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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.

Israel Celebrates Tu BiShvat—the New Year for the Fruits of the Trees

by Ilse Posselt

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Almond tree in blossom on Tu BiShvat

Friday, 10 February 2017 | Sundown tonight signals the start of a special holiday tied uniquely to the Land of Israel. On Tu BiShvat, the people who call the Jewish state home celebrate the New Year for the fruits of the trees.

For most of us living in Western society, New Year celebrations come but once every 12 months—on December 31. Yet things are different in the Jewish state. In fact, the Hebrew calendar features a full four days to celebrate the “new year”, each day with its own distinctive purpose.

The first new year is known as Rosh HaShanah, literally “the head of the year,” and serves as the start of the civil calendar. The second falls in early spring during Pesach (Passover), and celebrates redemption from slavery in Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation. The third occurs in late summer and is known as the “new year for animal tithes.”

But then there is a fourth holiday, called Tu BiShvat, on which the people of Israel mark the beginning of the “new year” for trees. This year, the holiday begins at sunset tonight and continues until dusk tomorrow.

This particular new year celebration has both practical and religious purposes. The Torah (Gen.–Deut.) instructs that fruit from trees may not be eaten during their first three years. During the fourth year, the fruit yield from any tree belongs to God. Yet in the fifth year and after, the fruit is for the enjoyment of the people.

Practically, Tu BiShvat is thus for the purpose of calculating the age of trees, as each tree in the land is considered to have aged one year on this day. And so we arrive at the playful saying that Tu BiShvat is the birthday for trees in Israel.

Tree planted on Tu BiShvat

Like all new years, Tu BiShvat comes with the promise of renewal, rebirth and growth in nature. Known in international media as Israeli Arbor Day, many across the country celebrate this day by planting trees or taking part in activities to raise environmental awareness.

This year marks a particularly poignant one for the people of Israel. Late in November 2016, a series of fires of reduced patches of Israel to a landscape of devastation and ruin. By the time the threat of flames was brought under control, the fires had destroyed 560 homes and ravaged some 130,000 dunams (32,124 acres) of natural forests, brush lands and protected parklands.

In the aftermath of the disaster, experts calculated that the rehabilitation and reconstruction of natural sites like forests and nature parks as well as infrastructure damaged in the blaze could take up to 30 years. According to the Jewish National Fund, the fire destroyed more than 11,000 dunams (2,718 acres) of forest land with 7,500 dunams (1,853 acres) incinerated in the Jerusalem hills alone.

In the face of calamity, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the people of Israel would “rebuild the homes that were lost in the fire and replant the forests that were burned. In the place of every tree that was blackened, another ten green trees will bloom,” the prime minister said at the time. “That is what our predecessors did since the establishment of the Zionist enterprise, and that is what we will do as well: plant, build and deepen our roots.”

Tu BiShvat falls on the 15th day of Shvat, the 11th month in the Hebrew calendar which translates to either January or February in the Gregorian calendar. Traditionally, these are the coldest months in Israel when winter winds and rain continue to lash the Land of Promise. People and nature alike, it seems, are still inclined to hibernate until the sunny days of summer.

Yet Tu BiShvat is about a promise. It is the first whisper of the end of a dreary winter and the earliest hint of new life stirring—even if the signs remain yet unseen. This is the season during which the trees all over the Land of Israel will awaken from their winter sleep and bloom to new life—even though no buds are visible yet.

In Israel, the “new year” for the fruits of the trees is a joyous celebration. Families and friends gather around festive dinner tables groaning with the abundance of fruits native to the Jewish homeland. Dishes made from the seven species, namely wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates, described in Deuteronomy 8:8 as abundant in the Land are a firm holiday favorite.

As the winter winds and cold continue to lash the Land of Promise, on Tu BiShvat the Jewish people celebrate the promise that the dreary skies will give way to sunshine that the Land of Israel will continue to produce in lavish abundance and that destruction will be turned into a flowering harvest.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 10 February 2017)

Photo Credit: Daniel Kirchhevel/ Bridges for Peace

Prayer Focus
Glorify the Lord for the beautiful example that Israel gives us by planting trees, celebrating God's gift of spring and new life stirring in our midst. Pray that as Israel is rebuilding and replanting after the fires that God will bless the land with much more rain in the current season.

Scripture

For there is hope for a tree, If it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease.


- Job 14:7

Israel Foils Hamas Terror Attacks

by Ilse Posselt

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Targeted locations of foiled terror attacks

Wednesday, 08 February 2017 | Shooting attacks, bombings and kidnappings. That is what a Hamas terror cell operating in the Jewish state had in store for the citizens of Israel. The Shin Bet (Israel’s Security Agency) announced on Monday that officials have uncovered a Hamas cell planning to carry out terror attacks against Israelis at a synagogue, train station and an army base.

The cell comprises two main operatives who are Palestinian brothers from a village close to Hebron who have been living in northern Israel illegally for the past few years. A third operative, an Arab Israeli from a city in the north of Israel, was also arrested for assisting the two brothers.

The Times of Israel reports that information received from the Palestinian Authority (PA) led to the arrests. Details of the cell’s plans of terror remained under a gag order that was partially lifted on Monday.

The Shin Bet revealed that the youngest brother, who served as the leader of the cell, fled to Israel in 2015 after being accused by the PA of murder. The oldest brother entered the Jewish state illegally in 2014.

Submachine gun used in shooting attack on an Israeli car (illustrative) (Photo Credit: IDF spokesperson’s Unit)

Over the past two years, the cell started saving NIS 1,000 (USD $266) per month to use towards their terror activities. They eventually had enough saved up to acquire weapons and then started manufacturing explosives at the carpentry store where two of the cell members worked. The cell also set about recruiting other Palestinians to aid in their plans, gathering intelligence and identifying prospective targets.

According to the Shin Bet, the group had already had a number of locations on their terror hit-list which included an army base in northern Israel, the main synagogue in Zichron Ya’akov and two bus stations.

The three operatives reportedly received their instructions from Hamas agents located in Gaza via the social media platform, Facebook. The Shin Bet revealed that a number of the Hamas officials responsible for directing the terror cell are former prisoners released during the Gilad Shalit deal in 2011 who were deported to the coastal enclave.

The three members of the terror cell were indicted in a Haifa court on Monday. They were charged with belonging to Hamas, an illegal terrorist organization, and also with weapons offenses. The two Palestinian brothers also face charges of entering Israel illegally.

“The uncovering of the infrastructure and activities it planned demonstrates the high threat level posed by Hamas militants, especially those who enter Israel and remain their illegally,” the Shin Bet said.

Since the start of the latest wave of Palestinian violence in September 2015, Israeli security officials have foiled a number of Hamas terrorist plots, The Algemeiner reports. Both Hamas and Hezbollah, the terror organization operating from Lebanon, have sought to capitalize on the current terror uprising by trying to orchestrate large-scale, sophisticated attacks in the Jewish state. Thanks to the vigilance and dedication of the Israeli intelligence community, none of the malicious plans have come to fruition.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 08 February 2017)

Prayer Focus
Declare God as the protector of Israel who leads His nation and security forces (especially) with supernatural wisdom that results in the foiling of so many terrorist attacks. Pray for protection of the Shin-Bet as they daily face difficult situations. Bring Facebook before God, praying that it will be used for good and not destruction.

Scripture

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.


- Psalm 16:7-8

Iran: Only Seven Minutes Needed for Our Missiles to Hit Tel Aviv

by Ilse Posselt

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Iranian missile test (illustrative) (Photo: Mohammad Agah/ Wikipedia, Photo License: Wikipedia) 

Monday, 06 February 2017 | The ordinary person arguably considers seven minutes an insufficient period of time to accomplish most of life’s everyday tasks. Seven minutes are not enough to prepare a meal, drive to work or clean the house. Yet according to an Iranian government official, “Only seven minutes is [sic] needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv.”

Mojtaba Zonour, a senior member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission and a former Revolutionary Guard official, boasted proudly of the Islamic Republic’s military prowess, during a Revolutionary Guard exercise aimed at testing its missile and radar systems on Saturday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. Zonour threatened that if the United States launched a military strike against Iran, Tehran would retaliate by striking Israel’s coastal city in less than ten minutes and “raze to the ground” a United States military base in Bahrain.

Head Officials of Iran (Photo Credit: Official website of Ali Khamenei/ Wikipedia, Photo license: Wikimedia)

Zonour’s claims follow a week of intensifying tensions between the US and Iran over the latter’s ballistic missile program. The Islamic Republic has conducted a number of missile launches since the notorious Iran nuclear deal relaxed sanctions against the country. International powers, including Israel, have objected to these tests, saying that they violate United Nations Resolution 2231 which prohibits Iran from conducting such launches for a period of eight years.

The latest launch took place just over a week ago when the Islamic Republic conducted a medium-range ballistic missile test. The missile in question, the Khorramshahr, is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and with a range of 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) is “capable of reaching Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the launch as a “flagrant breach” of UN resolutions and called for the reinstatement of sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The prime minister who is set to meet with American President Donald Trump on February 15, also vowed to discuss with Trump the “entire failed nuclear accord.”

For its part, the US responded to the missile test by adding more persons and entities to the sanctions list, targeting those playing a role in Tehran’s missile program. US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to speak out against the Islamic Republic. “Iran is playing with fire—they do not appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!”

Over the weekend, Trump told Fox News that the Iran nuclear accord was “the worst deal I have ever seen negotiated; it was a deal that never should have been negotiated.”

Trump refrained from saying whether he would take any action regarding the deal but added that because of the accord, the Islamic Republic “lost respect [for the US] because they did not think anyone would be stupid as to make a deal like that.” The deal, he charged, “emboldened” Iran.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Iran responded to the increased sanctions forcefully “proceeding with a military exercise that further tested its missile radar capabilities.” Moreover, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Airspace Division warned the US on Saturday that “if the enemy makes a mistake, our roaring missiles will come down on them.” Hajizadeh claimed, however, that any prospective Iranian actions were defensive in nature.

Hajizadeh’s claim is in line with Iran’s usual claim that the development of weapons was solely for self-defense purposes. Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif vowed that “Iran will never use missiles produced in Iran to attack any other country.”

Pictures of Iranian missile test posted on Twitter by PM Netanyahu (Photo Credit: Benjamin Netanyahu/ Twitter)

Netanyahu has, however, pointed to a significant hole in Zarif’s defense. The prime minister posted pictures of a missile test Iran conducted in March 2016 to his Twitter account. The missiles launched during the test were inscribed with a message in Hebrew and Arabic script stating, “Israel must be destroyed.” The text above the two pictures in Netanyahu’s tweet, questions Iran’s motives: “Iran’s foreign minister says Iran will never use its missiles to attack any other country. Really? Recently Iran tested a missile with the inscription, ‘Israel must be destroyed.’”

Netanyahu who is set to meet with the United Kingdom’s (UK) Prime Minister Theresa May today and with US President Trump next week, have said that he intends to discuss the Iranian threat with both world leaders. In a statement released by his office yesterday as the Israeli prime minister left for London, Netanyahu indicated that Iran is well aware that both America and the UK have new leaders and “are trying to test the boundaries with extraordinary aggression, gall and defiance.”

“I think that the most important thing at the moment is that countries like the US which will take the lead, Israel and the UK line up together against Iran’s aggression and set clear limits to it.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 06 February 2017)

Photo Credit: Mohammad Agah/ Wikipedia

Prayer Focus
Offer petition to the Lord, asking Him to bring to nothing Iran’s attempts to launch nuclear warheads. Pray that the recent changes in world’s leaders and their support of Israel will cause Iran to realize the true fear of the Lord.

Scripture

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


- Psalm 140:8

Hundreds of Weapons Accessories Seized en Route to Judea, Samaria and Gaza

by Roi Yanovsky

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Laser sight seized by Shin Bet (illustrative)

Tuesday, 07 February 2017 | Police recently confiscated around 500 weapons accessories, including scopes, that were imported into Israel via mail packages in a special operation after a preliminary examination raised suspicions that they were intended for terrorist activities in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria].

Additionally, hundreds of devices described by police as “dual-use”—such as telescopes, goggles, drones, laser pointers, metal detectors and more—that could be used for both civilian and terrorist purposes, were confiscated by the police.

A police official said that some of the parts were ordered from eBay and could be used to assemble makeshift weapons similar to the M16.

The parts were found in around 200 packages with recipient addresses in the West Bank; the content of which were transferred to the Shin Bet for further investigation.

Police stated that mail packages that arrive in Israel are checked and some pass through scanners according to their threat level which is defined by their destination. Packages which raise concern are transferred for police examination.

In this case, while some 200 packages were deemed not to pose a bomb threat they were stored in one of the Jerusalem mail branches and were later checked by the police.

In addition, border security forces and the Shin Bet seized hundreds of packages containing contraband en route to Gaza in the last few weeks including drones, micro engines, concealed cameras, micro cameras, laser pointers, laser sights and other weapon parts.

The majority of the packages were ordered from the internet and included seemingly innocuous products and devices for allegedly innocent clients. However, it is believed that they were intended for terror activities in the Gaza Strip.

Source: (Ynetnews originally posted this article on 06 February 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: By Neevsky/ Wikipedia

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Praise God for His wisdom that revealed these terror accessories to the Israeli police and Shin Bet, allowing them to be discovered. Continue to pray for all Israel’s security forces to be equipped with wisdom and knowledge in their daily tasks and so frustrate the enemies’ plans.

Scripture

He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot carry out their plans. He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the cunning comes quickly upon them.


- Job 5:12-13

IDF Trains for Hamas Commando Infiltration

by Yoav Zitun and Matan Tzuri

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IDF in training during five-day drill

Monday, 06 February 2017 | The Gaza Division and the Southern Command held their largest annual training operation in which hundreds of soldiers, including reservists, participated in a five-day training exercise in which the IDF [ Israel Defense Forces] simulated a massive infiltration of southern communities by the Hamas commando units.

IDF forces rehearsed scenarios in which large numbers of Hamas commandos managed to infiltrate Israeli communities by parachute, subterranean attack tunnels and the sea.

As part of the exercises, the forces also practiced operations while absorbing incessant rocket and mortar attacks from the Gaza Strip which the IDF expect will happen during the course of the next war with Hamas. Border communities and cities such as Sderot and Ashkelon are expected to take the brunt of such attacks.

IDF special forces units as well as regular infantry and armored brigades took part in the drills, along with the Navy, Airforce and Home Front Command.

Commander of the Gaza Division Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs said, “The Gaza Division exercise was an excellent opportunity to strengthen the preparedness of both active duty and reserve battalions.”

The IDF said the exercise was planned ahead of time as part of 2017 training programs.

Source: (Ynetnews originally posted this article on 03 February 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit

Prayer Focus
Give thanks to the Lord that His promises of trust and the overcoming of fear are set forever. Pray for the IDF as they prepare for all kinds of battle scenarios and for the residents in areas surrounding Gaza to trust in God Almighty, the Redeemer of Israel.

Scripture

My enemies would hound me all day, for there are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? 


- Psalm 56:2-4

Action
Do you trust in the Lord through difficult circumstances? Are you facing opposition because of your support for Israel? Render praises to His Name because His written Word and promises are enduring forever.

Netanyahu Meets with British PM, Calls on UK to Address “Iran’s Aggression”

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PM Netanyahu and British PM May

Tuesday, 06 February 2017 | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday in London where the two leaders spoke of ways to enhance bilateral ties and address mutual threats.

At the start of his meeting with May, Netanyahu—who said he has a photo of Winston Churchill near one of Theodor Herzl in his office—praised their two nations’ “commitment to the values of freedom and our common civilization.”

He also hailed British-Israeli cooperation in trade, technology and security and expressed his desire “to discuss how we can strengthen that cooperation to make our people still safer and still more prosperous.”

The UK, Israel’s second-largest export market after the US, sent $3.7 billion in goods to Israel in 2016 and imported approximately that much as well, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. The Jewish state is the UK’s fourth largest market in the Middle East.

Netanyahu further pointed to joint challenges that the UK and Israel face “from militant Islam and especially from Iran.”

“Iran seeks to annihilate Israel,” Netanyahu stressed. “It says so openly. It seeks to conquer the Middle East. It threatens Europe; it threatens the West; it threatens the world. And it offers provocation after provocation. That’s why I welcome President Trump’s insistence on new sanctions against Iran. I think other nations should follow suit, certainly responsible nations. And I’d like to talk to you on how we can ensure that Iran’s aggression does not go unanswered.”

A spokesperson for May said during a press briefing on Monday, “We share concerns about that test. It was discussed at the UN and we made clear our position.”

The spokesperson added that while it is important that the nuclear deal with Iran “is very carefully and rigorously policed,” the British government believes that it has neutralized Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons “for more than a decade.” (Former President Barack Obama acknowledged in 2015 that by “Year 13, 14, 15” of the deal, Iran’s breakout time would be “almost down to zero.”)

Netanyahu also assured May “that we share with you the desire for peace and this is our dream from day one. And we will never give up on our quest for peace with all of our neighbors.”

In her opening remarks, May reiterated the UK’s support for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians “as the best way of brokering stability and peace.”

She also expressed her desire to discuss “some issues around the region, Syria and Iran and the whole question of the future of the Middle East,” called the UK a “strong and close friend of Israel,” and echoed Netanyahu’s call to find ways to further “build that relationship.”

Speaking at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in December, May said she was “clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and the wider Middle East.” She emphasized her nation’s commitment to countering Iranian aggression, “whether in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Syria or in the Gulf itself.”

Days later, in an address to the Conservative Friends of Israel group, May called Israel “a thriving democracy, a beacon of tolerance, an engine of enterprise and an example to the rest of the world for overcoming adversity and defying disadvantages.”

Downing Street declined to send a high-ranking delegation to a French conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last month, expressing “reservations” over the event and noting that it took place “against the wishes of the Israelis.” The British delegation refused to sign the closing statement from the Paris conference and then prevented the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council from adopting it.

Earlier in January, May issued what many observers called an “unprecedented” public rebuke of then-US Secretary of State John Kerry after his speech about Israeli-Palestinian peace with a spokesman saying that the UK “do[es] not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically-elected government of an ally.” The move came days after the UK voted in favor of United Nations Security Council resolution 2334 which criticized Israeli activity in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. Israeli diplomats have said that the UK played a key role in brokering that resolution.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 06 February 2017. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Ashernet/GPO

Prayer Focus
Bring PM Netanyahu before the Lord asking for favor and wisdom as he travels seeking partnership against Iran’s aggressive threats. Pray for favorable economic trade including technology and security. Pray for other world leaders to join in the fight against militant Islam and terrorism.

Scripture

How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel!  Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you.


- Numbers 24:5, 9b

Israel, Turkey Hold First Strategic Talks in Six Years

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Monday, 06 February 2017 | Israeli and Turkish diplomats conducted their first strategic dialogue in six years in Ankara on Wednesday.

Officials from both countries’ foreign ministries met and discussed economic, academic, and cultural cooperation, according to a statement released by the parties after the talks, Haaretz reported. “Both sides viewed developments in the wide region, particularly in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean, and reaffirmed the importance of better Turkish-Israeli relations for the stability and the security of the region,” the statement read.

The diplomats also agreed that Turkey’s ministers of tourism and economy would visit Israel in the coming weeks.

Turkish-Israeli ties had been strained since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident when a flotilla under the control of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation—a group designated as a terrorist organization by the Netherlands and Germany—attempted to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. IDF [Israel Defense Forces] troops faced an “organized and violent” assault from a group of passengers after boarding the ship, according to a UN report. Ten crew members were killed in the ensuing fight and several Israeli soldiers were injured.

After the reconciliation agreement was reached this past June, Israeli leaders noted the significant economic potential of closer ties. “Trade between Israel and Turkey has more than doubled from the Marmara event up until today,” said Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, adding that the deal will bolster that growth with “joint projects in government level. People are speaking about gas and there are other issues that might emerge.”

Turkey also sent Israel assistance to fight wildfires that raged throughout the country in November.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 03 February 2017. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain/ Pixabay.com

Photo License: Pixabay

Prayer Focus
Intercede that the renewed Turkish-Israeli relationship will help stabilize and secure the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. Pray for the Turkish minister’s visit and future economic, academic and cultural negotiations.

Scripture

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.


- Romans 12:18

African Countries Pivotal to Israel at UN, Says Netanyahu

by Ilse Posselt

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Israeli ambassadors to African countries

Thursday, 09 February 2017 | In July 2016, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit sub-Saharan Africa since 1987, rubbing shoulders with leaders and the business elite in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. According to Netanyahu, the step-up in Israeli-African relations was anything but a one-time focus. Africa, the prime minister said yesterday, occupies a “very high place” on Israel’s foreign policy concerns.

“Africa is as high as it has ever been in the pyramid of our foreign policy interests,” Netanyahu told a gathering of the Jewish state’s diplomatic envoys to the continent held in Jerusalem over the past week. Israel currently has 11 embassies across Africa as well as a number of non-resident ambassadors, The Jerusalem Post reports.

Israel’s top goal in Africa, Netanyahu told the diplomats, is to put a stop to the “automatic” votes against the Jewish state by African representatives at the United Nations (UN). “The first interest is to dramatically change the situation regarding African votes at the UN and other international bodies from opposition to support,” Netanyahu explained.

“Our goal is to change their voting patterns given that the automatic majority against Israel at the UN is composed — first and foremost — of Arab countries. There are 54 countries [in Africa],” the prime minister expounded on his strategy to erode the automatic majority towards the Palestinian side at the UN. “If you change the voting pattern of a majority of them, you at once bring them from one side to the other. We want to erode the opposition and change it to support.”

“The day is not far off when we will have a majority there [at the UN],” Netanyahu vowed. “This sounds delusional? It is not delusional at all,” he assured.

Improving Israel-African relations has been one of Netanyahu’s top foreign priorities over the past year. Apart from the visit last summer to the four East African nations, the prime minister has also met with a number of his African counterparts at the UN last year. Then, in December 2016, Israel invited a number of African countries to attend a three-day conference on agriculture in the Jewish state. Moreover, Togo asked Israel to attend a key African summit taking place later this year.

Historically, the relationship between the Jewish state and the nations of Africa has been a tumultuous one. Although Israel played a prominent part in assisting newly independent African countries to find their feet during the 1960s, the Israeli-Arab conflict resulted in a breakdown in ties. After the 1967 and 1973 wars between Israel and its neighbors, Egypt coerced a number of sub-Saharan African states into shunning Israel.

Ties between the Jewish state and a number of African countries have, however, warmed significantly over the past few years, given the common interest of combating the onslaught of radical Islam. Moreover, various drought-stricken African states have also shown their keen interest in Israeli water and agricultural technology.

In June 2016, the Israeli cabinet approved a NIS 50 million (USD 13.3 million) plan aimed at strengthening economic ties and cooperation between the Jewish state and a number of African countries. “The African continent constitutes vast potential for Israel in very many areas,” Netanyahu said at the time. “Many countries are seeking to open their gates to Israel and we will realize this desire for their benefit and for the benefit of the State of Israel.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 09 February 2017)

Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO

Prayer Focus
Pray for the relationship between Israel and African nations to grow strong in economical and agricultural ties. Cry out that these crucial ties will change the UN’s balance to a pro-Israel majority and will be able to combat the onslaught of radical Islam.

Scripture

Indeed He says, It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.


- Isaiah 49:6

Israeli Archaeologists Find 12th Dead Sea Scrolls Cave

by Edgar Asher

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Entrance to newly discovered cave in Qumran

Thursday, 09 February 2017 | Excavations in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, prove that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were hidden in the cave and were looted by Bedouins in the middle of the last century. With the discovery of this cave, scholars now suggest that it should be numbered as Cave 12.

Archaeologists survey Cave 12

The surprising discovery representing a milestone in Dead Sea Scroll research was made by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology with the help of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia USA.

The excavators are the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to properly excavate it.

The excavation was supported by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and is a part of the new “Operation Scroll” launched at the IAA by its Director-General, Mr. Israel Hasson, to undertake systematic surveys and to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert.

Excavation of the cave revealed that at one time it contained Dead Sea scrolls. Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.

Until now, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained scrolls. With the discovery of this cave, scholars have now suggested that it would be numbered as Cave 12. Like Cave 8 in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found).

“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments and more.”

Remnant of a scroll

The finds from the excavation include not only the storage jars, which held the scrolls, but also fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll. The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that this cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

This first excavation to take place in the northern part of the Judean Desert as part of “Operation Scroll” will open the door to further understanding the function of the caves with respect to the scrolls with the potential of finding new scroll material. The material when published will provide important new evidence for scholars of the archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea caves.

“The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered,” said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We are in a race against time as antiquities’ thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert.”

Source: (Ashernet originally posted this article on 08 February 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Ashernet

Prayer Focus
Proclaim the name of the Lord, giving thanks for the evidence that was found at the Qumran caves. Request the Lord for His angels to protect and preserve all the remaining evidence and heritage assets in the Judean desert from plunder.

Scripture

Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever:


- Isaiah 30:8

Israel Unveils Historic “Mikveh” Path

by Edgar Ashernet

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Site of newly opened pilgrim’s route in the Davidson Center Archaeological Park

Wednesday, 08 February 2017 | A new path running between two thousand year old ritual baths that were used by pilgrims visiting the Temple Mount is to be inaugurated at the Ophel site in the Davidson Center Archaeological Park, in the ‘Walls Around Jerusalem National Park’. The ‘mikveh’ path, which is experiential, circular and modular, was constructed and conserved in recent years by the Israel Antiquities Authority[IAA]. The path has been highlighted and in that way it can be better understood within the historical and archaeological complexity of the Ophel site which was continuously inhabited from the Iron Age to the Crusader period.

The ‘mikveh’ path

The accepted interpretation of the biblical word ‘ophel’ (derived from the root of the Hebrew verb lehaʽapil meaning to ascend) is an elevated portion of the city where a king resided or an administrative center was situated which was probably both high and concealed. In Jerusalem, the ascent was from the south: pilgrims ascended—both physically and spiritually—from the Siloam Pool by way of the City of the David to the Ophel and its ritual baths and from there to the Temple Mount. At the same time festivities and events departed to this area from the Temple Mount in the north. Thus the Ophel constituted an area of transition between the secular and the sacred and the sacred and the secular, the pinnacle of a personal, religious and national journey that took place three times a year at Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

Visitors to the new mikveh path will walk over bridges and stairs that float in between the ruins of buildings and installations and will be accompanied by archaeological, historical and halakhic explanations.  In this way they will be able to learn about the characteristics of ritual baths and their role in Jewish society of the Second Temple period in general, and in this area of the pilgrims route in particular. The route is flanked by shade stations, observation points and gathering areas.

Two thousand year old ritual bath

For hundreds of years after the destruction of the Second Temple Jews were forbidden from residing in Jerusalem, and the city’s non-Jewish inhabitants utilized the abandoned baths for their own purposes as water cisterns, storage spaces, quarries, etc.

The first part of the new path is the ‘descent’—one descends south alongside the southern Ottoman wall outside the Temple Mount, as if on a time line to areas that provide an in-depth illustration of the finds, including an exhibit of stone vessels and an explanation about the purification of vessels, clothes and objects. On the way the visitor learns about the religious laws concerning the mikveh, its operation and the water cisterns.

The second part of the path is the ‘ascent’ where the visitors go up alongside sights and explanations on an experiential route, the pinnacle of which is the exciting vista of the monumental Hulda stairs and the double gate on the southern wall of the Temple Mount. A Jew who arrived at this point in antiquity would enter the sacred compound and fulfill the mitzvah of aliya laregel (pilgrimage).

Source: (Ashernet originally posted this article on 05 February 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Ashernet

Prayer Focus
Magnify the Lord for this great opportunity for Christians to learn more about their Jewish roots as they visit the newly ‘Mikveh’ path. Ask God to reveal the application of understanding the Jewish Scriptures and rituals to Christians today.

Scripture

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.


- Psalm 51:7

Action
Share with your friends how understanding the Hebraic foundations of Christianity has impacted your life and understanding of the Bible. Refer them to our website www.bridgesforpeace.com for great learning materials.

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