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Friday, March 10, 2023

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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.

The ‘New Normal’: Gaza Terrorists Respond to Israeli Military Operations in Judea and Samaria

by Yaakov Lappin ~ JNS

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Hamas terrorists attend a parade in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Thursday, 9 March 2023 | A new normal is taking hold in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist factions in the form of responses by Gazan armed factions to events in Judea and Samaria, commonly referred to as the West Bank.

The responses so far from Gaza are deliberately designed to send a message without crossing what Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad [PIJ] consider to be Israeli red lines, which would trigger broader Israeli retaliation in Gaza.

The latest example of this developing trend occurred on Thursday when terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket that exploded just on the Israeli side of the security barrier. Hours later, the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] reported that an explosive device planted on the Gaza–Israel security barrier went off near Israeli soldiers conducting activity in the sector. In response, Israeli tanks hit a Hamas military post in southern Gaza.

These events are occurred hours after an Israeli counterterrorism operation in Jenin resulted in the killing of Hamas terrorist Abdel Fattah Hussein Kharousha, 49, as well as five other Palestinian gunmen during a battle with the elite Israeli Counterterrorism Unit. That unit acted on precise Shin Bet [Israel’s internal security organization] intelligence to reach Kharousha in broad daylight. Kharousha had shot dead Israeli brothers IDF Staff Sgt. Hallel Menachem Yaniv and his brother, Yagel Yaakov Yaniv, while they were driving near Huwara in Samaria on February 26.

An Israeli defense source assessed that a lengthy period could be ahead consisting of an “equation” in which terrorists launch attacks in Judea and Samaria, Israeli forces launch counterterror raids and Gazan terror factions launch limited attacks, triggering limited Israeli retaliation.

However, that could all change quickly if the drizzle of Gazan projectile fire turns into a barrage of rockets that hits an Israeli residential building, or if Hamas decides to escalate during the upcoming month of Ramadan [one of the Five Pillars of Islam when stringent disciplines are observed]. So far, Hamas appears content to signal its involvement from Gaza without going further.

The security operation in Jenin on Tuesday was another powerful Israeli signal to terrorists that they had no safe haven and no safe times (with the operation launched in broad daylight), the defense source told JNS. The Israeli force used shoulder-fired missiles and other means to assault the Jenin home where the terrorists were barricaded and refused to surrender, and the force came under gunfire.

“Among the other incidents, armed suspects were seen opening fire on soldiers from an ambulance while using the vehicle as a shield,” the IDF said. “Additionally, explosive devices and blocks were thrown at the forces, and multiple violent riots erupted in the area. The authorities reacted with riot dispersal tactics and live fire. A hit was discovered. During the activity, two drones fell and are being investigated.”

Kharousha received assistance from Hamas in Judea and Samaria, which helped him to hide.

During the operation, the Shin Bet said it sent numerous messages to Jenin locals, urging them not to let their children out in order to prevent harm to Palestinian youths hurling rocks at Israeli forces in daylight firefights.

The fact that all six of the Palestinian casualties in the raid were armed combatants appears to show that these efforts were successful. Afterwards, Palestinian terror factions disputed the affiliation of five of the gunmen in a competition to show who is most dominant in Jenin, a city that has become a no-man’s-land where the PA [Palestinian Authority] no longer functions.

In Nablus, meanwhile, IDF soldiers apprehended two of Kharousha’s sons suspected of assisting in the terror attack.

‘Violated an Informal Agreement of Quiet for Quiet’

The events of the past 24 hours appear to follow a similar pattern to the events that occurred on February 23–24, when 11 Palestinians were killed in a gun battle that erupted when Israeli forces launched a counterterror raid in Nablus. Hours later, terrorists in Gaza fired six rockets at Ashkelon and Sderot, and the Israeli Air Force [IAF] responded by striking a Hamas weapons manufacturing site in central Gaza, marking an end to that escalation.

“A new mechanism, led by Hamas and PIJ, has been established to give Hamas a flexible set of options for escalation in accordance with its wishes,” Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, Israel’s former Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and a senior research associate at the Miryam Institute, told JNS.

It is clear at this stage that Hamas does not want an escalation that would drag Gaza into a new conflict with Israel, he said, but the terror group does want to “strengthen the narrative” it established in May 2021, when it fired barrages of rockets at Jerusalem and Ashdod, and established itself as the “defender” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Palestinian interests in Judea and Samaria, sparking a conflict with Israel.

According to Dangot, for now, Hamas is sticking with its strategy of launching terror attacks on Jews in Judea and Samaria, as well as working to weaken the rule of 87-year-old PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, “while keeping the Gaza Strip out of an uncontrollable escalation.”

“We see this mechanism in every incident in northern Samaria. By firing projectiles from the Gaza Strip, Hamas establishes legitimacy [on the Palestinian street] and violated an informal agreement of quiet for quiet with Israel,” he stated. This pattern has repeated itself several times in recent months, and Hamas has been able to do this while still enjoying the benefits of humanitarian–economic arrangements that see Israel allowing some 17,000 Gazan workers entering Israel for work daily and maintaining “reasonable ties with Egypt,” explained Dangot.

“This allows Hamas to point to an achievement, and it can escalate if it feels it needs to do so during Ramadan,” he cautioned. “In contrast, the PA is entirely dependent on a framework that involves Israel and on confidence-building measures. Meanwhile, Hamas and the PA are continuing their campaign of mass incitement, which has resulted in the terrorism of incitement that we’ve seen over the last year.”

Israel, for its part, is interested in keeping separate the two Palestinian sub-arenas: Gaza, and Judea and Samaria.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on March 8, 2023. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord to bring a swift end to this new terror trend that seeks to manipulate, murder and maim. Also, pray for His wings of protection over the Israelis caught in the crosshairs of the terrorists in Gaza.


For they intended evil against You; they devised a plot which they are not able to perform.

- Psalm 21:11

Netanyahu Reiterates Right to Self-defense after UN Nuke Chief Calls Attacks Illegal

by Joshua Spurlock ~ Mideast Update

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A formation of Israeli warplanes

Monday, 6 March 2023 | On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to rebuke the head of the United Nations [UN] nuclear watchdog and threaten Iran militarily—all in one comment. While visiting Iran, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi on Saturday called attacks on nuclear facilities illegal, according to a report from Iran’s PressTV.

In response, Netanyahu said Grossi is “a worthy gentleman who said something unworthy.” He asked “against which law” an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program would be.

“Is Iran, which openly calls for our destruction, permitted to defend the destructive weapons that would slaughter us? Are we permitted to defend ourselves? It is clear that we are and it is clear that we will do so. And we will do so in discussions or actions around the clock, which I will not detail here, of course,” said Netanyahu.

Israel has long warned it will not permit Iran to obtain nuclear weapons and has reportedly been involved in espionage, assassinations and sabotage to hinder Iran’s pursuit of the bomb. Recent military exercises with the United States [US] have implied that Israel is preparing to go as far as [to] attack Iran directly if needed to prevent the Islamic Republic from breaching the nuclear weapon threshold. And Iran is dangerously close to doing so.

The IAEA has reportedly found particles of uranium enriched to 83.7% purity in Iran. Weapons-grade nuclear fuel is considered 90% enrichment—although nuclear weapons would require a sufficient quantity of 90% uranium and bomb technology capable of setting off a nuclear blast. Iran is not thought to have achieved either—yet.

Last week, US spokesperson Ned Price told reporters the US is aware of the reports of the 83.7% uranium. He reiterated that diplomacy is the preferred solution to the Iran nuclear crisis, but added that they  “haven’t taken any tools off the table.”

Price said, “We continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to achieve [a resolution to the Iran nuclear crisis], but every time we’ve been asked, we have been very clear that we will, through all means necessary, ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.”

In a recent commentary published by the Atlantic, former Obama administration official Dennis Ross called for the US to make Iran believe a military threat from Israel—and backed as needed by the US—is real. He suggested the US offer specific weapons to Israel to make such an attack more feasible, among other steps, which he believed could drive Iran to pull back and give diplomacy a chance. Ross warned that failure to convince Iran would instead result in Iran pushing ahead towards nuclear weapons and lead to a regional war.

While Price was vague on the US threat against Iran’s nuclear program, he also pointed towards regional cooperation countering Iran. Said Price, “We are supremely confident in the commitment that we have made that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon. That is a goal we share with countries around the world, in Europe, in the Middle East and well beyond.”

Netanyahu was much clearer on Sunday in his counterargument against Grossi’s opposition to attacks on nuclear facilities. “I say this because nothing will deter us from defending our country and preventing our enemies from eliminating the state of the Jews,” he said.

The timing of the threat from Iran is especially poignant for the Jewish people at this time of year. Monday at sundown begins the holiday of Purim [Feast of Esther]—which marks the biblical victory of Queen Esther over the villain Haman, who plotted to commit genocide against the Jewish people in the Kingdom of Persia—the ancestor to modern-day Iran. Netanyahu believes that there is a lesson there for today.

“We are on the eve of Purim: 2,500 years ago an enemy arose in Persia who sought to destroy the Jews,” he said. “They did not succeed then, neither will they succeed today.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by the Mideast Update on March 5, 2023. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokespersons Unit/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord to imbue Israel’s top decision makers headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu with supernatural wisdom and insight on how to deal with the frightening probability of Iran racing to the nuclear finish line. Also pray that they will seek His face for guidance in every decision and action.


“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”

- Psalm 32:8

Light from Darkness: Four Israelis Receive Corneal Transplant from Victims of Huwara Terror Shooting

by Kate Norman

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An eye that received a cornea transplant (illustrative)

Thursday, 9 March 2023 | The tragic loss of two young Israeli brothers in a terror shooting last month is shining light into the darkness of four Israeli patients who received corneal transplants from them.

Twenty-one-year-old Hallel Yaniv and 19-year-old Yagel Haniv were murdered in a terror shooting near Huwara on February 26. The two brothers, residents of the Har Bracha community near Nablus, were shot and killed in their vehicle while caught in a traffic jam on Highway 6.

Both of the brothers had signed organ donor cards, and their parents also consented to the transplants, which were performed at Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah, just outside of Tel Aviv.

One of the patients who received a transplant, 66-year-old Ron Carmeli, told the Jerusalem Post: “When this terrible incident happened, I looked at the TV and saw their beautiful, big blue eyes. I did not imagine even in my wildest dreams that I would get to see again thanks to them. I appreciate them and this noble act so much.”

The four patients had been waiting for transplants for over a year, the director of the hospital’s eye department told the Jerusalem Post. The medical operation “brings together bereavement and loss on the one hand and the saving of sight and excitement of the transplanted on the other,” Prof. Irit Bachar told the Jerusalem Post.

“This is one of the moments that instills in all of us a feeling of unity, kindness and unconditional giving,” Bachar added.

The brothers’ parents, Esti and Shalom Yaniv, told the Jerusalem Post that they were “excited” about the news of the successful transplant. “We wish for the donors to see the world’s goodness and joy, as our sweet Hallel and Yagel saw it. Their good and beautiful eyes will continue to illuminate our world through these dear messengers, and we are filled with satisfaction that even after their death they were able to do good to others.”

The news of the transplants came just a day after the Israeli military announced that it had killed the terrorist responsible for murdering the brothers, 48-year-old Hamas operative Abdel Fattah Kharousha, in a counterterror raid in Jenin. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) added that in its operation, conducted jointly with the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security organization), they arrested Kharousha’s two sons, who were also suspected of helping to plan and execute the terror attack.

Even though their act of terrorism snuffed out the lives of two young Israelis, these transplants show that light can still come out of the darkness of tragedy.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 9, 2023)

Photo Credit: Megor1/commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Bless the Lord for the glimmer of light in the darkness of tragedy and loss. Pray that these four patients who received the blessing of sight from the two murdered brothers will seize the opportunity at a second chance and live fully for His glory. Also continue to bring the loved ones of the terror victims before the Lord, asking Him to envelop them in His comfort.


For You will light my lamp; the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.

- Psalm 18:28

Will Hungary Move its Embassy to Jerusalem?

by JNS

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in Jerusalem

Monday, 6 March 2023 | Hungary is reportedly preparing to move its embassy to Jerusalem next month, although the European country’s president said that no official decision has been made.

Zman Israel reported on Friday that Hungary would become the first European Union [EU] member state to open an embassy in Israel’s capital. Senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials told the newspaper that an agreement was reached following “intensive” negotiations between Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó.

Hungarian President Katalin Novák clarified on Friday that Budapest had not made a decision on the Jerusalem move. “I also read news in the press. In Hungary, a decision so far has not been made on moving our embassy in Israel,” Reuters quoted Novák as saying during a press conference while visiting Prague.

The EU criticized the potential move by one of its members, with the organization’s foreign policy spokesperson Peter Stano citing UN Security Council Resolution 478, which was adopted in 1980 and called on all UN member states to withdraw their embassies and diplomatic missions from Jerusalem. At the time, there were 11 embassies in Israel’s capital. The resolution passed in a 14–0 vote with the United States abstaining.

In recent years, some countries have decided to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following the lead of the US, which did so in 2018 under [then-]President Donald Trump.

Hungary would join the US, Honduras, Guatemala and Kosovo in recognizing Israel’s capital. Last month, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced that Papua New Guinea would open its first embassy in Israel in Jerusalem this year.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has maintained close ties with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since Orbán took office in 2010. In March 2019, Budapest opened a diplomatic trade mission in Jerusalem. Orbán made the announcement during a visit to Israel in February 2019, with Netanyahu at the time thanking him for “deciding to extend the embassy of Hungary in Israel to Jerusalem, that is to have an extension in Jerusalem that deals with trade.”

Netanyahu also said at the time that there was space available next to the US embassy for a new Hungarian embassy.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on March 5, 2023. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Sing praises to the Lord over another country possibly joining the fold of nations who bless Israel by acknowledging Jerusalem as the rightful capital of the Jewish people. Ask the Lord to remove any obstacles standing in the way of Hungary moving its embassy to Jerusalem, and pray that God will pour out His blessings over the nation and people of Hungary for their decision to bless Israel, according to His promise.


“Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you.”

- Numbers 24:9b

Israeli, US Defense Establishments Forge Deeper Ties

by JNS

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The US–Israel Defense Acquisition Advisory Group at a recent meeting in the Jewish state

Friday, 3 March 2023 | The Israeli Defense Ministry and the US Department of Defense [DoD] this week convened the annual US–Israel Defense Acquisition Advisory Group in the Jewish state.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Eyal Zamir, the ministry’s director general, hosted the American delegation led by Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Dr. William A. LaPlante.

The leaders discussed the countries’ “ironclad” defense partnership and the breadth and depth of the bilateral relationship as it relates to industrial cooperation, joint research and development and priority procurement initiatives. The teams also focused on Israel’s capabilities to cope with regional challenges and threats, namely the Iranian ambition to undermine Middle Eastern stability.

“The defense relations between Israel and the United States are robust and based on a deep partnership and shared values,” said Zamir. “We will continue to stand together in the face of shared security challenges such as the Iranian threat to regional stability.

“We will work together to continually ensure the State of Israel’s qualitative military edge,” he added.

The DoD delegation got a first-hand look at Israeli defense industries’ innovation in various fields and committed to strengthening ties between the countries.

Israel became the 13th country to sign a bilateral Security of Supply Arrangement (SOSA) agreement with the DoD and celebrated the establishment of the US–Israel Defense Industrial Base Working Group. This arrangement allows the defense ministries to exchange reciprocal priority support for goods and services that promote national defense.

The SOSA will also enable the countries to acquire industrial resources from each other needed to resolve unanticipated supply chain disruptions to meet national security needs.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Synicate on March 1, 2023. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israeli Ministry of Defense Spokesperson’s Office/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for the strong bond between Israel and the US during these tense times. Pray that He will strengthen the ties and grow the relationship. At the same time, pray that Israel will know that her help does not come from a super power, but rather from the Lord alone.


But Israel shall be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you shall not be ashamed or disgraced forever and ever. For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.”

- Isaiah 45:17–18

Terror-supporting Palestinian School Built by USAID Spotlights Worldwide Agency Problem

by David Isaac ~ JNS

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A Palestinian student of the Al Umariya Secondary School for Girls in Qalqilya praises terrorist Khairy Alqam. The school was built with American aid.

Friday, 3 March 2023 | Three days after Khairy Alqam murdered seven people outside a synagogue in Jerusalem, the Al Umariya Secondary School for Girls in Qalqilya held a special ceremony to commemorate him. The school was established with US funds.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provided funding for construction of the school in 2008, an agency spokesperson told JNS. Construction was completed in 2009. The last time it provided assistance was in 2016-2017 (principal training and technology to facilitate internet education), and according to USAID the United States no longer funds the institution.

USAID is an independent agency of the US federal government responsible for more than half of all US foreign aid. According to its mission statement, it promotes “democratic values abroad” and advances “a free, peaceful, and prosperous world.” It is currently headed by Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the United Nations under the Obama administration.

According to IDF [Israel Defense Forces] Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch, director of legal strategies for Palestinian Media Watch, the administration has been funneling “growing amounts of aid through USAID instead of giving direct aid to the Palestinian Authority [PA]. Their goal is to give as much money as they can to the Palestinians through this alternative avenue in order to circumvent the Taylor Force Act.”

That law, passed by the US Congress in 2018, prohibits US funding from going to the PA as long as it continues to pay stipends through its “Martyr’s Fund” to terrorists and their families. The PA has ignored the United States and paid out more than $1 billion to terrorists since 2018 (including more than $32,000 to the family of Taylor Force’s killer), according to Palestinian Media Watch.

Clifford Smith, Washington project director of the Middle East Forum, told JNS that for the most part the problem with USAID is not one of ideology—in this instance, anti-Israel sentiment—but rather reflects a problem with USAID worldwide. “What I’ve seen repeatedly is that USAID pays very little attention to who their partners are. If it’s not an actual, honest-to-God, US designated terrorist entity [on the State Department’s list], they [USAID] just don’t care. They don’t look at these groups’ ideology, or their beliefs, or their practices.”

A recent example, he said, is a grant USAID made to the Michigan-based Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD). “Anybody who looks at this group for two seconds realizes it’s a Jamaat-e-Islami charity,” Smith said, referring to the violent Islamist extremist network in South Asia. “They don’t even try to hide it.”

Smith noted that Congress had complained about HHRD as a potential terror charity several years ago. USAID, which hadn’t given money to HHRD until then, gave it a grant anyway. Behind the scenes, USAID is defending itself by saying HHRD isn’t on the designated terror list. The problem is that’s a low bar to set as only about 10% of terror-financing organizations are designated as such, ironically, because a very high bar is set to get on the terror list, said Smith.

In 2019, Smith examined another USAID case, in which it hyped its $250,000 grant to Lebanon-based Jammal Trust Bank. The next year, the US Treasury sanctioned the bank for supporting Hezbollah’s financial activities. “It’s emblematic of the problem. The bank wasn’t terror-designated at the time, and because USAID wanted to help people in Lebanon, they didn’t ask questions of the right people. They just kind of ran with it.”

“They are not anti-terror finance people at USAID. They aren’t geopolitical strategists. They aren’t even diplomats really,” said Smith. “In other words, their entire goal is to move money from here to there. And anything that gets in the way of that is not good from their point of view.”

Lending credence to Smith’s assessment is a 2021 report by watchdog group NGO Monitor. The report, “USAID-funded Palestinian NGOs: Introducing Children to Convicted Terrorists,” found that USAID gave tens of millions to NGOs between 2015-2019 whose sub-grantees ran educational programs that “presented convicted terrorists as role models, and publicly demonstrated support for terrorists and terrorist organizations.”

The report noted that public information about the sub-grantees was readily available at the time the grants were made, but was ignored by USAID, “indicating a failure to properly vet grantees.” The report also noted that several of the incidents took place during the grant period, “reflecting the need to continue to monitor grantees after funds are approved.”

Among the activities the sub-grantees promoted were meetings arranged between children and terrorists, mini-“morality plays” where children acted out scenes between Palestinian prisoners and IDF soldiers (including at a school for the deaf), and terrorist promotion on social media. In the wake of the pro-terror event at the Al Umariya Girls school, NGO-Monitor told JNS it’s “taking a closer look” at the agency’s involvement at the school.

USAID’s spokesperson said, “As is the case around the world, the United States will provide assistance in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and Gaza through experienced and trusted partners that distribute aid directly to people in need. All of our current and planned assistance is consistent with US law.”

Said Smith, “I would say that they ought to, at a minimum, condemn the message that was sent in terms of praising terrorists and murderers and all that.” Asked by JNS if they had condemned the event at the girls school, USAID did not respond.

To tackle USAID’s problem, a fundamental shift is needed in which the agency is incentivized to pay more attention to where its money is going, Smith said, noting USAID staff are not rewarded for withholding aid. “Their job is to push money out, to send money to needy people. If they’re not doing that, then they’re not doing their job,” he said. What’s needed are ways to encourage them to send money to suitable recipients.

Cultural issues need to be overcome in the foreign aid arena. “A certain mindset develops where other considerations are minimized,” he said, noting that some of the NGOs which work closely with USAID have said openly that US terror finance laws should be loosened. “They don’t sympathize with terrorists. They just feel that the work they do is more important and that you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet. So who cares if terrorists get a little money.”

“There’s a kind of blindness there,” Smith noted. They’re trying to help poor people but they’re sending aid to groups that ensure that poverty will continue. “If you change the incentives, you could help change that mindset,” he said.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on March 1, 2023. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Facebook/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord to thrust into the light this blatant and cruel form of child abuse committed by the Palestinian powers-that-be—with the help of funds from the US. Ask Him to open the eyes of the international community, particularly the US taxpayers, to how their funds are being misappropriated and the dangers in which it places Israelis.


Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

- Proverbs 22:6

Israel Engaging Four Muslim Nations to Expand Abraham Accords

by Shirit Avitan Cohen ~ JNS via Israel Hayom

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MK Avi Dichter, now minister of agriculture, and then-MK Nira Shpak attend the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Nusa Dua, Indonesia.

Wednesday, 8 March 2023 | Israel is working to expand the Abraham Accords with four other nations, Israel Hayom learned this week.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is working to normalize ties with Mauritania, Somalia, Niger and Indonesia, sources said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is—of course—also involved in efforts behind the scenes, as are the US’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Senior Adviser for Energy Security Amos Hochstein, who mediated the Israel–Lebanon maritime deal during the Bennett–Lapid government.

Negotiations with Mauritania are in an advanced phase. Cohen hinted as much last week in a meeting with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, during which he officially asked her to help Israel with the breakthrough vis-à-vis Mauritania and Niger.

Israel and Mauritania established diplomatic relations in 1999 but Mauritania cut ties in 2008 due to that year’s Gaza war.

Israel and Somalia have never had diplomatic ties, but over the past year, reports have emerged that the country’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is interested in establishing them. Jerusalem is particularly interested due to Somalia’s strategic location between the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean at the entrance to the Red Sea.

Israel has never had official diplomatic relations with Niger either, and those that did exist unofficially suffered during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 2000–2005 Second Intifada [uprising].

Niger is a global supplier of uranium, and ties to Israel might prevent the sale of the material to hostile countries and reduce the number of nations voting against Israel in international forums.

Cohen is also working to normalize ties with Indonesia, which with a population of around 280 million, is the most populous Muslim country in the world. Although Jakarta does not have official diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, there have been unofficial connections in trade, technology and tourism.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate via Israel Hayom on March 8, 2023. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Courtesy/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Bring before the Lord the decision makers and negotiators representing Mauritania, Somalia, Niger and Indonesia as they explore the option of establishing ties with Israel. Ask the Lord to protect their hearts and minds from the anti-Israel sentiment in their countries and to reveal to them the potential for blessing that flows from a relationship with the Jewish state.


Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity…For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forevermore.

- Psalm 133:1, 3b

Transforming Shattered Lives with the Gift of Love

by Ilse Strauss

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Bridges for Peace volunteers begin the process of bringing everything into the bare apartment.

Tuesday, 7 March 2023 | Svetlana threw open the front door and bounded down the stairs to meet her friend, Luki. “Come!” she exclaimed, grabbing Luki’s hand and leading her the last few steps into the apartment. “Come see everything they brought.”

Standing in the middle of the living room that was starkly bare hours ago, Svetlana twirled in delight. “See?” she motioned, her hands outstretched to cover all possible angles. “They brought us all this this morning. All of it.”

For a moment, Luki stood dumbstruck, taking in the brand new furniture arranged just so to give the room a cozy, homey feel. Her eyes roamed over the oven, stove, washing machine and microwave in the kitchen, and then on to the cutlery, crockery, groceries and décor. But before she could speak, Svetlana grabbed her hand again. “You have to see the girls’ room! And mine!” she laughed, as if the act of showing off her new home to her friend was a precious joy she wanted to treasure.

New bunkbeds for Anya and Luba!

And off they went to Anya (12) and Luba’s (8) room, now transformed from a sterile cubicle into every little girl’s dream with shades of purple, lilac and pink. They found the two sisters snuggled side-by-side on the new bunkbed. Anya looked up from drawing, her new art supplies arranged neatly around her, while Luba laid aside the figurine she had been building from her new Lego set and beamed at her mother. “Now my girls can have friends over,” Svetlana told Luki, her eyes wide. “They can bring them home and show them their room.”

I looked on as Svetlana led Luki from room to room, with Anya and Luba now trailing in their wake. Every now and then, the little group would pause to ooh and aah at something they found particularly delightful, with Anya jumping up and down in childlike joy. My eyes filled with tears. This little family deserved every bit of happiness the newly furnished apartment gave them—and more.

Svetlana, Anya and Luba are three of the more than 30,000 Jewish Ukrainian refugees who fled to Israel when the Russians invaded. They came with Svetlana’s parents—an invalid father who suffers from severe breathing difficulties and a mother who is partially blind. Between the five of them, they arrived in Israel with one bag stuffed with hastily gathered necessities.

The morning of February 24, 2022—the day when Russian tanks rolled over the Ukrainian border and changed the lives of millions forever—is seared into Svetlana’s memory. “I woke up to the sound of explosions,” she remembers. A message from a friend on a WhatsApp group for Jewish mothers in Odessa explained the source of the roaring blasts: “The war has started. Pack an emergency bag to flee. And find a place of safety for when the airstrikes start.”

What a contrast to their war-torn city of Odessa, a home filled with light and hope!

“Safety?” Svetlana recounts, shaking her head. “Where would we go for safety? Nobody had bomb shelters. We lived on the fifth floor and my parents on the sixth. My father cannot walk. There was nowhere to go to be safe. In the end, we huddled in the corner, hoping for the best.”

The idea of fleeing Ukraine never crossed Svetlana’s mind. The family had no savings. Besides, how would she manage with her invalid father, vision-impaired mother and two young children? And what about her husband? Would she have to leave him behind? Finally, a distant relative from the US reached out, urging Svetlana to flee with her family immediately—and sending the necessary funds.

“We thought the war would be over in a day or two, a few weeks at most,” she admits. So Svetlana and her husband made the decision that she, the children and her elderly parents would wait out the fighting in neighboring Moldova. She hugged her husband goodbye for what was supposed to be a day or two, a few weeks at most, hastily gathered one bag with necessities and helped her two little ones and elderly parents on the bus heading for the border “I didn’t think,” she recalls. “I just acted. All you think about is your children, that they must be safe.”

Once in Moldova, reality set in. As the war raged on, the Jewish state beckoned as a safe haven. And Israel—with the help of organizations like Bridges for Peace—was going above and beyond to make sure that every Jewish refugee could come home to the land of their promise. Still, the prospect of starting over in a new country was daunting. “My mother was scared that we would have nothing to eat,” Svetlana admits. “I was scared we would have to live on the street.”

Touching down in the Promised Land for the first time was surreal, she recalls. Svetlana and her family—along with thousands of other refugees—were taken to hotels converted into refugee centers where the new immigrants could stay while they went through the motions of getting the necessary documentation, opening a bank account, finding a place to stay, learning the language and beginning to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. The time in the hotel proved a blessing, says Svetlana. After the trauma of war and loss, they could breathe, rest, heal and draw comfort from one another—before facing an uncertain future.

There was one more challenge though. Svetlana’s father suffered a setback. His health deteriorated to such a degree that he required long-term medical intervention. “Everyone here in Israel was so wonderful to us. They helped my father receive the help he needed. They took care of him.”

Luba is surrounded by her new art supplies and colorful bedding.

After their time in the hotel came to an end, Svetlana, her mother, Anya and Luba temporarily moved into a tiny furnished apartment while her father settled into a nursing home. Anya and Luba started school and Svetlana began looking for a job as a math tutor to Russian speakers. Their living situation posed a problem though. The apartment building had no elevator, which meant that Svetlana’s invalid father could not visit. Moreover, four people were crammed into a one-bedroom space, leaving nowhere for Svetlana to tutor her students.

For months, Svetlana searched for an apartment for her family. Their home had to be on the ground floor so that her father could have easy access. There had to be a bedroom for the girls and space for her to tutor students. And finally, it had to be very affordable. Svetlana rejoiced when she finally found the perfect spot: a bright, sunny nest on the ground floor with a bedroom for the girls and a corner where she could set up a work space. There was one problem though. The apartment was unfurnished and Svetlana had no funds to buy furniture. She reached out to Yad L’Olim, an Israeli NGO that helps new immigrants find their feet, settle in and ultimately thrive in their new homeland. Yad L’Olim, in turn, reached out to Bridges for Peace. And thanks to the generous gift from a donor in the US, we could answer the call.

“When I asked for help, I hoped for a fridge. Or perhaps a stove,” Svetlana shared, her eyes wide with delighted disbelief as a steady stream of Bridges for Peace volunteers, their arms piled high, thronged into her empty apartment, steadily transforming the empty rooms into a home for her and her family. “I never dreamed of this.”

Just some of the Bridges for Peace volunteers as they say good-bye to Svetlana and her girls.

With the beds assembled and made with crisp new linen, the rugs unrolled, the fridge whirring away in a corner in the kitchen, the pots, pans, cutlery and crockery packed away and an office space set up for Svetlana in a sunny spot, our team of volunteers say our goodbyes before heading out. It took some time because Svetlana, Anya and Luba doled out the biggest bear hugs to everyone. Anya promised to draw us a picture with her new art supplies.

Svetlana took my hands in hers and my eyes filled with tears as I imagined what she has been through. She shakes her head as if to dispel any traces of sadness. “See, everything worked out for the best. The suffering and hardship brought us higher and made us better. You didn’t just give us furniture; you gave my girls a home, a place where they can feel safe. You gave us the ability to build a life.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 7, 2023)

Photo Credit: All photos by Michio Nagata/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Bless the Lord for continuing to fulfill His promise of bringing the Jewish people home from the four corners of the earth as He foretold through the prophets. Bring Svetlana, Anya, Luba and all the other new immigrants before Him, asking Him to pour out grace and mercy on them as they mourn that which they have lost and rebuild a life in the land of their promise.


Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them…I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them.

- Jeremiah 32:37–39

Alleged Israeli Airstrikes Shut down Aleppo Airport

by JNS

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An alleged Israel Air Force strike on Aleppo International Airport in Syria

Tuesday, 7 March 2023 | Alleged Israeli airstrikes shut down the airport in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo early on Tuesday morning, according to Syrian state media.

“At 2:07 a.m. on Tuesday, the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial act of aggression from the direction of the Mediterranean, west of Lattakia, targeting Aleppo International Airport, which led to material damage at the airport as it went out of service,” SANA reported.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Israel Defense Forces [IDF] did not comment on the report, in accordance with Jerusalem’s long-standing policy regarding specific foreign operations. However, the military has acknowledged in the past conducting hundreds of strikes on Iran-backed forces attempting to establish a foothold in Syria.

Tuesday’s incident comes after a strike in Damascus late last month attributed to Israel targeted Iranian officials meeting to advance the development of the drone or missile capabilities of Tehran’s proxies in Syria.

Five people were killed and more than a dozen wounded in the alleged Israeli air raid, which targeted a building in the city’s Kafr Sousa neighborhood and damaged several structures near a heavily guarded security complex linked to Iran.

Tehran has provided immense support to leader Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s ongoing 12-year civil war, and its efforts to entrench itself militarily in the country while arming terrorist outfits such as Hezbollah have prompted regular Israeli airstrikes.

In January, two Syrian soldiers were killed by reported Israeli airstrikes on Damascus International Airport.

The Israel Air Force [IAF] in August allegedly dropped missiles on the airport in Aleppo, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based opposition war monitor, reporting that it was the 23rd Israeli attack in Syria to that point in 2022.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on March 7, 2023. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Twitter/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to bless Israel with the insight only He can give to uncover any Iranian plots to strengthen their foothold in Syria and use their position as a staging area for war against Israel. Also pray that He will strengthen and enable Israel’s defense establishment to dismantle all these plots.


Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their hearts; they continually gather together for war.

- Psalm 140:1–2

Israeli Medics Train Berlin Hospital for Potential Russian Missile Attack

by JNS via Israel Hayom

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Charité University Hospital Berlin

Monday, 6 March 2023 | An Israeli medical delegation visited Germany recently to train the staff of a major Berlin hospital in how to continue operating in wartime, and in particular during missile attacks.

The German government had reached out to the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center requesting such training as fears of the Ukraine war overflowing into other parts of Europe continue to grow.

Simulations included a possible strike from Kaliningrad, a Russian semi-exclave bordering on the Baltic states. Analysts estimate that ballistic missiles housed in the port city, located between Lithuania and Poland, could reach Germany in as little as five and a half minutes.

Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin has a staff of 23,000 and can accommodate thousands of patients. One of its campuses is located near the Bundestag and is therefore feared to be at risk in case of a strike on the parliament.

Dr. Yoel Har-Even, Sheba’s director of the International Division and Resource Development and leader of the delegation, said that the hospital infrastructure was unprepared for such a conflict as Germany “has not faced a security threat for 80 years now.”

“The local government is very worried about the possibility of the Ukraine war getting out of control and about the certain ability that the Russians have to attack” them, he said.

This article was first published by Israel Hayom.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate via Israel Hayom on March 5, 2023. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: INTERRAILS via Wikimedia Commons/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Bless the Lord for yet another way in which Israel shines as a blessing to the nations, this time to Germany, a country where the Jewish people suffered so terribly less than a century ago. Thank God that Israel continues to use the experience she gains through wars and terror attacks to equip and strengthen others.


In your [Abraham’s] seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…

- Genesis 22:18a