Compassion

I want to bless the widows and orphans who are in need, fulfilling the Lord’s call to look after the poor and afflicted.

Friday, March 22, 2019

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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.

Two Israelis Killed, One Seriously Injured in Terror Attack

by Kate Norman

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An IDF soldier died on the scene and another victim succumbed to his wounds the morning after an attack near Ariel.

Monday, 18 March 2019 | In the days leading up to Purim (Feast of Esther), a time when Jewish people all over the world are celebrating the survival from Haman’s attempted annihilation of the Jews in the Persian empire, a terror attack in Judea and Samaria has bloodstained the festivities.

A Palestinian terrorist attacked and killed an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldier Sunday morning at a bus station near Ariel—an industrial area where Israelis and Palestinians work together in factories. He stole the soldier’s rifle and shot two more people, killing one and injuring the other, before fleeing to a Palestinian village. Israeli security forces are still on the hunt to find the terrorist.

Around 9:45 Sunday morning, 20-year-old Palestinian Omar Abu Laila, the suspected perpetrator of the attack, hid in a store near the Ariel junction, waiting for the perfect time to strike.

Security footage shows him casually strolling to a bus stop at the Ariel junction, where he sneaks up on a soldier, stabs him repeatedly, steals his rifle and shoots him point-blank. The soldier, 19-year-old Sgt. Gal Keidan from Beersheva, died from his wounds.

Abu Laila then turned the stolen rifle toward passing vehicles at the nearby traffic circle and opened fire. One of the vehicles he struck belonged to Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger, a father of twelve children. The bullets went through Ettinger’s windshield, piercing the rabbi in the head and neck, the Times of Israel reported. According to his family, once he realized an attack was underway, he turned his car around, drew his own gun and fired back at the terrorist, who escaped.

Doctors fought through the night to save Ettinger’s life, but he succumbed to his wounds this morning.

Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger, 47, died the morning after the attack.

“We believe he prevented a greater terror attack from occurring,” said his son-in-law, Zeev Goldstein.

Two more IDF soldiers were stationed at the bus stop across the street. One of those soldiers was the commander of the force, who at some point chased Abu Laila and shot him in the shoulder, but could not apprehend the terrorist.

Lailu then fired at another passing vehicle, whose driver stopped the car and fled.

“I saw the terrorist,” the driver told Ynetnews. “He opened fire at my vehicle and I fled while the engine was still running. The terrorist then stole the car, and I saw him keep driving in the direction of Tel Aviv.”

The young Palestinian drove the stolen vehicle about 1.5 miles [2.5 km] farther down Route 5 to Gitai Junction, where he shot and seriously wounded another soldier, Alexander Dvorsky, who was standing at a hitchhiking station. Dvorsky was rushed to the hospital and underwent surgery for injuries to his spine and abdomen, the Times of Israel reported.

After shooting Dvorsky, the military said Abu Laila then drove to a nearby Palestinian village called Bruqin and fled on foot.

The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) has been conducting a massive manhunt with the Shin Bet (Israeli internal security organization), the border police and the Israel police to apprehend Abu Laila, who is most likely still armed. Security forces shut down the surrounding areas for several hours and set up road blocks in their search for the missing Palestinian.

The security forces reportedly detained Abu Laila’s father and teenage brother this morning for questioning and began preparations to destroy the family home—the Jewish state’s common response to terror attacks that is also meant to deter future attacks.

In the span of a few minutes, Omar Abu Laila’s acts of hatred forever changed countless lives, creating a gaping hole in the lives of loved ones left behind.

Rabbi Ettinger, from the Jewish community of Eli, left behind a wife and twelve children—ages one to twenty. He also served as the dean of the Oz V’Emunah hesder yeshivah (a Jewish religious school that combines religious study with military service) in southern Tel Aviv. Ettinger could have continued driving to safety, but he made the choice to turn around and fight.

Sgt. Gal Keidan, 19, from Beersheva, died at the scene of the attack.

Sgt. Gal Keidan, who served in the IDF’s 334th artillery battalion, was declared dead after medics tried to resuscitate him at the scene. He will be posthumously promoted to staff sergeant. His loved ones mourned his loss at the military cemetery in Beersheva this morning.

The mayor of Beersheva, Ruvik Danilovich, honored Keidan in a post on his Facebook page. He described the slain soldier as a “gifted student” and an “outstanding musician.”

“The city of Beersheva and its residents are sad and hurt, bow their heads in his memory and warmly embrace the family,” Danilovich wrote. “Of blessed memory!”

Accompanying a photo of the slain IDF soldier’s blood on the ground near the bus stop, Danny Danon, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in a tweet: “Morning of terror in Israel…This is what results from incitement & hatred of Israel. This is Israelis’ reality. The international community’s silence excuses this terrorism.”

Hamas, who has been struggling to maintain its political and military grip on the Gaza Strip over the weekend as Palestinians held protests against the humanitarian crisis in the terror enclave, saw an opportunity to shift the focus off itself and celebrated the terror attack by passing out sweet treats to people on the streets.

The terror organization also issued a statement: “This is a response to the crimes of the Israeli occupation, and to the events in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. All the acts of oppression and attempts to undermine the resistance will not succeed in defeating the will of our people or preventing us from following the path of jihad.”

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad also praised the attack.

“The attack in Ariel was carried out in order to move the compass and bring the struggle to its natural location. We welcome the attack and salute the rebel heroes in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria].”

At the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his faith in the Israeli security forces and their efforts to catch the terrorist.

“I am certain that they will apprehend them, and we will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law as we have done in all the recent incidents,” said the prime minister, who also acts as defense minister.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin honored both victims of the attack on his Twitter page and wrote: “We will continue to fight terrorism. We will continue to build our lives without fear, from a deep commitment to the State of Israel and the safety of its citizens.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 18, 2019)

Photo Credit: Magen David Adom@Mdais/Twitter

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord to pour out His balm of comfort over the families and loved ones who mourn for Rabbi Ettinger and Sgt. Keidan. Lift up the Israeli soldiers and security forces before the Lord and ask Him to guard them as they stand guard over the Promised Land and her people.

Scripture

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem…”


- Isaiah 40:1–2a

Gaza Fires Rockets at Tel Aviv, IDF Responds by Striking Hamas Targets

by Kate Norman

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The Tel Aviv skyline captured in a video of the Code Red sirens blaring after the launch of rockets from Gaza.

Friday, 15 March 2019 | Three times during the night and again this morning, frightened Israelis ran for the nearest bomb shelter amid the drone of the Code Red siren. Nine rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel—two of which were launched at Tel Aviv. The rest were fired at Israeli communities bordering the terror enclave.

As they were running for shelter, civilians in Tel Aviv and the surrounding area of Gush Dan heard explosions in the sky above as Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted the rockets.

The military reported that the Iron Dome intercepted six of the nine projectiles fired at Israel since last night. Two of the rockets fell into an open field, and one failed to cross the border into Israel. Though no damage or casualties were reported, rocket fragments were found near a school in Sderot, located less than a mile [1.6 km] from Gaza, and five people were treated for shock.

Palestinians in Gaza have been consistently firing lone rockets and launching incendiary devices at Israeli communities near the border. Last night’s rocket attacks marked an escalation in that it was the first time Gaza has launched rockets at Tel Aviv, the Jewish state’s second largest city, since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

In response, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) reported that it struck 100 Hamas military targets in Gaza, including an underground rocket manufacturing site, headquarters where terror attacks in Judea and Samaria are orchestrated, and a center for unmanned aerial aircrafts.

However, Hamas, who openly calls for Israel’s destruction and proudly claims attacks against the Jewish state, denied responsibility for the recent rocket fire.

“We are following up on the firing of rockets from Gaza against the national consensus, and the ministry will take measures against the violators,” Hamas’s Interior Ministry said in a statement, according to the Times of Israel.

An anonymous Hamas official told the Times that Hamas “has no interest in an escalation” with Israel and that he “has no idea” who fired the rockets at Tel Aviv.

Hamas’s armed wing earlier claimed the rockets were fired while Hamas leaders were meeting with Egyptian mediators to continue negotiations for a cease-fire between Gaza and Israel, the Times reported.

The Islamic Jihad, Hamas’s competitor in Gaza and an Iranian-backed terror group, denied rumors that it was behind the attacks.

The Israeli military is reporting that the attack was a mistake, most likely an unauthorized launch by low-level Hamas militants. Nonetheless, the military has a policy of holding Hamas, who holds political and military control of the Gaza Strip, responsible for all terror attacks on Israel from the Strip.

“The Hamas terrorist organization bears responsibility for everything that is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip,” the IDF posted on its blog page. “The IDF views with great severity any attempt to harm Israeli citizens and will continue to act vigorously against these terrorist acts.”

Two weeks from now will mark the one year anniversary of the “March of Return” riots along the Gaza border.

Update: Palestinian media reports say Israel and Gaza have reached a cease-fire agreement. Israel has not yet confirmed the reports. 

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 15, 2019)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces@IDF/Twitter

Prayer Focus
Pray that God will bring a swift and decisive end to the rocket fire from Gaza aimed at innocent Israeli civilians. Ask Him to draw a hedge of physical and emotional protection around His people, shielding them from death and injury and guarding them from the effects of fear and trauma.

Scripture

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”


- Psalm 50:15

Israel, Jewish Organizations Express Solidarity after NZ Mosque Massacres

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The scene of the New Zealand shooting in which 49 people were killed.

Monday, 18 March 2019 | The State of Israel and Jewish organizations around the world expressed their sympathy to the families of those affected by the horrific massacres at two mosques that took the lives of at least 49 worshipers in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“At least forty-nine people were killed and dozens injured in shootings at two mosques in New Zealand’s second-largest city of Christchurch on Friday,” the Straits Times reported. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the massacres as a well-planned terror attack and said that it marked “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

Ardern put the nation on its highest security alert and asked all mosques to close. Several people, including the shooter, are reported in custody.

The main suspect, who is reported to have been wearing dark clothing, entered the Al Noor Mosque and started shooting with his automatic weapon. The suspected shooter is believed to be in his 20s, has been charged with murder and is scheduled to appear in court on Saturday.

Forty-one people were reported killed in the Al Noor Mosque and seven more at the Linwood mosque. One person died at Christchurch hospital, where the injured are being treated.

The terror attacks on houses of worship prompted statements of support and solidarity from Israel, as well as from major Jewish organizations around the world.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon tweeted: “Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of the terrible shooting against mosques in #Christchurch. We express full solidarity with #NewZealand and its people. We should never let hatred, violence and terror win. @IsraelMFA @IsraelinNZ”

CRIF, a communal body representing French Jews, described the deadly attacks on the mosques as the result of “murderous and barbaric fanaticism.”

“We are horrified by this sickening terrorist attack,” Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said. “To the victims, the survivors and their families, together with Muslims around the world who have been targets of rising hatred, whipped up by media hostility, we express our absolute and resolute solidarity.”

A statement from The Israel Project stated that it “emphatically condemns the barbaric terrorist attack that took place yesterday at mosques in Christchurch, NZ. We deplore terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Our thoughts are with the families of those who have lost their lives in this barbaric act.”

Ronald Lauder, president of World Jewish Congress, said, “I extend my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the victims, and to the people of New Zealand.” He also expressed “horror and revulsion” at the deadly attacks on Muslims at prayer.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by The Israel Project in its publication The Tower on March 15, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: CBS This Morning/YouTube/Screenshot

Prayer Focus
Entreat the Lord to bring light from this horrific tragedy. Pray that the solidarity Israel and Jewish groups have shown for their Muslim brothers and sisters in distress will serve as a springboard for forging ties of friendship.

Scripture

When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.


- Proverbs 16:7

US Secretary of State in Israel: The Golan, the Peace Plan and the Western Wall

by Kate Norman

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Israeli PM Netanyahu welcomes US Secretary of State Pompeo.

Thursday, 21 March 2019 | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his platform last night to reiterate Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights as he met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the second leg of Pompeo’s three-stop tour across the Middle East this week.

“It’s time that the international community recognizes Israel’s stay in the Golan, the fact that the Golan will always remain part of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a press conference with Pompeo yesterday.

The Israeli prime minister mentioned Israel’s uncovering of Iranian proxy Hezbollah’s ploy to establish a terror network in Syria—the back door to Israel—in the Islamic Republic’s tireless efforts to surround the Jewish state.

“You can imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan,” Netanyahu stressed. “We would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.”

Israel captured its northern territory in the defensive 1967 war when Syria teamed up with Egypt and Jordan to wipe out the Jewish state—and lost part of its stake in the Golan Heights as a result. The international community, however, disagrees on recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the northern region.

Netanyahu stressed that Israel will continue to work with the United States—and anyone else who would listen—to counter Iran’s efforts to entrench itself in Israel’s neighboring countries and stick the Islamic Republic’s foot in the door to Jerusalem.

“Rolling back Iran is in the interest of peace and security and stability for Israel, for our neighbors and for the world,” Netanyahu said.

The two leaders also met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades to discuss developments on a natural gas pipeline stretching from Israel through Cyprus and Greece to Europe. Netanyahu praised the cooperation between the nations involved in the project ahead of their sixth summit meeting.

“We began this a few years ago, and it’s blossomed into one of the best regional associations in the world,” Netanyahu said ahead of the meeting. “We cooperation in everything, from firefighting now to energy.”

Notably missing from this week’s discussions is the United States’ forthcoming Middle East peace plan. The release of the proposal—headed by President Trump’s senior advisor, Jared Kushner, and special envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt—has been postponed until after the Israeli elections on April 9.

Before his plane landed in Kuwait on Tuesday, the first stop of his visits to Kuwait, Israel and Lebanon this week, Pompeo told reporters that there will be a “right time when we will introduce bigger pieces of that,” establishing that details of the peace plan will not be released this week.

Secretary Pompeo did however alluded briefly to the peace plan in his opening remarks to reporters before he and Netanyahu met with the leaders from Greece and Cyprus.

“It’s fundamentally our view that this region needs a candid dialogue and open exchanges of ideas, especially as we seek to make progress towards a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” Pompeo said in his statement. “Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt recently met with regional leaders to find ways to provide economic opportunity for those regions.”

As US and Israeli leaders take steps to strengthen the bond between the two nations, Pompeo will be sidestepping protocol this afternoon when he visits the Western Wall and tours the tunnels underneath, accompanied by Prime Minister Netanyahu, in what the secretary of state called a day “to get a deeper sense of Israel and its storied history.”

Often, US diplomats avoid visiting the wall accompanied by an Israeli official because of the volatile contention of Israel’s sovereignty over the holy sites in eastern Jerusalem. This afternoon will mark the first official visit by a top US diplomat to the holy site accompanied by an Israeli official.

Ultimately, Pompeo’s visit was to reaffirm the strong ties between Israel and the United States. Both Netanyahu and Pompeo frequently touted the familiar slogan: “Israel has no greater friend than the United States.”

“The Israeli people can have confidence that President Trump will maintain this close bond,” Pompeo told Netanyahu as he reiterated American support for the Jewish state and its right to defend itself.

Netanyahu will visit Washington DC next week to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference, just weeks before the upcoming Israeli election.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 21, 2019)

Photo Credit: PM of Israel@IsraeliPM/twitter.com

Prayer Focus
Lift up praises to the Lord for the close ties between Israel and the United States. Continue to petition Him to use Israel’s allies mightily to secure international recognition for Israel’s rightful, eternal sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Scripture

A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.


- Proverbs 18:24

Chag Purim Sameach (Happy Purim) from Jerusalem

by Ilse Strauss

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Israelis parade in fancy dress to celebrate Purim, the story of Esther.

Thursday, 21 March 2019 | 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 the Jewish nation is gearing up to celebrate Purim.

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. Mordechai’s refusal to bow down to Haman 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. At first, Esther had her trepidations about appealing to her husband on behalf of her people—and for good reason. The mere action of going before the king without his summons equaled a death sentence. And Esther had not received such a summons in 30 days. She tried explaining her precarious position to her uncle: “…any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live” (Esther 4:11).

Mordechai remained relentless. “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews,” he warned Esther. “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish” (Esther 4:13–14). Then came the words that stirred his niece—and helped save a nation: “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (v. 14).

At Esther’s request, Mordechai rallied the Jews to join her in fasting and prayer for three days, after which she appealed to the king on behalf of her people. Esther received his favor—and his ear. 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 noise makers 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 reflects 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. They 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 from Tehran have been forthright about both their desire to see the Jewish state exterminated and the leading role they hope to play in the destruction. Moreover, 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 1,118 miles (1,800 km) 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 Shiite land corridor from Tehran to Beirut. According to top Israeli political and military officials, the Jewish state has made good on its word, striking more than 200 Iranian military targets in Syria since 2017.

History has taught Israel not to take threats idly. History has, however, also taught Israelis to seize the moment and live life to the full. As the festival of Purim approaches, the Jewish people once again celebrate with joy and merriment. They do, after all, know how the story of a Persian leader trying to wipe out the Jewish people ends. But they will also remember and reflect. Purim is 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, March 21, 2019)

Photo Credit: Isranet

Prayer Focus
Praise God for His everlasting hand of protection over the Jewish people—in Mordechai and Esther’s days and in current and future generations. Beseech Him to cast down any evil plots by the modern-day Persian Empire, just like He did in ancient times.

Scripture

The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor. And in every province and city…the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday.


- Esther 8:16–17a

Hamas’s Brutal Crackdown of Peaceful Gaza Protests Elicits International Condemnation

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Hamas violently cracks down on Gazans peacefully protesting living conditions.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019 | “We want to live!” is the cry of Palestinians in the streets of Gaza as the situation in the coastal enclave appears to be imploding.

Over the past few days, hundreds of Palestinians have stormed the streets to protest the dire economic situation and abysmal standards of living in the Gaza Strip, only to be brutally cracked down upon by Hamas—the terror organization in political and military control of the enclave. Videos and photos have surfaced on social media showing the chaotic aftermath of the clashes between Hamas and the Palestinians who are beginning to turn on their oppressors and demand a better quality of life, with luxuries like 24/7 access to electricity and water.

Starting last Thursday, a few Palestinians spontaneously started a demonstration in a refugee camp in northern Gaza, Ynetnews reported.

An unnamed Palestinian source in Gaza told Ynetnews, “The protest was started by just dozens of people in Jabalia [refugee camp] and picked up the pace in the city of Deir al-Balah, but towards the late evening hours, the demonstrators began to disperse. Similar protests might develop in the coming days in other parts of Gaza. This protest is completely authentic.”

The unnamed source, whose quotes were published by Ynet on Thursday, was right about similar protests sparking across Gaza. Soon, the small demonstration had sparked into a new movement as hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in cities across Gaza, most of them careful to protest their terrible standard of living without speaking directly against Hamas.

However, some of them spoke against the terror organization without fear. One video shows a Palestinian woman in the street criticizing Hamas. She spoke in Arabic, but the man who posted the video to Twitter translated her words: “Hamas officials’ children drive in luxurious cars, but I have four unemployed sons. All of Gaza are unemployed because of Ismail Haniyeh [a senior Hamas political leader] & Yahya Sinwar [Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip]. These officials care nothing about the poor people’s necessities. We have the right to live.”

The protesters started peacefully, but the situation deteriorated as videos show Gaza police using batons and other measures to beat the protesters, who eventually turned to burning tires and throwing rocks, into silence and submission. Other videos show arrests as security forces—both uniformed and in street clothes—shove struggling protesters into vehicles to be swept away and silenced.

Hamas has also reportedly arrested and detained dozens of reporters and investigators from human rights groups who were monitoring the situation—recording video, taking pictures and asking questions. Haaretz reported that 23 journalists were arrested, and though most have been released already, three of them are still being detained, as of yesterday. There are no concrete numbers of how many people in total have been arrested or released, partially because Hamas has been locking up and intimidating the people responsible for reporting that information.

The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, lashed out against Hamas in a statement released on Sunday.

“I strongly condemn the campaign of arrests and violence used by Hamas security forces against protesters, including women and children, in Gaza over the past three days,” the statement reads. “I am particularly alarmed by the brutal beating of journalists and staff from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) and the raiding of homes.

“The long-suffering people of Gaza were protesting the dire economic situation and demanded an improvement in the quality of life in the Gaza Strip,” he continues. “It is their right to protest without fear of reprisal.”

Members of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which rules portions of Judea and Samaria but was thrown out of power in the Gaza Strip when Hamas took control in 2007, have jumped on the finger-pointing bandwagon.

A senior Fatah member, Hussein al-Sheikh, praised the protesters on his Twitter account.

“Gaza is rising up in the face of the oppressors,” he wrote.

There was speculation as the protests started on Thursday that Hamas would initiate something with Israel in order to divert international attention from its violent attempts to regain control, but the situation took a turn on Thursday night. While senior Hamas leaders were meeting with Egyptian mediators to negotiate a cease-fire with the Jewish state, two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv—the first time since Operation Protective Edge in 2014—and the Egyptian mediators gave the Hamas leaders a verbal dressing down.

Hamas, who usually dances under the smoking tails of the rockets fired into the Jewish state, insisted that it was not responsible and would find and punish the perpetrators. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) investigated and chalked the rocket launches up to a mistake—either accidentally fired during a routine investigation or an unauthorized launch by low-level Hamas operatives. However, the Israeli military has a policy of holding Hamas responsible for all attacks that come out of the Gaza Strip—mistaken or not—and retaliated by striking 100 Hamas military targets.

On Friday afternoon, rumors circulated in Palestinian media that the two sides had reached another cease-fire agreement, which the Israeli side has remained quiet about. Nonetheless, for the first time since the “March of Return” riots on the Gaza border began almost one year ago, Hamas cancelled the weekly Friday demonstrations in order to prevent further escalation of the already tense situation.

However, Hamas took advantage of a golden opportunity on Sunday after a horrific terror attack in Judea and Samaria that claimed the lives of two Israelis. Videos and photos surfaced of members of the terror organization smiling and passing out sweet treats at traffic lights and in the streets of Gaza to celebrate the bloodshed.

Perhaps the cookie party served two purposes for Hamas: to refocus the international attention from itself and sidestep the repercussions of its aggressive suppression of the Palestinian people’s protests—and maybe as an “I’m sorry I beat you with a baton” peace offering.

Source: Kate Norman

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 19, 2019)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/Israel Foreign Affairs Min.

Prayer Focus
Cry out to God to bring these grave injustices and gross violations of basic human rights to the light. Ask Him to expose Hamas’s true nature and intentions—toward Israel and its own people alike—for the world to take action and call for the removal of this evil regime from power.

Scripture

Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity? Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul would soon have settled in silence.


- Psalm 94:16–17

Hungary Opens Trade Mission in Jerusalem

by Edgar Asher

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Israeli PM Netanyahu and Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjártó open the new Hungarian trade office in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019 | Tuesday the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó opened a trade office in Jerusalem. The trade office will have diplomatic status, but for the time being the Hungarian embassy will remain in Tel Aviv.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the ceremony, “This is a very exciting moment for us because it’s the first European diplomatic mission opened in Jerusalem in many decades and three Hungarian diplomats are going to be assigned to this office for trade purposes. That’s important for trade, for diplomacy and for the move that Hungary is leading right now to change the attitude in Europe toward Jerusalem.”

The Prime Minister, mentioning US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the opening of the US embassy in the city in May 2018, said, “And there’s a plot waiting for you right next to the American embassy,” Netanyahu told the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, who had arrived specially from Budapest for the occasion.

The new trade office is located on the 15th floor of the Migdal Ha’ir office tower in western Jerusalem.

“We have always fought for a fair and balanced approach on behalf of the international community towards Israel,” Szijjártó said. “I have to emphasis here once again that we reject to combine restrictive economic and commercial measures with political issues,” he added, reiterating his government’s opposition to the European Union’s directive to label Israeli goods produced in settlements. He continued, “We will not apply the decision of the European Commission on labeling.”

Szijjártó welcomed the fact that 200 Israeli companies operate in Hungary, providing 5,000 jobs. In 2018, bilateral trade exceeded $525 million.

The opening of the trade mission was announced last month during an official visit to Israel by the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Presently only the US and Guatemala have their embassies in Jerusalem.

Source: (Excerpt from a press release originally published by Ashernet on March 19, 2019, 2019. Reference 7275.)

Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for His faithfulness to open avenues of friendship and cooperation between Israel and countries around the world. Pray that He will continue to bring more allies to stand alongside the Jewish state.

Scripture

“And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.”


- Psalm 90:17

US Ambassador at UNHRC: Applying One Standard to Israel and No One Else is Anti-Semitic

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United States Ambassador to Germany Grenell denounced the UN’s double standards against Israel as anti-Semetic.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019 | Declaring the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) policy toward Israel to be anti-Semitic, the United States Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, denounced the council’s “singular, obsessive focus” on the Jewish state in a speech he gave Monday in Geneva.

Grenell’s speech was part of a rally organized by UN Watch, a watchdog group that holds the UN and its agencies accountable to abide by the principles put forth in the UN Charter. The rally, which protested the anti-Israel bias at the UNHRC, drew 1,000 people and featured prominent speakers.

In addition to Grenell, UN Watch’s executive director Hillel Neuer, former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry Dore Gold, and former MK Einat Wilf also spoke.

“The belief that a single country and a single people merit such attention on a permanent basis—this belief is motivated by one thing: anti-Semitism,” Grenell said. In particular, he singled out the council’s Agenda Item 7, which is “a permanent directive to debate the human rights record of Israel at every council session.” No other country is subject to such scrutiny.

Grenell also questioned how it was that members of the council could sit in judgment over Israel when they themselves didn’t adhere to the basic principles of the UN Charter.

He called on the council to demand that its member states promote “universal respect for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms…without distinction of any kind.”

While the institutional bias against Israel was the reason for the rally, on Monday, a commission of inquiry into Israel’s handling of the violent Hamas-orchestrated riots known as the Great March of Return accused Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The New York Times reported that the commission’s “investigation found only two occasions that they deemed Israeli troops’ use of lethal force lawful. The report insisted that the protesters were overwhelmingly unarmed civilians.”

Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, told the commission, “I have observed the violent demonstrations on the Gaza border many times, from the front lines—unlike you Mr. Chairman, and your commission, who have never been there. These are organized efforts to break through the fence and slaughter Jewish civilians. Hamas also set out to induce the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] to kill Gaza civilians, to instigate global condemnation of Israel.”

He also said that testimony he had provided to the commission was omitted from their report.

A study produced by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs reviewed the IDF’s conduct in countering the violent riots.

“Hamas relied extensively on the prevalent but mistaken public tendency to use images of the effects of combat to determine whether use of force was justified. Hamas did so precisely because such snapshots—literal and metaphorical—provide little or none of the complex context in which the legality of a decision to use force must be made,” the study explained. “Specifically, such images obscure Hamas’s violations of international law that intentionally exposed civilians to potential harm in the first place.”

One of the authors of the study, Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Geoffrey S. Corn, who is currently a professor at South Texas College of Law, told the commission, “By omitting from the UNHRC inquiry reports of the use of human shields by Hamas, the report incentivizes these terror tactics in the future, and the risk posed to the civilian population of Gaza is exacerbated. If we are really concerned about mitigating harm done to civilians, we should be condemning Hamas’s actions and this report.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by The Israel Project in its publication The Tower on March 19, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: US Consulate Munich/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Thank God for Ambassador Grenell’s candidness in pointing out the bias and double standards. Bring the rising tide of anti-Semitism around the globe before the Lord, and cry out to Him to stem the surge threatening to engulf the Jewish people in the Diaspora. Pray that they will look to Israel as a safe haven from persecution and threats.

Scripture

For thus says the LORD of hosts: “…he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.”


- Zechariah 2:8

Netanyahu: Israel in Contact with “Half a Dozen Important Arab and Muslim Countries”

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Israeli PM Netanyahu with Omani Minister for Foreign Affairs Alawi, one of many Arab nations “normalizing” relations with Israel.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019 | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech Tuesday that the Jewish state is in contact with “half a dozen important Arab and Muslim countries that until recently were hostile to Israel,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

Speaking at the state memorial ceremony for former Prime Minister Levi Eshkol—Israel’s prime minister during the Six Day War—Netanyahu described the rapprochement with the Arab Muslim world as a process of “accelerated normalization,” of which only part is taking place in public.

Netanyahu added that these developments are an “important message for the vision of peace—peace through strength.”

In recent months, several Arab states—including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates [UAE], Bahrain and Oman—developed closer ties with the Jewish state.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE rejected a clause in a statement by the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, which called for a stop to normalization with Israel, laying bare a growing divide between Arab governments and individual parliamentarians in their approach to Israel.

In January, seven nations, including Israel, Egypt and Jordan, announced the formation of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, a regional group devoted to developing natural gas resources in the region. It marked the first time that Israel participated in a regional alliance with Arab nations.

Israel enjoys unprecedented cooperation with the Arab Muslim world as a result of shared security interests and changing dynamics in the region, including the desire to contain Iran’s illicit nuclear and nonnuclear activities.

“We are continuing to take vigorous action against Iran’s attempts to entrench militarily in Syria,” Netanyahu said in his speech. “We are also doing so in the face of the aggression of Hezbollah and Hamas, whose tunnels we are systematically dismantling,” the prime minister added.

In May, Bahrain officially supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian aggression. In December, Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, reiterated the position and said that the kingdom supported the Jewish state’s operation to expose and destroy Hezbollah’s cross-border tunnels.

In 2016, Bahrain and several other Gulf states declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization and ordered their nationals to leave Lebanon immediately after determining that the Iranian-backed group controls Lebanon’s political leadership.

Netanyahu’s speech reflected assessments made by other government officials in 2016.

In an August 2016 interview with the Financial Times, then-Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General, Dore Gold, explained that moderate Sunni Arab states “increasingly see the Middle East through the same prism as Israel.” About the same time, Ayoub Kara, a Druze politician from the Likud Party and Israel’s leading envoy to the Arab world, told Tablet Magazine that “our relations with our neighbors are the best they’ve ever been.” Kara said that he could even envision Israel joining a mutual defense pact with the eight members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project in its publication The Tower on March 15, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/GPO/PM of Israel@IsraeliPM/twitter.com

Prayer Focus
Intercede for the leadership and decision-makers in the Arab countries who are considering warming ties with Israel. Pray that God will reveal the truth to them that relations with Israel will bring nothing but blessings.

Scripture

“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”


- Genesis 12:3

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