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What Would Jesus Do?

Friday, November 5, 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.

Knesset Passes First Budget in Years, Clearing Major Hurdle

by Kate Norman

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The Knesset chamber

Thursday, 4 November 2021 | Clearing a major hurdle, the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) voted to pass the national budget for 2021 early Thursday morning, avoiding an automatic return to another round of elections.

The body approved the budget in a 61–59 vote at 5:30 a.m., passing Israel’s first budget in three-and-a-half years.

“A holiday for the State of Israel!” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted this morning.

“After years of chaos—we have formed a new government, overcame the Delta [coronavirus variant], and now, thank God, we passed a budget for Israel! Continuing forward at full strength,” the prime minister wrote, as translated by the Times of Israel.

The previous budget was passed in March 2018, but the subsequent political crisis that saw four elections in a two-year period meant the Jewish state had to operate on a prorated budget for the past few years.

When Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid were sworn into office in June, passing a budget was acknowledged early on as a test of resilience for their broad coalition, which comprises diverse parties across the political spectrum.

If the coalition had failed to get the budget passed by November 14, the Knesset would have automatically dissolved, triggering yet another election.

That is an outcome that the majority clearly wanted to avoid, so they set aside their differences and the coalition got the votes they needed early this morning. They still have to approve the budget for 2022, which is expected to be finalized by tomorrow morning.

After celebrating and getting a few hours of rest, the Knesset reconvened later this morning to finalize the Economic Arrangements Law, the bill that will lay out the budget and how it will be specifically applied. They will also vote on the NIS 573 billion (US $183 billion) budget for next year, which needs to be finalized by March, the Times of Israel reported.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 4, 2021)

Photo Credit: Kathy DeGagne/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Give thanks to the Lord that Israel’s diverse coalition government was able to pass the budget before the deadline. Pray that the nation will now be able to move forward and that her leaders have God’s heart to work together as they look after the best interests of all Israelis.

Scripture

He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.


- Isaiah 40:11

Gantz and Austin Discuss Iran’s Nuclear Aspirations, Regional Entrenchment

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Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visiting the Home Front Command’s corona headquarters

Thursday, 4 November 2021 | Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke on Tuesday about American–Israeli coordination on a range of top-priority security issues.

According to a tweet by Gantz, the two discussed bilateral cooperation vis-à-vis Iranian regional entrenchment and Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

“We agreed to meet soon to deepen our discussion on strategic issues and military cooperation,” he said.

On Septemer 23, Gantz and Austin held a call to discuss regional developments, “including the need to stop the Iranian nuclear program from advancing,” according to a statement from Gantz’s office.

During that call, “Minister Gantz also thanked Secretary Austin for the continued support of the US administration and the Pentagon for the processes to equip Israel with the means necessary to defend itself and its citizens,” it said.

Gantz conducted a brief but intensive visit last summer to the United States, where he helped secure a restock of [US] $1 billion worth of Iron Dome interceptors weeks after Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip fought an 11-day conflict that saw Palestinian terror factions firing more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli population centers.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on November 3, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Jorge Novinski/GPO/JNS.org

Prayer Focus
As Iran’s leaders have declared war against the “Saturday people” (Israel) and next the “Sunday people” (United States), pray for the defense establishments of both countries to be united. Give thanks for the dialog that has been taking place between Israel’s defense minister and his US counterpart. Invite the Lord into these discussions.

Scripture

The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.


- Psalm 119:130

Israel Opens Doors to Vaccinated Tourists

by Ilse Strauss

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The arrival hall at Ben Gurion Airport may soon be filled with tourists again.

Monday, 1 November 2021 | After 20 months of a COVID-induced tourism drought, Israel today opened its borders to welcome vaccinated visitors back to the Promised Land. The move is hailed as a welcome first step to resuscitate the stagnant tourism industry, and if all goes well, authorities say Israel may see an influx of up to 100,000 visitors flocking to the Jewish state in the first few weeks.

“The Israel Ministry of Tourism is pleased to welcome the long-awaited return of vaccinated individual tourists,” the ministry said yesterday. “Once again, tourists from around the world can make their reservations and enjoy the unique, varied and safe tourism products that Israel has to offer.”

According to the ministry, “interest in visiting Israel has remained high” throughout the 20 months of the pandemic and now, the country is about to reap the fruit of the ministry’s hard work “to find creative solutions to facilitate the safe return of tourists.”

Israel sealed its borders in March 2020 when the first wave of the COVID pandemic crashed onto the nation’s shores, and largely kept them shut for the next year and a half plus as infection numbers waxed and waned through four waves.

Over the past few weeks, Israel exited the fourth wave of the coronavirus, as morbidity rates declined, the number of daily cases dropped below a thousand the positive test rate hovered under 1%.

In May, the hard-hit tourism sector saw a brief flicker of light in an otherwise dark tunnel when organized groups were allowed to enter Israel under strict conditions. The capacity was, however, so limited that it could barely be considered a drop in the ocean. Now there’s another surge of hope.

Still, the reentry is not a free-for-all. Those who wish to put Israel on their itinerary will have to adhere to strict guidelines and will be subjected to some restrictions.

Israeli shores are open only to the vaccinated and those who have recovered from COVID-19. Moreover, the vaccine—a variant approved by the World Health Organization or the Sputnik V Russian vaccine—must be no more than six months old, and 14 days must elapse between entry and the tourist’s second or third shot.

Travelers must also take a PCR test within 72 hours of takeoff and then take a second test upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport. Then comes quarantine—24 hours or until the tourist receives a negative test result for the vaccinated and 14 days, with an option to shorten to seven days with two negative tests on days 1 and 7 for those who recovered from the disease.

Prospective travelers may only enter via Ben Gurion Airport and may not hail from a “red” country with high infection rates or have spent time in such a country during the 14 days prior to coming to Israel. Lastly, tourists are required to collect and present a bevy of digital documentation, including vaccine or recovery certificates, Green Passes and test results.

Still, the hoops to jump through and the hurdles to cross are to be expected in a society slowly emerging from a global pandemic, let alone necessary for any country wanting to keep its people safe.

As Israel takes its first tentative steps to breathe new life into the devastated tourism industry and walk into a new normal, and as many around the world rejoice at the prospect of returning to the land and city of God’s heart, we pray for many safe, healthy trips.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 1, 2021)

Photo Credit: GeorgeDement/commons.wikimedia

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Rejoice that once again tourists will be returning to Israel and to Jerusalem! Pray for hearts prepared to encourage and bless the people they will meet and especially their Israeli tour guides who have been without work for almost two years. Pray for protection, that the opening of Israel’s borders will not lead to another wave of COVID-19.

Scripture

Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.


- Psalm 48:2

Hackers Release Medical Information of over 290,000 Israeli Patients

by Kate Norman

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Medical professional logging medical records (illustrative)

Wednesday, 3 November 2021 | The Black Shadow hacker group uploaded medical records of more than 290,000 Israeli patients on Tuesday after being denied ransom payments.

The group, which Hebrew media claims has ties to Iran, hacked into Israeli company Cyberserve, gaining access to the Israeli websites the company hosts.

Black Shadow accessed Israel’s Machon Mor medical records and released sensitive information, such as test results, treatments and procedure details.

The group also published user information from LGBTQ+ dating website Atraf on Tuesday.

The hackers demanded a ransom of US $1 million, which Cyberserve refused, prompting Black Shadow to release the dating site’s user information.

“48 hours ended! Nobody send us money,” Black Shadow wrote in broken English on its Telegram channel. “This is not the end, we have more plan.”

The group also posted screenshots of alleged negotiations with a representative from Cyberserve, though the Israeli company denied that any of its representatives or employees conversed with the hackers.

“Under no circumstances should you submit to the demands of the attackers,” Israel Internet Association Director–General Yoram Hacohen said, as quoted by the Times of Israel. Hacohen asserted that paying the ransom does not guarantee the information won’t be leaked anyway and that it will also encourage the hackers to repeat their attack.

He recommended that “if private surfers receive messages with demands for payment of ransom, they must immediately report it to the police and not take any action beyond that.”

After hacking Cyberserve’s database Black Shadow also accessed records from multiple other Israeli companies, including bus companies Kavim and Dan, the Pegasus travel agency and a children’s museum.

Israel has been targeted multiple times by Iranian hackers over the past few years.

In June 2020, Israel thwarted an attempted Iranian cyberattack on Israel’s water supply that would have increased the amount of chlorine, potentially poisoning the supply.

Last month, Israel experienced what was described as the worst cyberattack in its medical history when the Hillel Jaffe Hospital in northern Israel was left scrambling to continue as normal after a ransomware attack forced the hospital to shut down its internal technology network.

The hospital staff had to work without access to internal medical records and administrative systems, and cybersecurity experts estimated it would take months to get the system back up and running as normal. Israel has yet to point the blame on any particular group or nation, for that cyberattack, however.

Black Shadow also took responsibility for a cyberattack last year in which the group stole information from Israeli insurance company Shirbit and demanded US $1 million in ransom pay. That company also refused, and the hackers again released sensitive information.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 3, 2021)

Photo Credit: Irwan iwe/unsplash.com

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord that He is a shield around His people, and ask Him to reveal a creative strategy that can be used to repair any weak points in Israel’s cyber defense system. Pray for the restoration of privacy to any individuals whose personal information has been leaked.

Scripture

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.


- Psalm 18:30

How Israel and Russia Forged an Unlikely Partnership in Syria

by Alex Fishman

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Vladimir Putin pictured during a conference

Tuesday, 2 November 2021 | At the same time Israel allegedly attacked an Iranian weapons storage facility near Damascus on Saturday, Russian fighter jets struck Syrian opposition militants near the city of Aleppo.

These actions also took place just a week after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi in the first official visit between the two leaders.

If this is not the definition of a strategic coordination, then what is?

Over the past months, according to Syrian opposition forces, Israel has intensified its military operations in Syria. While 2020 saw some 400 missiles allegedly fired by Israel at its neighbor to the northwest, the past year saw a 25% increase—and we’re only in November.

The Iranian activity in Syria has also very much changed. The overall presence of Iran’s advisors in Syria has started to decrease already in 2020, with the number of Iranian fighters dropping by some 50%.

However, the amount and quality of the weapons and supplies Tehran is shipping into Syria have increased.

Israel’s strategy, meanwhile, has remained the same: thwart Iran’s efforts to further entrench itself in Syria.

But when the rate and ferocity of attacks increases, Israel runs the risk of having this cold war turn hot. So why does Israel continue with this strategy—even [having] intensified its activity?

The real change over the past months has not been with Israel or Iran, but with Russian policy towards Syria.

It’s no coincidence that Putin met with Bennett last weekend. Moscow realized that in order to bolster the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—and ensure [its] continued hold on the region—they need to begin bringing Syria out of its diplomatic isolation and ramp up the rehabilitation efforts.

Four days before Bennett’s arrival in Sochi, the Russians organized the first-ever face-to-face meeting between the government and opposition forces in Syria in order to discuss a UN-backed reform to the Syrian constitution.

The meeting did not take place due to the good-hearted generosity of Damascus. In return for the preliminary summit, the Gulf states of the UAE, Bahrain and Oman agreed to reopen their embassies in Syria.

Jordan reopened its border crossings to the south, with its ally, the US—which still enforces sanctions against Assad and his government—not opposing the move.

Moscow is pressuring Damascus to change its behavior in order to further open the country to the rest of the world, with the weakening of Iran’s presence in Syria being a key part of it.

This is where Russia and Israel share a common goal.

There are also reports that Assad has grown tired of his alliance with Tehran, which he feels hampers rehabilitation efforts in Syria.

Israel is not only pressuring Iran but Assad as well, in order to get him to understand what his next step ought to be.

This is how Israel and Russia find themselves on the same page, at least until the Russians decide otherwise.

Photo Credit: Пресс-служба Президента Российской Федерации/Kremlin.ru/Commons.wikimedia.com

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on November 1, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to give Israel’s decision-makers the wisdom of the sons of Issachar with regard to Russian intentions in Syria. Pray for the military units that are stationed on Israel’s northern border, as they stand guard over Israeli families in the north.

Scripture

…the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command…


- 1 Chronicles 12:32

Israel Stands by Decision to Link NGOs to Terror

by Israel Kasnett ~ JNS

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Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaking at an event in the Knesset (Parliament) celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021 | In light of the commotion following Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s announcement on October 22 that accused six NGOs of connections to terrorism, Israel has now sent an envoy to Washington, DC, to explain why.

Joshua Zarka, deputy director-general of strategy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Israel’s Army Radio in an interview last week that the envoy would “give them all the details and present them all with the intelligence,” according to an AP report.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lior Hayat told JNS, “we are sharing information with countries and organizations that prove beyond all doubt the different connections of those NGOs to the PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] terror organization.”

The Ministry of Defense designated the following six NGOs as terrorist organizations: Defense for Children International–Palestine (DCI–P), Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Al-Haq, Addameer, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) and Bisan.

“These organizations present themselves as acting for humanitarian purposes; however, they serve as a cover for the PFLP’s propaganda and financing,” Gantz said in a statement. “These organizations received large sums of money from European countries and international organizations, using various methods of forgery and deceit,” it continued, adding that the funds are used to support PFLP activities.

Israel has for years either suspected or known about the groups’ links to the PFLP but stopped short of labeling them as terrorist groups. This latest move indicates a change in that approach.

These organizations have been described by Nour Odeh, a former spokesperson within the Palestinian Authority [PA] government offices, as the “crème de la crème of the human rights community.”

Based on its response to Israel’s announcement, the international community appeared to agree with Odeh’s assessment and her belief that by designating these NGOs as terror organizations, Israel is criminalizing Palestinian civil society and undermining the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

‘It Is Time for Europeans to Freeze Grants’

According to Yochanan Tzoreff, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies [INSS], “some of the six NGOs have gained a good reputation in international human-rights forums, earned professional recognition and many awards…and enjoyed the assistance and funding of many governmental and non-governmental entities.”

The question then is whether this is a trust issue. Do the United States and the European Union not believe Israel’s assessment; are they truly incredulous of the accusations that these six NGOs are connected to the PFLP? The evidence supposedly is precise, with these organizations having already been exposed as having prior connections to the PFLP.

Or is it a political issue? Are America and Europe simply downplaying the accusations by Jerusalem because they want to be able to continue funding these organizations, which serve a larger political purpose in keeping the dream for a Palestinian state alive?

Furthermore, the fuzzy series of events that have taken place since Gantz’s announcement begs the question of why Israel needs to explain anything at this point, if it did indeed inform the United States of its decision in the first place.

At a press briefing last week, a few days after Gantz’s announcement, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price denied that they had received advance information on the matter.

“It is to the best of our knowledge accurate that we did not receive a specific heads-up about any forthcoming designations,” he said.

Adding to the confusion, Zarka said he personally updated US officials on Israel’s intention to outlaw the groups and believed that perhaps Washington simply wanted a more thorough explanation of the decision.

‘What Will We Have Achieved?’

Tzoreff told JNS he believes that while there may be enough evidence to place these organizations on the list of terror supporters or collaborators, “this is not the issue.”

According to him, Israel needs to consider the ramifications of such a decision and should also consider the strategic aspect, which in this case involves multiple NGOs, the European Union and the United States.

Tzoreff expressed worry that Israel may come under so much pressure that it will be forced to reverse its decision. “And then what will we have achieved?” he asked.

He suggested that instead of outlawing the NGOs, Israel needs to sometimes learn to live with contradictions in order to avoid these types of international blowups.

The question, he posed, is, “How do we do it in a smart way and not in a way that complicates the situation?”

“The Israeli security establishment is known for professionalism and caution in its long deliberations before taking steps such as the closure of Palestinian bodies and institutions,” he wrote for INSS. “It is possible to arrest people on a terrorist charge, but closing an association or public body on a similar charge requires further thought and the inclusion of additional levels of government.”

In contrast to Tzoreff’s opinion that Israel should have perhaps taken a different route, Yossi Kuperwasser, a senior project director at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs [JCPA], told JNS designating these organizations “was the right thing to do” since they serve as fronts for the PFLP.

“Many of their operatives are PFLP members,” he emphasized.

If Israel is justified in its designation of these NGOs as aiding and abetting terrorism, the question must also be asked as to why Europe and America aren’t vetting these organizations? Or if they have been, then why are they pouring millions of dollars of taxpayer money into them?

Kuperwasser said the Shin Bet [Israeli internal security organization] presented the international community with hard evidence in May of NGO collaboration with the PFLP, and while some countries did take note of the information and cut their aid, others ignored it.

He added that “those Europeans who insist on supporting these organizations don’t do due diligence.”

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on November 2, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/JNS.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that Israel’s government will continue to stand firm in the action it has taken to declare these seemingly humanitarian organizations to be fronts for a terror organization. Pray that the European Union and the United States will carefully examine the evidence that Israel has presented and will not be deceived.

Scripture

A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness will utter lies.


- Proverbs 14:5

Israeli Delegation Susses out Situation in Sudan

by Kate Norman

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Khartoum, Sudan

Tuesday, 2 November 2021 | An Israeli delegation reportedly visited Sudan last week after the military coup that rocked the northern African country, Sudanese media and Hebrew Walla! news reported.

The Israeli delegation—which reportedly included officials from the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency—visited the capital of Khartoum to meet with Sudanese military leaders behind the coup.

Sudan became the fourth Muslim-majority country to normalize ties with the Jewish state after the landmark US-brokered Abraham Accords of 2020. Israel first announced a peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, which was signed on the White House lawn in September 2020.

Before that, the only peace agreements between Israel and her Arab neighbors took place with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

But the historic Abraham Accords ushered in a new, modern era of peace in the Middle East, with a small wave of countries openly signing, and some secretly eyeing, peace with Israel.

Sudan followed suit in October 2020, followed two months later by Morocco.

The levels of engagement have differed. The UAE and Bahrain in particular enthusiastically dived into peace agreements and cooperation with Israel in technology, agriculture, tourism and investment into many other sectors.

Sudan’s process of normalization with Israel, however, has been much slower—largely due to the political instability in the country.

And the instability only worsened last week when the Sudanese military staged a coup and ousted then-Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

General Abdel Rahim Hamdan Dagalo of the Rapid Support Forces reportedly took part in the meeting with the Israeli delegation last week. Described as the current puppet master in Sudan, Dagalo visited Israel earlier last month with a military delegation and reportedly gave no indication about the impending coup.

The process of normalization between Israel and Sudan will likely continue at a slow pace, as Khartoum appears to have bigger fish to fry at the moment.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 2, 2021)

Photo Credit: Christopher Michel/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the information the Israeli delegation to Sudan obtained last week will be valuable in helping Israel’s leaders to make wise decisions about their relationship with Sudan. Pray the country of Sudan will be one that chooses to bless, and not curse, God’s people.

Scripture

Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding…then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.


- Proverbs 2:3, 5

Germany, Israel Complete Live-fire Tests on Israel’s TROPHY Defense System

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A German Leopard 2 main battle tank.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021 | The Israeli and German defense ministries have completed the first series of live-fire tests of Israel’s TROPHY active protection system on German soil, the Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. The system achieved a threat interception rate well above 90%, according to the ministry.

The tests were conducted in cooperation with Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which produces the TROPHY system, and German defense firm Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG, the producer of Germany’s Leopard 2 main battle tank.

The two countries signed an agreement in February for Israel to supply a company of German Leopard 2s with the TROPHY system, including interceptors and spare parts, as well as operational and technical training.

The Trophy APS protects armored vehicles from anti-tank missiles and rockets. The system was declared operational in 2009 and has since been integrated into Israel’s Merkava III and IV MBTs and Namer armored personnel carrier (APC). It has logged more than 500,000 operational hours, according to Rafael.

The system is also fielded by the US Abrams M1A1/A2 MBT [main battle tank], and has been tested on Stryker APCs [armored personnel carriers].

The tests in Germany demonstrated the system’s integration with the Leopard 2 platform, and in addition to achieving an interception rate above 90%, provided accurate fire-source location, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry.

“The advancement achieved by our industries in cooperation with our German friends and partners will further strengthen the capabilities of both our defense establishments,” said Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “We will continue to work at the forefront of tech capabilities, prepare for every operational scenario and deepen our relations with partners around the world.”

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on November 2, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: YouTube.com/JNS.org

Prayer Focus
Like the weaponry invented by King Uzziah of old, pray that this new military technology will be used wisely in the defense of nations. Give thanks for the open and cooperative relationship that exists between Israel and Germany.

Scripture

And he [King Uzziah] made devices in Jerusalem, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and large stones.


- 2 Chronicles 26:15