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.
Turkey, Russia, Iran: Filling the Vacuum
by Erick Stakelbeck~Gatestone Institute
Thursday, 17 October 2019 | On the Iran–Iraq border a few weeks ago, I found myself just a few hundred meters [less than half a mile] from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the standard bearers of a regime that has practically copyrighted the phrases, “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
At the Kurdish Peshmerga military base stood a series of small, white structures spread out across the mountaintops on the Iranian side of the border.
“IRGC observation posts,” said one of my Kurdish hosts, eying the mountains warily.
The Pershmerga generals interviewed in Iraqi Kurdistan seemed eager to talk about the threat posed by the IRGC and the Iranian regime—not only to the Kurds, Israel and the broader Middle East, but also to the United States.
They were understandably more reticent, however, in discussing the other looming threat in their immediate neighborhood—an increasingly aggressive Turkey, led by Islamist strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan’s longstanding threat to invade northeastern Syria—under the pretext of targeting terrorists from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—has become a reality. Following the sudden announcement by the White House that US troops would “no longer be in the immediate area,” and that Turkey would be “moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” Erdogan’s forces made their move. If reports are accurate, their targets, predictably, reach far beyond the PKK and prove that Erdogan had much bigger designs all along.
Turkish forces are reportedly shelling Kurdish areas in northeastern Syria indiscriminately, threatening the area’s large Christian minority and deliberately targeting fighters from the US-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group comprised mainly of Kurdish fighters.
In recent years, these same SDF forces, assisted by American air support, took the lead role on the ground in crushing the ISIS [Islamic State] caliphate that had once covered 34,000 square miles of territory across Iraq and Syria. Now they’re once again defending their homes and neighborhoods against jihadists [those in a war with unbelievers in Islam]—this time, from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which has aligned itself with Turkish forces in the invasion.
A humanitarian crisis seems all but imminent, with more than 160,000 people having already been displaced by the fighting, according to the UN.
A distraught US Special Forces member on the ground in Syria who witnessed the Turkish invasion up close told Fox News that “atrocities…are happening,” and that US forces, their hands tied by the White House’s abrupt decision, are “sitting by and watching it unfold.”
With President Trump’s announcement last weekend that all US forces are withdrawing from northern Syria, and with Turkish forces driving ever further into Syrian territory, the Kurds, in desperation, have now cut a deal with Russia and the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in hopes of finding some protection from Erdogan’s expansionism. To see a longtime, loyal US ally forced to turn to two anti-American regimes for survival is particularly troubling. As that same US Special Forces member told Fox News, “The Kurds are as close to Western thinking in the Middle East as anyone.”
Erdogan, by contrast, moves further from the West and Turkey’s all-but-erstwhile NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] allies seemingly by the day. In response to European leaders’ concerns over the Turkish invasion, Erdogan has threatened to allow 3.6 million Syrian refugees to flood Europe—echoing a similar threat he made last month.
While the White House announcement last week stated that “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years,” it was Erdogan who allowed the Turkish–Syrian border to become a virtual sieve and transit point for thousands of jihadi foreign fighters to enter Syria during the height of the ISIS caliphate.
Trusting Erdogan—a committed Islamist in the Muslim Brotherhood mold—to oversee the thousands of ISIS prisoners currently held in northeastern Syria creates an instant fox-guarding-the-hen-house scenario. Already, there are reports that more than 785 ISIS fighters have escaped prison and detention camps in northeastern Syria amid the chaos of the Turkish invasion. Their swift recapture is likely not high on Erdogan’s priority list.
Erdogan, has, in fact, openly harbored members of ISIS, as well as the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas on Turkish soil. Erdogan, who lamely insists that Hamas is not a terrorist organization, has repeatedly slammed Israel as a “terrorist state” and engages in some of the most vicious anti-Israel rhetoric by a world leader this side of Iran’s mullahs [Muslims learned in Islamic theology and sacred law].
His budding alliance with Iran and Russia, and his sweeping crackdowns on Turkish dissidents and journalists, have made Turkey’s shift to the East all the more pronounced. In short, Turkey, under Erdogan’s radical leadership, can be best described today as NINO, or NATO In Name Only.
The US Congress is looking to push back against Erdogan’s brazen foray into northeastern Syria. For months, there has been a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to convince the Trump administration to implement sanctions on Turkey in the wake of its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system.
The events of this past week will likely only escalate pressure by Congress against the Erdogan regime.
Meanwhile, as Syria’s Kurds try desperately to stave off a massacre at the hands of Turkish forces, Iraqi Kurdistan lies directly in the line not only of Turkish but also Iranian fire. As the Iranian regime continues—through Shia militias and other proxies, including the Houthis and Hezbollah—aggressively to expand its influence across Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, the Iraqi Kurds interviewed fear that they could be next in Iran’s crosshairs.
In September 2018, for instance, IRGC forces fired seven missiles into Kurdistan in what Iran’s regime claimed was an attack on Iranian Kurdish dissidents based there. At least 11 people were killed in the strike, which occurred just a short distance from a Peshmerga military position visited by the author.
Today, the US troop withdrawal from neighboring Syria, combined with the glaring lack of response by the West in the face of escalating Iranian and Turkish aggression in the region, have left Iraq’s Kurds and other US allies in the free world feeling more exposed than ever to the expansionist aims of both Erdogan and Iran’s mullahs.
Given the Kurds’ painful history, including genocide at the hands of Saddam Hussein, and the threats they currently face, it’s no wonder that many share an affinity for Israel—and a concern for the future.
“We defeated ISIS,” a Peshmerga general said, “only to see Iran and its Shia militias become stronger. They are filling the vacuum.”
Islamist-led Turkey has now joined those same Iranian-led forces in filling that vacuum—with the full acquiescence of the United States.
Erick Stakelbeck is Director of Christians United for Israel’s Watchman Project and Host of The Watchman show, seen weekly on TBN and the Fox Business Network.
Photo Credit: Kurdishstruggle/flickr.com
Pray for the Lord’s intervention in this volatile situation which is a grave danger to the region and certainly to Israel’s northern border. Beseech Him to bring the violence to an end.
O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle. Do not grant, O LORD, the desires of the wicked; do not further his wicked scheme, lest they be exalted.
A Week to Go with No New Government in Sight
by Moran Azulay
Thursday, 17 October 2019 | Some 20 days have passed since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was given a mandate to form a new government. Now, with barely a week left until the 28-day period for the fulfillment of the task is over, there is still no government in sight.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu parties continue to fortify their political positions, which makes it more difficult than ever to close the existing gaps between the parties. As a result, there have been no meetings, no negotiations and no serious discussions of any kind.
But, as the time is running out and the pressure begins to pile, everyone will have to look for a strategy to resolve the situation. Blue and White will try to disassemble the Likud and part of the right-wing bloc, while Likud is counting on Amir Peretz’s Labor party to join them at the last minute and put pressure on Liberman to do the same.
Political analysts assess that once the 28-day period is up—by next Wednesday—the president will reject Netanyahu’s request for a 14-day extension allowed by Israeli law, opting instead to pass the mandate to Gantz.
The right wing is [crediting] Netanyahu’s behavior to his fear that Gantz would be able to form a minority government if Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party was to either abstain or miss the vote on approving the new government.
Liberman, however, has already said he wouldn’t support a non-unity government. “We would love to hear from the prime minister about him dismantling the ultra-Orthodox and Messianic bloc…then there will be something to talk about,” said Liberman on Tuesday.
Liberman also said he was waiting for an answer from the Likud negotiating team to begin formulating “basic rules” which will be “acceptable to the majority of Israel” in order to form a government. But, Likud said they have no intention of initiating such a meeting.
Meanwhile, the Blue and White’s strategy—once the party receives the mandate—is to apply enormous pressure on MKs [members of Knesset (Parliament)] further down on Likud’s party list, telling them they might not enter Knesset if there is a third election. Case in point, in April’s election Likud won 35 seats, while in the September vote the party won only 32, indicating a downward trend.
Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published in Ynetnews on October 16, 2019. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)
Photo Credit: Palácio do Planalto/wikimedia.org
Photo License: wikimedia.org
Pray again for God’s chosen leader to come to the fore. Pray that a coalition will be formed that will bring unity and stability to Israel’s government and to the entire nation.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forevermore.
Iran Blames Israel, US and Saudis for Attack on Tanker, and Promises Revenge
by Joshua Spurlock
Thursday, 17 October 2019 | The Iranians claim to have video evidence and other documents that will allegedly show the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia were behind the recent explosion on an Iranian oil tanker, although they haven’t produced such evidence yet. Senior Iranian Parliamentarian Abolfazl Hassan Beigi said on Wednesday per a report by the Fars News Agency that the cameras on the damaged tanker would lay the blame on those three nations for the incident, which Iran claims was a missile attack. Fars noted that no sailors on the ship were injured and the ship was in stable condition.
Beigi said they planned to deliver their supposed evidence to the United Nations, but since his comments, Iran has not yet published the evidence. Meanwhile, another Iranian official promised revenge for the alleged attack and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. While the US announcement did not mention the tanker incident or Iran’s accusations, Iran is on the agenda.
On Wednesday, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani was quoted by Iran’s Press TV as telling a Russian envoy, “We will give a response that will make those behind the attack on the Iranian vessel and seek to create a new wave of tension in the region regret their act.”
The same day as Iran’s threat, the US State Department announced a planned visit by Pompeo with Netanyahu “to discuss developments in Syria and the continued need to counter the Iranian regime’s destabilizing behavior in the region.”
Connecting Iran’s two comments implies that the Iranians intend to respond to the US, Israel and the Saudis in some form. Iran has repeatedly threatened Israel over the years.
Just this week, Iranian Tasnim News Agency posted a photo to Twitter of new recruits in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps marching with flags of Israel under their shoes. Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon tweeted in response, “These soldiers expose the Iranian regime’s true colors: their mission is to try to destroy Israel.”
The tanker incident also comes as tensions remain high between Iran and the West. After failed negotiations with Europe to strengthen the Iran nuclear deal last year, the United States exited the accord and subsequently renewed major sanctions on Iran.
In response, Iran has unleashed a host of belligerent activity, including attacking shipping, shooting down a US drone and launching a missile attack at the Saudi oil industry.
That has the US concerned about maritime security in the region. Last week, Special US Representative for Iran and Senior Advisor to the Secretary Brian Hook said that their security initiative in the strategic Strait of Hormuz waterway—known as Sentinel—is intended to “raise awareness about threats in that area so that we can deter them.”
“We have asked nations to contribute maritime and aviation assets so that we have more eyes on that area,” said Hook in a State Department press release. “The more people that we have there, it makes it harder for Iran to execute its operations against tankers and other things like they’ve done in the past, if they ever wanted to threaten to mine the Strait of Hormuz, which they’ve done in the past, take out oil tankers, [or] capture oil tankers in other countries’ waters.”
Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on October 16, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)
Photo Credit: kees torn/flickr.com
Pray that the growing coalition, which includes the United States and Israel as well as some Gulf States and other nations, will stand strong and be successful in blocking Iran’s every attempt to create chaos in the region. Pray that the nations of the world— and particularly the UN—will not be deceived by Iran’s lies or intimidated by their threats of all-out war.
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. They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; the poison of asps is under their lips. Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men, who have purposed to make my steps stumble.
Israeli Leaders Show Festive Hospitality over Sukkot
by Joshua Spurlock
Thursday, 17 October 2019 | Hospitality is one of the traditional themes of the biblical Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)—temporary dwellings known in Hebrew as a sukkah or sukkot in plural—and Israel’s highest-ranking leaders are practicing that virtue with complete strangers. This week during the festival, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted three “lone soldiers,” immigrants serving in the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] whose families are not in Israel.
“I would like to take this opportunity to again wish a good year to all citizens of Israel and to the soldiers—men and women—who are serving and defending our state around the clock, not just on holidays,” said Netanyahu in a press release on the event. “A good year and a happy Sukkot to you.”
In addition to speaking with the soldiers, who came from Australia, Ukraine and Italy, Netanyahu also spoke with their parents via video phone to give them holiday greetings as well. Netanyahu heard the soldiers’ personal stories, their families and IDF service, while sharing about his own time in the military.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s office, meanwhile, has announced plans to open his sukkah to Israelis during the holiday, complete with a personal souvenir for guests.
In the press release announcing the Open Sukkah event, Rivlin was quoted as saying, “Come and visit the sukkah of peace and togetherness, where everyone belongs and which belongs to everyone…The president’s sukkah is the sukkah of all Israelis. We welcome everyone and are looking forward to seeing you!”
Other activities announced for the event were an opportunity to sieve dirt and find archaeological remains from real archaeological sites in Jerusalem, learn about the history of wine production and a virtual reality film on holy sites in Jerusalem.
President Rivlin also had the opportunity to be a guest this week, visiting the sukkot of Israel’s Chief Rabbis. Rivlin was quoted in a separate press release on that visit as saying, “We are praying for a sukkah of peace at the moment, and there is no prayer more relevant for the tribes of Israel…
“We all have to live together. That is our destiny and our desire. But building a sukkah of peace requires us to understand that we are all connected to each other.”
Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on October 16, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)
Photo Credit: ILTV ISRAEL DAILY/YouTube/screenshot
Pray that Israel will have peace within her borders and with her neighbors as well.
“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD who has mercy on you.
Israeli, German Leadership Agree More Needed to Battle Anti-Semitism
by Joshua Spurlock
Friday, 11 October 2019 | Following the horrific shooting attack at a synagogue in Halle, Germany on Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement], Israeli leadership spoke with their German counterparts on Thursday to discuss doing more to address anti-Semitism. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and “expressed his appreciation for her vigorous stand against anti-Semitism,” according to a recap of the call published by Netanyahu’s office.
According to the call summary, Netanyahu also said that it was “important to step up efforts against manifestations of anti-Semitism,” to which Merkel agreed. For her part, Chancellor Merkel noted that she also “intended to increase efforts to provide for the security of the Jewish community.”
The discussion comes one day after a shooter attacked a German synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism. NBC reported that the shooter was unable to break into the synagogue—where the persons inside had barricaded the door—and instead he murdered two other persons, one of whom was at a kebab shop. Others were injured.
Merkel’s discussion with Netanyahu comes after the German leader visited a vigil at a synagogue in Berlin to demonstrate her solidarity with the Jewish people, according to a report on the German Chancellor’s Office website. The group that gathered at the synagogue—which included Berlin’s Senate and members of the Jewish community—were making a stand against all forms of anti-Semitism, the website noted.
Merkel wasn’t the only national German official supporting the Jews. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited the attacked synagogue on Thursday. His Israeli counterpart, Reuven Rivlin, thanked him for the visit in a call later that day.
“We appreciate the efforts taken by the German authorities to protect and to secure German Jews, and still there is more to be done, and the fight has to be without hesitation or compromise,” said Rivlin, according to an Israeli press release on the call.
“I appreciate your willingness and the willingness of the Chancellor to express your personal support for the Jewish community.”
Steinmeier, for his part, expressed sympathy with Rivlin. “I feel your pain, concern and fear and I share it. I said in my statement today that it is not enough to deplore and denounce,” said the German president. “The German state has to live up to its responsibility to protect Jewish life. The vast majority of Germans who want that must be more active and more vocal.”
Rivlin noted in his comments with Steinmeier that anti-Semitism isn’t just a danger to Jews. “We are partners in the fight against anti-Semitism and neo-Facism. We must learn from this incident to make sure that nothing similar ever happens again,” said Rivlin. “Fascism, neo-Fascism and anti-Semitism are a source of concern for the whole world.”
Separately, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressed horror at the attack in unusually passionate comments for a country’s chief diplomat. “I’m tired of having to express shock and horror time and again. When will this end? Why is this happening in our country?” asked Maas in his statement, published by the Federal Foreign Office. “Two innocent people were brutally murdered—what a horrible, pointless loss of life.”
Maas went on to express his dismay that such an act of evil could still occur in his country. Said the German official, “Anti-Semitism and xenophobia must have no place in our society. It is shameful to have to repeat this sentence so often in Germany. And it is unbearable that the Jewish community has been exposed to such an attack on its holiest day. In Germany, in 2019!”
Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on October 10, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)
Photo Credit: https://www.securityconference.de/en/legal-advice/wikimedia.org
Photo License: wikimedia.org
Praise God for Chancellor Merkel’s dedication to protecting the Jewish community in Germany and bringing anti-Semitism to an end. Pray that the efforts of the German government are successful. Also ask the Lord to bring great comfort and healing to the victims of this heinous attack and their loved ones.
LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.
Israeli Police Announce Plans to Tackle Violent Crime in Arab Communities
Tuesday, 15 October 2019 | What happened: The Israeli government and police have announced new measures to tackle violent crime in Arab communities, including an operation to collect firearms and the deployment of an additional 600 police officers.
Context: Ahead of the meeting, Arab political leaders led a protest convoy of hundreds of vehicles from the north and the south that converged on Jerusalem. The demonstrators drove slowly, causing heavy traffic on Israel’s main motorways.
Looking ahead: The police have not yet announced the details of their plans to collect weapons, but a similar operation two years ago, without the support of the Arab communal leadership, led to only three handguns being handed in after 10 days. An official firearms amnesty, with the full support of Arab political leaders, could be more successful. Ahmed Tibi MK [member of Knesset (Parliament)] said he would call on the Arab public to hand in weapons and cooperate with the police. Despite the announcement of extra police officers, it is clear that political action and protests will continue. More large-scale demonstrations are planned later this month. On October 21 and 27, protestors will gather outside police headquarters in Nazareth and Ramle, and on October 27, organizers plan to set up protest tents outside government offices in Jerusalem.
Photo Credit: Avi1111 dr. avishai teicher/wikimedia.org
Photo License: wikimedia.org
Pray for the success of the new measures being put in place to tackle violent crime in Israel’s Arab communities. Ask the Lord to prepare the hearts of Arab community leaders whose cooperation will be key in bringing the violence to an end
Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts. As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them away with the workers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel!
Dancing under Rocket Fire on the Gaza Border
Tuesday, 15 October 2019 | Despite—or perhaps even because of—the ever-present danger for Israelis living near the Gaza border, a dance troupe from the southern city of Sderot is staging a new performance to emphasize being caught in the crossfire between duty, humanity and the importance of the self.
Liat Dror, artistic director at the Sderot Adama Dance Company along with her partner Nir Ben Gal, says their new show titled “Love is Strong as Death” attempts to convey what it means to dance under rocket fire and create art under the thunderous roars of the constant air-raid sirens.
“Life near the Gaza Strip is constantly presenting us with difficult questions regarding art, living on the fringes of society and the value of art if it’s not placed in a museum or an air-conditioned theater hall,” says Dror.
“How do you talk about art without diminishing it, while maintaining its high authentic quality?”
In their latest work, the troupe also uses marching music evocative of the military to express national pride, the importance of serving in the army and how it ties with human desire for personal space.
“This meeting between the two is very real in my everyday life in the studio,” says Dror. “It started with my personal experience in the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and continued with the very difficult experience of being a parent to soldiers.”
Dror says the show tackles the real-life questions of choosing love over war, of dealing with a complex reality and of accepting others—be it a spouse, neighbor or someone with opposing political views.
“Life in Sderot always highlights these questions and it keeps me constantly on alert,” she says. “Will we be able to rehearse? Will we get to finish that rehearsal or will the rocket sirens go off? After all, it’s my responsibility to put on a show even under rocket fire.”
She says the troupe uses recordings of live music from past performances, including laughter from the audience, the creaking of the chairs and the sounds of breathing by those present.
“To me, it’s a form of correspondence, both with our past, and with its relevance to what’s going on right now in Israel, Sderot, or any place where the gaps are greater than the chance for peace.”
Photo Credit: ynet/YouTube/screenshot
Pray that the works of this dance troupe and other artistic endeavors will bring respite and a measure of comfort and joy to the beleaguered residents of southern Israel. Continue to beseech the Lord for an end to the violence along the Gaza border, allowing life to return to normal and children to live without fear.
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; defend me from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloodthirsty men.
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