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Hope in Difficult Times

Friday, June 7, 2024

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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. Sign up HERE if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.

Gallant: Israel Will Only Negotiate under Fire

by JNS

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Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at a press conference at the ministry in Tel Aviv

Thursday, 6 June 2024 | Israel’s talks with the Hamas terrorist organization will only be conducted under fire, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed on Wednesday, five days after US President Joe Biden launched a proposed deal offering an immediate “full and complete ceasefire.”

“We are in a process where we will continue and wear down the enemy. Any negotiations with the Hamas terrorist organization will only be conducted under fire,” Gallant stated in a video posted to X.

The defense minister spoke shortly after a flight over the Gaza Strip and the northern border with Lebanon in an Israeli Air Force F15 fighter jet.

“The strikes and the plumes of smoke where the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] attacks are clearly visible to the eye, both in the Gaza Strip and in the north,” he said.

Biden announced his proposed hostages-for-ceasefire deal in a televised address on Friday. Calling it an Israeli proposal, the agreement laid out by the US administration envisages a “permanent” end to hostilities and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.

“All of that and more would begin immediately,” he said. “During the six weeks of phase one, Israel and Hamas would negotiate the necessary arrangements to get to phase two, which is a permanent end to hostilities.”

Biden added that if the initial talks take longer than six weeks, the ceasefire would be extended “as long as negotiations continue.”

During a closed-door meeting of the Knesset [parliament] Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told lawmakers he would “not describe the details of the deal,” adding, however, that Biden’s portrayal of Jerusalem’s negotiating position was “not accurate.”

“I am not willing to stop the war,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying. “We can stop the fighting for 42 days in order to return hostages, but we will not give up on total victory.”

Biden’s announcement had led to pushback within the Israeli coalition, with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Monday suspending his role in the government until Netanyahu reveals the proposed terms.

In an interview with ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday, US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby stated that the Biden administration expects Israel to agree to the deal if Hamas greenlights it.

“We have every expectation that if Hamas agrees to the proposal—as was transmitted to them, an Israeli proposal—that Israel would say ‘Yes,’” Kirby said.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 5, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Intercede for Israel’s leaders, who are facing intense pressure from the United States to agree to an unenforceable deal with Hamas. Pray for unity between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the members of the war cabinet as well as the coalition government, that each one would look to God alone for direction.

Scripture

My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.


- Psalm 62:5

Tens of Thousands Gather in Capital for Jerusalem Day

by Troy Osher Fritzhand ~ JNS

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Thousands of Israelis celebrate at the Western Wall Plaza on Jerusalem Day 2024

Thursday, 6 June 2024 | Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Jerusalem on Wednesday to celebrate the anniversary of the reunification of the holy city under Jewish rule.

“We are gathering today in Jerusalem, the capital of united Israel. Fifty-seven years ago, in the Six-Day War, we experienced a historic miracle. We returned home, to the holy city, to the heart of our people,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony marking the day at the Bible Lands Museum.

“Then, as today, we were surrounded by enemies. They thought to suffocate us, to wipe us off the map. But we are an ancient people, a people of brave warriors, we stood up as one man and defended ourselves.”

The premier highlighting the growth of the city, including the hi-tech sector that is quickly gaining traction as an innovation center both in Israel and globally.

The main event of the day is the Flag March, a parade starting at the city center and making its way to the Western Wall by way of the Old City. The male marchers entered the Old City via Damascus Gate while the female participants used the Jaffa Gate.

The sometimes hectic, mostly uplifting march saw crowds of men, women, children and even toddlers singing and dancing their way through the historic corridors en route to the holiest site to the Jewish people.

This year’s celebration comes as war continues to rage against terrorists in the Gaza Strip and daily rocket fire from Lebanon.

Netanyahu mentioned this in his remarks, pledging total victory over Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in the north.

Moshe Feiglin, a former Knesset [parliament] member and current head of the Zehut Party, spoke to JNS at the head of the March. “The war today is over Jerusalem. They [Hamas] told us that by calling their attack [on October 7] Al-Aqsa Storm.

“We have to understand the war isn’t about the borders, it’s about Temple Mount, the Jewish people, and all civilization, and we are on the front lines of [the fight] for civilization,” Feiglin said.

Streets are filled with happy crowds as they march toward the Western Wall in the Old City

Marchers came from all over the country, including busloads of Israelis from Judea and Samaria. Those who spoke to JNS expressed their excitement of being there, many of them first-timers to the annual march.

At the conclusion of the march at the Western Wall, the attendees danced together to classical Jewish songs, everyone carrying Israeli flags.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich addressed those gathered at the Western Wall.

Directing his remarks to the prime minister, he said, “Go to war with Hezbollah, subdue it, destroy it, move the security strip from the Galilee to Southern Lebanon. Let our heroic warriors win, restore our national honor, national pride and security and allow the heroic residents to return home safely.

“Mr. Prime Minister, the people of Israel are behind you! The powerful and deep living connection of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel begins from here in Jerusalem, from the Temple Mount, from history, from the divine promise from the Bible. We also understand this and derive faith, determination and strength from this and from this strengthen the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] fighters. We will pursue our enemy and destroy them and we will not return home until they are all gone,” Smotrich said.

The event was heavily protected, with some 3,000 police officers and border police maintaining order.

A police spokesperson before the event said “stringent security measures will be implemented, including aerial surveillance and undercover operations.”

Jerusalem Day, celebrated on 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar [April–May], commemorates the reunification of the city during the 1967 Six-Day War, an event of profound historical and religious significance for the Jewish people, bringing all of Jerusalem under Jewish rule for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.

Alongside the Bible Lands Museum event and the Flag March, celebrations included guided tours, lectures and cultural performances highlighting Jerusalem’s rich heritage.

According to data published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics ahead of Jerusalem Day, the country’s largest city has surpassed one million residents, adding 13,400 residents last year, with most of the new residents coming from Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh and Tel Aviv-Jaffa. The latter two cities, plus Beitar Illit, were the localities that welcomed the most out-migration from Jerusalem.

Jerusalemites are as satisfied with their lives as the rest of Israelis, at 91% (93% for Jews and 86% for Arabs) compared 90% nationally. They are also satisfied with their work at 87%, versus 89% nationally.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 5, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Robin Orack/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Offer praises to God, the One who fulfills His Word and has brought His people back to Zion, to the city of Jerusalem. Give thanks for the joy, gladness and sounds of singing that echoed through the streets of this city on Jerusalem Day.

Scripture

For the LORD will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.


- Isaiah 51:3

The Miraculous Story of the Zionist Sephardic Jews of Bulgaria

by Joshua Marks ~ JNS

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The sanctuary of the Central Sofia Synagogue in the Bulgarian capital’s Square of Religious Tolerance.

Wednesday, 5 June 2024 | Less than a two-hour drive from and southeast of the capital, Sofia, lies Plovdiv, a remarkable ancient Bulgarian city. Plovdiv, known as Europe’s oldest, continuously inhabited city—and one of the oldest cities in the world—is nestled among the famous seven hills along the banks of the Maritsa River. It is here that our Jewish journey begins.

During the Roman imperial period in the 3rd century C.E., the city was called Philippopolis. It is in Plovdiv that the only ancient synagogue in Bulgaria was discovered. At the archaeological museum, visitors can admire a fragmented mosaic floor adorned with a menorah and Greek inscription.

However, the Jewish presence in this region and its surroundings can be traced back even further, as mentioned in the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History by Clive Leviev-Sawyer and Imanuel Marcus. Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, in his letter “On the Embassy to Gaius,” written around 41 or 42 C.E., refers to Jews residing in Thessaly, Boeotia, Macedonia, Aetolia, Attica and Argos.

In the northern part of Bulgaria, specifically in the city of Oescus, which was part of the Roman province of Moesia Inferior, a Latin inscription from the late 2nd century C.E. was discovered. This inscription features a menorah and mentions the archisynagogos (head of the synagogue).

Joseph Benatov, a Hebrew teacher at the University of Pennsylvania who grew up in Sofia’s Jewish community, shared insights with JNS on the history of Jewish communities in Bulgaria. He stated, “The oldest known communities date back to the Roman Empire, the so-called Romaniote Jews, who are the Greek-speaking Jews. And we have clear evidence of organized Jewish communities from that Roman period when Bulgaria was part of the Roman Empire.”

Following the Romaniote Jews, Ashkenazi Jews arrived in Bulgaria during the 13th and 14th centuries, migrating from central Europe, as explained by Benatov, who conducts tours of the area through his travel agency Sephardic Balkans.

“It was only after these two groups that a significant wave of Sephardic Jews arrived and settled in the region, being embraced by the Ottoman Empire following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in 1492 and 1497,” noted Benatov, who is of pure Sephardic descent. “Upon the arrival of the Sephardic Jews, they essentially assumed control of Jewish life in the region.”

According to Benatov, many Ashkenazi Jews learned Ladino and adopted Sephardic prayer customs, leading to a rise in Ashkenazi-Sephardic marriages, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Nonetheless, there were still distinct Ashkenazi communities in Bulgaria in the early 1900s, constituting around 5% of the Jewish population, while the vast majority, 95%, of Bulgarian Jews in the 20th century until World War II were Sephardic. The Sephardim largely absorbed the Romaniotes, unlike the Ashkenazim who maintained a minor presence.

Benatov highlighted the fact that the Bulgarian-Jewish identity is a relatively new development, stemming from Bulgaria’s independence in 1878. Throughout the previous 400 years that Sephardic Jews resided in the region, they primarily identified as Ottoman Jews, considering themselves subjects of the Ottoman Empire and were closely tied to their respective hometowns.

My wife’s DNA is particularly interesting, as it reflects the historical encounters between the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities in Bulgaria. On her maternal side, her family is of Sephardic descent. However, the genetic analysis also revealed a percentage of Ashkenazi ancestry, which can be attributed to her great-great-grandfather, Mr. Berenstein.

In April, we embarked on a journey from Tel Aviv to Sofia to explore Bulgaria’s Jewish sites. We were fortunate to have a highly recommended tour guide, a knowledgeable local named Philip Stanimirov.

One of the initial highlights of our tour was the awe-inspiring Central Sofia Synagogue. This magnificent house of Jewish worship is not only one of the largest Sephardic synagogues in Europe; it’s also the largest in the Balkan Peninsula.

The exterior of the Central Sofia Synagogue in the Bulgarian capital’s Square of Religious Tolerance.

The Moorish Revival synagogue in Sofia, designed by Austrian architect Friedrich Grünanger, was constructed on the site of the previous Ahava ve Chesed synagogue. Completed in 1909, this architectural masterpiece stands as a testament to the Bulgarian people’s renowned tolerance. The Square of Religious Tolerance, located in the heart of Sofia, evokes the ambiance of Jerusalem’s Old City. Within close proximity, one can find the synagogue, the Banya Bashi Mosque, the Eastern Orthodox Hagia Nedelya Cathedral and the Roman Catholic St. Joseph’s Cathedral, which showcase the diverse religious landscape of the area.

Benatov highlighted the significant role that the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church played in condemning discrimination against Jews and protecting the community from persecution during World War II and the Holocaust. Metropolitan Kiril of Plovdiv and Metropolitan Stefan of Sofia spearheaded efforts to rescue Bulgaria’s Jews and both were recognized in 2002 as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem. They are buried at the Bachkovo Monastery just south of Plovdiv.

In a remarkable act of civil disobedience, Kiril, who would later become the patriarch of the Bulgarian Church, led a group of 300 church members to the train station in Plovdiv. This station was where thousands of Jews were being forcibly packed into boxcars, awaiting transportation to Treblinka. Despite the presence of Nazi SS officers, Kiril fearlessly pushed through and attempted to enter one of the train cars. However, he was prevented from doing so by the guards. Undeterred, he proceeded to walk to the front of the train and made a bold declaration that he would lie down on the tracks if the train were to start moving.

Benatov stated, “This is something that I think Bulgarians are rightly very proud of, that even on the religious level, the Bulgarian East Orthodox Church as a national institution was adamantly pro-Jewish and defensive of its Jewish neighbors and friends in the country.”

The remarkable story of Bulgaria’s nearly 50,000 Jews who were spared from the horrors of the gas chambers during World War II, despite the country’s alliance with Nazi Germany, distinguishes it from many others that willingly handed over their Jewish population for deportation to death camps.

Regrettably, not all Jews under Bulgarian control were saved. In April 1941, the Germans entrusted Bulgarian Tsar Boris III with the administration of Greek Eastern Macedonia, Western Thrace and the Yugoslav provinces of Vardar Macedonia and Pirot.

Under Bulgarian authority, approximately 11,343 Jews were deported to German-held territories (7,122 from Macedonia and 4,221 from Thrace), where the majority met their tragic fate at the Treblinka extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

One heroic figure who defied the pro-Nazi cabinet was Dimitur Pešev, the deputy speaker of the Parliament. On March 10, 1943, he courageously intervened and prevented the deportation of 8,500 Jews who had already been rounded up and placed on trains bound for Treblinka.

“He single-handedly halted the initial deportation of Bulgarian Jews,” explained Benatov. “Thanks to him, I believe, King Boris III himself later changed his stance and became much more resolute in defending Bulgaria’s Jewish population when the second attempt to deport them occurred.”

In March 2023, Bulgaria commemorated the 80th anniversary of its decision not to deport its Jewish population. Underscoring the mixed legacy of Boris and the strong emotions he elicits today, however, representatives of the Jewish community refused to attend the official ceremony.

These Jewish leaders cite Boris’s alliance with Hitler’s Germany as the leader of a fascist government, his imposition of discriminatory racial laws against Jews and the deportation of the Jews in Bulgaria’s occupied territories.

A Holocaust memorial next to the Basilica of Saint Sofia in the Bulgarian capital.

While touring Bulgaria, we visited several Holocaust memorials, including the three stone tablets situated behind the Basilica of Saint Sofia, a 6th-century Byzantine church. These tablets pay homage to the Bulgarian leaders who were instrumental in saving the Jews during that time.

Local Jews established the Monument of Gratitude in Plovdiv, in 1998. This monument commemorates the successful prevention of the deportation of the city’s Jewish community on March 10, 1943. The inscription on the monument is in Bulgarian, Hebrew and English, expressing gratitude to all those who contributed to the rescue efforts on that day.

The two active synagogues in Bulgaria have numerous empty seats, underscoring the limited number of Hebraic individuals in the country today. This also serves as a poignant reminder that most of Bulgaria’s Sephardic Zionist Jews relocated to Israel following World War II. About 42,000 of the 50,000 surviving Jews made aliyah [immigration to Israel] between 1947 and 1952. Another 3,000-4,000 Jews who endured the Communist era migrated to Israel in 1990, marking the final and most recent wave of aliyah from Bulgaria.

Based on the 2011 census, Bulgaria is home to 1,162 Jews. However, the World Jewish Congress estimates that the country’s Jewish population ranges from 2,000 to 6,000 individuals.

Benatov explained that during the Communist period after World War II, there was a significant amount of intermarriage within the Jewish community. As a result, it is common to encounter community members who come from intermarried families. In many cases, only one grandparent may have Jewish heritage, often of Sephardic origin. Nevertheless, the local Jewish community considers all these individuals as full members.

Despite the community’s small size, there has been a revival of Jewish life and a growing acknowledgment of the historical importance of Jews in the region. This phenomenon is evident in Vidin, a port city on the southern bank of the Danube River in northwestern Bulgaria, near the borders of Romania and Serbia.

The city was previously inhabited by a significant Jewish population, reaching its peak at approximately 2,000 Jews just before World War II, constituting 5% of Bulgaria’s Jewish community. Following the war, most of Vidin’s Jewish residents relocated to Israel to start anew. A recent US $6 million initiative successfully transformed the deserted 19th-century main synagogue into a cultural center and communal focal point.

The Zionist movement first emerged within the Ashkenazi Jewish communities of central and eastern Europe during the late 1800s. But the Sephardic Jews of Bulgaria stood out as some of the most enthusiastic advocates for the restoration of Jewish self-governance in the ancestral land of Israel.

According to Benatov, the Bulgarian Jewish community exhibited a strong sense of pride in their Jewish heritage, viewing it from a Zionist perspective.

Bulgaria boasted numerous Zionist organizations, including sports and cultural clubs, camps, women’s groups, international Zionist organizations and Maccabi.

“Zionism truly governed and organized Jewish life in Bulgaria,” Benatov explained. “It served as the foundation for the school system in Jewish schools, which followed a Zionist-driven curriculum emphasizing Hebrew and other subjects of significance to political Zionism.”

Upon their arrival in Israel, most Bulgarian Jews chose to settle in Jaffa, an ancient port city located in southern Tel Aviv. Over time, Jaffa earned the nickname “Little Bulgaria” due to the prevalence of Ladino and Bulgarian languages spoken there.

Similar to their reputation in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Jews quickly established a positive image in Israel. They were recognized for their strong work ethic, honesty, humility and lack of demanding nature, as stated by Benatov.

As a successful immigrant community, the Bulgarian Jews gradually expanded beyond Jaffa’s confines and became an integral part of modern Israeli society.

In his book From Sofia to Jaffa: The Jews of Bulgaria and Israel, author Guy H. Haskell describes Jaffa as a sentimental hub for the Bulgarian Jewish population, even as their numbers dwindled. As the new immigrants became more established, they moved on to other areas. Today, only a small community of mostly retirees and their social clubs remain in Jaffa.

My wife’s grandparents were part of the wave of Bulgarian Jews who migrated to Israel. They both came in 1948 when they were just 14 years old, her grandmother aboard the steam merchant Pan York (also known as Kibbutz Galuyot and later Komemiyut) and her grandfather on a rundown ship from Bulgaria. Following David Ben-Gurion’s declaration on the radio, her grandmother joyously joined the crowds dancing in the streets to celebrate Israel’s independence, marking a new beginning for the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Iberia to the Ottoman Balkans, then Bulgaria and finally found their home in Israel, the Jewish homeland.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 4, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Joshua Marks/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Praise God for the Bulgarian people who stood up to the demands of Hitler’s evil regime and refused to allow the Jewish people living in their country to be deported to the death camps. Pray for the righteous Gentiles of our own time who fear God and choose to stand with the Jewish people against anti-Semitism.

Scripture

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.


- Proverbs 14:26

Netanyahu Invited to Speak to Congress amidst Joint ‘Struggle against Terror’

by Joshua Spurlock ~ The Mideast Update

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (illustrative)

Monday, 3 June 2024 | The two main political parties in the United States Congress rarely agree, but leaders from both sides reaffirmed their support for Israel last week. The top four members of the US Senate and House—in a letter published on House Speaker Rep. Mike Johnson’s page on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday—issued a bipartisan invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress. The letter notes that the US lawmakers “join the State of Israel in your struggle against terror, especially as Hamas continues to hold American and Israeli citizens captive and its leaders jeopardize regional stability.”

Netanyahu accepted the invite with deep appreciation. In a statement translated from Hebrew and published by his office on Saturday evening, the leader said, “I am very moved to have the privilege of representing Israel before both Houses of Congress and to present the truth about our just war against those who seek to destroy us to the representatives of the American people and the entire world.”

The invitation comes against the backdrop of intense international pressure on Israel to stop the war with the Hamas terrorist group. Despite the fact that Hamas instigated the war by killing 1,200 Israelis—mostly civilians—and kidnapping hundreds more among other brutal war crimes, and despite Israel’s efforts to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza, The International Criminal Court (ICC) has hosted unfounded accusations of Israeli war crimes. That includes ICC prosecutor Karim Khan applying for an arrest warrant for Netanyahu.

There is bipartisan opposition in the US to Khan’s interest in arresting Netanyahu for alleged war crimes. Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham said the “ICC’s decision was made in bad faith” and endorsed US sanctions against the ICC. He noted the ICC move “completely ignored the Rome statute’s principle of complementarity”, or refraining from prosecuting persons in a nation with a sufficient justice system to address its own matters internally.

Wrote Graham on X: “Israel and the United States are robust democracies with independent judicial systems. In the past, the ICC has threatened action against our soldiers for operations in Afghanistan. Under the theory espoused by the ICC to go after Israel, America would be a target.”

Politico has reported that the Biden administration strongly disagreed with the ICC, but is opposed to sanctioning the court—whereas the Trump administration did issue sanctions over ICC investigations against the US and Israel.

While not commenting on sanctions, US Senator John Fetterman—from the Democrat party opposing Graham’s Republicans—also criticized the ICC in a May 23 post on X. Commenting on an editorial in The Jerusalem Post opposing a Palestinian state as a reward for Hamas’ terror attack on October 7, Fetterman wrote: “Some members of Congress refuse to condemn this raw brutality. Calling for a Palestinian state or supporting the ICC request for arrest warrants—it’s all a warped interpretation of justice, but also anathema to peace and bringing all hostages back home.”

Now, Netanyahu will have the opportunity to make his position clear to Congress in person after the horrific events of October 7. And the American lawmakers recognize that Israel isn’t alone in facing the threats posed by Hamas and its allies.

Said the US Congressional letter inviting Netanyahu to speak, “The existential challenges we face, including the growing partnership between Iran, Russia, and China, threaten the security, peace, and prosperity of our countries and of free people around the world.

“To build on our enduring relationship and to highlight America’s solidarity with Israel, we invite you to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending democracy, combatting terror, and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region.”

Source: (This article was originally published by The Mideast Update on June 2, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Give thanks for this timely bipartisan invitation from the United States Congress. Pray that Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as the government and people of Israel, will be encouraged and strengthened by the opportunity to present the truth about Israel’s position without the filter of an anti-Israel media bias.

Scripture

Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding.


- Proverbs 23:23

Four Hostages Died in Gaza Captivity, Remains Held by Hamas

by JNS

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Sign calling for the immediate return of the hostages (illustrative).

Tuesday, 4 June 2024 | Four Israeli men, including a dual British citizen, who were taken hostage by Hamas terrorists on October 7 died in captivity in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] said on Monday.

“IDF officials informed the families of Haim Perry, Yoram Metzger, Amiram Cooper and Nadav Popelwell, who were brutally abducted to the Gaza Strip, that they are no longer alive and their bodies are being held by the Hamas terrorist organization,” the military announced.

Perry, Metzger and Cooper were abducted from their homes during the Hamas terrorist onslaught on Kibbutz Nir Oz.

Dual Israeli-British national Nadav Popplewell, 51, was kidnapped along with his mother, Chana Perry, 79, from Kibbutz Nirim. His brother Roi Popplewell, 54, was killed by terrorists near his home in the kibbutz [collective community].

Chana Perry was freed by Hamas on November 24 under the ceasefire-for-hostages agreement with the terrorist organization.

Last month, Hamas released a propaganda video showing Popplewell with an eye injury. It was unclear when the footage was filmed.

On May 18, British Ambassador to Israel Simon Walters told a rally at Tel Aviv’s “Hostage Square” that London would not abandon the captives.

“We will not forget you. We will not abandon you. We will continue to do everything that we can to bring them home,” vowed Walters.

One hundred twenty-five captives remain in Gaza out of the 252 kidnapped during the October 7 Hamas-led invasion. Earlier on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that his government was working “in countless ways” to free them.

“I think about them all the time. About their families, about their suffering,” the Israeli leader said.

Earlier on Monday, the IDF announced that the corpse of Dolev Yehud, an Israeli paramedic murdered by Hamas terrorists during the assault on Kibbutz Nir Oz, had been located inside the kibbutz grounds.

“Following a scientific identification and a thorough analysis by the IDF in coordination with anthropological experts, the body of Dolev Yehud was found in Kibbutz Nir Oz,” the IDF said.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 3, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Chenspec/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray for the families of the four men whose deaths as hostages in Gaza were recently confirmed, asking the Lord to comfort them. Pray also for the hostages who are still alive, thanking the Lord for His presence in the “valley of the shadow of death.”

Scripture

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.


- Psalm 23:4

Twice the Drones, Twice the Missiles: 120,000 More Israelis Now Within Hezbollah’s Range 

by Yair Kraus, Yoav Zitun, Lior Ben Ari, Saar Haas ~ Ynetnews

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Firefighters battle blaze near Katzrin in northern Israel.

Monday, 3 June 2024 | Nahariya and Acre are two of Israel’s northernmost cities. For months, these cities had relative calm, especially compared to neighboring communities. Nahariya experienced five consecutive months without sirens, from November to April. In Acre, there were no sirens for four months, from late December until the end of April. However, recent days have brought a stark change in reality.

In Nahariya, a city of 66,000 people, residents rushed to bomb shelters three times on Sunday following a series of sirens at around 3:00 p.m., and again at 7:19 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. In the latest incident, a drone fell in the city, marking the first direct hit in Nahariya since the beginning of the conflict.

The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] acknowledged that several attempts to intercept the drone were unsuccessful. A fire broke out, though it is unclear if it was caused by drone debris or interceptor fragments.

Mayor Ronen Marelly announced that the city has returned to normalcy but mentioned that a final decision regarding school operations on Monday would be made at 6:00 a.m.

Meanwhile, in Acre, home to 52,000 people, sirens have sounded for the third consecutive day. On Saturday, drone fragments were spotted in the city.

Nahariya and Acre are not the only large communities recently within Hezbollah’s range. Katzrin, the largest town in the Golan Heights, was hit by a rocket barrage on Sunday, causing fires in several locations. Like in Nahariya and Acre, residents are not being evacuated, and many buildings in Katzrin also lack reinforced shelters.

Fifteen firefighting teams, supported by six firefighting planes, battled for hours against the fires in Katzrin and managed to bring the blaze under control. Additional fires erupted in Kiryat Shmona, Yiftach, Ani’am, and the areas of Nahal Yehudiya and Nahal Zavitan, some of which are still burning.

Fire and Rescue Services Northern District Commander Assistant Fire Commissioner Yair Elkayam said that the firefighting efforts in several locations are expected to continue through the night.

Meanwhile, the IDF reported that fighter jets targeted a Hezbollah military building in Ayta ash-Shab and a Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure in Tayr Harfa, both in southern Lebanon. Additionally, IDF forces fired to eliminate a threat in Rachaya al-Foukhar, also in southern Lebanon. Numerous fires broke out following the Air Force strikes, including in Ramyeh, Yaroun, Odaisseh and Hula.

Spike in Hezbollah attacks

Data unequivocally shows a rise in Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel. According to the Alma Research and Education Center, May saw the highest number of Hezbollah attacks on Israel, totaling 325. The daily average of attacks was 10, compared to 238 attacks in April, with a daily average of 7.8.

The IDF, however, claims these figures are not recognized and asserts that December had the highest number of launches. The Alma Center explains that their figures account for all types of attacks, excluding the number of rockets per barrage.

May witnessed a significant rise in Hezbollah’s use of anti-tank missiles and drones. There were 95 anti-tank missile incidents in May, up from 50 in April, and 85 drone incursions, up from 42 in April. Over the past four months, the number of drone incidents has surged more than twelvefold.

Source: (Excerpt of article originally published by Ynetnews on June 3, 2024. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/video by Efi Sharir

Prayer Focus
The Lord is a shield to all who trust in Him. As the rocket barrages from Hezbollah reach further distances into northern Israeli communities, pray that the eyes of those living in the north would be turned to Him in faith. Ask the Lord to reveal His shielding protection to all who are fearful.

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.


- 2 Samuel 22:31

European Draft IAEA Resolution Presses Iran on Key Issues

by JNS

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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria

Wednesday, 5 June 2024 | France, Britain and Germany (the E3) submitted a draft resolution to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s [IAEA] Board of Governors on Monday pressing Iran on uranium traces at undeclared sites and the barring of inspectors, according to text seen by Reuters.

The draft, which will be voted on this week, calls on Tehran to cooperate without delay on a years-long investigation by the UN nuclear watchdog into the traces, including by letting the IAEA collect samples if necessary.

It also calls for Iran to allow IAEA uranium-enrichment experts on the inspection team, which Tehran has barred and urges Tehran to implement a March 2023 joint statement that pledges cooperation.

“[The Board] calls on Iran to provide sufficient cooperation with the Agency and take the essential and urgent actions as decided by the Board in its November 2022 resolution, to resolve safeguards issues which remain outstanding despite numerous interactions with the Agency since 2019,” the text reads, according to Reuters.

The draft follows up on the previous resolution, that was passed 18 months ago.

Iran’s nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami was quoted by the semi-official Fars News Agency as saying that the Islamic Republic would react if the resolution passes.

The Europeans are aiming to pass the new resolution after not moving forward at the last IAEA meeting in March after the Biden administration expressed opposition to the move.

A senior European diplomat claimed that the US is having “difficulty” moving ahead with the resolution.

The diplomat added that “in our conversations we continue to do everything to convince them.”

The Wall Street Journal cited diplomatic sources as saying on May 27 that the Biden administration has pressed a number of other countries to abstain in a censure vote, saying that is what Washington will do.

Iran’s stockpile of 60%-enriched uranium has increased by 20.6 kilograms [45.5 lbs.] since February, AFP reported on May 27, citing a new confidential IAEA report.

The document, which was also seen by the Associated Press, revealed that Tehran has accumulated 142.1 kilograms [313.2 lbs.] of uranium enriched up to 60%. This level of enrichment is just a technical step from 90% enrichment, considered weapons grade.

According to the IAEA definition, it is technically possible to create an atomic bomb with roughly 42 kilograms [92.5 lbs.] of uranium enriched to 60% if the material is further enriched to 90%.

Iran has continued to ramp up enrichment, while maintaining that its nuclear program is strictly peaceful.

However, Western powers claim there is no credible civilian explanation for Tehran’s nuclear activities. In 2022, the IAEA issued a report saying it could not “provide assurances that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.”

According to the IAEA, Iran’s total stockpile of enriched uranium now stands at 6,201.3 kilograms [13,671.5 lbs.]—a 675.8 kilogram [1,489.8 lbs.] increase in three months.

Following meetings with officials in Iran earlier this month, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi told reporters that Tehran’s cooperation with the organization has been “completely unsatisfactory” in recent months and urged the country to adopt “concrete” measures to address concerns.

There have also been recent Iranian threats of a push towards the bomb. On May 9, an adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Tehran will weaponize its nuclear program if Israel “threatens its existence.”

Two weeks ago, a lawmaker close to the regime suggested that the country might already possess an atomic bomb, saying, “In my opinion, we have achieved nuclear weapons, but we do not announce it.”

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 4, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IAEA Imagebank/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Petition the Lord to rescue Israel and the Jewish people from Iran’s plans for their annihilation. Pray also for those Iranians who want to live in peace with Israel but instead are held captive themselves by their government’s destructive agenda.

Scripture

Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue me from their destructions, my precious life from the lions.


- Psalm 35:17

Israeli Hospitals Record Spike in ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ after October 7

by Akiva Van Koningsveld ~ JNS

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A large Israeli flag near the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv reflects the emotional state of Israelis

Thursday, 6 June 2024 | Since Hamas’s October 7 massacre, Israeli hospitals have observed a two to fivefold increase in cases of “broken heart syndrome,” a rare condition that can be triggered by intense emotional or physical stress, according to studies recently presented to the Israel Heart Society.

The syndrome, which is also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, mainly affects women and causes symptoms similar to a heart attack via a sudden and rapid weakening of the left ventricle. The condition is temporary and most patients recover within two months.

Broken heart syndrome occurs in about 2% of people treated for a heart attack, though researchers believe the true number of cases is higher.

In the weeks following the October 7 massacre—in which Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 people while raping, torturing, burning and mutilating their victims—the Barzilai Hospital in the southern city of Ashkelon recorded five cases, up from one during the same period in 2022.

In addition, while usually only 20% of patients suffer heart failure-like complications, Barzilai doctors recorded an uptick in more severe cases in the period after October 7, with some two-thirds suffering complications.

A second study included data from six hospitals throughout Israel—Barzilai, Assuta Ashdod Medical Center, Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera, Shamir Medical Center in Be’er Ya’akov, Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba—and recorded 30 cases between October–December 2023, up from 16 the year before.

“So far, most of the descriptions of patients with broken heart syndrome have been reported following personal crises such as the death of a relative,” said professor Eli Lev, who heads Assuta Ashdod’s cardiology department and spearheaded the study together with Dr. Yuval Kachila.

“I am not aware of a description in the professional literature of takotsubo cases following a national trauma, and this is the major innovation in our research,” he said, adding: “Our research shows that not only residents of the south, but the entire country suffered.”

Israel Heart Society chairman professor Amit Segev told Hebrew media that he had expected the findings and was “surprised it wasn’t much more.”

“Broken heart syndrome is related to an increase in stress, and in all kinds of situations where there is an increase in stress, it is expected that there will be an increase in this syndrome,” Segev explained. “For example, following the earthquake in California, they saw a huge increase in heart attacks, some of which were broken heart syndrome.”

In late October, Israeli media reported that ZAKA [Israeli community emergency response teams] volunteer Motti Botzkin suffered a stress-induced heart attack after days of searching for human remains in the Gaza border communities. He was said to have been hospitalized in critical condition, but eventually recovered.

Around the same period, Israel Defense Forces bereavement officer Capt. (res.) Sivan Sekeli Ben Zichri went into a stress-induced cardiac arrest upon witnessing 17 freshly dug graves at a funeral.

“I couldn’t feel my left side, my right hand was paralyzed, and my heart felt like someone was ripping it out of my chest,” she recalled in an interview. “My heart literally broke from the psychological stress. It’s not just me saying it. My cardiologists also say that is what is happened.”

Israel Hayom reported that one of the studies was rejected by an international scientific journal, allegedly due to the publication’s bias against the Jewish state. Researchers were reportedly told they should have focused on Gaza instead of Israel.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 4, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for those who have seen unspeakable things that have caused their hearts to literally break. Pray that they will be able to recognize and receive comfort from the God of Israel, the only One who is able to comfort them completely.

Scripture

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart…


- Psalm 34:18a

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Fiery UN Envoy, to Complete His Tenure this Summer

by Mike Wagenheim ~ JNS

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Gilad Erdan, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, briefs reporters outside of the UN Security Council Chamber at UN Headquarters in New York City.

Tuesday, 4 June 2024 | Israel’s envoy to the United Nations [UN] will depart his position this summer, according to the prime minister’s office.

Gilad Erdan, whose confrontational nature has rattled UN officials and opposing diplomats, especially in a post-October 7 environment, announced that he will depart at the end of his appointed term, which is set to expire at the beginning of July.

Ambassadors may have their terms extended by one year at the discretion of the prime minister. According to a statement from the prime minister’s office, Erdan was offered an extension, as well as to return to his role as Israeli ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C., which he held concurrently with his UN position for a brief time in 2021 before resigning that role at the outset of the short-lived government of then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Erdan chose to decline both options and return to Israel “due to family considerations,” with two of his four children set to serve in the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] in the coming year.

The 53-year-old has held several ministerial roles as a member of the Likud Party, and polled near the top of the primaries list for the party in recent election cycles.

The statement on Friday said Erdan “intends to continue harnessing his vast experience and skills to strengthen the State of Israel in the future.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Erdan “for his impressive work and his firm stand in the face of the many challenges” at the UN.

“Ambassador Erdan represented Israel with respect, determination and firmness and I thank him for that,” said Netanyahu.

Notably, Erdan was offered the position of ambassador to Washington. The current envoy, Michael Herzog, was appointed by Bennett and stayed on in the government, though ideologically is thought to be mismatched. He is the brother of Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

Michael Herzog’s three-year team is set to expire in November. A JNS source says a fourth-year option traditionally offered to ambassadorial appointments was declined by the Netanyahu government.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on May 31, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Loey Felipe/UN Photo./jns.org

Prayer Focus
As Gilad Erdan nears the end of his term, give thanks for his passionate and fearless representation of Israel on the floor of the often-hostile United Nations. Pray that the Israeli government will have wisdom in selecting the next person to fill this crucial role.

Scripture

From where then does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the birds of the air…God understands its way, and He knows its place.


- Job 28:20–21, 23