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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.

All Quiet on the Northern Front?

by Ilse Strauss

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the security cabinet on a fact finding tour of the Golan Heights where they were briefed by the IDF.

Wednesday, 07 February 2018 │ At the end of last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Following the meeting, Netanyahu said during a press conference that the talks with his Russian counterpart were “good.” Then the prime minister stressed a point that he—and a number of other Israeli military and political officials—have been hammering home recently: “We are now on the cusp of a watershed moment of whether Iran will entrench itself there [in Syria and Lebanon] or if the process will be stopped,” Netanyahu shared with the media. “I told Putin that if it is not stopped by itself, we will act to stop it. In practice, we are already operating.”

The prime minister’s warning is not new. In fact, it is one he has repeated in various forums and to a number of world leaders: Israel cannot and will not allow Iran—a country with the reputation as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror and one that threatens the Jewish state and its citizens with annihilation at regular intervals—to gain a military foothold on its doorstep. However, this time, the warning was delivered upfront, with no room for ambiguity, to the man at the helm of a country with a vested stake in the events that play out beyond Israel’s northern border and that counts Iran as one of its allies in the Syrian Civil War.

In the days following the Netanyahu–Putin meeting, various Israeli lawmakers repeated the prime minister’s warning, each echoing the same urgency and forthrightness.

In late January, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Brigadier-General Ronen Manelis published an op-ed in the Arab media urging the people of Lebanon to open their eyes to the fact that Iran was taking over their country though its terror proxy, Hezbollah. “Lebanon has turned… into one large missile factory,” Manelis wrote. “It is no longer a transfer of arms, funds or consultation. Iran has de facto opened a new branch, the ‘Lebanon branch.’ Iran is here. The IDF is ready and capable of [tackling] any scenario… [O]ur security red lines are clearly demarcated.”

Days later, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman upped the threat level by issuing a direct, personal warning to the Iranians constructing precision-guided missile factories in Lebanon for Hezbollah’s use against Israel. “I can clarify that we are determined to prevent Iran from entrenching itself in Syria. We are aware of missile manufacturing sites in Lebanon, and we are familiar with the people involved in the production of those missiles,” he said. “We are determined to prevent Lebanon from becoming one big factory for the production of precision-guided missiles.”

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz soon followed suit, telling Ynetnews in an interview that, “Israel has set a red line—it will not allow Lebanon to become a factory for the production of precision-guided missiles for Iran. We have worked to prevent this from happening in Syria through Iranian weapon smuggling, and we are now making it clear that we will not allow Iran to build factories for the production of precision-guided missiles or for the conversion of missiles on Lebanese soil. This has been clarified in talks with Russia too, and certainly with the United States and other European countries, as messages aimed at preventing a war and a conflict we have no interest in. We are making our red line clear.”

The past few days have thus seen various Israeli politicians all speaking in one voice, upping the urgency level and driving the point home that the Jewish state might soon turn these warnings into action. Does this mean that Israel is preparing for a defensive strike? Hebrew media continues to speculate.

Whether Iran, Syria and Hezbollah are heeding Israel’s calls for peace remains another unanswered question. Russia is, however, taking the warnings seriously. Following the Netanyahu–Putin meeting, Moscow reportedly dispatched a delegation to Jerusalem last week to work at preventing an Israeli strike on Iranian missile production factories in Lebanon and Syria, the London-based Arab newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, claimed.

In the meantime, Lebanon’s three top leaders accused Israel yesterday of threatening the stability and peace of the region. The accusation pertains to the Jewish state’s efforts to bolster security by constructing a security wall running along stretches of the border between Israel and Lebanon. The government embarked on the project last year after the IDF identified the Israel–Lebanon border as vulnerable to terrorist infiltration attempts. However, the Lebanese president, prime minister and parliament speaker called the security measures “Israeli threats,” which pose “a direct threat to stability” on the Israel–Lebanon border.

As Lebanon’s top three leaders deliberated, Netanyahu and members of the security cabinet toured the Israel–Syria border on the Golan Heights on Tuesday to receive briefings from IDF Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot, on the situation in the area. At the end of the tour, the prime minister once again cautioned, “We desire peace, but remain prepared for any scenario. I do not suggest anyone to test that resolve.”

Later yesterday Netanyahu reiterated that Israel has “extraordinary determination to defend our country.”

Tensions on the northern border escalated another notch early this morning, following an air strike on a military base belonging to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad near Damascus. According to the Syrian army, the Jewish state conducted the strike from Lebanese airspace. In keeping with standard Israeli policy to remain mum on any alleged activities outside the country’s borders, the IDF refrained from commenting on its supposed role in this morning’s strike.

The Syrian military claims that its aerial defense system intercepted all the missiles. However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, say that at least some of the projectiles found their mark, hitting a ammunition depot at Jamraya, some 10 kilometers (7 miles) northwest of Damascus. Jamraya houses a number of military positions as well as a branch of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC). The SSRC is notorious for allegedly playing a role in chemical weapons production.

The strike comes a day after Amnesty International accused the Assad regime of using chlorine gas in an attack on a Syrian town on Sunday. The Amnesty International press release says that testimony gathered from the scene of the attack proves that the Syrian governed used the banned chemical weapons intentionally.

Since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, Israel has gone to great lengths to steer clear of the fighting across its border. Moreover, following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the Israeli–Lebanese border has remained relatively quiet. The events of the past week have, however, prompted reports from Israeli media calling the seeming calm deceptive. All is not quiet on the northern front. In fact, claims Ynetnews’ Yossi Yehoshua, “Below the surface, the lava is boiling and tensions have reached their peak.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 07 February 2018)

Photo Credit: GPO/Ashernet

Prayer Focus
Ask God for His heavenly armies to go before the IDF, prepare the way and fight on Israel’s behalf as tensions are rapidly increasing on the northern border. Intercede for all the leaders involved as Israel desires peace with her neighbors. Thank God for PM Netanyahu’s firm resolve as he continues to publicly identify the threat posed by Iran’s global ambitions.

Scripture

And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.


- Deuteronomy 31:8

Study: Since Nuke Deal, Iran has Launched at Least 23 Ballistic Missiles

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(illustrative)

Friday, 2 February 2018 │ Since agreeing to the nuclear deal with six powers, including the United States, in July 2015, Iran has tested 23 ballistic missiles, in defiance of language in a related United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Iran not to develop such weapons, according to a study released last week by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

The study of open source reporting on Iranian ballistic missile tests was conducted by Benham Ben Taleblu, a Senior Iran Analyst at FDD. The report concluded that 15 of those missiles were or likely were nuclear capable missiles. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which formalized the deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the UN, called upon “Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” including tests.

The importance of inventorying exactly which missiles Iran has tested is essential, Taleblu wrote, because “knowing what systems it tests, when it tests them, as well as the success/failure rate offers insight into the regime’s long-term strategic intentions and capabilities.” It is also important to know in terms of how to counter the threat from Iran.

In order to properly assess the threat from Iran’s ballistic missile program, Taleblu recommends:

“Congress should require that the White House release a tally of all post-JCPOA Iranian ballistic missile launches. This tally should be broken down by missile type, what international conventions it violates, if the test was successful, and if it can be considered nuclear-capable. This data should also inform the capabilities the U.S. maintains or is developing for both itself and its international partners to offset the Iranian missile threat.”

He urged the government to provide greater transparency about the threats posed by Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal noting that while Iranian deception may lead to differing estimates of the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile arsenal and launches, “there should be no debate that the actual number should have been zero.”

Source: (The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower, originally published this article on 29 January 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain/wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Cry out to God against the enemies of Israel who are also the enemies of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Pray that the truth of Iran’s nuclear developments and power will not be hidden but will be clearly revealed. Intercede for your nation’s leaders to rise and help Israel and the US prevent nuclear weapons from being used to attack any nation including Israel.

Scripture

They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more. For they have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You.”


- Psalm 83:4-5

Palestinian Terrorist Slays Israeli Father of Four

by Ilse Strauss

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The scene of the stabbing

Tuesday, 06 February 2018 | It was supposed to be a joyous afternoon. Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, a 29-year-old father of four from the Israeli community of Har Bracha (Mount of Blessing), was on his way to celebrate his nephew’s brit milah (circumcision ceremony) when the terrorist struck, murdering him in cold blood.

The attack happened yesterday afternoon at around 14:30, just outside the city of Ariel in Samaria. Ben-Gal was standing next to a bus stop waiting for a lift, when a black-clad Palestinian teenager got off a yellow minivan taxi on the opposite side of the road, waited patiently for a gap in oncoming traffic, casually walked up to the rabbi, pulled a knife from his backpack and stabbed him in the chest. Repeatedly.

Mortally wounded, Ben-Gal ran to a bus that had stopped at the nearby station, his attacker giving chase. The rabbi succeeded in knocking on the bus door before collapsing. An off-duty Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer who witnessed the attack pursued the terrorist, hitting him with his car. The terrorist fled to a waiting getaway car and thus managed to escape. He remains at large.  

Magen David Adom emergency service and army medics at the scene tried to resuscitate Ben-Gal, who suffered multiple stab wounds to the chest. He was subsequently taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He is survived by his wife, Miriam, and four young children.

When fleeing the scene, the terrorist dropped the murder weapon and his backpack. The identity card inside identified him as 19-year-old Abed al-Karim Adel Asi from Jaffa, a Palestinian with a troubled past who has spent time in a number of shelters for at-risk youth, Ynetnews reports.

As news of Ben-Gal’s murder broke, condolences poured in for the young rabbi who friends and colleagues remember as a “model father,” “amazing husband” and “a loving teacher.”

Ben-Gal worked as a middle school teacher at the Bnei Akiva yeshivah (religious school) in a Tel Aviv suburb. According to the school, “[h]is moral and educational image will be engraved in us forever.”

One of his eighth-grade students told Ynetnews that the class was in shock. “He was a good teacher and always helped everyone. An admirable figure,” Ariel Dovkin said. “The counselor… informed us that Rabbi Ben-Gal had been murdered. There was a moment of silence and then everyone started to cry. His murder is a great loss…”

The condolences were echoed by a number of Israeli political figures. 

“We all send comforting hugs and strength to the family,” said President Reuven Rivlin.

For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Ben-Gal’s murderer would be caught. “IDF and Shin Bet forces are in pursuit of the terrorist or terrorists and we will bring them to justice. These are difficult moments, but our people come together during such times.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman echoed Netanyahu’s pledge. “It is only a matter of time,” he said. “The security forces will apprehend the murderer.”

Various Israeli officials laid the blame for the attack at the door of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Jewish state’s ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Danny Danon, called the murder a “direct result” of the PA leadership’s “policy of incitement and terror financing.”

Calling on the UN Security Council to denounce the murder, he challenged, “Instead of inviting (PA President Mahmoud Abbas) to the Security Council to spread lies and hate speech, the council must condemn this terror attack and demand that Abbas stops the incitement and the payments to the terrorists.” Abbas will reportedly address the world body on 20 February 2018.

Ben-Gal is the second Israeli to be murdered in a terror attack in Judea and Samaria in under a month. On 09 January 2018, 35-year-old Rabbi Raziel Shevah, a father of six, including an 8-month-old baby, was killed in a drive-by shooting near the community of Havat Gilad.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 06 February 2018)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/World News

Prayer Focus
Lift up this Israeli family, its loved ones, friends and students as they grieve their loss and deal with the reality that, as Israelis, they can become a target for terror at any time. Beseech God to hear the cries of the nation as people are still losing their lives as a result of stabbing attacks. Pray for the security forces who must always be on the alert to prevent such attacks.

Scripture

He sits in the lurking places of the villages; in the secret places he murders the innocent; His eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless. Arise, O LORD! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble.


- Psalm 10:8, 12

Israel Arrests Gazans Carrying Knives, Grenade at Border Crossing

by Ilse Strauss

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Weapons found in Gaza (illustrative)

Monday, 05 February 2018 | Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops apprehended four Gazans as they attempted to infiltrate the Jewish state from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip late last week. The infiltrators were armed with two knives and a hand grenade at the time of the arrest. 

According to the IDF spokesperson, army spotters had the suspected terrorists in their sights from the moment they approached the border fence on the Gaza side. The four were subsequently arrested the moment they crossed over into Israel. “The suspects were apprehended and transferred to security forces for further questioning,” the IDF spokesperson said.  

Israeli media reports that the infiltrators’ intentions remain unclear. The questioning is set to reveal whether the four crossed into Israel to commit acts of terror or in a bid to be arrested by Israel and sent to prison rather than face the humanitarian crisis reaching fever pitch in the coastal enclave under the rule of the Hamas terror group.

According to Hebrew news website Walla, both 2016 and 2017 have seen 60 Gazans attempting to infiltrate Israel to escape life in Gaza, The Times of Israel reports. However, during the first six weeks of 2018 alone, 18 Gazans have already tried to cross the border fence illegally. The sharp rise has sparked concerns of a possible trend.

The responsibility for the people of Gaza’s suffering can be placed squarely on Hamas’s shoulders. Last week, the American Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, lambasted the terror group in charge of the coastal enclave for prioritizing the building of “tunnels and rockets” at the expense of “getting the lights on, the water flowing and the economy growing” for the people of Gaza.  

Greenblatt’s statement echoed a number of similar observations made over the past months. An IDF official recently blamed Hamas’s use of international funds and resources to build an arsenal for the next war against Israel with a 50% drop in commercial goods heading into Gaza, The Tower reports. The officer was quick to point out that “a lack of funds is not the problem in Gaza.”   

For his part, Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, appealed to the international community last month to acknowledge that “the ones who are preventing rehabilitation [of Gaza] is Hamas.”  

Last year in February, veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent, Khaled Abu Toameh, highlighted that the terror group chooses to build up its terror infrastructure instead of constructing homes for its citizens, which means that “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

While the situation in the coastal enclave continues to deteriorate and those who stand responsible for the welfare of the distressed people persist in their self-destructive ways, Israel presented a $1 billion plan to improve the situation in Gaza at an emergency meeting of key donors to Gaza in Brussels last week. The plan centers on Israeli assistance on major infrastructure projects, including improving Gaza’s desalination plants, electricity lines, gas pipelines, and upgrading the Erez industrial park on the Israeli border.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 05 February 2018)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Ask God to convict every single person who enters Israel with a hidden agenda, planning to hurt or kill Israeli citizens. Give thanks for the IDF troops that apprehended the Gazan citizens who tried to infiltrate Israel illegally. Pray for all the soldiers serving on the Gaza border, including new recruits.

Scripture

For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.


- Ecclesiastes 12:14

US Middle Eastern Envoy’s Unique Approach to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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US Envoy Jason Greenblatt with members of the IDF (illustrative)

Thursday, 08 February 2018 | There was an interesting news item last week. At the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee to address the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, Israel presented a $1 billion plan to address Gaza’s crumbling infrastructure.

The plan was presented by Israel, not by the Palestinian Authority [PA], who is supposed to rule the Palestinians. It was not presented by anyone representing Hamas, the terrorist organization that effectively rules Gaza.

That Israel felt the need to present such a plan, in the absence of anyone doing so on behalf of the Palestinian government, suggests that the two-state solution is currently untenable. Even if Israel were to negotiate a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority, the PA would have no means to carry out its obligations, for it has failed to build the necessary institutions for statehood.

Of course, no negotiations are going on between Israel and the Palestinians. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, angered over the President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, last month denounced the United States and said that he would not participate in any American-led peace efforts.

But just because no talks are going on, it doesn’t mean that the two sides aren’t working together. If his words and actions in the year since he was appointed Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations by President Donald Trump are any indication, Jason Greenblatt seems intent on fostering cooperation between the two sides, especially in areas that can improve the lives of Palestinians.

This past week saw the installation of a cargo scanner at the Allenby Bridge crossing into Jordan. It is expected to double the number of containers that cross the border between Israel and Jordan to 200 each day.

Palestinian Authority (PA) National Economy Minister Abeer Odeh said of the new arrangements, “the new mechanism will save exporters and importers a lot of efforts and costs and will facilitate the trade movement, which will contribute to the development of various economic sectors in Palestine.”

Speaking at the ceremony, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said that Greenblatt “supports and is pressing to continue to advance things. We see in Greenblatt and in the United States central, important and fair mediators and the only ones to advance cooperation in the region.”

In July, Greenblatt was on hand as Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement that would involve Israel selling the PA 33 million cubic meters of water a year.

In touting the water deal, Greenblatt said:

“This agreement is an example of the parties working together to make a mutually beneficial deal. In fact this is the second important agreement reached between the Israelis and Palestinians this week, the first being the agreement to energize the Jenin electrical substation, which was signed on Monday. That agreement came about with the strong support of the Trump administration and other international partners and provides another example of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians that will lead to economic improvements in the lives of Palestinians, who now, in the span of one week, benefited from agreements that provide key improvements in the critical areas of water and electricity.”

A week later, Seth Siegel, an expert on water issues, noted that the Palestinians had refused to work with Israel on any water projects since 2008. The PA’s refusal to cooperate with Israel was a cynical attempt to put Israel in a bad light, but while Israelis living in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] were impacted by the reduction in water projects, “the Palestinians suffered more.”

While Israel and the PA don’t appear any closer to a peace agreement than when Trump took office, Greenblatt is trying to assure that they work together more.

In a Jewish Telegraphic Agency [JTA] profile of Greenblatt that was published in December, Daniel Shapiro, the US Ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, praised him, saying, “Greenblatt has made a universally positive impression among Israelis and Palestinians as serious, creative, empathetic and dedicated to the cause of peace.”

In addition to the people skills that Shapiro’s praise pointed to, a White House official outlined the Trump administration’s view of an eventual peace. “However the peace agreement shakes out at the end of the day will be in one in which the two societies are connected economically and otherwise,” an anonymous official told JTA. “We can’t do this from afar, we have to go there to see interactions, how the economics can work out, how business is conducted on the two sides.”

Clearly, Greenblatt appears willing to discard the old theology of peace talks. Instead of focusing on political talks, which, in the past, have been marked by distrust and blame, Greenblatt appears more interested in showing Palestinians that there are benefits to cooperating with Israel under the auspices of the United States. He and the Trump administration appear to be emphasizing the promotion of coexistence over political talks.

The question is whether this new approach will succeed where the focus on the political has failed.

Source: (The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower, originally published this article on 02 February 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Intercede for this new approach which focuses on coexistence and improved living conditions in Gaza. Ask God to bless these new developments and to grant favorable response from the citizens of Gaza. Pray that they will give up their dependence on terror organizations.

Scripture

I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay,and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth–Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD.


- Psalm 40:1-3

Anti-Semitic Attacks in UK Reach Record High for Second Straight Year in 2017

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A poster for an anti-Semitic event in England in 1902

Monday, 05 February 2018 | The number of anti-Semitic attacks have reached a record level in the United Kingdom, with the Jewish community targeted at a rate of nearly four times a day during 2017, The Times of Israel reported Thursday.

The Community Security Trust (CST), British Jewry’s largest watchdog on anti-Semitism, recorded 1,382 anti-Semitic incidents nationwide in 2017––a 3 percent increase over the 2016, which had been the previous record. This was the highest tally that the trust had registered for a calendar year since it began gathering such data in 1984.

The report showed a 34% increase in the number of violent anti-Semitic assaults, from 108 in 2016 to 145 in 2017. The most common single type of incident in 2017 involved verbal abuse randomly directed at Jewish people in public, which accounted for a quarter of the annual tally, or 356 incidents.

One incident took place in Hertfordshire, north of London, in July. A group of visibly Jewish boys were followed by a group of boys and girls who shouted repeatedly, “I’m Hitler. I’m gonna gas you.”

The trust’s chief executive, David Delew, said: “Hatred is rising and Jewish people are suffering as a result. This should concern everybody because it shows anger and division that threaten all of society. We have the support of government and police, but prosecutions need to be more visible and more frequent.”

There have been some improvements in the reporting of anti-Semitic incidents, in part related to high-profile anti-Semitic scandals in the Labour Party, which were widespread in 2016, continued into 2017. “Therefore, anti-Semitism has attracted public debate and been reported on extensively in the national media,” CST noted.

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, said anti-Semitism was a “despicable form of abuse” which had “absolutely no place in British society.”

She said: “I welcome this report’s findings that the rise in reported incidents partly reflects the improving response to these horrendous attacks and better information sharing between the CST and police forces around the UK.” Rudd added: But even one incident is one too many, and any rise in incidents is clearly concerning, which is why this government will continue its work protecting the Jewish community and other groups from anti-Semitism and hate crime.”

Source: (The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower, originally published this article on 01 February 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain/wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Bring the Jewish people in the UK and those scattered around the globe before the Lord of Hosts, praying that they will long to return to the Promised Land, Israel. Pray for their protection and safety as violent attacks increase.

Scripture

O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads. They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against your treasured ones.


- Psalm 83:1-3 ESV

Israel Foils Plot to Smuggle Explosives in Medical Shipment to Gaza Using New Lab

by Joshua Spurlock

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Some of the ‘salt’ consignment (used to arm long-range rockets) stopped from entering the Gaza Strip (illustrative)

Wednesday, 07 February 2018 | Terrorists keep seeking new ways to smuggle weapons into Gaza—like recently hiding materials used to make explosives in a medical shipment—and the Israelis keep finding new ways to thwart those efforts. The latest Israeli advancement is a laboratory at the Kerem Shalom crossing to Gaza that can test a range of materials for explosives “in as short a time as possible”, according to a press release from the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

That lab recently intercepted materials in a shipment of medical equipment, which upon testing at the new Israeli lab were found to be “a central component used in the preparation of explosive charges” and the rocket and mortar industry. Israel is investigating the smuggling effort.

The Ministry of Defense said the advanced laboratory was put in place several months ago to “locate problematic materials whose entry into the Gaza Strip is forbidden for fear of reaching terrorist forces.” But it’s not just helping Israelis—it’s intended to make life easier on Gazans too.

The Israeli press release noted that the purpose of the lab is to efficiently determine what is in a material “within as short a time frame as possible” from when a sample is taken. “This is in order to minimize the danger to crossing officials and in order to improve the quality of service and to minimize as much as possible any delays in the entry of goods into Gaza,” said the Israeli Ministry of Defense statement.

That balance isn’t easy, especially when smuggling efforts try to not only hide weapons inside civilian shipments, but can even use certain civilian goods for militaristic purposes.

For example, the substances that can be used to make explosives and explosive devices that were most recently found were known as “dual use” items, which means they can have both civilian and military application. This is a real concern when dealing with weapons embargoes, such as efforts to prevent Iran from importing items for their nuclear weapons program.

Despite the challenges, Israel is finding success. The press release noted that the Kerem Shalom Crossing Authority thwarted “dozens of smuggling attempts” in 2017.

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on 04 February, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesman/Ashernet

Prayer Focus
Thank God that He continues to bless the modern Israelites with wisdom, enabling the IDF and other security forces to find new and successful ways to thwart terror attacks, smuggling attempts and even save time! Ask God to station His angels to guard the Keren Shalom crossing and the Israeli soldiers working there.

Scripture

For it is written: He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you.


- Luke 4:10

Netanyahu Honors Foreign Diplomats Who Saved Jews during the Holocaust

by Edgar Asher

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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu honoring the ‘Righteous Among the Nations”

Tuesday, 06 February 2018 | Yesterday, at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the dedication of a plaque honoring diplomats who saved Jews during the Holocaust. The plaque honors the work of 36 diplomats, from 21 countries, who have been recognized as ‘Righteous among the Nations.’

Speaking at the dedication the prime minister said, “Six million of our brothers and sisters were slaughtered in the worst atrocity in history. And this is what makes the people who are honored here so exceptional. Because in the worst darkness that beset the Earth, they lit a candle of righteousness.  Yad Vashem calls them, these men and women, ‘Righteous Among the Nations.’

“I once visited, when I went to serve in the UN [United Nations], the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and he had some criticism of the UN. He said, ‘it doesn’t always represent the truth, and now I’m really polishing what he said. He said, but remember that if you light a small candle of truth, its glow will carry far and wide. These people lit candles of truth and candles of humanity in the sea of darkness and we shall forever remember them.

“This plaque, that we dedicate today, recognizes these brave diplomats, who acted by the dictates of their conscience without regard for personal and professional consequence.

“When Esther Ofiri’s mother took her from an attic in Hungary to the Swedish delegation, a young diplomat listened to her mother’s pleas and immediately responded, ‘don’t worry, soon we’ll give you protective passes.’ And that man was Raoul Wallenberg, a hero among heroes. On July 9th, 1944, Wallenberg arrived in Budapest to serve at the Swedish embassy, and when he realized how many Jews needed his help, he threw diplomatic caution to the wind, he worked tirelessly to save Jews. He issued thousands of protective letters and placed the Swedish flag over buildings housing Jews. It’s almost like Moses in Egypt. He claimed that columns of Jews who had been marched to the Austrian border were under Swedish protection.

“There are lesser known heroes. They are all on this wall and they should be known.  We should teach our people, I think all of humanity, their courage and example, diplomats like Captain Francis Foley from the United Kingdom and Ho Feng-Shan of China and many others. They deserve to be household names. It’s a matter of justice, but it’s also a matter of educating future generations. So we chose to place this plaque with these brave diplomats’ names here in a prominent place of our Foreign Ministry, because these are the kind of people we ask our young diplomats to emulate. They were men and women of boundless courage, men and women of the deepest moral character.  By the way, many of them were castigated by their foreign ministries and for many of them their career came to a swift end. But they risked everything for the truth and the first thing is establishing the truth. It wasn’t easy to do that because the truth was hidden by iron curtains of lies and deception. The truth is not always easy to establish today either by different means, but the first thing they wanted was to establish was the truth.  Once they learned the truth, they risked everything for our common humanity, and for that, we and history will justly remember them as heroes.

The truth about the Holocaust must always be studied. It must always be remembered. Israel works closely with our partners around the world to defend and reveal the truth about the Holocaust. We expect to do that with every country, including Poland. Above all, future generations must internalize the lessons of the Holocaust. I think the most important lesson for all humanity is that hatred, extreme ideologies; these must always be confronted early when there is time to nip them at the bud.

“We Jews have learned to believe our enemies when they call for our annihilation.  We’ve learned that we must be able to defend ourselves by ourselves against any potential threat. The State of Israel not only has internalized these lessons, it practices it. We hold our hand out to peace for any of our neighbors who wish peace with us, and there are quite a few, and their number is growing I’m happy to say, and I hope it will extend to all.  But we are forever conscious of the danger to us and to the rest of mankind of those who want to exterminate us, ultimately they exterminate the world we all want to keep and cherish.

But in my people’s darkest hour, a few noble men and women bucked their superiors to save Jewish lives. Israel saluted them. We shall forever honor their memory.”

Before the dedication, Prime Minister Netanyahu attended a conference of Israeli ambassadors to African, Latin American and Asia-Pacific countries. He briefed them on Israel’s strengths and the diplomatic ties stemming from them. “With our economic policy, we have turned Israel into a global technological force and therefore it is now a rising global power.  My expectation is that each one of you, in your respective countries, will leverage these ties,” the prime minister said.

Source: (This press release was originally published by Ashernet on 06 February 2018.)

Photo Credit: Haim Zach/Ashernet/GPO

Prayer Focus
Give thanks that today there are many righteous ones who stand up for the Jewish people just as during the Holocaust when brave ones, even foreign diplomats, fearlessly stepped out to save lives of God’s chosen people. Ask God to bless those who give of their time, finances, knowledge and influence to bless Israel and especially those who support Bridges for Peace in many different ways.

Scripture

I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.


- Genesis 12:2-3

Studies Rank Israel among World’s Ten Most Powerful, Innovative Nations

by Ilse Posselt

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Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv

Friday, 2 February 2018 │ US News recently published the latest Best Countries, a rankings, news and analysis project created to depict how countries are perceived on a global scale. The first seven slots on the list went to the likes of the United States, Russia, China, Germany and Japan, all large, established nations backed by a long history of economic, military and political might. Eighth place in the Best Countries “Power” ranking went to Israel, a tiny sliver of a country, recently reborn after its people suffered nearly two millennia of exile.

The ranking is no fluke. When Bloomberg News published its 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index last week, the 10th spot on the prestigious list went to the Jewish state.  

According to Israel21c, the research and preparation for the two lists occurred in two entirely different manners. To compile Best Countries, US News joined forces with the BAV Group and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The survey involved 21,000 people, hailing from four different world regions. Participants were asked to link 80 nations with particular qualities and characteristics they believed intrinsic to that specific nation, for instance, economic and political influence.   

For its part, Bloomberg conducted its own research by analyzing 200 countries, according to factors like economy, research and development, spending as well as the number of high-tech companies, Israel21c explains. From the research, Bloomberg then published a list of the 50 most innovative nations in the world.

Despite the manner of research or the avenues that led to the findings, the conclusion remained the same: Israel took a top spot.

According to Israel21c, US News also placed the Jewish state first in the “research concentration category,” which measures the number of professionals, including post-graduate PhD students, working in research and development. Israel also scored second place in “research and development intensity,” that is, the research and development expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product.  

No doubt a spectacular achievement for any country, even under the most opportune circumstances. Yet Israel’s circumstances have been anything but opportune. In fact, for the most part, conditions have hovered somewhere between unlikely and downright impossible.

The Jewish state has fought a significant war every decade for the past 60 odd years. Aside from major conflicts, there are also bouts of rockets, recurrent terror attacks and borders to protect from neighbors calling for its annihilation. With its citizens in the crosshairs of every terror group in the area and located in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world, matters like security and safety take top priority. In fact, all too often, Israel’s battle is for survival, not for power, innovation or a top spot on any list.

It can also be argued that the resources at Israel’s disposal are less extensive than that of countries like the US, China or France. The Jewish state is tiny, its landmass a mere speck on the world map. You could fit 768 “Israels” into the United States, 370 into Australia, 58 into South Africa and 6 into England. Moreover, at the end of last year, the Israeli population hovered around the 8.5 million mark, comprising 1/1000th of the world’s population. Regardless, “[f]or its relatively small size, the country has played a large role in global affairs,” US News reports. “Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with cut diamonds, high-technology equipment and pharmaceuticals among its major exports. The country is very highly developed in terms of life expectancy, education, per capita income and other human development index indicators.” There can be no doubt that the odds of prosperity are stacked quite decidedly against the people of the Promised Land––and yet Israel prospers. Perhaps the explanation is found in the faithful character of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who fulfilled the promises He made to the descendants of the patriarchs. “Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good…” (Jer. 32:41), He vowed, and “I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields…” (Ezek. 36:30). God in His faithfulness even promised that “My cities will again overflow with prosperity…” (Zech. 1:17). True to His word, they are.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 2 February 2018)

Photo Credit: Public Domain/wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Rejoice in the Lord that Israel’s ongoing success in the fields of technology and medical knowledge continues to turn the tiny nation into a world powerhouse. Also pray that these advances will eventually make it very hard for Israel-haters to support the economic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Scripture

Daniel answered and said: Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.


- Daniel 2:20-21

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