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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.

Bridges for Peace is sending a shortened prayer update as we begin celebrating the holiday of Sukkot the evening of October 4.

Sukkot – The Season of Our Joy

by Ilse Posselt

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Typical sukkah

Wednesday, 04 October 2017 | The rhythm of life in the Land of Promise is governed by a cycle of annual holidays, days set aside in the 12-month Israeli calendar to celebrate what Leviticus 23:1 calls, “The feasts of the Lord…” Some are solemn, dedicated to repentance and rededication. Others are more exuberant, a joyous celebration of God’s might, care, loving-kindness and faithfulness.

Sukkot falls in the latter category. In fact, the weeklong feast is considered such a happy time that it is referred to as “the season of our joy.” Sunset this evening ushers in the festival of Sukkot—and seven days of joyous celebration—for the people of Israel according to God’s specific instruction in Leviticus 23:40, “you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.”

Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles is the seventh and final feast given to Israel in the Torah (Gen.-Deut.). The celebration starts on the 15th day of the seventh biblical month of Tishrei and thus falls either in September or October according to the Gregorian calendar. It is the last of the three Fall Feasts, following Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and marks an end to the High Holy Days. During the time of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, Sukkot was also the last of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, the three feast days on which Israelite males were required to travel to Israel’s capital to appear before the Lord in the Temple.

The name Sukkot is the plural of sukkah, the Hebrew word for booth. The feast commemorates the Exodus, when Moses led a fledgling nation of former slaves from under their tyrannical slave masters to the edge of the Promised Land. Some 3,500 years ago, the people of Israel wandered the desert for 40 years, living in temporary huts known as booths or Sukkot, trusting the faithfulness of God for every day’s need.

God’s instructions for the festival of Sukkot were clear, “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Lev. 23:42-43).

Today, more than three millennia after the Exodus, the descendants of those who God led out of Egypt continue to celebrate Sukkot according to the Almighty’s directives and Israelis everywhere construct temporary shelters outside of their homes, in their backyards or on their balconies.

These temporary booths, or sukkot, can be made from a simple square frame of wood or metal, explains Rebecca Brimmer, International President and CEO of Bridges for Peace. Sheets, rugs or blankets are then hung over the frame to form the makeshift walls. The roof must, however, be made of leafy branches with spaces left to allow the stars to shine through. Palm fronds are always a firm favorite, Brimmer says.

Building the sukkah is always a great family adventure and old and young usually come together to erect and then decorate the family’s temporary dwelling, Brimmer continues. Great care goes into ensuring that the family sukkah is as festive as possible, with the interior beautified with pictures, flags of Israel, handicrafts, flowers and fresh fruit.

The sukkah should be big enough to accommodate a table for dining, all members of the family and a number of friends and family. For the seven days of Sukkot, the people of Israel will live in the temporary shelters, having their meals under the stars, visiting with loved ones and even sleeping in the makeshift structure—just like their ancestors did in the wilderness. “It is used as often as possible during the week,” Brimmer notes, “for sitting, telling, eating, singing and entertaining friends.”

While in the sukkah, families will also retell the story of the Exodus, recalling with great joy, singing and dancing, God’s faithfulness in providing in all of their ancestors’ daily needs while they were wandering for 40 years in the desert. In this way, Brimmer says, Sukkot “reminds them of their transition from slavery to freedom.”

The flimsiness of the millions of Sukkot set up all over Israel also serves a purpose: it reminds those who spend a week within the temporary walls that man is but a frail creature, utterly dependent on God’s protection and provision.

Bridges for Peace wishes you and your loved ones a happy Sukkot and a festive season of joy from Jerusalem.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 04 October 2017)

Photo Credit: Zachi Evenor/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Rejoice with the Jewish people as they set apart time to observe this appointed feast of the Lord. Give thanks that the Lord does not change and praise Him for His faithfulness to His people.

Scripture

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying…“These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.”


- Leviticus 23:1, 4

Mossad Chief: Iran is “Closer than Ever” to Israel’s Borders

by BICOM

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Mossad Director Yossi Cohen

Wednesday, 04 October 2017 | The head of Israel’s external intelligence agency, Mossad, has made a rare public appearance and used the opportunity to warn that Iran constitutes one of the main threats facing Israel.

Yossi Cohen, who has led the agency since January 2016, confirmed that Iran is operating closer to Israel’s border than ever before. Cohen said, “Iran continues to desire significant nuclear capabilities so that these can lead to military capabilities; Iran continues to aggressively operate military forces in the Middle East, closer than ever to our borders both in the Syrian and Lebanese arenas; Iran continues to support the terror organization Hezbollah, and more recently it has increased its support for Hamas; Iran continues to transfer advanced and precise weaponry to terror organizations and into our arena.”

He said that ISIS would continue to attempt to attack Israel and “no less importantly, to attack our friends in the world.”

Cohen was speaking at an event hosted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at which six Mossad teams received commendations. This is the first time the prime minister has held the event.

Reflecting on the secret missions for which his agents were receiving accolades, Cohen said, “Some are complicated and daring in the heart of enemy states. . . all share several things in common—bravery, courage, dedication to a goal, determination, creativity, depth, thoroughness and groundbreaking technology.”

He added that “the Mossad is getting stronger, with new capabilities in order to advance the future appearance of the world, with new technologies, with intelligence systems, with new forces, with human resources—all of this in order to be prepared for the challenges before us.”

Mossad announced on Sunday that for the first time two branches are led by women, equivalent to the military rank of Major-General.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 03 October 2017. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Prayer Focus
Call upon the Lord, Israel’s shield of defense. Pray for the Mossad and other intelligence gathering agencies, asking that they will receive accurate information in a timely manner. Pray also for the IDF as they stand on the border to protect the nation.

Scripture

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.


- Psalm 18:2

Hezbollah Leader Nasrallah Warns Jews: Leave Israel

by  Roi Kais

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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gives threatening speech during Muslim holiday

Monday, 02 October 2017 | Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday called on Jewish people to leave Israel in the latest of his threatening speeches.

In a speech marking Muslim holiday Ashura, Nasrallah had “a clear message to all Israelis and Jews across the world—we, at the resistance, have said from the start that our fight is against the Zionists occupying Palestinian lands and not against Jews.”

“The Jews who came from all over the world must know they are adding fuel to the regional war,” he added.

He called on “all non-Zionist Jews (not to align) their considerations with the considerations of the Zionists, who are leading themselves to certain destruction. I call on all of those who came to occupied Palestine to leave it and return to the countries they came from. If the stupid Netanyahu government launches a war, they won’t have time to leave Palestine and there will be no safe place in occupied Palestine. The enemy’s government must know times have changed.”

Nasrallah also had a message to Israelis, “You know much of what your political and military leaderships tell you about Israel’s ability to win a future campaign are lies and delusions. You know the size of the faults and cracks there are. So don’t allow a stupid and condescending leadership to take you on an adventure that could prove to be the end of this entity.”

“This war would be at your expense and you would pay the price,” he warned.

Nasrallah further accused Israel of “sending threats to Lebanon,” continuing its “aggression in Syria under the banner of preventing the resistance from obtaining new military capabilities,” and “working to bring war to the region under any possible pretense.”

The Hezbollah leader asserted that “Netanyahu is pushing the region to war against Lebanon and Syria, but neither he nor his government and military command have a correct assessment of where this war might lead… they don’t know how it would end. They don’t know what’s waiting for them.”

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published in Ynetnews on 01 October 2017. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.) 

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/Frontières TV

Prayer Focus
Call out to the Lord in response to the most recent threats from Hezbollah. Proclaim that His plans and purposes for His people will be accomplished.

Scripture

Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”


- Psalm 83:1-2, 4

Greenblatt Calls on Palestinians to ‘Recognize Israel’

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Special Middle East Envoy Greenblatt meets with Palestinian President Abbas (illustrative)

Tuesday, 03 October 2017 | US President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt publicly called on Palestinians Monday to recognize the State of Israel and commit to nonviolence in what was a rare layout of the White House’s preconditions to kick-start peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Uploaded on his Twitter page, Greenblatt, who has paid several visits to the region in a bid to inject energy into the moribund peace talks, said “The United States stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations.”

In addition, Greenblatt praised Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his Fatah delegation for visiting the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to undertake the most ambitious attempt to reconcile the rival political factions since the Islamic militant group seized control of the enclave over a decade ago.

“As the Palestinian Authority Cabinet visits Gaza today in preparation for the October 3 cabinet meeting, the United States welcomes efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza, as noted in the September 28 Quartet statement,” he declared in the brief.

“We will be watching these developments closely, while pressing forward with the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and international donors to try to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” he continued.

Rami Hamdallah began his visit with a message of reconciliation, shortly after arriving in a 30-vehicle motorcade through the Erez border crossing separating Israel and Gaza. He was accompanied by a large delegation of Fatah officials from the West Bank [Judea and Samaria]-based Palestinian Authority, dozens of aides and armed bodyguards.

Upon entering the Gaza Strip, Hamdallah said that he hoped the cooperation would succeed, and that the main beneficiary of the division between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is Israel.

“We return to the Gaza Strip once again to end the division, and I commend the factions and civil society members who have joined together to bring it to an end,” Hamdallah stated.

“It is time to take responsibility,” Hamdallah added. “The only factor that benefits from our division is the Israeli occupation. We praise Hamas for the dispersion of the administrative committee and look forward to working closely with all factions and components of civil society for the benefit of our people in the Gaza Strip.

“The success of the government depends on its ability to carry out its actions in practice. We will continue to resist the Israeli occupation until the blockade over the Gaza Strip is lifted and the crossings are opened.”

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 02 October 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Twitter/Jason D. Greenblatt@jdgreenblatt45

Prayer Focus
Bring this complex matter to the Lord, asking for clear communication between all parties. Pray that the international community will not be taken in by any attempts by the Palestinians to ignore or side step the issue of recognizing Israel’s legitimacy.

Scripture

For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.


- Proverbs 8:7

Fatah and Hamas: Another Failed Attempt at Reconciliation?

by Elior Levy

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PA and Hamas leaders meet for reconciliation (illustrative)

Tuesday, 03 October 2017 | Hamas and Fatah have signed quite a few agreements so far in a bid to resolve the rift between them, and primarily to divide authorities and control, but have reached a crisis each time. What are the parties still insisting on and how will they reach understandings on the recent agreement signed by the factions?

The common belief in Ramallah is that Hamas is interested in shaking off the dull civil control burden in Gaza, but keeping the more glamorous military control.

In May 2011, Fatah and Hamas dropped a bombshell by announcing they had reached an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement (the “Cairo agreement”), under which an independent government would be established and elections would be held with the participation of both sides. The headlines screamed reconciliation, but what happened in practice? Nothing.

A year later, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal met in Qatar and announced they had reached an agreement to establish a government and hold elections (the “Doha agreement”). The agreement led to a lot of statements and zero action.

Another year went by, and Fatah and Hamas declared once again, following a series of meetings in Egypt, that they had decided to implement the first Cairo agreement from 2011 (the “second Cairo agreement”). As expected, this joint declaration didn’t lead to any progress either.

In 2014, the parties launched negotiations again, this time in the Gaza Strip, and signed a new agreement (the “Shati agreement”) to establish an independent unity government and hold elections. Surprisingly, the parties established a technocrat government led by Rami Hamdallah, after which the Hamas government was dissolved. Soon enough, however, Hamas complained that the government’s activity was focused on the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and that it was completely neglecting the Strip.

Presidential and parliamentary elections were never held. Three years later, the Strip’s neglect had prompted Hamas to create a sort of shadow government in Gaza, euphemistically known as “the administrative committee.” In response, Abbas imposed tough sanctions on Gaza, which led to a humanitarian crisis. Then the parties got together in Cairo again and announced a new agreement, under which Hamas would dissolve its shadow government and the Palestinian government would resume its activities in the strip (the “third Cairo agreement”).

This partial historical review does not include the “Mecca agreement,” the “Sanaa agreement,” the “Damascus agreement,” etc.

In light of past experience, it isn’t surprising that many players in the region, including the Palestinian public, are suspicious and dismissive of the new agreement. The Hamas leaders are the only ones going out of their way in public to prove how serious they are.

The organization’s political chief, Ismail Haniyeh, issued a public message Saturday stating this is what Hamas wants and has decided to do. “We know the road to ending the rift will be long and filled with setbacks and decisions requiring courage, but we are certain we have begun the movement to destroy the dividing fence,” he said.

Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sanwar, a gentle soul, announced several days ago he would “break the neck of anyone who tries to sabotage the reconciliation.”

Fatah, however, isn’t rushing to embrace Hamas’ announcements. The decision to dismantle the shadow government received a chilly response from Abbas. Two weeks after the dissolution of the Gaza committee, he has yet to lift the sanctions imposed on the Strip. “After following Hamas’ conduct in the past decade, I believe they won’t honor the agreement,” says a source in Ramallah’s political leadership. “Their promises cannot be trusted.”

Senior PA officials head to Gaza

The ceremonial and festive part of the agreement begins Monday, when Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah enters the strip through the Erez crossing with all his ministers. It will be his first visit to Gaza since 2014. Hamdallah will be accompanied by the Palestinian intelligence chief and Abbas’s confidant, Majed Faraj, Palestinian police chief Hazem Attallah, and likely also the head of preventive security, Ziad Hab al-Rih.

A delegation comprised of senior officers from the Palestinian security services entered Gaza several days ago and held a preliminary meeting with Hamas members on Friday. Senior officials from the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate were expected to arrive in the Strip Monday to oversee the talks between the parties. These officials are very familiar with the situation on the ground. One of them served in the past in the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv and in the Egyptian representative’s office in Ramallah. They will hold their meetings in the PA’s [Palestinian Authority] desolate presidential residence in Gaza.

Barring any last-minute changes, Egyptian intelligence chief Khaled Fawzy is expected to arrive in Ramallah on Tuesday. He will meet with Abbas and then travel straight to the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing. At the same time, the Palestinian government will convene in the strip for a festive meeting before regaining control of the government ministries. The PA officials are expected to return to Ramallah on Wednesday.

Fawzy’s visit to Ramallah is the Egyptians’ way of letting Abbas know they see him as a key player in the move. The Palestinian president, by the way, is leaving for a one-day visit to Jordan on Monday, although it’s unclear whether the purpose of the short trip is to update King Abdullah on the talks with Hamas.

The Palestinian government and PA officials’ major and complex visit to Gaza is expected to be mostly ceremonial. At this stage, the parties likely won’t discuss the essence of the reconciliation and the serious obstacles they are facing. The rest of the discussions will likely be held in Cairo, far from the cameras.

Main problems faced by parties

The crossings – Abbas wants to gain control of the Rafah crossing in the hopes of eventually bringing an organized opening of the crossing. Hamas is very interested in opening the crossing, as it will significantly ease the 10-year blockade on the Strip. It’s unclear, however, whether Hamas would agree to grant the PA’s security apparatus exclusive control of the crossing or whether it would seek to have representatives supervising it, like in the Erez crossing, where a Hamas checkpoint is followed by a PA checkpoint.

The military wing – In all the appeased statements issued by Hamas leaders, there has not been a hint of willingness to give up the organization’s military wing and its arsenal. On the contrary, senior Hamas members Moussa Abu Marzouk and Mahmoud al-Zahar have clarified the weapons of the resistance are non-negotiable in the reconciliation talks. Fatah, on the other hand, is willing to give them a chance, but it’s hard to see Abbas giving up and allowing Hamas to apply the Hezbollah model in Lebanon—in which the civil control is in one entity’s hands and the military control is in another entity’s hands—to the Gaza Strip.

The Quartet hasn’t welcomed the reconciliation, but it has clarified it supports the PA’s return to the Gaza Strip. US President Donald Trump’s special envoy, Jason Greenblatt, said in a recent tour of the Gaza border that the PA should regain control of the crossings. Both the Quartet and the Americans avoided referring directly to Hamas.

Monday’s festivities in Gaza will likely produce images of hugs, kisses and statements about unity, brotherhood and the same blood flowing through the veins. But in the Fatah-Hamas history, it is well known that festive declarations do not equal reality. Will the tough situation in the Strip finally prompt Hamas to give up control, keeping the theoretical option of taking over the entire PA in future elections? Will Abbas waive his demand to disarm the military wing? Will Monday’s warm handshakes turn out to be a repeat of the empty handshakes witnessed in Cairo, Doha and Shati? At this stage, it’s seems neither Abbas nor Haniyeh have the answers.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 02 October 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/TRT World

Prayer Focus
As reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is being discussed, pray that those responsible for Israel’s security will be as the sons of Issachar and have a clear understanding of what Israel should do. Pray that Israel will be prepared for any scenario.

Scripture

…the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…


- 1 Chronicles 12:32a

Israel Must not let Arab States Hijack UNESCO

by Ron Prosor

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UNESCO Headquarters in Paris

Monday, 02 October 2017 | The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been treating Israel with hostility in recent years. Time and again, the organization adopts anti-Israel resolutions denying the Jewish people’s connection to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem and defining Jewish sites as “Palestinian heritage sites.”

Time and again, Israel fails to prevent these resolutions, and time and again, it settles for complaints once they are adopted.

The elections for the post of UNESCO director-general will be held in two weeks. This is Israel’s chance to show some initiative and active diplomacy, but it seems to have been caught off guard.

Of the nine nominations for the position, four come from Arab countries—Qatar, Iraq, Lebanon and an Egyptian representative who is in favor of applying Sharia laws. What we do know is that the election of an Iranian chairperson has already been secured. The only education a Qatari-Iranian coalition in UNESCO will offer the world is education to terror, hatred and extremism.

The State of Israel is well aware of that, as UNESCO concerns many bodies—government ministries, local authorities and plenty of organizations and NGOs. Everyone knows how important these elections are, but they seem to be continuing their summer vacation and have yet to do a thing to promote the election of a professional and decent director-general for the organization.

This is exactly where Israel must use diplomatic counter-terrorism: identify the challenge, detect ways of action and create coalitions that will make it possible to reach the desired result.

Instead of fighting specific decisions, Israel must try to change the agenda. Instead of letting the Arab states hijack UNESCO for anti-Israel incitement purposes, Israel must try to influence the organization’s leadership. Instead of complaining in retrospect, Israel must wake up and act.

Israel is not the only country that would benefit from this; so would the entire world. A professional director-general would be committed to advancing culture in the world, and not medieval culture. He would work for the preservation of heritage sites rather than for their destruction. He would promote literature, not book-burning.

A professional director-general who sees the values of education, science and culture before his eyes would know that resolutions which deny the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem have no room in the organization, would recognize the Jewish people’s contribution to global culture over thousands of years and would not lend a hand to anti-Israel bias.

(Amb. Ron Prosor, Israel’s former permanent representative to the United Nations, is the Abba Eban Chair of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.)

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published in Ynetnews on 30 September 2017. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.) 

Photo Credit: Michel Ravassard/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to give Israel’s diplomatic corps a clear strategy to bring the Arab domination of UNESCO to an end. Pray for nations to gain a righteous fear of the Lord and turn, decide to stand with Israel and vote for non-biased leaders in the UN and its agencies.

Scripture

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

Israeli Intelligence Helped Foil Dozens of Terror Attacks Worldwide

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Israeli Intelligence (illustrative)

Monday, 02 October 2017 | Israel’s intelligence agencies have stepped up cooperation with their foreign counterparts leading to the prevention of dozens of terror attacks around the world.

Following the coordinated terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people in November 2015, the intelligence branch of Israel’s General Staff made a decision to concentrate more on collecting information from foreign terrorists who had ties to Middle Eastern terror organizations, Haaretz reported Wednesday.

Since the intelligence branch shifted the focus of priorities, it has improved its cooperation with European spy agencies particularly in targeting Sunni terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

It is believed that Israeli intelligence was behind preventing an ISIS attack against a soccer match between Israel and Albania last year.

Israeli security officials believe that the United States-led campaign against ISIS in northeastern Syria will soon defeat the terrorist group in Raqqa, the capital of its so-called caliphate. The possible defeat of ISIS in Raqqa, however does raise concerns in Israel’s intelligence community that lacking their capital, some number of ISIS fighters will relocate to the Sinai and join Wilayat Sinai, the ISIS affiliate located there, raising the risk of greater violence against Israel.

Despite greater cooperation of Israel’s intelligence community with European agencies to fight ISIS, Israel still sees Iran and its proxies, especially the possibility of Shiite militias moving to the Golan Heights, as a bigger threat than the Sunni terror groups.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 28 September 2017. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDFblog.com

Prayer Focus
Give thanks for the increased cooperation between Israel and other countries in the area of security information. Pray that this would grow and result in the prevention of even more threats from terror attacks.

Scripture

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.


- Proverbs 27:17

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