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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

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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.

The Bridges for Peace offices in Jerusalem will be closed over the holidays and will reopen on Monday, January 4, 2021.

Israel Announces Fourth Elections in Two Years

by Ilse Strauss

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Israel is officially heading to the polls for the fourth national elections in two years.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020 | It’s official. Israel is heading to the polls for the fourth national elections in less than two years.

The Knesset Speaker made the official announcement in the plenum at the stroke of midnight last night after the deadline to pass the 2020 state budget came and went, dissolving the 23rd Knesset (Parliament) by default.

The new vote is automatically set for March 23, 2021, exactly 90 days after the Knesset crumbled, although a vote can still change the date.

The failure to pass the 2020 budget comes a mere seven months after Likud and Blue and White, its main rival in the previous three indecisive elections, decided to set their differences aside to form a power-sharing unity government to lead Israel amid the coronavirus crisis through a rotating premiership between the two party chairs Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Despite the agreement, relations between Netanyahu and Gantz remained strained, with the two leaders failing to see eye to eye on a number of issues. The apex of the political turmoil was the approval of the state budget. Prolonged negotiations to reach an agreement collapsed, and with last night’s deadline looming, all last-ditch efforts proved fruitless. As the clock struck midnight, the dye was cast. Come March 2021, Israel will try for an unprecedented fourth consecutive time to select the leaders to govern the country.

Last night’s announcement does not come as a surprise. Experts and pundits have said for weeks that a fourth election was unavoidable.

Netanyahu was clearly resigned to the seemingly inevitable. Speaking to the press in a live statement shortly after 8 p.m. last night—roughly four hours before the Knesset crumbled—Netanyahu vowed that he did everything in his power to avoid fourth elections. “Israel is going to elections due to internal fights in Blue and White,” he explained.

Although this is not the path he would have chosen, the prime minister pledged to make the most of it, promising “a huge win” for Likud.

Continuing the back-and-forth blame game, Blue and White placed the blame squarely on Likud.

Although it is early days, polls predict a dismal outcome for Gantz and his party in the fourth round of elections. While Likud is expected to fare better, it is expected to be a tough race, with the main opposition to Netanyahu this time coming from right-wing parties.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 23, 2020)

Photo Credit: bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
While this is not the outcome that Israelis—and those who love Israel—would have chosen, we thank the One who reigns supreme over times, seasons, rulers and kings that He remains in perfect control of the situation. Pray for His will to be done in every detail of the fourth elections and for His leaders of choice to rule over His Land and people.


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

Mother of Six Slain in Suspected Terror Attack

by Elisha Ben Kimon

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The Tal Menashe community in Samaria

Tuesday, 22 December 2020 | The body of an Israeli mother of six was found in a West Bank [Judea and Samaria] forest early Monday in a suspected terror attack.

Esther Horgan, 52, left her home in the northern West Bank settlement [community] of Tal Menashe on Sunday afternoon for a jog in the nearby Shaked Forest.

Her body was found early Monday with clear signs of a violent attack which police and the Shin Bet [Israeli internal security organization] suspect was an act of terror.

Security forces launched a manhunt Monday morning in an effort to find the perpetrator.

Paramedic Assaf Tapuhi, who arrived on the scene, said that the woman showed no signs of life and was pronounced dead.

The Samaria Regional Council said in a statement that Horgan’s murder was an act of terror.

“Her husband alerted security forces after she failed to return home. She was found with her skull bashed in,” the statement said.

“A dear woman so full of kindness goes out in the afternoon in the center of the State of Israel to exercise a minute away from her home, and is murdered by vile people in such a cruel way,” said the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz vowed that Israel would track down those responsible for her murder.

“I send my deepest sympathies to the Horgan family on the horrific murder of Esther, of blessed memory,” said Gantz in a statement.

“Israel’s security forces are working to find the despicable murderer and take him promptly into custody. We will never accept a reality in which human life becomes dispensable.”

President Reuven Rivlin expressed his condolences to the Horgan family and said Israel would find the killer.

“This is a hard, heart-breaking morning with news of the cruel murder of Esther Horgan, who left her house yesterday and did not return,” the president said in a statement released by his office.

“A full life of wonderful works, of home and family, of creativity and care have been cut short by a beast in human guise. I have full faith that our security forces will get to the despicable murders and that justice will be done. I embrace Esther’s family, her children and their father. We are with you in this time of such deep grief.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on December 21, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Mendelson.avi/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord to bring comfort to the grieving friends and family of Esther Horgan as they mourn the sudden loss of a wife, mother, daughter and friend in such a brutal way. At the same time, beseech the Lord for His intervention to bring the perpetrator of this heinous crime to swift justice, so that would-be terrorists who might seek to follow in the murderer’s footsteps will know that such acts of terror do not go unpunished.


“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned.”

- Isaiah 40:1–2a

Delegation from UAE, Bahrain Help Light Hanukkah Candles at the Western Wall

by Ilse Strauss

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The Western Wall plaza (illustrative)

Friday, 18 December 2020 | In what the chief rabbi of the Western Wall celebrated as a Hanukkah (Festival of Light) miracle, Kandura and keffiyeh-clad officials from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain joined their tasseled and kippa-garbed Jewish brethren for the official hanukkiah (nine-branched candelabra) lighting ceremony at the holiest spot in Judaism.

Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who kindled the candles for the fifth night of the feast, welcomed the delegation, lauding the vast strides for peace made during the past year that allow former foes to rejoice together as friends.

“It is a Hanukah miracle to see the delegation from the UAE and Bahrain here with us participating in the Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony,” he said. “Who would have believed that peace would come to our house in such a magnificent way?”

The delegation, headed by Amit Deri of the Sharaka Project, comprises social activists and opinion leaders from the two Gulf countries. Sharaka means cooperation in Arabic, and Deri launched the project with exactly that objective in mind: bringing together the citizens of Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, and introducing the essence, character and culture of the State of Israel to the Arab world.

The delegation’s visit to Israel boasted an exciting agenda, including a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at Jerusalem residence on Sunday. “Peace is made between peoples and nations,” the president told the group. “Your visit here is another step in the path of building warm relations between our countries. I wish you a successful visit and I am glad to meet you here in Jerusalem.”

A delegation leader, Dr. Majid a-Sarah, from the University of Dubai, responded: “To visit Israel for the first time as part of a delegation is a historic moment. Israel is a prime example of tolerance in the region. This is a new era of peace and stability between peoples.”

A female delegate from Bahrain, Mashaal a-Shamri, added: “As a Bahraini woman visiting Israel, it is a great honor for me to meet the president. We see Israel as a place of peace, success and coexistence.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 18, 2020)

Photo Credit: Hannah Taylor/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Sing praises to the Lord for this precious display of brotherly friendship and harmony from those who used to shun Israel as an enemy. Rejoice before the Lord for the abundant harvest of peace and prosperity yielded by the Abraham Accords, and ask Him to continue using the pact as a platform for Israel to shine as a light to the nations.


Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forevermore.

- Psalm 133: 1, 3

Israel Begins Coronavirus Vaccine Drive

by Adir Yanko

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Israel launched its coronavirus vaccine drive yesterday (illustrative).

Monday, 21 December 2020 | Israel launched its coronavirus vaccine drive on Sunday with medical personnel in the country’s major hospitals being first in line to get the shot.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 72, became the first Israeli to receive the Pfizer vaccine for coronavirus on Saturday evening, followed immediately by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, 62.

“One small vaccination for man, one giant leap for mankind’s health,” Netanyahu said as he received the vaccine from his personal physician, Dr. Tzvi Berkowitz.

The vaccinations were broadcast live to “encourage the Israeli public to get vaccinated,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Israelis aged 60 and over will be able to receive their vaccines as of Sunday while tenants of retirement and care facilities will be inoculated in the course of the week. Other COVID-19 risk groups are scheduled to get the jab next, contingent upon the availability of vaccines that are still arriving in the country.

Health maintenance organizations (HMOs), which are said to be able to administer up to 60,000 shots per day, have been inundated by calls of Israelis asking to get immunized for the pathogen.

There was no indication of how soon the general public will be able to be inoculated.

According to a Channel 12 report on Saturday, Israel may be the first country in the world to complete nationwide immunization of all its coronavirus risk population.

This is due to the relatively small population of the country, which currently stands at just over 9 million, compared to the high ratio of vaccines per capita that it already has on hand and is expected to receive in the coming weeks.

Edelstein told Channel 12 that Israel could complete the first round of vaccinations for those at risk in about two weeks. They will then have to return for a second injection 21 days later, which means Israel could complete immunization of its at-risk populations by the end of January.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on December 20, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Gustavo Fring/pexels.com

Prayer Focus
Continue to intercede for a swift and decisive end to the pandemic that continues to ravage Israel and the rest of the world. With thousands of Israelis already vaccinated and thousands more to soon follow suit, pray for the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, crying out to the Lord to keep them safe from reactions or side effects.


In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears.

- Psalm 18:6

Iranian Hackers Target Israeli Defense Company

by Ilse Strauss

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The hacker group Pay2Key claimed that it successfully hacked a range of Israeli defense industry companies (illustrative).

Monday, 21 December 2020 | Pay2Key, a hacking group with ties to Tehran, boasted yesterday that it successfully infiltrated the servers of a number of role-players in the Israeli defense industry, including Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the Jewish state’s largest air defense corporation.

Pay2Key, an alleged offshoot of an Iranian hacking cooperative called Fox Kitten, took to Twitter to flaunt its latest feat, cryptically writing, “Knock Knock! Tonight is longer than longest night for @ILAerospaceIAI.”

The hacker group has since posted hundreds of employee data files belonging to the IAI subsidiary Elta Systems on the dark web, the sinister part of the internet that is not visible using search engines and requires specialized software to access.

According to Pay2Key, the most “interesting part” of the information stored on Elta System’s servers would be company files, including classified details relating to sensitive projects and research.

“Do I have possession of them?” the hackers taunted. “Who knows?”

The IAI said it was looking into the matter.

IAI is Israel’s foremost aerospace and aviation manufacturer, producing aircraft, missiles as well as aeronautical and astroneutical technology for both civilian and military use.

The alleged hack marks the latest skirmish in the shadowy cyberwar between Israel and Iran, which saw a significant uptick in activity over the past two months. According to Israeli–American cyber security firm Check Point Software Technologies, 137 Israeli companies were cyberattacked in October, with the number climbing to 141 in November. The sudden spike has many wondering whether this forms part of Tehran’s revenge for the assassination of the “father” of the Iranian bomb, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which the mullahs blame on Israel.

ClearSky, an Israeli cyber security firm, published a report on Pay2Key three days before the hacker group targeted the IAI. “We estimate that this campaign is part of the ongoing cyber confrontation between Israel and Iran, with the most recent wave of attacks causing significant damage to some of the affected companies,” the report said.

“We estimate with a medium level of confidence that this campaign (Pay2Key) is part of Iran information warfare aimed to create panic to Israel and in other countries world-wide.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 21, 2020)

Photo Credit: TheDigitalArtist/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord to act as a shield and buckler around Israel’s cyber infrastructure to repel all malicious attacks from Iran, bringing its efforts to weaken and ultimately annihilate the Jewish state to naught. Also entreat the God of Israel to equip and empower Israel with supernatural wisdom and vigilance to identify and dismantle any Iranian attacks before they strike.


You are my King, O God; command victories for Jacob. Through You we will push down our enemies; through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us. In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever. Selah

- Psalm 44:4–8

Miss France Runner-up Attacked on Social Media for Jewish Roots

by Itamar Eichner

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The flag of France

Tuesday, 22 December 2020 | April Benayoum, the runner-up in Saturday’s Miss France competition, came under a barrage of anti-Semitic abuse on social media after revealing her father is an Israeli Jew.

Benayoum, who is the current Miss Provence, said during the final that she was the daughter of an Israeli–Italian father and was proud of her Israeli roots, adding that she wanted to change the negative preconceptions people have about Israel.

Her words, however, prompted an immediate barrage of anti-Semitic attacks on social media.

“Uncle Hitler forgot to exterminate Miss Provence,” one person wrote on Twitter.

Another commenter wrote: “Tell her Israel does not exist. It is Palestine” and “Miss Provence lost her chance at the national title as soon as she announced her father was Israeli.”

Benayoum said she was unaware of the social media posts during the live broadcast of the contest.

“I found out about them from my relatives,” she said. “It is very sad to see such behavior in 2020. I of course condemn such things, but I am not fazed by them at all.”

The winner of the contest, the new Miss France 2021 Amandine Petit criticized the attacks and expressed her support for Benayoum.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin also said he was shocked by the ferocity of the attacks.

“This will not go unanswered,” he said. “It is shameful.”

Media outlets reported that the French police are investigating the attacks on Benayoum.

Meanwhile, President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday tweeted his congratulations to Benayoum and offered his support in the face of the abuse she had received.

“The anti-Semitic attacks against you are sickening and must not be left unanswered,” Rivlin wrote.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on December 21, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: jackmac34/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord in the face of an outpouring of such heinous anti-Semitism. Implore Him to shine His light on this ancient evil to expose it for what it is. Pray for His protection over Jewish communities who live in the midst of anti-Semitic hotspots and ask the Lord to reveal to these communities that they have a safe haven in the Land promised to their forefathers.


For thus says the LORD of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.”

- Zechariah 2:8

UN Appoints New Envoy to the Israel–Palestinian Conflict

by Itamar Eichner

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The United Nations office in Geneva

Friday, 18 December 2020 | The new United Nations envoy to the Middle East, who will take up the baton in trying to solve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, has become familiar with the issue from up close over the course of his career.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday finally approved the appointment of Norwegian diplomat Tor Wennesland to the post, replacing Nikolay Mladenov, who held the position over the past six years.

The Bulgarian diplomat [Mladenov], who helped negotiate a number of ceasefires between Israel and Hamas, will officially leave his post next month, which is when Wennesland is set to take over.

Wennesland is an experienced diplomat who served as the assistant of Norwegian official Terje Rød-Larsen, one of the architects of the Oslo Accords, and has been involved in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict since 1993.

Later he served as adviser to British politician Tony Blair during the former British prime minister’s time as the region’s envoy for the Middle East Quartet, which is involved in mediating the Israeli–Palestinian peace process.

In recent years, Wennesland has served as an emissary to the Middle East for Norway, which is one of the largest states contributing to the Palestinian Authority. Last year he reportedly was scheduled to meet with Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, though the meeting was eventually cancelled.

While certain Israeli diplomats say Wennesland’s approach may be less pro-Israeli than that of his predecessor, they emphasize he is a “fair” and experienced diplomat who understands Israelis very well, which could prove useful during potential negotiations with Hamas.

During his time as Norway’s envoy, he was responsible on behalf of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry for the promotion of civilian projects in both the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and Gaza.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on December 17, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: konferenzadhs/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Bring Tor Wennesland before the Lord and ask Him to pour out His wisdom and discernment on the Norwegian politician as he steps in this pivotal position. Pray that the Lord will open Wennesland’s heart to His plan and purpose for this Land and its people, so that he will serve as a blessing to the Jewish state within a world body traditionally known for its anti-Israel sentiment.


The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

- Proverbs 21:1