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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.
We are now also releasing a weekly video news brief with the most important Israel-related news highlights from the week to keep you updated and help you pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
IDF Says Iran Could Have Nuclear Bomb within Two Years
by Yoav Zitun
Thursday, 16 January 2020 | An IDF [Israel Defense Forces] report published on Tuesday assesses that Iran will achieve military nuclear capabilities within two years.
The report, released by the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate (MID), suggests that Iran continues to advance its efforts and nuclear capabilities, estimating that it will have enough material to construct a nuclear payload within a year and a missile to transport the warhead within two.
The publication of the yearly assessment was postponed by a week following the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by a US drone, which the report cited as a “restraining event” for the region’s future.
Soleimani’s death also poses an opportunity to attack dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria and damage its consolidation of forces in the area, a notion affirmed by several senior Israeli security officials.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic’s regime in Tehran is busy with domestic protests and heavy US pressure against its nuclear program.
The report also said that despite the US policy of withdrawal from the Middle East initiated by the Obama administration, some 18,000 American troops are expected to soon join the 85,000-strong US forces in the region.
MID also looked into the effects of social media, the Fake News phenomenon and the technological revolution online, leading among other things, to acquire tools of cyber warfare on the Dark Net.
The report also pointed at two warning signs regarding threats on Israel’s northern and southern frontiers.
The first is Hezbollah in the north, which keeps the balance of deterrence against Israel and will not hesitate to attack again—even if the result is a major escalation in the region—if Israel continues to target its militants in Syria.
The second is deterrence against a possible flare-up in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria].
This considering Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas’s successors increasing in strength and the upcoming Palestinian elections, which might bring Hamas [the terror organization ruling the Gaza Strip] into rule in the West Bank.
Despite these warnings, the general assessment by MID is that the likelihood of war in 2020 is rather low.
Photo Credit: Khamenei.ir/wikimedia.org
Photo License: wikimedia.org
Pray that the Lord will continue to give wisdom and courage to Israel as it deals with danger on every border. Plead with Him for an end to the Iranian threat on all levels and ask that He keep Israel safe from war in 2020.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
Will the “Deal of the Century” be Published before Israelis Vote Again?
by Ilse Strauss
Tuesday, 14 January 2020 | US President Donald Trump’s long-awaited “Deal of the Century” may be released before Israelis head to the polls on March 2 for the third national election in a year, two top White House officials hinted in recent days.
The economic component of President Trump’s peace plan—highlighting the financial objectives and initiatives to bring economic stability and prosperity to the Palestinian people—was released during the June 2019 Peace to Prosperity workshop in Manama, Bahrain. Publication of the second component—detailing the political aspects of Trump’s proposal to foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians—was originally set for release in early 2019 but has repeatedly been pushed back after two indecisive elections left Israel without an elected government.
However, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien on Sunday dismissed the notion that the plan release depends on political stability and an elected government functioning in Jerusalem. “I don’t think it necessarily depends on the elections,” O’Brien told the Axios website.
The Trump administration, O’Brien explained, is “looking for a solution on the Israeli–Palestinian front that is durable, long-lasting, and we’re not timing anything we do based on the domestic politics, either the Palestinians’ or the Israelis’.”
The US president, he added, was “not focused on the Israeli election calendar or when the Palestinians end up having an election.”
A day later, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, also hinted that the plan might see the light in the next few weeks, Haaretz reports. Addressing a crowd of students at Stanford University, Pompeo referred to the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian friction as a “historic challenge.”
“We are working diligently to build out a set of understandings that take down risk,” he said. “You will continue to see our efforts that relate to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians—that hasn’t drawn much attention lately. We are still working very diligently on this.”
The two White House officials’ comments come hot on the heels of various Israeli reports professing the imminent publication of the peace plan. Quoting both Israeli and American officials, the reports claim President Trump wants the “Deal of the Century” sealed ahead of the 2020 US presidential elections.
A number of these reports follow a visit by Avi Berkowitz—Jason Greenblatt’s replacement as President Trump’s envoy to the Israeli–Palestinian peace process—to Israel last week. On his first trip to the Jewish state since filling the position, Berkowitz met with senior officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival in the upcoming elections, Blue and White party leader, Benny Gantz. The US described the trip as a “fact finding mission,” but as Berkowitz headed home, Israeli sources speculated that the real purpose was laying groundwork for the launch of the plan.
While both Netanyahu and Gantz have in the past expressed their support for President Trump’s initiative, the Blue and White party leader is allegedly troubled about the alleged timing of its publication. According to Haaretz, Gantz fears that releasing the plan before the Israeli elections would aid Netanyahu’s campaign and have told Berkowitz it would constitute “blatant intervention by Trump in Israel’s democratic process.”
Gantz repeated the claim publically during a media briefing last week.
As the clock ticks towards March 2, speculation, rumors, reports and comments by unnamed and named Israeli and American officials abound. In the meantime, whether the plan will see the light before Israelis head to the polls remain to be seen.
Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 14, 2020)
Photo Credit: The White House/Tia Dufour/flickr.com
Photo License: flickr.com
Pray that the long-awaited release of the “Deal of the Century” will happen only in God’s timing. Thank Him for the supportive relationship Israel has with the US and pray that this peace plan will reflect that support on every level. Pray also for the upcoming election, as its results may impact the outcome of this initiative. Ask the Lord to install a leader of strength, integrity and wisdom.
For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.
Heavy Rainfall in Northern Israel Breaks 50-year Record
by Ahiye Raved
Friday, 10 January 2020 | The amount of rainfall that hit northern Israel over the past two weeks broke the country’s 50-year record, meteorological services said Thursday.
Fierce storms and heavy rain pounded central and northern Israel for over a week as two storm systems hit the country one after the other. Massive flooding in cities and rivers caused major damage to homes, vehicles and infrastructure. The northern city of Nahariya, besieged by the floods, suffered the most damage from the unusually inclement weather.
Over the past two days alone, over 100 mm (3.9 in) of rain fell in northern Israel, causing major flooding in Haifa and especially in Nahariya, where one person was killed. Moti Ben Shabbat, 38, drowned on Wednesday when he jumped into a flooded car to rescue the passengers, but was washed away by a strong floodwater current.
Several meteorological stations in the north recorded an average of 350 and 400 mm (13.7 and 15.7 in) of rain that had accumulated since December 25, with some areas in the Western and Upper Galilee seeing up to 450 mm (17 in), the highest amount measured in two-week time since January 1969.
In the northern parts of the country, the amount of rainfall that has accumulated since the beginning of January already surpassed the month’s average in the region by 140% to 180% from the same time period last year.
In Moshav Regba and Kibbutz Evron in the Western Galilee, not far from Nahariya, the amount of rain that fell since the start of the month has surpassed the average for the entire winter season in the region.
The amount of rain along the coastal plain in the center of the country was more modest. Along the Sharon plain and the Judean Mountains between 20 and 60 mm [0.8 and 2.3 in] of rain was recorded.
Unfortunately, south of the city of Ashkelon and the northern Negev, the amount of rainfall measured only a few millimeters. January’s average in the region currently stands at 50% to 80% from the same time last year.
On Friday, the current storm system will begin winding down. Rain is still expected in most parts of the country, with fears of flooding across all regions.
Snowfall is expected in the northern Golan Heights.
Saturday will see a mix of sun and clouds, with temperatures set to begin warming up.
Photo Credit: Precious Fleming/bridgesforpeace.com
Pray that the Lord will calm the storms over Israel, allowing His rain to fall throughout the country—especially in the south—with no further damage to property or loss of life. Pray also for the family of Moti Ben Shabbat, who died a hero’s death attempting to save the lives of others.
You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, for so You have prepared it. You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth. You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance.
Gaza Terrorists Fire Four Mortar Shells on Israel, IDF Retaliates
by Kate Norman
Thursday, 16 January 2020 | The tentative calm between Gaza and Israel was broken yesterday when terrorists in Gaza fired four rockets at Israeli communities bordering the enclave, prompting retaliatory strikes from the Jewish state on terror targets in the Gaza Strip.
There were no Israeli casualties or damage caused as Israel’s Iron Dome defense system intercepted two of the rockets and the other two landed in open fields where they caused no harm.
In response, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fighter jets targeted several sites belonging to Hamas—the terror organization in control of the Gaza Strip—that included a weapons manufacturing site and a military compound, the IDF announced.
“The IDF sees the shooting at Israel’s territory very severely, and will continue to act as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli civilians,” the military said on its website. “The Hamas terror organization is responsible for what is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip and it will have consequences for actions against Israeli citizens.”
Yesterday’s rocket attack was unusual as it took place in broad daylight—around 3:30 p.m., the end of the school day. Most of Gaza’s rocket attacks take place in the evening or the middle of the night. The rockets set off the Code Red alert sirens in the communities near the border, sending hundreds of Israelis scrambling for the nearest bomb shelter.
Later in the day, police were dismayed to find a cluster of balloons tied to a suspicious item had landed in Sderot, a city located less than a mile from the Gaza Strip. The object was most likely an incendiary device—a tactic used by terrorists in Gaza to burn thousands of acres in Israel over the past few years, especially in the dry Israeli summers when the fires spread more quickly.
Though Hamas bore the brunt of retribution, an Israeli broadcaster attributed the rocket attack to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the second largest terror entity operating in Gaza. An offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and backed by Iran, PIJ almost makes Hamas look diplomatic. The jihadi group frowns upon Hamas for being willing to enter into negotiations with the Jewish state—the sworn enemy for the terrible twosome.
PIJ was responsible for the flare-up in November that saw more than 450 rockets fired into Israel. Hamas notably spent most of the two-day battle observing from the sidelines, which Israeli leadership saw as a victory for its policy of deterrence and holding Hamas responsible for any attacks on the Jewish state emanating from the Gaza Strip.
Perhaps Israel is again betting on its punishment policy to force Hamas to quiet its feisty PIJ brother in order to avoid further IDF retribution.
Both groups—but especially PIJ—rely on Iran for funding, weapons and military training. Hamas mourned the passing of Iran’s top general, Qassam Soleimani, who was killed in a US strike earlier this month. Two of Hamas’s top leaders even traveled to Tehran for his funeral and eulogized their doting puppet master.
Hamas and PIJ both received strict warnings from Israel, the Times of Israel reported, not to channel their grief into attacks on the Jewish state—a close ally of the US and often a vicarious target for those who won’t directly attack American targets.
Yesterday’s rockets were most likely an act of defiance against that warning, a salute of sorts to the fallen terror chief.
Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 16, 2020)
Photo Credit: Dima Vazinovich/Israel Defense Forces/flickr.com
Photo License: flickr.com
Pray that Israel’s punishment policy will pressure Hamas into bringing an end to the terror attacks perpetrated by PIJ and any other group within Gaza that would harm Israel. Pray for God’s protection over His people who live within range of Gazan rockets and for the children who live under this constant threat.
Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their hearts; they continually gather together for war. Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked.
Some 40 World Leaders Expected in Israel for Holocaust Memorial Day
by Ilse Strauss
Wednesday, 15 January 2020 | Nearly 50 presidents, prime ministers, kings, crown princes and top officials from Austria to Australia, the US to Ukraine and multiple countries in between will flock to Israel’s capital at the invitation of President Reuven Rivlin next week for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum hosted at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum. The forum—entitled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism”—is organized by the State of Israel, Yad Vashem and the World Holocaust Foundation. It takes place on January 23 and commemorates the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz–Birkenau death camp in 1945 and International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.
Hailed by Rivlin as “one of a kind,” the event is expected to be the largest-ever gathering focused on fighting the scourge of anti-Semitism. Forty-seven world leaders, including 26 presidents, 4 prime ministers and 4 kings have confirmed their attendance, making it the third largest get-together of international leaders in the history of Israel, eclipsed only by the funerals of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, the Times of Israel reports.
The guest list reads like the who’s who of global politics. Prominent dignitaries include US Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Prince Charles from Britain, German President Frank Walter Steinmeier, the presidents of the European Parliament, Council and Commission, a representative of the Holy See and leaders from Australia, Canada and nearly every European nation.
The event will kick off on Wednesday, January 22 at Rivlin’s residence with an official address by Spain’s King Felipe VI representing the world leaders, followed by a formal dinner and a discussion.
“The event takes place against the background of a rise in hateful and violent expressions of anti-Semitism, especially in Europe,” a statement from Rivlin’s residence explained. “Given this alarming situation, efforts to educate about the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia and to foster Holocaust commemoration and research have made this event more crucial and relevant than ever.”
Speaking at a press conference last November, Rivlin said: “We will come together to think about how to pass on Holocaust remembrance to generations who will live in a world without survivors, and what steps we must take to ensure the safety and security of Jews all around the world.”
On Thursday, January 23, the international guests will convene at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in Yad Vashem for the formal “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism” event. The program includes short video clips, musical performances by celebrated Israeli artists and an international orchestra as well as addresses by renowned Holocaust scholar Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Rivlin, Putin, Macron, Prince Charles and Steinmeier. Holocaust survivor and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau and President of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation Dr. Moshe Kantor will also speak. The event will conclude with a memorial ceremony.
Conspicuously absent from the guest list is Polish President Andrzej Duda. Duda took great offense because Israeli organizers did not include him as a speaker at the forum alongside representatives from the US, Russia, France, the UK and Germany. Yad Vashem’s explanation that speakers represent the victors of World War II and Germany—the perpetrator of the Holocaust—fell on deaf ears. Snubbed as a speaker, Duda announced that he would snub the event altogether.
Next week’s event takes place against the backdrop of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe and the US.
“Jewish life is once again under threat in Europe. It is under threat from the day-to-day harassment and attacks, on the streets, in schools, at universities, online, and even in their own homes. It has become so bad that the overwhelming majority of Jews in Europe no longer feel safe,” said Dr. Kantor. “Antisemitism is a hatred that knows no boundaries, and has been adopted by multiple ideologies. Jews are relentlessly attacked by the Left, the Right, and the mainstream. This is another pivotal point in history where the leaders of the world have to stand up and act. Words are not enough…”
Source: (Bridges for Peace, 15 January 2020)
Photo Credit: deror avi/wikimedia.org
Photo License: Wikimedia.org
Praise the Lord for the numbers of international leaders who will be attending this momentous event. Pray for their safety as they travel and during their time in Israel. Also pray that their meetings will be fruitful, that each nation will be strengthened and encouraged in their fight against anti-Semitism, and finally, that each leader will leave the Land with a new or renewed commitment to support the nation of Israel as well as the Jewish people within their respective nations.
“How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel! Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you.”
Netanyahu Calls for More Iran Sanctions as Protests Rock Tehran over Downed Airliner
by Joshua Spurlock
Monday, 13 January 2020 | The Iran crisis took another twist over the weekend, as protests erupted in the Iranian capital of Tehran and elsewhere against the regime after it was confirmed Iran accidentally shot down a civilian airliner in Iran, killing all 176 passengers on board. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed solidarity with the protestors, while calling for more sanctions on Iran due to the regime’s malignant activity, including advancing their nuclear program.
The latest protests in Iran came after the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces announced in a statement that they accidentally shot down a Ukrainian Boeing 737 carrying mostly Iranian passengers, thinking it was a hostile object, according to the Fars News Agency. The report noted Iran at the time was concerned about a counterstrike from the United States after Iran launched missiles at US military bases in retaliation for the US killing Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. The death of Soleimani—the leader of the Iranian Quds Force that was behind attacks around the world—followed months of escalating tensions and multiple Iranian attacks against the US and its allies.
After Iran’s belated admission of guilt, BBC reporter Hadi Nili posted to Twitter on Saturday that protests were happening in multiple cities, and at least one slogan wasn’t friendly to the regime or Soleimani. Nili tweeted, “chants heard on Tehran streets: ‘Soleimani was a murderer, his Leader is too.’”
One day later, on Sunday, the Iranian protests unexpectedly made a point of not protesting the US and Israel—against whom Iranians have infamously chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”—as a video was posted to Twitter showing demonstrators walking around giant US and Israeli flags.
One of those posting the video was Israeli Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Ofir Gendelman, who tweeted, “Iranian demonstrators refused today to trample on American and Israeli flags. The Iranian regime’s policy of hatred and terrorism is rejected by Iranians themselves.”
Iranians weren’t the only ones upset about Iran’s downing of the civilian plane and the subsequent failure to own up to the tragic error. Israel was too.
Netanyahu, speaking in comments released by his office, on Sunday said, “Iran lied. Just as they lied about their secret nuclear program, they are lying now about the downing of the Ukrainian aircraft. They knew from the start that they had downed it. They knew that it was an unintentional downing, but they lied intentionally. They deceived the entire world.
“This is completely contrary to how a civilized country should act and we send our condolences to the victims of Iran’s deception and negligence.”
The Israeli leader went on to express support for the Iranian protestors. “I note the courage of the Iranian people who are again demonstrating in the streets against this regime,” he said. “They deserve freedom, liberty and the ability to live in security and peace, all of which the regime denies them,”
Netanyahu also commended US President Donald Trump for “imposing new and very harsh sanctions against this Iranian regime. I must say that this was also done close to the Iranian decision to accelerate uranium enrichment.
“I call on Britain, France and Germany to join the American effort. They need to go to the [United Nations] Security Council, and there they need to activate the sanctions that have been decided upon. I would like to reiterate: Israel will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.”
The Iran protests might just create a new diplomatic crisis that leads to new sanctions for Iran. US President Trump on Sunday warned the Iranian regime on Twitter not to harm the protestors: “To the leaders of Iran – DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS. Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching. Turn your internet back on and let reporters roam free! Stop the killing of your great Iranian people!”
On Sunday, Nili separately tweeted a video from @vahid showing blood on the ground after a plain-clothes person reportedly opened fire in Tehran.
An American response is not the only concern for Iran—their relationship with the United Kingdom is on shaky ground too thanks to their response during the protests. On Saturday, British Ambassador to Iran Rob Macaire was arrested by the Iranians. The British diplomat took to Twitter in a series of posts to clarify the circumstances of the incident.
“Can confirm I wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations! Went to an event advertised as a vigil for victims of #PS752 tragedy. Normal to want to pay respects – some of victims were British. I left after 5 mins, when some started chanting,” Macaire tweeted, following up with “detained half an hour after leaving the area. Arresting diplomats is of course illegal, in all countries.”
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was outraged at the Iranian action. “The arrest of our Ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law,” Raab said in a statement published to the UK government website. “The Iranian government is at a cross-roads moment. It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to deescalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards.”
The Iranians have already been hit with crippling sanctions by the Americans due to their malign actions, after Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal last year. In response, Iran in recent months has repeatedly lashed out—rolling back restrictions on their nuclear plan in violation of the deal, as well as launching attacks on the oil industry and the US. Iran has said their escalated nuclear activity is in response to Europe’s failure to economically counteract the US sanctions.
Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on January 12, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)
Photo Credit: Mohsen Abolghasem/MojNews/wikipedia.org
Photo License: wikimedia.org
Pray for God’s protection over the demonstrators in Iran who are expressing their desire to be out from under the current oppressive regime. Pray that their efforts combined with sanctions and other international pressures will be successful in bringing down Iran’s current leadership, replacing it with leaders who will earnestly seek peace.
Arise, O LORD, confront him, cast him down.
Israel Reveals Major Upgrade to Iron Dome
by Yoav Zitun
Monday, 13 January 2020 | The Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) of the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) announced on Sunday it has conducted a series of successful trials in southern Israel designed to test a new upgrade to the Iron Dome missile defense system.
The IMDO, which oversees the development and production of multi-layered active defense initiatives against high-trajectory rocket and missile threats, had revealed this significant advancement in Israel’s defensive capabilities less than a week after the Defense Ministry unveiled a new revolutionary laser-based air defense system and a decade after the Iron Dome’s first successful operational testing.
However, the Defense Ministry’s statement didn’t disclose any details about the nature of the upgrade.
“This successful series of trials constitutes an important milestone in the State of Israel’s operational defensive capabilities against existing and future threats,” read the statement. “These trials tested the system’s newly developed capacities in a host of scenarios simulating future threats that the system will face during a confrontation.”
Since the Iron Dome’s first interception over the southern city of Ashkelon in April 2011, more than 2,400 successful interceptions have been recorded, with an average success rate of 85%, mainly in southern Israel, but also in the north.
IMDO Director Moshe Patel said that the newly developed system, when delivered to the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], will enable the Air Force to deal with the foreseen threats in the region much better.
Head of the Missile Defense Systems Directorate in Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Pini Yungman also praised the upgraded system, citing it as a major improvement to Israel’s defensive capabilities.
“We finished the trials with a 100% success rate. The system intercepted all the threats launched during the experiment. The State of Israel is more protected now.”
Photo Credit: nafrenkel88/flickr.com
Photo License: flickr.com
Praise the Lord for Israel’s defensive capabilities and specifically for the Iron Dome that has been used so successfully in protecting the lives of Israelis. Ask the Lord to increase the Iron Dome’s success rate from 85% to 100%, yet beseech Him for an end to the violence and terror that create the need for such defensive measures.
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
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