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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.

IDF Braces for Wave of Mass Palestinian Protests

by Alex Fishman

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Palestinian protesters at border crossing between Gaza and Israel (illustrative)

Wednesday, 21 March 2018 | The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] is making preparations for a new wave of riots and provocations in the Gaza Strip, expected to grow stronger as Nakba Day—May 14—draws close, which is also the date where the United States is set to inaugurate its Jerusalem embassy.

Nakba Day, usually marked on May 15, was inaugurated by former Palestinian Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat in 1988 to commemorate the Palestinian nakba—”catastrophe” in Arabic—set to coincide with the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948.

In the coming weeks, Hamas plans to set up tent encampments along the Gazan border with Israel, where thousands of the Strip’s denizens will be housed, with the intention to march hundreds of Palestinians every day—including the elderly, women and children—to the border fence in “return marches.”

At the same time, Hamas also intends to hold mass fishing boat protests near the maritime border with Israel. These actions will gradually grow in intensity and culminate just before Israel’s 70th Independence Day.

Hamas has presented this planned wave of protests in Gaza as the initiative of private citizens. The tent camps, made up to look like refugee camps, are intended to express Hamas’s protest against what the terror group perceives as an American attempt to topple the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), thereby effectively erasing the issue of Palestinian refugees from international consciousness.

The army’s Southern Command is making its own preparations to counter the protest, with one key issue in planning being the participation of women and children in the marches. The IDF fears that any attempt to forcefully prevent protesters from moving forward will cause Israel significant PR damage.

The IDF also fears the possibility of citizens being harmed and back-and-forth around the fence escalating into armed conflict, all on the backdrop of a worsening humanitarian situation and desperation prevalent among the Strip’s occupants at the lack of progress in Hamas’s talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Not all is rosy within Hamas’s own ranks, however, with growing resentment spreading within the Gaza group and directed at its leader, Yahya Sinwar, whose political decisions are said to have exacerbated Hamas’s seclusion within the Arab world.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 10 March 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/RT

Prayer Focus
Bring Hamas’s plans for mass riots and provocations on the Israel–Gaza border before the God of Israel. Ask Him to guide and direct the IDF in forging a defense strategy. As the day of the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem draws near, prepare the atmosphere with prayers for peace and protections.

Scripture

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe. Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the LORD.


- Proverbs 29:25-26

IDF Exercise Readies Military for Iranian Threat

by  Yoav Zitun

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IDF holds a series of exercises in order to prepare troops for various combat scenarios (illustrative)

Friday, 16 March 2018 | The annual nationwide exercise of the IDF’s [Israel Defense Forces] General Staff this year marked the escalation of the threat from the northeast. While the army still considers Hezbollah its main enemy in the next possible major confrontation, and is therefore preparing accordingly, as time goes by, Iran’s foothold in Syria is slowly forcing the IDF to bolster its awareness and military readiness against the Iranian threat.

A future multi-theater war, the IDF predicts, may have Iran as a major actor, and if so will undoubtedly drag its proxy in Gaza, Hamas, to back it in its efforts with a simultaneous pincer attack from the north and the south.

“The exercise was very challenging and was attended by all the commanders and the administration of the exercise, headed by Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, and expressed a variety of threats by land, sea, air and cyberwarfare,” explained a senior IDF officer, adding that the exercise heavily involved the Home Front Command, “with the understanding that in every serious scenario (in Israel—ed) the home front is a second front.”

The officer noted that the exercise took into account the issue of air coordination vis-à-vis the Russian air force operating in Syria, even during wartime.

As for the threat from the south, the exercise simulated a scenario of militants infiltrating the country from the Gaza Strip through offensive tunnels, storming communities in the Gaza vicinity.

Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman participated in the exercise as part of his duties, while Cabinet member and former GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant arrived at his own initiative, accompanied by GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon.

The senior IDF officer noted that while the exercise was planned to involve simulations of decision by the political echelon, the drill was, at its core, a general exercise by the IDF, and for the IDF.

Meanwhile, more than one thousand United States Marines and Israeli paratroopers have recently been training in Israel’s southern region’s Tze’elim base, as part of the massive joint 2018 Juniper Cobra exercise held this month.

The exercise will help military forces from both countries to prepare for a multitude of aerial defense scenarios, from dealing with enemy planes and drones, through heavy rocket barrages from several fronts and ending with precision-targeted missiles being fired at Israel.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published in Ynetnews on 15 March 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDFSpokesperson

Prayer Focus
Thank God for the IDF’s prudence in honing their abilities on various fronts. Beseech Him to grant those who watch over Israel wisdom and insight as they prepare for the possibility of facing Iran in battle. Lift up every soldier and pray for physical and emotional well-being.

Scripture

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.


- Proverbs 22:3 NIV

Israel Suffers a Weekend of Terror

by Ilse Strauss

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Israeli soldiers killed in West Bank car ramming attack (Photo credit: Screenshot/YouTube/DailyMail)

Monday, 19 March 2018 | This past weekend has been a particularly violent one in Israel. Three Israelis—two soldiers and one civilian—have been murdered in two separate attacks over the past three days.

The first attack took place on Friday afternoon. Mere hours before the people of Israel settled down for the day of rest on Shabbat [Sabbath], a Palestinian terrorist plowed his car into a group of four Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers “securing routes” near the entrance of Mevo Dotan, an Israeli community tucked into the hills of northern Samaria.

According to Israel’s Channel 10 news, the attack occurred as the foursome disembarked from a jeep and made their way to a guard post. The report explained that the terrorist made a U-turn and then accelerated into the group of young men.

He struck with deadly precision. One of the soldiers died at the scene. A second was pronounced dead after attempts to save his life failed. Two more were injured and airlifted to hospital for treatment. Hospital officials said that one of the wounded suffered severe head trauma and is fighting for his life.

Sgt. Netanel Kahalani, 20, was one of two victims of the ramming attack in Samaria. (Photo credit: mfa.gov.il)

A day later, the IDF revealed the names of the two young men who perished as Cpt. Ziv Daos and Sgt. Netanel Kahalani. Twenty-one-year-old Daos was a platoon commander in the Home Front Command’s search and rescue unit, while Kahalani, 20, served as a driver in the Menashe Regional Brigade.

Kahalani was laid to rest early yesterday in his hometown in northern Israel. Thousands of family, friends and fellow servicemen and women came to say their final goodbyes to the young man with “a heart of gold.”

“I have not yet processed this and I don’t know if I can go on,” Ynetnews quoted his father, Danny Kahalani, as saying at the funeral. “I loved you so much, and I lost you in a second. Twenty years is nothing, but I am thankful for them.”

Daos’ funeral took place an hour after Kahalani’s. This time, thousands flocked to the military cemetery in the central Israeli city of Holon to pay their respects to the slain officer. Kneeling over his son’s grave, Daos’ father wept, “He should be saying Kaddish [the mourner’s prayer] for me. He should bury me.”

Captain Ziv Daos, 21, was killed on Friday in a car ramming attack in Samaria. (Photo credit: mfa.gov.il)

In a touching eulogy, Daos’ uncle shared the family’s raw pain over the murder. “Don’t talk to me about him in past tense. Don’t say, ‘He is gone and won’t be coming back.’ Ziv, you will be with us forever, your memory will never leave our hearts. You left an empty space in the hearts of us all.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian terrorist who committed the carnage suffered light injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security agency) said on Saturday that 26-year-old Ala Qabha confessed during the interrogation that he carried out the car-ramming terror attack deliberately. They added that he acted alone and possibly spontaneously.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the attack as murder and pledged to deal with the terrorist according to “the fullest extent of the law.”

“From the depths of my heart, I send condolences to the families of the IDF officer and soldier who were murdered yesterday by a reprehensible terrorist and my best wishes for a quick recovery to the wounded,” he said in comments released by his office late on Saturday.

President Reuven Rivlin echoed Netanyahu’s promise to bring the terrorist to justice and vowed that Israel’s security forces and leaders would “not rest until we bring all those who cooperate with terror to justice, we will not allow terror to become an accepted norm.”

Hours after the victims of Friday’s rampage were laid to rest, another Palestinian terrorist struck. This time the scene of the attack was the Old City of Jerusalem and the weapon of choice a knife. The result was, however, tragically similar.

Israel police respond to stabbing attack in the Old City (Photo credit: Screenshot/YouTube/Jewish Voice NY)

Thirty-two-year-old Adiel Kolman was leaving his job at the City of David museum, making his way through the cobbled alleyways of the Old City towards the Jerusalem light rail that would ferry him home to Kokhav HaShahar, a community on the outskirts of the City of Gold. Kolman knew the route well and had taken it nearly every night after work.

As he neared the Lion’s Gate in the Muslim Quarter, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed him repeatedly in the upper body. Critically wounded, Kolman was evacuated to hospital, where doctors battled in vain to save his life. He died of his wounds shortly before midnight. He leaves behind a wife and four young children.

An Israeli police officer shot and neutralized the terrorist, who died at the scene.

Following the murder, the City of David confirmed that Kolman had been an employee for a number of years and had worked on their excavations. “Adiel was a dedicated and loyal worker, a beloved staff member and a model family man,” The Times of Israel quoted the museum as saying.

The weekend’s series of attacks comes after the National and Islamic Forces, the supreme coordinating body of the Palestinian organizations, called on the Palestinian public to rise up en masse across Gaza and Judea and Samaria to turn Friday’s tradition Islamic prayers into a mass protest. The so-called day of rage, hailed as “Friday Rage for Jerusalem,” was aimed at marking 100 days since US President Donald Trump recognized the City of Gold as Israel’s capital and announced his decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Hamas, the terror organization ruling the Gaza Strip, also rallied its followers to initiate clashes with the Israel Defense Forces, vowing that the violence will continue until Trump rescinds his decision.

The Palestinian leaders’ call to violence seemed to have had the desired effect. Moreover, Friday’s day of rage appeared to have set the tone for the days to follow. Apart from the two terror attacks, the weekend also saw an explosive device being set off on the Gaza border—the second in as many days, Israel retaliating by targeting Hamas targets in the coastal enclave and the IDF taking out two terror tunnels leading from Gaza towards the Promised Land.

In the aftermath of Friday’s terror attack, as the people of Israel mourned the loss of life, Hamas rejoiced. Welcoming the carnage, the terror group said that it “proves our people’s readiness to continue the Jerusalem intifada [uprising].”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 19 March 2018)

Prayer Focus
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Ask God to comfort the families who lost loved ones in last weekend’s terror attacks. Lift up the wounded before Him and pray for their healing. Beseech the Lord to intervene in times of escalating tensions to protect His beloved people.

Scripture

Like birds flying about, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem. Defending, He will also deliver it; passing over, He will preserve it.


- Isaiah 31:5

Terror Victim’s Son: Failure to Condemn PA’s “Pay to Slay” Scheme Makes UN Accessories to Murder

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Micah Lakin Avni, the son of terrorist victim, addressing the United Nations

Thursday, 22 March 2018 | In a hearing of the United Nations Human Rights Council [UNHRC], the son of a terror victim called the world body and a number of its members states accessories in the murder of his father for their failure to condemn the Palestinian Authority’s [PA] “pay to slay” scheme, which rewards terrorists and their families with substantial cash for committing acts of terror, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.

“Turning a blind-eye while United Nations’ funds, and your states’ funds are funneled through the PA for the murder of innocents in unconscionable,” Micah Lakin Avni, the son of Richard Lakin who was murdered by terrorists in October 2015, told the council members. He continued, “Your failure to report and condemn these crimes make you an accessory to the murder of my father; and to the murder of many other Jewish fathers, mothers and children the Palestinians pay to slay.”

The term “pay to slay” refers to a PA law which assigns payments to terrorists and their families for acts of terror. In the case of his father, Avni said, the terrorists who killed him and their families will receive some $3 million for their crime from the PA.

Addressing Michael Lynk, the Canadian law professor who is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, Avni asked, “Mr. Lynk, what  would you say if I would pay 3 million dollars to have your father, Stanley, shot in the head?”

He also observed that Lynk’s recent report to the council which largely criticized Israel, “fails to mention the Palestinian pay-to-slay law; it ignores the Palestinian use of United Nations funds as blood money.”

Israel is the only nation in the world that is the subject of a permanent agenda item by the UN Humans Rights Council. It is expected that the council will consider seven reports against Israel in its upcoming session. The number of reports and resolutions targeting Israel by the UNHRC is more than that of any other country, including Iran and Syria.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 20 March 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/eyeontheun

Prayer Focus
Praise God for Micah Lakin Avni who boldly stated his case at the UN regarding the PA’s practice of payments for terror acts. Ask God to work from within the UN and its affiliated bodies to bring about a positive change concerning incentivized terror acts against Israel.

Scripture

For thus says the LORD of hosts: He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.


- Zechariah 2:8

As Online Incitement Soars, Israel Weighs Action against Twitter

by Tova Tzimuki

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Israeli Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked

Wednesday, 21 March 2018 | Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) said Tuesday that online incitement has significantly increased, particularly since US President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem in December as Israel’s capital

On Monday, Shaked said that she intends to take legal measures against “uncooperative” Twitter, which is serving as fertile grounds for terror groups.

Shaked presented facts and statistics from the cyber department of the State Attorney’s Office while delivering a speech on the struggle against online incitement at the 6th Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem.

“It transpires from the data we hold that the greatest event, which led to a wave of incitement and calls to terrorism, is the event where the President of the United States, Donald Trump, announced the transfer of the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” she told the audience in English.

According to the figures presented by Shaked, in 2017, the cyber department submitted 12,351 requests to remove incitement content off the internet, to restrict access and to filter search results for prohibited content.

The spike necessitates a significant increase in the Justice Ministry’s workload when compared to the number of requests submitted in the previous year—only 2,241.

73.5% of the content that content providers were asked to remove were terror-related or expressions of support for terror. 25.5% of the content involved incitement to terror, racism and violence while the rest of the ministry’s activity was focused on other offences and online bullying.

With the vast majority of the requests being met, Shaked said that more had to be done by the social media sites to prevent them from surfacing in the first place.

“We expect the networks to monitor the incitement content by themselves too,” she said, before thanking Trump for his decision to transfer the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank President Trump for transferring the American Embassy as soon as the upcoming Independence Day, a month away,” she said. “This is a respectable 70th birthday present for the State of Israel.”

The rocketing of the online incitement, she added, had nothing to do with legitimate criticism of Israel or the US. “I would like to emphasize: this has nothing to do with legitimate criticism of Israel or of the United States. This is an express call to violence against Israelis, against Israeli targets, against Jews,” she asserted as she presented her statistical exhibit.

The Ministry of Justice under my direction is investing considerable efforts in dealing with illegal online contents,” she continued, before threatening to take action against Twitter.

“One process has already been completed and currently, on Twitter for example, they are not cooperating with us and we are weighing legal steps,” she said.

“Terror organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah have gone over to operating on Twitter instead of Facebook. However, while Facebook has responded efficiently to our requests to remove content, Twitter is ignoring them,” she said in a separate meeting with Head of Facebook Policies in Southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Through Twitter, terror organizations promote terror activities and incite to violence in public without fear. The reason for this is the absence of cooperation on Twitter’s side. For that, there is the law for removing content. We called it the Facebook Law but the truth is that today is needs to be called the Twitter Law.

“We see indications on the social networks of growing agitation that is likely to impact the wave of incitement around sensitive occasions. Passover, Nakba Day and the March of the Million. Terror organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah have gone over to Twitter instead of Facebook.”

The justice ministers of Greece, Italy and Malta also addressed the forum. The four ministers also signed a “Joint Statement on Countering Online Hate Speech and Incitement to Violence and Terrorism.”

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 20 March 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord over the disturbing trends on social media, especially where Israel is concerned. Give thanks for the Israeli leaders who work tirelessly to combat the online incitement against the Jewish people. Pray for guidance and wisdom for Minister Ayelet Shaked and her department.

Scripture

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.


- Psalm 2:1-3

Netanyahu: Time to Realize Gaza Aid Money Being Buried Underground

by Joshua Spurlock

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IDF uses drilling equipment to thwart Hamas’ attempt to renew offensive terror tunnel

Monday, 19 March 2018| The Israelis took out two more Gaza terror tunnels over the weekend, including one that Hamas was trying to rebuild. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants the world to know what their aid money to Gaza is really being used to develop: terrorism. “Our policy is to take determined action against any attempt to attack us and to systematically eliminate the infrastructure of terrorist tunnels and thus we will continue,” said Netanyahu on Sunday in comments released by his office. “The time has come for the international community to realize that the assistance funds to Gaza are being buried underground.”

The Prime Minister’s Office Arabic spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, expanded on what Hamas is doing with the millions of dollars received. “These funds are not spent by Hamas on welfare, housing or improving the lives of Palestinians. They are spent on terror tunnels, bunkers, rockets & weapons,” tweeted Gendelman.

The IDF Spokesperson labeled the tunnel as an “offensive terror tunnel” via Twitter—a term used to refer to tunnels designed to infiltrate Israel to conduct terror attacks, such as kidnappings. A separate tweet noted that the tunnel rebuilding efforts were “identified at an early phase.”

Tweeted the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] Spokesperson, “The attempt to renew the terror tunnel shows that Hamas finds it difficult to accept the collapse of the tunnel project and continues to waste the funds desperately needed for the residents of the Gaza Strip. Hamas remains responsible for everything happening in the Gaza Strip.”

The terror tunnel identification and destruction was done using “precise” intelligence and new technology, IDF Spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said in a Twitter post, noting that it was the fourth such tunnel neutralization since November.

The latest tunnel take down comes as the Gaza-Israel conflict is hotter than normal. Multiple explosive devices have been set off along the Gaza security fence in the last week according to Tweets from the IDF Spokesperson, with Israel responding by striking Hamas targets in Gaza.

Regarding the weekend’s tunnel demolition, the IDF Spokesperson tweeted, “The IDF does not wish to escalate the situation, but we stand ready and prepared for a variety of scenarios.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on 18 March 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/Twitter/IDF Spokesman

Prayer Focus
Continue to pray for Israel’s leaders as they aim to raise awareness of Hamas using humanitarian funding to further their evil intentions. Pray that the Lord would open the eyes of international donors to the truth. Thank God for guiding Israel in their efforts to combat terror and for providing the necessary technology to detect and destroy terror tunnels.

Scripture

He made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he made. His trouble shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown. I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.


- Psalm 7:15-17

Israel Retains Top Spot as World’s 11th Happiest Country

by Ilse Strauss

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Israeli family happily vacationing in Eilat

Wednesday, 21 March 2018 | Seven years ago, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly launched a survey to gauge the global happiness levels of its member states. The findings obtained from each of the UN’s member states were noted, processed and released as the first international report on global happiness in 2012. Known officially as the World Happiness Report, the document became a tool that allows heads of states to measure where their citizens fall on the global happiness scale.

The 2018 report was published last week, scoring 156 countries from the happiest to the least happy. The first ten slots went to the usual happiness superpowers like Denmark, Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands, nations known for northern lights, neutrality, cheese and tulips. The 11th spot on the list went to Israel, a tiny nation embroiled in endless conflict and controversy, surrounded by hostile neighbors plotting its destruction.

The ten happiest countries this year are Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. Although the Jewish state did not make the top ten, the people of the Promised Land are happier than the Americans, the British, the Germans and more than a 140 other nations. Israel also took the top spot as the most joyful state in the Middle East, with its neighbors Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt coming in at 88th, 90th and 122th place respectively. The bottom ten spots on the list went to Malawi, Haiti, Liberia, Syria, Rwanda, Yemen, Tanzania, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Burundi.

Each year, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network uses a variety of polling organizations, official figures and research methods to compile and publish the World Happiness Report ahead of UN World Happiness Day on March 20th. The report ranks countries by happiness levels according to six main factors: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom and generosity. The survey results are aimed at providing the powers that be with a tool to uplift the well-being of their citizens.

This is not the first time Israel secured a top spot on the World Happiness Report. The reports for the past five years all awarded the people of the Promised Land the 11th slot. The first report, which saw the light in 2012, placed Israel in the 14th position.

For the first time this year, the report also measured the happiness and well-being of 117 countries’ immigrants. The findings rank Israel 12th on the list of “happiness for the foreign born” and noted that Jews who left the former Soviet Union for Israel have much better lives than before they immigrated.

The World Happiness Report is not the only official document testifying to the presence of abundant joy in the Promised Land. According to the 2015 Better Life Index report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Jewish state is one of the top five happiest countries on earth. The Israelis share this joyful honor with the Danes, Swiss, Norwegians and Finns.

Moreover, according to the 2015 Family Life Index poll published by InterNations, the Promised Land is the fourth best place in the world to raise a family. Only Austria, Finland and Sweden reportedly offer a better environment for children to grow up in than Israel.

The Jewish state’s high rankings on official happiness lists have long since been a cause of speculation. In every conventional and hedonistic sense, the happiness odds appear to be stacked quite decidedly against those who call the Promised Land home.

On the security side of things, Israel is the only democracy wedged into one of the world’s most volatile regions. Its neighbors are at best inhospitable; at worst, violently opposed to its existence and making the Jewish state’s destruction their aim. Israel’s citizens are in the crosshairs of every terror group in the neighborhood, and the country has fought at least one major war every decade since its rebirth.

Moreover, the Jewish people are heirs to a legacy and history so tragic that it calls for three official annual days of mourning every year. On top of that, nearly 70 years after the establishment of the modern State of Israel, it remains one of the only countries in the world whose right to exist is called into question, its borders disputed, its exports embargoed and its efforts to defend itself vilified.

Acknowledging the curious case of the against-all-odds happy Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the finding of this year’s World Happiness Report, saying “People say, well, ‘How can that be? Must be a fluke. It’s a country in this horrible neighborhood; you’ve got terrorism; you’ve got radical Islam; you’ve got challenges.’ But it comes up ahead of most countries in the world.”

Over the years, speculation has been rife as to the wellspring of happiness for the people of the Promised Land. Many have argued cohesion, a sense of family and belonging, while others have pointed to the country’s thriving economy and status as a high-tech superpower.

Yet perhaps the source of Israel’s happiness comes from something ingrained in the hearts and minds of Jewish people throughout generations. “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God,” (Ps. 146:5), the psalmist declared thousands of years ago. Perhaps then the people of Israel have always known the secret joy unlimited.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 21 March 2018)

Photo Credit: Dafna Tal/goisrael.com

Prayer Focus
Glorify the Holy One of Israel who guides His people with His eyes upon them and who cares for them and their land. Ask God to use this report to lay to rest the concerns of those who are considering making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) and coming home to the Promised Land.

Scripture

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


- Psalm 32:8

Stats Show Israel has Highest Fertility Rate in the West

by Amir Alon

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Friday, 16 March 2018 | The average number of children per mother in Israel is the highest in the West, and was found to be 3.11 children in 2016, according to Central Bureau of Statistics data on birth and fertility published Tuesday.

In most Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, it was noted, total fertility rates in recent years were less than 2.1 children per mother, lower than the rate necessary to keep the population from shrinking.

The highest fertility rate in 2016 belonged to Muslim women—3.29 children per mother—and the lowest to women whose religion was not classified by the census—with 1.64 children. The latter group is comprised mostly of spouses of Jewish olim (immigrants) and those whose religions are not separately noted, such as Buddhists, Hindus, Samaritans and the like.

Israel’s overall fertility rate was 3.14 children per mother—the same rate measured in 1980. An uptick in fertility rates began in 2006 following a surge in Jewish women’s fertility rates, reaching the 2016 rate of 3.14 despite a drop in Muslim, Christian and Druze women’s fertility rates.

Precisely 191,405 babies were born in 2016, 139,400 (76.8%) of whom were born to Jewish women and those of other religions except Islam. The remainder were born to Arab women. Split by gender, 51.5% of babies were male.

By religion, 73.9% of babies born in 2016 were born to Jewish women, 20.7% to Muslims, 1.4% to Christians, 1.3% to Druze, and 2.6% to women whose religion was not classified in the census.

The proportion of babies born to women 30 years or older rose from 40.2% in 2000 to 51.5% in 2016. Putting off births until age 30 is a prevalent trend among many developed countries. In Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy, for instance, mothers’ average age when giving birth soared past 30 in the mid-nineties.

The average age of women giving birth for the first time, meanwhile, was 27.6, with the average age of a second child two years later and the age for a third child two years after that.

A relatively sharp rise in the mother’s average age at birth has also been recorded starting in 2000, rising by a year and five months and reaching 30.4 in 2016. Most of the increase can be attributed to women putting off their first birth well into their late twenties, from 25.7 in 2000 to 27.6 in 2016, as well as to the tendency to give birth after age 30.

Examining multifetal births, 4.6% of all babies born in Israel in 2014 were born in such births. Ninety-seven percent of those babies were twins. Due to the increase in in vitro fertilization treatments in Israel starting in the nineties, a similar increase was noted in multifetal births.

The increases positioned Israel as one of the countries with the highest percentage of multifetal births in the world. In 1995, 3.8% of all babies born in Israel were part of multifetal births, compared to merely 2.4% in 1980. Starting in 2000, the rate stabilized in the vicinity of the current portion.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published in Ynetnews on 13 March 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.) 

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Prayer Focus
Rejoice as the next generation is born to inherit the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Pray for Israeli parents that God will lead and guide them to raise their children according to His will and instructions.

Scripture

For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments;


- Psalm 78:5-7

2018 Israel Prize Recipient Acknowledged for Exceptional Contribution to Aliyah

by Adir Yanko

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Natan Sharansky, recipient of 2018 Israel Prize

Tuesday, 20 March 2018 | Ex-cabinet minister, human rights activist, author and outgoing Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky won the 2018 Israel Prize for his lifetime achievement and exceptional contribution to the State of Israel in the field of Aliyah [immigration to Israel] and ingathering of the exiles, it was announced Sunday by Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Bennett congratulated the former refusnik (a term used for people who were refused permission to emigrate to Israel from the Soviet Union), saying he “symbolizes the fulfillment of the Zionist dream, from the darkness of a Soviet prison to the light of freedom as the leader of the Jewish Agency.”

In a statement issued following the announcement, Sharansky called the award “a great honor and a great responsibility.”

“When it comes to kibbutz galuyot, ingathering the exiles, this prize also goes to (my wife) Avital and to all the Aliyah activists and Prisoners of Zion in the Soviet Union who fought valiantly for the right to immigrate to Israel. It also goes to the entire Jewish people, which supported the refuseniks’ struggle for freedom,” he wrote.

“The ingathering of the exiles continues—Aliyah today is an Aliyah of free choice: Israel is the best place for self-actualization as a Jew and for impacting the future of the Jewish people. We must do everything to ensure that Israel remains a home to every Jew in the world.”

In its reasoning for awarding the prize to Sharansky, the Israel Prize committee wrote, “Mr. Sharansky’s activity is an activity for the Jewish people and the State of Israel and constitutes an absolute engrossment that has even led to a violation of his freedom.

“The story of his life is a sign and a symbol of the struggle for the right of the Jews to immigrate to the Land of Israel, to settle there and to be absorbed in it with dignity.”

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum congratulated Sharansky on the award.

In a Twitter post directly addressing him, President Reuven Rivlin said Sharansky has “traveled a long and moving journey, from Prisoner of Zion, a symbol of the struggle for freedom, then MK & senior minister, now chairman of the Jewish Agency,” adding that Israel is “blessed to have you.”

From the Gulag to the Knesset

Born in 1948 in the former Soviet Union as Anatoly Borisovich Shcharansky, Sharansky was denied permission to immigrate to Israel by the government in 1973 for alleged information he was given which was vital to Soviet national security.

He then became a human rights activist, working as a spokesperson for the Moscow Helsinki Group, one of Russia’s leading human rights organizations, and a leader for the rights of refuseniks.

In 1977, Sharansky was arrested on multiple fabricated charges including high treason for spying for the Americans and sentenced the following year to 13 years of forced labor.

When given his sentencing, Sharansky famously stated that “to the court I have nothing to say—to my wife and the Jewish people I say ‘Next Year in Jerusalem.'”

He spent nine years in a Siberian prison. Half of that was spent in solitary confinement, where his health deteriorated to the point of endangering his life. Sharansky, a chess prodigy, later said that he managed to keep himself sane by playing chess with himself, in his head.

After nine years in prison, thanks to considerable international pressure and a campaign led by his wife, Avital Sharansky, Mr. Sharansky was released on February 11, 1986. That same day, he immigrated to Israel and arrived in Jerusalem, where he continued to fight for the rights of refuseniks.

In 1995 Sharansky and Speaker of the Knesset and fellow Prisoner of Zion Yoel Edelstein founded the Yisrael BaAliyah party (a play of words, since “aliyah” also means “rise,” thus the party name means “People of Israel are immigrating to the State of Israel” as well as “Israel on the rise”).

From 1996 to 2000 he served as Minister of Industry and Trade and then as Minister of Internal Affairs, leaving the government when it was suggested that former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s negotiations with the Palestinians would result in a division of Jerusalem.

Sharansky remained the chairman of the party, which was later merged into the Likud. He later served in the government in 2001–2003 as Deputy Prime Minister and Ministry of Construction and Housing, and in 2003–2005 as Minister of Jerusalem Affairs.

In 2009, Sharansky was elected Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, remaining in the position until 2018. Both former US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended his farewell gala, thanking him for his service.

For his activism, Sharansky was awarded the two highest civilian awards in the United States, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1986 and 2006 respectively, and the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award in 2008.

He continued to lead human rights initiatives both through his writings and through his public activism. His memoir, Fear No Evil, was published in the United States in 1988 and translated into nine languages. His best-seller, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, which starred in the New York Times best-seller list, attracted considerable attention for its prescience.

Sharansky, along with other laureates of the award, will be officially awarded the Israel Prize during this year’s 70th Independence Day celebrations, set to take place on April 19.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 18 March 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Nathan Roi/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Offer thanksgiving for Natan Sharansky who sacrificed his life to help Jews from all over the world make aliyah and come home to Israel. Pray that “next year in Jerusalem” will be a dream fulfilled for many.

Scripture

Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the Gentiles, to give thanks to Your holy name, to triumph in Your praise. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, Amen! Praise the LORD!


- Psalm 106:47-48

What it Means to Be the Head of the Medical Office of Operation Good Neighbor

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Syrian children in an Israeli hospital are coloring and playing games.

Thursday, 22 March 2018 | “Out of my entire army service, this position is the most special one that I’ve had. What I do breaks all the rules of the game, all the stereotypes of an army,” explained Maj. Sergey.

Major Sergey has been the head of the medical office of the Good Neighbor Directorate since May 2016. He and his office manage and operate the Mazor Ladach field hospital, but he doesn’t physically work there. In fact, he helps sick and wounded Syrians in various hospitals all around northern Israel. Where he’s needed, he goes. And he has shed some light on what it’s like to be in the thick of the operation as a doctor and leader.

The first step Maj. Sergey and the medical office must take is to try and wrap their heads around the severity of a situation in order to understand the needs of the Syrians in need. From there, through decision-making and action, they find solutions to each challenge.

“A big chunk of the work is the communication that it takes to understand the situation-at-hand and coordinate correctly. We’re continuously working with medical officials and humanitarian aid organizations,” said Maj. Sergey.

Currently, there’s no way for Syrians to receive proper medical care, so Maj. Sergey and his medical team of the Operation Good Neighbor Directorate must make all the crucial decisions. This takes a lot of communicating between army personnel and humanitarian organizations that help equip both members of the directorate and humanitarian aid workers with a sufficient toolbox to successfully take care of wounded Syrians.

No matter what, or how difficult the challenge is, there’s still glimpses of hope and joy that are revealed to Maj. Sergey from time to time.

“When I see a group of children that go into a hospital visit scared at first, but finish their visit with a successful operation, and I see the children playing games, smiling, painting, and talking, I can see they’ve become real children again,” he explained.

“This is the highest, most incredible moral action that we could take, and I’m moved and amazed to be a part of it.”

Source: (Israel Defense Forces originally published this article on 11 March 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces

Prayer Focus
Ask God to bless Maj. Sergey and his entire unit as they labor to assist Syrian children with much-needed medical care through Operation Good Neighbor. Offer thanksgiving to God for using Israel to bless the world–even their enemies–with their expertise and experience.

Scripture

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so.


- Proverbs 3:27

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