Compassion

Help Israeli families restore the lives, homes and security that went up in smoke.

Friday, January 4, 2019

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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.

Iran Promises Islamic Jihad’s Leaders Victory over Israel is “Imminent”

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Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei calls for continued violence against Israel. (Illustrative)

Thursday, 3 January 2019 | In a meeting with leaders of the terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei encouraged them to maintain their “resistance” to Israel, whose defeat is “imminent,” Iran’s semi-official PressTV news reported Monday.

“As long as there is resistance, the Zionist regime’s downfall and demise will continue,” Khamenei told PIJ Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhala and other leaders of the terror group, promising them that their final victory over Israel was “imminent.”

Khamenei claimed that Palestinians were on the verge of bringing “the Zionist regime to its knees, a feat that Arab armies could never accomplish.”

The Iranian leader observed that previous wars between Israel and Gaza-based terrorist organizations had lasted from between 8 and 22 days, but in November a truce was agreed to “after only 48 hours.” Khamenei said that this showed “the Zionist regime has been brought to its knees.”

Khamenei was referring to Operation Cast Lead, which lasted for 22 days from December 2008 into January 2009, and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, which lasted for 8 days. He did not take Operation Protective Edge, which lasted for 50 days in 2014, into account.

 Ynet reported that in an interview on Iran’s state-owned Al Alam television channel, Nakhala promised that his group would open a second front on Israel’s southern border to assist Iran-backed Hezbollah in a future conflict with Israel.

“In the next confrontation with the occupation, the axis of resistance will operate from the north in Lebanon to the south in Gaza,” Nakhala said.

PIJ is the second largest military organization in Gaza and usually works together with Hamas. However, Ynet observed, “it has recently subjugated itself almost completely to Iran, despite being a Sunni organization.”

Iran has been very vocal in its support of PIJ, which has been designated as a terror group by the United States, European Union and Israel.

Israel blamed a late October barrage of rockets on PIJ and Iran, saying that the escalation took place “under guidance, instruction and incentives from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds Force, based in Damascus.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on January 2, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Ali Khamenei/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will give Israeli and world leaders wisdom to know exactly what kind of political and economic pressure will put Iran out of business. Pray that the leaders of Iran will accept the humbling of the God of Israel or that their arrogance will lead to their destruction.

Scripture

So Moses and Aaron came in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?’”


- Exodus 10:3

Israeli Elections: Will Netanyahu Win Again?

by Joshua Spurlock

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Polls show PM Netanyahu is likely to win the early elections set for April.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019 | The Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, voted last Wednesday to dissolve its current rendition and move elections up to April. A press release on the Knesset website said the vote passed overwhelmingly by a 102-2 margin. Just over four years since the last round of elections were held in March 2015, Israelis will be going to the polls again to determine if [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu will be able secure his fourth consecutive term as the leader of the Jewish state.

So far, it looks likely. According to a poll last week originally published by the Maariv Hebrew newspaper and reposted in English by the Times of Israel, Netanyahu’s Likud party would win more than double the number of Knesset seats as the runner up party—earning 30 seats compared to 13 for what was then a hypothetical new party to be created by former IDF [Israel Defense Forces] chief of staff Benny Gantz. The Knesset is comprised of 120 seats, making 61 the threshold for holding a majority.

Generally, that is accomplished by multiple parties joining forces in a coalition. The poll, conducted by Panels Politics, found that Netanyahu could narrowly cobble together a government coalition of right-leaning and religious political parties similar to the current government.

Gantz is considered a centrist according to the Times and could offer a cushion to a Netanyahu government, while the next largest party in the poll is the center-left Yesh Atid party with 12 seats. Yesh Atid has previously served in a coalition with Netanyahu, although that ultimately broke down.

The current leading opposition party—the left-leaning Zionist Union party—would suffer heavy losses according to the poll, dropping from 24 seats to just nine.

After the poll, Gantz officially formed his new party—known as Hosen L’Israel in Hebrew or “the Israel Resilience Party” in English, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Netanyahu, on his official Twitter feed, tweeted his thoughts about the upcoming elections. According to an English translation of his Hebrew post, the current Israeli leader said, “We have tremendous achievements in every field, and we still have a lot of work to do for the citizens of Israel and the State of Israel. With the help of God and with your help—we will receive the trust of the voter and we will continue to work!”

The official tasked with formally asking a legislator to form a government as the next prime minister is Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, although such a decision is effectively just a formality based on behind-the-scenes coalition negotiations. However, Rivlin did opine on the new elections, and in so doing alluded to some of the controversy in the last elections held in the United States while hoping for “clean and fair” elections in Israel.

“We are now in a world in which we are increasingly exposed to a combination of power, interests and interference that use technology, where cyber armies are available to sway the public agenda, to distort opinions away from facts towards ‘fake news,’ towards scandal, speculation and slander,” said Rivlin in an Israeli press release. “In such a world, we need to ensure a fair democratic process. We must insist, as citizens, that we have access to facts and opinions without distortion.”

Rivlin concluded with a wish that all Israeli parties should share, that “the elections will strengthen, not weaken, us as a society and that they will be credit to Israeli democracy.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on December 27, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: US Department of State/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that President Rivlin’s desires will come to pass, that the Israeli elections will strengthen and not weaken Israel as a society and that they will be a credit to Israeli democracy. Pray that the Lord’s will be done as he puts in place His chosen leader to shepherd the nation with integrity and wisdom in these critical days.

Scripture

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forevermore.


- Psalm 133:1–3

Uncertainty Surrounds US Pullout from Syria

by Kate Norman

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US Senator Linsday Graham urges caution in the US troop pullout of Syria

Monday, 31 December 2018 | US President Donald Trump’s announcement on December 19 that the United States will be pulling its 2,000 troops out of Syria has led to questions about the implications for Israel, who keeps a cautious eye on the Syrian border as a buffer zone between the Jewish state and Iran.

Following a two-hour lunch meeting with President Trump on Sunday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement that he thinks the president and his generals have come up with a plan that makes sense.

Graham, who had been a vocal opponent of President Trump’s decision to pull the US troops out of Syria, later wrote in a tweet that he learned a lot from President Trump “about our efforts in Syria that was reassuring.”

“The President will make sure any withdrawal from Syria will be done in a fashion to ensure: 1) ISIS is permanently destroyed. 2) Iran doesn’t fill in the back end, and 3) our Kurdish allies are protected.” Graham wrote.

“President @realDonaldTrump is talking with our commanders and working with our allies to make sure these three objectives are met as we implement the withdrawal,” the senator continued.

In a statement at the Israeli Air Force Pilots’ Course Graduation Ceremony on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We are not prepared to accept the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria which is directed against us. We will act against it vigorously and continuously including during the current period.

“I have said that we will not be deterred from doing what is necessary,” he continued. “Therefore, we are called upon and we act. President Trump’s decision to withdraw the American soldiers from Syria will not change our policy. We are standing steadfast on our red lines in Syria and everywhere else.”

This statement came a day after a reported Israeli air strike on an arms depot west of Damascus, according to Syrian state media. The Syrian media also reported that three Syrian soldiers were wounded in the attack, which allegedly took place from Lebanese airspace.

An anonymous Israeli security official confirmed to Haaretz that Israel struck several Iranian targets in Syria, including Iranian storage and logistic targets being used to transfer weapons to Tehran’s terror puppet, Hezbollah.

The official also said the Israeli air force destroyed a Syrian anti-aircraft battery near Damascus that fired at the Israeli planes, Haaretz reported.

Two days before the strike, Netanyahu made strong statements about Israel’s policy on Iran and Syria at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“The decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria will not change our consistent policy: We will continue to act against Iran’s attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria, and to the extent necessary, we will even expand our actions there,” Netanyahu said.

“I would like to reassure those who are concerned,” the prime minister continued. “Our cooperation with the US will continue in full and finds expression in many areas: operations, intelligence and many other security spheres.”

Following President Trump’s announcement of the US pullout, Education Minister Naftali Bennett took to Twitter: “The State of Israel has always defended itself on its own, and will do so now. The United States is Israel’s important ally and we respect the president’s decision to remove the American military forces from Syria. We have never asked for and will not ask its soldiers to defend Israeli citizens. The alliance with the US will continue to strengthen our national strength.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 31, 2018)

Photo Credit: US Senate/wikimedia.org

Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lindsey_Graham,_Official_Portrait_2006.jpg

Prayer Focus
Pray that American leaders will have the wisdom to make the right decision in accordance with God’s timing. Beseech the Lord for protection for the people of Israel and for stability in the region. Pray that Israel will look to Him for their strength and support, even as the friendship between Israel and the United States continues.

Scripture

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They have bowed down and fallen; but we have risen and stand upright. Save, LORD! May the King answer us when we call.


- Psalm 20:7–9

What Happened in Israel in 2018

by Jo Sarah Stanford

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After a year with an overall decrease in terror attacks, the IDF thwarted another attack south of Hebron on Monday when troops discovered this M16 rifle wrapped in a baby’s blanket.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019 | 2018 was a significant year in Israel. The country celebrated some major events but also saw more—much more—than its fair share of heartache. The past year has seen an uprising of violence in Gaza, coinciding with the US embassy move to Jerusalem; while Iran continued its aggression and fight for control in the Middle East amid Israel’s warming relations with other Arab nations.

The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) released a summary of terror attacks in 2018.

In Judea and Samaria there were:

  • 893 firebomb attacks
  • 33 shooting attacks
  • 17 stabbing attacks

These attacks injured 199 Israelis and killed 16. This included the tragic murder of a four-day-old baby boy in December, born prematurely by emergency C-section after his mother was shot while waiting for a bus. Overall, attacks have decreased, mostly due to a halving in rock-throwing incidents.

In Gaza there were:

  • 15 cross-border terror tunnels dug from Gaza into Israel—which the IDF destroyed
  • 1000 rockets launched from Gaza into Israel
  • 250 rockets from Gaza intercepted by the Iron Dome Aerial Defense System

In response to these attacks, the IDF bombed 865 terror targets within the Gaza Strip.

According to Ynetnews, rocket attacks from Gaza increased a “staggering 28 times” from 2017. Almost half of these rockets were fired during a 48-hour period in November, in an onslaught not seen since the 2014 Gaza War. This does not include the hundreds of terror balloons and kites sent across the border, which burnt well over 7,000 acres of crops and nature reserves and caused millions of dollars of damage. These explosive devices landed in schools and kindergartens, some reaching as far inland as Modi’in and Jerusalem. There were also violent riots along the Gaza border fence—occurring weekly since March and only subsiding (though not stopping completely) after a tenuous cease-fire following the November rocket attacks.

However, there were also some great victories.

On May 14, Israel celebrated 70 years since the foundation of its modern state. On the same day, America opened its new embassy in the true capital, Jerusalem. The bold move by US President Donald Trump allowed for new conversation on the issue of Jerusalem as the capital, and Guatemala and Paraguay soon followed suit, also moving their embassies. However, due to Palestinian pressure, Paraguay moved its embassy back to Tel Aviv shortly after. Other countries, such as the Czech Republic and Australia, also warmed to the idea, though made no firm commitment. Brazil has promised to move its embassy, while according to the Times of Israel, Moldova is “seriously considering” the move.

There have been many firsts for Israel in international relations with Oman, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all reaching out to Israel, where there had been little or no relations before. For the first time, Israel’s national anthem was played at Abu Dhabi, when Israel won two gold medals at the Judo Grand Championships. (Previously Israeli winners were refused their own anthem and the International Judo Federation anthem was played.)

December saw the launch of Operation Northern Edge, combatting Hezbollah terror tunnels that infiltrate into Israel from Lebanon. The IDF has already discovered and destroyed five tunnels.

A certain level of uncertainty surrounds Israel in the new year. The United States has announced the pullout of troops from Syria, leaving Israel to face the threat of the Islamic State and Iran on its own. Also, following the breakdown of the government coalition, Israel is heading to early elections.

However, the people are strong and not easily discouraged. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that 2018 was “An amazing year! A year in which we celebrated 70 years of the independence of Israel. A year of flourishing our state. The year that our relationships became stronger with global leadership. A year in which the American embassy moved to Jerusalem. A year in which our unemployment reached an all-time low. A year in which we reduced the gap between the classes. A year in which our infrastructure peaked. We had an amazing year because of you. And next year we will have an even better year, more amazing than this.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 1, 2019)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces@IDF/Twitter

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that despite the violent opposition to their very existence, the people of Israel remain strong and resilient. Pray that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will keep them from discouragement, fill them with optimism and draw their hearts to Him.

Scripture

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.


- Psalm 23:4–5

Brazil President Tells Netanyahu “Not Question of If, Just When” on Jerusalem Embassy Move

by Joshua Spurlock 

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Brazilian President-elect Bolsonaro promises PM Netanyahu that they will move their embassy to Jerusalem.

Monday, 31 December 2018 | The list of nations with embassies in Jerusalem is looking to grow yet again, as Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the latter’s visit to the country that Brazil is going to move [its] embassy to Israel’s capital as well. “Mr. Bolsonaro also said this: ‘I will move the embassy to Jerusalem. It’s not a question of if, just a question of when,’” said Netanyahu. “(United States) President (Donald) Trump said the same thing. He moved the embassy. And President Bolsonaro will move the embassy as well.”

While Netanyahu didn’t give a date, President-elect Bolsonaro is set to take power on January 1.

In comments on Sunday released by his office, Netanyahu said Bolsonaro also accepted an invitation to visit Israel with plans to come by March 2019. Said Netanyahu, “I look forward to receiving him with the same spirit and the same brotherhood that he received me and that you are receiving us.”

Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to visit Brazil, and the relationship with the new leader of the Latin American country looks to be very strong. Said Netanyahu, “This is what President-elect Bolsonaro said yesterday. He said: ‘We are brothers.’ Not ‘We are allies,’ not ‘We have common interests.’ Brothers from the heart.”

And it’s not just Bolsonaro. Netanyahu has experienced a warm welcome from the everyday citizens of Brazil as well. “There must have been about 10,000 people on the beach where we crossed, about that. One shouted ‘Free Palestine.’ That’s it. But thousands received us warmly. Thousands,” said Netanyahu. “And I saw some people playing soccer, football, so I played. I had the opportunity to touch the people, and they had the opportunity to touch us.”

And the connection between Israel and Brazil will grow deeper. According to another press release from Netanyahu’s office last Friday, the leaders “agreed to tighten” cooperation in a number of fields, including technology, economics and security.

Said Netanyahu on Friday, “Today we are forging a great alliance with a huge power of almost 250 million people, which is turning a new page with us, with cooperation that will help the citizens of both countries…I think that this is an additional expression of Israel as a rising global power.”

In comments to leaders of the Brazilian Jewish community on Sunday, Netanyahu was quoted by his office in the press release as noting that Brazil “needs good health, longevity, protection from disease, it needs safe transportation, it needs security. All these things, Israel has. And the reason we have it, is because there’s a revolution in the world, a great revolution. And it is a technological revolution which gives tremendous value to products of the mind.”

The Israeli leader told the Jewish leaders that he and President-elect Bolsonaro agreed that delegations from Israel in a variety of fields would visit Brazil. Said Netanyahu, “This is a partnership that has been meaning to happen, meant to happen, and we’re going to make it happen very fast.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on December 30, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: PM of Israel@IsraeliPM/twitter.com

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for President Bolsonaro and his decision to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem. Pray that the Lord will keep him strong in this commitment, and ask for His blessing on the growing alliance between the two nations.

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

Jerusalem Taking Off as World’s Fastest Growing Tourist Destination

by Kate Norman

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Jerusalem is increasing in popularity as a tourist destination.

Friday, 21 December 2018 | Israel’s glowing capital city has been ranked one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world after experiencing a 37.5% growth rate compared to 2017, which had also seen a significant growth of 32%.

A report by Euromonitor International called “Top 100 City Destinations 2018” called Jerusalem one of four cities to watch, following Mumbai, Porto and Osaka. The capital city ranked 63rd of the 100 most-visited cities around the world, moving up 12 spots in the ranking from last year, according to Euromonitor.

“On the back of relative stability and a strong marketing push, arrivals grew 32% in 2017 and are expected to grow by 38% in 2018,” the report reads. “After a slump between 2013 and 2015, arrivals are now back above 2012 figures.”

Israel broke its all-time 2017 record in November for incoming tourism by surpassing 3.6 million tourists, Israel21c reported. According to the report, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism expects that at least four million tourists will have visited Israel by the end of the year.

Ilanit Melchior, the tourism director of the Jerusalem Development Authority, was quoted in Israel21c, “We are very happy to see that the world placed Jerusalem at the same line with the top tourist destinations, such as Barcelona, London and Lisbon.”

Jerusalem currently boasts 20,000 hotel rooms and, as Melchior pointed out in July, boutique hostels, hostels for millennials and internationally known landmarks.

“The city has experienced an immense growth and performed an actual leap into modernity in a way that cannot be ignored,” Melchior told Diplomacy in July.

Tel Aviv also ranked well at number 81 on the list, with an 18.3% tourism growth rate in 2018.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 21, 2018)

Photo Credit: pompi/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Rejoice before the Lord and sing praises to His name as He draws the hearts of millions of people to His holy city! Thank Him for Jerusalem’s remarkable growth and pray for each pilgrim whose feet touch the soil of this remarkable place. Pray for His voice to truly be heard by each of them, filling them with love for Him and for the people who are the apple of His eye, as they witness for themselves the fulfillment of His ancient promises.

Scripture

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Behold, I will save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west; I will bring them back, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. They shall be My people and I will be their God, in truth and righteousness.”


- Zechariah 8:7–8

Heavy Rains Fall throughout Israel

by  Ahiya Raved

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Much needed rain is falling throughout Israel.

Friday, December 21, 2018 | Israelis found themselves in the center of a stormy period, as heavy showers accompanied by thunderstorms and strong winds hit Thursday morning. The inclement weather spread down from the northern parts of the country all the way to the south, with temperatures dropping to below average.

There were fears of flooding in the eastern parts of the country and in the Negev Desert, where meteorologists also predicted fog and mist.

Heavy rains in the north brought welcome news for the Sea of Galilee, one of Israel’s main water sources. The lake’s water level rose by 1.5 centimeters [0.59 in.], according to the Water Authority, although it is still 1.58 meters [5.1 ft.] below the red line and just 29 centimeters [11.4 in.] above the black line—that indicates at which point pumping could lead to permanent damage to the water quality.

On Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, up to 10 centimeters [3.9 in.] of snow accumulated overnight for the first time this winter, accompanied by heavy fog, with the temperatures falling to -1°C (30.2°F).

Heavy rains also hit the center of the country, bringing some flooding. A police station in the city of Rehovot, some 20 kilometers [12.4 mi.] south of Tel Aviv, had to be shut down after it flooded.

According to the Meteo-Tech meteorological company, winds in the western Mediterranean Sea will reach speeds of up to 96.5 kilometers per hour (60 mph), while the waves could reach heights of up to 4 meters (13 ft.).

The storms will gradually weaken toward Thursday evening, but intermittent rain is expected to continue through Friday, mainly in central Israel and northern Negev.

On Saturday it will continue to be partly cloudy, and the temperatures are expected to rise, with a chance of slight drizzle in the north and center of the country.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on December 20, 2018. Time-related language has been changed to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Pridatko Oleksandr/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Thank God for the wonderful blessing of rain in His land! Pray that He will continue to bless Israel with plentiful water while protecting them from flooding and severe storms. May the people rejoice in God’s goodness!

Scripture

God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend. For He says to the snow, “Fall on the earth”; likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength.


- Job 37:5–6

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