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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.

Israel Declares: “We are with You Pittsburgh”

by Jo Sarah Stanford

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Minister Naftali Bennett at a 4,000 strong memorial service in Pittsburgh for the victims of the synagogue terror attack.

Monday, 29 October 2018 | Israel is a country that understands terror. Attacks and the threat of attacks are a daily reality. Terror against one Jewish person is keenly felt in the hearts and minds of all Jews. The response to the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was no exception, and Israelis were quick to declare their support for the victims.

Saturday’s attack in Pittsburgh was one of the worst anti-Semitic attacks in American history. People had gathered for a brit milah (circumcision ceremony) at the Tree of Life synagogue when gunman Robert Bowers, 46, entered the synagogue and began firing indiscriminately. Eleven people were killed and six others (including four police officers) were wounded in the attack.

After a shoot-out, police arrested Bowers, who is now facing 29 separate charges. During the attack, he reportedly yelled, “All Jews must die.” On Sunday, police released the names of those who died. The youngest was 54; the oldest, 97.

Support for the victims and condemnation of the attack came quickly from around the world, one of the loudest voices being Israel. The Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit from United Hatzalah in Jerusalem immediately dispatched a team of volunteers to Pittsburgh in aid of the victims and first responders.

Used to dealing with such attacks in Israel, the team will provide counseling for those affected by the attack. They have opened their services to “anyone who feels the need” for their help, said Hatzalah director Miriam Ballin, the Jerusalem Post reported. “We hope that our work will give the community a sense of solidarity on behalf of the people of Israel,” Ballin said.

Naftali Bennett, minister of education and minister of Diaspora affairs, also left immediately for the US. On Sunday night he spoke at a 4,000-strong memorial service in Pittsburgh. He met with the Pennsylvanian governor and Pittsburgh mayor as well as members of the Tree of Life synagogue and Pittsburgh community. “When Jews are murdered in Pittsburgh, the people of Israel feel pain. All Israel are responsible for one another,” he said.

This sense of solidarity and responsibility was shown when a light projection lit up the walls of the Old City on Sunday night. “We are with you, Pittsburgh,” the message proclaimed, displaying an image of the Israeli and American flags together. Five hundred people gathered in the center of Jerusalem, singing Hatikva, Israel’s national anthem at a candle light vigil. A similar event was held in Tel Aviv.

Some attending the vigils had connections to the Jewish community in Pittsburgh. One attendee’s mother attended Tree of Life, while Brooke Davis, who had made aliyah (immigration to Israel) from Pittsburgh knew some of the victims. “It’s a very close-knit Jewish community, everyone knows each other…. It’s just really tragic,” she told the Jerusalem Post. “We wanted to do this so people could come together and give support and get support and be here and be together.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement on behalf of the government and the Israeli people. He thanked US president Trump and other leaders for their condemnation of the attack and offered a prayer for the victims and their families. “In this hour of immense grief, the Jewish community of Pittsburgh and all Americans who mourn today should know that the Jewish state mourns with you,” he said. He described the Jewish community in Pittsburgh as “strong and proud,” saying they would “emerge from this tragedy stronger and prouder than ever.” President Rivlin also expressed his solidarity and condolences, summing up the sentiment of the entire nation: “In your time of pain, in your time of loss, we are with you. One people. One family. Unbreakable. Eternal.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 29, 2018)

Photo Credit: Ashernet

Prayer Focus
Pray for the victims and families of this horrific anti-Semitic incident and for the entire global Jewish community who have been impacted by this evil. Thank the Lord for the solidarity that exists between the Jewish communities of the US and Israel, and pray that the Lord will protect His people from those who are filled with anti-Semitic hatred.

Scripture

“And they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; for I am with you to save you and deliver you,” says the LORD. “I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible.”


- Jeremiah 15:20b–21

Is Israel Heading To War?

by Ilse Strauss

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Are Israel and terror groups in Gaza heading for their fourth military operation?

Monday, 29 October 2018 | Is Israel heading to war with Hamas? This question has been uppermost in the minds of Israelis—and many in the international community—over the past few weeks, and for good reason. Israel now faces its 32nd week of violent riots and infiltration attempts on the Israel–Gaza border. Tens of thousands of incendiary balloons have burnt hundreds of acres of Israeli forest and farmland. Barrages of rockets continue to target civilians in the south of Israel.

To date, the Jewish state has responded to the ongoing aggression in much the same way it always does: self-defense, retaliation on direct rocket attacks, offers to alleviate the dire situation in the Gaza Strip and calls for a long-term solution. Peace is, after all, something that Israel will pursue at all costs.

Yet Jerusalem’s patience has limits. Last Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned explicitly that Israel has “reached a situation of no choice.” The Jewish state does not want to go to war. The choice may, however, not be Israel’s. The proverbial ball is in the Gazan terror groups’ court. Peace begets peace. And continued violence will eventually demand a response.

Gaza replied to Lieberman’s warning on Friday night. Shortly after 10 p.m., air raid sirens in the south of Israel started wailing, giving residents as little as 15 seconds to seek shelter. The barrage—fired by Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group operating in Gaza—continued until 3 a.m. After a brief lull, Islamic Jihad attacked again at 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. respectively. By the time weary Israelis emerged from their bomb shelters, 34 projectiles had been fired at civilians. The Iron Dome aerial defense system shot down 13 rockets, while the remaining projectiles hit open areas and were therefore not targeted. However, two missiles fell short of their targets and hit the Gaza Strip, one of them striking the ambulance terminal of the sole pedestrian passage between Israel and Gaza.

In response, the Israeli Air Force struck 95 terror targets in the coastal enclave, including weapons production sites and a factory that produces parts for subterranean terror tunnels. The latter, the army said, was located dangerously close to a school. Islamic Jihad’s response was troubling, but hardly came as a surprise. In a joint statement with Hamas—the terror organization governing the coastal enclave—the Iran-backed group threatened to return “fire for fire and blood for blood,” apparently failing to remember that they themselves started the round of violence with a barrage of 34 rockets.

Moreover, in a clear sign that Islamic Jihad believes they hold the authority to stop and start violent altercations with Israel at will—often right after taking the first shot—the terror group announced mere hours after their attack that they had agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with the Jewish state. An Islamic Jihad spokesperson told a Gaza news site the ceasefire agreement went into effect after Egypt communicated with the group’s leaders.

In keeping with standard practice of not responding to Gaza-based terror groups’ proclamation of an end in violence, Israel did not acknowledge Islamic Jihad’s ceasefire declaration.

For its part, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, demanded on Saturday that Israel transfer US $15 million from Qatar into the terror group’s coffers every month. Heeding the demand, he said, would prevent further escalations. Failure to do so would spell an uptick in fighting. Sinwar added Jerusalem has until next Thursday to transfer the funds.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the demand outright. “We heard about an ‘ultimatum’ from Hamas to Israel. At no stage will Israel accept any ultimatum from Hamas. Israel will continue to act in accordance with Israeli interests and for Israel’s security alone.”

Also on Saturday, Lieberman met with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other top security officials to deliberate on the situation. A day later, Israel’s security cabinet convened to discuss a way forward but issued no public statements.

Over the weekend, the IDF spokesperson’s office indicated that Iran and Syria were behind Islamic Jihad’s attack. “The direction for what happened tonight in the Gaza Strip came from Damascus. We view the regime in Syria and the Iranian Quds Force as responsible for the incidents.” IDF spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus added that the rocket strikes were executed by order of operatives from the overseas branch of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is stationed in Syria. Israel’s response, he warned, would therefore not be limited to Gaza.

Friday night’s attack was, however, only one episode in a weekend of tension and violence. Throughout the day on Friday, thousands of Palestinian rioters congregated along the Israel–Gaza border, burning tires and throwing rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops. On Saturday morning, the IDF destroyed yet another terror tunnel dug from Gaza into Israel. And later that day, three Gazans attempted to place an explosive device on the border fence.

Moreover, the weekend of tension and violence is but one episode in 32 weeks of non-stop infiltration attempts, riots, rocket attacks and terror arson. This brings us back to the original question: is Israel heading to a fourth and hopefully final round of war with the terror groups in Gaza? The answer is not short or simple. Neither is it one that the Jewish state can fully take responsibility for. From Israel’s side, the unofficial agreement of “peace will be met with peace” still holds. The question is whether Hamas and Islamic Jihad can be trusted to play by the same rules.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 29, 2018)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/Flickr

Prayer Focus
Pray for an end to the violence in southern Israel; cry out to the Lord that Israel will not be forced into war again. Pray for the Lord’s protection on the people of Israel, to let their desire for peace be fulfilled.

Scripture

I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.


- Psalms 120:7

In Wake of Netanyahu Visit, Oman Calls for Recognition of Israel at Regional Forum

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Netanyahu and Israeli officials’ visit to Oman could help regional peace efforts.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018 | Oman publicly called for regional recognition of Israel, a day after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a historic visit to the sultanate on Friday, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Oman’s minister for foreign affairs, told a security forum in Bahrain: “Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this. The world is also aware of this and maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same [as other states] and to also bear the same obligations.”

Netanyahu traveled to Oman at the invitation of the country’s leader, Sultan Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said, in a development Washington said could help regional peace efforts. On his trip, the prime minister was accompanied by his wife Sara, as well as senior officials, including the head of the Mossad intelligence agency and members of his national security team.

“We are not saying that the road is now easy and paved with flowers, but our priority is to put an end to the conflict and move to a new world,” bin Alawi told the forum.

The minister clarified that while Oman was offering ideas to further peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the sultanate was not acting as an official mediator. Rather, Alawi said, Oman was relying on the United States and efforts by President Donald Trump in working towards the “deal of the century.” Although still not officially unveiled, the Palestinian leadership has derided the deal as “the slap of the century,” and has boycotted efforts by the US to formulate a new peace initiative.

Attending the summit, Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa voiced support for Oman’s efforts to bring together Israelis and Palestinians, while Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, also stressed that the key to normalization was the peace process.

The US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt welcomed the “warming ties and growing cooperation between our regional friends” in a tweet on Friday. “This is a helpful step for our peace efforts & essential to create an atmosphere of stability, security & prosperity between Israelis, Palestinians & their neighbors. Looking forward to seeing more meetings like this!” Greenblatt said.

The last high-profile visit by an Israeli official to Oman occurred in 1996, when former Prime Minister Shimon Peres traveled to the country to meet with the sultan and open an Israel trade representation office.

On Thursday at the launch of the Israeli Innovation Center at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu hinted at a new opening with the Arab world.

“We always thought that if we solved the Palestinian problem, it would open up the doors to peace with the broader Arab world. And that’s certainly true if you could do it. But it may mean that equally true and perhaps even truer is that if you open up to the Arab world and you normalize relations with them, it will open the door for an eventual reconciliation and peace with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said.

“We should do both but I think you should not underestimate the openness and the thirst in the Arab world today for Israel. And the reason, the first reason before anything else, is that we’re there in innovation,” he added.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication the Tower on October 29, 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.

Photo Credit: Israeli PM @netanyahu/Twitter

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for another movement toward peaceful coexistence with Israel’s neighboring Arab states. Pray that Israel’s leaders will be led by the Lord as they are confronted with new openings in the Arab world.

Scripture

In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.


- Psalms 62:7–8

PM Netanyahu Meets with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland

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PM Netanyahu meets with the Canadian foreign minister Freeland in Jerusalem.

Thursday, 1 November 2018 | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

The two discussed ways to deepen bilateral cooperation and issued joint statements at the start of their meeting.

Prime Minister Netanyahu:

“This is a great friendship between Israel and Canada. It’s one that is based on similar values and our commitment to democracy and freedom and liberty and the rule of law and all the good things that I think characterize our two countries, and also the personal friendship because there are about 35,000 Canadians in Israel and every year 100,000 Israelis go to Canada. We are friends. We consider you great friends.

“We appreciate your support in various international forums. In fact, you have said that you will not establish international relations with Iran, which ought to be self-evident for a country that openly calls for the destruction of the one and only Jewish state but you have acted on it and we appreciate that.

“Equally, we appreciate your commitment to take the White Helmets [Syrian humanitarian volunteers]. I think that’s a humanitarian action of the first order. Something that we did jointly and I think it’s an example of the kind of responsible intervention that characterizes Canada and Israel.

Equally, we have a lot of projects that we want to move forward. We just talked on the way here, we already resolved that in a very short cordial walk, we decided that we’ll speed up the ratification of our updated free-trade agreement which is something that will benefit both Israel and Canada. Israel is an innovation nation. Canada is one of the greatest economies in the world. It’s got innovators, it’s got markets, it’s got connections to other countries too. It’s a big country. We are eager to pursue that cooperation both on technology and in trade and equally in aero-space and cyber security and everything that is now open to us because of the marketable transformation of the global economy based on the meeting of big data, artificial intelligence and connectivity. It creates extraordinary new industries. Israel is there on the cutting edge. Canada is there and we can do a lot better together for both our peoples and for many peoples around the world. I’d like to talk to you also about cooperation in third countries. We’re doing this over here with a number of western countries and Africa and we can expand these programs. This is something that also has very salutary benefits for our foreign policies and for spreading good in the world.

“So for all these reasons I welcome you to Israel. There will be I’m sure many more visits. Welcome to Jerusalem.”

Source: (This is a press release issued by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the prime minister’s media adviser on October 31, 2018.)

Photo Credit: Benjamin Netanyahu @netanyahu/Twitter

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for warming relations between Israel and Canada. Pray for the ratification and success of their free trade agreement, and ask the Lord to continue strengthening the bond between these two nations who have, in the past, been close friends and allies.

Scripture

Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!


- Psalms 31:19

IDF Sends Troops to Help Jordan with Rescue Efforts after Deadly Flood

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The IDF elite search and rescue team assist in flash flooding rescue operations at the request of the Jordanian government. 

Monday, 29 October 2018 | Members of the IDF’s [Israel Defense Forces] elite 669 search and rescue unit arrived in Jordan, at the request of the government, to help in rescue efforts after Jordan was hit with a flash flood that swept away a school bus, leaving 17 dead and others injured, the Times of Israel reported Thursday.

Heavy rains caused a flash flood in Jordan, sweeping away a school bus with 37 students and seven chaperones. Seventeen of the passengersmostly childrenare reported dead, and another 22 are reported injured in the incident.

“In light of a request from the Jordanian government, a number of air force helicopters with 669 soldiers, led by the commander of the unit, were dispatched,” an IDF statement read.

“At this time, the soldiers are assisting in the search and rescue efforts for the missing and are doing all they can, despite the weather conditions, to assist the survivors in the flood area,” the army added.

In addition, Unit 669 sent several helicopters to aid in the rescue efforts.

The Israeli police also sent a contingent of medical as well as search and rescue specialists to Jordan, as did United Hatzalah, the Israeli aid organization.

Unit 669, the Times explained, “performs search and rescue operations in both military and civilian conditionsextracting wounded soldiers from war zones and transporting car crash victims to hospitals.”

Despite the recent decision by the government of Jordan to end the lease of lands to Israel that were specified in the nations’ 1994 peace treaty, Avi Issacharoff assessed in the Times of Israel, “When it comes to security, the cooperation between the countries can be described as between ‘excellent’ and ‘exceptional’a relationship that is carefully kept below the radar.”

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on October 25, 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/Flickr

Prayer Focus
Pray for the victims of this natural disaster in Jordan. Thank the Lord for Israel’s willingness to come to their aid even though recent actions by the Jordanian government do not seem friendly or cooperative.

Scripture

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but counselors of peace have joy.


- Proverbs 12:20

In First, National Anthem is Played in Abu Dhabi as Israeli Wins Gold Medal

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Israeli judo champion and Israeli sports minister listen as the national anthem of Israel is played for the first time at the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam tournament.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018 | For the first time, Israel’s national anthem, Hatikva, was played in Abu Dhabi as Israeli judoka Sagi Muki won the gold medal in his weight division, the Times of Israel reported Sunday.

In the tournament, the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam, in which judokas from 62 nations competed, three of Muki’s teammates, Gili Cohen, Baruch Shmailov, and Timna Nelson Levy won bronze medals in their respective weight divisions.

In last year’s tournament, Israeli athletes were not allowed to compete under their own flag. When judoka Tal Flicker won gold in last year’s competition, he mouthed the words to Hatikva, even though the organizers played the theme for the International Judo Federation when he was awarded his medal.

For the first time, too, an Israeli minister, Sports Minister Miri Regev was invited by the government of the United Arab Emirates [UAE] to the tournament and attended in an official capacity, even though Israel and the UAE do not have formal relations. During the rendition of Hatikva, Regev was visibly moved.

During her stay in the UAE, Regev also became the first Israeli minister to make a state visit, accompanied by UAE officials, to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. “This mosque has a message of brotherhood and peace,” Regev inscribed in the mosque’s visitor’s book in Hebrew. “I wish a good life and peace for all.”

“It is a dream come true,” Regev said of the visit to the UAE. “For two years we had talks in order to reach this moment and it was hard to stop the tears. I want to thank the authorities in Abu Dhabi and our hosts here who received us in an exemplary manner.”

In an interview, Muki said that hearing Hatikva in Abu Dhabi was “a very moving time in my career.”

The reception of the Israeli minister and athletes in Abu Dhabi comes at the same time that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman and that the Omani foreign minister said at a regional conference that it was time for the Gulf States to recognize the Jewish state.

In another sign of Israel’s growing cooperation with Gulf States, earlier this month, Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer shared a table with UAE ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba at a dinner of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication the Tower on October 29, 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: PM of Israel @IsraeliPM/Twitter

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that the message of Hatikva has been heard in this venue that even last year was hostile to Israel. Thank Him that Israeli athletes are receiving the respect and recognition they deserve. Ask God to strengthen and encourage them as they are acting as ambassadors of Israel and using their talents to honor their nation.

Scripture

For the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.


- Proverbs 3:26

Israeli Company Wins $777 Million Contract with India for Barak-8 Missile Defense Systems

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The Israeli–Indian made Barak-8 long-range surface-to-air defense missile.

Thursday, 1 November 2018 |  A leading Israeli defense company, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), has won a [US] $777 million contract with India for the supply of Barak-8 long-range surface-to-air defense missiles and missile defense systems for the Indian Navy, the Times of Israel reported Wednesday.

The contract is with India’s state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), which is the main contractor in the project. According to IAI, the company will supply long-range surface-to-air missile (LR-SAM) air and missile defense (AMD) systems, the marine version of the AMD system Barak-8, for seven ships of the Indian Navy.

The Barak-8 system is designed to defend against a variety of short-to-long-range airborne threats—including fixed-wing aircrafts, helicopters, drones and projectiles. The advanced defense system incorporates a state-of-the-art phased array multi-mission radar, two-way data link and a flexible command and control system, enabling users to simultaneously engage multiple targets day and night in all weather conditions. The system was jointly developed by Israel and India.

Israeli and Indian officials have pledged to deepen ties between the two countries and strengthen cooperation in the fields of technology and agriculture. India also maintains close relations with Israel’s defense establishment, and the Jewish state is a major defense supplier to India, selling an average of [US] $1 billion of military equipment each year.

With the new contract, sales of the Barak-8 over the past few years total over [US] $6 billion, IAI said.

“IAI’s partnership with India dates many years back and has culminated in joint system development and production,” IAI chief executive officer Nimrod Shefer told Reuters. “India is a major market for IAI and we plan to … reinforce our positioning in India, also in view of increasing competition.”

Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman hailed the announcement. The deal is “proof that security is investment, and not expenditure,” he said. “The IAI is a national asset, which must be maintained and strengthened.”

Last year, IAI struck a deal worth nearly [US] $2 billion to supply India’s army with medium-range surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Israel in 1992, bilateral trade and economic relations have progressed rapidly—climbing 2,000% since the countries formalized relations 26 years ago.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on October 24, 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Georges Seguin (Okki)/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray for the relationship between India and Israel. Ask the Lord to continue to bless India for its support of Israel. Pray that the weapons Israel is providing will be used for defensive purposes. Praise God that Israel is sharing life-saving technology with India and so many other nations of the world.

Scripture

The LORD bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life.


- Psalms 128:5

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