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What Would Jesus Do?

Friday, November 19, 2021

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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.

Bennett: Israel Ready to Act against Iran Alone if Needed

by Itamar Eichner

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An IDF patrol

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 | Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Thursday that Israel will act against Iran independently of the international community if required as Tehran and world powers are poised to restart much-stalled negotiations over its nuclear weapons program later in the month.

Visiting a military drill along with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Bennett accused the international community of going soft on the Islamic Republic.

“We are dealing with Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and Syria. It does not matter what occurs between Iran and the major powers. We are concerned by the fact that there is not enough firmness in the face of the Iranian violations; Israel will defend itself, by itself,” Bennett said.

He further said that the passing of the state budget would allow the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] to better allocate its resources and prepare for war.

“The state budget has been approved and this is especially important for the IDF, which can now [plan] its resources accordingly, train continuously and intensively, and invest whatever is necessary for preparing for the next confrontation…

We are surrounded by security challenges and the goal is to utilize periods of relative quiet to build up strength. Therefore, we are preparing for various scenarios, near and far.”

Gantz agreed with the prime minister and called on world powers to act to stop Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and Lebanon and its expansion throughout the region while Israel must keep safeguarding its borders, especially on the northern front.

Approximately 3,000 soldiers from the Golani Brigade, the Armored Corps, the Artillery Corps and reserve brigades, alongside Intelligence Corps and Air Force units, practiced maneuvering in mountainous terrain and combat in urban areas.

Talks between the US and Iran to revive the tattered 2015 nuclear agreement will resume later this month after a five-month hiatus during which Tehran saw a hardliner assume the presidential post in Ebrahim Raisi.

Ali Bagheri Kani, who heads the Iranian delegation to the talks in Vienna, said he agreed with EU envoy Enrique Mora on a resumption of the talks on November 29.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met earlier in the week with US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and presented Israel’s position, which claimed that the relaunch of nuclear talks was just a charade meant to buy Iran more time as it continued promoting its nuclear plan.

Lapid shared with Malley concerns voiced by Israel’s intelligence agencies over the resumption of the talks.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on November 16, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDF/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Pray that calls from PM Bennett and Minister of Defense Gantz for world powers to join Israel in ending Iran’s nuclear weapons program and its threatening influence across the entire region will actually be heard and acted upon. However, thank Him that Israel is ready and able to act alone to protect His chosen nation if necessary. Pray that all Israel will worship Him as their shield and defender.

Scripture

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.


- Psalm 28:7

Israeli Couple Released after Arrest in Turkey, Arrive Home in Israel

by Kate Norman

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The Oknin couple have safely returned to their home in Modiin, Israel.

Thursday, 18 November 2021 | The Israeli couple who were arrested in Turkey for photographing the Turkish president’s residence have been released and arrived safely home in Israel early this morning.

Mordy and Natali Oknin were welcomed home by their family in Modiin after being held in Turkish custody for 10 days, sparking fears that their imprisonment could stretch into years and be used as a bargaining chip for Turkey.

Nonetheless, Turkey agreed on Wednesday to release the couple after multiple conversations and phone calls with Israeli officials.

“After joint efforts with Turkey, Mordy and Natali Oknin were released from prison and are on their way home to Israel,” the prime minister’s office announced in a statement yesterday.

In the statement Prime Minister Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government for their cooperation. They also gave “special thanks” to Israeli President Isaac Herzog “for his efforts to help bring them home.”

While in Istanbul earlier this month, the couple took photos of Erdoğan’s palace from the observation deck of a newly opened tower. A waitress in the tower’s restaurant reportedly overheard the couple speaking about the palace and reported them to the police.

The Oknins were arrested and charged with espionage, along with a Turkish friend with whom they were traveling, and on Friday the court extended a remand for 20 days.

Israel fought hard to bring its citizens home, with top Israeli officials phoning their Turkish counterparts to plead for the Oknins. Israel also dispatched a lawyer to Istanbul to represent the couple, who were being held separately and were allowed only sporadic visits.

The Oknins are both bus drivers employed by Egged, the largest bus company in Israel. Their faces were plastered across a marketing campaign last year for the company—a fact that their defense reportedly planned to highlight in the case that they were not acting as spies for the Jewish state.

Also, the palace which they were photographing is a hotspot for enthusiastic tourist photographers. A Google search for Erdoğan’s Istanbul palace reveals hundreds of photos of the compound, casting doubt on Turkey’s motives for holding the Israeli couple.

Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu defended the arrest earlier this week, saying the Oknins “did not just photograph the house; they focused on it and even marked it,” as quoted by Turkish Cumhuriyet newspaper. “This can be called political and military espionage. Only the court will be the one to decide,” he added.

It is unclear what led to Turkey’s sudden acquiescence to Israel’s many requests to free the couple or whether a third-party nation played a role in the negotiations.

Either way, every cloud has a silver lining. The incident seems to have opened doors of communication between Israel and Turkey, as Bennett and Erdoğan are set for a phone call today, Reuters reported—the first public conversation between an Israeli prime minister and a Turkish president since 2013.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 18, 2021)

Photo Credit: Otto Magnus/commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that the Oknins have been released from prison. Pray that the Lord will use this unfortunate incident for good, opening doors of communication between Turkey and Israel.

Scripture

Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.


- Psalm 124:7–8

Great-grandmother Crowned Miss Holocaust Survivor in Glamorous Pageant

by Ilse Strauss

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Salina Steinfeld was crowned as Miss Holocaust Survivor last night.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 | It was an evening to remember. Ten beautiful contestants—dressed to the nines in sparkling evening gowns, their hair and makeup done just so—strutted the runway last night to loud applause of the audience while the judges picked the most beautiful of them all.

This was no ordinary beauty pageant though. The contestants have long since seen their early twenties come and go. In fact, the contestants have seen some of the worst that life has to offer—and not only survived but thrived. This was the annual Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant, designed to honor women who lived through the horrors of World War II and endured the atrocities of the Nazi genocide.

Eighty-six-year-old great-grandmother Salina Steinfeld walked away with this year’s crown. She beat nine other contestants and staggering odds—including mass roundups, Nazi attacks and massacres of Jews in her native Romania—to take the title.

“I have no words to express my happiness,” said Steinfeld, who moved to Israel in 1948, where she married, raised three children and had seven grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. She added that she hoped “to lead the people of Israel to beauty and goodness.”

According to the event organizers, Yad Ezer L’Haver or “Helping Hand,” a foundation that provides services to Holocaust survivors, the pageant aims to restore a measure of glamor and dignity to Jewish women whose youth was lost during the atrocities of World War II, but who managed to rebuild their lives in Israel after the war.

The contest certainly does that. “After what I went through in the Holocaust, I never dreamed that I could get to where I am, with a big family: two kids, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren,” shared contestant Kuka Palmon. “And yet here I am, at this great age, 87. It’s a godly thing, it is indescribable.”

Last night was the first Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant in two years, after the contest was canceled in 2019 and 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions.

Some 175,000 Holocaust survivors currently call Israel home, with the number shrinking every year. Events like these provide a wonderful opportunity to honor the dwindling generation of those who have suffered so much.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 17, 2021)

Photo Credit: Kênh Truyền hình Đài Tiếng nói Việt Nam/youtube.com

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for this unique event, designed to honor women who have experienced the horrors of the Holocaust. Pray for the Lord’s blessing on all of the contestants, as well as all those survivors remaining in Israel and around the world. Ask Him to strengthen winner Salina Steinfeld in her goal to bring beauty and goodness to the people of Israel.

Scripture

Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD binds up the bruise of His people and heals the stroke of their wound.


- Isaiah 30:26

Israel Reportedly Strikes Targets in Syria amid Uptick in Raids

by Kate Norman

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The alleged Israeli strike targeted a building near Damascus (pictured).

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 | Israel launched a missile toward an empty building south of Damascus overnight Wednesday, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.

The Israeli military allegedly launched two missiles from the Golan Heights around 12:45 a.m. this morning, SANA reported.

One of the two missiles was intercepted, SANA reported, and “no losses were reported.” This is a common claim by the regime in Damascus that is often dismissed as a hollow attempt to save face.

Israel did not comment on its involvement in the alleged attack, in keeping with its longstanding policy. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has in the past announced cross-border attacks in Syria, but only in response to Syrian attacks on Israel.

However, it is well-known—and has been acknowledged by Israeli leaders over the years—that the Jewish state has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria throughout the decade-long Syrian Civil War in order to prevent Iranian entrenchment in the region.

Iran frequently sends advanced weapons shipments through Syria to its terror proxies in the region, particularly the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist organization. Iran also backs and funds Hamas, the terrorist organization in control of the Gaza Strip.

This is at least the sixth alleged Israeli attack on Syria within the past month, showing an uptick in alleged Israeli strikes.

Most recently was an alleged strike in the evening hours of Monday, November 10, when the IDF reportedly struck multiple targets in Syria, including along the Mediterranean coast, western Syria and an airport near Homs.

The strikes targeted arms depots controlled by Tehran, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

Two Syrian soldiers were wounded in the Monday strikes, which also caused “material losses,” SANA reported.

“We currently see Iran’s policy both inside Iran vis-à-vis its nuclear program, and its strengthening outside Iran, and its influence in Syria and Lebanon,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said while observing an IDF exercise on Tuesday.

“The world needs to take action against Iran, and Israel needs to continue to do what it needs to on all fronts in general and on the northern front in particular,” Gantz added.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 17, 2021)

Photo Credit: ANJCI ALL OVER/flickr.com

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will give great wisdom to Israel’s leaders as they continue to take action to protect the nation. Cry out to Him for His protection to surround every member of the IDF, as they lay their lives on the line for their country on all fronts.

Scripture

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


- Psalm 32:8

Two Border Police Hurt in Suspected Stabbing Attack in Jerusalem

by Elisha Ben Kimon

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Israeli Border Police on patrol in Jerusalem (illustrative)

Thursday, 18 November 2021 | Two Israelis were moderately and lightly wounded Wednesday in a suspected stabbing attack in Jerusalem, the police said, adding that the assailant was shot dead.

In a statement, the Israel Police said the suspected attack took place at the entrance to the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva [religious school], also known as Ateret Yerushalayim.

The suspected attacker appears to be a 16-year-old teen from east Jerusalem. Police said that shortly before the incident, the teen wrote on his social media, “remember me well.”

“The officers and a civilian security guard who were at the scene neutralized the terrorist by firing at him. As a result of the stabbing, the Border Police officers were lightly to moderately hurt,” said the statement.

“Large police forces have been called to the scene and are operating in the area at this time.”

Magen David [Adom] [MDA/Israel’s ambulance service] paramedics said they were called at around 5:30 p.m. to Hagai Street in the Old City of Jerusalem after the report of an attack.

“MDA paramedics provided medical care and transferred to Hadassah University Hospital at Mount Scopus a 20-year-old woman in moderate condition and a young man of about 20 years old in mild condition,” said MDA in a statement.

Paramedics said the two officers were fully conscious and were suffering from wounds to their upper body.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on November 17, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Police/commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for physical and emotional healing for the two officers wounded in this attack. Ask the Lord for supernatural insight for security forces, allowing them to stop these attacks before they happen, and cry out to Him for an end to this ongoing horrific violence.

Scripture

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.


- Proverbs 2:6–8

Thomas-Greenfield Meets Top Israeli Leaders, Promises to Combat Anti-Israel Bias at UN

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US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield meets with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021 | US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield met with top Israeli officials on Monday, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“Honored to see [Bennett] again today in Jerusalem. We discussed our close cooperation at the [UN] working to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias, and our approach to shared regional threats,” she wrote on Twitter.

According to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, Bennett thanked Thomas-Greenfield for “representing a voice of decency and reason in an institution that I think we can both objectively say is pretty biased in terms of its treatment of Israel.”

“I hope that during your visit here you can get a better picture of the unique challenges that we’re facing here, you know, with Iranian-backed terror groups across our borders,” Bennett said, adding that “you’ve always been standing up for us, you and the United States, throughout the years, standing on Israel’s side and serving as a voice of truth.”

Earlier, Thomas-Greenfield also met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and told him that “the United States will continue to encourage countries in the region to normalize relations and expand cooperation with Israel, including at the [UN].”

Lapid called Thomas-Greenfield a “true friend” who fights “shoulder to shoulder” with Israel at one of the most complex agencies in the international community.

Her visit comes amid concern regarding the upcoming round of talks in Vienna over America’s attempt to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal. US Special Envoy Robert Malley was also in Israel on Monday to consult with Israeli officials ahead of those talks.

Jerusalem has also expressed concern over the Biden administration’s plans to reopen the Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem. Last week, the United States also abstained on an anti-Israel resolution put forth on United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which drew criticism.

The US envoy also met with Israeli Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, where she touted the infrastructure bill that US President Joe Biden was scheduled to sign at the White House on Monday, as well as with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who thanked her for “standing by Israel’s side at the United Nations, during ‘Operation Guardian of the Walls.’”

She also visited Yad Vashem—her first visit to the Holocaust memorial.

“I was deeply moved by my first visit to [Yad Vashem]. Thank you to all those involved in creating this institution devoted to Holocaust remembrance and education, and to combating Holocaust denial and distortion,” [Thomas-Greenfield wrote on Twitter].

As part of her Mideast tour, Thomas-Greenfield is expected to meet with Palestinian officials in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and travel to Jordan.

Source: JNS

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on November 15, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Haim Zach/GPO/JNS.org

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield and her strong support for Israel. Pray that her efforts to bring an end to anti-Semitism at the UN, working shoulder to shoulder with Israel, will be successful.

Scripture

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.


- Proverbs 3:5–6

Israel Condemns “Horrifying Anti-Semitic Incident” in Poland

by Erez Linn and Ariel Kahana~JNS via Israel Hayom

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The Polish city of Kalisz

Monday, 15 November 2021 | Nationalist protesters called for Jews to be killed or expelled from Poland at a rally in the central Polish city of Kalisz on Thursday.

Protesters at the rally, held to mark Poland’s Independence Day, blasted Jews as enemies of the state and burned a copy of the 1264 document known as the Statute of Kalisz, which bestowed on Jews rights and protection and resulted in a large Jewish community that was ultimately wiped out by the Nazis in World War II.

Anti-Semitic slogans were also shouted at a large Independence Day rally in Warsaw, as well as at other locations across the country.

Kalisz Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski had attempted to ban the protest, according to a report in German state-owned media outlet Deutsche Welle. The government, however, overruled the ban, designating the demonstration as a national ceremony.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the incident “horrifying,” saying it “reminds every Jew around the world of the strength of the hatred and inherent risk that exists in the world if it is not cut off without compromise.”

“The unequivocal condemnation by Polish officials is important and necessary. I expect the Polish government to take a firm stance against the people who took part in this shocking display of hatred,” he added.

Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said organizers of the rally would “suffer legal consequences,” according to the Deutsche Welle report. Polish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lukasz Jasina said the protest was “used to propagate hate, anti-Semitism and religious intolerance.”

The Roman Catholic Church in Poland also condemned the demonstration, according to the report.

“Such attitudes have nothing to do with patriotism. They undermine the dignity of our brethren and destroy social order and peace. They are in direct contradiction to the Gospel and the teaching of the church,” said Bishop Rafal Markowski, chairman of the Committee for Dialogue with Judaism at the Polish Bishops’ Conference, in a statement.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate via Israel Hayom on November 14, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: 3oki/commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Thank God for the strong stand taken by both the Polish government and the Roman Catholic Church in Poland as well in condemning this horrifying demonstration of hatred and virulent anti-Semitism. Pray that the government will make good on its promise that the perpetrators will “suffer legal consequences.”

Scripture

The way of the LORD is strength for the upright, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.


- Proverbs 10:29

Gantz to Head to Morocco in First Official Visit to Sign Defense Deal

by Kate Norman

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The flags of Israel and Morocco

Tuesday, 16 November 2021 | Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is making his first official visit to Morocco on November 24 to sign defense agreements with the north African kingdom, Israel’s Defense Ministry announced yesterday.

The former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff will meet next week with the Moroccan defense minister as well as the Moroccan foreign minister, the Times of Israel reported.

Gantz’s first official visit follows the high-profile visit of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to Morocco in August. Lapid visited the capital of Rabat to inaugurate the Israeli liaison office there.

Lapid’s trip was the first high-level Israeli visit to the north African nation after the two countries established diplomatic ties following the Abraham Accords last year. The previous high-profile Israeli visit to Morocco took place in 2003 by then-Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

The US-brokered Abraham Accords saw the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalize ties with Israel in an official agreement signed on the White House lawn in September 2020. Morocco and Sudan followed suit shortly afterward.

Israel and Morocco previously established ties, albeit low-key, in 1993 after the Oslo Accords—but the agreement came to a crashing halt after the Second Intifada in 2000, with Morocco shutting down its liaison offices and slamming the door on Moroccan–Israeli ties. Cooperation and relations between the two states remained under the table until the 2020 accords.

Still, Morocco was reportedly hesitant to resume full diplomatic ties with Israel until it received assurance that the new administration in Washington DC would not backtrack on former US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the western Sahara—part of the deal struck in order to draw Morocco into the Abraham Accords fold.

Morocco holds a dear place in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Israelis who claim Moroccan ancestry. The kingdom hosted a significant Jewish population until the State of Israel was reborn in 1948 and an estimated 300,000 Moroccan Jews immigrated to their ancient homeland.

An estimated 3,000-strong Jewish population still remains in Morocco.

The defense cooperation agreements to be signed during Gantz’s visit next week are the latest in a series of steps forward in warming relations between Israel and Morocco.

The countries are also working to jump-start tourism between their nations, particularly after Israel opened its doors to vaccinated tourists in November.

Direct flights between Casablanca and Tel Aviv are set to start in December with Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc airline. Israeli airlines El Al and Israir launched direct flights to Morocco in July.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 16, 2021)

Photo Credit: wisegie/flickr.com and TheDigitalArtist/pixabay.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for the warming relations between Israel and Morocco after so many years of separation. Pray that Gantz’s visit will further strengthen the relationship to the benefit of both countries.

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

Israel Holds National Drill to Prepare for Lethal “Omega” COVID-19 Variant

by JNS

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai

Friday, 12 November 2021 | Israel began a national drill on Thursday to test the country’s preparedness for the outbreak of a new, more lethal variant of the COVID-19 virus.

The exercise, which is being conducted from a situation room in Jerusalem in the format of a war game, is designed to test national management of a new “Omega” strain, according to an official statement.

The drill will test the country’s ability to coordinate and manage things like local/regional lockdowns, monitoring and oversight of the new variant, including vaccine testing, providing economic support for the population and ensuring that the education system can successfully adjust.

“The State of Israel is in an excellent situation. We beat the fourth wave and we are on our way to exiting the Delta variant,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, according to the statement.

“At the same time, however, we are always looking ahead and preparing for the continuation of the campaign. We are not ‘closing up shop.’ Neither are we closing down the management systems and the order of battle against the virus. On the contrary, we are continuing to hold drills and to challenge ourselves,” he added.

With the situation in much of the rest of the world worsening with respect to the pandemic, said Bennett, “Israel is safe and protected.” But, he added, “to maintain this and safeguard the continuity of normal life, we must continue to closely monitor the situation and prepare for any scenario.”

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on November 11, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Yossi Aloni/Flash90

Prayer Focus
Thank God for the success Israel has had in dealing with the pandemic, and for its commitment to preparedness should another wave threaten the nation. Pray that Israel will indeed be ready to successfully handle any scenario, but cry out to the Lord that He will protect the nation from any variant of the virus yet to be encountered.

Scripture

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.


- Psalm 103:2–3