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

US Embassy to Open in Jerusalem in Time for Israel’s 70th Birthday

by Ilse Strauss

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A JerUSAlem sign following Trump’s announcement.

Monday, 26 February 2018 | On 14 May, 2018, Israel and those who love her will celebrate Independence Day, the Jewish state’s 70th birthday as a modern nation. The day will be filled with exuberant joy, celebration and merriment––and for good reason. The opportunity to mark seven decades since God fulfilled a millennia-old promise of the Jewish state’s miraculous rebirth (Isa. 66:8) does, after all, not come along every day.

Yet on Friday, the US gave Israel another reason to celebrate. Just over two months after US president Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel, the US State Department announced that the White House will make good on its promise to relocate the American embassy from the shores of the Mediterranean in Tel Aviv to the hills of Judah in the City of Gold. Moreover, the move will coincide with Israel’s 70th birthday in May.

“We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening,” State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said on Friday afternoon.

Trump himself ratified the news during an address at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The president admitted to tremendous pressure to negate on his 6 December 2017 pledge to relocate the embassy. “I was hit by more countries and more pressure and more people calling, begging me, “Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it…” The campaign against it was so incredible.”

Conviction prompted Trump to disregard international bullying tactics. “It’s the right thing to do,” he told his audience. “We have to do it. And I did it.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded the move. “This is a great moment for the State of Israel,” he said on Saturday. “President Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem will make our Independence Day celebration even happier. Thank you, President Trump, for your leadership, and for your friendship.”

The prime minister reiterated his praise for Trump’s decision on Sunday during the weekly opening of the Knesset (Israeli cabinet). “This is a great moment for the citizens of Israel and a historic moment for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu told the Jewish state’s lawmakers. “It has long-term implications and great historic significance.”

“This is a decision that rests on recognition of the reality and of the depth of the right, and the depth of the roots, of the Jewish people in its eternal capital. I am also certain that other countries will follow the US and move their embassies to Jerusalem.”

While Israel and those who love her rejoice at the news, the enemies of the Promised Land and her people are outraged.

Chief Palestinian negotiator and secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, raged that the decision reflects a “determination to violate international law, destroy the two-state solution and provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people as well as of all Arabs [and] Muslims… around the globe.”

A spokesperson for Palestinian Authority (PA) president, Mahmoud Abbas, slammed the move as an “unacceptable step” that will “not give legitimacy to anyone and will be an obstacle to any effort to create peace in the region.”

For its part, Hamas, the internationally recognized terror organization ruling the Gaza strip, vowed that the relocation will trigger an “explosion” in the Middle East.

While the Palestinians are quick to play the “peace process” card, claiming that the move will jeopardize attempts at harmonious coexistence in the region, they conveniently fail to mention the fact that they have walked away from a number of deals, turned their backs on various peace offers and steadfastly refuse to sit down at the negotiation table with Israel.

At the same time, the US is well aware and largely unperturbed by the Palestinian outrage. The US ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Nikki Haley, told the Security Council on Wednesday that America “knows the Palestinian leadership was very unhappy with the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem. You don’t have to like that decision. You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept it. But know this: That decision will not change.”

A fast-forward in timeline

Two days after Trump announced the move in December last year, US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, explained that such a relocation could take years. “It’s not going to be anything that happens right away,” he held. “Probably no earlier than three years out, and that’s pretty ambitious.”

US vice president, Mike Pence, was somewhat more optimistic when he told the Knesset last month that the Jerusalem embassy would open its doors before the end of 2019.

Friday’s announcement thus comes as a significant shortening of the timeline by any account.

At first, the embassy will function from the US’s current consular premises under the direction of the Ambassador and a “small staff,” while the search for a more permanent site for a “longer-term undertaking” is already underway.

State Department officials confirmed to Israeli media that the ribbon cutting will take place in mid-May, with a number of sources claiming that the ceremony will take place on 14 May in honor of the date.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 26 February 2018)

Photo Credit: Hannah Taylor/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Thank God that President Trump withstood the tremendous pressure and kept his word to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Pray for safety and security in Jerusalem in the run-up to this historic move and that all plans of the enemy will be foiled. Also ask God for boldness and courage as other nations consider following the US’s lead.

Scripture

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.


- Matthew 5:37

Israel Thwarts ISIS-backed Terror Attack on Temple Mount

by Ilse Strauss

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The suspects waiting in court

Tuesday, 27 February 2018 │ The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, announced yesterday that it had thwarted an ISIS-inspired plot to carry out a terror attack from the Temple Mount, similar to the one committed on 14 July last year, which plunged Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria into a period of upheaval.

Apart from the prospective shooting attack to be launched from the holiest spot in Judaism and the third most sacred place in Islam, the three-man ISIS cell’s elaborate plans for death and destruction also entailed targeting a Tel Aviv synagogue, churches over the Christmas holiday and a central Israeli city with limited Muslim inhabitants.

According to the Shin Bet, the cell was busted last month and the members arrested in a joint operation with the Israel Police. The three terrorists, two 20-years-olds and a minor, were indicted yesterday.

A Shin Bet press release explained that the Temple Mount attack was foiled “thanks to precise intelligence information that led to the timely arrest of the cell members even before they managed to procure weapons.”

The investigation revealed that two of the three cell members “support the murderous ideology of the Islamic State [ISIS] terrorist organization and sought to perpetrate attacks in the context of this support.”

The Jewish state considers “Israelis supporting the Islamic State terror group a serious threat, and even more so those in contact with the group’s activists and those who act under the group’s banner in Israel,” the press release said.

“The Shin Bet will continue monitoring the suspects and take whichever law enforcement measures are required to prevent the dissemination of the Islamic State’s teachings in Israel, as well as to foil any action against the country’s security.”

The 14 July 2017 attack saw three Arab Israelis armed launch an attack from the Temple Mount in which two Israeli policemen had been murdered and the terrorists killed, two on the Temple Mount platform.

The terror attack had a ripple effect of upheaval. Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria erupted into a frenzy of violent protests, as Palestinians raged against the installation of metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount to guard against more weapons being smuggled onto the holy site. Moreover, a week after what media dubbed the Temple Mount Terror Attack, a Palestinian teenager slaughtered three Israelis at their Shabbat table, citing a burning hatred for Jews and his discontent over the increased security at the holy site as his driving force.

It took two weeks of unnecessary bloodshed, diplomatic efforts and perpetual military intervention to diffuse the explosive situation and circumvent the wide-scale escalation that the three Temple Mount terrorists arguably envisioned when they chose one of the most contested and holiest spots in an already contentious city from which to launch their attack.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 27 February 2018)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/Ynetnews

Prayer Focus
Thank God for revealing this plot. Cry out to the Lord that He will provide Israel will the strategy and insight to uncover any other threats of terror before the perpetrators can strike. Pray God’s blessing over the Shin Bet and their families, and that He will give these brave men and women the mental and physical capacity they need to keep Israel’s citizens safe.

Scripture

Have mercy on me, O LORD! Consider my trouble from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death, that I may tell of all Your praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion. I will rejoice in Your salvation.


- Psalm 9:13-14

Report: Iran Establishes New Military Base in Syria

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A missile hangar (illustrative)

Thursday, 01 March 2018 | Iran has gained another foothold in Syria by establishing a permanent military base outside Damascus, according to a report by Fox News, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated warnings that Israel will not allow any Iranian military entrenchment in the war-torn country.

Western intelligence officials, the report says, say that the base contains hangars used to stockpile missiles “capable of hitting all of Israel.”

Satellite pictures taken by ImageSat International show what appears to be a new Iranian base located approximately 12 kilometers [7.5 miles] northwest of Damascus which is believed to be operated by the Quds Force—the special operations arm of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

In the pictures, white 18 by 27 meter [194 by 291 square feet] white hangars for storing short and medium-range missiles can be seen.

The base is similar to that which was established by the Iranians south of the Syrian capital and that was destroyed, according to foreign reports, by Israel last December.

Gen. Joseph L. Votel, head of US Central Commander warned on Tuesday that Iran was “increasing” the number and “quality” of its ballistic missiles it was deploying to the region.

Last December, Arab media outlets reported that Israel attacked an Iranian base near the town of al-Kiswah, 15 kilometers [9 miles] southwest of Syrian capital Damascus. Arab-language Sky News reported that Israeli fighter jets launched air-to-surface missiles from Lebanese airspace at the compound.

Syrian state television corroborated the report, saying Israeli missiles struck a military position near Damascus overnight and Syria’s air defense system thwarted them.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference earlier this month, Netanyahu told European diplomats and leaders that “Israel will not allow the regime to put a noose of terror around our neck,” threatening to strike Iran directly if forced.

“We will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies but against Iran itself,” he said, listing the threats that Tehran poses to Israel and the world.

Last week, a New York Times investigative report revealed the scope and depth of Iranian entrenchment in Syria. Iran, through its presence in Syria, was “redrawing the strategic map of the region,” as per the paper.

The report detailed Iranian bases and posts inside Syria, presenting a high concentration of Iranian outposts along the border with Israel.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on 28 February 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Kazys/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Thank God for using global media to showcase the extent of Iran’s entrenchment on Israel’s doorstep. Ask that He will continue to employ the necessary tools to alert the international audience to the threat Israel faces. Pray that the Lord will sow confusion in the enemy’s camp and that He will draw a hedge of fire around Israel’s borders for protection.

Scripture

‘For I,’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’


- Zechariah 2:5

IDF Officer: If War Breaks out Tomorrow, We Are up to the Challenge

by Yoav Zitun

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The Golani Brigade, a part of IDF’s Infantry Corps

Thursday, 01 March 2018 | The IDF’s [Israel Defense Forces] Ground Forces Command has been developing new weapons systems that will reshape the battlefield for the infantry, armored corps, combat engineering units and artillery forces, as troops are expected to face a whole new series of threats on land, in the air and below ground.

The Command revealed this week a number of new weapons that are already being integrated into the IDF’s forward units, and others that will are still in development and will be integrated gradually in the coming years.

Weapons systems developments

For example, maneuvering forces will be outfitted with an “Iron Dome” of sorts that can identify, warn, and even deflect threats directed by Hamas or Hezbollah at concentrated groups of IDF forces.

Threats include booby-trapped multicopter drones, “kamikaze drones,” and short-range rockets that can hold half a ton of explosives. Intercepting such threats will be carried out in a number of ways, including interceptive rockets, laser beams and radio scrambling using electronic warfare.

It has not yet been decided whether the modern anti-aircraft units will be part of the reconnaissance infantry battalions, which are generally at the frontline of the battle, or as part of a new brigade based on conventional artillery units.

‘The enemy will launch thousands of rockets a day’

In a briefing to reporters Tuesday, a senior officer said that in the next war, there will be no alternative but to deploy ground forces to carry out a rapid and deep penetration in order to conquer the enemy’s territory, eliminate him (rather than “neutralize”), and destroy its weapons stores, especially rocket launchers, in order to decrease the rocket and missile fire on the home front.

“The enemy will launch thousands of rockets daily at population centers. In such a multi-front war, we will draft the entirety of the Ground Forces, including territorial reserve battalions from the Judea and Samaria Division and the Sinai border,” said the officer. “If war breaks out tomorrow, we will be up to the challenge.”

“There is agreement among senior army staff that in the next war, missiles falling on population centers in the center will mandate the army command to rapidly deploy Ground Force maneuvers,” he continued.

The officer added that “The standing army can work with reserve forces; the war might last a few weeks until we deal a decisive blow, but not months. Citizens do not have to prepare for another Yom Kippur War. In the next war, we will deal with tall buildings in urban areas, and against an experienced enemy like Hezbollah, which will take play off the ‘night advantage’ by equipping itself with night vision gear.

“We have strengthened command integration. No more will it be infantry alone or Armored Corps alone. In the brigade exercise carried out last week, the Armored Corps colonel had more infantry units under his command than tank companies,” he said.

The officer did not shy away from discussing decisive victory, a vague term in an age of asymmetric warfare between semi-military terror groups and nation state armies. “No one has a clear definition of what victory is. Victory is a mix of tactical gains along with command achievements, such as the killing of (Hezbollah leader Hassan) Nasrallah,” he explained.

The officer admitted that the primary disadvantages in the Ground Forces are related to mobility and equipment. Special Forces have the best mobility capabilities while many units operate trucks that are very old. 300 new trucks are expected though by the end of the year.

Commander of the Ground Forces, Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak, said that the chance for war increased in 2018, but that does not mean Israel has an interest in another round of fighting.

The officer also delivered an update on the status of women being integrated into the Armored Corps to protect the borders. The first group has already completed training and is stationed on the southern border and three are set to go to tank commander school, which will be separate from the men’s course.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on 28 February 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDFBlog

Prayer Focus
Praise God for building up the strength and might of the IDF. Lift up every soldier, reservist and commander as they prepare to face the threat looming on Israel’s northern border. Pray for divine wisdom and insight for high-ranking officers, who develop strategies, train their soldiers for what may come and ultimately carry the responsibility for making tough decisions.

Scripture

Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.


- Proverbs 4:6-7

Hamas Confiscates Fuel for Terror Profit, Makes Gaza A “Powder-Keg”

by Joshua Spurlock

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A fuel truck (illustrative)

Monday, 26 February 2018 | It’s not just Israelis who are being harmed by the actions of Hamas, which rules Gaza—the terror group has confiscated millions of liters of fuel not to power the civilians in Gaza but to make money to fuel their “terror machine,” the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office spokesman tweeted on Sunday.

Dozens of trucks carrying two million liters of fuel intended for Gaza’s power station went into Gaza the day before, but Ofir Gendelman tweeted that Hamas “did not use them to generate power.” That would have given Gazans more hours of electricity each day, but Gendelman’s post to Twitter noted that “Hamas doesn’t care. Its leaders have 24/7 power anyway.”

Instead of Hamas acting to benefit their people in Gaza, the spokesman followed up to tweet that “Hamas took this vast quantity of fuel that could provide electricity for the people of Gaza, and it will sell it, taking all profit to fund its terror machine. This is Hamas’ priority and only interest.”

Following the recent escalation between Israel and terrorists in the Gaza Strip, it is clear to Israel which side is really pursuing peace and which one is stirring strife—just look at what they are building. During an event last week honoring the opening of a fortified emergency room in a hospital in Israel’s south, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu highlighted the contrast between Israel and Hamas: “We build hospitals while they build terrorist tunnels and missiles.”

Netanyahu, whose comments were published by his office, noted that when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip “some people still had an iota of hope that the other side would choose to rise to the path of tranquil life; however, it became clear very quickly that the concerns were based in reality. The Hamas regime and the other terrorist organizations turned the Gaza Strip into a powder-keg.”

Netanyahu said that today amidst the ongoing conflict, it’s not Israel who is causing chaos in Gaza. “We have no desire to harm the daily routine of the residents of Gaza but they must know that it is not Israel which is responsible for their plight. It is the extremists leading Gaza that are completely responsible.”

At the same time, Netanyahu said they weren’t only going to take defensive measures like the fortified hospital—they would respond offensively when needed.

“We do not intend to ignore the attempts to violate our sovereignty or harm our soldiers and residents and we have proven this time and again,” said Netanyahu. “We will not accept trickles or bombs on the fence such as we saw last weekend. Whoever hurts us—will himself be hurt. Whoever does not act to calm the situation but instead chooses to fan the flames—will bear full responsibility.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on 25 February 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: jp26jp/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Thank God that the plot was brought to the light. Lift up the Israeli officials who serve at the Gaza border crossings and ask the Lord to reveal and uncover any schemes by Hamas to smuggle materials into the coastal enclave that can be used to harm the Jewish state.

Scripture

He uncovers deep things out of darkness, and brings the shadow of death to light. He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them.


- Job 12:22-23

Europeans Appeal to Trump on the Palestinians’ Behalf to Amend Peace Plan

by Ilse Strauss

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Thursday, 01 March 2018 | As US President Donald Trump’s special Middle East advisors are reportedly putting the finishing touches on a plan to secure peace in the Promised Land, speculations are rife as to what the particulars of such a framework will entail. The US has steadfastly dismissed all reports over the past few days offering details of the soon-to-be-revealed plan as rumor. Regardless, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is clearly not prepared to wait for the plan to be revealed. Protesting that the US favors Israel, the PA has turned to European countries to appeal to Trump on its behalf.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki confirmed yesterday that a number of European Union (EU) nations are trying to persuade Trump to alter the current terms of the framework to include more principles pertinent to the Palestinians, including putting a halt to all construction in Judea and Samaria.

Al-Maliki met earlier this week with the foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of the 28 EU nations in Brussels. The take-away from this meeting was that the plan is biased towards the Israelis and that the Palestinians would not accept its terms.

The London-based pan-Arab Al-Hayat daily claimed this morning that various European countries have already held talks with Trump to push Palestinian demands for the peace plan, which includes a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders and East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

According to Ynetnews, Western diplomats confirmed that communications between the Trump administration and European countries have taken place, but admitted that the chances of the Americans heeding Europeans wishes are slim.

In an unrelated report, the Saudi Arabian newspaper Asharq al-Awsat quoted “knowledgeable Arab diplomatic sources” saying that the terms of Trump’s plan for peace entail US and international recognition of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as capital. The Old City of Jerusalem will fall under “international protection.” Moreover, the sources claimed that the American framework would be presented at an international conference held in an Arab capital, like Cairo, with all role-players in attendance.

The US was quick to dismiss all reports. “As we have not finished our plan, nobody knows what it is,” The Times of Israel quotes a senior US administration official as saying. “There is constant speculation and guessing about what we are working on and this report is more of the same.”

Trump, who has in the past referred to striking a Middle East peace accord as the “ultimate deal,” announced in November last year that he gave his advisers the go-ahead to draft the framework for an initiative aimed at bringing the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a close.

In recent weeks, the two-man Trump team—the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and top envoy Jason Greenblatt—have indicated that they plan to unveil the plan in the near future, but refrained from providing a due date.

US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, also confirmed last week that the framework would soon be finalized. “I think they’re finishing it up. It won’t be loved by either side, and it won’t be hated by either side.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 01 March 2018)

Photo Credit: Wickey-nl/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
As the US is putting the final touches on the perspective peace plan, ask for the Lord’s wisdom and discernment. Pray that the team members working out the terms and details will not be swayed by pressure from the Palestinians and their cohorts. Ask for God’s perfect plan for Israel to be established in any future peace process.

Scripture

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.


- Psalm 125:1-2

Chag Purim Sameach (Happy Purim) from Jerusalem

by Ilse Strauss

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The Zealous Israel Project participants celebrating Purim 2018

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 | The promise of springtime in Israel––as in any other nation––customarily comes with the promise of new life, growth, warmer weather and sunshine. Yet in the Jewish state, the end of winter annually brings an added delight. When the days grow balmier and filled with sunshine, a carnival atmosphere wraps around the Land of Promise. City streets, classrooms and offices teem with Supermen and Catwomen, cowboys and mermaids. When they appear, along with other costumed children and adults, it means that the Jewish nation is gearing up to celebrate Purim (the feast of Esther).

Sundown tonight signals the start of this happy holiday. Purim is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in Israel, with young and old joining the joyous celebration with street musicians, dancing, singing and dress-up parties stretching into the small hours.

The reason for the merriment is a good one. Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jewish people living in the ancient Persian Empire from the evil Haman, who hatched what seemed like the perfect plot “… to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day…” (Esther 3:13).

We find the story in the book of Esther. The events behind Purim played out in the 4th century BC, when the Jewish people lived in exile as subjects of the Persian Empire. Through a series of twists and turns, the mighty ruler, King Ahasuerus, stripped his wife of her crown for insubordination. An empire-wide search was then launched to find a new queen. A young Jewish beauty, named Hadassah, beat the staggering odds to win the king’s heart––and the crown. Yet on her Uncle Mordechai’s instruction, Hadassah remained mum about her Jewish identity and rather went by her Persian name, Esther.

Meanwhile, the evil Haman with an anti-Semitic heart yearning for power and destruction was appointed prime minister. In line with his might and position, Haman insisted that all the subjects of the Persian Empire prostrate themselves in his presence. However, Mordechai’s refusal to bow down to him thwarted his delusions of grandeur and set in motion a plan of evil and malice. Haman persuaded the king to issue a decree, ordering the extermination of all Jews. The day of mass murder was planned for the twelfth biblical month, the month of Adar.

Haman’s plan spelled sure annihilation for the Jews. Yet the God of Israel had placed Mordechai and Esther in the perfect position to help. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Mordechai instructed his niece (Esther 4:14).

At Esther’s request, Mordechai rallied the Jews to fast and pray for three days, after which Esther interceded to the king on behalf of her people. The evil Haman was executed and a new decree was issued, which allowed the Jews to defend themselves and fight back against those who came to slaughter them.

The story had a happy ending. “On the day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them” (Esther 9:1).

To ensure that future generations would remember the miraculous deliverance, Mordechai declared a festival. The holiday of Purim, he told his people, should be an occasion of merriment and feasting. Friends should exchange presents. The poor should receive gifts.

Today, thousands of years later, the descendants of Mordechai and Esther, celebrate Purim as per Mordechai’s directions—in the streets of Israel and all over the world.

Neighbors and friends send each other baskets of candy. Gifts of money go to the poor. The young—and young at heart—dress up to join public parades winding through city streets. People gather in synagogues and family rooms to read the book of Esther. The sound of noisemakers echo from countless windows in playful attempts to drown out the sound of Haman’s name every time it is mentioned during the reading. Then at night, after all the parades and noise, family and friends meet for a Purim feast.

Purim in Israel showcases the delight of a destiny turned from destruction and annihilation to great victory. It highlights the God of Israel’s care and foresight to raise humans to unexpected places––for His plans and purposes. It demonstrates His absolute might and power over “idolatry, hedonism, cynicism and insecurity,” writes retired ambassador Yoram Ettinger in Purim Guide for the Perplexed 2016. And it reassures “faith in mankind’s capabilities, as long as faith in God is sustained.”

At first glance, the plot of Purim speaks of a threat vanquished centuries ago. But every Israeli knows that today, in the 21st century, there is an ancient menace threatening the Jewish state. And once again, that threat is coming out of Persia. Today, Israel again hears decrees vowing its annihilation. These threats are repeatedly declared by the leaders of modern-day Persia, a place known today as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

These threats are not new. In fact, the mullahs (Muslims educated in Islamic law and theology) from Tehran has been forthright about both its desire to see the Jewish state exterminated and the leading role it hopes to play in the destruction. Israel is well aware of modern Persia’s plots “… to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day…” (Esther 3:13) and has for decades waged a covert war against Iran fulfilling its depraved ambitions.

The past years have, however, seen Iran, a country located some 1,800km (1,118 miles) from the Jewish state, entrench itself on Israel’s northern border in Syria. Tehran also uses the chaos of the Syrian Civil War to smuggle advanced weapons to Hezbollah, the terror group based in southern Lebanon, to stock its already impressive arsenal with game-changing missiles.

For its part, Israel has made it clear that it would not allow Iran to establish a permanent military outpost on its borders or build a Shi’ite land corridor from Tehran to Beirut. Moreover, the deciding force with which Jerusalem responded to the Islamic Republic launching a drone from Syria into the Promised Land in early February testifies to the gravity with which Jewish state views the menace on its doorstep.

History has taught Israel not to take threats idly. History has, however, also taught Israelis to seize the moment and live life to the fullest. As the festival of Purim approaches, the Jewish people once again celebrate with joy and merriment. But they will also remember and reflect. Purim is, after all, not only about rejoicing. It also begs all to heed its lessons from the past.

Chag Purim sameach (happy Purim) from Jerusalem.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 28 February 2018)

Photo Credit: Michio Nagata/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Thank God that He who foiled the plans to annihilate the Jewish people in ancient Persia still remains faithful to watch over them today. Remind the Lord of His promises to protect Israel and its people and ask Him to keep them safe from their modern-day enemies, like Iran, that continuously vow to destroy the Jewish state.

Scripture

Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses. May the LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us nor forsake us.


- 1 Kings 8:56-57

Preparing for Juniper Cobra 2018

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Delegation of American and Israeli officials visit the Juniper Cobra 16 exercise site (illustrative)

Friday, 23 February 2018 | Security forces have begun main preparations, including the extensive deployment of forces across the country and initial drills, in anticipation of the largest IDF and USEUCOM joint exercise taking place this year, “Juniper Cobra 2018.”

The exercise will take place between March 4th and March 15th, 2018. Additional activities will take place in partnership with our American counterparts, till the end of March.

In the last several weeks, extensive preparations for the exercise have been conducted, including the reception of American forces to Israel, via air and sea.

The purposes of the exercise are to strengthen the cooperation and coordination between the two militaries, to promote bilateral learning and enhance aerial defense capabilities.

This is the ninth time the “Juniper Cobra” exercise has taken place in Israel since 2001. This will be the largest IDF and USEUCOM joint exercise taking place this year.

Over 2,500 US troops who are routinely based in Europe, will be participating in the exercise, alongside 1,400 Israeli Aerial Defense troops, logistics units, medical forces, and additional IDF units.

The exercise simulates a scenario in which US forces would deploy to Israel in order to aid the IDF Aerial Defense forces. Together they will perform computerized simulations of a variety of rocket threat scenarios in different regions. The simulations include the use of the “Arrow,” “Iron Dome”, “Patriot”, and “David’s Sling” systems. The David’s Sling System was declared operational in April 2017.

Commander of the Aerial Defense Array, Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich:

“The ‘Juniper Cobra 2018’ exercise will serve as an opportunity for the IDF, and the IAF in particular, to enhance operational capabilities in the face of high-trajectory threats. The exercise demonstrates the strategic and fundamental cooperation between the IDF and the US Armed Forces. In the coming weeks we will train together to face complex and challenging scenarios, which are relevant to the dynamic range of threats that we must be prepared to face.”

U.S. Air Force Third Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark:

“The United States and Israel enjoy a strong and enduring military to military partnership built on a trust that has been developed over decades of cooperation. The Juniper Cobra exercises continue to strengthen this relationship, providing us with the opportunity to bolster interoperability and develop seamless integration with our Israeli partners.”

Source: (The Israel Defense Forces originally published this article on 22 February 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: US Embassy Tel Aviv/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Give thanks for the military partnership between Israel and the US. Praise Him for the support, guidance and knowledge that the US provides so that Israel can train for complex and challenging scenarios. Pray for all the logistics in the run-up to this exercise and ask God to bless every participant.

Scripture

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.


- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

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