[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.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
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.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
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.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
[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.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
How renewed rocket fire affects the local body of believers
Since Monday morning, March 25 rockets have been launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel, the first one hitting the coastal city of Netanya which is north of Tel Aviv, a distance of about 120 km. This was followed by a barrage of more attacks throughout Monday night and Tuesday morning. Kehila News Israel contacted a number of congregational leaders, both in Netanya as well as near the Gaza Strip to get their reactions on these new disturbing developments. Here are some of their comments:
Eugene Mitrea, congregational leader at Sar Shalom, Jerusalem: “We have two families in Ashkelon that are part of our congregation in Jerusalem. They both have ten children. It is not easy for them every time the alarm sounds, having to run to the shelter…I think it’s ridiculous how Israel -a world power in many areas – allows Hamas to call the shots and terrorize more and more people in our country. We hope and pray our leaders would deal with them once and for all.”
Howard Bass, congregational leader at Nachalat Yeshua, Beer Sheva: “Of course, it’s always worrying when the ‘conflict’ breaks out and begins to escalate, with rockets being fired at cities, towns, kibbutzim — especially for those living right near the border with Gaza. There are also believers in those areas, and I praise God for their fortitude and faith to remain living where they do for the sake of the gospel and the Kingdom of God. It is the beginning of Spring, “when kings go out to war.” Beer Sheva is not exempt, and our night may not go uninterrupted. Yet the message that we have from the Lord is to pray for a change of heart and mind of those who oppose Him and His people and His land, that they repent and believe the gospel and come to salvation. When this happens, then even these enemies can be used by Yeshua to stop seeking Israel’s destruction, but rather show mercy to her and tell the Jewish people and the nation how Yeshua changed their hearts and lives to love them! Only a Holy Spirit encounter can accomplish this. Our challenge is to love our enemies, even as we want our country’s political and military leaders to do what is right to protect its borders and population.”
Michael Biner, congregational leader at City of Life Messianic Congregation, Sderot (border town near Gaza): “Many members of our congregation especially suffer from these rocket attacks as we live so close to Gaza, but our faith sustains us through it all. Our prayers have been answered so many times, and we have seen incredible miracles take place. For example, a rocket fell in a public preschool kindergarten play area at 11 p.m. at night. Had that occurred during the daytime, countless mothers and young children could have been killed. I remember a rocket falling just 20 meters from my own window. A couple of more meters, and it would have landed in our living room. There is no question the Lord has protected us. We continue to pray and believe that God is faithfully watching over us.”
David Loden, former congregational leader at Beit Asaph, Netanya: “I heard the sirens in the night… they actually woke me up, even though they were several kilometers away. We have a siren right next to our house, and when it goes off… the dead rise!! It was not going off – only those far-away ones! So I went back to sleep thinking it must be a test or something. It was a shock to learn in the morning that there was a real attack, and with devastating results as well! I am retired from active participation in our Netanya congregation, but here in the house, which is a duplex together with another couple, we are embarking on a program of preparing our somewhat neglected bomb shelter for use.”
Ya’acov, Ashkelon: “We just finished celebrating Purim. As with most Jewish holidays the theme is the same; “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!” Sadly that has not been the case with Gaza. We have fought three wars with this enemy and have yet to have a victory. No, instead the saga has been; “they tried to kill us, we gave in and signed a ceasefire, now what?” It’s been nothing but a tit for tat you bomb us we bomb you merry-go-round ever since we pulled our citizens out of Gaza in 2005. I am a resident of the south (Ashkelon) living under the shadow of not knowing when the next conflict will start, when the next missile will be fired towards us. The gloomy part is our enemy is the one deciding on the when. To them we are like fish in a barrel. Happily this last round did not reach our neighborhood but is that any consolation? No, especially when you only have 15 seconds to make it into your bomb shelter. Last November, when Hamas decided to fire over 500 missiles at us, one landed in the park across from our apartment causing considerable damage. Thankfully it took place in the early hours of the morning and the park was empty. However, had the rocked traveled a mere 400 meters to the east it would have slammed into an adjacent apartment building, perhaps even ours! ”
Evan Thomas, Netanya: “Unfortunately/fortunately we are visiting NZ at present so a rocket hitting a home seems a long way away. We spoke to our daughter who lives in Netanya and works in Tel Aviv. She did not seem the least ‘phased’ by the incident or by the threats from Gaza. For her it was just another day. Maybe that is the Israeli reality that needs to be stressed. The political climate is toxic, of course, and the Palestinian hard liners seem to be doing everything by their actions to see that PM Netanyahu is re-elected. It’s a crazy upside down world!”
Simcha Davidov, home group leader, Ashdod: “Living in Ashdod includes the awareness we could get hit by rockets from Gaza. Since 2014 no rockets have hit Ashdod, but we are watching this possibility every time there is fighting going on. Our hearts are with the people that live around Gaza as well as with the many innocent people who live in Gaza who suffer often under the sounds of war and some get hurt. We pray about this complicated situation and call on God for help.”
Avigail Ginat, Ashkelon believer and congregant of Beit Hallel, Ashdod: “I found it to be a very challenging week, but God is great. Despite the challenges, He gave us so much peace. I live in a very old building without a safe room. Our only bomb shelter is across the street, and it takes us at least 15 seconds to get there, leaving us really 3 or 4 seconds from the time we hear the siren. We were there for two nights. The same thing happened a couple of months ago. A rocket landed just a few meters from our building, and two people were killed and others injured Needless to say, this time has been very intense for our four children, the youngest being 10, but God even was able to use us to declare the peace we felt in our hearts. One of the daughters of our neighbor was really panic struck, but we were able to let her know that the Lord would protect all of us. I praise the Lord and know that He will continue to be with us. We are not leaving this area, because we really love being here.”
[NOTE: This article was last updated on March 28, 2019.]
Cookie is the former managing director of Makor HaTikvah Messianic School in Jerusalem.