Israel under siege as hundreds of rockets rain down on the country
Israelis were reeling from another day of violence after more than 450 rockets were fired from Gaza in one day, killing one man, a father of four whose home absorbed a direct hit by one of the projectiles.
Two more Israelis were killed on Sunday when a rocket hit a factory in Ashkelon during the workday. Another is in critical condition after either a rocket or an anti-tank missile hit his car in Sderot.
Several homes and schools were damaged and Israelis were cautiously staying near shelters in affected areas. Police evacuated the beach in southern communities and closed national parks. Schools throughout the entire southern region were canceled on Sunday.
Many of the rockets reached as far as Ashkelon, a city a couple of miles outside the immediate communities surrounding Gaza. On Sunday a rocket reached Beer Sheva which is 40 miles from Gaza. Israel responded by bombing over 200 Hamas and Islamic Jihad military targets and is mobilizing on the Gaza border today as the nation prepared for more fighting.
The army said that approximately 70 percent of the rockets fired fell in open fields, and some 150 headed toward populated areas were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
The rockets that did manage to bypass Iron Dome hit homes and schools though. Moshe Agadi, 58, a father of four, was declared dead after being rushed to the hospital after a middle of the night rocket hit to his home.
Another strike destroyed a kindergarten in Sderot, which was closed for the weekend.
Residents living in the Gaza periphery have about 10 to 15 seconds to reach shelters. In Ashkelon, they have about 30 seconds.
“Hamas bears responsibility not only for its attacks and actions, but also for the activities of the Islamic Jihad, and it is paying a very heavy price,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “We are acting, and will continue to act, to restore quet and security to the residents of the south.”
Agadi was the first Israeli fatality from Gaza rocket attacks since 2014’s war with terrorists based in the Strip. A Palestinian man working in Israel was killed in a rocket strike in Ashkelon in November.
Believers around the world should join with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau who called the world to pray for the situation.
“Each one of us must bear mutual responsibility, read chapters of Psalms and strengthen Torah learning for peace for the nation of Israel,” he said.
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[Prayer Alert] Rocket barrages and Israeli air attacks
As I write (about 6:15pm), once again there are rocket barrages and Israeli air attacks taking place along the Gaza border area, as well as cities beyond, such as Ashkelon, Rehovot, Netivot. There is a sense that this sudden escalation is connected with the Israeli Independence Day this coming week, which for the Islamic and Arab world is the Day of Catastrophe. Also, the Eurovision, a major European music festival, is scheduled to be hosted in Israel in a couple of weeks. As this weren’t enough, the month of Ramadan begins for the Muslims tomorrow (Sonday) — a month that generates strong religious feelings and threatens jihadi actions against unbelievers. The government of Israel following the elections last month is not yet formed, and the Prime Minister still remains in a dual office as Defense Minister. Israel seems to be in a position of greater weakness in the current situation, wanting calm for the celebrations, with many tourists coming for the Eurovision event (which, personally, I would not mind seeing canceled anyway). PLEASE PRAY FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE BELIEVERS IN THESE BORDER AREAS ON BOTH SIDES; FOR REPENTANCE TOWARDS SALVATION FOR BOTH JEWS AND ARABS; FOR THE ISRAELI GOVT TO ACT RESPONSIBLY TO DEAL WITH THE ON-GOING ACTS AGAINST ITS CITIZENS AND BORDERS; FOR BELIEVERS TO HONOR THE NAME OF THE LORD YESHUA/JESUS IN OUR THOUGHTS, WORDS, ACTIONS, PRAYERS.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.
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In somber fashion, Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day
Israelis stood this morning in commemoration of the Holocaust as sirens sounded throughout the country for two minutes, a time to remember the 6 million who perished during the genocide of the Jewish people during World War II.
Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, began last evening at sundown. Considered an official day of mourning, the day is marked with solemnity. Restaurants, stores and entertainment venues closed early on Wednesday while Israeli television ceased to broadcast except to air Holocaust documentaries and the official state ceremony which took place at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
When the sirens began this morning at 10 a.m. life stood still across the Jewish state. People paused to stand in silence including motorists who stopped and stepped out of their vehicles, standing with heads bowed.
Israelis take this somber day seriously. The motto “never forget” drives events held across the country even in schools for children as young as pre-school age. Facts about the Holocaust, perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, are fast fading from basic public knowledge abroad. According to a survey, 31 percent of Americans and 41 percent of millennials, believe that only 2 million Jews or fewer were killed in the Holocaust. A shocking 66 percent of millennials do not know what Auschwitz was and a mere 39 percent of Americans realize that Hitler was a democratically elected politician, the survey by Claims Conference showed.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held on Jan. 27, the date marking the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945. Israel opted to mark the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising on the Jewish calendar date of Nisan 27, which usually falls in April or May.
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Are there differences between how American Evangelicals and Israeli believers view Netanyahu and his reelection?
(Jerusalem, Israel) — In the wake of our national elections, I did a series of interviews yesterday with American media outlets discussing the results, including with John Jessup and Jenna Browder, hosts of the “Faith Nation” program on the CBN News Network.
We certainly discussed Israelis’ reaction to the results, and the possible impact on the peace process. But they also asked me an especially interesting and perceptive question: How do Israel’s Messianic Jews and Evangelicals perceive Israel’s Prime Minister, and do their perceptions differ with American Evangelicals?
Here is a transcript of our discussion. To watch the full interview, please click here. (Note: The segment begins at 11 minutes and 30 seconds into the program.)
JOHN JESSUP, CBN NEWS: What is the mood there as Israeli react to the news of another Netanyahu term?
ROSENBERG: Well, first, I think people are stunned — either stunned with excitement, there were very few people that were sure that he was going to win reelection; in fact, the polls showed that he was behind for most of the campaign. The polls certainly showed that he and the Likud Party were closing the gap in the final week, but even the exit polls did not indicate with any assurance that Netanyahu was essentially going to perform a magic trick. They call him a magician. He pulled a rabbit out of the hat, again. Most people didn’t see it. Even people who were for him went to being thinking, “I don’t know.” But there is also a whole swath of the country that is thinking, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. He’s here forever.” So, it’s a mixed view here right now.
JOHN JESSUP, CBN NEWS: Joel, what does Netanyahu’s reelection mean for the United States, and also for the Middle East peace process?
ROSENBERG: Great question. The first thing I would say is that with Prime Minister Netanyahu being reelected — and almost certain to be able to put together a coalition government; we’ll see that over the next few weeks — there will be continuity for the Trump team. President Trump knows Netanyahu well. Obviously, the Trump peace team — the architects like Jared Kushner and the rest — they know the Netanyahu team well. So, there will continuity and they’ll be very happy about that. They won’t have to change the game plan for Benny Gantz or the others who could have come in and been the new leaders here.
In terms of how it will actually affect the peace process, look, I’m of the view that the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas has absolutely no intention of saying yes to any plan that President Trump puts forward. They will probably read the plan, but I wouldn’t even put it past them not to read it. I’m sure they will, but I’m just saying there’s no indication that Abbas and his team are even open at all. So, the question remains: Does the plan allow for the Gulf states’ Arab leaders to say, “Why would the Palestinians reject this plan? It’s not perfect, but it’s reasonable. It’s credible. It’s a serious plan. The Palestinians should sit down and negotiate.” And if the Palestinians don’t, then in theory it could open up an opportunity [for the Gulf states to move towards peace with Israel without waiting for the Palestinians.]
JENNA BROWDER, CBN NEWS: I want to talk to you about believers there in Israel. How do they perceive Netanyahu?
ROSENBERG: Well, there’s about 30,000 Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus here in Israel now. There’s another 4,000 to 5,000 Arab Evangelicals. And there are, you know, another 10,000 or more Christians of various other kinds, mostly Evangelicals, living, working, serving in the country in various capacities. It’s interesting, Jenna, I think there is quite a divide between how American Evangelicals perceive Netanyahu, and how believers see him here.
I think American Evangelicals see the best of Netanyahu — which is true about him, but he is a complicated man. American Evangelicals see him as a statesman, as a visionary, as a strategic thinker. [For example,] I don’t know who else could have stared down President Obama and taken on and resisted and refuted the Iran nuclear deal, and then gone on to persuade President Trump to scrap that nuclear deal and reimpose crippling economic sanctions on the Iranian regime. That was the right thing to do. Netanyahu resisted President Obama’s efforts almost to force Israel to relinquish strategic territory to Israel’s sworn enemies. So, Evangelicals see that in Netanyahu and they like that. Netanyahu is also opening diplomatic bridges to China, to Brazil, to India, to the Arab countries. And this is Netanyahu at his best.
But local followers of Jesus here see that, but they see other things, too. They see, for example, that he gives an awful lot of power and money to ultra-Orthodox religious parties that are hostile to Christians, and hostile to Messianic Jewish followers of Jesus — I mean, very hostile. They see that Netanyahu has said very unkind, very harsh things to Arabs here in Israel, Arabs citizens we’re talking about, even saying recently that a new law made it clear that only Jews were real citizens of Israel, and no one else really was.
I share that deep disappointment with Netanyahu on some of these matters, including the fact that Netanyahu brought into his political coalition in recent weeks — honestly, and I say this with deep disappointment because I worked for Netanyahu nineteen years ago — but he brought in a party called Otzma Yehudit, Jewish Power, that is a racist, bigoted, anti-Arab, anti-peace party, that was really associated with a violent, extremist party that was outlawed here 25 years ago. So, these are things that have caused Israeli Jewish believers and Evangelicals here mostly to vote for center and center-right parties, but not for Bibi. And I will tell you that I was one of them who struggled because I see both sides of Bibi, what he’s very, very good at, and the mistakes that he makes that are very disappointing. And I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him this time around, though I respect him. I pray for him. But I guess I’m becoming a little more Israeli than I was when I could only see him from a distance.
To watch the full story and interview, please click here. (Note: The segment begins at 11 minutes and 30 seconds into the program.)
This portion of the interview was reposted with permission from Joel C. Rosenberg’s blog.
Joel C. Rosenberg is a New York Times best-selling and award-winning author of 10 novels and five non-fiction books, with more than 3 million copies sold. He is also the Founder and Chairman of The Joshua Fund (www.joshuafund.com), a non-profit educational and charitable organization he and his wife launched in 2006 to mobilize Christians to “bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3.” He and his wife have four sons. They made Aliyah in 2014 and now live in Israel and the United States.
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[Israel 101] Netanyahu wins again in the complicated world of Israeli elections
Benjamin Netanyahu has managed to win re-election as Israel’s prime minister, making this his fifth term. Spanning the course of 10 years, he is now the longest-running prime minister in the country’s history.
To comprehend just how he managed to do this, it’s worthwhile to understand the complex Israeli electoral system and how it works. Elections are based on nationwide proportional party representation. This means that even if one person (or party) gets a large number of votes from the Israeli public, unless he can form a coalition of those proportional representative parties, he will not be able to hold office.
All parties must succeed in crossing a 3.25 percent threshold of votes in order to be represented in the Knesset (Israeli parliament). As a party gains more seats, they become a coveted bloc sought after to be part of the prime minister’s coalition. And the smaller parties can sometimes wield greater power since they can give the prime minister the minimum of 61 Knesset members he needs in order to rule.
In yesterday’s elections, the two main candidates – Netanyahu of the more right-wing Likud Party and Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White Party – were actually tied into the wee hours of the morning with 35 seats each. But the determining factor as to who was the front runner was based on which of the blocs had the greatest proportional votes. In the end, the right-wing and religious parties dominated and received the vast majority which gave Netanyahu a clear edge of 65 mandates (as of Wednesday evening) even though he was personally tied in a dead heat with Gantz.
Gantz’s side only garnered 55 mandates. Essentially, this created a difference of just a few thousand votes, and, as of this writing, the votes of Israeli soldiers were still being counted and could change the trajectory if any smaller parties end up getting a seat at the table.
You might be interested to know how this relates to the Israeli body of believers. First, two of the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, received eight seats each. It is, therefore, likely that Shas will continue to hold the Interior Ministry portfolio as it has for many years. As a result of its strong hold on this office, Shas has prevented Messianic Jews from immigrating to Israel.
Second, these two parties, along with their 16 seats, will have a great deal of influence on critical issues such as the rabbinic monopoly on marriage, military exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox, strict Sabbath observance and other viewpoints that fail to recognize pluralistic values or positions.
Not only would nothing change, but there is now a greater Orthodox influence which, despite the secular Israeli majority, will unilaterally decide the direction of daily decisions for the population.
In some ways, it is ironic how a secular majority is unable to change the status quo, but one explanation is that the majority of Israel’s secular are right of center and highly traditional. Yet, within those secular numbers, there is also a sizable gay community and a growing trend within recent years of young couples opting out of traditional marriage and living together. The political make-up of those two groups alone is extremely antagonistic of an ultra-Orthodox-Likud/Netanyahu-run government. Many of them, numbering into the tens of thousands, take to the streets on a fairly regular basis to protest their great displeasure with present government policies, so it is, sometimes, incomprehensible how a very right-wing, religiously extreme government has remained in power for over 10 years.
Of course, as an ongoing criminal investigation looms heavily over Netanyahu, it’s entirely possible that he would not succeed in serving out his full term. While many believe that he is captive to all these religious and right-wing parties, it could be that, if he is convicted, the smaller parties would no longer be able to retain the coalition and their influence on the next Israeli prime minister. So, much depends on the outcome of this investigation and how badly it wounds Bibi. Although the election results are not yet finalized, we continue to pray for the best interests of our country from a standpoint of security, freedom of religion, thriving economy and, most importantly, for God’s purposes and plan of world redemption to be realized.