Help us bless the people of Israel.

Friday, January 15, 2021

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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.

Israel Determined to Prevent Iran from Achieving “Syria Project”

by Yaakov Lappin~JNS

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Israel has struck thousands of Iranian targets in Syria in recent years (illustrative).

Thursday, 14 January 2021 | Media reports carried news of intensive airstrikes against Iranian-linked targets in eastern Syria early on Wednesday, attributed to the Israeli Air Force. The alleged strikes in the Deir al-Zour and Albu Kamal areas were the latest in a long series of reported Israeli attacks that are designed to thwart the Islamic Republic’s attempts at building a war machine in Syria.

The airstrikes nevertheless stood out in light of the extraordinary comments made by a senior American intelligence official, who told the Associated Press that the bombings were enabled by intelligence provided to Israel by the United States.

There appears to be no reason to doubt this version of events, marking what would seem to be an unusual acknowledgment of the close level of cooperation between the American and Israeli defense establishments in combating the Iranian presence in Syria.

Strikingly, the same official said that the targeted warehouses also served as a “pipeline for components that support Iran’s nuclear program,” though no further details were immediately available.

A second reason that makes the strikes stand out is the unconfirmed report by a Syrian opposition war-monitoring group that at least 57 fighters were killed, including 14 Syrian regime soldiers, in addition to Iranian-backed militia members, as well as dozens more wounded.

Although uncorroborated, the claim represents a far higher casualty count than those that usually follow such strikes.

The attack is part of an unmistakable increase in airstrikes that have been hitting Iranian targets across Syria, marking the fourth known such incident in the past three weeks.

Those incidents include a reported missile attack on Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, also known by its French acronym CERS, north of Damascus. CERS is a facility that is responsible for developing and manufacturing advanced missiles and chemical weapons, and is likely used by both Iran and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime to develop and produce weapons systems, some of which is also destined for Hezbollah’s missile depots in Lebanon.

CERS was also bombed in 2018 and 2019. The area surrounding CERS doubles as a base for Iranian personnel and Iran-controlled militias in Syria. The other recent attacks have hit reported weapons-production facilities and military bases in southern and western Syria.

In attempting to understand why the uptick in alleged preventative Israeli attacks has occurred now, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon offered this explanation: “Iran is attempting to take advantage of the transition in the United States and in Israel to alter the balance of power. Israel and the US will not allow this. We will act resolutely and as needed.”

According to this explanation, Iran is trying to exploit political instability in Israel, which is on its way to its fourth elections in less than two years. That is coupled with the fact that the Trump administration is about to be replaced by the Biden administration, all while Tehran attempts to scale up its efforts to build a military foothold in Syria.

Ebb and Flow of Tehran’s Efforts over the Years

It is also important to place the latest incidents in the wider context. Israel has struck thousands of Iranian targets in Syria in recent years, according to comments made in 2019 by former Israel Defense Forces [IDF] Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.

The centerpiece of Eizenkot’s legacy is a low profile yet highly effective campaign of preventative airstrikes to severely dent Iran’s “Syria project” and to roll back Tehran’s attempt to turn Syria into an extension of the attack front that it built in Lebanon, where Iran has helped Hezbollah take hold of some 130,000 rockets and missiles—and point them at Israeli cities and strategic targets.

In its annual summary for 2020, the IDF stated that “approximately 50 targets were struck on the Syrian front” in the past year, as well as more than 1,400 battle-formation Israeli Air Force sorties over unspecified areas.

These figures reveal a central feature in Israel’s campaign in Syria: It is fueled by intelligence of Iran’s activities, and the increase and decrease of Israel’s campaign is a direct reflection of the ebb and flow of Iran’s own efforts over the years.

The campaign against Iran in Syria has been raging for several years, and often, it is the same sites that are hit over and over again.

For example, in March 2020, reports said that unidentified aircraft struck a target in Albu Kamal, the town on the border with Iraq, where Iran had been constructing its Imam Ali military base for the deployment and storage of missiles and fighters. A total of 26 fighters were allegedly killed in that attack.

The Iranians had apparently been building a tunnel for hiding weapons at the Imam Ali Base, which replaced an older tunnel also attacked in the past.

In June 2020, reports also said that 12 people were killed in an airstrike on an Iran-linked target in Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, which sits five kilometers (about 3 miles) from the Iraqi border.

Deir Ezzor and Albu Kamal are areas that are earmarked by Iran for the construction of a land corridor that would allow Tehran to move weapons, battle formations and other resources into Syria from Iraq. If the corridor is completed, Iran would have land access all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, connecting Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon along a single network of roads.

Israel has no intention of letting that happen, just as it did not allow Iran to fly cargo planes of advanced missiles into Damascus airport with impunity.

 Military Tensions High between US Forces, Iran in Gulf

Iran’s efforts are being masterminded by its overseas subversion and terrorism unit, the Quds Force, headed by Esmail Ghaani, who replaced the infamous Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani after his assassination in Baghdad in January 2020 in a US drone strike.

Ghaani appears to be working hard to try and fill Soleimani’s shoes, though with little apparent success to show for it so far.

Soleimani’s grand vision was to create air smuggling routes, a land corridor and naval smuggling routes to flood Syria and Lebanon with precision-guided weapons, bases, missile factories and militias. Israel kept that vision firmly in check, just as it is doing with Ghaani’s efforts.

Russia, for its part, has no interest in allowing Iran to take over Syria, having earmarked the country for its own long-term military presence and economic reconstruction programs. Still, Moscow is also keen to avoid witnessing an escalation that can threaten the Assad regime, which it spent years protecting from demise together with Iran.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere in the region is particularly explosive and unstable due to Iran’s determination to seek vengeance for the killing of its chief nuclear-weapons scientists, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whom Iran blames Israel for assassinating in November, as well as Hezbollah’s own repeated threats to take revenge for the death of one of its operatives, who was killed in an airstrike on an Iranian target in Syria in July.

Military tensions between US forces in the Persian Gulf and Iran also remain high with the possibility of miscalculation is very real.

None of these factors, however, are sufficient to deter Israel from enforcing its red lines in Syria and doing whatever is necessary to keep Iran from fulfilling its dangerous “Syria project.”

Source: (This article was originally published by JNS on January 13, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Tell Rifaat Information Office/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Continue to bring the security situation on Israel’s northern border before the One who promised to watch over Israel without slumbering or sleeping. Pray that God will imbue Israel’s leaders with godly wisdom, boldness and insight as they are called upon to make tough decisions to keep Israel safe. Also pray God’s protection and peace over the brave young men and women guarding Israel’s borders on the land, air and sea.

Scripture

Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.


- Psalm 121:4

Israel’s Budget Deficit Reaches All-time High in 2020

by Gad Lior

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The Bank of Israel in Jerusalem

Tuesday, 12 January 2021 | The Finance Ministry said on Monday that Israel’s budget deficit at the end of the year 2020 has reached an all-time high.

Accountant General Yahli Rotenberg said that the deficit stood at NIS 160,3 billion [US $50,4 billion] or 11.7% of the country’s GDP, the highest such figure since the mid-80s when Israel went through an inflation crisis.

For comparison, the budget deficit at the end of 2019 stood at NIS 52,5 billion [US $16,5 billion], or 3.7% of the country’s GDP.

The growing deficit stems mainly from a NIS 22,9-billion [US $7,2-billion] decrease in tax revenue and an increase in government expenditure to the tune of NIS 68,6 billion [US $21,6 billion] due to the COVID-19 effort.

Israel’s deficit is among the highest in the world, only trailing countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Iceland and Australia.

However, the Jewish state’s GDP decreased by 3.3% in 2020, which is lower compared to the global average, and exports were mostly unharmed.

Private consumption, on the other hand, was also significantly affected by the crisis.

The Bank of Israel said last week that it expected the Israeli economy to rebound quickly in 2021 if the country’s fast start to its COVID-19 vaccination drive is maintained.

The bank left its benchmark interest rate at 0.1% for a sixth straight meeting, in line with analysts’ forecasts in a Reuters poll.

Israel has begun to vaccinate its population at one of the quickest rates in the world, and it aims to reach all vulnerable citizens by late January.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on January 11, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: צילום:ד"ר אבישי טייכר/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord to shelter Israel and its people from the devastating economic effects of the pandemic and to bring restoration and relief to those who have lost so much already. Remind Him of His promises to bless and prosper Israel, and to use Israel as an instrument of blessing and prosperity around the world—so that the nations of the world will see and marvel at what He has done.

Scripture

“Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it.”


- Jeremiah 33:6, 9

Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Announces Construction of Permanent US Embassy

by JNS

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Thursday, 14 January 2021 | The city of Jerusalem has approved plans to build the permanent US embassy in Jerusalem, in addition to an extension of the current temporary embassy, announced the city’s deputy mayor on Wednesday.

“The Jerusalem Municipal Building and Planning Committee has just approved the plans for the new #US Embassy which will be built on Derech Hebron in #Jerusalem. As well as the extension of the current temporary embassy in Arnona,” tweeted Fleur Hassan-Nahoum.

The US moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018, five months after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Source: (This article was originally published by JNS on January 13, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Hannah Taylor/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for the flourishing relationship between the US and Israel, a bond that meant a number of blessings for Israel in terms of justice and legitimacy over the past few years. Remind the Lord of His promises to bless those who bless Israel, asking Him to pour out His blessings on the US for its commitment and support. Also pray that the US’s permanent embassy in Jerusalem will be a first fruits and that many nations will follow in its footsteps.

Scripture

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion…Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.


- Ecclesiastes 4:9–10a, 12a

First Delivery of Samaria Goods Shipped to UAE in Wake of Abraham Accords

by Israel Hayom via JNS

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Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan

Tuesday, 12 January 2021 | The first delivery of goods from Samaria was shipped to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, as the region in central Israel—bordered by the Galilee to the north and Judea to the south—began to market its wine to businesspeople and non-Muslims (not bound by the Islamic prohibition of alcohol consumption) in Dubai.

The olive oil and honey in the shipment came from the Tura Winery in Rechelim and Paradise Honey in Hermesh.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan hailed what he called “a historic day for Samaria and the entire State of Israel.”

Dagan was behind the move to sign an export deal between Samarian companies and those in Dubai. He was also the first local authority head in Israel to initiate the signing of regional agreements following the inking of the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE.

“We are finally bringing out the first pallets of olive oil and honey in a direct export from Samaria to the [United Arab] Emirates and, God willing, other Arab states in the future,” said Dagan.

“Samaria is becoming an economic power…Our path to a million citizens in Samaria is a construction boom, available land, new roads, education, community and the economic sphere should be at the forefront. Samaria will continue to export the world’s best produce in the world,” he added.

Tura Winery owner Vered Ben Sa’adon said it was “very exciting to be part of a big process. Tura’s wine has always brought people together, and this is another wonderful opportunity to bring peoples together. This relationship offers hope to every single person, no matter who they are, that anything is possible.”

Matan Paradise, who owns Paradise Honey, said, “We are happy to be exporting to people in Dubai, happy for the partnership, and hope there will be many more partnerships in the future.”

Source: (This article was originally published by Israel Hayom via JNS on January 11, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: דרדל/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Rejoice before the Lord for yet another example of the sweet and abundant fruit of the newfound bonds of peace between Israel and the UAE, with the latter eagerly receiving products from the biblical heartland of Israel, the area many call the West Bank and demand that products originating there be marked with derogatory labels. Beseech the Lord to continue opening doors in nations around the world that will embrace the produce that springs from the land of Israel in line with God’s promises of blossoming the desert.

Scripture

And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.


- Deuteronomy 28:11

Egypt, European Foreign Ministers Meet to Discuss Kick-starting Israel–Palestinian Peace Talks

by Ilse Strauss

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Egypt hosted the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Jordan to discuss ways to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Pictured: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry

Tuesday, 12 January 2021 | The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Jordan sat down with their Egyptian counterpart in Cairo yesterday to discuss ways of launching a renewed effort to resuscitate peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

According to a joint statement, the bevy of foreign ministers mulled over “potential steps to advance the Middle East peace process” aimed at “re-launching a credible peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry clarified that such a solution would entail a “just and comprehensive political settlement” based on the establishment of a Palestinian state with a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem on territory Israel recaptured in the defensive 1967 Six Day War from the Jordanians, which occupied the area after the 1948 War of Independence.

None of the foreign ministers, however, offered insight into how this effort might differ from the countless other peace endeavors over the past 70 odd years, which ultimately proved an exercise in futility, with the Palestinians either refusing outright to join the negotiations unless their preconditions were met or simply walking away from the negotiation table refusing to compromise.

In fact, apart from the Oslo Accords to some extent, the only peace push that has yielded fruit—turning decades-old foes into friends and bringing stability to one of the most volatile regions on earth—has been US President Donald Trump’s Abraham Accords. The umbrella agreement saw first the United Arab Emirates normalize ties with Israel and then Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco following suit.

While the majority of international leaders and world bodies hailed the historic peace, the Palestinians lambasted the Arab nations as traitors to the Palestinian cause, obstinately refusing to join the circle of peace. In fact, the Palestinians have continuously boycotted the Trump administration’s peace efforts ever since President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocated the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the City of Gold.

No longer viewing the US as a reliable broker for peace, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in September called for an international conference in early 2021 to kick-start a “genuine peace process” based on past UN resolutions and agreements with Israel—as opposed to the terms of President Trump’s proposed peace plan.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi told Abbas last month that he would spearhead the process—with a little help from France, Germany and Jordan.

The timing of the get-together between the foreign ministers of the countries mentioned in the Channel 12 report also seems pertinent. US President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office next week, which the Palestinians—and apparently the Egyptians—view as an open door, with PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki proclaiming last month that the Palestinian Authority was ready to cooperate with the incoming Biden administration.

Will the Egyptian initiative take off or will its ideal of taking the lead in future Israeli–Palestinian peace negotiations remain but talks between foreign ministers? Moreover, can an Egyptian initiative succeed where so many other efforts have failed? However, perhaps the most important question to ask is whether the Palestinians are finally willing to grasp Israel’s outstretched hand of peace.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 12, 2021)

Photo Credit: Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Consecrate this entire prospective peace push complete with every role-player, agenda, objective and plan before the Lord, praying for His perfect will to be done with the land He gave in title deed to the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as a perpetual inheritance. Thank Him that He holds every moment of the people of Israel’s future securely in His hands and that He can sway the council of kings and rulers to fit into His perfect plan.

Scripture

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the LORD shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.”


- Psalm 2:1–6

UN Textbooks in Gaza, PA Full of Israel Hatred, Praise of Jihadists

by Itamar Eichner

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An Arabic textbook (illustrative)

Thursday, 14 January 2021 | A report published Wednesday shows that textbooks distributed by the United Nations’ [UN’s] Palestinian refugee agency include incitement against Israel and glorification of terrorists who committed atrocious acts of violence.

The report published by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) found that textbooks produced by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) include inciting material across all subjects and grades.

UNWRA has been left severely crippled in 2018 after the administration of US President Donald Trump decided to cancel all US funding to the organization, citing anti-Israel bias and misuse of funds.

The report shows that UNRWA’s study material frequently references and sometimes directly reproduces texts and phrases from the Palestinian Authority’s [PA’s] textbooks, which include glorification of violence and sacrificing of one’s life in order to defend the “motherland.”

Examples include Arabic grammar exercises that use the language of jihad [“struggle,” war with unbelievers (in Islam)] and passages that celebrate known Palestinian terrorists, such as Dalal Mughrabi, who participated in the 1978 Coastal Road massacre in Israel, which resulted in the death of 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children.

In the past, UNRWA officials explicitly denied teaching students the curriculum from the PA’s textbooks that discuss Mughrabi, making the inclusion of these passages in the study material even more concerning.

According to the report, the UNRWA-produced material fails to mention possible peace with Israel, while the term “peace” is also never mentioned, neither as an ideal nor as a concrete goal.

The UNRWA study material also references discredited conspiracy theories against Israel and Zionism, which perpetuate hostility and hatred towards the Jewish state and its population.

Examples of this include accusations that Israel was involved in the 1969 Al-Aqsa Mosque fire, deliberately dumped radioactive and toxic waste in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and was systematically stealing Palestinian antiquities.

The study also found the UNRWA-produced material often refers to Israel as “the Enemy,” creating an “us versus them” dichotomy. In one math exercise, for instance, students are asked to tally the number of dead “martyrs” in the First Intifada [uprising].

The material also almost never refers to Israel by name, but rather to “the Occupation,” “the Zionist Occupation,” “the Zionists” or simply the “the Enemy”.

According to the study, UNRWA has adopted the Pan-Arab narrative found in the PA curriculum. This included terminology such as “the Arab Homeland,” “the Racist Expansion and Annexation Fence,” referring to the West Bank security barrier, and “Zionist aggressions” as a way to characterize military engagements between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The textbooks also refer to the territory that used to be British Mandatory Palestine as Palestinian, including the UN-recognized 1949 the Armistice Demarcation Lines.

The UNRWA-produced material also appears to ignore Jewish history, including historical Jewish presence in the region. The majority of references to Jews and Judaism includes allegations that Israel is striving to systematically “Judaize” Jerusalem.

Prior to the publication of the IMPACT-se study, UNRWA’s new Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a speech to the European Parliament that “there is no place for any provision that encourages violence, discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism. Let’s be clear, the glorification of terrorists is not taught in UNRWA schools.”

IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said that “in its branded material, UNRWA is a partner in radicalizing the next generation of children by glorifying terrorists, encouraging violence and teaching blood libels to Palestinian children. Mr. Lazzarini needs to explain how it happened under his auspices.”

IMPACT-se’s Chief Operating Officer Arik Agassi said, “UNRWA has for years refused to publish the content and method of study it uses, which it claims prevents students from being exposed to incitement in Palestinian textbooks. Now we know why.”

UNRWA stated in response: “An in-depth review of the self-learning material received by UNRWA students during the closure was conducted within weeks. It showed that content was inadvertently put into textbooks that the agency had previously flagged as inappropriate. To avoid the dissemination of content that UNRWA considers inconsistent with UN principles, the Agency has decided to upload all online learning materials to a secure platform. The platform will be accessible in the coming days.

“UNRWA reiterates that it has no tolerance for discrimination and incitement to hatred and violence in its schools. Any reported violation is treated firmly. The agency adheres to the highest standards of neutrality and humanity.”

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on January 13, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: pxhere.com

Prayer Focus
Bring this deplorable form of child abuse that seeks to exploit education as a platform of brainwashing and indoctrinating children to hate from an early age before the Lord. Beseech Him to shine His spotlight on this festering darkness, so that both the PA and UNRWA will be held accountable to amend their ways so that Palestinian children will be educated as partners for peace with Israel.

Scripture

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.


- Proverbs 22:6

What Can Israel Expect at the UN during a Biden Administration?

by Israel Kashnett~JNS

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The United Nations building in New York City. 

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 | Despite efforts by its detractors, Israel has seen a steady improvement in its diplomatic standing around the world with breakthroughs in relations with Arab states, Africa, Asia and Latin America. Nevertheless, the United Nations [UN], with its decades of anti-Israel hostility, remains a source of concern for the Jewish state.

Indeed, recently the United States and Israel voted against the world body’s 2021 budget due to anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias, particularly with regard to a planned follow-up event to the 2001 Durban Conference in South Africa, which was replete with anti-Semitic undertones.

With one week to go before President-elect Joe Biden and his administration, concerns have been circulating that America may shift its approach or even return towards a more unfriendly posture seen at the world body in the waning days of the Obama administration, which saw it censure Israel over its settlement activity.

Danny Danon, Israel’s 17th Permanent Representative to the UN, told JNS that he hopes the conversation at the UN will now focus on the broader Middle East and the Iranian proxies in the region, and not just on Israel.

“We need to make sure all the other issues are being discussed and not only the anti-Israel agenda that is on the table,” he said.

Noting the important changes that have taken place in the region over the last few months, Danon said he would encourage the incoming Biden administration to continue the momentum created by the Abraham Accords, which saw the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco accept normalization agreements with Israel.

A key question, he said, is the return to the nuclear deal Iran signed in 2015 with the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom and Germany), officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Danon said Israel expects the incoming administration to first consult with the key actors in the region, including Israel, of course, before taking any action or reentering the agreement.

“During the campaign, we heard voices expressing the need to rejoin the JCPOA and to do so immediately without preconditions,” he said. “Now, we are hearing different voices, which we welcome, and we are seeing the right approach.”

A Focus on Human Rights

Eytan Gilboa, an expert on American politics and foreign policy, as well as a senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, told JNS that Israel “should expect a radical change in the American approach to the UN in general and to UN agencies in particular.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year veteran of the State Department who served as ambassador to Liberia, has been appointed by Biden to be the next ambassador to the UN.

She is almost certain to have a more prominent voice in the Biden administration, as the UN ambassador’s role will once again rise to a cabinet-level position (Nikki Haley was a cabinet-level ambassador, but the role was demoted under Kelly Craft).

While Thomas-Greenfield’s service in the State Department largely focused on West African affairs, she has had a long career as a Foreign Service officer, and is well-respected and known in foreign policy circles, serving under Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

Indeed, Biden has made it clear that a focus when it comes to international relations will be to rebuild American alliances and return to a less antagonistic role in international organizations such as NATO.

“We are going to see the restoration of collaboration with international organizations and multilateral diplomacy,” said Gilboa.

As such, Gilboa fears that Israel’s detractors may up the pressure on the Jewish state to again see “an avalanche of disproportionate, ridiculous anti-Israel resolutions.”

“We are not going to see the [President Donald] Trump approach of confronting the United Nations, and criticizing the conduct and behavior of these organizations,” lamented Gilboa, saying the US president “was right” in criticizing UN bodies for their biased approach to the Arab–Israeli conflict. “The United Nations, the General Assembly and the agencies are corrupt, politicized and ineffective—and someone had to show all of that to them in the mirror.”

Gilboa said Israel needs to worry about the UN Human Rights Council, “which is the most corrupt and politicized agency.”

“Unfortunately,” he said, “the European Union respects this corrupt institution, which does nothing about human rights in the world. Its member states are the worst violators of human rights.” And because of this, he emphasized, Israel “will have less protection.”

He noted that the Council on Human Rights, the UNHRC’s predecessor, was abolished because of over-politicization.

Former US President Barack Obama rejoined the UNHRC hoping for some reforms, “but got nowhere,” said Gilboa. “The conclusion should have been to get out and cut funding. He did not do it. [President] Trump did it.”

“This is one area Israel will have to fight this corrupt institution by itself,” he said.

Another concern, continued Gilboa, is the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. There is hope for Israel that a policy of delegitimizing the court will be somewhat helpful since the court is also investigating the US over its actions in Afghanistan.

Gilboa suggested the Biden administration would fight the accusations, “but we don’t know because it will run against the general philosophy of collaboration with the UN and its agencies. Israel has to prepare for that.”

Israel must also “convince the Biden administration” that the problems at the world body and its agencies are “not just against Israel, but also against the United States and all democratic countries.”

Gilboa said that if the Biden administration seeks collaboration “without taking into consideration what is really happening at the UN and its agencies, then obviously, they will not improve the status of peacemaking, peacekeeping or human rights because the UN agency responsible for human rights is doing exactly the opposite by focusing just on Israel.”

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by JNS on January 12, 2021. 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
Thank the Lord for the solidarity the US offers Israel in the biased world body and that the two nations can stand in camaraderie against a tidal wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. Pray that this duo will grow as more nations are awakened to the blatant lies and hatred that fuel the disproportionate anti-Israel agenda. Also pray for the protection of the bond between Israel and the US so that the two nations will continue to stand side-by-side against injustice and corruption.

Scripture

“They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,” says the LORD, “to deliver you.”


- Jeremiah 1:19

Mine-free Jordan Baptismal Site Church Hosts First Mass in 54 Years

by Ilse Strauss

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The St. John the Baptist Chapel by the Jordan River

Monday, 11 January 2021 | A handful of clergymen, VIP guests, journalists and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers yesterday gathered at the Franciscan St. John the Baptist Chapel on the banks of the Jordan River adjacent to Qasr Al-Yahud—the traditional site where Jesus was reportedly baptized—to celebrate the first mass in this spot in 54 years.

The hiatus of more than half a century came to an end with the recent completion of a two-year operation spearheaded by Israel to remove thousands of landmines from the area that was once a popular pilgrimage spot for Christians but descended into a warzone between Israel and neighboring Jordan during the 1967 Six Day and the 1973 Yom Kippur Wars.

The church and its chapel compound served as the battlefield between the IDF and the Hashemite Kingdom’s army during the conflicts, and once the din of battle died down and the soldiers retreated, the church—alongside six others in the vicinity—lay surrounded by 6,500 landmines.

Father Francesco Patton, the custodian of the Holy Land for the Roman Catholic Church, led yesterday’s mass to celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, observed by the Roman Catholic Church as well as some Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist churches on January 10.

“For us today it is the feast of the baptism of Jesus. We commemorate when John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River,” Patton shared with the Times of Israel. “But today it is a special feast because after 54 years and three days, we have the opportunity for the first time to celebrate…inside our site and this for us is a very important day.”

Patton pointed out that President Reuven Rivlin was instrumental in the landmine clearing and rehabilitation process to restore the deserted strip on the Jordan River into a site once again fit for Christian worship.

The clearing process was kick-started in 2018 and saw the IDF work alongside HALO Trust, a UK-based de-mining organization, for two years until the last of the 6,500 was removed recently.

In honor of the Israeli army’s critical role in the restoration of the Christian church and its compound, several IDF commanders and young soldiers were invited to join the procession of clergymen and monks, further proof of thriving religious coexistence and freedom in Israel.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 7, 2021)

Photo Credit: Eduard Marmet/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Rejoice before the Lord for this beautiful example of Israel’s respect and tolerance for Christianity and the Christian sites dotting the Land. Thank Him that Israel’s commitment and reverence once again serves as a beacon of light for other countries in the Middle East to follow and pray that He will open the eyes of Christians around the world to appreciate Israel’s true nature despite reports flooding the international media.

Scripture

“Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants…Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”


- Isaiah 56:6a–7

Israel Confident It Can Complete Vaccinations by the End of March

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Israel is vaccinating at a pace of 170,000 vaccinations per day (illustrative).

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 | On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein welcomed the arrival of an El Al cargo flight from Belgium with another 700,000 COVID-19 vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer.

  • Netanyahu said: “This is a huge day for the State of Israel. We are making a dream come true. Today more than 72% of citizens aged 60 and over have been vaccinated, and we will vaccinate all of them. Another huge shipment will arrive next Sunday, and we will begin vaccinating the next group—people aged 50 to 60, and so we will advance, at a pace of 170,000 vaccinations a day. This is a world record. We will be the first country to emerge from the coronavirus health crisis and from the coronavirus economic crisis. This is a plane full of encouragement vaccines, a plane with a dream—of emerging from the pandemic, from darkness to great light.”
  • Israel is now planning to increase the pace of vaccinations to 170,000 a day.
  • Edelstein and senior officials from his ministry are also exploring the possibility of vaccinating during the night in order to minimize overcrowding at the vaccination stations.
  • Teaching staff are now eligible to be vaccinated. The priority will be teachers who continue to work during the lockdown, including teachers of special education, youth at risk and at boarding schools for youth at risk. Preschool teaching staff will begin to receive vaccines in a few days.
  • Hospitals have also begun to administer second doses to their staff. A total of 49,897 Israelis received their second jab on Sunday.
  • Israel remains under a tight lockdown since Friday, with police checking cars across the country and fining those who have strayed beyond 1 kilometer [0,6 mi.] from their homes without good reason.
  • The Palestinian Authority [PA] said it expects to receive the vaccine in March following an agreement with AstraZeneca.

Context: So far 1.8 million Israelis have been vaccinated, accounting for around 20% of its total population.

  • Despite the rise in new cases, Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash said that the tightened restrictions for the third closure have already made a positive impact on the country’s rate of infection.
  • Netanyahu has taken personal charge of the vaccinations, having cultivated a personal relationship with Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla.
  • Israel has now agreed that Pfizer will bring in regular weekly installments of the vaccine that will allow for every Israeli to be vaccinated by the end of March.
  • The incentive for Pfizer is that Israel has agreed to share its vaccination data with the pharmaceutical company, which will hopefully allow them to show Israel as a successful test case for beating the virus. Haaretz health correspondent Ido Efrati explains, “For Pfizer, statistics on vaccination in Israel, which has a very diverse population, could provide crucial data on the impact of the vaccine on groups and subgroups that could not have been studied during the company’s trials.”
  • Israel has faced some criticism for not sharing vaccinations with the Palestinians. However, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, the PA is responsible for the healthcare of its own population and has repeatedly confirmed it is obtaining its own vaccines via the UN.

Looking forward: The Health Ministry will consider easing the lockdown in another two weeks if the infection rate continues to drop. It will also take into account the progress in the vaccination campaign.

  • According to Prof. Ash, “We have not yet set a target date for the end of the closure, which is set for two weeks and is supposed to end on the night between January 22 and 23.”
  • The government’s target of vaccinating all over 16s by the end of March coincides with election day on March 23.

Source: (This article was originally published by BICOM on January 11, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Steven Cornfield/unsplash.com

Prayer Focus
Continue to cry out to the Lord for a swift and final end to the pandemic that continues to hold the world—including Israel—captive. Pray that God will give Israel’s leaders the wisdom and insight to weather this storm that continues to rage longer and louder than we could have anticipated so that Israel can truly emerge “from the pandemic, from darkness to great light.”

Scripture

For the LORD will judge His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone…“Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal.”


- Deuteronomy 32:36a, 39