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The Four Fronts of Potential Palestinian Escalation
by Elior Levy
Wednesday, 6 March 2019 | A faltering economy in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria], incendiary airborne devices dispatched from the impoverished Gaza Strip, renewed and spiraling tensions on the Temple Mount and protests staged by Palestinian security prisoners jailed in Israel might cause a conflagration on all four fronts.
While all four issues are extremely volatile for different reasons, violence erupting with just one of them could be enough to set the other three aflame.
The West Bank
Palestinians in the West Bank could face fresh hardship after the Palestinian Authority [PA] rejected the transfer of roughly [US] $130 million in monthly tax revenues gathered by Israel on its behalf. The PA, under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, is refusing the funds in protest of Israel deducting from the tax revenue the stipends that the PA gives to convicted terrorists and their families.
After returning in full the money it had so far received from Israel, totaling some half a billion shekels (approx. [US] $138 million), the PA announced it would continue paying salaries to prisoners and the families of terrorists.
PA senior officials said the deficit caused by Abbas’s decision is only expected to deepen, adversely impacting the Palestinian defense establishment and its intelligence outreach in the West Bank and even helping Hamas establish military infrastructure across the territories.
Moreover, senior officials in the Israeli defense establishment said the relative calm prevailing in the West Bank depends on economic development, which was seriously damaged by the deduction of terrorists’ salaries from PA funds and Abbas’s subsequent decision.
“The balance of stability is facing a serious challenge. One such example is Monday’s car-ramming attack carried out by three Palestinians affiliated with the Hamas terror organization,” said one of the senior officials. The attack near Ramallah left an Israel Defense Forces [IDF] officer seriously wounded and a Border Policeman lightly hurt.
The Gaza Strip
Hamas has been increasing the rate at which it dispatches explosive devices tied to balloons from the coastal enclave into Israel, in addition to the resumed nighttime clashes on the Gaza border—with Palestinians hurling dozens of Molotov cocktails at the security fence.
In response, the IDF has stepped up its activity in the Strip. Over the last five days, the army launched four attacks on Hamas observation posts, which might trigger another round of fighting along the Gaza border.
The Waqf—the Islamic trust tasked with maintaining the Muslim structures at [the Temple Mount]—forcefully and illegally reopened a small compound in the eastern part of the Mount, on the inner side of the Golden Gate entrance. The compound, called Bab a-Rahema, has been closed in recent years because the banned Islamic Movement used it as meeting place.
In the meantime, Muslims are praying at the compound every day, with Israel refraining from shutting it down.
Nonetheless, the police have carried out extensive arrests and issued restraining orders instructing senior Waqf officials as well as Palestinian activists to stay away from the Temple Mount. In response, the Waqf announced a protest would take place on Friday outside of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. A similar move was taken a year and a half ago when the crisis over using metal detectors at the Temple Mount compound erupted into violence in east Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday issued an order to close the Bab a-Rahema compound. The order will come into effect next week.
Security prisoners jailed in Israel
The Public Security Ministry decision to install cell phone jammers in jails housing Palestinian security prisoners has led to a new wave of protests in those institutions. The ministry is apparently attempting to crack down on illicit phones smuggled into the prisons by visitors.
Furthermore, prisoners are threatening to go on hunger strike, in addition to the riots caused by inmates who attempted to set their clothes and property on fire.
Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/Flickr.com
Pray for God’s unlimited wisdom and protection as Israel remains in the untenable position of trying to maintain peace while limiting the activities of terrorists. Pray that tensions will not spiral out of control in any of these areas.
LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head.
Two Israeli Soldiers Injured in Car Ramming Terror Attack
by Kate Norman
Monday, 4 March 2019 | Two Israeli soldiers were injured in a terror attack in Judea and Samaria when three Palestinians in a car ran over the troops, whose car had broken down. The soldiers responded to the attack by opening fire, killing two of the terrorists and injuring the third, according to the Israeli military.
An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer was seriously injured, and a Border Police soldier was lightly injured in the attack.
The soldiers had just left the Palestinian village of Nima—northwest of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority (PA)—after carrying out arrest raids. Their vehicle broke down on the side of the road, and they reportedly had been standing outside of it trying to move it when they were rammed by the attackers.
Ynetnews reported that the soldiers were taken to a hospital outside of Tel Aviv for treatment. Head of the trauma center, Dr. Yoram Klein, said the IDF officer is in “serious but stable” condition after undergoing surgery.
Klein said the officer suffered wounds to his limbs and head, Ynetnews reported. “His life is not in danger and I hope he will recover without complications,” the doctor added.
The Border Police guard was lightly injured and released from the hospital later in the morning, the Times of Israel reported.
The PA identified the two slain terrorists as Amir Daraj, 20, and Yousef Inqawi, 20, and the third injured attacker as Haitham Juma al-Qom.
The Palestinian media approached the story from a slightly different angle. The headline in the Palestinian newspaper Wafa this morning read, “Two Palestinians Killed by Israeli Army West of Ramallah.”
The headline evokes the mental image of two unarmed, helpless Palestinians senselessly murdered by the big bad Israeli wolf, and the article half-heartedly mentions the terror attack carried out by Palestinians seconds before they were killed by the soldiers in response.
According to the IDF, the Palestinians had also thrown Molotov cocktails earlier in the evening at a security checkpoint near Route 443 in Jerusalem, and additional Molotov cocktails were found in their vehicle after the ramming attack.
Hamas, the terror organization in control of the Gaza Strip, quickly praised the attack.
“The two shaheeds (martyrs) who were killed in the early hours of the morning, in the west of Ramallah, emphasize that the rebellious youth in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) will not rest until they achieve the full rights of our people and our holy places are liberated,” Ynetnews quoted Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem.
“The plan to make Jerusalem Jewish will not pass,” he continued.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement condemning the attack and wishing the injured soldiers a speedy recovery. The Jewish state has a policy of responding to terror attacks by demolishing the terrorist’s home, a policy that Netanyahu said he will pursue in this case as well.
“I have ordered that the demolitions of these homes be speeded up in the context of the restrictions of the judicial system,” the prime minister continued. “We are determined to continue our vigorous struggle against the murderers and against terrorism everywhere.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin took to Twitter in response to the attack.
“Our prayers for the recovery of the IDF soldiers injured in the terrorist attack this morning at the end of operations to ensure our security. We will not accept terrorism nor will we be cowed by it. We will continue to fight it until it is defeated.”
Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 4, 2019)
Photo Credit: IDF blog/idf.il
Pray that IDF officer Klein will recover quickly and without complications. Pray that the two terrorists who remain, Amir Daraj and Yousef Inqawi, will be dealt with justly and swiftly, deterring others who may desire to perpetrate acts of terror against the Israeli people.
Arise, O LORD, confront him, cast him down; deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword.
Netanyahu and Putin Agree: Foreign Forces Should Exit Syria
by Joshua Spurlock
Monday, 4 March 2019 | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s focus in last week’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin was concerns over Iranian forces in Syria and he may have achieved a breakthrough. The Israeli leader on Sunday said that Putin and he “agreed on a common goal—the withdrawal of foreign forces that arrived in Syria after the outbreak of the civil war.”
Based on Netanyahu’s comments—which were published by his office—that could mean that Moscow has concurred with Israel that Iranian base-building for a permanent presence in Syria is not acceptable. And Netanyahu and Putin even have a concrete plan for clearing Syria of these foreign forces: “We agreed to establish a joint team to advance this goal, together with other elements.” Russia is a key ally of Iran and may have diplomatic tools for influencing Tehran.
This is a tricky plan, since Russian foreign forces have also moved into Syria during the fighting there, but Israel’s main concerns are about Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, not Moscow. If Russia follows through on this promise to help nudge out those forces, this would be a key victory for Israeli diplomacy. Israel has already attacked the Iranian presence in Syria in an effort to prevent them from becoming entrenched in the country and thereby move the Iranian military to Israel’s northern border. Israel has also bombed weapons in Syria to prevent them from being transferred to the Hezbollah terrorist group, which is also an Iranian proxy.
Israel and Russia have had a rocky relationship as of late, following accusations from Moscow that the behavior of the Israeli air force in Syria resulted in a Russian plane being shot down by Syrian air defenses according to a report at the time by Sputnik International. Israel denied the claims, and Netanyahu endorsed the Israeli investigations showing their innocence in a call with Putin, who at the time did not appear to be appeased. However, the public comments last week from the meeting between Putin and Netanyahu were devoid of any direct mention of the tragedy, and it appears the countries may have moved past the incident. Putin even has plans to visit Jerusalem now.
“We agreed on the continuation of the security coordination mechanism between the Russian military and the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] (in Syria)” said Netanyahu on Sunday of his talk with Putin. “…I invited President Putin to be the guest of honor at the dedication of the memorial to those who fell in the siege of Leningrad and he accepted my invitation. It is no small thing that we have such strong, good and close links with leaders of the major powers in the world. These links serve the security of Israel.”
Despite the tense relations, Netanyahu made it clear before the meeting that Israel was not backing down on its determination—with military means as needed—to prevent Iran from turning Syria into a new forward base. He made that clear during the meeting with Putin as well.
Said Netanyahu on Sunday, “As I promised, the focus of our discussions was the Iranian issue. I made it unequivocally clear that Israel will not allow the military entrenchment of Iran in Syria, and I also made it unequivocally clear that we would continue to take military action against it.”
Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on March 3, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)
Photo Credit: PM of Israel@IsraeliPM/twitter.com
Pray that the prime minister will proceed with great wisdom and caution in this relationship with Russia. Pray that Israel will negotiate from a position of power and remain firm in its resolve to prevent Iran from turning Syria into a forward base. Pray that the partnership with Russia will be successful in keeping that from happening.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge.
Watchdog: UN Report on IDF Response to Hamas-Led Riots Filled with “Muddled Analysis”
Monday, 4 March 2019 | A United Nations [UN] report accusing the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] of war crimes for its response to violent Hamas-led riots is marked by a “lack of expertise and muddled analysis,” a critique published Thursday by NGO Monitor assessed.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry (COI) found that “IDF soldiers deliberately shot at children and people with disabilities” in their response to the violent riots at the border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The riots, which began March 30 last year, were also known as “The Great March of Return.”
However, NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that exposes the bias of anti-Israel NGOs, observed that the UN report reflected a “lack of expertise and muddled analysis.” The critique noted that, for example, the UN report refused to define the riots as a combat situation, meaning that human rights law was applicable. However, the report later accused IDF soldiers of war crimes, which “is baseless, since war crimes can only [exist] where the laws of war are applicable,” NGO Monitor wrote.
The critique raised questions as to how the COI gathered the evidence it needed to draw its conclusions.
NGO Monitor also noted that even though it provided the COI with “significant detail regarding the presence of violence—including use of guns, Molotov cocktails, stones, burning tires, incendiary kites, etc. as well as the exploitation of children to perpetrate these acts—along the Gaza border,” the commission classified the riots as “peaceful protests.”
Furthermore, the commission “deliberately focused on five main riot locations during the specific times of protests,” the critique noted. This meant that the COI “ignored essential context including that the riots were used as diversions to attacks occurring elsewhere.”
An IDF report found that the majority of the 1,300 rockets from Gaza [launched] into Israel since March 30 were fired on Fridays and Saturdays, “immediately after mass violent riots.”
The commission also ignored explicit statements from Hamas’s leadership about the nature of the riots. “When we talk about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public,” NGO Monitor quoted Hamas spokesman Mahmoud al-Zahar as saying last May. “This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies and enjoying tremendous popular support.”
It also ignored an admission by Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil that during the May 14 riots, 50 of those killed were members of Hamas.
NGO Monitor referred to research done by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), which showed that “dozens of fatalities named by the COI were members of or were tied to terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) [and the] Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).” Among those identified by ITIC was Ahmad al-Shaer, a 16-year-old member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. His participation in the riots indicates “the recruitment of children into terrorist organizations.”
The COI report, according to NGO Monitor, is marred by the lack of expertise of its members in “in international humanitarian law or military operations.” This means that the report “ignores the applicable legal framework” and treats the violent riots as “civilian in nature.”
In addition to its various technical failings, the COI “was marred by a lack of transparency and accountability.” Its legitimacy was further compromised by being established by the UNHRC [United Nations Human Rights Council], which is “controlled by dictatorships and authoritarian regimes and known for extreme anti-Israel bias.”
“The Israel Project [TIP] strongly condemns the malicious and disproportionate report issued Thursday by the United Nations Human Rights Council on the State of Israel’s defensive response to violent Hamas-orchestrated Gaza riots,” TIP CEO and President Josh Block said.
“The ‘Investigation’ is the latest in a long series of hostile actions taken by the UNHRC, whose obsessive hatred of Israel is codified in Agenda Item 7 that is exclusively devoted to discussing alleged human rights abuses in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and Gaza. Israel is the only country in the UNHRC with a dedicated council item.
“What ‘investigators’ described as ‘unarmed demonstrators’ were, in fact, violent rioters carrying guns, knives, stones, explosives and Molotov cocktails with the intent to breach the security fence and infiltrate into the Jewish state to commit terrorist attacks.”
Block continued: “The ‘report’ falsely equates Israel’s defensive actions with deliberate acts of violence carried out by Hamas that forced Israel to take defensive steps in the first place. Israel, like any other nation, has the inherent right to defend its citizens from attacks and threats to their existence.
As part of its perverse strategy, Hamas sent civilians—many of them just children—to threaten Israel’s security and provoke the soldiers who defend it. The ‘report’ maliciously covers up violent excesses committed against innocent civilians by both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The ‘report’ also ignores Israel’s extraordinary and unprecedented efforts aimed at avoiding civilian casualties.”
Block concluded: “Unfortunately, the UNHRC has failed in its obligations toward one nation: Israel. We call on the UNHRC to immediately abolish discriminatory Agenda Item 7. Likewise, we call on the United Nations and all affiliated bodies to undergo much needed reform to correct their chronic anti-Israel bias.”
Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project in its publication The Tower on February 28, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)
Photo Credit: UNCTAD/wikimedia.org
Photo License: Wikimedia
Pray that this, another onslaught of false accusations against the IDF, will fall on deaf ears. Ask the Lord to reveal to the international community the absurdity of these claims and the vile anti-Semitism at their root. Pray that the report will be rescinded and the truth be told.
A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness will utter lies. The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit.
International Group of Mayors Convene in Israel to Fight Boycotts against Jewish State
Friday, 1 March 2019 | In response to the increase in global anti-Semitism, an international coalition of prominent mayors has formed to combat racism and counter efforts by the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to single out the Jewish state for discrimination.
The launch of the new initiative was announced on Wednesday in Tel Aviv by the chair of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, Haim Bibas, together with Gabriel Groisman—mayor of Bal Harbour, Florida—and Uwe Becker—mayor of Frankfurt am Main.
“This coalition is a powerful statement against hate and hateful movements such as BDS, and will be an important tool for mayors around the world to share ideas and resources in fighting hate of all forms, anti-Semitism included,” the Florida mayor said in a press release.
“The key message is that we unequivocally condemn all forms of hatred and anti-Semitism that poison our coexistence. The city of Frankfurt am Main in particular has a great Jewish tradition. In many ways, it owes its present role and importance as a city of culture, science and commerce to the work of large Jewish families. It is therefore all the more the task and duty of the city to take action against any anti-Semitism,” emphasized Becker.
After intense discussions with mayors from Argentina, Spain, Israel and the United States, the coalition announced plans to convene an annual meeting to facilitate a permanent and open dialogue between mayors around the world who have set themselves the goal to eliminate hatred and anti-Semitism and confront efforts by the BDS movement. In addition, they pledged to take concrete steps to raise awareness, counter the growth of hatred and fanaticism at the local level and encourage other mayors to join the coalition.
“We, the leaders of municipalities from around the world, understand that we cannot refrain from taking responsibility and taking part in the global efforts to take action against these phenomena,” they wrote in the declaration.
“We have a common challenge that we need to solve. It is important to promote social cohesion and to prevent exclusion. Unfortunately, however, we also see in our country that around 74 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, anti-Semitism increases and increasingly poisons the social climate,” Becker noted.
“For this reason, we call on all levels of government to take measures that counteract the worldwide increase in hatred and anti-Semitism. Communal cooperation across national borders is particularly important here because organizations like the anti-Semitic BDS movement do not stop at national borders.”
Various BDS activists have previously gone on record opposing the two-state solution and affirming that the movement seeks Israel’s destruction, with BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti saying in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance” and leading activist As’ad AbuKhalil writing in 2012 that “Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the State of Israel.”
Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by The Israel Project in its publication The Tower on February 28, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)
Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/David Yaari
Praise the Lord for this international coalition of mayors who are committed to ridding the world of hatred. Pray that the Lord will give them success as they help the nations understand that anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem, but is, in fact, a threat to all of humanity.
Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones.
US Deploys State-of-the-Art Missile Defense System in Israel, Prepares for Joint Exercises with IDF
Tuesday, 5 March 2019 | The United States has deployed a state-of-the-art missile defense system in Israel, ahead of joint training exercises in the use of the system, the Jerusalem Post reported Monday.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) is being deployed by the US European Command (EUCOM) “as a demonstration of the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s regional security,” according to a statement released by the command.
According to the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], the unprecedented deployment of the advanced anti-missile system will afford Israel the opportunity to “practice rapid deployment across the globe of complex systems and to enhance cooperation with the IAF’s [Israeli Air Force’s] Air Defense Systems.” The joint drill, according to the statement, gives the IDF an opportunity to work in “cooperation with US forces in order to enhance coordination between the two militaries and to strengthen the ability to defend Israeli airspace.”
During the drill, THAAD will be coordinated with other elements of Israel’s anti-missile systems, allowing Israel the “opportunity to practice its integration in the IAF Air Defense Array.”
Israel possesses a multi-tiered air defense system to counter varied threats, including defending itself against short-range, mid-range and long-range missiles that can be fired from Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and even Iran. Among the components of Israel’s air defense system are Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3. Arrow 3 is designed to defend against missiles in space.
Each component of Israel’s air defense system is produced with significant financial assistance from the United States. In exchange, US companies get a share of the work in developing the systems.
Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said the THAAD system will be deployed at the Nevatim air base in southern Israel and that some 200 US troops will participate in the drill.
The THAAD system is part of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) and is based in Fort Bliss, Texas.
“Deployment of the American anti-missile system in Israel is additional testimony to the commitment of the US to the security of Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
“The American THAAD system is considered one of the most advanced systems in the world and together with our defensive systems we are even stronger in order to deal with near and distant threats from throughout the Middle East,” he added.
Netanyahu said that the “bond between the US and Israel has never been stronger.”
In January, the United States and Israel announced a successful test of the Arrow 3 anti-missile system. At the time, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander of the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said, “This successful test provides confidence in Israel’s capability to protect itself from existing threats in the region.”
Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project in its publication The Tower on March 4, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)
Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces@IDF/twitter
Praise the Lord for the strong bond that exists between Israel and the United States. Pray that America’s obvious partnership in protecting the security of Israel will send a strong message to Israel’s enemies.
Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men, who have purposed to make my steps stumble.
After Years of Drought, Sea of Galilee Rises above Lower Red Line
by Ilse Strauss
Friday, 1 March 2019 | Following five years of drought that saw Israel’s natural water sources plummet to near disastrous levels, there is reason to rejoice. The Promised Land enjoyed a particularly rainy winter, pushing the water level of the Sea of Galilee—Israel’s largest freshwater body that supplies nearly 10% of the country’s drinking water needs—above the lower red line for the first time in two years, the Water Authority announced at the beginning of the week.
In more good news, bountiful downpours over the past two days meant an additional climb of 2.4 inches (6 cm) over only 24 hours, which put the Sea of Galilee’s water levels at 698.5 feet (212.91 m) below sea level. According to Israel National News, the lake now stands at 3.3 inches (8.4 cm) above the lower red line—the level where pumping water faces legal restrictions—and 144.7 feet (44.1 m) below the upper red line, which is the Sea of Galilee’s fullest level.
“After five years of drought we have finally had a relatively good year, one that is even slightly above the average in terms of the water sources,” Uri Schor, spokesman for the Water Authority, told Israel National News. “If we take the Kinneret [Sea of Galilee], for example, we see that it has risen six centimeters [2.4 in] as a result of the rainfall from yesterday until this morning. We’re exactly eight and a half centimeters [3.3 in] above the lower red line.”
“Since the beginning of the season we’ve seen a rise of 72.5 centimeters [28.5 in],” Schor continued. “This is a fantastic rise. The average winter rise of the Kinneret level is about 65 centimeters [25.6 in], so we are above average.”
Schor added that more good news is in store, as the Sea of Galilee is expected to continue to rise. “The rain now in the north and also over the weekend will add many more centimeters to the Kinneret, which is good.”
The abundance of this season’s rain comes as a welcome and rather unexpected blessing. In August last year, the Water Authority offered a dour prediction for precipitation during the coming winter months. The Promised Land seemed destined for a sixth year of insufficient rain and with the Sea of Galilee drying up rapidly and approaching its black line (the level that marks a dangerously high concentration of salt and algae blooms, which makes the water unfit for consumption and can do permanent damage to the water quality, flora and fauna), Israel was concerned over a looming ecological disaster.
The past few months of abundant rain has, however, waylaid these fears. “Most of the reservoirs in the north are completely filled,” Schor told Israel National News. “This is one of the factors that has contributed to the Kinneret’s rise. The soil is saturated and the rain flows down to the Kinneret. The strong flows will continue to give their water to nature and the Kinneret. There is still the entire month of March in which we pray there will be a lot more rain.”
Bridges for Peace joins Schor and the many others praying for showers of blessing to continue pouring out over the Promised Land. “For the lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the lord; joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody” (Isa. 51:3).
Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 1, 2019)
Photo Credit: Grauesel/wikimedia.org
Photo License: Wikimedia
Join with Bridges for Peace, Uri Schor and others around the globe as we pray for showers of blessing to continue pouring out over the Promised Land!
For the LORD will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
For Syrian Refugees in Greece, Israel is No Longer the Enemy
by Liad Osmo
Wednesday, 6 March 2019 | LESBOS – “My whole life, all through my childhood in Syrian schools, I was taught that the Israelis are the enemy, and then the first thing I see when I approach the Greek coast is the Star of David on the shirts of Israelis who reach out and place me on the ground.”
The speaker is H., aged 20, from Aleppo in northwestern Syria. H. lives in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, and, according to the United Nations, is one of 60,000 Syrian refugees in Greece, 14,000 of whom live on the Greek islands. H.escaped the civil war in Syria without his family and to this day has no idea what happened to them. After spending two years in Turkey, he decided, like hundreds of thousands of other refugees, to try his luck and cross the sea to Lesbos, just a few kilometers from the Turkish coastline. On the beach were waiting members of IsraAID, which since 2011 has been providing humanitarian aid at crisis points around the world, including Lesbos.
Healing the world
The concept of working to build a better world is now being adopted by a major Jewish organization in conjunction with the State of Israel.
The Jewish Agency is now working with the Mosaic United organization on a joint project that is expected to dramatically increase the number of young Jews involved in giving back to their local community. To American Jews, this is known as tikkun olam—or “healing the world.” This Jewish concept became a central tenet among the fourth generation descendants of Jewish immigrants to the United States.
The program is expected to dramatically increase the number of young Jews engaged in social activity, to redefine the term tikkun olam through working with disadvantaged populations. The projects will be implemented all over the world—from Puerto Rico and Greece to Nepal, Mexico, India and Ethiopia through organizations such as IsraAID, Project TEN, Tevel B’Tzedek and more.
“For the most part, the only thing that makes Jewish students around the world think about their Jewish identity is when there is a BDS [the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement] demonstration on campus, or an anti-Semitic event somewhere around the world,” says Rabbi Benji Levy, CEO of Mosaic United. “Such incidents distance them from the desire to be Jewish or associated with Israel.”
Levy says the project was adopted by the Israeli government several years ago, under the auspices of the Ministry of Diaspora [the Jewish population outside of Israel] Affairs. “The government will invest [US] $66 million, which is a third of the budget,” he says.
According to UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] figures in 2018, more than 5.6 million Syrians have fled since the outbreak of the civil war and the uprising against the Assad regime. Most of them (some 3.3 million refugees) were absorbed by Turkey, and others have also reached neighboring countries, such as Jordan (more than 655,000 Syrian refugees) and Lebanon (some 1 million refugees).
The objective is to reach Northern and Western Europe. Their main gateway is Greece, which they try to reach from the coast of Turkey, sailing in rickety boats. More than a million refugees crossed the sea this way in 2015 and at the start of 2016—going from Greece through the Balkans and Hungary en route to the wealthy countries of the European Union.
One of the most significant and tragic events that brought the refugee crisis to the public’s attention was the picture of the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, washed up on a beach in southern Turkey in September 2015. In 2017, the United Nations reported more than 2,700 missing people apparently drowned on their way from the Middle East and North Africa to European shores.
At the same time, there was growing criticism among some EU countries over Greece’s absorption of refugees, and in 2016 the country was forced to close its northern border to the passage of refugees. The EU signed an agreement with Turkey to halt immigration, at which point the number of refugees arriving in the country began to fall, leaving just several dozen thousand [in] its territory. H. is one of those who stayed. We met at the school run by IsraAid and volunteers from Hashomer Hatzair, an international socialist and Zionist Jewish youth movement. He is employed as a teacher at the school, where he teaches his class of 25 students, aged 6–9, in Arabic.
“I was the oldest student in the school and they needed educational assistance in Arabic, so I became a teacher,” he says. “Soon I will leave for Athens, now I have official authorization. I will very much miss the school and the children.”
Several thousand refugees live on Lesbos. All of them are waiting for the same permit that H. has received, which allows them to leave the island for the mainland—and Athens in particular.
“Israel is No Longer the Enemy”
In the meantime, IsraAID and Hashomer Hatzair are trying to help those refugees who are in limbo. They arrived on the island alongside the largest wave of refugees in 2015, when thousands of people would arrive every day.
Today, the Israelis are the last organized body providing humanitarian aid on the island, alongside a solitary community center funded by the European Union and the Greek authorities.
In Lesbos, the Israeli aid workers set up the School of Peace, which had four classes in different languages: Arabic, Dari (a dialect of the Persian language common in Afghanistan), Kurdish and French—for the benefit of refugees from Ghana.
All of the teachers in the school are refugees from the community, and there is also a Greek coordinator who connects the school to the Greek educational system and teaches the language. Most children are expected to leave Greece for other European countries such as Germany, Austria and Sweden, which have more efficient refugee absorption systems, so they are learning English.
The Israeli school includes students from Iran and Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, and the long-demonized Jewish state has a new image here. “How can I keep saying that you are the enemy?” asks H.
“I was only exposed to Israelis through television; they told us that Israel is the enemy, but reality has revealed a different truth,” says N., a school coordinator and refugee from Iraq.
Beyond language lessons, the children also learn mathematics and physical education. Husna, one of the young students from Afghanistan, tells us how she cannot wait to go to school, since she has never experienced an educational framework before. Fatimah, another student from Iran, says she is acquiring tools to help her in the future. Despite their harsh reality, these young students aspire to move ahead as much as they can.
When they grow up, they want to be doctors, lawyers, police officers and politicians.
Ori Schnitzer, who runs the organization’s projects in Lesbos and Sindos, says the main problem for the refugees is finding work, which they can only do after registering as refugees and receiving official approval.
The center on Lesbos has coordinators from Israel, Greece and among the refugees.
“We feel like a family,” says Anastasia, the Greek coordinator. “We want to give everyone the opportunity to grow.”
Anastasia says there are about 600 refugees in the local community in Sindos, 370 of whom have already taken part in activities at the center, where they receive aid, study and receive advice on hygiene and health. N., the refugee from Iraq, has been in Greece for a year now, including four months at the community center.
“They gave me a real opportunity to work here, and I’m happy about that,” she says. “I have started the refugee absorption process in Greece and I want to stay here because this is a safe country for us. My whole family is still in Iraq and I am not in contact with them because it is impossible.”
“Other ways of expressing Judaism”
A., a refugee from Iran who has been working with IsraAID for a year, says he sees the center as a family. “Everyone comes from different backgrounds, with different knowledge and language.”
We also meet Debbie and Batya, two Jewish designers from the United States, who came to volunteer to renovate the building used by the refugees. Deborah said the two planned to prepare the plan and leave its implementation to the refugees themselves, but the result was beyond anything they could have imagined.
And this is precisely the purpose of the new project—to increase the number of Jewish volunteers around the world.
“Many Jews feel that their connection to Judaism is expressed only in Sabbath observance, kashrut [kosher—Jewish dietary laws], etc., but we want to show them that there are other ways to express one’s Judaism,” Rabbi Levy says. “One way is through showing kindness to others. We are actually saying to young Jews, ‘You have the opportunity to be part of the [Jewish] people and even to lead a common Jewish destiny.’”
To date, Mosaic United has worked with tens of thousands of Jewish students in more than 400 campuses around the world, encouraging students who are less involved in Jewish activities and Israel to take an active part in Jewish life on campus and strengthen their Jewish identity and connection to Israel. The organization’s activity is also expanding, establishing new volunteer frameworks for international humanitarian projects and strengthening existing frameworks.
Levy says that selecting the various organizations with which to work took serious research. “There are a lot of organizations that do not talk to each other, and are even in competition with one another,” he says.
“We have the ability to see everything from the outside and we will create a strategic continuum and a connection between all the organizations.”
According to Levy, “studies show that 72% of the young Jews in the world are involved in volunteer work, but just 18% do so in a Jewish or Israeli framework.”
When he looks at the Jewish volunteers in the refugee camps in Greece, Levy says he dreams of a “global movement of volunteers from Israel and the Diaspora working to benefit the entire world.”
Photo Credit: Screenshot/Youtube/IsraAID
Praise the Lord for Israel’s commitment to tikkun olam, making the world a better place. Thank Him for every gesture of kindness and support that Israel offers to those who are suffering. Thank Him that these efforts are changing the perception that many have of the people of God, and ask Him to reveal Himself to many through Israel’s actions.
Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of
Israel, are My people,” says the Lord GOD.
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