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Friday, May 31, 2019

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Every week, we post 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.

Israel Heads for Elections as Coalition Talks Fail

by Ilse Strauss

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On September 17, Israelis will head to the polls for the second national elections this year after coalition negotiations failed.

Thursday, 30 May 2019 | It’s official. On September 17, Israelis will head to the polls for the second national election this year after attempts to form a majority coalition failed and the members of the 21st Knesset [Parliament] voted to dissolve—exactly one month after being sworn in.

This is the first time in Israel’s history that a Knesset is dissolved without forming a government. Local media called it a “shocking turn of events,” made all the more shocking by the fact that hardly anybody expected this particular outcome.

Following the first national election on April 9, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed set to retain the position and stay in power for a record fifth term. His political party, Likud, had secured 36 of the 120 Knesset seats—the best they had ever done under Netanyahu. The majority of party leaders recommended him for the job. Finally, President Reuven Rivlin nominated him as prime minister.

With all the hurdles cleared, all that remained was for Netanyahu to form a coalition with a majority of 61 out of the 120 Knesset seats within 28 days—with a possible 14-day extension.

The task seemed a mere formality. In fact, Netanyahu seemed set to form a right-wing coalition totaling 65 seats, with 36 seats coming from his own party, Likud, and the rest derived from smaller parties. Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah would bring eight seats each. The Union of Right-Wing Parties would bring five, as would Yisrael Beytenu—led by former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman—and finally, centrist party Kulanu would contribute four seats. The heads of all these parties had recommended Netanyahu and had informally shown interest in joining the coalition. With everything in Netanyahu’s favor, 28 days—with a possible 14-day extension—seemed almost excessive.

Forty-two days later, midnight last night signaled the cut-off time for Netanyahu. No coalition had been formed. But what—or rather, who—went wrong? In a word, Liberman.

The head of Yisrael Beytenu and former minister of defense dug in his heels, insisting on the passing of legislation that raises the number of ultra-Orthodox young men being drafted into the army from 3,000 to 6,000. This stance put him at loggerheads with the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah. Yisrael Beytenu demanded that the legislation be passed, while the ultra-Orthodox parties opposed it. Neither seemed willing to budge. Netanyahu proposed a compromise. The ultra-Orthodox parties accepted. Liberman flatly refused. In the end, the man who repeatedly voiced his backing for Netanyahu as prime minister and even recommended him for the job withheld his party’s five seats from the coalition. Without Liberman, Netanyahu had 60 seats—only one short of a majority.

Before the clock struck 12 last night, the Knesset was put to a vote: dissolve and go to the polls again, or have Rivlin give another MK (member of Knesset)—probably opposition leader, Benny Gantz—the opportunity to form a majority coalition. Out of the 120 Knesset lawmakers, 74 opted for dispersion and election, while 45 voted to give another MK a shot.

In the aftermath of the Knesset being dissolved without forming a government, it is worth wondering if the ultra-Orthodox draft legislation that wrought such political havoc, sent Israel to the polls for the second time in a year and forces the Jewish state to function without a stable government is truly that important to Liberman.

Hardly, says the Times of Israel’s David Horovitz. “This is not a landmark law for which it was worth bringing down parliament,” he explains in an article entitled, Infuriating but Not Finishing Netanyahu, Liberman Drags Israel Back to the Polls. “Rather, Liberman realized that he held the balance of power…[H]e was primarily motivated by the desire to hurt Netanyahu.”

Why does Liberman have an ax to grind with Netanyahu? “The short explanation is that Liberman hates Netanyahu,” explains Caroline Glick in Breitbart article, Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s One-man Wrecking Ball. “Liberman has nursed a grudge against Netanyahu, and worked consistently to block him from power.” In fact, it was Liberman’s resignation as defense minister in November last year that prompted the elections this April.

Has Liberman’s ploy worked? Has Netanyahu’s reputation been damaged? According to Glick, it is Liberman that stands to lose most. “[I]t isn’t difficult to sense the public’s anger and frustration. Israelis voted for a right-wing government led by Netanyahu…And now, due to one man’s personal vendetta against Netanyahu, the Israeli public has been denied their right to a government.”

Horovitz agrees. “Pursuing his vendetta against Netanyahu to this bitter dead end, Liberman may turn out to have fatally damaged his own political career.”

As for Netanyahu, his intentions are clear. Addressing the press in the pre-dawn hours this morning, he vowed: “We’ll run a sharp, clear election campaign which will bring us victory. We’ll win, we’ll win and the public will win.”

Ilse Strauss

(Bridges for Peace, May 30, 2019)

Photo Credit: Dolev/wikimedia

Photo License: Wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Commit the political situation in Israel into the Lord’s hands. Pray that the God who holds sway over times and seasons and raises up rulers and governments will have His perfect way to appoint His chosen leadership to guide Israel in His perfect timing. Ask Him to bring order and clarity wherever there may be confusion and uncertainty.

Scripture

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.


- Daniel 2:20–21

Israelis Homeless, Reeling in the Aftermath of Devastating Wildfires

by Roi Rubinstein, Inbar Tvizer and Ishay Porat

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A series of wildfires destroyed 50 homes in Israel.

Monday, 27 May 2019 | A wave of massive bushfires over the weekend left dozens of families without homes as entire neighborhoods were engulfed by the flames.

Some 16 people suffered smoke inhalation and 13 others had light burns, including some of the 1,000 firefighters from National Fire and Rescue Authority, who battled at least 1,023 conflagrations across the country.

In addition, 300 volunteers also participated in the operation, dubbed “Hot Fire” in the scorching temperatures that sometimes reached 45°C [113°F].

Although damage to the property was great—with some 50 houses destroyed by the blaze—there were no reports of casualties.

The fires also caused wide-scale damage to the environment, with some 7,940 dunams [1,962 acres] of land, belonging to the Nature and Parks Authority as well as Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael [Jewish National Fund] [KKL-JNF] scorched by the flames.

“The damage is immense not only to the forest, but also to the wildlife,” said Gilad Mestai, director of the KKL-JNF for the Coastal Plain district. “Very large forested areas, the green lung of the Dan region, have been burned down,” he said.

The residents of the communities that were damaged by the fire have so far not been allowed to return to the homes, which they were forced to flee. At least 40 out of the 50 houses that were damaged by the fire are located in the religious moshav [collective community] of Mevo Modi’im in central Israel.

“Although this disaster has befallen us, Shabbat [the Sabbath] is sweet and gives us life” said Alon Tieger, chairman of the association that runs the moshav. “The way people of Israel opened their hearts to us brought me to tears, and I did not cry when my house was burned.”

The remaining 10 houses that were damaged by the fire are located in Kibbutz Harel–just outside Jerusalem–with five of the homes being burned down to the ground.

Ofir Alkalay, a kibbutz [collective community] resident whose house was heavily damaged by the blaze, said his home—although still standing—is filled with smoke and various toxic substances.

“My house has been wrecked,” he said. “One of my children was sleeping inside the house when the fire started. My two children—aged five and ten—are traumatized.

“Most of our kibbutz has been burned down, some families lost their homes…all of our farmland has been damaged,” Alkalay added. “Since the fires broke out we haven’t been able to come back to our homes and we won’t be allowed to enter the kibbutz for at least another week due to heavy air pollution in the area.”

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on May 26, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Ehud Kauf/Youtube/Screenshot

Prayer Focus
Bring the 50 families who have suffered the devastating loss of their homes and all their earthly possessions before the Lord. Beseech Him to pour out His love and comfort on them and to strengthen them with His presence as they embark on the task of rebuilding. Cry out that He will raise up Christians from around the world to stand with these families and support them in the process.

Scripture

Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.”


- Isaiah 35:3–4

Action
Now that the fires have been quenched, many Israelis will come face-to-face with the devastating reality that they have nowhere to return to and that all their earthly possessions have been burned to cinders. Families will embark on the heartbreaking reality of rebuilding what was destroyed. They will not face this grim task alone. Bridges for Peace will be right alongside them, offering the physical means and the helping hand they need so desperately. We have pledged US $50,000 in assistance, but we need the help of Christians who love and support Israel to deliver our promised amount and more. Will you give generously to our Crisis Assistance Fund to help Israeli families rebuild the homes they have lost?

Egyptian Help Symbolizes Peace as Nations Assist Israel in Battling Wildfires

by Joshua Spurlock

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The burned remains of one of the homes destroyed in a series of wildfires in Israel over the weekend

Monday, 27 May 2019 | Multiple nations assisted Israel in battling the latest outbreak of wildfires that raged in the Jewish state, and Israeli officials made a point of expressing their thanks over the weekend to the foreign countries that helped—including one particular act of support that shows the potential for Middle East peace. “Israeli firefighters and an Egyptian helicopter were working together yesterday in order to put out a huge fire that broke out in southern Israel. This is what peace is all about,” tweeted Israeli Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Ofir Gendelman on Saturday.

Egypt and Israel were once open enemies engaged in multiple conflicts until a US-brokered peace treaty took effect 40 years ago. Gendelman’s comments come after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi “my friend” in his thanks for Egypt sending a pair of helicopters to fight the fires, according to a press release from Israel’s office.

Even the Palestinian Authority—which has repeatedly rejected peace talks with Israel—reached out to Israel during the crisis, according to Netanyahu, whose comments were published by his office on Friday. Two days later, the Israeli premier took time to thank the countries who helped, [noting that] their aid says something about Israel too.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the leaders of the many countries that sent us aerial assistance,” said Netanyahu in comments also published by his office. “It was important and also attests to cooperation with Israel and to Israel’s standing.”

Overall, five nations were publicly signaled out by Netanyahu for helping Israel, and on Sunday, Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yuval Rotem, took to Twitter to thank them all [by] name.

“Thank you #Egypt, #Cyprus, #Greece, #Croatia and #Italy for being there in our time of need, taking an active part in the effort to combat the forest fires across our country. Your friendship is greatly appreciated!” tweeted Rotem.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emanuel Nachson posted to Twitter on Friday in response to offers of assistance, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by the Mideast Update on May 26, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today.)

Photo Credit: Arutz Sheva TV/Youtube/Screenshot

Prayer Focus
Sing praises to the Lord for this wonderful gesture of alliance from an Arab country and Israel’s former enemy. Ask Him to strengthen the bonds of friendship and pray that the camaraderie between Israel and Egypt will stand as a beacon of success to be emulated by others in the region.

Scripture

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


- Proverbs 18:24

Syria Anti-aircraft Missile Fired at Israel Jet; IDF Retaliates

by Ilse Strauss

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Syrian forces fired an anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli jet flying a routine mission in Israeli airspace. (Illustrative)

Tuesday, 28 May 2019 | On Monday afternoon, a Syrian anti-aircraft battery fired a missile at an Israeli fighter jet on a routine flight in Israeli airspace. According to the Israeli military, the missile fell short and struck inside Syrian territory, failing to hit the jet, which completed its mission “as planned.”

Israel retaliated shortly after 9 p.m. last night, targeting the anti-aircraft battery that fired the missile. The Israeli strike destroyed the launcher, killing one soldier and damaging a military vehicle, Syrian state media reported.

Shortly after the retaliatory strike, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released comments via a video clip on social media. “A short while ago the Syrian army attempted to hit an Israeli plane; it did not succeed. In response, the air force destroyed the launcher that fired on the plane. Our policy is clear—we will not tolerate any aggression against us, and we will respond forcefully.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also released a statement, echoing Netanyahu’s sentiments. “The IDF takes seriously any threat to its planes and will act to defend them.”

The anti-aircraft battery was stationed near Quneitra, a city in south-western Syria that primarily remained under Syrian control during the civil war. Located some 15 miles (24 km) from the border with Israel, the six years of brutal fighting have left the city largely destroyed and deserted.

Throughout the course of the Syrian Civil War, Israel remained committed to steer clear of the fray raging on its northern border. The Jewish state did, however, make it clear from the beginning that a number of “red lines” would prompt it to action. These “red lines” include Iran using the chaos of civil war to establish a presence in Syria, thus setting up a new front on Israel’s doorstep, and Tehran smuggling game-changing weapons to Hezbollah, its Lebanese terror proxy.

Israel, which normally remains mum on allegations regarding operations conducted on foreign soil, admitted in January that it struck thousands of Iranian targets in Syria in response to these “red lines” being violated.

According to the Jerusalem Post, yesterday’s incident marks an escalation on the Syrian side. While this is not the first time Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were fired at Israel, the targeting of a routine mission in Israeli airspace is highly unusual.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, May 28, 2019)

Photo Credit: Major Ofer, Israeli Air Force (CC-BY)/wikimedia

Photo License: Wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for protecting Israel against the attack from Syria. Beseech the One who keeps Israel to stand as a shield and a guard to ward off the attacks launched by those who work actively to achieve their goal of annihilating the Jewish state.

Scripture

Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Also draw out the spear, and stop those who pursue me. Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”


- Psalm 35:1–3

Iran “Quadruples Production” of Enriched Uranium Amid Tensions with US

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As tensions in the Middle East soar, Iran has quadrupled its production of enriched uranium.

Monday, 27 May 2019 | Nuclear experts said Monday that Iran has quadrupled its uranium enrichment production capacity amid tensions with the US over Tehran’s illicit nuclear and non-nuclear activities. This means the Islamic Republic could quickly exceed the stockpile limit set under the 2015 nuclear accord.

While Iranian officials stressed that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67% limit, a quadrupling of production would mean that Iran will soon exceed the stockpile limitation of 300 kilograms [661 lb] set by the agreement.

Earlier this month, the mullah regime announced a July 7 deadline for European countries to shield Iran from crippling US sanctions or risk the production of enriched uranium closer to weapons-grade levels.

“If the five countries join negotiations and help Iran to reach its benefits in the field of oil and banking, Iran will return to its commitments according to the nuclear deal,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

In a statement, European foreign ministers rejected any ultimatum from Tehran and vowed that Europe would not be blackmailed into accepting terms set by Tehran.

Iranian officials said that the country had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], the UN nuclear watchdog, of its decision. The IAEA did not immediately respond for comment.

The IAEA, which was charged with verifying Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord, has repeatedly been accused of failing to establish a full picture of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The atomic agency took a skeptical approach to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revelations at the United Nations General Assembly that Iran had a nuclear warehouse in Tehran and gave no indication that it would investigate the Israeli claims further.

The IAEA had previously failed to investigate the nuclear archives that Israel had smuggled out of Iran in January [last year], even though the recovered documents and files contained details unknown to international inspectors.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project in its publication The Tower on May 24, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Al Jazeera English/YouTube/screenshot

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord to bring to light the danger Iran poses to the region and internationally. Pray that countries around the world will begin to take PM Netanyahu’s warnings seriously to stand with Israel and thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Scripture

Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD, and their works are in the dark; they say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?”


- Isaiah 29:15

German Paper Prints DIY Kippot in the Face of Anti-Semitism Fears

by Daniel Bettini and Itamar Eichner

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Following an assessment that it is unsafe for German Jews to wear a kippah in certain areas, a German paper printed a DIY version of the traditional Jewish head cover.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019 | Germany’s Bild newspaper on Monday included a cutout kippah [yarmulke] in its daily edition, and urged its readers to wear it, after the country’s anti-Semitism watchdog said he would not recommend that Jews wear the traditional head covering in certain areas in public.

The paper’s move came after Felix Klein, the Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Anti-Semitism, said in an unprecedented statement that he could “no longer recommend Jews wear a kippah at every time and place in Germany.”

The comment caused uproar in the German Jewish community, as well as among Jews across Europe, and even prompted a defiant response from President Reuven Rivlin.

“If even one person in our country can’t wear a kippah without putting themselves in danger, the only answer is that we all wear a kippah,” Bild Editor in Chief Julian Reichelt wrote on Twitter on Sunday, announcing the paper’s response to Klein. “The kippah belongs to Germany!” he wrote.

Bild‘s cut-out blue kippah sports three concentric Stars of David and a white trim, and is accompanied by a call from the paper to wear it, share images online while doing so and educate others about it.

Anti-Semitic crimes rose 20% in Germany last year, according to Interior Ministry data that blamed nine out of 10 cases on the extreme right.

Bild is considered supportive of Israel and outspoken against anti-Semitism.

This is not the first time in recent years that Germans have donned a kippah in support of the country’s Jewish community.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on May 27, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Asya Babushkina/shutterstock.com

Prayer Focus
Continue to bring the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the Diaspora and particularly Europe before the Lord. Pray that He will grant wisdom and foresight to every Jewish person in the Diaspora on how to navigate these turbulent times.

Scripture

You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.


- Psalm 32:7–8

IDF Incorporates VR Simulation into its Training

by Yoav Zitun

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Cutting-edge virtual reality simulation will form part of training for IDF soldiers.

Thursday, 30 May 2019 | The Future Lab corps, a new unit in the IDF’s [Israel Defense Forces] Information Technology division, has developed an advanced virtual training environment that will revolutionize the world of simulators used by the ground forces. The simulator, which is currently in advanced stages of development and will be tested in combat units in the coming weeks, looks just like a computer game, but has special layers added to it to provide an unprecedented training experience.

Presently, simulators for combat units are essentially rooms with a large screen upon which the battle environment is projected and soldiers use guns with a laser attachment to shoot at targets on the screen.

With the new simulators, soldiers wear virtual reality glasses with high resolution screens and use earphones with 3D sound.

The need for the new simulators stems from the fact that an entire generation of soldiers and officers has little familiarity with actual heavy combat, since it has been some time since Israel has been involved in a conventional ground war.

During Operation Protective Edge (2014), the ground fighting was limited inside Gaza, and since 2006, 13 years ago, IDF forces have not entered Lebanon.

Future Lab corps has developed advanced animation that realistically replicates a typical Lebanese street or the alleyways of the old city of Nablus—places IDF troops are likely to find themselves in. The system also includes sounds characteristic to the location on screen.

The system also includes smart lighting that changes according to where the soldier is standing for a more realistic effect.

While using the simulator, “players” wield rifles similar to those issued by the IDF and can maintain contact with the air force. It can also simulate Hamas and Hezbollah tunnels as the combat environment.

The IDF intends to implement the system into basic training for new recruits, before incorporating it into routine battalion-size training exercises.

A year ago, the IDF made a decision to incorporate advanced simulators into training, and gamers with knowledge of computer science were recruited into the new unit. “As gamers, we can take our passion for computer games to ignite the imagination in order to contribute to the IDF,” said Sgt. Arel Herzog.

The unit is now working together with personnel from Special Forces units on an electronic protection vest that combatants can wear in the battlefield. The new vest will be capable of “feeling” the environment and identify rain or grenade shrapnel in proximity to the wearer.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on May 28, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/Youtube/Screenshot

Prayer Focus
Bless the name of the Lord for the cutting-edge technology that allows Israel to train the brave young men and women who stand guard over the Promised Land. Pray that in spite of ingenious inventions and state-of-the-art weaponry, Israel will continue to look to God as their one true source of protection.

Scripture

For the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.


- Deuteronomy 20:4

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