Compassion

Help Israeli families restore the lives, homes and security that went up in smoke.

Friday, May 3, 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.

A Confession from Gaza: Israel is Not the Problem. Israel is the Solution

by Ilse Strauss

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A Gazan man says that Israel is the solution not the problem.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019 | If Faizel* had a say in picking his own government, his preference would be the Jewish state. In fact, if there were ever an election between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and terror organization Hamas, explains the Palestinian man from Gaza, “I’m not ashamed to say I would vote for Israel.”

“In Gaza, it is the worst life,” Faizel continues. “Everything is black and closed.” The situation in the coastal enclave is dire indeed. The United Nations warned last year that Gaza teeters on the verge of collapse. With its water, energy and sewage systems progressively deteriorating to the point of complete failure, a humanitarian crisis in 2020 seems unavoidable. Unemployment continues to rise and reached a record high of 52% in 2018. With some 75% of the Gazan population under the age of 25, the youth face a bleak, hopeless future.

While many point a finger at the Jewish state as the catalyst of the unfolding tragedy, Faizel is clear that Israel is not the cause of Gaza’s problems; it is the solution. The blame rests with Hamas, the terror group that wrenched control of the Gaza strip in a violent coup in 2007, two years after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2005. Israel’s bid to secure peace through land—and implement the conditions of the Oslo Accords—was ultimately met with terror attacks, kidnappings and barrages of rockets. The persistent threats forced Israel to implement a partial blockade, which aims to prevent weapons, fighters and explosives from falling into Hamas’s waiting hands, while allowing food, building material, clothes, medication and the like to enter undeterred.

Faizel fondly remembers the days before the last Israeli soldier and civilian left Gaza. “The worst thing we did,” he explains, was trying to force their Jewish neighbors from the coastal enclave. His “sweetest dream is to wake up” and see his former neighbors returned. In contrast, his biggest fear is that “Hamas will go [be in power] for a long time.”

The terror group cares little for the needs, wellbeing and survival of the people it swore to govern. “Hamas only likes themselves. They like what is good for them,” says Faizel. Those who support Hamas and its initiatives are left alone; those who dare to oppose and speak out in criticism are silenced.

For their part, “Israelis are not thinking of how to punish you. They are thinking of how to help you. If you pass [break] their rules, of course they will arrest you…Israel is a democracy. In Israel, they give you the chances you deserve. For me, Israel is the good and Gaza is the worst. ”

Faizel admits that the majority of Gazans are antagonistic towards Israel. The hostility is, however, due to ignorance, which Hamas exploits. The solution, he suggests, is for “the people in Gaza, especially the young people, to…compare between Israel and Hamas. I think of course they will vote to [for] Israel when they see…”

Making this happen does, however, entail far more than opening the border gates and welcoming Gazans to explore the Jewish state. Traveling to Israel requires applying for a permit with the PA officials in Gaza who managed to survive the violent coup. These officials forward the request to the PA headquarters in Ramallah, where applicants are checked against a list of qualifiers. Approved requests must then be forwarded to Hamas officials, where it will be scrutinized for eligibility again. Only those who manage to jump through these two hoops can apply to Israel for additional security checking.

Despite the antagonism, Faizel believes many in Gaza share his sentiments. “There are many good people in Gaza. But because they are arrested, they are hostages of the Hamas government. Everything is complicated.”

Faizel has a message for those in the international community who laud Hamas and blame Israel for the suffering in Gaza. “They don’t understand anything,” he states bluntly. “To those people, I would invite to experience life in Gaza to see how Hamas behaves towards us citizens…I think they will change their mind if they experience life in Gaza for even one day and see Hamas’s behavior to the citizens of Gaza.”

* Name has been changed for security reasons.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, May 1, 2019)

Photo Credit: BruceEmmerling/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord to intervene in the situation. Ask Him for revelation for the people of Gaza so that they will recognize Hamas as the source of their suffering—and embrace Israel as a neighbor eager to see them living in peace and prosperity. Pray that the revelation of Hamas’s evil oppression will be an international one that will prompt many the world over to call for justice against the terror organization.

Scripture

The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; the LORD raises those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; but the way of the wicked He turns upside down.


- Psalm 146:8–9

Israel Condemns Passover Synagogue Shooting, Praises Victim as Hero

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A shooting at a San Diego synagogue has left one dead and three injured.

Monday, 29 April 2019 | Another shocking synagogue shooting in the United States occurred on the last day of the festival of Passover at a Sabbath service on Saturday, killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounding three others. The incident was met with a strong response by Israeli leaders and institutions and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning a special meeting this week to discuss the global increase in anti-Semitic attacks, according to a press release from his office published Sunday.

“I condemn the abhorrent attack on a synagogue in California; this is an attack on the heart of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu was quoted by the statement as saying. “We send condolences to the family of Lori Gilbert-Kaye and our best wishes for a quick recovery to the wounded. The international community must step up the struggle against anti-Semitism.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that an anti-Semitic online manifesto has been attributed to the 19-year-old shooter who attacked the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in California. The shooter’s gun reportedly jammed during the attack and he was arrested after fleeing via car.

The woman killed in the attack, Gilbert-Kaye, was more than a victim according to Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett, who called her a “Jewish Hero.”

“She sacrificed her own life, throwing herself in the path of the murderer’s bullets to save the life of the rabbi,” said Bennett in a statement released by his spokesperson on Sunday. “But it is clear that such heroism and good deeds are not only characteristic of dear Lori in death, but this is the way she lived her life—at the heart of her community, constantly doing charity and good deeds for those in need.

He continued, “She has been described by those who knew her as an Eshet Chayil, a “Woman of Valor,” and I would add, a true Hero of Israel. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and daughter, may they find great comfort in Lori’s tremendous example and courage.”

Saturday’s violence is the second recent shooting attack at a US synagogue, with the prior assault taking place exactly six months prior at the Tree of Life—Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh.

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this story on April 28, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today.)

Photo Credit: Youtube/CBS News/Screenshot

Prayer Focus
Bring the loved ones of Lori Gilbert-Kaye before the Lord for His comfort as they mourn her death. Pray that He will bind up and heal all the physical, emotional and psychological wounds inflicted during the attack. Ask God to draw His wings of protection over the Jewish people in the Diaspora as anti-Semitic incidents continue to rise.

Scripture

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.


- Psalm 147:3

Never Again: Israel Marks Holocaust Remembrance Day 2019

by Ilse Strauss

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Israeli President Rivlin lays a wreath at the Holocaust memorial ceremony.

Thursday, 2 May 2019 | Sundown last night in Israel ushered in Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The day marks 24 hours dedicated to remembering those who were wrenched away by a fanatic regime determined to exterminate every trace of Jewish life from the face of the earth.

More than 70 years ago, the Nazis and their collaborators set about their mission with fervent zeal and meticulous efficiency. Within a decade, European Jewry had all but disappeared. Collected from urban and rural homes, they were swept into the yawning voids of concentration camps, crematoriums and mass graves. Six million Jews were murdered. Millions more emerged from a living hell to find every shred of their previous lives erased.

The figures are staggering; the timeframe in which they were tallied up ridiculously short. But more than anything, the Holocaust brings with it an overwhelming sense of loss. It is a gaping hole where an entire generation of mothers, fathers, siblings, family and friends should have been.

And so, as the sun set over the Jewish homeland last night, Israel mourned a generation of loved ones who were lost.

On the eve of Yom HaShoah, sorrow and reverence wrap like a blanket around the hearts of Israel. A hush descends over the usually vibrant city streets as movie theaters, bars and restaurants lock up early. Flags hang half-mast. Israeli radio and television stations take a break from their customary entertainment offerings to make way for shows and songs that help keep the memory alive.

Then, at 9:50 this morning, all activity in Israel ground to a halt. The throng of cars speeding along the main highways slowed to a crawl. One by one, they pulled over to the side of the road. Car doors opened and drivers poured out to stand waiting on now-deserted lanes. On every street in every city, from houses and schools and office buildings, Israelis stood to mourn those they lost.

Those who stood in the silent vigil are those who survived. They are the children of victims turned into ash and their children’s children. This has been the tradition in Israel for some 60 years: to stop, to stand, to look up or out at what has been built, while remembering those who were destroyed.

The air raid siren screamed at exactly 10:00 a.m. For two minutes, time stopped as all of Israel mourned the shrill horror of their history. It is a loss that resonates in the heart of every Jew because every Jew has been touched by the terrible past in some way.

But the legacy of 6 million murdered, the inheritance left by this lost generation, is not death or defeat. The legacy passed on to those who survived, to those who came after and lived, is life. It is a legacy of life infused with resolve, fierce joy and grim determination. Woven into the very fabric of Israel today is the knowledge that the Holocaust was one episode—one horrific episode—in a series of similar events. The Nazis were not the first to attempt to wipe out Jews from the face of the earth. Moreover, judging from repeated calls by the likes of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Islamic State and rising tide of anti-Semitic incidents, rhetoric and attacks around the world, sentiments like those that drove the Nazis are anything but gone. In fact, today’s memorial comes mere days after a terror attack in a synagogue in San Diego left one congregant dead and three wounded.

“For years, I think a lot of survivors have had the feeling that times remind us of the 1930s,” 91-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Bohm told the Times of Israel as she prepared to participate in the March of the Living, a silent trek undertaken each year on Holocaust Memorial Day from Auschwitz to Birkenau. “Unfortunately, I feel the same way too—that humanity hasn’t learned, that we are unable to learn. History repeats itself…” Bohm, who survived Auschwitz, shared.

Statistics back Bohm’s assessment. Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry released a report hours before the memorial day showing a 13% spike in anti-Semitic attacks in 2018 from 2017. The report highlighted “an increase in almost all forms of anti-Semitic manifestations, in the public space as well as the private one.” Moreover, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a staggering 1,879 anti-Semitic assaults occurred in the US so far during 2019, which marks an uptick in violence against Jews in the US.

It is no wonder that the looming menace of anti-Semitism featured as a recurring theme in Israeli officials’ speeches at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Jerusalem, during an official state event last night.

“In exile our abysmal weakness doomed us to our fate,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “In our homeland the strength we’ve built has made us a rising world power.”

Despite Israel’s successes, the prime minister warned of “a rising hatred of Jews in certain circles,” “systematic, dishonest vilification” of the Jewish state and “insufferable hypocrisy that cannot be accepted.” He decried the shooting at the San Diego synagogue on Saturday, the deadly terror attack at the Pittsburgh synagogue in October, the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries as well as an offensive cartoon rife with anti-Semitic tropes which ran in the international edition of the New York Times.

Despite the threats, Netanyahu vowed that Israel “will not present its neck for the slaughter in the face of threats of destruction…Contrary to what occurred during the Holocaust, we are capable and intent on protecting ourselves, by ourselves…To those who wish us ill, I say in this of all places, we have returned to the historical stage, to the forefront of the stage. We’ve defeated our enemies before, and God willing, we’ll beat you too.”

For his part, President Reuven Rivlin penned an open letter to participants of the March of the Living, warning that the age-old scourge of anti-Semitism remains alive and well. “The Holocaust was a horrible low point for humanity and the worst crisis in Jewish history. Never have the Jewish people been in such danger of annihilation. Today it is clear the Nazi destruction machine would not have succeeded in their horrific scheme, unless it was constructed on a foundation of hate-filled anti-Semitism of Europe. The Nazis were not alone. They were aided by others, from other nations. Anti-Semitism remains a deep-rooted disease. It did not begin with Hitler and did not end when World War II did. It can be found anywhere; in the right and in the left, supported by nationalism or religion, manifested by hate towards Jews or by delegitimizing the existence of the state of Israel.”

Small wonder Israel’s motto regarding the Holocaust is “Never Again.” It is a pledge pouring from the heart of every Israeli, uttered with resolve and grim determination.

It is that responsibility that echoes in the words of Israeli Air Force (IAF) pilots who flew over Auschwitz on the 60th anniversary of its liberation, “We, the pilots of the IAF, flying in the skies above this camp of horrors, arose from the ashes of the millions of victims and shoulder their muted cries, salute their courage and promise to be the shield of the Jewish people and its land—Israel.”

On this solemn day of remembrance and yearning, the people of Israel stand strong in the knowledge that the Jewish people survived. Again. Despite the attempts of fanatic regimes to exterminate every last trace of the Jewish people from the earth, they have survived. Despite the Nazi’s fervent zeal and meticulous efficiency, they have survived.

Am Yisrael Chai! Let it be known across the earth and for all time: even while air raid sirens wail and Jews stand still to mourn, the people of Israel live.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, May 2, 2019)

Photo Credit: Reuven Rivlin@PresidentRuvi/twitter.com

Prayer Focus
Intercede for the nation of Israel and particularly survivors and their families as they commemorate the horrors of the Holocaust. Ask Him to bless the survivors with comfort, peace and joy as they live out their final years. Sing praises to the Lord for His faithfulness to His promise to return the Jewish people to a safe haven in the land of their promise.

Scripture

“As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.”


- Ezekiel 34:12–13

Ukraine Becomes First Country Outside of Israel with Jewish President, Prime Minister

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President elect Volodomyr Zelensky is Ukraine’s first Jewish President.

Monday, 29 April 2019 | In an historic landslide vote on Sunday, Ukraine elected its first Jewish president—making the Eastern European country the first state outside of Israel that will have both a Jewish president and prime minister.

Volodomyr Zelensky, a professional comedian with no political experience, won 73% of the vote, prompting a concession of defeat by incumbent Petro Poroshenko even before the official results were announced. Volodymyr Groysman, a Jewish politician who was the mayor of the city of Vinnytsia, will serve as prime minister in his administration.

Mark Levin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, told JNS [Jewish News Syndicate] that Zelensky’s landslide victory was “a very significant event.” He observed: “There was such great dissatisfaction with the current government that a political novice, let alone a Jewish political novice, received so much support.”

The Israeli government singled out Ukraine as a regional trouble spot in its 2018 annual report on anti-Semitism. “A striking exception in the trend of decrease in anti-Semitic incidents in Eastern Europe was Ukraine, where the number of recorded anti-Semitic attacks was doubled from last year and surpassed the tally for all the incidents reported throughout the entire region combined,” the report said.

In a bipartisan letter signed by 50 US members of Congress in April 2018, lawmakers condemned a Ukrainian legislation that they said “glorifies Nazi collaborators” and therefore goes further than Poland’s controversial laws, which criminalize blaming the Polish nation for Nazi war crimes.

“It’s particularly troubling that much of the Nazi glorification in Ukraine is government-supported,” the lawmakers wrote. They harshly condemned support for ceremonies, gestures and legislation glorifying leaders of the UPA [Ukrainian Insurgent Army] and OUN [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists] militias, which collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II.

Since the revolution in 2013, Ukraine has experienced a surge in nationalism. In 2015, the country’s parliament passed legislation which outlawed the denial of “heroism” shown by Nazi Germany-affiliated Ukrainian militias.

Source: (Article originally published by The Israel Project in its publication The Tower on April 23, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Ukrinform TV/wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Thank God for the miraculous turn of events that has a Jewish prime minister and president ruling a country known in the past for its blatant anti-Semitism. Ask the Lord to use the Jewish-led government to do a mighty work in Ukraine on behalf of His people.

Scripture

For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.


- Psalm 75:6–7

Kushner: “Deal of the Century” Will Require Painful Concessions from Israel, Palestinians

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US advisor Jared Kushner says both sides must make concessions in the new Israeli–Palestinian peace deal.

Monday, 29 April 2019 | Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to US President Donald Trump, issued some comments last week on the much talked about “Deal of the Century” being proposed by the administration to end the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. “Both sides will have to make difficult concessions,” he said. Kushner also said that the deal was set to be announced last year but the Israeli elections changed the timing.

Kushner criticized the two-state paradigm along with previous efforts to reach an agreement. “If people focus on the old, traditional talking points, we will never make progress. The Arab peace initiative of 2002, which I think was a very good attempt, but if that would have worked it would have made peace a long time ago,” Kushner said. “We will do something different.”

He maintained that the administration’s approach was unique and that they studied all the previous attempts, how and why they failed.

Regarding timing, Kushner said that the deal would likely be announced only after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He also congratulated Prime Minister Netanyahu on his election victory and added that the coalition building process was also a factor.

“Our focus is really on the bottom up, which is how do you make the lives of the Palestinian people better? What can you resolve to allow these areas to become more investable,” Kushner said. “We deal with all the core status issues because you have to do it, but we have also built a robust business plan for the whole region. I think that the two together have the opportunity to push forward,” [he explained,] adding that Israel’s security is of primary importance, but that both sides will have to make compromises.

Kushner also said that he believes the proposal will not be accepted easily on both sides, but that ultimately, they will see that it will improve their lives in a practical manner.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on April 23, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Youtube/Ynet/Screenshot

Prayer Focus
Intercede earnestly for the terms and conditions of the “Deal of the Century.” Bring every person involved in drawing up the proposed plan before the Lord for His guidance, wisdom and insight. Pray for God’s perfect will to be done in every detail of this plan.

Scripture

A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.


- Proverbs 16:9

As New Israeli Parliament is Sworn in, Rivlin Urges Coalition to Be “Honorable Winners”

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Members of the Israeli parliament stand for the national anthem.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019 | Israel’s 21st Knesset [Parliament] was ceremoniously sworn in on Tuesday afternoon, including its 49 new members, while President Reuven Rivlin urged for unity and mutual respect.

Rivlin spoke at the opening ceremony and criticized the heated campaigns that preceded the April 9 elections and pleaded MKs [members of the Knesset] to put aside all differences, stop slamming their political rivals and have clean and honest debates, which he called “the only thing that gives this home (of ours) a right to exist, and its status as a Jewish and democratic country a strong base.”

“We’ve been through a rough campaign season. We’ve slammed others and got slammed ourselves,” said the president. “Enough now. We must rise above, put our swords aside and clean the dirt. Political strategy can no longer be the only the sole compass.”

Rivlin addressed both the coalition and the opposition and shared from his experience on both sides. “It is a great right to serve the people from the opposition, as much as it is a great responsibility,” said the president.

Rivlin cited Menachem Begin, who was the opposition leader for several terms before he became prime minister, and told the crowd that during the swearing in of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in 1963, Begin gave everybody a lesson about the important role of the opposition.

“He (Eshkol) must know that we aspire to move him and his colleagues to the opposition, and it isn’t only our right—it is our duty,” cited the president.

To the opposition, Rivlin said they must be “honorable winners.”

“You are not in the opposition, you have been holding the reins of power and leadership for a long time now,” said the president, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fifth term in office.

“It is your duty to stop trying to finish off [your] rivals, let go of the victimhood and reign with respect and love over all the different kinds of citizens who live here,” Rivlin concluded.

After all 120 MKs stood up and declared their commitment to serve, the national anthem, Hatikva [The Hope], was sung by all but the Arab parties, who did not participate and left the hall.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on April 30, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Haim Zach/GPO/Ashernet

Prayer Focus
Entrust every one of the 49 new members of the Knesset to the Mighty One of Israel. Beseech Him to bless them with wisdom and insight. Pray that they will look to the Lord for the guidance needed as they govern the nation.

Scripture

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.”


- Daniel 2:20, 21b

Israel Foiled Suicide-Bombing Attack Planned Around Election Day

by Joshua Spurlock

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The Ma’ale Adumim Jewish community in Judea and Samaria, which was the target for a Hamas-recruited would-be suicide bomber. (Illustrative)

Tuesday, 30 April 2019 | A Hamas suicide-bombing recruit who had scouted out targets and purchased a vehicle for an attack planned for or around election day in Israel was arrested last month thanks to efforts by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) and the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]. The terrorist—23-year-old Yehiye Abu Dia—was recruited by senior Hamas operatives from Gaza via the internet and was told to target the Ma’ale Adumim community near Jerusalem in Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank. An ISA press release noted that Hamas told Abu Dia to “monitor the best site for the attack” where “there would be a high concentration of buses, civilians and soldiers.”

While Hamas is based in Gaza, an ISA official noted the plot shows the terror group’s ongoing effort to launch terror attacks in the biblical heartland of Israel.

“The Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip is constantly working to recruit Hamas operatives from Judea and Samaria to carry out murderous terror attacks in order to undermine the security and stability of the area,” a senior ISA official said in the press release.

“This activity by the Hamas military wing joins a long list of attempted attacks in recent years directed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip through militants recruited in Judea and Samaria that have been foiled by the ISA and which have led to many people being imprisoned. The ISA and the security forces will continue anti-terrorism operations against Hamas.”

Hamas had selected an attack site following Abu Dia’s scouting and instructed Abu Dia to “carry out the attack quickly,” noted the ISA press release. Emphasizing the earnestness of the impending strike, Abu Dia had even purchased a tripod for filming himself reading his will before launching his suicide attack.

Hamas has long used suicide bombings as a terrorist weapon, including ample use of them during the Second Intifada [uprising] in the early 2000s.

Source: (This article was originally posted on the Mideast Update on April 28, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today.)

Photo Credit: Davidmosberg/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for uncovering the evil terror plot before it could come to fruition. Pray specifically for the members of Israel’s security establishment who shoulder the critical responsibility of the Jewish state’s safety.

Scripture

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.


- Psalm 91:2–3

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