Compassion

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Friday, June 28, 2019

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

Israel on High Alert as Tensions in the Middle East Soar

by Jo Sarah Stanford

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IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi looks on during a briefing amid extensive IDF exercises and drills.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019 | Just days after completing its biggest military exercise in years, Israel has increased its alert status, as tensions in the Middle East continue to rise. With the US and Iran facing off over sabotaged oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a downed US drone and further economic sanctions tightening the screws on the already fraught Iranian economy, any potential conflict between the two nations will inevitably pull Israel into the fray.

Last Thursday, Iran shot down an unmanned US drone, which it claims entered Iranian airspace. US President Donald Trump claimed the drone was, in fact, in international airspace and called the attack a “big mistake.” Back and forth posturing between both sides culminated in Trump ordering a strike on an Iranian military installation. However, he did not follow through with the order after learning the strike would cost 150 Iranian lives, calling the response disproportionate. However, at a press conference in Jerusalem on Monday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton cautioned Iran not to “mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness.”

On Tuesday, Trump signed further economic sanctions into action in a bid to stop Iran’s nuclear development program and its aggressive military activities in the region. According to Trump, these latest sanctions would have gone ahead regardless of the drone attack. He called the sanctions a “strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions,” declaring that the US “will continue to increase pressure on Tehran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities and its aspirations.”

Although it may seem that the ongoing quarrels are restricted to the US and Iran, any upheaval in the Middle East will inevitably involve Israel—particularly if one of the parties in the conflict is the Islamic State. Iran regularly threatens Israel’s destruction and attempts to make good on its threats through its terror proxies in Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah [honorary title bestowed on high-ranking Shiite Muslim clerics in Iran] Khamenei recently boasted, “You will witness the demise of the enemies of humanity, meaning the degenerate American civilization, and the demise of Israel.”

Israel’s position regarding Iran’s aspirations has been clear. “Israel won’t allow an Iran that calls for our annihilation to entrench itself on our border, and we will do anything it takes to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed recently.

The soaring tensions in the Middle East come at a critical time with two historic meetings taking place this week.

In Bahrain, the US-led economic forum will gather together multiple Arab nations to discuss new plans for an improved Palestinian economy.

In Jerusalem, the first ever trilateral meeting between Israel, Russia and the US will take place today. National security advisers from each nation—Meir Ben-Shabbat from Israel, Nikolai Patrushev from Russia and John Bolton from the US—will meet to discuss regional security and cooperation. Russia is also expected to play the middle man as a “voice” for Iran, the only country of the three on friendly terms with the Islamic Republic.

Netanyahu and Bolton held a press conference ahead of the meeting.

“The mere fact that such a high level meeting is taking place between the great powers, the United States of America and Russia, here in Israel, I think, is unprecedented,” Netanyahu said. “I am confident that it is possible to find common ground and chart a path forward that will help promote security and stability in the region.”

Bolton replied, “Current circumstances in the regions make our conversations even more timely. I welcome the opportunity to strengthen even further the deep cooperation between the United States and Israel at this particularly significant point and to engage in strategic discussions with Russia and Israel together…as we meet threats to international peace and security in the Middle East and around the world are on the rise…Iran can never have nuclear weapons. Not against the USA and not against the world.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 25, 2019)

Photo Credit: IDF/idf.il

Prayer Focus
Pray that the sanctions imposed on Iran will be effective in stopping their aggressive military activities in the region. Beseech the Lord to move on Israel’s behalf and ease the tensions threatening the area.

Scripture

Arise, O God, plead Your own cause; remember how the foolish man reproaches You daily. Do not forget the voice of Your enemies; the tumult of those who rise up against you increases continually.


- Psalm 74:22–23

Terror Arson from Gaza Sets Southern Israel Ablaze

by Ilse Strauss

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Fresh fires from terror kites rage along the Gaza border. (Illustrative)

Wednesday, 26 June 2019 | Waves of incendiary balloon attacks. Dozens of fires raging. Israelis working around the clock to control the blazes. Crops and woodlands turned to ashes. This is the situation in southern Israel as ongoing terror arson attacks from Gaza continue to set communities near the border ablaze.

On Sunday, firefighting units, officials from the Nature and Parks Authority and the army joined forces to battle ten blazes sparked by incendiary devices flown from Gaza into Israel. All fires were discovered and quenched quickly.

Monday called for a repeat performance, when fire services had to bring 13 conflagrations, caused by balloon-borne incendiary devices launched by Gaza-based terror groups, under control. By sundown on Monday evening, two fires were still raging.

The situation intensified yesterday, as no less than 20 fires raged throughout southern Israel. Investigators with the fire department confirmed that all blazes originated from balloon-borne arson devices.

One of the incendiary balloons fell on a kindergarten late yesterday afternoon, but failed to detonate and caused no damage. Thankfully, all the children had already gone home for the day. Tragedy was averted—but it could have been much worse. “A firebomb in a kindergarten is just like a missile on a kindergarten,” said local council head Tamir Idan.

According to i24News, the uptick in terror arson attacks over the last week can be ascribed to the Palestinians protesting the US-led Middle East economic summit currently taking place in Bahrain. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s political party, Fatah, called for mass demonstrations across Gaza and Judea and Samaria on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday—the three days leading up to the conference. Israel does, however, expect the unrest to continue for the remainder of the week.

Israel responded to increased attacks by cutting the supply of fuel to the coastal enclave. “In the wake of the uptick of incendiary balloons from Gaza into Israel and arsons in the Gaza border area, it has been decided to stop transfers of fuel to the Gaza power station via the Kerem Shalom crossing beginning this morning,” COGAT—the army unit responsible for implementing Israel’s civilian policy and security coordination in the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria—announced in a statement.

The situation in and around Gaza usually gets more than its fair share of media attention. As soon as the rockets fly—and Israel retaliates—the global media is eager to cover the events in detail. However, with front pages and news headlines devoted to the simmering tensions between the US and Iran and the Bahrain economic summit, the continuous blazes go largely unnoticed.

In the meantime, Gaza-based terror groups continue to launch attacks, southern Israel continues to burn and the plight of Israeli communities living under an onslaught of daily terror is becoming unbearable.

“Our community is strong and brave and would be able to withstand a military operation in Gaza, but we won’t be able to take anymore incendiary balloons as if it’s part and parcel of our daily life,” admitted Idan.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 26, 2019)

Photo Credit: France24 English/Youtbe/Screenshot

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to place a supernatural shield of protection over all of southern Israel, protecting the area from any attacks from Gaza, but in particular from incendiary devices. Pray that He will strengthen those who live there, encouraging them to put their trust in Him.

Scripture

For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.


- Psalm 27:5

Action
A series of devastating blazes at the end of May left 50 families destitute as the fires ravaged their homes, leaving nothing but ashes. These Israelis now live in the heartbreaking reality of rebuilding what was destroyed. They are not facing this task alone. Bridges for Peace is coming alongside them, offering the physical means and the helping hand they need so desperately. We need your help as we stand with this community in the midst of rising from the ashes. Your generous donation to our Crisis Assistance Fund will help us meet our pledge goal of US $150,000 to show these hurting people the love of Christians across the world.

US Wraps up Two-day Middle East Economic Forum in Bahrain

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Over 20 countries and 350 business leaders worldwide participated in the US-led Middle East economic workshop.

Thursday, 27 June 2019 | The United States on Wednesday wrapped up a two-day workshop in Bahrain aimed at drumming up economic support for the Palestinian people as part of the American “Peace to Prosperity” plan, but not every nation in the Middle East is eager to see that goal achieved. In particular, the US was pointing the finger at Iran, a major sponsor of Palestinian terror organizations that oppose peace with Israel.

“If there is one nation in the Middle East that does not want this effort to succeed, that is afraid of our success, it’s the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said in a video posted to the State Department Twitter page.

“They would much rather see the Palestinian people trapped in an endless cycle of poverty, because they prioritize ideology over the welfare of not only the Palestinian people, but the Iranian people. We are going to continue to support and stand with the Palestinian people while the Iranian regime conducts its campaign of lies and disinformation.”

Hook characterized their work in Bahrain as having “successfully launched the economic plan for the Palestinian people,” and US Special Adviser to the President Jared Kushner concurred, saying in his own Twitter video they had a “very exciting two days.”

“The overall consensus is that this is a very executable plan, if we’re able to get a political solution, and if we have the right governance structure in place,” said Kushner on the White House Twitter page. “There is so much thirst and excitement about investing in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and Gaza and Jordan and Egypt from the global community, if we can create the right conditions for that to happen.”

Kushner noted that more than 20 countries and over 350 business leaders from around the world participated in the event, which focused on the American economic plan that calls for more than [US] $50 billion in investment over a span of ten years. According to the plan posted to the White House website, this would include not only economic support for the Palestinians, but also buildup in infrastructure, education and more.

Said Kushner, “This is a very important blueprint for the future of the Palestinian people and hopefully a step in the direction of making this a safer, more prosperous region, with tremendous opportunity for all the people.”

While the US has not yet released a full political peace plan for the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Palestinian leadership has already rejected the US plan without seeing it first.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday told visiting Chilean President Sebastián Piñera that such rejectionism is the wrong way to go. “Peace is the aspiration of the people of Israel. The gaps between us and the Palestinians are great, but we must begin with small steps of cooperation, and not to boycott or refuse plans that will improve our economic and social situation,” said Rivlin in comments released by his office.

“We must cooperate in every field where we can work together. That is the only way.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on June 26, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Youtube/Euronews (in English)/Screenshot

Prayer Focus
Pray for God’s intimate involvement in this or any plan for economic development and peace in the region. Pray that these nations and business leaders will have success in lessening the burden of poverty placed on the Palestinian people by their own leaders.

Scripture

Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked. They do not know, nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness.


- Psalm 82:4–5a

Robert Kraft Awarded Genesis Prize, Announces Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism

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Robert Kraft announces his new foundation as he receives his award in Israel.

Monday, 24 June 2019 | Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, accepted Israel’s prestigious Genesis Prize at a ceremony in Jerusalem on Thursday, where he pledged $20 million to establish a foundation that will fight anti-Semitism and combat the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Genesis Prize Foundation Chairman Stan Polovets handed the award to Kraft in front of an audience of 600 Israeli and international dignitaries.

“The new foundation I am announcing tonight is a platform to galvanize the global fight against anti-Semitism, uniting all people of good conscience around this goal,” Kraft said, who also chose to forgo the [US] $1 million in money that accompanies the prize. He asked that the money be donated in his honor to programs that fight anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize Israel.

In his keynote address, Kraft told the audience, “I believe we can use this platform of social media to make a genuine and lasting impact on the rising tide of hate…especially against our people.”

Kraft is the seventh winner of the award, following United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; actor Michael Douglas; violinist Itzhak Perlman; sculptor Anish Kapoor; and actress Natalie Portman.

Over the years, Kraft has supported many initiatives in Israel and worked to promote the Jewish state. In June 2017, he brought a delegation of football Hall-of-Famers to Israel. Earlier that year, Kraft donated [US] $6 million to build the first regulation-sized American football stadium in Israel.

In two instances, Kraft publicly paid tribute to victims of Palestinian terror.

In November 2015, he honored American terror victim Ezra Schwartz with a moment of silence before their Monday Night Football game against the Buffalo Bills. Schwartz was an 18-year-old student and lifelong Patriots fan from the Boston area who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist a week earlier.

In 2014, after American IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldier Max Steinberg was killed fighting against Hamas, Kraft sent a letter to Steinberg’s parents, writing, “I have taken the liberty of reaching out to you since I noticed him wearing a New England Patriots cap in one of the broadcasted photos. He represents the consummate patriot and I am forever grateful for the sacrifices he made to keep our beloved Israel safe.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by The Israel Project in its publication The Tower on June 21, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: New England Patriots/YouTube/screenshot

Prayer Focus
Thank God for the generosity of Robert Kraft. Pray that this initiative will be successful in stemming the rising global tide of anti-Semitism.

Scripture

Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”


- Psalm 83:1–4

Historic Trilateral Summit between Israel, US and Russia: The Takeaways

by Kate Norman

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Israel, US and Russia meet for an historic meeting to discuss regional security.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019 | Expectations were high for the meeting of three world powers as security leaders from Israel, the US and Russia met in Jerusalem for a historic summit focusing on security within the region—specifically on Iranian aggression and entrenchment in Syria.

The summit follows weeks of escalating tension between the US and Iran after the US accused the Islamic Republic of attacking two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and shooting down an American drone in international airspace. Though Israeli and American officials often team up to call for international action against Iranian aggression, nothing concrete came out of the trilateral powwow, as the Russian security secretary spoke up for its “ally and partner” Iran.

“Any attempts to make Tehran look like the main threat to global security, to put it in the same basket as ISIS or any other terror group, are unacceptable,” asserted Russian security adviser Nikolai Patrushev. “Iran has been contributing a lot to fight against terrorism in Syria, helping to stabilize the situation.”

Netanyahu made Israel’s stance on Iran clear during his statement at the summit, with Patrushev, US National Security Adviser John Bolton and Israeli Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat participating.

“As both of you know, Israel has acted hundreds of times to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, while it actively and openly calls and works for our destruction,” Netanyahu declared. “We have acted hundreds of times to prevent Iran from delivering increasingly sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah, or to form a second front in the north against us from the Golan Heights.

The prime minister concluded with a line in the sand: “Israel will continue to prevent Iran from using neighboring territory as platforms to attack us, and Israel will respond forcefully to any such attacks.”

Iran declared that it will exceed its enriched uranium limit established under the 2015 nuclear deal by tomorrow. In a separate press conference, Bolton said that as a result, “all options are on the table.”

The three powers walked away from the meeting with no concrete plan to combat Iranian entrenchment in Syria—or even an acknowledged need to do so from the Russian official. Patrushev went so far as to call on Israel and the US “to exercise restraint and to take efforts to alleviate the concerns and tensions…between Israel and Iran.”

Despite the clear disconnects in points of view and allegiances, Netanyahu said he believes after their discussions that “there is a wider basis for cooperation between the three of us than many believe,” Netanyahu said. “This summit represents a real opportunity to help advance that stability in our region, and particularly in Syria.”

The Israeli prime minister declared that the common goal for all three nations is “to see a peaceful, stable and secure Syria.” He elaborated on “a common objective to achieve that larger goal,” which is to boot all foreign forces out of Syria—referring to Iranian forces and its proxies—that arrived after the beginning of the Syrian civil war. Patrushev, however, called the Israeli airstrikes in Syria targeting Iranian forces and proxies “undesirable.”

Though Israel and the US walked out of the summit with no known plan on how to loosen Iran’s grip on Syria, they walked out with a common determination to do so. Russia—the go-between who has ties with both Israel and Iran—took a vague if standoffish stance.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu stood by his declaration: “We are determined to remove Iran from Syria.” The prime minister added that US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss the situation in a sideline meeting this weekend at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 26, 2019)

Photo Credit: IsraeliPM/Youtube/Screenshot

Prayer Focus
Pray for the vital co-operation among these three international entities as they determine a path forward that will end Iranian aggression in the area and remove any Iranian presence from Syria.

Scripture

For I will not trust I 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 44:6–7

Senior Saudi Official: Arab World Realizes “Age of War with Israel Over”

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Saudi Arabia to meet with top officials ahead of Bahrain conference.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019 | In extraordinary comments on Friday, a top-ranking Saudi diplomat said that “the blood conflict” between Israel and the Arab world “had lasted too long” and that the time for normalization has come.

“Us Saudis and all Gulf states plus Egypt and Jordan realize that the age of going to war with Israel is over,” the man said in an exclusive interview with Globes ahead of the economic conference in Bahrain.

Pointing to “the advantages of normalizing relations” with Israel, he argued that “the whole Arab world could benefit from it.” He praised Israeli technology as “very advanced” and observed that “the Arab world, including those who hate you, looks at Israel in admiration due to this success and hopes to copy it.”

He applauded Israel for showing “the world the Iranian danger,” a regime which he said is “distorting Islam” and engages in “terror against the countries of the region.” He slammed European leaders for not understanding that any commercial contracts with Iran “secure funds for terrorism.”

The official also blasted the Palestinian Authority (PA) as “irresponsible” for not even considering US-led peace efforts, which would bring [US] $50 billion in economic investment to the long-suffering Palestinian people.

But more than just providing much-needed economic growth and poverty relief, the Saudi diplomat said the US plan includes a “clear path leading to complete Palestinian independence.” He added that pragmatic Arab leaders are “convinced that even the hard issues,” such as the status of Jerusalem and ownership of the holy sites, “can be resolved when one has a full stomach and a relaxed life…they still don’t accept this.”

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s image as a hardliner, the Saudi official concluded that “when it’s time to decide every Israeli leader, Netanyahu as well, will take the path of peace as this is what most Israelis want.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by The Israel Project in its publication The Tower on June 24, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Ron Przysucha/U.S. Department of Defense/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for this miraculous change in attitude on the part of the Gulf states, and for these remarkable statements from a top-ranking Saudi diplomat. Pray that his words will reach Arab leaders the world over. Ask the Lord for significant relationships with Israel to be developed, which will bring lasting stability and an atmosphere for peace to the entire region.

Scripture

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.”


- Zechariah 7:9–10

Israel Thwarts Iran Spying Attempt in Judea and Samaria

by Yoav Zitun

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A Jordanian man living in Hebron has been arrested for spying.

Friday, 21 June 2019 | The Shin Bet [Israeli internal security organization] domestic security service said Thursday that it has arrested a Jordanian businessman who attempted to set up an intelligence-gathering operation in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] on behalf of Iran.

The businessman, who was named as 32-year-old Taer Shaafut, was arrested in April and was indicted 10 days ago by the military prosecutor for allegedly making contact with the enemy, making contact with a hostile organization and conspiring to bring enemy funds into the area.

The Shin Bet said Shaafut entered Israel on behalf of Iranian intelligence in order to recruit spies to gather intelligence for Iran.

“The link between Shaafut and Iranian intelligence began in Lebanon when he met two Arab-speaking operators from Iranian intelligence who introduced themselves as Abu Sadek and Abu Jaafar,” the Shin Bet said.

Shaafut, who is originally from Hebron, held meetings with the Iranians in Lebanon and Syria over the past two years. He was instructed to establish business ties in the West Bank and Israel in order to gather information.

“As part of his contacts with his Iranian handlers, Shaafut proposed and even received approval for the establishment of a factory in Jordan that would employ Shiite workers for future Iranian activities,” the Shin Bet said.

“The Iranian handlers expressed willingness to invest an initial sum of some half a million dollars and then whatever funds he required at a later date.”

According to the Shin Bet, the Iranian handlers gave Shaafut encrypted communications equipment through which information was transferred and meetings arranged—and that the Iranians wanted to use this equipment to transfer money to terrorists.

“At the end of his activities on their behalf, he was dispatched to Israel. He was expected to travel to Iran to complete his training as an agent and to carry out advanced training in espionage and intelligence,” the Shin Bet said.

“This affair is another example of Iran’s ongoing attempts to set up infrastructure for operations against Israel in a variety of ways by investing considerable efforts and resources,” the agency said.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on June 20, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: eman/wikimedia.org

Source: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that the Shin Bet was able to uncover this intelligence-gathering operation and bring the perpetrator to justice. Continue to pray for the Shin Bet and the other security and military organizations whose responsibility it is to keep Israel safe from her enemies.

Scripture

Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless. Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies.


- Psalm 108:12–13

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