Help us bless the people of Israel.

Friday, December 4, 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.

“Father” of Iran’s Nuclear Program Assassinated: Did Israel Play a Role?

by Ilse Strauss

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Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the “father” of Iran’s nuclear program

Monday, 30 November 2020 | Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, his wife and bodyguards were heading to the resort town Absard, an exclusive get-away for the Iranian elite just outside Tehran, when it happened. The roads were empty, with Iranians shuttered inside for another COVID-induced lockdown. At roughly 2:30 p.m., a Nissan truck parked next to the Absard-bound highway detonated—just as the sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh and his entourage approached, forcing the car to a stand-still.

The details of what happened next are still hazy. According to the semi-official Tasnim news agency, five or six gunmen approached the vehicle, spraying it with bullets before fleeing the scene. The semi-official Fars news agency, on the other hand, claims the ambush was carried out using an Israeli-manufactured machine gun controlled by satellite, without any human intervention.

Regardless of the means and method, the outcome remained the same. Once the hail of bullets died down, Fakhrizadeh was airlifted to a nearby hospital in critical condition, where he was pronounced dead.

The official announcement came before dusk from Iran’s defense ministry: Fakhrizadeh, the top nuclear scientist spearheading Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program and the man referred to as the “father” of the Iranian bomb, was assassinated on Iranian soil. And the perpetrator of the assassination, Iran claims, is Israel.

Fakhrizadeh’s resume reads like something from a spy novel. The 59-year-old physicist, top military scientist, academic and ballistic missiles expert carried the rank of brigadier general in the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and served as a professor at the Imam Hussein University in Tehran. In 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency pinpointed Fakhrizadeh as one of the leading architects of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, while Israel’s Channel 12 hails him not only as “the father of Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” but also as the man who made every effort to “deliver…the bomb” to the ayatollahs.

Iran has steadfastly denied any allegations that its nuclear ambitions go beyond peaceful, civilian purposes, supposedly even calling a halt to all nuclear development as part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with world powers. However, evidence continues to surface that Iran has left a number of JCPO limitations behind in the dust.

Perhaps the most conclusive evidence of Iran’s monovalent nuclear goals saw the light when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted a press conference in 2018 to reveal a treasure trove of Iranian documents revealing the existence of a nuclear weapons program—lifted by the Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency) from a warehouse in Tehran and including an Iranian plan to attach a nuclear warhead to a ballistic missile—to the international community.

During Netanyahu’s big reveal, he identified Fakhrizadeh as the director of Iran’s nuclear weapons project, pointing out that he continues to spearhead such efforts.

“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Netanyahu warned.

Being the man destined to bless the ayatollahs with the bomb they so desperately desire placed Fakhrizadeh squarely in the crosshairs of both the CIA and the Mossad, with both the US and Israel vowing that Iran would never get its hand on the bomb. In fact, according to Channel 12, both the CIA and the Mossad started tracking Fakhrizadeh in 2006, with Channel 13 weighing in that a number of Israeli prime ministers and several directors of the Mossad had their sights set on Iran’s top nuclear scientist.

The burning question at the moment is thus: was Israel behind the assassination?

According to top Iranian officials, the answer is a resounding yes.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke of “serious indications of [an] Israeli role,” while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed the “usurper Zionist regime.” Threatening revenge, he continued, “In due time, they will answer for this crime.”

Hossein Dehghan, a presidential candidate for Iran’s upcoming election and an advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, chose a more direct approach, vowing that Tehran would “descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!”  

Israel has remained mum, neither confirming nor denying its involvement. However, Channel 12, citing an unnamed Western intelligence source, described Fakhrizadeh’s assassination as the “pinnacle” of Israel’s long-term strategy to block Iran’s path to the bomb.

The past year has seen a number of tragedies ascribed to Israeli sabotage striking various nuclear and weapons sites throughout Iran, including a largescale explosion causing massive damage to the leading nuclear facility in Natanz.

While the sabotage—particularly at Natanz—placed obstacles in Iran’s march to the bomb, Fakhrizadeh’s absence deals a massive blow, depriving “the Islamic Republic of an irreplaceable source of knowledge,” the Times of Israel reports.     

Experts agree. Amos Yadlin, a former Military Intelligence chief and current head of the Institute for National Security Studies think tank, called Fakhrizadeh “the core source of authority, knowledge and organization of this program,” while Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the Washington Post that “Fakhrizadeh likely knew more about Iran’s nuclear program than any living human. Losing his leadership, knowledge and institutional memory is undoubtedly a blow to the Islamic Republic.”

Speaking to Kan news, an unnamed Israeli official took it one step further: “Without Fakhrizadeh it will be very hard for Iran to advance its military [nuclear] program.”

Jerusalem knows that Tehran cannot let the death of its golden nuclear boy go unanswered. How exactly Iran plans to exact payback remains unclear. In the meantime, Israel has placed its embassies around the world on high alert, while international Jewish communities have stepped up their vigilance.

Fakhrizadeh’s death follows hot on the heels of a New York Times report that President Donald Trump convened top advisers earlier this month to determine his options for launching offensive strikes on the heavily fortified Natanz nuclear center.

According to the Times, the national security aides cautioned the US president against a major strike, either with missiles or a cyberattack, warning that it could ignite a wider conflict engulfing the entire volatile region. The aides reportedly left the Oval Office convinced that President Trump had dismissed the option, but continues to mull a more measured course of action. Still, an Axios report last week claimed that the Israeli military was preparing for the possibility that the US Commander in Chief might still give the order to strike.

The assassination also comes nearly a year after the US killed Iran’s superspy Qassam Soleimani, the shadowy head of Iran’s Quds Force, in an airstrike in Baghdad, nearly pitting the US and Iran against each other in an all-out war.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 30, 2020)

Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Lift up the nation of Israel in prayer, asking for God’s divine protection over the land and people of Israel, as well as Jewish people across the world, who might be targeted in an Iranian attempt at revenge.

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…Do not grant, O LORD, the desires of the wicked; do not further his wicked scheme, lest they be exalted.


- Psalm 140:1–2, 8

Fourth Elections in Two Years?

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Aerial view of the Knesset (Parliament) in Jerusalem

Thursday, 3 December 2020 | Knesset [Parliament] House Committee will convene Monday to discuss a bill to dissolve the Knesset, whose passage in a preliminary vote Wednesday set Israel on track to hold its fourth elections in less than two years.

The vote, sponsored by opposition leader Yair Lapid and backed by coalition party Blue & White, passed by 61 votes to 51 as a row over the formulation of the state budget threatened to bring down the government.

Once the bill is deliberated and revised by the House Committee, it is sent back to the Knesset plenum for its first full vote. If it passes that vote—it then goes back to the House Committee for further revision ahead of its second and final vote.

The process is expected to take between several days and several weeks.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, whose Blue & White party has been at odds with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud [party] since the two leaders agreed to sit in a coalition government together in April.

The unity government has sparred over the structure of the state budget with Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition partners willing to vote only on a very short-term version of the 2020 budget, contrary to the coalition agreement that calls for a two-year budget that includes 2021.

If the long-term budget is passed, Netanyahu would no longer have the 2021 budget as a trump card and would be forced to commit to the rotation agreement that would mean Gantz taking over as prime minister next year.

But if the government collapses because a budget has not been passed, Netanyahu would remain as prime minister throughout the three-month election campaign and until a new coalition is formed.

Speaking shortly before entering the Knesset plenum for the vote, Gantz made sure to leave a lifeline for Netanyahu to avoid elections, saying “If Netanyahu approves the budget, everything will work out.”

“Anything that prevents elections is a welcome thing. The best solution is for this budget to be passed and for this government to continue to function.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on December 2, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Michio Nagata/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Pray for Israel’s government and leaders, that they will do what is best for this nation. Thank the Lord that He, the all-knowing God, is truly in control and only leaders placed by Him sit in office. Ask that His will for the State of Israel be done.

Scripture

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.


- Romans 13:1

Second Bahraini Minister Heads to Israel in Two Weeks to Strengthen Ties

by Ilse Strauss

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Zayed R. Alzayani, Bahraini Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism

Tuesday, 1 December 2020 | Two weeks after the first-ever ministerial visit from Bahrain touched down in Israel, the second ministerial delegation from the Gulf state is set to land in the Jewish state this morning.

Bahraini Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism Zayed R. Alzayani will lead the delegation of approximately 40 business leaders who will use the three-day stop in Israel to nurture the burgeoning economic ties between Jerusalem and Manama and foster mutual trade and investment among the two nations.

The agenda for the visit includes a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Economy Minister Amir Peretz for Alzayani, while the Bahraini business leaders will sit down with their Israeli counterparts.

Eliav Benjamin, the head of the Arab world desk at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, hailed the visit as “very significant from our perspective.”

“It is an illustration of what we and what the Bahrainis want to see in our relations…” the Times of Israel quoted Benjamin as saying. “This is true normalization between our two countries: trade, commerce, meetings between delegations and ministers and businesspeople.”

Alzayani and the 40 Bahraini business leaders arrive at Ben Gurion Airport two weeks after Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani led the tiny Gulf state’s historic first delegation to Israel.

The two trips are hailed as one of the many fruits of the Abraham Accords, the September peace deal that turned former adversaries Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates into allies.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 1, 2020)

Photo Credit: Jaguar MENA/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for another step forward in relations between Israel and Bahrain, especially between their people. Pray for His hand of blessing over their blossoming relationship, that it may bring abundant blessings to both nations.

Scripture

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.


- Ecclesiastes 4:9–10a

Israel Seeing Start of Third Coronavirus Wave, Says Senior Health Official

by Adir Yanko

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Israelis shopping in Jerusalem after the restrictions lifted

Wednesday, 2 December 2020 | A senior Health Ministry official said Tuesday that Israel is currently seeing the beginning of a third coronavirus wave due to the continued rise in infections.

Health Ministry’s Head of Public Health Services Sharon Alroy-Preis said during a weekly briefing that she is concerned by the rising number of new COVID-19 cases. On Monday, over 1,200 people tested positive for the pathogen for the first time since October.

“This is the beginning of the third wave. We still do not know the full effects of the concessions that we’ve allowed,” she said, referring to the easing of lockdown curbs. “We are expected to see an increase in the coefficient of infection and in the number of new verified cases.”

Last week, the government lifted a host of coronavirus curbs, including partial reopening of high schools and shopping centers, which some health experts said might negatively impact the contagion rate.

“We are not trying to declare a lockdown on holidays,” she said, referring to the upcoming Hanukkah [Festival of Lights] holiday. “We are closely monitoring the infection index, and we may need to take preventative measures. One of the ideas that has come up is to implement night curfews during the holiday. It is being discussed, but we are not there yet.”

She also said that at least 90 communities in Israel are seeing a worrying increase in the infection rate, including Beersheva and Ramat Gan.

“About 40% of the contagion is in the Arab sector and 9% in the ultra-Orthodox sector,” she said. “We are closely monitoring the general sector. There are 90 municipalities in the State of Israel that are changing trend. This is the reversal of the trend that we’ve been fearing. That’s how the second wave started.”

Alroy-Preis added that Israelis should not count on a coronavirus vaccine becoming available this winter.

“Even if in the first quarter [of 2021] a certain amount of vaccines will arrive, it still will not be enough for the majority of the population. We’re not there yet. At the moment, we need to trust what we have, which is a mask and careful and responsible conduct.”

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on December 1, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Becca Treharne/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord that He will rid this Land—and the world—of the pandemic and its devastating effects. Ask for His divine intervention, and that instead of increasing, the infection rate will decrease until it has dwindled down to a distant memory.

Scripture

“For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah…Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth.


- Jeremiah 33:4a, 6

Saudi Arabia Okays Israeli Use of Airspace for UAE Flights

by Itay Blumenthal

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Flights from Israel to Dubai may now pass through Saudi airspace.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020 | Israel’s first commercial flight to the United Arab Emirates will go ahead as planned on Tuesday morning, taking off from Ben Gurion Airport to Dubai International Airport, after Saudi Arabia granted permission for the flight to use its airspace with less than a day to spare.

Israeli carrier Israir had feared it would have to cancel the flight due to a lack of Saudi approval, as the Airbus A320 aircraft used for the flight has limited range and the alternate route through the Arabian Sea would double the length of the trip to Dubai.

The historic flight is set to be a cornerstone in the relationship between Israel and the UAE, after the two countries signed the normalization agreement in the form of the Abraham Accords in September.

Israir, Arkia and El Al, the Israeli airlines scheduled to operate flights to the UAE within the next month, had appealed to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Transportation Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority for updates on the issue.

Emirati air carrier flydubai began operating flights from Israel to Dubai on November 26.

At a ceremony last week at Ben Gurion Airport to mark the launch of the flydubai Israel–UAE route, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We are already flying over Saudi Arabia as you know. All those flights go over Saudi Arabia, including flights by Israeli companies.”

Israeli airlines are set to operate more than 40 flights to Dubai each week.

Israir is scheduled to launch two daily flights to Dubai on December 2. Arkia is set to begin its own twice daily flights from December 3, and El Al is also due to begin 14 flights per week on December 9.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on November 30, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Cacahuate/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Thank the God of Israel that their Arab neighbors are opening doors (and airways) to friendship and overall better relations. Thank Him especially for Saudi Arabia opening its airway to Israeli flights that will hopefully sow into cooperation and friendship between the Jewish state and her Gulf neighbors

Scripture

When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.


- Proverbs 16:7

Wintry Weather Returns as Israel Hit by Lightning Storms

by Danny Rup

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Lightning splits the Tel Aviv night sky. (illustrative)

Friday, 27 November 2020 | After a few days of unseasonably warm temperatures, wintry weather returned on Wednesday as Israel saw rain and lightning storms in most parts of the country.

In the afternoon hours, some coastal areas saw a phenomenon somewhat unusual for Israeli shores, with waterspouts forming over the sea and moving toward the beaches, some of which filled with people despite the inclement weather.

Frequent rainfall and thunderstorms continued across most parts of Israel on Thursday, with downpours accelerating in some areas.

Flash flood warnings have been issued for the Jordan Valley, the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea, the northern Arava, Eilat Bay and the north-eastern Negev.

Following floods in coastal cities over the weekend, citizens were asked to move their cars and barricade the entrance to their homes with sandbags.

Thursday saw continued rainfall mostly in central and northern Israel, along with some thunderstorms in some areas.

Temperatures around the country are set to be cold, with modest wind speeds.

On Friday, localized showers will continue in northern Israel and along the coastline, and move from midday towards the central mountains.

There are flood warnings for the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea area.

Temperatures will rise slightly but remain unseasonably cold.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on November 25, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Mordechai Faraj/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Water is a blessing in this part of the world. Praise God for the much-needed rain falling over the Land of Israel! Ask Him to bless the nation of Israel with the precious water throughout the wintry season, but also ask for His protection over the land and people, that they will be protected from dangerous floods.

Scripture

Ask the LORD for rain in the time of the latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, grass in the field for everyone.


- Zechariah 10:1

Israeli Company Swaps Injectable for Oral Insulin

by Ilse Strauss

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Oramed Pharmaceuticals has started final-stage tests of its oral insulin. (illustrative)

Wednesday, 2 December 2020 | After 14 years of painstaking research, an Israeli company is ready to cross the finish line with a product that promises to revolutionize the treatment of diabetes.

Oramed Pharmaceuticals recently started final-stage tests of its oral insulin under the US Food and Drug Administration, a product that may well see millions of type 2 diabetics—and ultimately also those who suffer from type 1—swap injectable insulin for the pill format, transforming injectable treatments into oral therapies in as little as three years.

The advantages of a tablet over a needle are manifold. In fact, according to Oramed CEO Nadav Kidron, “This has the potential to improve lives of hundreds of millions of diabetics worldwide.”

Oramed’s oral solution will introduce ease and convenience of use, eliminate the dread of needles, target weight gain, reduce complications and slash the cost of diabetic treatments—all giant steps of progress. However, the main advantage of the groundbreaking treatment is arguable its ability to deliver insulin directly to the liver, where the body can best utilize it, as opposed to the current method of pumping it into the bloodstream.

“By taking it to the liver, we are stopping the excessive production of glucose in the place where the production actually happens,” Kidron explained to the Times of Israel. “Usually, injections go into the bloodstream and deal with glucose there instead of stopping production in the liver, its source.”

The quest for an oral answer to the insulin issue is not new, and numerous companies and studies have tried and failed to perfect a pill that will replace the needle. To date, the stumbling block has been the inability to circumvent the gut, automatically harming the insulin taken by mouth before it can reach the liver. However, Oramed’s specially coated tablet protects the insulin from the gut and releases it only once it reaches the liver.

“The fact we’re able to get the pill to the liver, which is exactly where the insulin is needed, is a major achievement,” Kidron said. “For nearly 100 years, the world has looked for ways to be able to give insulin orally. This technology could be a real game-changer in how we treat diabetes.”

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

Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska/pexels.com

Photo License: Pexels

Prayer Focus
God has truly blessed the people of Israel, nicknamed the Start-up Nation. Praise His Name for the rich blessings He is bestowing to the world through the tiny nation of Israel, and pray His blessing over their continued efforts in developing this life-changing insulin solution.

Scripture

“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great…And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”


- Genesis 12:2, 3b

UAE Hosts First-ever Orthodox Jewish Wedding in Dubai

by Kobi Nachshoni

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The Park Hyatt Hotel in Dubai

Wednesday, 2 December 2020 | The United Arab Emirates on Monday hosted its first-ever Orthodox Jewish wedding, staging a lavish event in Dubai.

The event took place at the Park Hyatt Dubai Hotel and featured some 150 participants. About half of the guests came from Israel and other countries, with the rest of the attendees being curious tourists, who had no connection to either the bride or the groom.

The event’s organizer said that the wedding lasted for ten hours and caught the attention of curious locals, some of whom came to watch the event, donning traditional Arab attire.

The opening of the Emirates’ gates to Israeli tourists during the pandemic entails another opportunity for both sectors, as the industry of wedding tourism, shuttered in most of the world due to coronavirus, appears to thrive.

As a result, Emirati authorities are already planning a host of other similar events, some of which are expected to have an even larger number of participants.

Strict COVID-19 restrictions, which in Israel limit the number of participants at public events to 20, have made it difficult for many couples to get married in recent months, especially for the religious and ultra-Orthodox public.

According to Jewish law, it is important to hold the event on the scheduled date at almost any cost, while the bride and groom usually come from large families, and reducing the guest list to such a small number may seem for them as an almost-impossible task.

Against the backdrop of these hardships, many couples have set their eyes on the Gulf state thanks to its relatively low number of coronavirus infections and laxer health guidelines.

In addition, because the UAE is a “green” country according to Israeli health authorities, those returning from the destination will not be required to enter self-isolation upon arrival.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on December 1, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Martha de Jong-Lantink/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Lift up praises to the Lord, thanking Him for this beautiful symbol of the new normalized ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Pray that this trend will continue and that the nation of Israel and the Jewish people will continue to be more and more accepted and loved throughout the Middle East.

Scripture

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!


- Psalm 133:1