who are threatened by Hezbollah’s actions.

Scripture

Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their hearts; they continually gather together for war.


- Psalm 140:1–2

US Pullout from Syria: The Implications for Israel

by Ilse Strauss

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The US withdrawal from Syria will leave Israel in a delicate situation among its Arab neighbors.

Thursday, 20 December 2018 | In what international media hailed as a “surprise pullout,” a “momentous decision” and “an abrupt shift of the US’s posture in the Middle East,” US President Donald Trump yesterday announced a rapid withdrawal of all American troops from Syria.

Trump explained his administration’s about-turn on the established US policy for Syria and the region in a short video posted to Twitter. “We’ve won against ISIS,” he held. “We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land. And now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”

A US official confirmed the decision to AFP, stressing American troops stationed across Syria would soon be returning stateside, the Times of Israel reported. “Full withdrawal,” he said. “All means all.”

“All” refers to some 2,000 American ground troops heading up a US-led coalition to support the local Kurdish anti-ISIS fighting force, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). American ground troops started entering Syria in late 2015. Over the past three years they have recruited, organized and advised thousands of SDF forces and thus played a pivotal role in ridding northeastern Syria of ISIS.

According to President Trump, the defeat of ISIS prompted the American pullout, something which he intended to do for some months. He was quick to add the departure from the war-torn country did not mean America would abandon the coalition against ISIS, but rather signals a “transitioning to the next phase of the campaign.”

President Trump’s announcement sparked an international debate—with only a handful of voices praising the decision. Those against the pullout argue that the fight against ISIS is far from over. While ISIS has been pushed out of the majority of its strongholds in northern Syria, pockets of extremist fighters remain. Military officials estimate that as many as 2,000 insurgents remain in the area, Military Times reported. The United Nations believes 20,000 to 30,000 ISIS fighters still operate in larger Syria and Iraq. Moreover, the rising number of acts of terror perpetrated by ISIS in the so-called “liberated” areas stands as grim proof that the Islamic State cannot be expected to fade into obscurity just yet.

Others argue that the withdrawal calls into question the fate of the US-backed Kurdish SDF, a force that Turkey terms a “terrorist” group. In the past, Ankara has made no bones regarding its intentions to act against the Kurdish militia, the Times of Israel reported. And with the US buffer as “protector and adviser” gone, Turkey will be free “to attack them at will,” veteran Israeli war correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai explained.

Yet the potential geopolitical ramifications of no more US boots on the ground in Syria go beyond ISIS and the Kurds. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad emerged victorious from seven bloody years of civil war thanks to the help of key allies Iran and Russia.

Iran, Syria and the Lebanese terror group, Hezbollah, form the Axis of Resistance, a Shi’ite alliance opposing Israeli and US interests in the Middle East. Tehran’s military and financial support proved instrumental in helping Assad gain an upper hand in the conflict. For Iran, the victory of its key regional ally was not negotiable.

Yet Tehran’s involvement went beyond assisting an ally. Syria proved the ideal spot for Iran to set up camp within striking distance of Israel. In fact, the Islamic Republic used its involvement in the war to build a military presence on the Jewish state’s doorstep.

At the same time, Iran helps its terror proxy and third leg of the axis, Hezbollah, buttress its position in southern Lebanon. The Shi’ite terror group reportedly has 150,000 missiles trained on the Jewish state. Israel also recently uncovered four tunnels Hezbollah dug from southern Lebanon into Israel, two of which crossed the border. Throughout the years of civil war, Tehran used Syria as a funnel to stock Hezbollah’s arsenal with additional “game-changing” weapons and to assist the terror group in constructing underground weapons manufacturing sites.

For its part, Israel stated it would not become embroiled in the fighting on its northern border. At the same time, Israel made it clear that it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military outpost on its borders or build a Shi’ite land corridor from Tehran to Beirut—and has publically admitted to operating in Syrian airspace to prevent their red lines from being crossed.

Russia served as one of Assad’s other main allies during the war and rushed to the Syrian president’s aid in 2015 when his regime faced defeat. In the four years since, Russia has invested itself heavily to ensure Assad’s victory, gain a foothold in the region and protect its interests and facilities in the country. With the Syrian president emerging victorious, Moscow is about to enjoy the hard-earned fruits of a stable, Assad-ruled Syria. Moreover, as the dominant power and master of the skies, Russia achieved its objective of establishing itself as a key player in the area.

With a precarious mix of power players battling for regional recognition, survival, prominence, ideology—and in Iran’s case, a cushy spot from which to launch its stated objective of the destruction of the Jewish state: right in Israel’s backyard—the Americans, Israel’s ally, served as a somewhat stabilizing presence in an otherwise melting pot of ambiguity and threats.

According to Ben-Yishai, the American withdrawal from Syria allows “Russia and Iran, and to a certain extent Turkey, [to] shape their own interests and the new order that will form in Syria at the end of the civil war.” Whatever this may hold, he argued, it does not bode well for Israel. “Iran will cement its foothold in Syria more easily and Putin’s influence in the Middle East, including Iraq, will grow.”

In short, argues Raphael Ahren, diplomatic correspondent for the Times of Israel, one of Israel’s main concerns boils down to the pullout leaving “Israel alone to battle Iran’s likely resurgence.” 

Amidst the concerns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains optimistic that Israel is able to defend itself against any regional threats. In a statement released after Trump’s announcement, the prime minister said the US decision did not come as a surprise. “I spoke with US President Donald Trump [on Monday] and yesterday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told me that it was the president’s intention to withdraw their forces from Syria and made it clear that they had other ways to express their influence in the arena.

“We will study the timetable, the mode of operation, and of course the implications for us,” Netanyahu continued. “In any case, we will take care to protect Israel’s security and to protect ourselves from that arena.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 20, 2018)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/Qasioun News Agency

Source: YouTube

Prayer Focus
Pray for great wisdom on the part of American leaders. Pray they will not make a decision that will create further instability in the region and leave Israel alone to battle Iran’s likely resurgence. However, ask the Lord to strengthen and embolden Israel to defend itself against any threats in the region as we wait for Him to bring real and lasting peace.

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. It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.


- Psalm 18:30, 32

Russia Signals End of Israel Tensions with High-level Delegation

by Itamar Eichner

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Tensions between Russia and Israel are beginning to thaw after Syria shot down a Russian plane in September.

Thursday, 20 December 2018 | A special Russian delegation arrived in Israel on Wednesday, as part of Moscow’s efforts to ease tensions between the two countries following the downing of a Russian plane by Syrian forces in September, during an attempt to repel an Israeli airstrike.

The Russian delegation, headed by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Koschev and Defense Committee Chairman Victor Bondar, was to discuss the Hezbollah terror tunnels that the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] is working to uncover dug under the Israel–Lebanese border.

The delegation’s visit, which has been kept under wraps so far, is viewed by Israel as highly important as it symbolizes the Kremlin’s intention to leave behind the crisis over the plane.

The Russian delegation is expected to tour the Israel–Lebanon border on Thursday, and will view the four cross-border terror tunnels exposed by the IDF since it launched Operation Northern Shield. In addition, the delegation will meet with members of the Knesset’s [Parliament] Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees for a classified discussion on the security situation on the northern border and a meeting with the National Security Council will also be held. The delegation heads will also meet with Soviet-born Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

Officials in Jerusalem said that over the few past days, Russia had attempted to normalize relations with Israel by expressing its disapproval of the tunnels to Lebanon’s government, demanding it prevent further violation of UN [United Nations] Resolution 1701 and deal with the tunnels as soon as possible to avoid escalation.

Senior Russian diplomats stressed that the tunnels stretching from Lebanon into Israel are unacceptable, and that Lebanon must take action.

Moreover, the head of the Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog, flew to Moscow on Monday for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov told Herzog, a former Israeli minister, that the cooperation between the Russian and Israeli armies would continue in a way that did not jeopardize Russian troops, while also ensuring Israel’s security.

“We are cooperating on regional issues in accordance with what was agreed between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Lavrov said.

Meanwhile, as part of a PR campaign led by Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon, Israeli intelligence officials have presented before the UN Security Council [UNSC] members a review proving that Hezbollah has violated Resolution 1701 by digging cross-border attack tunnels.

“As the IDF successfully operates to thwart the tunnel threat in the north, we will act to foil any attempt to blame Israel for protecting itself,” Danon said.

“The world is beginning to understand that Hezbollah is violating Resolution 1701 and the time has come to act against it. We will demand the Security Council to recognize Hezbollah as a terror organization and impose sanctions against it to paralyze its terror activities,” the Israeli envoy to the UN concluded.

At the request of Israel and the US, the Security Council convened on Wednesday to discuss the existence of the tunnels.  Netanyahu on Wednesday appealed to the UNSC to condemn what he called Hezbollah’s “wanton acts of aggression.”

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on December 20, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: kremlin.ru/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will strengthen relations between Israel and Russia, a relationship that is extremely important to Israel’s security at this time. Pray that Russia will take a strong stand against Hezbollah’s tunnels and will work to prevent further violation of UN Resolution 1701.

Scripture

The way of the LORD is strength for the upright, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.


- Proverbs 10:29

Israel’s Cost of Living Set to Shoot up in 2019

by Gad Lior

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Water, electricity and food prices are all set to rise in Israel next year.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018 | The cost of living in Israel, already one of the highest in the world, is expected to rise again in the new year, thanks to the strengthening dollar against the shekel and various government policies.

Electricity prices are the first in line to be affected due to a hike on tariffs for imported raw materials used to produce electric power. This is in addition to the NIS 7 billion [US $1.9 billion] reform of the electricity sector which will be financed by the Israeli taxpayer over the next eight years.

The Electricity Authority announced last week that starting in January 2019, tariffs will be raised at a rate ranging from 4.5% to 8.1%, depending on the household wiring and consumer demands. On average, electricity bills will go up by 6.5%—roughly an additional NIS 300 [US $80] on the average annual electricity bill.

Water prices are also expected to increase next year by some 4.5%, due to investment in water infrastructure due to a drought now in its fifth consecutive year. This means the average Israeli household paying on average NIS 100 [US $27] more on their annual water bill.

In addition, the municipal rates are also expected to increase by an average of 2% in January, increasing the average annual bill by up to NIS 150 [US $40].

The rise in electricity and water bills will trigger further price increases, as producers pass on their additional costs to consumers.

A spike is also expected in food prices, with Israel’s largest food-maker Osem announcing that a third of the company’s products will cost more in 2019.

More bad news maybe ahead too for consumers. The euro keeps strengthening along with the dollar, which could trigger an increase in the cost of clothing imported by European brands, as well as overseas travel. Israeli cell phone service providers have also announced a 10% increase in the cost of phone plans.

Source: (Excerpt of an article published by Ynetnews on December 18, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit:  vitaliy-m/pixabay

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will intervene to help control the rising costs of living in Israel. Pray especially for the poor and needy who will suffer the most as expenses increase. Also pray for our Bridges for Peace facilities and for all of our volunteers who will also be affected by these increases. Pray that Christians around the world will respond generously, helping Bridges for Peace to provide even more assistance to those who will need it the most.

Scripture

Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy.


- Psalm 82:3–4a

Action
With the cost of basic necessities set to rise sharply, Israelis everywhere are expected to feel the pinch. Yet for the poverty-stricken, soaring living costs are much more than a bump in the road; they signal catastrophe, hopelessness, lack and often hunger. Many new immigrants, Holocaust survivors, single-income families and pensioners have already cut necessary expenses to the bare bone—and still struggle to put food on the table. Bridges for Peace provide regular food parcels filled with all the makings of nutritious meals to nearly 23,000 needy Israelis every month. Yet many more suffer lack and are in need of assistance. Moreover, the sharp rise in living costs over the next few months may have a good many others looking around for a helping hand. Bridges for Peace wants to extend that hand to them. What a blessing to be an organization God is using to show His care to the needy! But we can’t do it without your help. Would you please pray about giving a generous gift to our Food Program the enable us to put food on empty tables? The apostle John exhorts, "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18 NASB). Thank you for showing your faith through your actions.

Australia Recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

by Jo Sarah Stanford

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Australian PM Scott Morrison announces the decision to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Monday, 17 December 2018 | After months of speculation Australian prime minister Scott Morrison announced on Saturday that the Australian government officially recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. However, he stopped short of recognizing the whole of the city as the capital and said the embassy will not be moved until a peace deal with the Palestinians has been finalized.

In a speech, Morrison stated that “Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem…[as] the capital of Israel…And we look forward to moving our Embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of, and after final status determination.” Rather than opening a consulate, the government will open a trade and defense office in Jerusalem.

The “halfway” decision has left parties on both sides of the debate at odds with Australia. Israel’s criticism came because Australia did not acknowledge Jerusalem in its entirety, and the Palestinians were outraged that Australia acknowledged the Israeli capital at all.

Officially, Israel has praised the decision. Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, tweeted, “Israel views the decision of the Australian govt. to open its Trade and Defense office in Jerusalem as a step in the right direction…”

An anonymous official said the Israeli government was disappointed that the decision did not include recognizing the whole of Jerusalem or moving the embassy now. “It’s a step in the right direction, but we expected more,” reported the Times of Israel. Others have questioned the use of the terms “East” and “West” Jerusalem, stating there is no such division—only “Jerusalem.”

Palestine Liberation Organization officials have called on Arab nations to boycott trade with Australia, while the Palestinian Authority (PA) has condemned the move as a “wrong step,” reported Israel National News. The Jerusalem Post quoted the Arab League as saying the decision was “blatantly biased towards the positions and policies of the Israeli occupation.”

Not all Arab nations shared their sentiment though. Bahrain hit back, saying the Arab League’s response was “mere rhetoric and irresponsible,” and that “Australia’s stance does not impact the legitimate Palestinian demands,” reported the Jerusalem Post.

The greatest backlash was expected from Indonesia, a country that has no diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, fails to recognize Israel’s existence and is home to the world’s largest Muslim majority. Indonesia was initially angered by the proposal and had threatened to walk away from trade deals, had the recognition of Jerusalem gone ahead.

In the lead-up to the announcement, the Australian government issued a warning to those travelling to Indonesia, a popular tourist destination. Yet the “travel advice level” remained unchanged.

However, after the announcement the Indonesian government’s response was low-key. All they said was that it “notes” the decision, the Times of Israel reported.

The Times of Israel also noted that Australia’s other Muslim-majority neighbor, Malaysia, strongly opposed the decision, calling it a “humiliation” to the Palestinian people.

For her part, the Australian opposition foreign minister said her party will reverse the decision if they win the election in March next year.

In his speech, Morrison took the opportunity to address other areas of anti-Israel bias in the international arena. He condemned Hamas and those who refused to label them as a terrorist organization and warned against Iranian aggression. He also criticized the United Nations for the amount of resolutions made against Israel, marking another change in Australian policy. “Last month, at my direction, Australia opposed six resolutions that attacked Israel in the UN General Assembly…In the past, we had abstained on these resolutions. Not anymore and not on my watch.”

The director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Israeli ambassador to Australia expressed his gratitude in a tweet, “Thank you @ScottMorrisonMP for reaffirming the longstanding [Israeli–Australian] partnership and #Australia’s genuine commitment to Israel’s security.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 17, 2018)

Photo Credit: ILTV Israel Daily/Screenshot/YouTube

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for Australia’s firm support of Israel at the UN, clearly standing against Hamas and Iranian aggression. However, pray that they will amend their decision and recognize all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving their embassy sooner rather than later.

Scripture

Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet home, a tabernacle that will not be taken down; not one of its stakes will ever be removed, nor will any of its cords be broken.


- Isaiah 33:20

Terror Attack Survivor: “Our Enemies Won’t Break Us”

by Inbar Tvizer

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Father of the baby who died after the Ofra shooting: “During the three days our baby lived, he united us.”

Monday, 17 December 2018 | Shira and Amichai Ish-Ran, parents of the infant born prematurely after his mother was wounded in a terror attack near the settlement of Ofra [in Judea and Samaria] last week, told reporters on Sunday, “Our enemies can kill our children, but they won’t break us.”

Speaking at a press conference at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Shira and Amichai thanked the medical personnel who fought for days to save their son’s life.

“During the three days our baby lived, he united us—secular, religious, ultra-Orthodox, right and left wing, who came to support us. I’m proud to be part of this nation,” Amichai said.

“Our enemies can shoot at us, stab us, run over us and hurl stones at us. They can murder us and our children, but they cannot break us. We won’t let them,” he asserted.

Shira echoed his sentiments, adding, “I had lost a lot of blood and received many blood donations. The blood of the people of Israel is flowing through my veins right now.

“I feel that the Jewish nation is supporting me and strengthening me in every step of the way,” she added.

“The paramedic sitting next to me was the one who prevented me from losing consciousness on the way to the hospital. As Amichai said, we remember everything that happened. I was conscious up to the moment I went into surgery,” Shira said.

Dr. Alon Schwartz, senior surgeon at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, said, “Shira is no longer in a life-threatening danger. However, her rehabilitation process will be long. She was mainly wounded in her lower limbs, which will require a lot of operations and physical therapy.”

Schwartz added that Shira maintains a positive attitude and that the medical staff expects her injuries will not prevent her from having children in the future.

Shira, who was 30 weeks pregnant, was severely wounded in the terror attack near the Ofra junction. She underwent an emergency surgery, during which her baby was delivered in emergency Cesarean section.

On Tuesday, Shira and Amichai saw each other for the first time since the attack.

On Wednesday, the couple visited their son for the first time at the hospital’s ICU. Later that day, the infant succumbed to his wounds and was laid to rest after being named Amiad Israel, while his parents remained in the hospital.

Apart from Shira and Amichai, five other people were wounded in the terror attack—one moderately and four lightly.

Footage of the drive-by shooting scene shows that gunfire was sprayed at Israeli civilians who were taking part in a candle-lighting ceremony in memory of a car accident victim at a bus station near the Ofra junction. IDF [Israel Defense Forces] troops who were nearby responded by firing towards the vehicle, which fled the scene.

During an operation near Ramallah on Wednesday night, the Border Police counterterrorism unit, Yamam, killed a Palestinian suspected of involvement in the shooting attack.

The unit shot at a taxi in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] town of Surda, north of Ramallah; another passenger was injured and was taken to a hospital in Jerusalem.

The two men who were shot, Saleh and Awad Barghouti, are both members of the large Barghouti clan from the Ramallah region.

Security forces also arrested a number of Palestinian residents of the town of Silwad for suspected involvement in the terror attack. Forces also surrounded a house in Ramallah, not far from the Muqata, the Palestinian government complex, and the inhabitants were taken for questioning by the Shin Bet security service.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on December 16, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: ILTV Israel Daily/YouTube/Screenshot

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will overwhelm the survivors and families of victims of this horrendous terror attack with His love and compassion. Pray that all who are responsible for this atrocity will be caught and held accountable.

Scripture

How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. There the workers of iniquity have fallen; they have been cast down and are not able to rise.


- Psalm 36:7, 12

Netanyahu Thanks Austrian Leader for Pushing to Define Anti-Zionism as Anti-Semitism

by Joshua Spurlock

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Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz is leading the effort to call EU nations to define anti-Zionism as a type of anti-Semitism.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018 | Two key leadership councils of the European Union [EU] have endorsed the call for member nations to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that includes denying the right of Jews to have their own nation. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday thanked Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz for leading this effort. He also quoted Martin Luther King as giving the same definition of anti-Semitism.

“I recently read a cogent remark by the noted American human rights leader Martin Luther King: ‘When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism,’” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office, going on to thank Kurz for his leadership in the European Union, adopting a similar definition.

“Nobody can say that they are not against Americans, but they just think that America shouldn’t exist, just as nobody can say that they are not against Jews, but they think that the state of the Jews does not need to exist,” said Netanyahu. “I thank the Austrian chancellor for working to expose this absurdity and to precisely define anti-Zionism as a type of anti-Semitism.”

On December 6, the Council of the EU—a key part of the EU legislative process—endorsed the anti-Semitism definition, which was originally put forth by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The IHRA definition, posted to their website, includes in the list of examples of anti-Semitism: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

The Council of the EU—in their statement on December 6 posted to the EU website—called upon their member nations to “endorse the non-legally binding working definition” as “a useful guidance tool in education and training, including for law enforcement authorities.”

Just over one week later, the European Council—which consists of European heads of state—welcomed the decision by the other EU body earlier in the month in a statement posted to the EU website.

After the last decision, Israeli director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yuval Rotem expressed their thanks on Twitter for the move and applauded Kurz for his role in getting the approach accepted.

Kurz responded with a tweet of his own: “Thank you @Yuval_Rotem, we will continue to fight all forms of anti-Semitism and protect Jewish life in Europe. I am very glad that we could once again express our firm commitment to this fight during our #eu2018at and for the first time ever in the Council Conclusions.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by The Mideast Update on December 16, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: www.kremlin.ru/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for God’s blessing on those in the IHRA and the EU who are working to counter anti-Semitism. Pray that the evolving definition will serve its purpose well, protecting the Jewish people and providing a useful guidance tool in education and training, including for law enforcement officials.

Scripture

For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.


- Deuteronomy 7:6

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