Help us bless the people of Israel.

Friday, June 18, 2021

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Every week, we post seven to ten news stories from Israel with a suggested prayer focus and scripture for each one, guiding readers how to pray for Israel’s most urgent needs. This Prayer Update is also sent to over 18,000 subscribers every Friday by e-mail. Please contact us at intl.office@bridgesforpeace.com if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the Changing of the Guard in Israel

by Kate Norman

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Naftali Bennett, the new prime minister of Israel

Monday, 14 June 2021 | Israel’s new government was sealed on Sunday evening after being passed by a slim vote of confidence in the Knesset (Parliament), putting an end to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure.

Naftali Bennett was sworn in as Israel’s 13th prime minister after a vote of 60–59 for the new government, replacing Netanyahu, who has served at the helm since 2009 and previously served another three years from 1996 to 1999.

Bennett’s coalition partner, former opposition leader Yair Lapid, was sworn in as the nation’s 14th prime minister. Under a rotating premiership agreement, Bennett will serve as prime minister and Lapid as alternate prime minister and foreign minister until 2023, then the two will trade places.

Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina Party, and Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid Party, are ushering in a new era with a unity government comprised of right-wing, left-wing, centrist and even the nation’s first Arab Islamic party, to form a coalition.

“The government that will be formed represents many of Israel’s citizens…” Bennett said in his address at Sunday night’s swearing-in ceremony. “Precisely here lies the opportunity.

“Our principle is, we will sit together, and we will forge forward on that which we agree—and there is much we agree on; transport, education and so on,” Bennett continued, “and what separates us we will leave to the side.”

Notable members of the new 27-member Cabinet: Blue and White leader Benny Gantz will retain his post as defense minister; Avigdor Lieberman will serve as finance minister; Gideon Sa’ar, former member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party who broke off and started the New Hope Party, will serve as justice minister; and Nitzan Horowitz, head of the left-wing Meretz Party, will serve as health minister.

Mansour Abbas of the Islamist Ra’am Party will be the first of the Joint List of Arab parties to sit in a government coalition.

At the start of Sunday night’s vote, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin was replaced by Mickey Levy, who forewent his speech and dove right into the vote.

In his speech, Bennett assured that the new government is one that “will work for the sake of all the people. We will do all we can so that no one should have to feel afraid. We are here in the name of good, and to work.”

The new prime minister outlined the goals of Israel’s 36th government: rejuvenate the economy after the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, continue building up and strengthening Israel’s military, increase housing construction to lower prices, and continue the battle against Iranian aggression and a return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Bennett echoed an oft-repeated vow of Netanyahu: “Israel will not allow Iran to be equipped with nuclear weapons.”

Addressing last month’s 11-day clash with Hamas and onslaught of rockets from Gaza, Bennett said that if the terrorist group attacks again, “it will encounter a wall of iron.”

The new cabinet gathered in the President’s Residence on Monday morning for an official group photo, a memento of the changing of the guard in the Jewish state. The event will be one of President Reuven Rivlin’s last in his official capacity, as Rivlin’s term has ended and he will be replaced on July 9 by incoming President-elect Isaac Herzog.

Now that his era as longest-serving prime minister of Israel has ended, Netanyahu will step in as leader of the opposition.

Bennett will be the first Orthodox Jew to serve as prime minister, and the first to don a kippah (skullcap).

Wrapping up his inaugural speech on Sunday, Bennett closed by saying, “I pray to God that He grant me wisdom and understanding to lead the State of Israel” as well as a prayer for blessing, peace and protection over the Jewish state.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 14, 2021)

Photo Credit: MathKnight/commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for Naftali Bennett’s prayer during his inaugural speech. Pray that God will indeed bless him with wisdom and understanding and the nation with peace and protection. Cry out to the Lord for true unity among all of Israel’s leaders, and beseech Him for a strong government that will lead the country with courage as Israel and the Jewish people face many challenges at home and abroad.

Scripture

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.


- Proverbs 2:6–8

Hamas Launches Incendiary Balloons in Response to Flag March, Prompts Retaliatory Strikes

by Kate Norman

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An aircraft of the Hellenic Air Force helping in the fight against the fires in Haifa in September 2016 (illustrative)

Wednesday, 16 June 2021 | Angered by yesterday’s Jerusalem Flag March through the Old City, terrorists in Gaza launched incendiary balloons into Israeli communities along the border, sparking fires and prompting retaliatory air strikes.

Some 20 fires, mostly small, were sparked in Israeli communities bordering Gaza on Tuesday, as terrorists in Gaza launched incendiary balloons over the border. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded by striking Hamas military compounds overnight that were used as “meeting sites for Hamas terror operatives.”

No Palestinian casualties were reported in the strikes—the first in Gaza since a cease-fire ended the 11-day conflict last month in which terrorists launched more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel.

“The terrorist organization Hamas is responsible for what is happening in the Gaza Strip and will bear the consequences of its actions,” the military stated on its website.

“The IDF is prepared for all scenarios, including the resumption of hostilities, in the face of continued terrorist operations from the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas was lashing out over yesterday’s Jerusalem Flag March through the Old City. The march was given the green light by the new public security minister after meeting with the police and security chiefs over concern that the event would spark violence.

This was a rescheduled march after the original was interrupted on May 10—Jerusalem Day, celebrating the reunification of Israel’s capital in the defensive Six Day War of 1967. The May 10 march was suddenly stopped when Hamas fired rockets from Gaza toward the capital city, setting rocket alert sirens wailing and Jerusalemites scrambling for shelter.

The rocket barrage continued throughout southern and central Israel nearly uninterrupted for 11 days that also saw near-constant responsive IDF strikes throughout Gaza in “Operation Guardian of the Walls.” The operation ended with an Egyptian-mediated cease-fire.

When the announcement came that the flag march was rescheduled, Hamas threatened renewed violence.

But Israel was prepared, deploying extra Iron Dome aerial defense batteries across the country and beefing up security in Jerusalem with an extra 2,000 police officers.

Palestinian rioters clashed with Israel Police in eastern Jerusalem during the march. Seventeen of the rioters were arrested “for disorderly conduct, which included throwing stones and assaulting police officers,” the Israeli Police announced on Twitter. Two officers were lightly injured in the clashes.

The march—attended by an estimated 5,000 people—began in the plaza at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City but was rerouted outside the Old City wall to Jaffa Gate, eventually ending at the Western Wall. The revised route avoided the traditional passage through the Muslim Quarter.

Hamas hailed the increased security and the parade reroute as a victory, as well as Israel being forced to reroute flights coming into Ben-Gurion Airport to approach from further north for fear of potential rockets.

“The brave positions and decisions of the Palestinian resistance forced the Israeli occupation to change the path of the route away from Al-Aqsa mosque, change the civil air routes and beef up the deployment of the Iron Dome,” Hamas boasted in a statement.

Last night’s IDF strikes are the first since last month’s 11-day conflict ended in a fragile cease-fire.

Though Hamas hasn’t responded with more violence—yet—tensions remain high.

A female terrorist on Wednesday attempted to ram her car into a group of IDF soldiers near a Palestinian village outside of Jerusalem. Failing, she then exited the car and approached them with a knife before being neutralized, the military announced. 

Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 16, 2021)

Photo Credit: Avi Ben zaken (אבי בן זקן)/commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that those responsible for the launch of incendiary bombs into Israel will indeed suffer the consequences of their actions. Cry out to the Lord for an end to such terrorist activity and pray that peace will settle on southern Israel.

Scripture

The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.


- Psalm 34:16–17

Aliyah during Challenging Times

by Janet Aslin

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Even amid the pandemic, Jewish people are still making Israel their home (illustrative)

Thursday, 17 June 2021 | Aliyah, the return of the Jewish people to their land, is a founding principle of the modern State of Israel. In 1948, just 6% of the global Jewish population lived in Israel. Today that figure has risen to over 40% with a Jewish population of almost seven million. We know from the Tanakh (Gen.–Mal.) that God has promised to bring all of the Jewish people home. So, what has aliyah (immigration to Israel) looked like during this challenging time of lockdowns and travel restrictions?

Last summer, then-chairman of the Jewish Agency, Isaac Hertzog, spoke to the Knesset’s (Parliament’s) Committee of Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs. He estimated that 250,000 Jews would make aliyah during the next three to five years. Nearly a year later, we have a clearer picture of the situation. 

Nefesh B’Nefesh (“Soul to Soul” in Hebrew) is a nonprofit organization that works to encourage and facilitate aliyah from the English-speaking nations of North America and the United Kingdom. In an interview with i24NEWS, they reported a 97% increase in applications in 2020 when compared with 2019. However, only 20,000 Jews made aliyah in 2020—fewer than the approximately 35,000 new immigrants who came the previous year.

Travel Continues Despite COVID Restrictions

Many challenges have arisen during the global pandemic. One such challenge was the closure of Ben Gurion, Israel’s main airport, to all commercial flights from January 25, 2021 until early March. Despite the closure, specially chartered “aliyah” flights were allowed to land. For example, 380 olim (immigrants) from Ethiopia, South Africa and Ukraine landed on February 26, 2021.

Flights with new immigrants continued after the reopening of the airport. i24NEWS reported on a flight which arrived from North America on April 27, bringing 104 new olim. In the group were 28 families, 18 singles and 27 retirees—the oldest of whom is 98! At least 35 have agreed to go to Israel’s less-populated periphery, areas like the Negev or the Galilee.

Even the recent Operation Guardian of the Walls conflict with Hamas has not stopped the flow of olim. The last week of May was named “Super Aliyah Week” with 500 new residents from “South and Central America, Europe, Scandinavian countries, the UK, the US, Australia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Ethiopia, and other countries worldwide,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

India’s Bnei Menashe, descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, have been arriving throughout the pandemic. Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, an organization committed to bringing Jews home from the Diaspora (outside Israel), was quoted in the Jerusalem Post: “We are confident that 2021 will prove to be a significant year for the continued aliyah of the Bnei Menashe, as we are planning to bring more than 500 new immigrants from the community to Israel, which is double the number we were able to bring in 2020.”  Approximately 6,500 of the community remains in India and has yet to make aliyah.

Challenges

Even during “normal” times, the decision to make aliyah is not always an easy one. Whether it is adults who will leave the rest of their family behind to raise their children in Israel, a lone soldier who arrives without his or her family or couples in their retirement years—family members will most likely be separated as a result.

In some ways, COVID-19 has made that decision a little easier. Perhaps grandparents who used to make frequent trips to Israel to see their grandchildren have decided to relocate permanently. And now there are increased opportunities to work from a remote location, thus allowing young professionals to move to Israel and keep their careers. In fact, the Jewish Agency reported a 41% increase in aliyah applications from young adults (18–35) in 2020.

Rising global anti-Semitism, even in places which have been calm up until now, will factor into many aliyah decisions.

Yaakov Greenspan, author of the book Just Get on the Plane, was recently interviewed by the Jerusalem Post and said: “We shouldn’t make aliyah because of anti-Semitism, nor because of COVID, even though, practically speaking, those things might provide the immediate impetus. The only reason for the Jewish people to move to Israel is because it’s their homeland.”

In the final analysis, Israel is the world’s sole Jewish state and the only place where Jews are able to live unapologetically. It is also the land which God gave to His people and the land to which His word says He will bring them back and prosper them.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 17, 2021)

Photo Credit: Michio Nagata/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Thank God for those who have made aliyah during these difficult and uncertain times. Pray that God will continue to fulfill His ancient promise to bring His people home as Jews arrive from all over the globe. Pray for Bridges for Peace as we work to help Jewish people fulfill the dream of moving to Israel as well as our programs that help make it possible for them to put down roots and become productive citizens in the Land God promised to their forefathers.

Scripture

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.


- Isaiah 35:10

IDF Officer: “Clear Picture of Battlefield Top Priority”

by Yaakov Lappin ~ Jewish News Syndicate

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Made by Elbit, the Torch 750 system feeds devices held by field commanders with updated battlefield photographs of blue (friendly) forces and red (hostile) forces. In addition, it links ground forces to the Israeli Air Force and Israeli Navy

Wednesday, 16 June 2021 | The Israel Defense Forces [IDF] used a new version of an advanced combat management system that provided a real-time picture of friendly and hostile force locations during last month’s “Operation Guardian of the Walls” against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Torch 750 system, made by Elbit, feeds devices held by field commanders with updated battlefield pictures of blue (friendly) forces and red (hostile) forces, as well as links ground forces to the Israeli Air Force and Israeli Navy in new ways.

Maj. Amos Shor, who heads the Torch project in the IDF Ground Forces’ Department of Weapons Development, told JNS that the device can come in the form of tablets or smartphones, which are connected to a sophisticated software-defined radio system for communications.

“We’ve been using Torch in drills and in operations in 2020, but during ‘Operation Guardian of the Walls,’ this was the first time we used it in a wide-ranging manner, even though the ground forces did not conduct a big maneuvering operation [in Gaza],” said Shor. “We’re dealing with an enemy that fires rockets at innocent Israelis in their homes. These are blood-thirsty, Islamic extremist terrorist organizations, like Hamas, which fires rockets from densely populated areas.”

“Revealing the enemy is a very challenging mission. One of the big benefits of the new Torch system is that it gets very high-quality positions of the enemy in real time, straight to the device of the platoon commander. No one needs to click anything. Algorithms automatically send the positions to the commander,” he explained.

“Our goal is that a platoon commander, when looking at his device, has a clear picture of all the forces. I mean everything—the navy, what’s in the air, the ground forces, infantry, tanks, headquarters, reconnaissance units—everything,” continued Shor. “This is the requirement. It might sound simple, but we know from our history in Lebanon and Gaza that, unfortunately, we have had incidents of friendly fire. Understanding the clear picture is our top priority.”

The IDF has been developing the Torch command and control digital system since 2010, but a completely new version has been rolled out to the ground units since 2020.

“It has a whole different digital infrastructure,” stated Shor. “It serves commanders from the level of platoon commanders and upwards. The older system served company commanders and upwards. Now, we have a device that every platoon commander in the infantry can get, connecting all of the ground forces into a single system. The headquarters of battalions, brigades and divisions are also on the system.”

The upgraded capability means that the ground force’s Torch can now “talk” to the command networks used by the navy, air force and intelligence units. “This was the new requirement that was made of Torch,” said Shor.

A Big Operational Edge for Tactical Units

The arrival of the Torch 750 system is part of the Israeli military’s digital transformation, which in essence is designed to convert the battlefield into a digital-based arena.

“Doing this requires all of the systems to work with each other and to connect not only with different systems, but also the weapons and control systems. So our system enables the commanders in the headquarters and the tactical commanders to have a clear picture of where the friendly forces are and where the estimated position of the enemy is,” explained Shor.

The elaborate radio system means that the logistics can operate much like a Wi-Fi connection, enabling units to plug in and begin receiving digital services. This technology allows quality intelligence to reach field commanders quickly.

It will also enable IDF units to receive rapid-fire support attacks and retaliate against enemy posts that are shooting at Israel, said the officer. “And you can only do this when you understand where everyone is, when you know you’re not hurting one of our guys, when you understand where the enemy is. Then, you can strike the enemy so he stops shooting. These are the main things that the device enables.”

Shor remembered how, as a company commander, he spent most of the day communicating with his headquarters or other units through verbal radio messages. He noted that when everyone speaks at the same time, messages don’t get through.

“Making everyone digital has a similar effect to the digitalization of civilian lives,” he said. “It’s like using smartphones for group messages, pushing out many messages to different units in seconds. This provides a big operational edge for our tactical units.”

Torch is continuing to undergo upgrades; the next challenge is to be able to use it to access drones and robotics, said Shor. “I think that’s the future, doing it through Torch.”

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 14, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for yet another Israeli invention that gives the IDF a further edge over the enemy forces that they so often face. Praise Him that this device has already proved itself effective on the battlefield, but cry out to Him that all of Israel will remember that it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who secures for them the victory.

Scripture

Through You we will push down our enemies; through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us.


- Psalm 44:5–7

Palestinians: The Battle to Steal Reconstruction Funds

by Khaled Abu Toameh~Gatestone

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

Tuesday, 15 June 2021 | Last month, Egypt succeeded in its effort to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Since then, however, Egypt has been unable to secure an agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority [PA] over the reconstruction of buildings and homes that were destroyed during the 11-day Israel–Hamas conflict.

Egypt has gone out of its way to help the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip after the recent round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

First, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi pledged [US] $500 million to contribute to the reconstruction effort. (Qatar has promised a similar sum to help rebuild the Gaza Strip).

Second, Egypt dispatched the head of its General Intelligence Service, Abbas Kamel, to the Gaza Strip and West Bank [Judea and Samaria] for talks with leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority about the reconstruction plan.

Third, Egypt sent dozens of bulldozers, cranes and engineers to the Gaza Strip as part of its effort to assist with the reconstruction.

Fourth, Egypt invited representatives of various Palestinian factions, including the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, to Cairo for talks on ways of helping the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who had lost their homes during the fighting with Israel. Egypt was also doubtless hoping that the faction leaders would finally reach agreement on ending the dispute between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction.

On June 10, the Egyptians informed the Palestinian factions of a decision to delay until further notice the meeting of the faction representatives that was supposed to take place in Cairo under the auspices of Egyptian General Intelligence Service officials. The last-minute decision to call off the meeting came after the representatives of the Palestinian factions had already arrived in Cairo.

The Egyptian move, according to reports in various Arab media outlets, came in light of a sharp dispute that erupted between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over which party would be responsible for the reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority says that it should be the only party in charge of the reconstruction and that all funds must be channeled through its government. Hamas, on the other hand, insists that the funds from the international community be sent directly to its coffers.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas, in short, are saying that they do not trust each other regarding the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been promised by Egypt and other countries to contribute to the reconstruction effort in the Gaza Strip.

“The Palestinian Authority cannot be trusted with the reconstruction funds, and it does not want to help the Gaza Strip,” said Palestinian political analyst Eyad al-Qarra. “The Palestinian Authority exists to suck the blood of the Palestinian people on the economic level, and it wants to benefit and revive its budget at the expense of the suffering of our people.”

Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official, said his party had informed the Egyptians that the reconstruction effort must be carried out under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority. Ahmed accused Hamas of waging a “media campaign” against the Palestinian Authority in a way that “harms national unity and ignores the role of the Palestinian Authority” in rebuilding the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas have good reason to suspect each other. They have been at war with each other since 2007, when Hamas staged a violent coup against the Palestinian Authority and seized control of the Gaza Strip.

Both parties, in addition, have long been facing accusations (by Palestinians) of financial corruption and mishandling public funds.

The dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over the reconstruction money drew strong condemnations from several Palestinians and Arabs. They accused the two parties of prioritizing their own interests at the cost of the Palestinian people. The Palestinians and Arabs expressed fear that the controversy would discourage donors from helping the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

Some Palestinians launched a “popular campaign,” calling on the Gulf states not to give the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, money for the Gaza Strip reconstruction “due to the rampant corruption and looting of donation funds.”

“The sympathizers who are ready to donate are asking who will receive the reconstruction funds,” remarked Emirati political analyst Mohammed Yousef.

“They [the donors] do not trust Hamas, which is immersed in corruption and discrimination against the residents of the Gaza Strip. The residents know that most of the funds will end up in secret [bank] accounts of Hamas and its leaders and for carrying out smuggling activities. The Palestinian Authority, which is very corrupt, wants to be in charge of the reconstruction projects and its leaders want all the money.”

Saudi author Nora Shanar said she was opposed to giving money to the Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorist groups, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, in the Gaza Strip. The two groups, she added, “lead [Palestinian] youths to destruction on behalf of Iran.”

“The Palestinians must remove this Iranian occupation in Palestine so that they can live in peace. Muslims will not move to donate their money to them. The terrorist organizations want to deceive the Arabs and Muslims.”

The feud over the reconstruction funds further demonstrates Palestinian leaders’ utter indifference to the well-being of their people. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders care about one thing: filling their own coffers with funds earmarked for suffering Palestinians. The fight also shows that the Biden administration’s renewed talk about a “two-state solution” is an illusion: the Palestinians cannot even agree on holding elections or rebuilding destroyed buildings for their own people.

Judging from the reactions of many Arab and Muslims social media users, it is highly unlikely that the Arab and Islamic countries will be willing to put their money into the hands of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The Palestinians are again paying the price for the incompetence and corruption of their leaders.

The message the Arabs and Muslims are sending to the Biden administration and other Western donors: Stop showering money on corrupt and failed Palestinian leaders whose stock-in-trade is purloining international funds. The Palestinians do not need money as much as they need new leaders whose commitment to the welfare of their people outweighs their interest in their own pockets.

Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Gatestone Institute on June 14, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Kremlin.ru/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord for new Palestinian leadership to be put in place whose “commitment to the welfare of their people outweighs their interest in their own pockets.” In the meantime, beseech the Lord that the international community will cease putting money in the hands of the current leadership, who has a history of financial corruption and the misuse of funds, until they can be assured that those dollars will be used for the benefit of the people as intended.

Scripture

For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue. Pronounce them guilty, O God! Let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions.


- Psalm 5:9–10a

Israel Lifts Indoor Mask Requirement as COVID-19 Recedes

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Shoppers at a supermarket in Tel Aviv after the Israeli Health Ministry announced the end of the requirement to wear a mask indoors

Wednesday, 16 June 2021 | Israel lifted its indoor mask requirement on Tuesday, taking another step towards returning to life pre-COVID-19.

According to the Israeli Health Ministry, masks will still be required for employees and guests at elder-care facilities who are unvaccinated or who have not recovered from the virus, individuals en route to quarantine as well as those traveling by plane.

Israel is one of the first countries to emerge from the pandemic, which has claimed 3,803,592 lives worldwide and infected more than 175,000,000, according to World Health Organization statistics.

According to ministry data, as of Tuesday morning, there were just 221 active COVID-19 cases in Israel, with 25 new cases being identified in the past 24 hours. By comparison, daily cases rose over 10,000 in January.

At a ceremony on June 6 honoring the country’s health workers for their efforts against the pandemic, then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attributed the steep decline in morbidity figures to Israel’s aggressive vaccination campaign.

“Israel’s victory was achieved thanks to two basic elements: The millions of vaccines that we brought to the country and their rapid distribution to the citizens of Israel,” he said.

Earlier the same day, Israel had expanded its vaccination campaign to include those aged 12–16.

“This is huge news; it promises us herd immunity,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony.

As of Tuesday, 5,145,764 Israelis, or nearly 61 percent of the population, had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with an additional 336,475 having been partially vaccinated.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 15, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord that Israel is emerging from the pandemic with only a few new cases of the virus being reported. Thank Him for the success of their vaccination program, for the lifting of restrictions and the restoration of “normal” life in the Land. Pray that He will continue to bless His people with safety from the virus and with a strong and rapid recovery from its effects on the nation’s economy.

Scripture

Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.


- Psalm 91:9–11

IAF Takes Part in Joint, Two-week Exercise with US, Italian, British Air Forces

by Yaakov Lappin~JNS

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F-35 squadrons from Israel, Italy, the United States and Britain participating in a large-scale joint combat drill

Thursday, 17 June 2021 | A large-scale joint combat drill underway in Italy, involving F-35 squadrons from Israel, Italy, the United States and Britain, represents a major learning opportunity for all involved, an Israeli fighter-jet pilot taking part in the exercise told JNS in recent days.

The squadrons are stationed at the Amendola Air Base in eastern Italy, though much of the drill is taking part over the shores of Sardinia.

An Israeli Eitam airborne early warning and control aircraft is providing services to multiple air forces taking part, and Israeli mid-air refuelers are also involved, filling up the tanks of Israeli F-35s as well as aircraft from other countries.

“The drill involves a relatively wide range of threats,” said the pilot, Maj. T (full name withheld), of the 140 Golden Eagle F-35I Squadron. “In Israel, we are not used to holding drills with so many F-35 participants. The red team [which simulates the enemy] is very strong here. There are tens of ‘enemy’ planes of all types simulating enemy threats. These are relevant to our own arena: surface-to-air missile batteries, both tactical short-range ones and strategic ones that have long ranges, and broad ranges practicing the destruction of targets on the ground and air-to-air missions.”

“All of this is being tightly synchronized, and in English, under a common doctrine,” he added.

The presence of so many F-35 aircraft in one location and the information the aircraft are sharing with one another make this drill extraordinary, said Maj. T.

“There are things that only F-35s can communicate to one another,” he said, referring to the plane’s advanced data-sharing and network capabilities.

“It’s very moving to be here doing something new and to be deployed in this manner. It is historical,” said the Israeli pilot. “It is also really nice and interesting to talk to the other pilots who do what we do, but from a different place; they have a slightly different perspective. The pilots here communicate easily with another, fly together and see things similarly.”

“What We Bring is our Operational Experience”

A senior Israel Defense Forces [IDF] official said last week that the drill represented the first time that an Israeli F-35 fleet was deployed abroad. The official said that “this exercise with our Italian friends” will include a variety of scenarios, in which aircrews will “exploit and use the special capabilities that this aircraft brings to bear.”

The Israeli pilots are “very excited to share the knowledge that we humbly say we have and to learn from our partners,” said the official. The F-35 was first observed in the Israeli Air Force [IAF] in late 2016. Israel announced that it was operational in 2017.

After a pandemic year, the personnel will be able to brief and debrief face-to-face, said the official, while adhering to mask and distancing rules.

Maj. T noted Israel has hosted other air forces during its Blue Flag drills held in Israel, and that the IAF and USAF [United States Air Force] held two joint F-35 drills in Israel in 2020, dubbed Enduring [Lightning].

“This, however, is our first time deployed abroad,” he said. “I think that this is the largest F-35 air drill in the world, with four countries participating.”

The United States Air Force has also brought F-16 jets to the Italian exercise. American and British F-35 aircraft both took off from a British aircraft carrier to take part in the exercise.

“When you see someone else’s doctrine, communications, allocation of missions and how they practically approach things, this gives ideas on how to plant your own doctrine,” he stated.

“What we bring is our operational experience. I think we are the state with the highest degree of friction [with hostile forces] with this aircraft. And therefore, there are many things we discovered for the first time. We see that many other countries take an interest in this,” said Maj. T.

Ultimately, he added, all IAF fighter jets, both new and older aircraft, “can do most of the missions, and they do it on an ongoing basis, in operations and in combat. The central event is adapting the munitions to the target,” he said. “The F-35, a stealth aircraft, brings many new aspects in its technical and network abilities in terms of synchronization, command and control, and building [an operational] control picture in a big way.”

The IDF official who shared details about the drill added that it offers significant lessons about power projection and strategic messaging, by demonstrating how Israel works together with its NATO partners.

“We are working closely because of the nature of this crowded neighborhood. We are trying to work in a more coordinated fashion. Currently, we are just training, and we are not working operationally together,” he stressed, adding that such training holds great importance.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 16, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for Israel’s participation in this training exercise and for the desire of other nations to learn from the IDF’s experience operating the F-35 aircraft. Pray for the success of such exercises and for the strengthening of relationships Israel is forging with their NATO partners.

Scripture

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.


- Psalm 18:30–32