Update #4 Israel at War

Update #4 Israel at War

“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on themsuddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.”  I Thessalonians 5:1-4

Warm greetings from our ‘safe haven’ in Netanya. The above text served as part of my Shabbat message to Beit Asaph on November 25, our first opportunity to meet in two months, due to security requirements. This well-known text is so relevant to understanding our current situation that we see as ‘a dress rehearsal’ for the second coming of Yeshua. On that day, He will not come as gracious Savior, but as Righteous King with a scepter of judgement. Verse 4 onward, speaks of our role as Messiah’s followers, ‘as sons and daughters of the light.’

We are now two months into this terrible war. We enjoyed a brief hiatus of cease-fire while hostage and prisoner exchanges took place. Hamas broke the terms of the agreement with rocket-fire into our southern settlements and not returning agreed upon hostages. In response, the fighting resumed with the IDF focusing on the southern cities of the Gaza Strip. These are the remaining strongholds of Hamas and its affiliate factions (e.g. Islamic Jihad) BUT they are also densely populated cities with networks of subterranean tunnels and command centers. Inevitably, in the coming days, we, and the entire world, will learn of the horrors of war as the death toll rises dramatically and our hearts will be torn even further.

The stated goals of Israel’s military are two-fold: to restore the hostages to their families and nations and to destroy Hamas and its factions, completely, so they can no longer be a threat to Israel. The attack on our southern settlements on October 07 crossed all ‘red lines’ for our nation and at the time, for a broad representation of nations. Three weeks later, the ground invasion began with the outcomes you have been following via the media.

As Israel sent in ground forces, our northern enemy, Hezbollah, began missile barrages and drone attacks upon our forces and northern settlements, many of which have also been evacuated. Another Iranian affiliate, the Houthis of Yemen, are regularly sending long-range missiles and drones in an attempt to hit our southern city of Eilat. Until now, thank God, have all been intercepted.

These are the basic facts of what has, and continues to take place.

Now I will outline the social impact of these calamitous times to help you to pray with ‘Kingdom’ wisdom and understanding and to avoid the ‘traps’ caused by strong loyalties to either side, and/or by the political rhetoric and misinformation that various media platforms are ‘peddling.’

Recent surveys indicate that one third of Israelis are showing symptoms of post -traumatic stress syndrome since the ‘Black Sabbath’ of October 07. It is safe to assume that most of the two million Palestinians of Gaza are also suffering from PTSD.

Many of the victims and survivors of the border settlements adjacent to Gaza were ‘peace activists,’ employing Gazans; some were also engaged in helping Gazans secure medical treatment within Israel. When the armed terrorists broke through and began their slaughter, they invited ordinary citizens (men, women and children) to join them in the brutality. This is from multiple eyewitness accounts from survivors. Recent Palestinian polls indicate that 70% of Palestinians support what Hamas planned and executed. Socially, this has caused enormous damage to the trust that many of us have been building – from both sides of the conflict.

Most heartbreakingis the growing division that is occurring all around the world between the followers of Yeshua. We will never forget the words of warning of a former colleague (Palestinian Christian leader) speaking to a Palestinian conference with many international attendees, most of whom are of the pro-Palestinian/ anti-Israel lobby. He said, “If you cling to a theology that states that God has finished with Israel (transferring all His promises to the Church,) you will inevitably end up hating the Jews!” Various posts on social media sites lately, by Christians we know personally, have shown this to be true.

Last night Israel issued a serious warning to Israelis considering travel abroad. For those considering destinations in Europe and the UK and even as far away as Australia, travel should be restricted to “essential travel only.” This is due to the horrendous rise in overt anti-Semitism worldwide. Anti-Israel sentiment since the war began has rapidly gone to an entirely new level.

Among many other social impacts of the war to date, is the discovery of the extent of sexual offenses against women victims during the October 07 incursion. Ironically, this ‘came to light’ once video footage from the webcams taken from the terrorists killed in the ensuing action. From Hamas statements, their commanders ordered their fighters to film the brutalities to maximize the psych-warfare impact on Israeli society. Families received footage of their wives and daughters being raped and brutalized, and sent via the mobile phones of the victims themselves.

There is a department of the United Nations that focuses specifically on sexually based war crimes. Sadly, it took several weeks for this department in the UN to ‘wake up’ and begin to investigate. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is now fully engaged in the investigations.

As difficult as it is for us to write about such things, we do so to highlight key areas for prayer. The healing and restoration processes of the nation must begin now, even while we are still engaged in this terrible war.

One of our super right wing political ministers in charge of police and internal security, in ‘all his wisdom’ has minimized requirements for ordinary civilians to carry handguns. The sale of these weapons has ‘gone off the charts.’ However, arming civilians in a situation like this, where there is so much hostility, is courting disaster. For example, during a terrorist shooting in the past few days, at a bus stop in the entrance to Jerusalem, the civilian who shot the two terrorists was himself killed by another Israeli. Owing to the proliferation of personal weapons issued without proper screening protocols, women all over the nation are terrified of its potential to cause a sharp rise in domestic shootings (already bad.)

There are serious social impacts on West Bank Palestinian communities (e.g. Bethlehem) and on Israeli Arab communities (e.g. Nazareth). West Bankers are in total lockdown and cannot get out to work places in Israel, regardless of former permits to do so. Cities like Nazareth and Bethlehem are heavily dependent on tourism and the Christmas season is upon us. Of course, there are few if any tourists in the Land. The West Bank does not have a social security system so people are literally beginning to go hungry. Local churches are doing the best they can with finances provided by the international Christian community and with the help of several Israeli Messianic communities.

The plight of the Christian community in central Gaza is dire! They remain in sanctuary in two churches among the surrounding rubble, terrified and alone. They do not feel safe to evacuate to the south and are fearful of the IDF. They feel ‘caught between a rock and a hard place.’ Many are calling for intervention for these precious brothers and sisters (approximately 1000 in number) who have remained steadfast in their faith despite their suffering.

Please do not forget these last two prayer items, no less important than all the rest we have brought to your attention.

Finally, we wish to report on some very positive outcomes, made all the more possible by your generous financial contributions.

Our daughter Sara continues her social work at one of the hotels in Netanya, currently serving as a center for evacuees from the southern city of Sderot. Residents refer to her as “their angel.”

Many of the members of the Beit Asaph community continue to manage the purchasing of warm clothing, footwear and baby ‘stuff’ for the evacuees. The lists come frequently and the task takes hours, but our volunteers love to be able to help, often adding to your donations from their own purses as well.

Sara and her team are now branching out into organizing outings for the families and even guitar lessons and treats for the kids to relieve the tension of being ‘cooped up’ in small rooms. Our worship leader, Natan is purchasing guitars and offering guitar lessons for the kids.

The following photo is from one of the regular delivery runs and Maala and Evan ‘stuffing’ their little car with goods, destined for the center.

God Bless,

Evan and Maala