Organization encourages Israeli Christians to enlist in IDF
A new nonprofit organization founded thanks to the initiative of a Christian believer is hoping to encourage more indigenous Israeli Christians to enlist in the Israeli army or the national service.
The organization, Brotherly Covenant: Christians Proudly Integrating, aims to encourage Christian youth, mostly Arab and Aramean, growing up in Israel to serve in the IDF, border police and national service and to fully integrate into all aspects of Israeli society.
The NGO was established by Carmelin Ashkar, a Christian believer and mother of an Israeli soldier and a son who graduated from the national service program. Among the other founders and leaders are Christians and Jews and, for the first time, a Christian volunteer who will operate in East Jerusalem where interest in military service is on the rise among the youth.
Military service in Israel is mandatory for men and women after graduating high school. Some may, in place of the military, do “national service” comprised of volunteer work in a nationally recognized charity. However, many non-Jews opt out of army and national service altogether.
In recent years another organization, Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, led by priest Gabriel Naddaf, encouraged military service among Arab youth. But this NGO ceased its activities in June.
“In the last few years I’ve worked among Christian youth to encourage them to enlist in the IDF and national service,” Ashkar said. “I did this, as well with other volunteers, in the past months as volunteer work and we noticed that it is profitable to formally establish a nonprofit, registered organization.”
They received guidance from other Israeli organizations on how to open a non-profit.
“There are those who opened the door and started this historic journey of recruitment and integration of Christian youth five years ago and I am happy that Christians are walking in this path,” she said.
“We are in the midst of a historical change in the approach of the Christian community, but there is still a long course to run.” Ashkar said. “The non-profit organization will contribute a lot for building bridges between Jews and Arabs in Israel and around the world to demonstrate the true and beautiful face of the State of Israel.”
In very apropos timing, the organization received its official certification as an Israeli nonprofit on Nov. 30 — just a few weeks before Christmas and the New Year.
“We will be working diligently for the sake of Israel and the Christian community,” Ashkar said.
Ashkar and her husband Faraj Ashkar are long-time members of River of God, a Lebanese congregation in Nahariya.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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Muslim leaders declare East Jerusalem capital of “Palestine”
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation met in Instanbul on Wednesday, heads of state and representatives from Muslim nations collectively denouncing President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, calling on the global community to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of “Palestine”.
The current president of the OIC, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arranged the summit of 57 members to address Jerusalem and the Palestinians. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, President Michel Aoun of Lebanon, Emir of Kuwait Al Sabah, King Abdullah II of Jordan, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani were in attendance.
Abbas announced that the United States would no longer play a role in the peace process, claiming, “Jerusalem is and always will be the capital of Palestine. We do not accept any role of the United States in the political process from now on, because it is completely biased towards Israel,” calling on the international community to “recognize the state of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital”.
President Erdogan of Turkey criticized the United States’ “unilateral move”, asking “How can you take a decision like that on your own?” continuing his days of anti-Israel rhetoric, stating “Palestine’s fate cannot be left in the hands of a country that brutally kills women and children alike… Israel has been rewarded for all the terrorism that it did, and the award has been given by Trump, although he is alone. While we were working for peace, we got the biggest slap in our face of our times.” He called for recognition of East Jerusalem, stating “I am inviting the countries who value international law and fairness to recognize occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.”
His foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, also accused the United States of bullying, calling on recognition of a Palestinian state as per 1967 borders. He claimed “They [USA] expect the Islamic nation to remain silent. But we will never be silent. This bullying eliminates the possibility of peace and the grounds for shared life. Their decision is null for us. The Palestinian state must be recognized by all [other] countries. We must all strive together for this. We must encourage other countries to recognize the Palestinian state on the basis of its 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to the IOC’s accusations and claims, stating in response on Wednesday evening, “The Palestinians would do well to recognize reality and work toward peace, not extremism, and acknowledge an additional fact regarding Jerusalem: Not only is it the capital of Israel but in Jerusalem we uphold freedom of worship for all faiths and it is we who are making this promise in the Middle East even though no one else does and despite frequent severe failures in this regard. Therefore all these statements fail to impress us. The truth will win in the end and many countries will certainly recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and also move their embassies.”
This article originally appeared on Behold Israel, December 13, 2017, and reposted with permission.
Amir is the founder of Behold Israel and lives in northern Israel. He has been invited to churches, prophecy seminars and conferences around the world, to teach on current events in Israel in light of Bible prophecy. Since 2004, Amir has been consultant to various law enforcement agencies and seminars on homeland-security issues.
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Rockets from Gaza mar Hanukkah in southern Israel
Gaza-based groups have launched more than a dozen rockets at Israel since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last week, making southern Israel the main flashpoint of violence since the announcement.
While the border had been quiet for months, some 16 rocket launches since the announcement have triggered sirens that sent Israelis running for cover in the southern communities and caused holiday events to be canceled.
Several rockets have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system while others have struck open fields or buildings that were empty at the time — including a kindergarten.
“I expect the prime minister, the defense minister, and the IDF commander to strike the terror groups without mercy,” Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi said. “We will not tolerate the continued fire at the city of Sderot.”
Sderot and other communities in area have been battered with thousands of rockets fired from Gaza over the last decade.
The IDF targeted Hamas military facilities in the Gaza Strip in retaliatory airstrikes, an army spokesman said.
Hadashot news reported that the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council canceled a soccer tournament scheduled for Hanukkah after many parents contacted organizers with their safety concerns.
Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, has called for a new intifada against Israel since Trump’s announcement. Hamas media outlets are encouraging Gaza citizens to protest at the border, while others are launching rockets.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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Nearly 2 million Israelis live in poverty
According to a new report issued by the National Health Institute (NHI), more than 1.8 million people were living below the poverty line in Israel last year.
The Times of Israel reported that Jerusalem was recorded as the poorest region in the country, with 55 percent of children living in poverty. Israel has a population of around 8 million.
The NHI report affirmed that improvements had been made, including a 3.8 percent rise in overall standard of living. According to Israel’s welfare agency these improvements were due to increases in the minimum wage and child and elderly welfare allowances. There was also an increase in the employment rate among the poorer sections of Israeli society.
Nevertheless, the welfare agency stipulated that further increases in salaries were necessary. Indeed, according to the report, Israel remains at the top of the poverty scale among OECD countries.
The NHI report stated that although there were now fewer Arab families living in poverty (a drop to 49.4 percent from 53.5 percent in 2015), 58 percent of the Bedouin population of 17,000 families, and 70 percent of its children, remain impoverished.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews made up 15 percent of the poor families in Israel.
Continuing a trend, the immigrant population showed a reduction in the number those living under the poverty line from the 17.7 percent in 2015 to 17 percent in 2016. However, there remained severe poverty in this community.
According to the Times of Israel, being poor meant taking home “NIS 3,260 ($920) or less; for a couple, earning less than NIS 5,216 ($1,480); and for a family of five, less than NIS 10,000 ($2,800).”
Knesset Member Dov Khenin of the Joint (Arab) List stated he would work toward a further increase in the minimum wage.
“The bleak figures in the poverty report among working families show that the minimum wage is still not sufficiently high and must be raised further,” he told reporters.
Karen Faulkner is a British Israeli citizen. She has a Master's degree in Human Rights & Transitional Justice from Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
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The history of Hanukkah and how it is celebrated today in Israel
Hanukkah is around the corner and the telltale signs have been everywhere for many weeks.
Much like Christmas decorations make an appearance even before Thanksgiving in many countries, Hanukkah shows its face in Israel from as early as October as soon as Sukkot ends.
The holiday officially begins Tuesday at sunset with the lighting of the first candle on the hannukiah. In schools, children learn Hanukkah songs and play with dreidels as we approach this winter holiday. Shopping malls offer Hanukkah specials. Grocery stores sell gelt (foil-wrapped, coin-shaped candy) and have sales on potatoes, onions, flour, sugar and oil — ingredients for the oil-drenched foods associated with the holiday.
Synagogues and municipalities erect giant hanukkiot (nine-branched candelabra) across country while bakeries are brimming with sufganiyot, jelly-filled and other designer donuts. In short, festivity is in the air.
But in our quest to understand how the non-biblical holiday became one of Judaism’s biggest celebrations, how the menorah became the hanukkiah and how sufganiyot, dreidels and gelt wound their way into tradition, we must delve into Jewish literature, uncover obscure history and embrace myths and legends that have evolved over time.
If you ask an Israeli what Hanukkah is about, the range of answers will include: “It’s the Jewish Feast of Lights,” “It’s the Feast of Dedication,” “It was from Judas the Maccabee, wasn’t it?” and “It started when there was a miracle of oil in the Temple.”
In effect, all of the above are true. Hanukkah is an amalgamation and conglomeration of stories and rituals that have wound their way through time from the period of the Greek Seleucid Empire in the year 168 BC, to the time of the Romans and beyond.
Its full name is Hannukat HaMizbe’ach, which means Dedication of the Altar. The details of the day and its name are first found in a 1st century AD document called Megillat Ta’anit (The Scroll of Fasting). At this time, King Antiochus IV Epiphanes issued decidedly anti-Jewish decrees which set out to eradicate all biblical and extra-biblical commands and creeds.
To add insult to injury, three months after the decrees were issued, the Greeks dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem to the sun god, Apollo, and sacrificed pigs on the altar. This outrageous act led to a three-year uprising in which the Maccabees, a band of Jewish rebels in Judea led by Judah Maccabee and his four brothers, resisted the Greeks and eventually liberated the temple. They destroyed the unclean altar and dedicated a new one, hence the name Dedication of the Altar.
The victory led to special coins being minted and that is why today it is customary to give chocolate coins to children to remember the victory of the Maccabees.
Hanukkah, therefore, first and foremost commemorated a military victory for the Jewish people and the day was remembered as such for a few hundred years.
The apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees 4:49-59 says: “They…made new sacred vessels, and they brought the lampstand…into the Temple. They burned incense on the altar and lit the lights on the lampstand, and the Temple was filled with light…For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar….Then Judah, his brothers and the entire community of Israel decreed that the days of rededication of the altar should be celebrated with a festival of joy and gladness at this same time every year beginning on the 25th of the month of Kislev and lasting for eight days.”
At this point they constructed a hanukkiah, a candelabra with nine branches instead of the biblical seven commanded by God.
The story continues in the following book, 2 Maccabees, giving an explanation of oil spontaneously igniting. Josephus Flavius writes in Antiquities 12:325 that Hanukkah is called “The Feast of Fire,” but at this point we still have no information of any miracle of oil burning for eight days. Neither the Babylonian Talmud written 300 years later in the 4th century, nor the Midrash-Pesikta Rabbati in the year 845 AD mention any miracle of oil in their cryptic references made to the lighting of candles on Hanukkah.
Theory has it that over time, rabbis and Jewish leaders decided to shift the focus away from glorifying the Maccabeean military success and instead focus on the miraculous divine light mentioned in 2 Maccabees. A miracle was fabricated in lore and the military victory became secondary to the wonders of oil that burned — or not — for eight days.
The dreidel, a spinning top, sevivon in Hebrew, also claims an obscure reference to the miracle and became the holiday’s traditional toy, even inspiring dreidel competitions.
As is typical with Jewish feasts, Hanukkah also requires corresponding traditional food to go with it. Another apocryphal character, Judith from the Book of Judith, set hundreds of years before the Maccabees, was a catalyst to eating dairy for the holiday as meat was avoided when in enemy territory.
In the 1600s, a rabbi wrote a poem mentioning “Levivot with cheese in Hanukkah and crunchy sufganin.”
In the late 1700s, mention is made in a Moroccan manuscript of “sufginin al sfindj fried in oil in memory of our blessing.” Today, the sfindj, a sweet fried pastry, is a Moroccan Jewish specialty similar to a doughnut or beignet.
In 1938, an expert committee on all things Jewish decided to assign names to the fried foods of Hanukkah. This resulted in the latke (potato fritter) derived from regular pancakes filled with cheese in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the sufganiya (doughnut).
Today fierce competitions occur over who makes the best latkes at home, while bakeries try to outdo each other — and themselves — each year, inventing fancy fillings and toppings in order to claim the most unusual and trendy sufganiyot.
For the home cook, many online recipes for latkes are similar. But if you plan to attempt these savory treats at home, this author has a tip for you: To avoid the smell of onions or oil permeating the house, heat up a solution of vinegar and water — equal parts of each — in a small pot before and during the frying process, and keep topping it up with vinegar as the solution evaporates.
Israeli-born Dee Catz is a Jewish believer in Yeshua, happily married with children. She has an interest in cooking and baking and all things Biblical. History, Geography, and Archaeology are some of her favorite hobbies, as well as touring Israel's national parks and landmark sites with her family and friends. She has been contributing to Kehila News Israel since December 2015.