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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.

Living on the Front Lines

by Ilse Strauss

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The charred remains of a passion fruit field in Talmei Yosef, after a Hamas incendiary balloon torched the crop ready for harvest

Friday, 29 June 2018 | The first air-raid siren taught Johnny Dishi the importance of always having a plan. Dishi, his wife and three toddlers had just moved to Talmei Yosef, a moshav (collective settlement) located a proverbial stone’s throw from the precarious spot where Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip meet. Of course the young family knew there would be a price to pay for living within striking distance of an Islamic Jihadist regime whose reason for existence is Israel’s demise. In fact, they fully expected the predawn rocket attacks, the jarring screech of code red sirens and the mad dash between bed and bomb shelter. Still, the first attack caught Dishi off guard. As the siren wailed, he realized that he had three toddlers and only two arms. He learned that day—just as every other family living near the Gaza Strip learns—the importance of having a detailed, meticulous and well-practiced safety plan in place for any possible scheme devised by Hamas, the terror organization ruling the Gaza Strip, to kill and maim Israeli civilians.

Talmei Yosef is one of more than 50 communities scattered around the Israel-Gaza border, known as the Gaza Envelope. The region is located in the Negev desert, an arid expanse of rock and sand, sparse rainfall and soaring temperatures. Despite the seemingly adverse conditions, some of Israel’s choicest fruits, vegetables and flowers spring from the scorching sands of the Gaza Envelope. Thanks to Israeli ingenuity, the once parched wasteland around the Gaza Strip is a famous agricultural delight. Rows of eucalyptus trees tower over fields of ripe corn, wheat and barley. Dusky orange, lemon and mango orchards nestle in neat grids alongside patches of emerald grape arbors. Lines of silver solar panels lay tucked between the fields, turning the sun into energy. The tiny community of Talmei Yosef and its neighbors stand as proof of a burning desert blossoming as a rose, just as God promised in Isaiah 35:1.

Yet the Gaza Envelope is known for something other than an agricultural marvel. The more than 50 communities scattered around the Israel-Gaza border bear the brunt of Hamas’s waves of rocket attacks, infiltration and kidnapping attempts and more recently, droves of incendiary kites and balloons launched over the border to torch fields, trees, homes and infrastructure. From the outside looking in, building a life in the cross-hairs of an Islamic Jihadist regime seems inconceivable. How do families function with the constant threat of terror looming close? How do fathers and mothers send their little ones to school, knowing that Hamas rockets have exploded in kindergartens? And how do children sleep at night, knowing the howl of an air raid siren may wake them?

15 Seconds to Safety

Dishi moved his family to Talmei Yosef five years ago to be close to his wife’s family. “Family is the most important thing, you know,” he smiles. While Dishi spends his days growing export-quality passion fruit, pineapples and papayas, his wife is an art therapist working with traumatized youth. Her schedule is packed, he admits. Some 40% of the children in the Gaza Envelope suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Dishi has come a long way since the first air-raid siren caught him off guard. “With these things, you have to rehearse in advance. You must have a plan, a detailed one, like which parent takes which child. Being prepared is the most important thing. That, and not showing fear. Whatever you do, you can never let your children know that you are under stress. If you are afraid, your children will live in fear too.”

Even with the preparations and the show of courage, Dishi confesses that his eight-year-old son is having a hard time. “Every time a siren goes off, he is very stressed. I try to calm him down, telling him that it is difficult for Hamas to hit our house. I even tried a demonstration. I took a Coke can, put it on a log, gave him some stones, had him stand a distance away and told him to hit the can. He tried—and failed. So I told him, ‘See, it is not that easy.’”

After five years in the Gaza Envelope, Dishi knows that the threat of terror is not something you grow accustomed to. “Every time a siren sounds, the first thought that crosses your mind is: I’ve got 15 seconds to get to safety! Yes, we deal with the rockets and the attacks. We do what we have to do. But getting used to it? I don’t think that’s possible.”

For Margaret Duvdevani and her elderly husband Giora, the 15-second window to find shelter is far from enough. The Duvdevanis are founding members of Talmei Yosef and saw the birth of the moshav in 1982. In the 36 years since, they have lived through two intifadas (uprisings), the Gaza Disengagement in 2005, three conflicts between Israel and Hamas and far too many rocket attacks, suicide bombings, kidnappings and terrorist infiltrations.

“Most of the missiles are fired at night or in the predawn hours,” she explains. “As soon as we hear the siren, we get up and run down the stairs.” Margaret is usually first, urging her husband to hurry. “But by the time he makes it to the stairs, we hear the boom.” Thankfully, the Duvdevanis’ home has never taken a hit and the couple remains safe.

Despite the danger, neither Giora nor Margaret has any desire to move. “This is home,” declares Giora. “Here we have quality of life. We live from the land. It is the best place in the world.” Margaret agrees. “I love living here. I cannot imagine my life elsewhere. I wake up every morning, look out the window and thank God for my home.” Talmei Yosef is indeed picturesque. Comfortable homes surrounded by sprawling gardens serve as the perfect place to raise a family. Around the moshav lay acres of untouched nature where children can play to their hearts’ content and families can hike, bike or gather wild truffles that grow in abundance during cooler months. An atmosphere of quiet tranquility fills the days.

At the same time, the Duvdevanis are well aware that the situation is not as peaceful as it seems. “I remember during the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein targeted Israel, watching my sons walking to school carrying a backpack in their one hand and a gas mask in the other. I was struck by how surreal and absurd the picture is. But what can you do? We adapt to this life. Now, every bus stop and play ground has a bomb shelter. The kids are well trained. When a siren sounds, they know to run to the nearest shelter. If there is no shelter, they lie down and cover their heads until they hear the boom. After that they can continue playing like nothing happened. It is part of our way of life. If you were to tell someone about life here, that would be part of our story. In a way, it has become part of our routine.”

A New Take on Terror

Over the weekend, the community of Talmei Yosef also had their first taste of Hamas’s latest terror tactic. On Saturday afternoon, one of the incendiary balloons launched by the terror group from the Gaza Strip fell in one of the moshav’s passion fruit fields. The balloon was shaped in the form of a heart, shares Margaret. Within moments, 15 dunams (5 ac.) of fruit-laden vines were burned to a cinder.

“We got a call to say the fields are burning, that we should come quickly,” Dishi recalls. “But by the time we arrived, there was nothing left. The fruit was ripe. The harvest would have started this week. Now it is all gone. What burned down in minutes on Saturday took the farmer at least three years to build up. You have to build the structure, put in the poles, special cables and the irrigation system. Moreover, passion fruit requires that you pollinate every flower by hand. That means days, weeks and months of labor, love and attention.”

The Duvdevanis and Dishi take me to see the ruined crop. We drive past rows of eucalyptus trees towering over grids of papayas, wax flowers, lemons and tomatoes to fields of passion fruit, the vines bent from fruit ripe and ready for the harvest. The torched field lies like a scar in the midst of a sea of emerald. Soot and ash hang heavy in the air. Blackened leaves and the charred husks of tens of thousands of passion fruits still cling to burned-out vines. Nothing can be salvaged, says Dishi. All that is left is to strip the field and start from scratch. Hopefully, three years down the line, the outcome will be different.

Leaving the charred field behind, Margaret shows me around the packing and processing area. Mounds of passion fruit and pineapples lay ready for the crates that will carry them to the shelves of stores and markets throughout Israel. “You know what makes me angry,” she asks. “People who comment on our situation without knowing the history and the reality. All they see is the Palestinian side. Make no mistake, our hearts break for the suffering of the Palestinian people under Hamas. At the same time, their suffering is not our fault. I get so angry when I read the news. People don’t see this. They don’t know our lives. Perhaps they don’t want to know.”

We say our goodbyes when the sun softens into late afternoon and the hazy heat loses its edge. As we stand around the car, a group of boys race down the street, free for the afternoon from the confines of school. Their squeals of childlike exuberance belie the residue of trauma that haunts 40% of them. The Duvdevanis’ dog plops down at his owner’s feet with a contented sigh. On the horizon stretches the fields of Talmei Yosef and the rest of the Gaza Envelope, an emerald sea marred by blackened scars where Hamas’s terror kites and balloons found their target. In the distance, three columns of smoke spiral lazily, proof that the terror organization had a busy afternoon.

“This is an ideal life,” Margaret holds, “surrounded sometimes by very unideal circumstances.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 29 June 2018)

Photo Credit: Michio Nagata/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Lift up the children who grow up with the torment of sirens and the anxiety of knowing they only have a few seconds to get to safety. Pray for their emotional healing and that their fears will never materialize. Ask for guidance for their parents and teachers who must shepherd these little ones through things no child should experience.

Scripture

Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.


- Psalm 82:3-4

Israel Provides Tons of Aid to Syrian Civilians

by Joshua Spurlock

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The IDF gives life-saving aid to Syrians who were transferred to an Israeli hospital.

Monday, 02 July 2018 | Last week, Israel’s military provided hundreds of tents and tons of food and clothing to displaced Syrian refugees living in camps inside Syrian territory. Just days later, Israel’s military increased their number of troops along the Syrian border, as tensions between Israel, the Syrian regime and its ally Iran stay high. That’s not a contradiction, but a reality for Israel: They are staring down at war with the Syrian regime, but not the Syrian people.

“The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] has provided life-saving humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians through Operation ‘Good Neighbor’ for several years, as a good-will gesture, while maintaining a policy of non-intervention in the Syrian conflict,” said the IDF Spokesperson on Friday in a series of Twitter posts about the latest aid provided.

The Twitter posts continued by stating, “The IDF is closely monitoring the events transpiring in southern Syrian and is prepared for a wide variety of scenarios, including additional humanitarian aid distribution to Syrians fleeing hostilities.”

The posts said that the latest aid was delivered in a “special operation” at night and included 13 tons of food, three pallets of medical equipment and medicine and 30 tons of clothing and footwear. The IDF Spokesperson underscored the need felt by the Syrian civilian refugees.

“Thousands of Syrian civilians fleeing the hostilities are living under poor conditions in these camps near the Israeli border, often lacking access to water, electricity, food, and other basic necessities,” said the IDF Spokesperson Twitter post.

It’s not just aid being given to the Syrians either. An article posted to the IDF website said that six injured Syrians, including four children, were brought across the Israel-Syrian border last Friday night by the IDF for medical care. After receiving “life-saving first aid” from IDF troops at the border, the Syrians were transferred to an Israeli hospital, according to the IDF report.

The article cited Syrian reports as saying that the families of the children had been killed in bombings in Syria.

In the last five years, more than 3,500 civilians injured in Syria have received medical assistance in Israel according to the IDF, while over 1,500 tons of food has been given to Syrians since 2016.

Meanwhile, Israel has repeatedly struck at terrorist, Syrian and Iranian military targets in Syria to try to prevent terrorists from obtaining advanced weapons and the Iranians from establishing a stronghold in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summarized Israel’s approach to the situation in Syria succinctly in comments released by his office on Sunday, the same day IDF troop buildup at the border was announced.

Said the Israeli leader, “Regarding southern Syria, we will continue to defend our borders. We will extend humanitarian assistance to the extent of our abilities.”

In other words, it’s the Syrian regime and its allies who are in conflict with Israel, not the Syrian people.

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on 01 July 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Twitter/ IDF@IDFSpokesperson

Prayer Focus
Offer thanksgiving for Israel’s commitment to reach out with aid that transcends borders, race and religion. Praise God that even in the midst of turmoil, Israel holds out a hand to their Syrian neighbors offering physical assistance and medical care, thus changing perceptions and touching hearts with love.

Scripture

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.


- Psalm 147:3

IDF Bolsters Border with Syria after Netanyahu Says Israel Will Strike Enemies “at Close and Longer Ranges”

by Joshua Spurlock

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Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria (illustrative).

Monday, 02 July 2018 | The Israelis are fully committed to striking at Iranian targets in Syria to prevent an Iranian military stronghold in their northern neighbor as well as to defend the country from threats both near and far, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared repeatedly in the last week. Meanwhile, he is also highlighting the economic trouble hitting Iran as the US reinstates sanctions on the country and what that could mean for a possible public uprising against the leadership in Iran.

“At a time when the US is economically striking at the Iranian regime, we are working to prevent Iranian forces and those of its proxies from establishing a military presence anywhere in Syria, and we will continue to do so,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office on Sunday. That’s a similar message to what he said last Thursday at an IDF [Israel Defense Forces] pilot graduation in other comments released by his office, stating that Israel “will continue to take strong action against Iranian targets in the area. We will defend our borders… We will continue to operate at close and longer ranges, both openly and in secret, against those who seek our lives.”

It’s more than just words and it’s more than just air power that is part of defending the border with Syria. On Sunday, the IDF Spokesperson posted to Twitter that “following a situation assessment in the Northern Command, it was decided to reinforce the 210th Division in the Golan Heights with additional armor and artillery troops.”

A follow-up tweet said that the IDF would “continue its non-intervention policy in the Syrian conflict, while reacting firmly to cases in which Israeli sovereignty or civilians are threatened.”

The increase in troops along Israel’s border comes as internal strife in Iran is making headlines again. Even Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli is acknowledging the conflict, claiming that violent protests on Saturday in the city of Khorramshahr were over water shortages, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Meir Javendafar, an Iranian-Israeli commentator, reposted to Twitter a video from protests in the city, translating the crowd chants as “Death to Rouhani”—referring to President Hassan Rouhani—and more significantly, “Death to Khamenei”—referring to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Netanyahu on Sunday pointed to economic issues in Iran as stirring up trouble. “The Iranian regime is feeling very well the coming reimposition of the economic sanctions against it,” said Netanyahu.

“The Iranian economy is at a low point. One needs to see the data in order to believe. Iran is investing billions of dollars in financing terrorism in the region and around the world, and in aggression in the region, instead of investing them in the Iranian people, and the Iranian people are protesting this, and rightly so.”

Last Thursday at the graduation, Netanyahu said that resumption of sanctions and other economic problems in Iran mean that the people there “are feeling in their pockets the consequences of the fundamentalist fanaticism of their rulers… Many in Iran understand that the regime of the ayatollahs is wasting precious resources on foreign military subversion instead of investing in civilian needs at home.”

Said Netanyahu, “I am speaking about Iran because it is the greatest threat to our existence and we are determined to block this threat. It is too early to say how things will develop but the direction is clear: The cash machine of Iran’s aggression has been shattered.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on 01 July 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces

Prayer Focus
Continue to pray for peace on Israel’s northern border as the buildup of Iranian troops and artillery on the Golan Heights continues. Ask God to bestow His wisdom on the IDF, as the security needs for protecting Israel’s borders against Iran and its terror proxies change on a daily basis.

Scripture

He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support.


- Psalm 18:17-18

Israel Passes Bill Deducting Payments to Terrorists from PA Aid

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The Knesset in Jerusalem

Wednesday, 04 July 2018 | The Knesset overwhelmingly passed into law on Monday a bill that allows Israel to deduct the payments the Palestinian Authority makes to Palestinian terrorists and their families from the taxes Israel collects and passes on to the PA, The Times of Israel reported.

The bill, which passed 87–15, aims at ending the PA’s “Pay-to-Slay” program, which provides salaries to Palestinian terrorists who attack and murder Jews, as well as additional funds to their families.

Israeli lawmakers hailed the bipartisan nature of the legislation, which passed the same day Australia’s government announced that it would cut aid to the PA over its sponsorship for terrorism.

“The PA has turned itself into a factory that employs murderers of Jews mostly but also Muslims, Christians, Druze, Circassians, and others, including tourists,” said co-sponsor MK Avi Dichter of Likud and former head of Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Bet [Israeli internal security organization], who leads the Knesset’s influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern, who also co-sponsored the bill, said similar legislation in the United States, known as the Taylor Force Act, had influenced the Israeli legislation. “It is an historic day. It’s a real step in order to reduce terror and also, as a result, it will help to achieve peace,” Stern said.

“We cannot live with a situation in which we pay our enemies to buy weapons or educate kids to kill as many innocents as they can,” he added.

On March 23, the Taylor Force Act, which passed both houses of Congress became law, ending most US aid to the PA until the Palestinian leadership stops paying stipends to terrorists and their families.

According to figures released by the Israeli Defense Ministry, the PA in 2017 paid NIS 687 million (US $198 million) to the so-called “martyrs’ families fund” and NIS 550 million (US $160 million) to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club—some 7% of its total budget. The Ministry further alleged that some Palestinian terrorists will throughout their lifetimes be paid more than NIS 10 million (US $2.78 million) each by the PA for having murdered Jews.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech in June 2017, read by PA foreign affairs adviser Nabil Shaath, that “payments to support families are a social responsibility to look after innocent people affected by the incarceration or killing of their loved ones.”

Stuart Force, the father of Taylor Force who traveled to Israel for the passing of the bill, observed in an interview on Monday that he hopes the new legislation will benefit peaceful Palestinians by ensuring that funds go to those who really need them.

“If the money that was being used to pay terrorists can be diverted back to the original process of helping the people, I think that could make their lives better. Then perhaps the whole peace process can be helped, to get things going again,” Force concluded.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 03 July 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Joshua Paquin, Ottawa, Canada/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that Israel’s decision will not have violent repercussions among the Palestinians. Give glory to the Lord for the Taylor Force Act and its impact on other nations. Thank Him for the example that Australia has set. Continue to pray for your own government to see the truth of the PA’s commitment to pay salaries to convicted terrorists.

Scripture

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.


- Proverbs 29:2

Qatari Official: Israel, Hamas in Indirect Talks on Gaza Crisis

by Elior Levy

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Erez border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip

Monday, 02 July 2018 | The Qatari Ambassador to Gaza Mohammed Al-Emadi confirmed on Sunday evening for the first time that Israel is holding indirect discussions with the Hamas terror group in an effort to formulate a solution to the humanitarian crisis in the Strip that will include infrastructure projects.

It is the first time ever that a senior diplomat involved in Gaza has admitted that such talks are taking place.

In an interview with a Chinese news agency, Al-Emadi said that the United States is aware of, and involved in, the talks, but he noted that “there still is no agreement between the two sides, only contacts ahead of an agreement.”

Al-Emadi is considered to be a respected diplomat by Israel, the US and by Hamas. He is given consistent access to the Gaza Strip from Israel via the Erez Crossing and is in contact with Israel’s security establishment.

Al-Emadi noted a number of recommendations made by the White House for rehabilitating Gaza through infrastructural projects that would help its water supply, alleviate its paucity of electricity and create work for the residents.

“We demanded from the Israelis and the Americans the removal of the blockade on the Gaza Strip and we emphasized that. We are working on this but have not yet reached a result,” the Qatari diplomat stated without elaborating on what Hamas had offered in return.

Last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman struck an agreement with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to begin plans to build a seaport for Gaza that will operate in Cyprus and will be supervised by Israel, according to a report on Channel 2 News.

The handling of a benefits package to Gaza, however, was said to have been made contingent upon Hamas returning slain soldiers held in Hamas captivity and the release of Israeli citizens who are still alive and who are being held by the terror group.

In addition, it was reported that Israel would assist the Americans in leading the humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza who intend to pump huge sums of money into the economically crippled enclave as part of an effort to dramatically improve the quality of life for its residents.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 01 July 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Public domain/wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Ask God to protect the Israeli citizens held captive in Gaza and to comfort the families of the slain soldiers whose bodies remain in the hands of the terror organization. Beseech God for truthful negotiations between Qatar, the USA and Israel. Pray for viable solutions to rehabilitate Gaza and for relief from the oppression of terror. Thank Him for PM Netanyahu and the Israeli leaders’ determination to bring about positive changes in the Gaza Strip.

Scripture

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.


- Proverbs 12:22

Two Minor Earthquakes Shake Israel in One Day

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The epicenter of yesterday’s two minor earthquakes in the Lower Galilee (illustrative)

Thursday, 05 July 2018 | A 4.5 earthquake was felt at 10:46 p.m. on Wednesday in northern and central Israel, according to the Geophysical Institute of Israel, rocking the country for a second time in one day.

The epicenter of the earthquake was in the Lower Galilee. There were no immediate reports of any injuries or damages to property.

Ripples were felt in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Tiberias, the Golan Heights, Kiryat Ono, Givatayim, Holon, Petah Tikva, Sefad, Akko, Kfar Tavor, Nazareth Illit, Ramat Gan and many other places, according to reports by people on the internet.

“I was sitting in my living room with my phone and I felt the sofa move from right to left. It went on for ten seconds and then stopped. I felt dizzy. It was scary,” said Mustaffah from Tira.

“I was at home. It was scary. The house shook, everything was moving,” said Ron from Tiberias.

There were also reports of tremors by Lebanese citizens in Beirut.

Ofer Amiel from Ashdot Ya’akov Ihud in the Emek HaYarden Regional Council said that the evening earthquake felt similar to the first one in the morning.

“We live in a new and stable house so nothing fell. We were all awake and some of us were shocked. But nothing fell so there was no need for us to get out. Only the lampshades were swaying slightly,” he said.

One Haifa resident said she felt strong tremors. “The whole house was really, really shaking. It was really scary. I was in shock even though I knew about the earthquake in the morning but I was still in shock,” said Adi. “I am alone at home and everything started moving—the lights, the bed. It wasn’t nice at all.”

Authorities called on residents to listen only to official updates and instruction and to ignore unconfirmed reports.

A 4.1 earthquake was also felt at 4:50 a.m. Wednesday morning in northern Israel and was followed by several weaker aftershocks: a 3.2 earthquake was felt at around 4:58 a.m., a 2.1 earthquake at 6:41 a.m. and a 3.8 at 6:52 a.m.

No one was hurt and no damage was reported.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 04 July 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: random exposure/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Experts predict that a major earthquake will shake Israel in the near future. Pray for the IDF and emergency rescue teams as they sharpen their skills to prepare for such a catastrophe. Ask God to also prepare the nation in advance that they will know how to react should disaster strike.

Scripture

Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.


- Psalm 46:2-3

For First Time, Israeli Expert Selected to Chair UN Committee on Human Rights

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Yuval Shany, newly appointed chair to the United Nations Human Rights Committee

Thursday, 05 July 2018 | For the first time, an Israeli expert has been chosen to chair the United Nations Human Rights Committee, a panel of experts who reviews the adherence of members states to the organization’s rights charter.

The Times of Israel reported that Yuval Shany, who is deputy president of the Israel Democracy Institute and a member of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law, was selected on Monday. The decision by the Geneva-based committee’s 18 members, of which Shany has been a member since 2013, was unanimous.

Speaking to Army Radio on Tuesday morning, Shany, admitted that the forum is often confused with the UN Human Rights Council—an institution from which the United States withdrew last month over the body’s “chronic bias against Israel.”

The US decision sparked other council members to oppose the UNHRC’s singling out of the Jewish state, among them the United Kingdom and Australia.

“If I had a shekel for every time that people confuse between the two bodies my financial situation would be different,” Shany joked. The expert in humanitarian law and human rights further observed that, “Global politics plays much less of a role” in the professional committee, adding, “People are chosen—quite surprisingly in that environment—according to their suitability for the position.”

Although Israelis have been members of the committee in the past, Monday was the first time one was chosen to lead the forum which, according to its website, “monitors implementation of the international covenant on civil and political rights by its state parties.”

The rights council and the rights committee sit under the auspices of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 04 July 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/UN Audiovisual Library

Prayer Focus
Rejoice for what the Lord has done! Ask God to lead and direct Israel's newly appointed chairman to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Yuval Shany. Pray that he will have favor, earn respect, act with great wisdom and leave a legacy. Ask God to bless his family and the work of his hands.

Scripture

Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools.


- Ecclesiastes 9:17

In Historic First, IDF Appoints Four Female Tank Commanders

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Four female soldiers became the IDF’s first female tank commanders.

Friday, 29 June 2018 | In a historic move, four women officially finished tank commanders course and became the IDF’s [Israel Defense Forces] first female tank commanders after a 16-month grueling pilot program, The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday. The women will be deployed to the Egyptian border with Division 80.

The pilot program was initiated in 2017 to see whether or not women could make up the four-person crews necessary to operate a tank in “routine security operations”, within Israel’s borders or just beyond them if necessary.

“There has never been such an experience in the IDF,” said chief armored officer Brig.-Gen Guy Hasson, who initially expressed misgivings about having female tank crews, adding that the four female tank commanders are “four amazing and determined women.”

Sergeant Noga, one of the women who completed the training, added: “It’s a role that includes very interesting and challenging training. Furthermore, it is a one-of-a-kind role for women and opens a new window of opportunities for a job in which women can partake.”

The selection process was based on medical data, the soldiers’ motivation, former commanders’ opinions, and personal interviews, the army said. Thirty candidates were selected by a committee for interviews of which half were selected to participate in the historic program.

Two recruits dropped out just after two weeks. The 13 remaining recruits trained at the Shizafon Base deep in the Negev desert, where they were divided into three squads led by a senior tank commander, completing their tank training on the Merkava Mark-3 model. The women learned about tactical intelligence, combat operations, training, and more.

At a ceremony for the women who completed the training in December, the head of the corps’ training brigade Col. Moran Omer observed, “We’re standing before a bit of history. For the first time, a tank operator medal will be pinned on the uniform of female IDF soldiers.”

Sergeant Osnat, whose grandfather was a sergeant in the 7th Brigade during the establishment of the State of Israel, said. “It’s such an interesting and meaningful service that not everyone has the chance to experience.”

The tank pilot program is part of a growing trend of women filling combat positions in the IDF. Over the past five years, the number of female combat soldiers has increased nearly fivefold—from 547 in 2012 to 2,700 last year.

In January, Israel appointed its first female aviation squadron commander.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 28 June 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Twitter/IDF@IDFSpokesperson

Prayer Focus
Bring all the female soldiers serving in the IDF before the Lord for courage, strength, knowledge and emotional well-being. Ask God to protect these four brave female tank commanders and guide their every step and decision, as they blaze a trail for others.

Scripture

My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.


- Psalm 73:26

What Makes a Good Commander?

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IDF Lieutenant Dan is a commander in the elite Haruv Battalion.

Wednesday, 04 July 2018 | What soldier doesn’t remember his or her commander and their influence they had on them? Three commanders from different brigades shared their vision of what a “good commander” is—one that is ready to give their all for their soldiers. Between personal stories, military ethics, and unique experiences, these commanders help shape those who protect Israel and its civilians.

Lieutenant Dan is a platoon commander in the Haruv Battalion—the Kfir Brigade’s elite unit.

“I started my service in the Paratroopers Brigade in 2014 and after completing Officer’s Course, I had the opportunity to be one of the first commanders in the new, elite Haruv Battalion,” he tells.

Being a commander and an officer was something natural for him to be. Lt. Dan explains with emotion and conviction the reasons why he wanted to give more to the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]:

“A good commander is one who knows how to turn his soldiers into the best version of themselves,” he explains. “I’ve had extraordinary commanders who had a lot of influence on me and who’ve touched me emotionally, and I’ve seen how they’ve changed the lives of soldiers around me. I wanted to follow their example.

Some of his soldiers decided to follow his path, and are now officers too.

“It’s very special to receive civilians, to mold them into soldiers, then fighters, and lastly, commanders. It’s a very significant, full cycle,” exclaims Lt. Dan.

He goes on to explain the importance he places on the balance in his command tactics—between treating his troops as soldiers and human beings. “A good commander knows how to see his soldiers as people who have dreams and wounds—who’re human beings. Sometimes you have to know how to talk to your soldiers, not as a commander with a rank, but as a human who can also understand them.”

For Lieutenant Pavel, deputy commander of the Keter Company within the military police, the motivation for being an officer came from a special moment. “I didn’t want to join the army and even less-so when I knew where I was going to enlist. I didn’t know what the military police was. Then at the recruitment center, I met an officer named Lior who told me what the military police really was. She explained everything to me as if she were my mother and made me realize the importance of this job,” he recalled with nostalgia.

Lt. Pavel knows that his efforts contribute to Israel’s security. “The soldiers of the military police protect Israeli civilians day after day by thwarting any attempt or illegal passage of arms into Israel.” When Lt. Pavel joined the military police and saw for himself the importance of this post, its challenges, and responsibilities, he wanted to go to Officers Course. “I really wanted to make a positive impact on people like Lior did with me,” he says.

But Lt. Pavel knows now that his position as deputy commander of the whole Keter Company is much more important than what he thought initially. “What’s hard is to receive soldiers and train them in a very short time to be operational combat soldiers. Lt. Pavel has been deputy commander for a year and a half and explains that the most important part of his position is to show interest in his soldiers, to be responsible for them, and to take care of their well-being—not only on base but also outside of base.

Lieutenant Michal commands the Tagat course on the Michve Alon base. This six-month course enables soldiers without a high school diploma to receive one after passing courses in six different subjects.

“What I like most about this job is working with people. “In addition to the command and operational side of the things, I take care of education here and this combined really gives me something incredible. The soldiers who are in the Tagat course have dropped out of high school, so we have to find a way to motivate them to return to a school setting where they sit in a chair and listen to a class—which is exactly what these soldiers ran away from to begin with.”

“When you’re here, you have to give your all. Being a commander also means paying attention to soldiers. I must be responsible for the people who’re under my command. It’s important to be careful that the framework I manage is the best possible kind. ”

Lt. Michal has understood that despite her responsibilities, she sees that what she gives to her soldiers and the values she teaches them every day have borne fruit. “At the beginning of my service I was a commander at the Havat Hashomer base. Then, when I became a company commander, I was assigned to the Michve Alon base. I had soldiers in the Tagat course, who had previously been under my command at the beginning of their service at the Havat Hashomer base. I really felt that it gave me closure. I was with them at the beginning of their service, when they didn’t believe in themselves at all and then I find them at the end of their service here. When I saw how much they had matured, I felt that I had really closed a circle. It’s so satisfying!”

Dan, Pavel, Michal… Every day, these officers are responsible for IDF soldiers. They instill in them the values of the army in the best possible way. By combining the social, educational, and operational side, in addition to making them aware of the importance of their work, these officers train those who protect us daily and risk their lives for the security of the country.

Source: (Israel Defense Forces originally published this article on 02 July 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces

Prayer Focus
Intercede for all the commanders, leaders and mentors in the IDF who serve with all their hearts to ensure the well-being and growth of soldiers on and off duty. Pray that their words and actions will be an inspiration to carry the soldiers under their command through difficult days.

Scripture

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!


- Psalm 119:9-10

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