Please note: This is the final report of 2016.  The next report will be out on January 5, 2017

The Word:  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the hip.  (Isaiah 60:1-4)

Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing. (Isaiah 40:26)

*      Pointers for prayer:   Oswald Chambers once stated, “Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.” Once again, as we seek the Lord for His perspective, His thoughts and ways, pray that as 2016 comes to an end, the Lord will reveal all things in His perfect timing.  World events are getting out of control; the activity to attempt to remove the Jewish people from their Land – and specifically Jerusalem, Israel’s capital – has increased over the past 10 years.  There is much to ponder on and pray into here, however before that, let us seek the Lord to quieten our heart, so that the Spirit of the Lord would rest upon each of us; and that the Spirit of wisdom and understanding; the Spirit of counsel and might; the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord might enable us to truly intercede regarding these complex and difficult issues regarding all who oppose Israel (Isaiah 11:2).  Pray that as we approach 2017 we will be in the correct position (spiritually) to know how to intercede, and have wisdom and discernment for when to speak up and when to remain silent.  Pray that we would all truly ‘hunger for God’s Word’. 

*      As I’ve mentioned above, this will be my last report of 2016.  My next report will be out on 5th January 2017.  We will be trying to have some time out during this period.  Please uphold in your prayers all who are involved with Christian Friends of Israel.  As we move into 2017, pray that the Lord would strengthen and anoint afresh all the Staff, Trustees, Area Reps, Volunteers, Prayer Warriors and supporters both here in the UK, along with our CFI Jerusalem office and team, and the many International Reps.   Pray God’s favour and blessings upon each of us, as we continue to try to be faithful to our calling.

Lift up your eyes on high (Part Three)     This is the final part of a theme I felt led to write and reflect upon as we approach the Christmas holiday period as well as the eight day celebration of Chanukah.  Yeshua (Jesus) is the "Light of the World" and this year, with Chanukah and Christmas on the same day, His love can shine even brighter in our family gatherings. Whatever you celebrate, take a moment to invite HIM to the celebration.

This past two week’s I’ve been asking, “What is the connection and relevance between Chanukah and the gospels?  What is the connection between Chanukah and the United Nations?  What is the relevance between Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon and Jerusalem? And can the festival of Chanukah really bring any hope?”    World events do appear to be getting out of control.  Since the fires that swept through Israel, I have been keeping an eye on the daily world events that read like some futuristic horror story.  Yes, most of the fires in Israel were caused by Arab Palestinians as police arrested many Palestinians for arson, however the rest of these disasters appear to be classified as ‘Natural Disasters’.   On December 1, 2016 thousands of people in Tennessee, USA, fled their homes as fires raged through the area.  On the same day on the other side of the world, Australia was bracing itself for extreme weather as their summer got off to a sweltering start.  More cyclones and severe fires are expected over the next few months as above-average temperatures are forecast across eastern and northern Australia.  In Poland on the same day, 8 people were killed caused by an earthquake.  In the UK, last winter’s floods were the most extreme on record in Britain.  Cumbrian residents are still counting the cost of Storm Desmond a year on.  As global temperatures rise, extreme downpours will increase putting huge strains on infrastructure and agriculture.  In the USA, Americans could see extreme rains increase of 400% by the end of the century according to sources.   On December 8, 2016, an earthquake in Indonesia killed dozens in the Aceh province.  The death toll from a 6.5-magnitude quake that struck at dawn rose to 97, as officials called for excavation equipment and emergency supplies. 

Again, in the US, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake hit the northern California coast.  One day later, the Solomon Islands were shaken by a second earthquake in two days.  The 6.9 magnitude tremor – felt as far away as Australia – led to a temporary tsunami warning and reports of damage in remote areas.  A bombing at Cairo's largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded 49 on Sunday.  Many of them were women and children attending Sunday mass, in the deadliest attack on Egypt's Christian minority in years. The attack comes as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi fights battles on several fronts.   With the war in Syria still continuing, and Hezbollah increasing in the south Lebanon (see report later), there has been much activity throughout 2016 to keep Israel on high alert throughout the year.  And of course, there have been more attempts to remove the Jewish people from their Land – and specifically Jerusalem – Israel’s capital. With the United Nations voting to remove any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem, this will only encourage the PLO and Hamas to increase their terrorism upon the world’s only Jewish State.  Indeed these attacks have dramatically increased over the past 10 years.  There is much to pray into here.  So where is the hope you might well ask?  Well, there is always hope – but I’ll come back to that shortly.

Remember in last week’s report I spoke about the Temple Mount steps on the southern wall that would have taken worshippers up to the Temple?  I mentioned that Neil Armstrong - the first man to walk on the moon – said that walking on the southern steps of the Temple Mount was even more exciting than walking on the moon.  When Neil Armstrong visited Israel in 1994, he asked his host if there was a place where —without any doubt—Jesus would have walked 2,000 years ago.  His host, Archaeologist Meir Ben Dov and one of the excavators of the Temple Mount and southern walls in Jerusalem, answered that the southern steps were, for sure, the steps that Jesus would have used when He walked up to the Temple.  Apparently Neil Armstrong bent down and kissed the ground, saying that this was an even more exciting moment for him than walking on the moon.  If you were to go to Israel today and wanted to walk where you knew Jesus would have walked, you would go to the southern steps.  That’s because the southern steps, which have been excavated in recent years, served as the main entrance to the entire Temple Mount complex.  And we know from Scripture that Jesus went to the Temple several times throughout His life.  These steps would have come up to where Solomon’s Colonnade would have stood.  Of course, the Romans destroyed all this area in 70 AD when Jerusalem was sacked.  However, this was the area where the Jewish people in Jesus’ day questioned Him about who He was.  And this all happened during the Feast of Dedication/Chanukah.

Solomon’s colonnade was a very important place; it was called the “Portico or Colonnade of Judgment.” From this location, the King would make his judgments and exercise justice for those who were brought before him. But did you know that the only reference to Chanukah within the Bible is found in the gospel of John?  In John chapter 10 we find Yeshua (Jesus) strolling through this historic location, physically embodying justice in this place of justice -- something his life and teachings were all about.  That’s why the Judeans demanded, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”  Basically, they were asking Jesus, “Are you the King? Have you come to judge us”?   

Chanukah’s theme is of course about miracles. The holiday commemorates two major miracles which took place in the time of the Maccabees: the miraculous victory of the tiny Jewish army over the vast Syrian-Greeks, and the miracle of the small vial of oil which burned for eight days when it should have lasted only one day.  The Festival of Lights is indeed a celebration of the victory over all pagan and anti-Semitic forces – the victory of the sons of Zion against the sons of Greece!  Therefore, during Chanukah, Jesus spoke of His miracles.  In John 10:37-38 Yeshua states, “If I am not doing deeds that reflect my Father, don’t trust me. But if I do, though you don’t believe in me, believe the works: that you may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in Him.”  Yeshua (Jesus) wanted the people of His day to see His miracles and believe in Him as a result. His miracles point to His divine and messianic identity. In this way Yeshua personifies the message of Chanukah: God actively involved in the affairs of his people – surely this must give us hope? 

Chanukah reminds us that God is a God of miracles, not just of concept and religious ideals. He has broken through into human history and continues to do so today.  Yes, world events do appear to be getting out of control; however there is One, who from the beginning of time has all things under His complete control.  This is the Sovereign LORD God, who was, and is, and is to come – the one who ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing made had being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not suppressed it. (John 1:1-5).  Yes, we need to “Lift up our eyes and look about… (Isaiah 60:4) – we need to know how to pray about Israel, The Middle East, and our troubled world.  But we also need to ‘lift our eyes on high’ (Isaiah 40:26) and see the coming King!

British PM May curbing anti-Semitism    As mentioned above, Chanukah is indeed a celebration of the victory over all pagan and anti-Semitic forces.   Sadly, we are living in days when anti-Semitism is at an all-time high.  In many parts of Europe, anti-Semitism has peaked and is as high as it was leading up to WW11.  However, in the UK, British Prime Minister Theresa May has introduced an official definition for anti-Semitism on Monday in hopes of curbing attacks against Jewish people.  And according to all the UK papers, such as The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, The Sun, The Mirror, The Times and many more – and even the BBC – Theresa May has slammed the Labour Party of "turning a blind eye" towards anti-Semitism. 

Jewish groups praised the step at a time when attacks are on the rise, saying a clear language would make it easier to demonstrate when actions are anti-Semitic.  Curbing attacks against Jewish people means, according to the UK Prime Minister, that “there will be one definition of anti-Semitism — in essence, language or behaviour that displays hatred towards Jews because they are Jews — and anyone guilty of that will be called out on it,” May said.  The definition states that “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”   While the definition has no binding legal effect, Jewish rights groups hope it will be used by courts and other government institutions. Theresa May adopted the analysis of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which hopes the definition will be accepted globally.  Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, “warmly welcomed’ the decision. He said, “With anti-Semitism on the rise, it has become essential to have a clear definition against which to assess attitudes that are or may be racist,” he said in a statement.  A full and very encouraging report on this can be found on the BBC website.  You can read it here:

Threats of WMD by Isis & Hezbollah Positions in Southern Lebanon   Some news that is still breaking concerns disturbing reports that Isis – who have threatened Israel from the Syrian border - will attempt an act of “mega-sabotage,” meaning a high-impact operation involving chemical weapons (CW) or another weapon of mass destruction (WMD).   In a report by Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, entitled ‘Chemical Weapons in Syria, Iraq and Beyond: Assessment and Implications’ on December 12, 2016 stated, “Chemical weapons continue to be employed frequently in Syria and Iraq. While the scale of attacks has been relatively minor so far, the possibility remains that the Islamic State (ISIS) might attempt a high-impact WMD attack. Hezbollah, too, which is present in both Syria and Lebanon, might wish to be – or indeed, already may be – equipped with CW.”  The report went on to states that, “The partial dismantling of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal has had little effect on the regularity with which such weapons have been deployed in Syria and Iraq. They have been used by the Assad regime, the rebels, and ISIS alike. Another military element currently based in both Syria and Lebanon – Hezbollah – might already have obtained chemical weapons.”  This is indeed disturbing news, and I feel much prayer is needed for those who not only live close to the Syrian/Lebanese borders, but also for those who protect these areas – the soldiers of the Israel Defence Force (IDF).

Meanwhile, the IDF have released a previously classified map showing where Hezbollah has embedded itself in civilian population locations throughout southern Lebanon.   As I reported back in the November 17, 2016 report, Hezbollah has over one hundred thousand rockets ready to be fired at Israeli cities. Hezbollah also has long-range missiles that can target any place in Israel, and has obtained advanced strategic weapons systems. Hezbollah's actions demonstrate their disregard for human life. The Terrorist group have embedded most of its military infrastructure in the villages of south Lebanon, storing weapons in private homes and stationing missiles next to schools and children’s playgrounds – in exactly the same way Hamas operate. This week, the map that the IDF have released indicates the location of Iranian-backed Hezbollah weapon warehouses, rocket launchers, infantry, underground tunnels and infrastructure, anti-tank positions and command posts, all of them embedded in or around civilian homes and population centres.  The map features over 200 towns and villages which Hezbollah have turned into its operations bases, and shows over 10,000 potential targets for Israeli strikes in the event of a new war with the terror group.

Israel expects over 120,000 tourists in December    On December 13, 2016, Israel’s Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and representatives from the Tourism Ministry hosted the traditional pre-Christmas reception for leaders of the Christian communities and churches in Israel at the Shimshon Centre, Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem. The minister sent season’s greetings for Christmas to the Christian communities and invited the faithful around the world to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Levin stated, “I welcome you and the believers from your communities who are expected to arrive in Israel for the Christmas holiday and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We are doing our utmost to ensure that their stay in Israel will be successful and enjoyable. The ministry invests significantly throughout the year in the conservation and upgrading of Christian sites in order to ensure that every Christian can visit the sites that are sacred for him and find them in good order, as befits their status. I invite you to visit the holy sites and enjoy the uniquely powerful religious and spiritual experience of the Holy Land.”

The Tourism Ministry is working to welcome the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to arrive in Israel for the Christmas period. According to Tourism Ministry statistics, over half of all incoming tourists to Israel were Christian. The ministry estimates that more than 120,000 tourists will visit Israel in December, of whom half are Christian.  From 15:00 on Christmas Eve (December 24) through to 03:00 on Christmas Day, the Ministry of Tourism will offer free shuttle transportation, helping pilgrims travelling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Buses will leave every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour from the bus stop near the Carta Parking lot (opposite Jaffa Gate and near to the Mamilla Boulevard). The bus will also stop near the entrance to the Mar Elias Monastery before continuing via Rachel's Crossing to Bethlehem - and then back again.  Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism will welcome tourists and pilgrims at Rachel’s Crossing with a small gift in the spirit of the holiday. The ministry will also provide a firework display during the traditional Christmas parade in Nazareth. 

David Soakell  

(CFI Church Liaison Officer (UK) & WoZ News Report Correspondent)         

Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Christian Friends of Israel UK & Jerusalem, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, & Israel National Radio