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 email@example.com if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.
Top Iranian General Killed in US Airstrike on Baghdad
by Ilse Strauss
Friday, 3 January 2020 | Iran’s top general—the “shadow commander” behind the Islamic Republic’s proxy wars in the Middle East, the second-most powerful figure in Tehran, Israel’s “most dangerous enemy” and the one person with the power to drag the Jewish state into a war with a single order—is dead.
The US Department of Defense confirmed late yesterday that it carried out an air strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed seven people—among them Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, the unit responsible for Tehran’s extraterritorial military operations. US President Donald Trump gave the command to strike.
“At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani,” a statement said. “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”
President Trump took to Twitter to comment. Instead of a boast about eliminating one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, the president simply posted a picture of the American flag. Words were not necessary.
Soleimani died alongside his close friend Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the man responsible for the rocket attack on the K1 army base in Iraq on Friday that killed a US contractor and wounded scores of US and Iraqi forces. Muhandis is also the deputy commander of the Iranian-backed militia Popular Mobilization Forces or Hashed, the same group whose members on Tuesday stormed the US embassy in Baghdad, breaching the compound and streaming through the checkpoints, chanting “Death to America” and pledging allegiance to Soleimani. Soleimani reportedly approved the attack.
As Muhandis’s men lobbed stones at the embassy building and burned American flags, President Trump warned that Tehran would pay a “BIG PRICE” for the act of terror. Little did Iran know that its days of provocation without consequences had come to an end. Little did Iran know how big a price the US was about to exact.
A senior Iraqi politician and a high-level security official shared the details of the strike with Associated Press. A plane ferrying Soleimani from either Lebanon or Syria touched down at Baghdad International Airport early this morning. Muhandis was already at the airport, waiting on the tarmac to welcome the high-ranking Iranian to Iraq. The strike happened shortly after Soleimani descended from the plane, hitting two cars and killing Soleimani, Muhandis and five others.
This morning’s strike comes at the tail end of a week of back-and-forth blows between the US and Iran. A wave of rocket attacks from Iranian-backed proxies on the more than 5,200 US forces stationed across Iraq over the past months culminated in a barrage of 30 rockets hitting the K1 Iraqi military base in Kirkuk on Friday, killing an American contractor.
The US retaliated with a series of strikes on Iranian proxy Kataeb Hezbollah in western Iraq and eastern Syria, killing 25 paramilitary fighters on Sunday. Two days later, pro-Iranian Hashed forces attacked the US embassy in Baghdad.
Hours before the strike, the US sent a cryptic message that Washington had had enough of Tehran’s bullying and was about to take action to thwart Iranian aggression against the US and its allies.
“To Iran and its proxy militias,” US Defense Secretary Mark Esper tweeted, “We will not accept the continued attacks against our personnel and forces in the region. Attacks against us will be met with responses in the time, manner and place of our choosing. We urge the Iranian regime to end malign activities.”
The strike has the potential to send the already knife-edge tensions between the US and Iran spiraling dangerously out of control and plunge the Middle East into raging conflict. Experts and news sources all agree that Iran will respond to the death of its golden boy. The blow was simply too conspicuous. Soleimani was “the second-most powerful man in Iran—a man presumed by many to be Iran’s next leader,” explains Newsweek columnist Seth Abramson.
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already warned that a “harsh retaliation is waiting.”
Israel fears that it might be in the crosshairs of the Iranian wrath. As one of the US’s closest allies, that fear is hardly ungrounded. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a trip to Greece and is set to touch down in Israel shortly. In the meantime, Defense Minister Naftali Bennet and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Aviv Kochavi called a meeting with key security officials this morning to discuss the situation. Israeli embassies and consuls around the world have been placed on high alert. The Mount Hermon ski resort on the Golan Heights—the sight of a previous missile attack—has been closed.
As Israel prepares to wind down for the day of rest tomorrow, many are hoping with baited breath that it would indeed be a Shabbat shalom (peaceful Sabbath). Bridges for Peace invites you to join us in prayer for wisdom for both Israeli and American leaders and security personnel.
Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 3, 2020)
Photo Credit: sayyed shahab-o- din vajedi/akkasemosalman.ir/wikimedia.org
Photo License: wikimedia.org
Bring the explosive situation before the Lord and cry out for calm in the region. Beseech Him to bestow supernatural wisdom on American and Israeli leadership and pray for the safety of the two country’s security forces as they face any possible revenge attacks. Also pray that Iran will recognize the danger they would face by forcing the region into a conflict.
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
Despite Iran’s Malignant Actions, China, Russia Hold Joint Naval Exercise with Tehran
by Joshua Spurlock
Monday, 30 December 2019 | In the face of American sanctions and continuing malevolent activity by Iran, China and Russia joined the Islamic Republic starting last Friday in joint naval drills for the first time since the Islamic Revolution put Iran’s radicals in power in 1979. Fars News Agency noted the first-time nature of the exercises, done in the Indian Ocean and Sea of Oman and dubbed “Marine Security Belt.”
The two world powers’ partnership with Iran doesn’t look to be ending any time soon. “The Iranian Navy’s joint drills with China and Russia is just the beginning of our cooperation and it will continue,” Iranian Rear Admiral Sayyari was quoted by Fars as saying on Sunday.
China and Russia have long supported Iran at the United Nations and elsewhere, but the joint naval exercise is a stepped up partnership even as the United States has been seeking to isolate Iran for its nuclear program and support for terrorism. In recent months, Iran has advanced their nuclear program in contravention of their nuclear deal with world powers, attacked shipping and the oil industry in the region and downed an American drone.
Just one day before Iran started the drills with Russia, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to a press release by Netanyahu’s office, the leaders discussed Iran and Syria.
Source: (Excerpt of an article published by The Mideast Update on 29 December 2019. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)
Photo Credit: WION/Youtube/Screenshot
Pray for the Lord’s intervention in Iran’s growing relationship with China and Russia. Beseech the Lord that it will not serve to further destabilize the region or worse yet, threaten global peace and safety. Pray that Russian President Putin will remember and make good on past promises to remain committed to the security of Israel.
Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their hearts; they continually gather together for war. They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; the poison of asps in under their lips. Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men.
Long-term Truce between Israel and Hamas?
by Ilse Strauss
Tuesday, 31 December 2019 | June 2007 ushered in a new era for the citizens of southern Israel. The terror group Hamas had just seized control of the Gaza Strip in a violent coup and was about to unleash its reign of bloodshed, fear and violence in the coastal enclave and well into Israel. The ensuing 12 years have been marked by barrages of rockets raining down on Israeli civilians, kidnappings, suicide bombings, terror attacks and stints of back-and-forth fighting erupting every few months.
Now, Israeli media report, significant progress has been made towards reaching an agreement that could mark the conclusion of the 12 years of violence. Could Israel and Hamas be heading for a long-term truce in the year to come? Will 2020 bring the long-awaited end to the rain of rockets for the citizens of southern Israel? The short answer is a tentative maybe.
According to Channel 12 News, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the security cabinet on Sunday for a briefing by National Security Council Director Meir Ben-Shabbat on the details of a proposed long-term ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas. The agreement is apparently moderated by the Egyptians.
The report claimed that Israel and Hamas have made great strides towards peace since the assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata, a key commander of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group in the Strip. Abu al-Ata was apparently vehemently opposed to peaceful coexistence with Israel under any terms. Since his removal from the equation, Hamas has been more inclined to consider the terms of peace.
Such a long-term truce will, of course, require concessions from both sides. According to the Times of Israel, the Jewish state’s terms include enlarging Gaza’s fishing zone, stepping up construction of infrastructure projects, such as a gas pipeline, increasing medical assistance and equipment for hospitals and boosting the number of permits allowing Gazans into Israel for business purposes.
Hamas’s expected terms are simple: cease rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and curb the violent border protests.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the negotiations of a deal to end violence between Israel and Hamas is long in the making and something that both the government and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been working towards.
“I recognize a unique opportunity in Gaza,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said Wednesday in an address at the IDC Herzliya. “Winning wars isn’t enough. We have to manage security in a way that doesn’t test the public every two or three years. We have to make sure that we reach a decisive result that ensures that there will be an interval of deterrence.”
A day after Kochavi’s address, the organizers of the March of Return and Breaking the Siege, the weekly violent riots on the border between Israel and Gaza, announced that there would be no further demonstrations until March. Israeli media constitutes the gesture as a sign of Hamas’s cooperation and a growing understanding between the two sides.
Not everybody is happy about the prospect of peace, however. The Palestinian Authority (PA) and a number of other factions have given Hamas a tongue lashing over its willingness to reach a ceasefire with Israel.
According to Ibrahim Milhem, spokesman for the PA government, a deal between Israel and Hamas would circumvent the PA and establish a “new separate Palestinian entity” in the coastal enclave.
As the countdown to 2020 has officially started, a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas does appear to be a possibility. However, perhaps it is too soon to start celebrating the long-awaited peace just yet.
Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 31, 2019)
Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/flickr.com
Photo License: flickr.com
Praise the Lord that such an agreement is under discussion. Ask the Lord to grant Israeli leaders great wisdom and foresight in such discussions and pray that no agreement would be entered into that in any way threatens Israel’s security or weakens its ability to protect its citizens. Pray that an agreement will be reached that will allow the people of southern Israel to live without fear for the first time in over a decade.
For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.
Spate of Anti-Semitism Continues with Vandalism, Nazi Salute
by Kate Norman
Wednesday, 1 January 2020 | Anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise worldwide, manifested in a fierce rampage of violence in the beginning of December that included two shooters targeting a kosher supermarket in New Jersey that killed four people and a stabbing spree in New York that wounded five. The worrisome trend continued to the end of the month that is supposed to hold joyous celebrations of Hanukkah (Festival of Lights) and Christmas.
In West Virginia, a photo surfaced of correction officer trainees giving the Nazi salute, which resulted in a swift investigation ending in the firing of 34 of the trainees as well as their instructor, whom the gesture was intended for “as a sign of respect,” according to the report.
The governor of West Virginia was quick to respond, firing the people involved and condemning their actions.
“As I said from the beginning, I condemn the photo…in the strongest possible terms,” Governor Jim Justice said in a statement. “I also said that this act needed to result in real consequences—termination and dismissals. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated on my watch in any agency of state government.”
In Greece, which has seen a rise in anti-Semitic vandalism, a newly restored synagogue was spray-painted with hateful slurs in one of the nation’s oldest Jewish communities.
Local Jewish leaders said the vandalism proved “the struggle against anti-Semitism must continue.”
“Shameful and insulting slogans, which profane the recently restored historic synagogue of Trikala, provoke indignation and deep sadness,” the Central Jewish Council of Greece (KIS) lamented in a statement.
An Israeli student in New York who was attacked on the subway by a woman screaming anti-Semitic slurs—including the fact that she wished more Jewish people had been killed at the kosher market shooting in New Jersey—encouraged individual responses to anti-Semitism.
Walking away from the incident with a large scratch on her face from the subway attacker, Lihi Aharon declared in a video: “Do not be afraid to step up and shut people up. Do not be afraid to fight and return the fight.”
As headlines and organizations continue to report growing numbers and incidents of anti-Semitism, Jewish and non-Jewish people alike are getting fed up.
“As the Jewish people celebrate Chanukah, we are still experiencing continued attacks,” Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon wrote on Twitter. “Enough talk, it is time for action to deter those who propagate anti-Semitism. This hatred knows no bounds. The [international] community must unite in the fight against this wave of bigotry and hatred.”
After condemning the New York attack on the rabbi’s home during a Hanukkah celebration that resulted in five people wounded, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote: “This holiday season, a time of reflection and celebration of faith, let us not forget that the religious freedom enjoyed at home remains under attack around the world and resolve to pray and fight for those who endure religious persecution on account of their faith.”
Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 1, 2020)
Photo Credit: CBS News/YouTube/screenshot
Pray for physical and emotional healing for all of those in the Jewish community who have experienced anti-Semitic violence in recent months. Pray that people of good conscience everywhere, especially Christians, will take a very firm and visible stand against such inexcusable behavior and that perpetrators will be punished to the full extent of the law. Also, pray that many Jewish people worldwide will hear God’s call and make their way back to their ancient homeland.
Have mercy on me, O LORD! Consider my trouble from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death, that I may tell of all Your praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion. I will rejoice in Your salvation.
Annual Poverty Report Reveals 841,000 Children in Israel Live in Poverty
by Amir Alon
Thursday, 2 January 2020 | The poverty rate in Israel has grown by 1% over the last year—with a bigger increase in the number of children under the line of poverty, according to the poverty report published by the National Insurance Institute of Israel (NII) on Tuesday.
According to the report, 490,400 families in Israel live in poverty, among them are 841,700 children.
The number of children living in poverty has increased by 27,000 since 2017.
The percentage of the population living in poverty (excluding eastern Jerusalem) rose from about 19.4% in 2017 to about 20.4% in 2018.
The percentage of children living in poverty rose from about 27.1% in 2017 to about 29.1% in 2018.
The percentage of households living in poverty has remained nearly unchanged, with 17.4% in 2017 to 17.5% in 2018.
Israel currently finds itself fourth from last in poverty within the OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries, with a poverty rate higher than in other countries such as the United States, South Korea and Turkey.
An OECD report published several months ago estimated the poverty rate amongst Israeli children to be 22%, second only to Turkey.
Although data shows a rise in the poverty rate, the poverty gap of Israel’s poor has improved in 2018 and stands at 4.1% in comparison to 4.9% in 2017.
The poverty rate amongst the elderly has grown from 17.2% to 18.8%. The number of households living in poverty where the head of the family is an elderly person has risen from 21.8% to 23.4%.
The poverty gap within these same households has increased from 27.7% to 32%. Data also shows that the poverty rate is much higher in older families than younger ones.
The poverty rate among immigrants in Israel has gone down significantly, from 18.4% to 16%. However, the poverty gap among immigrants increased by about 3%.
Prime Minister and caretaker Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Benjamin Netanyahu praised the decrease in the poverty gap and number of those living in abject poverty, citing a 6.9% increase in income for families living in the lowest economic classes.
“We will continue to reduce the poverty rate in this country and work to increase retirement pensions for the elderly,” said Netanyahu.
NII Director General Meir Shpigler stated that although there is some encouraging data in the report, there is a lot to be done against poverty in Israel.
“The government must continue and work to decrease the poverty rate, especially among the country’s elderly,” Shipgler said. “The NII is raising pensions in accordance with the current average salary and not a fixed rate. This change is needed due to increasing average life expectancy—for the welfare of millions of senior citizens and it is our duty to make sure they live respectable lives.”
Editor’s Note: Jesus (Yeshua) taught us an important principle in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.” In Matthew 25 when Jesus talks about the judgment of the nations, He says we will be judged according to how we treated the “least” of His brothers (vv. 40, 45). In fact, taking care of the needy is a constant thread in the Bible. In Isaiah 58:10–11 we read: “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.”
It is our privilege to come to the aid of poverty-stricken Israelis. Every month we distribute food packages that help feed more than 22,000 needy Israelis. Thousands more are asking for our assistance. We know God’s heart is turned towards them in their need. We cannot do it without your help. Would you open your heart and give generously to our Food Project so we can serve even more of the poor and afflicted? With your financial support, we can fulfill the call of Jesus and bring sustenance and blessing into the homes of Israel’s needy.
Photo Credit: Hannah Taylor/bridgesforpeace.com
Pray that the Lord will bless the Israeli economy as they struggle to maintain a balance between their disproportionate security needs and the needs of the underprivileged among their citizenry. In the meantime, pray that the Lord will move on the hearts of Christians around the world to give generously to Bridges for Peace as we work to bring badly needed sustenance to Israel’s poor, especially children who are living below the poverty level.
He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given.
Palestinian Authority Angered over Withheld “Pay-for-Slay” Funds
by Kate Norman
Thursday, 2 January 2020 | Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are yet again at odds after Israel reported on Sunday that it would withhold NIS 149 million (US $43 million) in taxes collected on behalf of the PA. This is the exact amount of money that Israel determined the PA gave last year to jailed terrorists or the families of terrorists killed while executing an attack on Israeli soldiers and civilians as part of the PA’s infamous “Pay-for-Slay” program, which rewards Palestinian “martyrs” who spill Jewish blood.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas sent an envoy after the announcement to meet with Israel’s finance minister and convey a message: the call to withhold the funds “stirred emotions” and the so-called West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is on the “brink of an explosion,” according to a Channel 13 report.
The Cabinet continued with the move despite warnings from Israel’s security chief that it could negatively impact the relationship with the PA, according to a report by Channel 13 News.
“The offsetting of the funds could cause unrest in the area,” Shin Bet (Israeli internal security organization) Chief Nadav Argaman reportedly said in Sunday’s Cabinet meeting. “The government needs to decide what kind of relationship it wants to have with the PA.”
Adding fuel to the fire, Israel is also reportedly making significant progress in a long-term truce with Hamas, the terror organization in control of the Gaza Strip that regularly threatens the Jewish state and indiscriminately fires rockets over the border toward Israeli civilians. Israel is expected to increase infrastructure and humanitarian projects in the Strip and lift restrictions on the border crossings and fishing zones around Gaza. All Hamas has to do is halt the stream of rocket fire and rein in the violent border protests.
“You are going for a deal with Hamas but at the same time slap more sanctions on the PA,” PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh reportedly told Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, as quoted by Channel 13.
Nonetheless, the withholding is not a new sanction against the PA, Channel 13 reported the finance minister as responding, but merely the Jewish state following through on a decision made last February to utilize a law allowing Israel to withhold taxes collected for the PA equaling the amount that the PA deposits into its “Pay-for-Slay” rewards program. In February, Israel determined to withhold NIS 500 million (US $144,578,030) over 12 months, according to the Times of Israel.
An anonymous Israeli defense official told the Times that this recent move was made to follow through on the decision made earlier this year.
“We are seeking the full implementation of the law now,” the official said.
Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 2, 2020)
Photo Credit: Ruptly/YouTube/screenshot
Beseech the Lord that Israel’s actions will finally force the Palestinian Authority to put an end to their outrageous Pay-for-Slay program. Pray that violence will not erupt as a result of this situation and ask the Lord to turn the hearts of the Palestinian leadership from vengeance and violence to a sincere desire for peace.
The LORD will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.
Israeli Scientists May Have the Answer to Alzheimer’s
Wednesday, 1 January 2020 | Holidays are a time for family. Festive gatherings with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles create memories that last a lifetime. But when a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, holidays often become painful reminders of loss and deterioration. Currently, Alzheimer’s affects 1 in 10 adults over the age of 65—a number that is expected to triple by 2030. The need to find a cure is great.
Now there may be a glimmer of hope. A research team headed by Hervé Bercovier, Charles Greenblatt and Benjamin Klein at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics has discovered that the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, originally developed for tuberculosis and commonly used to treat bladder cancer, may also be an effective treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s. They published their findings in PLOS ONE.
“There’s data reaching back to the 1960s that shows that countries treating bladder cancer patients with the BCG vaccine had a lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, but it hadn’t been properly analyzed,” shared lead author Bercovier.
Until now. Bercovier and his team followed 1,371 bladder cancer patients receiving treatment at HU’s Hadassah Medical Center. The average patient age was 68. During follow-up visits, 65 cancer patients had developed Alzheimer’s. Those who had not received BCG as part of their treatment had a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than did BCG-treated patients: 8.9% (44 patients) as opposed to 2.4% (21). Further, when compared with the general (healthy) population, people who had never been treated with BCG had a 4-fold higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s than did those who were treated with BCG.
It’s important to note that the researchers have not developed a vaccine that prevents Alzheimer’s. However, shared Bercovier, “our study is an important step towards understanding the ways in which our immune system is a major player in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s and how the BCG vaccine, which modulates the immune system, may serve as an effective preventative treatment to this crippling condition.”
And that would be the best holiday gift of all.
Source: (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs originally published this article on December 23, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)
Photo Credit: geralt/pixabay.com
Praise the Lord for yet another Israeli medical advance that could change the medical community’s approach to treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Ask the Lord to bless these researchers as they work toward prevention, potentially saving untold millions from this condition.
And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.
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