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Ukrainian Jews Arriving

Friday, February 25, 2022

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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.

Russia and Ukraine: What You Need to Know

by Kate Norman

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Thousands of families are being displaced from their homes.

Friday, 25 February 2022 | Ukraine is in chaos after the beginning of the Russian invasion yesterday, the largest military action on European soil since World War II.

Explosions are being reported around the country, particularly around the capital of Kyiv. Videos on social media show helicopters and Russian fighter jets launching missiles and fighting Ukrainian aircraft for control of the Ukrainian skies. Pictures show hole-punched apartments and people huddling in the underground train stations to take shelter from the fiery precipitation.

Russia launched the invasion early yesterday morning, beginning with some 100 missiles—including ballistic, surface-to-air and cruise missiles—and 75 bombers launching sorties.

The initial targets were airfields and Ukrainian military sites in an attempt to cripple defensive measures.

Then the ground war began, as Russia sent in convoys and tanks.

The Kremlin is launching its attacks from the north, south and east—prompting Ukrainians to seek safety from where it has always looked: west.

Ukraine shut down its airspace to civilian flights after the invasion began, so Ukrainians who are able to do so have escaped the fighting by crossing into Poland, where makeshift refugee centers are ready and waiting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in a speech justified the Kremlin’s action as a means of defending pro-Russia rebels from the West.

This invasion is the culmination of eight years of fighting in eastern Ukraine. The background goes back to 2014, when Ukraine ousted its pro-Russia president and elected a more Western-friendly government. Moscow responded by invading and annexing the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine. Pro-Russia rebels gained a foothold in eastern Ukraine, where clashes have continued ever since.

On Wednesday, Putin recognized the independence of the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk, strongholds of the Kremlin-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

It gave Russia the foothold it needed to establish a military presence in eastern Ukraine.

Then when the invasion began yesterday morning, planes, troops and convoys poured into Ukraine from Russia’s new eastern-Ukrainian foothold, while convoys also infiltrated from Crimea.

Russia also poured in from the north, where it had troops and tanks stationed in Belarus—conveniently located just north of Kyiv—who were conducting what Russia claimed was merely joint exercises with the Belarussian military.

The Picture So Far

As of Friday morning, 137 Ukrainians have been killed, including 10 military officers and civilians, as well as 316 wounded, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced in a video address, donning a military uniform rather than his usual suit and tie.

The details are foggy amid the chaos ensuing the country, however.

Between 800–2,000 Russian fighters have been killed, the Kyiv Post reported, and the Ukrainian military said it neutralized 30 Russian tanks and between 130–190 armored personnel carriers as well as downing several helicopters.

The 137 Ukrainians killed include soldiers who were obliterated while defending an island in the Black Sea from a Russian war ship. A recording of their interaction before the Russians attacked reveals a loudspeaker announcement from the approaching Russian ship telling the Ukrainians to lay down their weapons or be bombed.

Defiant to the very end, a Ukrainian soldier responds: “Russian warship, go **** yourself.”

“All border guards died heroically but did not give up,” President Zelenskyy said. “They will be awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine posthumously.”

Chaos is the word of the day, as the streets of Kyiv remain empty while the people continue hunkering down in underground train stations, hiding from the near-constant explosions overhead.

Early this morning, a Ukrainian fighter jet was reportedly shot down over Kyiv. A nearby 9-story apartment building reportedly caught fire from falling debris.

Zelenskyy also ordered a mobilization of all of Ukraine’s reserve forces and reportedly banned all males between the ages of 18–60 from leaving the country, indicating that Ukraine will need all hands on deck to defend its soil.

Russia’s main targets have been airports and airfields around the country, which experts say would allow Moscow the footholds it needs to fly in more troops and support to complete its chokehold on Ukraine.

The Kremlin also seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear site, which lies just south of Ukraine’s border with Belarus. This is the infamous site of the nuclear reactor that exploded in 1986, triggering the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday he is “convinced” Russia will attempt to overthrow the government in Kyiv.

Zelensky seemed to agree, as he said in his address that Russian “sabotage groups” have infiltrated the capital, seeking to kill him and his family.

The Russian People’s Response

Putin does not represent all of Russia. Though the state-affiliated media is predictably pro-invasion, thousands of Russians gathered across the nation to protest the aggression against their neighbor—though some 1,745 of them were reportedly arrested in 54 cities, the Associated Press reported, nearly 1,000 in Moscow alone.

Social media videos show Russian police beating up the protestors and dragging them away in an effort to quell the protest. Before the police crackdown began, a petition circulating throughout the day had gotten 330,000 signatures, AP reported.

The Western Response

The United States and other Western nations, including the 27 member states of the European Union and Australia, Japan, South Korea and other allies have responded by launching sanctions against the Kremlin’s banking system and high-powered individuals. Washington is also imposing export controls to choke Russia of technological products.

“As a result of Putin’s war of choice, Russia will face immediate and intense pressure on its economy, and massive costs from its isolation from the global financial system, global trade, and cutting-edge technology,” a White House statement from yesterday reads.

Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden launched what he called the “first tranche” of sanctions against Moscow, targeting what a senior administration official called “a glorified piggy bank for the Kremlin” as well as Russia’s military bank and several top brass and their families.

“That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western financing,” Biden asserted.

Allies of NATO—the Western alliance that Ukraine was seeking to join, which prompted Russia’s ire in the first place—are deploying and shifting troops around eastern Europe. No one is sending troops or reinforcements into Ukraine, however.

Zelensky is unimpressed.

“We are left alone to defend our state,” the president said. “Who is ready to fight with us? Honestly—I do not see.”

But even after upping the ante with sanctions each day as Russia ups its level of aggression in Ukraine, Putin and his cohorts are clearly not too concerned—much less crippled—by the sanctions, as Russian troops, helicopters, tanks and other forces continue wreaking havoc across Ukraine.

Repercussions

It’s not just the Ukrainian people who will suffer; the Russian boom will cause international ripple effects, including soaring oil prices from Russia, spiking wheat prices from Ukraine and a fall in European stocks.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 25, 2022)

Photo Credit: OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine/Commons.wikimedia.org

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Bring this entire terrible situation before the Lord, crying out for His intervention and a quick end to the violence and bloodshed. Pray that He will work in the hearts and minds of the leaders making the decisions so that they will work together for a peaceful resolution. Pray for protection, peace and His presence over the innocent civilians in the path of mayhem.

Scripture

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.


- Proverbs 21:1

The Heart of Ukrainian Jews in Israel: A Firsthand Account

by Ilse Strauss

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A young boy ready to defend his home (illustrative).

Friday, 25 February 2022 | “It is difficult to believe this is happening. I have to pinch myself.”

Elena (not her real name) is far from the only one. Millions around the world are watching the Russian invasion of Ukraine with a sense of shock and stunned disbelief. But for Elena, a Ukrainian-born Israeli, the chilling events unfolding in the headlines like a terrifying memory from world wars past hit very close to home.

Elena and her husband Yvan (not his real name) were born and raised in Ukraine, but made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) nearly 25 years ago. They came as newlyweds with US$100 to their name. “We nearly ended up living on the street,” she laughs. Today, as they watch the horrors unfolding in the country of their birth, they are so thankful for making the move.

Yet Elena and Yvan left pieces of their heart in Ukraine, bidding farewell to family, friends and neighbors. Over the years, they’ve remained close to many of them. And now, as the Russians advance, the ones they hold close to their hearts are the ones stuck in congested traffic trying to flee the capital or huddled in Kyiv’s underground metro stations as the Russian bombs fall. Worse still, uncles, cousins and nephews who were lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs and farmers before the Russians came are now the soldiers—the defenders of Ukraine—facing the Red army.

“Yvan’s cousin is 56 years old, and he has been drafted into the army,” Elena told me. “Everyone—young and old—is being drafted into the army. This is very painful. It is touching very personally.”

The couple’s distress is clearly evident. Yvan receives message after heartbreaking message from relatives and friends in Ukraine. As he showed us video clips of the opening acts of the unfolding war—a firsthand account taken by people he cherish—he was visibly shaking.

Sadly, Israel is filled with people in a similar situation as Elena and Yvan. The Jewish state boasts a significant population of Ukrainian Jews who have made aliyah, with some 500,000 now calling Israel home, the Atlantic Council reported. Thousands of them have come home in recent years. Many of them have mothers, fathers, sons and daughters still living in Ukraine and now facing the Russian onslaught. All of them are frantic. Communication channels are patchy and messages filter through irregularly. This subjects them to a daily agony of waiting for news from loved ones, agonizing over every lengthy silence.

At Bridges for Peace, this situation is particularly close to our hearts too. Over the years, we have helped thousands of Ukrainian Jews come home to Israel and then helped them with food and other necessities as they learn the language, find a job and settle into their new home country. In 2021 alone, it has been our honor to welcome 1,446 Ukrainian Jews home. We stand with them as they mourn the fate of their motherland and fret over loved ones who are still there.

Even as the war drums started beating and Russian troops amassed on the border, our team in Ukraine continued working tirelessly to help as many Jewish people as possible come to Israel. Since the Russian invasion, we have been unable to communicate with our team. We continue to pray for their safety.

At the same time, we are taking action. The escalating tensions in Ukraine come with an added risk to its Jewish population, which totals between 150,000–200,000, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “When troubles came in the past, the Jews were often blamed, even if they weren’t at fault,” says Elena.

Ukrainian Jews may very well be caught in the crosshairs. Thankfully—and unlike so many times in the past—these Jews have a safe haven where they can run to for shelter: Israel. And we, as Christians around the world who stand with the Jewish people, can help them reach that sanctuary.

“Nobody could imagine that a war could happen again. But it is happening,” says Elena.

We don’t have to sit idly by as these horrors unfold before our eyes. Bridges for Peace will continue to be a helping hand to the Ukrainian Jews in their time of need—and you can strengthen that helping hand. We implore you to stand with us in prayer for Ukraine, for Elena and Yvan, for the thousands of other Ukrainian Jews like them here in Israel, for their families and loved ones as they flee, seek shelter or don an ill-fitting uniform. You can also give financially. Your gift will make a direct impact, helping to bring someone in danger to safety. And who knows? Perhaps “you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 25, 2022)

Photo Credit: Mikhail Evstafiev/Фото: Михаил Евстафьев/Commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the God of Israel, the One who never slumbers nor sleeps (Ps. 121:4), to cover the Jews of Ukraine with His protection. Pray that He will make a way for them through the peril and dangers to return to the safety of Israel in fulfilment of His prophecies and promises. Also pray for our team that the Lord will grant them wisdom, insight and protection as they continue to work in this highly volatile situation.

Scripture

He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge.


- Psalm 91:4

Gantz: Nuclear Deal with Iran Opens Door to ‘Important Actions that Must Be Taken’

by Alex Traiman ~ JNS

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Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz speaks during a Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022 | Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned on Tuesday that the international community “must be ready to take defensive and offensive actions…at any time,” as world powers negotiate a new nuclear deal in Vienna with Iran.

Gantz said the international community has the means to apply severe pressure on Iran, “regardless of whether a nuclear agreement is reached.”

He made his remarks to a delegation of American leaders in Israel with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. They come just days after Gantz met with world leaders, including US Vice President Kamala Harris, at the recent Munich Conference in Germany.

Gantz suggested that international powers seem fully aligned on a return to a nuclear deal with Iran, despite the dangers such a deal poses, not only to Israel but to the entire world.

He criticized world leaders for caving toward Iranian demands and lifting sanctions without gaining much in return. “I would hate to see the world strategically bent before the Iranian program,” he said.

He also emphasized that the global community has “the means as a community to pressure Iran, regardless of whether a nuclear agreement is reached.” He said that even if leaders are intent on signing another deal, pressure placed on Tehran “will end up bringing a better deal.”

“I hope that a deal, if it is reached, will be better than it looks like right now,” he said.

At the same time, despite his pessimism regarding the conclusion of the talks, Gantz noted that a deal does not necessarily tie Israel’s hands.

“A nuclear deal, if signed with Iran, does not mark the end of the road,” he stated. “It opens the door to important actions that must be taken.”

Such actions may become necessary as a “means to stopping the development of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons,” he said.

Israeli leaders have decided not to engage in a war of words with American leaders over the negotiations. “It won’t help me to criticize,” said Gantz. “However, it is my duty to prepare the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and the security establishment of Israel to be ready to act, when and if needed at any given time, in the present and future. Israel will defend its people at any time when it feels it needs to do so.”

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 22, 2022. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/JNS.org

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord for a change in the international communities’ approach to these negotiations. Plead with the Lord that world leaders will not cave to Iranian demands but will use their means as a community to pressure Iran, if nothing else, into an agreement that is “a better deal.”

Scripture

He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction; bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in You.


- Psalm 55:22b–23

World-first: Israeli Therapy Dramatically Reduces PTSD Symptoms

by JNS

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A hyperbaric oxygen chamber (illustrative)

Wednesday, 23 February 2022 | Israeli researchers have managed to relieve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms of 35 IDF [Israel Defense Forces] combat veterans using hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

The scientists and doctors from Tel Aviv University and Shamir Medical Center said all of the vets who were treated showed significant improvement in all classes of symptoms following a controlled clinical trial. The results were published in the scientific journal PlosOne.

Nearly 4% of people worldwide and 30% of all combat soldiers develop PTSD, according to the World Health Organization.

A release by Tel Aviv University explained that “hyperbaric medicine involves treatments in a pressurized chamber where atmospheric pressure is higher than sea-level pressure and the air is rich with oxygen.”

For medical indications, HBOT must be given in a certified chamber and overseen by a qualified physician.

The soldiers in the study had all previously been resistant to psychiatric medications and psychotherapy, according to Dr. Keren Doenyas-Barak.

Participants were divided into two groups: One group received 60 HBOT treatments and the other served as a control.

“Both functional and structural improvement was observed in the non-healing brain wounds that characterize PTSD,” said Doenyas-Barak. “We believe that in most patients, improvements will be preserved for years after the completion of the treatment.”

PTSD is caused by a biological wound in brain tissues, said Professor Shai Efrati.

“With the new HBOT protocols, we can activate mechanisms that repair the wounded brain tissue,” he explained. “The treatment induces reactivation and the proliferation of stem cells, as well as generation of new blood vessels and increased brain activity, ultimately restoring the functionality of the wounded tissues. Our study paves the way to a better understanding of the connection between mind and body.”

It also gives hope to PTSD sufferers. “For the first time in years the study’s participants, most of whom had suffered from severe PTSD, were able to leave the horrors behind and look forward to a better future,” said Doenyas-Barak.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 22, 2022. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/JNS.org

Prayer Focus
Praise God for this incredible life-altering treatment for severe PTSD. Pray that it will very quickly be made available to the millions of people worldwide who suffer with the horrors of this crippling disorder. May each one know that their relief has come as a blessing from the God of Israel.

Scripture

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me.


- Psalm 23:4a

Israel Reportedly Strikes Syrian Targets for Second Time this Week

by Ilse Strauss

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The Quneitra area in Syria as viewed from the Israeli Golan Heights

Wednesday, 23 February 2022 | Israel allegedly fired several surface-to-surface missiles from the Golan Heights after midnight on Tuesday, striking targets across the border in neighboring southern Syria. This is the second such strike attributed to Jerusalem in a week and the third this month.

According to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), this morning’s missiles targeted “some points in the vicinity of Quneitra,” which lies just across the border from the Israeli Golan Heights in the demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria.

The strike reportedly caused “material damage” but no casualties.

The report did not give details of the specific targets that came under fire, but according to local journalists, Israel struck an observation post and a “finance building,” both within close proximity to the border.

This is reportedly the second time the Jewish state had Syria in its crosshairs this week. Late last week, Israel allegedly fired surface-to-surface missiles at Iranian targets south of Damascus. And two weeks ago, an anti-aircraft missile from Syria had the air raid sirens wailing in northern Israel, purportedly fired at warplanes from the Jewish state conducting a strike near the capital.

In line with its standard policy of remaining mum on operations conducted on foreign soil, Israel did not comment on any of the three strikes.

However, the powers-that-be in Jerusalem have made it clear that the Jewish state has conducted numerous air strikes in war-torn Syria, all with a singular purpose: preventing Iran and its proxies—particularly Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah—from gaining a foothold on Israel’s doorstep.

The two strikes this week do, however, deviate from Israel’s usual modus operandi. Jerusalem typically employs warplanes to strike Iranian military sites, munitions depots or convoys of state-of-the-art weapons heading for Hezbollah’s open arms.

The Times of Israel ascribes the change in tactics to surface-to-surface missiles fired from Israeli soil to a recent conversation between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s key ally and the main source of Damascus’s air defense system.

Israeli jets have reportedly bested the Russian batteries repeatedly, and in a bid to avoid adding more egg to Moscow’s face, Jerusalem agreed to tone down on the number of Israeli planes in Syrian skies.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 23, 2022)

Photo Credit: Masterpjz9/Commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that all of Israel’s attempts to thwart Iranian progression on their borders will be successful. Also pray that Israeli leaders will be able to maintain cordial relations with Russia while continuing to take whatever protective measures they deem necessary.

Scripture

The LORD will give strength to His people; the LORD will bless His people with peace.


- Psalm 29:11

Back to Normal? Israel Opens to Unvaccinated Tourists

by Ilse Strauss

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A new dawn for the Israeli tourism industry

Monday, 21 February 2022 | Come March 1, the doors to Israel will once again swing open to welcome unjabbed tourists back to the Promised Land, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced yesterday. The move winds up a nearly two-year bar on unvaccinated noncitizens entering the Jewish state, and will hopefully serve as a crucial step in resuscitating a decimated tourism industry.

Under the new rules, both vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors will have only two hurdles to clear for entry: a negative PCR test before boarding the flight and taking another test after touching down. A negative result or 24 hours later—whichever comes first—tourists will have the all clear to explore the Promised Land.

Israel first sealed its borders in March 2020, when the first wave of the COVID pandemic crashed onto the nation’s shores, and largely kept them shut for the next year-and-a-half-plus as infection numbers waxed and waned through five waves.

In May 2021, the hard-hit tourism sector saw a brief flicker of light in an otherwise dark tunnel when organized groups were allowed to enter Israel under strict conditions. Yet the capacity was so limited that it could barely be considered a drop in the ocean.

Then, on November 1, the doors swung open to vaccinated and recovered tourists, only to slam shut again a month later in a bid to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

Israel took another swing at breathing new life into the floundering tourism sector by once again loosening restrictions early in January, welcoming jabbed and recovered visitors. However, the doors remained barred to those who have not been vaccinated.

Now there’s another surge of hope—right in time for Passover and the summer holidays.

Bennett ascribed the decision to reopen to the unvaccinated to the continued fading of the fifth wave of infections fueled by the Omicron variant and declining morbidity rates.

“We see a consistent fall in the infection figures and so this is the time to gradually reopen what we were the first to close,” the prime minister said, following a meeting with Health Minister Nitzan Horowith and Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov yesterday.

“At the same time, we will keep our finger on the pulse, and in the event of a new variant, we will again react swiftly,” he added.

Various Israeli leaders lauded the decision. “After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the time has come to return to a more normal reality and to live alongside this virus, along with appropriate measures to preserve public health. The opening of Israel’s skies is great news for anyone with family in Israel who can now come and celebrate Passover and Purim [Feast of Esther] together here in Israel. We’re waiting for you!” Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai said.

At Bridges for Peace, we echo Shai’s sentiments. After two years of a COVID-induced tourism drought, we are so excited to welcome Christian tourists from around the world back to the Promised Land. As Israel takes its first tentative steps into a new normal, and as many around the world rejoice at the prospect of returning to the land and city of God’s heart, we pray for many safe, healthy trips.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 21, 2022)

Photo Credit: Keith Chan/Unsplash.com

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that Israel has finally reached the decision to open the country’s borders to tourists from around the world. Pray that many will come and fall in love with the land, creating advocates, strengthening faith and rebuilding Israel’s economy. Also pray that the Lord will protect Israel and all of her visitors from any further outbreaks of the virus.

Scripture

They will ask for the way to Zion, turning their faces in its direction; they will come so that they may join themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.


- Jeremiah 50:5 NASB

Hezbollah Drone Triggers Air Raid Sirens in Northern Israel

by Kate Norman

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An unmanned Hezbollah aerial vehicle (illustrative)

Monday, 21 February 2022 | On Friday afternoon, a drone crossed into northern Israel from Lebanon, triggering sirens and aerial defense systems, the Israeli military announced.

However, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) lost radar contact with the drone after a few minutes, and despite the military scrambling helicopters and fighter jets as well as launching an Iron Dome defense battery, the drone crossed back into Lebanon unhindered.

“The event is under investigation and civilian life has returned to routine,” the IDF announced on Twitter.

Hours later, Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist entity based in Lebanon, claimed credit for the “Hassan” drone.

The terror army issued a statement claiming the unmanned vehicle was launched into the Jewish state on a reconnaissance mission that lasted over 40 minutes and infiltrated over 70 kilometers (43 mi.) into Israel before getting caught. The IDF, on the other hand, said the drone was in Israeli airspace for just minutes.

Hours later, Israeli fighter jets flew over the Lebanese capital of Beirut at what was reportedly the lowest altitude in years. The jets arrived from the direction of the Mediterranean Sea, circled Beirut for several minutes and then returned to Israel, having made their point.

The day before Friday’s incident, the IDF downed two drones: one from the north along the border with Lebanon—also belonging to Hezbollah, and the other in southern Israel that had crossed from Gaza. The Israeli military shot down the drone from Gaza, but the device was able to cross back over the border and crash into the Gaza Strip.

Earlier last week, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah announced that the terror army has been producing its own drones “in Lebanon for a long time, and whoever wants to buy them, submit an order,” as quoted by the Times of Israel.

Drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are becoming an increasing security threat to Israel and worldwide. They are small—thus harder to detect and track—cheap, and can be used simply for reconnaissance missions as well as suicide attacks.

“It is cheap and easy to carry out attacks with them,” an unnamed senior official warned the Times of Israel last week.

The IDF therefore has to constantly stay on its toes and vigilantly guard against these physically small threats that can have big repercussions along the Jewish state’s northern and southern borders.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 21, 2022)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/Commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that Israel will remain vigilant and alert, detecting every device that would attempt to cross her borders, regardless of size. Ask the Lord to protect the land from any apparatus whose intent is to gather intel or to wreak havoc through suicide attacks.

Scripture

Let all those who hate Zion be put to shame and turned back.


- Psalm 129:5

Public Disaster Looms in Form of Major Earthquake in Israel

by Israel Kasnett ~ JNS

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Members of the Knesset Honor Guard, the Israeli Defense Forces Home Front Command, firefighters, police and Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency medical services participate in an emergency drill simulating an earthquake near Ashkelon.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022 | Screams pierce the air as the dust clears and survivors begin to emerge from the rubble. More than 10,000 people have been killed and 20,000 more are injured. Thousands of buildings across the country have collapsed. In some areas, there is deathly silence; in others, cries for help can be heard from beneath the debris. The streets are impassable; shattered glass, bricks and chunks of concrete are strewn everywhere. Trees, light poles and electrical wires lie across the ground, and where there were once unbroken roads, deep cracks and chasms now threaten cars and pedestrians.

Dazed citizens sit on the curb as they nurse their wounds and mourn dead loved ones. Some able survivors begin to search for spouses, children, parents. In many cases, it’s too late. Water gushes everywhere from ruptured pipes, and the unmistakable smell of natural gas hangs in the air. One errant spark could cause an explosion and, with it, more death and injury. Emergency services are overwhelmed; many of the main roads are impassable, and they can’t reach the wounded, let alone transport them to a hospital. Those with life-threatening injuries will die as a result. And if the dead aren’t removed, identified and buried quickly, disease may spread, and the stench will become unbearable.

This terrifying scenario is not unlikely, nor is it war-related. Israel today faces a looming threat; it is due for a massive, imminent earthquake that could happen at any time.

Israel sits on the Syrian–African rift fault line—a junction of the major African and Arabian tectonic plates, which run through the Red Sea, the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley up to northern Syria. A smaller rift also branches west through Israel’s Carmel region.

In 2012, Israel held its first national exercise to examine how prepared the country and its institutions are for a severe earthquake. The results were dismal. The question is: How much more prepared is Israel a decade later? Many experts seem to agree: not much. Most Israeli citizens today know what to do in the event of a rocket attack but have no idea what to do in the event of an earthquake. This ignorance is dangerous and could result in many preventable deaths.

‘The Only Source of Information’

Shmuel Marco, an expert on earthquakes at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geophysics, told JNS that the government must make preparations based on existing knowledge from previous earthquakes “because this is the only source of information we have about what earthquakes might do in the future.”

Marco noted that the government is already in the process of creating an early warning system in case of such an event.

On February 7, Israel formally launched a national earthquake early warning system (EEWS) named TRUAA that could alert Israel’s Home Front Command within seconds once it detects earthquake signs.

A pair of earthquakes that shook northern Israel on February 15 and February 16 prompted further calls from local council heads to improve municipal and national readiness before disaster strikes.

The Geological Survey of Israel (GSI) reported that a magnitude 3.1 tremor shook the north on Wednesday morning, about 12 hours after a magnitude 3.5 earthquake was felt in the same area on Tuesday evening. The epicenter of the quakes was some 15 kilometers (9 miles) northeast of Beit She’an, according to the GSI.

These quakes make for four tremors in the area in the span of less than a month: on February 3, a magnitude 5.4 earthquake occurred in Cyprus and was also felt in Israel. Then days before that, residents of Tiberias, Tzfat, Yavne’el, Haifa and the Krayot area in northern Israel reported feeling a 4.1 magnitude earthquake, the epicenter of which was 10 miles (16 km.) northeast of Beit She’an, south of the Sea of Galilee.

The most extensive and deadly event in the region until now occurred in July 1927, and before that in 1837. An even earlier earthquake took place in 1759. The 1927 earthquake resulted in 285 dead and 940 wounded, as well as caused extensive damage to buildings.

GSI has now upgraded and expanded the national Israeli Seismic Network (ISN) with more than 110 stations countrywide as part of the implementation of TRUAA. The stations are distributed mainly along the main fault systems, the Dead Sea Transform and the Carmel–Zfira Fault.

‘A Considerable Challenge’

While earthquakes cannot be predicted with today’s technology, EEWS is a tool to reduce earthquake risk to the maximum extent possible. Their basic approach is to issue an alert as soon as possible following the occurrence of an earthquake before damaging seismic waves arrive and cause destruction, injury and possible death.

Marco explained that Israel’s TRUAA relies upon detecting the preliminary pressure (P) waves, which could, in theory, give the public a few extra seconds to exit buildings and dangerous areas before the more destructive secondary shear (S) waves hit.

Whatever damage is caused by the S wave, could also potentially be exacerbated by any aftershocks that follow.

The next challenge, according to Marco, is to connect the system to the public. The government is urging the public to install an app by the Home Front Command on their phones so they will receive a warning if an earthquake hits.

“But this is not enough,” warned Marco. “It won’t save many lives.”

He suggested the country needs to come up with a system that would automatically disconnect gas connections and high-voltage power lines, as well as bring elevators down to the ground floor.

“There are many connections like these that need to be automatic and operational in order to save lives,” he said.

Marco also emphasized that the warning system “needs to be made highly dependable, which is a considerable challenge,” especially since people often ignore what they perceive to be false alarms.

Experts agree that while many people will be able to exit their homes, this is not the case for the thousands of people stuck in public areas. For this reason, the country needs to focus on reinforcing all public buildings, such as hospitals and schools, in addition to structures that tend to be full of large groups of people, such as office buildings.

For years, scientists have searched for ways to predict earthquakes. Studies have shown that animal behavior often changes dramatically in the minutes and seconds leading up to an earthquake. Preliminary research has shown that some animals are indeed capable of detecting seismic activity. Elephants, for instance, have pressure receptors in the soles of their feet that can perceive infrasound at a frequency below the human hearing threshold. Thus, they can detect foreshocks and earthquakes long before humans can.

The International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space (ICARUS) is a program through which scientists are working together to develop a satellite-based system to find out more about the life of animals on earth: the migratory routes they take, their living conditions and their behaviors. By attaching mini-transmitters to a variety of animal species, scientists can send the data to space where it will then be transmitted to a ground station and studied by researchers. The information could even help to predict ecological changes and natural disasters, such as earthquakes.

Amos Salamon, a senior researcher at GSI, told JNS that the threat of a tsunami is another issue facing Israel in the event of an earthquake. He said a tsunami could hit “anywhere from Haifa down to Ashkelon.”

“Earthquakes of magnitude 6 and above along the Jordan Valley can trigger a submarine landslide that, in turn, can generate a tsunami,” he explained. “This is the reason for the Home Front Command instructions. If you are near the coast and feel strong shaking, you should evacuate immediately away from the shore to higher ground and follow evacuation signs.”

Experts agree that Israel needs to study disaster-risk reduction methods to prevent as many deaths and injuries as possible. Since national emergency services will likely be hampered in their ability to reach so many victims, one suggestion has been for each municipality to be responsible for the preparation of its own citizens for such an event. This could include ensuring that a certain percentage of the population of each municipality is trained as a first responder. Another suggestion is that citizens should stockpile basic medical supplies, in addition to water and nonperishable food to last a few days.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 21, 2022. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Yaniv Nadav/Flash90/JNS.org

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to bless Israel’s scientific community with great wisdom as they attempt to prepare the nation for a potential devastating earthquake. Pray that the Lord will protect His people from this terrifying scenario and for His guidance as Israeli experts do their due diligence to save lives.

Scripture

Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.


- Psalm 46:2

Area C of the “West Bank,” EU Hypocrisy, and Double Standards

by Amb. Alan Baker ~ JCPA

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The EU flag

Monday, 21 February 2022 | Recent policy decisions by the European Union [EU] regarding the Israeli–Palestinian dispute indicate profound contradictions, double standards and hypocrisy.

Being signatories as witnesses to the 1991-3 Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], together with the United States, Russia, Norway and Egypt, the EU took upon itself a responsibility to encourage the parties to observe the obligations and commitments encapsulated in the accords and ensure that they would be duly honored and followed by the parties.

By the same logic, one would expect that those witnesses, all highly involved and active stakeholders in the Middle East peace process, would meticulously ensure that they honor the agreements and refrain from any action that could undermine or frustrate them. The significance of such expectation would be that a witness would seek to assist the parties to fulfill their respective commitments pursuant to the accords and not encourage one of the parties to violate such commitments.

This would be the obvious responsibility of a witness to such a vital international instrument. Otherwise, why would the EU or any of the other witnesses have added their signatures to the accords?

Witnesses should refrain from actively seeking to undermine and frustrate the accords by urging the Palestinian leadership to summarily violate their obligations and thereby hinder the viability and integrity of the accords.

Even if the EU takes issue with the manner in which Israel or the Palestinian leadership implements or fails to implement the accords, the EU, as a party seeking to help advance the peace process, should act with the parties to assist in settling any dispute rather than encourage that party to openly and blatantly work to defy the accords.

Regrettably, this is precisely what the EU is doing in assisting the Palestinian leadership to violate the Oslo Accords by encouraging and financing unauthorized development projects and building in that part of the West Bank area of Judea and Samaria under the control and jurisdiction of Israel.

The Governance of Area C

In the 1993–5 Oslo Accords, the PLO and Israel agreed to divide the governance of the territories pending the outcome of negotiations on their permanent status.

They agreed that the parts of the territory highly populated by Palestinians—denominated as Areas A and B—would be under the jurisdiction and control of a “Palestinian Authority” established by the parties for that purpose. They also agreed that the remaining parts of the territory, containing Israeli population centers and military installations—denominated as Area C—would be under the exclusive military and civilian control and jurisdiction of Israel.

They agreed that in their respective areas of control and jurisdiction, each party would legislate and govern according to its own procedures, laws, regulations and orders, including the areas of planning, zoning and construction.

Accordingly, EU projects dedicated to development, agricultural and other forms of assistance intended to contribute to “Area C and Palestinian state-building,” and the 2021 Oxfam initiative financed and sponsored by the EU—“Promotion of Inclusive Agricultural Growth to Ensure Improved Living Standards and Resilience of Vulnerable Communities in Area C of the West Bank [Judea and Samaria]”—can only be pursued with the agreement of and in coordination with the Israeli Civil Administration, which, pending any further agreement between the parties, is the agreed-upon governing authority in Area C.

By the same token, EU initiatives for roads, water, and infrastructure, municipal, educational and medical projects in the area must be coordinated with Israel.

In light of the responsibilities of the EU as a witness to the Oslo Accords, any official directive by the EU to mobilize and activate “national and international stakeholders through ad-hoc influencing actions on land rights to challenge the Israeli planning and permit regime in Area C” clearly and openly seeks to undermine and violate the agreed-upon responsibilities and jurisdiction by Israel in Area C.

If the EU entertains genuine concerns about Israel’s planning and permit policies in the area or about the manner in which Israel governs the area, including Israel’s policies with regard to building Israeli communities, the EU has the prerogative, as a witness to the Oslo Accords, to actively raise such concerns with Israel and to express its views.

However, deliberately encouraging the Palestinians to defy and undermine Israel’s authority in Area C runs counter to the spirit and word of the Oslo Accords and violates the EU’s status as witness to the accords.

EU Policy Regarding the Territories, including Area C

Official EU policy as set out in policy papers dated April 2013 issued by the EU Directorate-General for External Policies and in January 2019 determines that “Area C is part of the occupied Palestinian territory and part of any viable future Palestinian state. All EU activity in the West Bank is fully in line with international law.”

Here again, the EU is at variance with its obligations as a witness to the Oslo Accords.

By determining that the territory, or any part thereof, is “occupied Palestinian territory,” the EU is prejudging the outcome of the agreed negotiation process between Israel and the PLO set out in the Oslo Accords on the issue of the permanent status of the territory.

The question as to the outcome of the permanent status negotiations, including whether there will be one, two or three states, or a federation or confederation, will be ultimately determined through negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians, and not through unilateral political determinations by the EU and others regarding a “two-state solution” or any other outcome.

Since the Palestinian leadership is committed to negotiate this issue, any unilateral EU determination as to the status of the territory being Palestinian is premature and ill-advised. It indicates that the EU has taken a partisan position on an open negotiating issue in violation of its moral commitment as a witness to the accords.

Israeli Communities

The oft-repeated EU mantra regarding the “illegality” of Israeli settlements in the West Bank under international law represents a further example of the EU’s misrepresentation of the legal situation and its undermining of the Oslo Accords.

The regime governing the division of governance of the territories pending the outcome of the negotiations on permanent status, as agreed between Israel and the PLO in the 1993-5 Oslo Accords, replaced any previous legal regime acknowledged by the EU and others, based on the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.

In the same context of the Oslo Accords, the issue of settlements was agreed upon as a permanent status negotiating issue between the Palestinians and Israel.

By repeatedly criticizing and misrepresenting Israel’s policy, the EU is taking a partisan position on an issue that is an agreed negotiating issue between the parties.

While the EU has the prerogative to criticize and express political opinions as to Israel’s policies, its status as a witness to the Oslo Accords obligates it to maintain a bipartisan position on issues that are on the negotiating table between the parties.

Conclusion

The EU cannot maintain the status of “witness” to the Oslo Accords while at the same time systematically undermining those Accords and encouraging the Palestinians to violate them.

The EU is acting with unclean hands and must determine whether it is in a position to continue to be a stakeholder in the Middle East peace negotiations or whether it has become a partisan element undermining the negotiation process.

If such is the case, it is incumbent upon the EU to withdraw itself from the status of witness to the Accords.

Rather than encourage the Palestinians to violate the Accords, the EU might prefer to encourage them to return to the negotiating table.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on February 15, 2022. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: MPD01605/Commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that the EU will act with integrity, either ceasing to take a partisan position by encouraging Palestinians to violate existing agreements or withdrawing itself from the status of witness to the accords.

Scripture

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


- Proverbs 11:3

Israel Completes Successful Live-fire Testing of ‘Naval Iron Dome’

by JNS

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The “C-Dome” successfully identified and intercepted rockets, cruise missiles and drones.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022 | Israel has completed a series of live-fire tests of the naval version of its Iron Dome missile defense system, called “C-Dome,” according to the Israeli Defense Ministry.

The crew of the INS Magen, one of Israel’s new Sa’ar 6-class missile corvettes, led the tests, which simulated various advanced threat scenarios, including rockets, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Development of “C-Dome” was led by the Israel Missile Defense Organization in Israel’s Defense Ministry. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz lauded the tests, calling them “unprecedented.”

“The systems that we are developing as part of Israel’s multitier missile defense array enable us to operate against Iranian proxies in the region and defend against their weapon systems, which are constantly being upgraded. We continue to be two steps ahead of them, and we will continue developing and upgrading our capabilities in order to maintain security superiority in the region and to defend the citizens and assets of the State of Israel,” he said, according to the statement.

IMDO [Israel Missile Defense Organization] Director Moshe Patel said, “Today we mark another historic milestone for the Iron Dome defense system—the completion of a series of successful offshore tests of the missile defense system onboard a naval vessel.”

The system had accurately identified rockets, cruise missiles and drones, he said, and intercepted them with “surgical precision.”

“The success of today’s tests further strengthens our confidence in our missile defense systems as well as the ability of the Israeli Navy to defend the maritime assets of the State of Israel,” said Patel.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 21, 2022. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Ministry of Defense/JNS.org

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that Israel continues to be one step ahead of her enemies who are constantly upgrading their weapons capabilities. Beseech Him that they will always be able to defend and protect the nation from attacks, whether on land and sea or in the air.

Scripture

I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. When my enemies turn back…


- Psalm 9:1–3a