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Israel receives highest-ever credit rating
The Standard & Poors (S&P) credit rating agency upgraded its credit rating for Israel from A+ to AA- (stable outlook), ushering Israel into an exclusive group of 15 nations that hold the prestigious AA ratings (AA+, AA and AA-). The upgrade was announced on Friday, August 3rd after S&P changed its outlook for Israel’s economy from “stable” to “positive” approximately one year ago.
This upgrade represents the highest-ever credit rating given to Israel by S&P or any other credit rating agency in the history of the nation and comes one month after Moody’s credit rating agency also raised its outlook for Israel from “stable” to “positive” in July 2018, indicating an upgrade in their rating from A1 to Aa- in the coming 12-18 months.
S&P explained its decision by stating that “Israel has demonstrated sound economic performance since the global financial crisis, with a current GDP of about $140 billion (or 50%) larger than in 2010, the current account in a sustainable surplus, and unemployment at historical lows,”.
They also added that despite Israel’s political situation being “highly fragmented” and the public debt remaining relatively high, “we now think that fiscal slippages leading to a significant reversal of the debt path are unlikely. This is based on our belief that, absent global trade shocks, Israel’s economic growth outlook will remain solid and allow the government to accommodate pressures coming from social and infrastructure spending, as well as a potential moderate escalation of security risks”.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the upgrade, stating: “These decisions reflect the strength of the Israeli economy and the correct and responsible economic policy that we are leading on behalf of Israel’s citizens”.
After being at the helm of Israel’s economy since 2015, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon also expressed his satisfaction from the S&P upgrade. “In the past three years, the Israeli economy has soared to the best macro data in its history. The confidence expressed by the strongest economic bodies in the world allows us to continue to grow the economy and to help reduce social gaps and strengthen the middle class and weaker sectors. The increased rating of AA- will save us billions of shekels in financing expenses, which we will redirect to the health, education and welfare ministries.” He said, optimistically adding “Although now it is double-A minus, this minus will disappear in a year”.
Moody’s stated two main reasons for its outlook upgrade last month, one being recent positive trends in Israel’s government debt and the second Israel’s robust economy.
“The general government debt ratio has declined by more than 10 percentage points since the last upward move in Israel’s credit rating in 2008 to around 60% of GDP, reflecting in part a prudent budgetary framework and a robust growth performance. This contrasts sharply against trends in many other advanced country peers both before and after the global financial crisis. For example, Israel is one of only a handful of advanced economies (including Norway, Switzerland and Singapore, which are all rated Aaa with a stable outlook) with a lower debt to GDP ratio today than before the global financial crisis. Furthermore, central government deficits have remained below 3% of GDP over the past 4 years, despite repeated upward revisions of the government’s own deficit targets.”
“The second driver of the decision to assign a positive outlook is Israel’s increasingly resilient economy, supported by the dynamism of the high tech sector, increased energy independence and a strengthening external position, which, if sustained, will continue to support more favourable growth rates than similarly rated peers,”.
Finance Minister Kahlon reacted to Moody’s outlook upgrade, stating “The rating outlook upgrade is further evidence of the strength and stability of the Israeli economy. All the data indicate that the economic policy that we are pursuing, including a free and responsible economy alongside strengthening the middle class and poorer sections of society, is the right way”.
Credit rating agencies base their ratings on the governments ability to repay its debts, but also heavily consider geo-political, macroeconomic and other strategic factors pertinent to each country, often comparing between peer countries. The ratings given by S&P, Moody’s and Fitch are the most prominent indicator of a country’s economic situation and are used to evaluate investment opportunities of many types. A higher credit rating expresses confidence in Israel’s economic policies and its future, and will allow the government to finance at lower costs.
Because of the credit rating upgrade, Israel’s capital market reacted positively with significant gains on Sunday, August 5th, seeing the largest indexes, Tel-Aviv 35 and Tel-Aviv 125, rising 1.69% and 1.55% respectively by the end of trading. This is the highest level the market has been at in almost three years. The Shekel also strengthened 0.5% against both the USD and the Euro due to the upgrade.
Looking ahead, S&P analysts predict an average year over year GDP growth of 3.3% between 2018 and 2021, resulting from private consumption, corporate investments and strong performance in the high-tech and fields of service exports.
Wise Money Israel, The Times of Israel, Calcalist, Globes, Jerusalem Post, Ynet
This article originally appeared on Wise Money Israel, August 6, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Being passionate about both ministry and business, Stefan serves as the Executive Pastor at the vibrant Messianic-Israeli congregation Kerem-El in Haifa along with his wife Keren, an Israeli worship leader and songwriter. He serves as a Director at Wise Money Israel, the first Jewish believer-run Investment Portfolio Management firm in Israel working with individuals, ministries and organizations around the globe to invest in Israel.
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“No Room for Small Dreams”
Regardless of what you think of former Israeli President Shimon Peres’ politics, his life story is a parable of the rebirth and the flourishing of modern Israel. Reading his autobiography, No Room for Small Dreams (London, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2017), I am freshly inspired to plant my life in this miracle nation.
Peres was born in Poland in 1923, into a family whose dream was to live in Zion. He arrived in pre-state Israel in 1934. During his youth Peres was shaped by the rugged demands of kibbutz agriculture and was one of the founders of Kibbutz Alumot, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. During his more than seventy years of public service, this man’s accomplishments encompassed the fields of defense, technology, economy and national politics. His roles included serving as Prime Minister. Shimon Peres continued to actively serve his nation until his passing at age 93 on September 28, 2016.
His life story inspires me through statements like these:
“…we were all keenly aware that we were part of a mission—something far bigger than ourselves.” (p.14)
“…rather than run from the challenge, I fully embraced it.” (p.39)
“Never once, in our two thousand years of exile, had there been a more ambitious dream for our people than the dream to return home.” (p. 43-44)
“And yet I knew that we would never achieve great things if we let austerity become an obstacle to audacity. To build a stronger, more prosperous state, we had to set our gaze higher than our temporary limitations.” (p.60)
With determination, perseverance, sacrifice, intelligence and ever-guided by an optimistic vision for the future, Peres helped forge this nation—bringing us from the trauma of rebirth before statehood, through warfare that challenged our very existence as a country, through tackling hyperinflation as a struggling economy in the 1980s, into our current place as a young/ancient nation resurrected and blooming both agriculturally and technologically.
Pioneers still greatly needed!
We may now be a highly developed nation, on par with Western European societies, but there is still a need for a Peres-like approach of “building for the future.” This Zionist pioneer, had the “faith” to assist in Israel’s miraculous rebirth, even without believing in the God of Israel. How much more then, can we envision a bold faith view of what “can be.” This is profoundly true for us as Messianic Jews and all followers of Yeshua who grasp His unabated love for Israel and for all mankind. May we be fueled with passion to set in motion the dynamics of faith—declaring and living for those things that are not yet, as though they are (Hebrews 11:1).
There is so much more God intends to do in our generation here and globally. Here, we are back in the “land,” but not yet fully alive in the Spirit (Ezekiel 37:8). Strengthening, refreshing, equipping, and empowering the body of believers in this land is a high priority. As we intercede and give ourselves to the coming of Yeshua’s Kingdom, I believe that we are following in the footsteps of both the Zionist pioneers and the heroes of faith recorded in Scripture.
“And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 12:39, 40).
It is said of Abraham, the father of us all, that “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Romans 4:20, 21).
This article originally appeared in Oasis newsletter, August 2018, and reposted with permission.
Eitan is the Founder and Executive Director of Tents of Mercy Network of Messianic Congregations is Northern Israel. He's a published author, having written "What About Us?", which answers the question about Gentile participation in the restoration of Israel.
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Commentary on Parashat Ekev (Because of)
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:12–11:25
God’s Word is consistent! As I was reflecting on this week’s reading, I was amazed once again by this, and also by the fact that Yeshua our Messiah’s teachings always consistently echoed the Hebrew Scriptures. Let’s take a look at a few key verses from this week’s parasha:
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more. For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.
As I mentioned, I love the consistency of God’s Word, and I would like to highlight a few key points from the verses above:
- Love God through obedience to His commands. I focused last year’s blog on the issue of love (Parashat Ekev (Because of )). Again, I want to stress the importance of obedience as evidence of our love for the Lord. Basically, the byproduct of our love is obedience, which comes from a soft heart toward Him (not legalism):
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15)
That word “if” is such an important word that we find throughout Scripture. Our love of God ought to be reflected through the way we apply His Will to our lives.
- The entire heaven and earth are His. Before entrusting us with the greatest call on earth (i.e. to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to obey His commands), Yeshua reminded us of the fact that He is the one who has all authority in Heaven and on Earth:
And Yeshua came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18)
- God’s amazing love and faithfulness. The fact that Israel is God’s elect is repeated for a very specific reason in the New Covenant: God is faithful to keep His promises. The fact is that He is not finished with Israel, His chosen people. To claim that He has rejected Israel would be calling God a liar, and accusing Him of being unfaithful. Paul wrote about this very clearly in the book of Romans:
From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. (Romans 11:28–32)
- The Circumcision of the Heart. Circumcision of the foreskin is a key part of the covenant between Abraham and God, so we can understand that circumcision of the heart is also a key part of the covenant. God desires us to have a “heart of flesh” rather than a “heart of stone”, so that our hearts would be soft to His instruction. In Messiah Yeshua, everyone receives a heart of flesh (not of stone), which is circumcised as a sign of our belonging to Him (2 Corinthians 3:3). A circumcised heart is a sign of love for the Lord, and so we obey Him because we love Him (John 14:15).
- The Superiority of God. He is God Almighty. In the Book of Revelation, we are reminded of the fact that Yeshua is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, just like it says in verse 17 of our Scripture portion:
And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:16)
- God does not show partiality. In many places throughout the New Covenant (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Galatians 2:16 and Ephesians 6:9), we find references to the fact that God does not show partiality. Our God is a just God that cared in the past – and still cares today – for the orphans, the widows, and even the aliens in the Land, and He has called us to do the same.
In closing, I would like to highlight and summarize verses 20–22: Love the LORD, serve the LORD, cling to Him for He is your praise, and He has done, is doing, and will always do so many great things for you! He is the One who redeemed you and opened your eyes to the truth; He is the same God from yesterday in whom you can take great comfort, hope, and assurance for the future!
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.
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Abraham had three wives
When we read the stories of the patriarchs, we have to ask what the purpose of God was behind all the events, even those that may seem strange. My understanding is that God sent Abraham back to the land of Canaan to “restart” the original plan from the garden of Eden. (Genesis 12:1-4)
Through Abraham’s first wife, Sarah, was born Isaac, to whom was given both the promised seed of the Messiah Savior, but also ownership rights of the land. (Genesis 18, 21)
Through Abraham’s second wife, Hagar, Ishmael was born, who was blessed and circumcised into the family covenant even before Isaac was born. Through Hagar a family and covenant connection was made with the people of Egypt (Mizraim) and through them to all the sons of Cush and Ham, living in Africa. (Genesis 10:6)
After Sarah died, Abraham married Keturah. The sons of Keturah were sent northward and eastward, and joined in with the sons of Ashur (Assyria). This established a family covenant connection spreading out into Europe and Asia. (Genesis 25:1, 3, 6)
God promised Abraham to be a blessing to all nations, to take possession of planet earth, to be a father of many nations, and to bring the savior of the world. (Genesis 12, 22, Isaiah 19:23-25, Romans 4)
The sons of Ishmael and the sons of Keturah were not a mistake. They were part of God’s predestined plan to restore planet earth and extend the family of God through covenant with father Abraham.
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, August 1, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Asher Intrater is the founder and apostolic leader of Revive Israel Ministries, and oversees Ahavat Yeshua Congregation in Jerusalem, and Tiferet Yeshua Congregation in Tel Aviv. Asher was one of the founders of Tikkun International with Dan Juster and Eitan Shishkoff, and serves on the board of the Messianic Alliance of Israel and Aglow International.