The Word:  God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the holy ones, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him.  O LORD God of hosts (Adonai Elohei-Tzva’ot), Who is mighty like You, O LORD? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them. (Psalm 89:7-9).   

Now when He got into a boat, His disciples (talmidim) followed Him. And suddenly a great storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But Yeshua was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” Yeshua said, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” When He had come to the other side, in the Gadarenes’ territory, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now a good way off from them there was a herd of swine feeding. So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go.” So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water. (Matthew 8:23-32)

*      Pointers for prayer:  The more I study the world events (specifically within the Middle East), along with the rise in anti-Semitism (especially within Europe), the more I realise the need to depend upon, and saturate oneself in the Word of God ~ the Bible. And yet I’m amazed at how many churches I’ve been to throughout the UK where Christians don’t check out the Scriptures when listening to the speaker. Without God's Word to guide us, we will get sucked into a world of apathy, want and humanistic discourse – which in turn could lead to replacement theology and BDS campaigns.  Please do continue to intercede in line with your Scriptures for the people and Nation of Israel.  Please also pray that the Church would truly line up their faith with the Word of God, specifically where Israel is concerned. 

*      Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the fellowship must enter every day.” As issues within the Middle East ‘hot up,’ do continue to pray for the well-being and security of the nation of Israel.  As troubles increase on Israel's borders, pray that the LORD would shield the nation with His wall of fire.  Pray too, that the whole of the Jewish nation would turn to the LORD God, and seek His council, and salvation.

*      Pray also that the Word of God would reach the Palestinians and the Arab World.  As Islam increases upon many shores, pray that the Church would take every opportunity to reach out to the Muslim and to share the truth.

Israel’s hot springs     In this week’s Watching over Zion report, we look at ‘why a Palestinian State would be an oppressive police state according to an Arab who knows.  We also look at more evidence of Gaza’s children putting on plays about stabbing and killing Israelis, along with hate speech at a Red Crescent event.  But first, I’d like to share a little more on our recent visit to Israel, and how a visit to the hot springs of the Galilee really spoke to me.

For anyone who is planning a trip to Israel, there is so much to see and do.  The great Christian preacher, Spurgeon, once stated, “We do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough about it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this. You cannot read the Bible without seeing clearly that there is to be an actual restoration of the Children of Israel…” (CH Spurgeon).  Without doubt, anyone who goes to Israel with an open mind and Bible in hand can clearly see this actual restoration taking place in our day.  Israel can offer you a very full agenda with visits to various sections of Jerusalem, The Dead Sea, Masada, Qumran, Hebron, Beit El, Mount Carmel and of course the Sea of Galilee.  At Jerusalem’s heart is the Old City, surrounded by the walls of Jerusalem.  Inside the walls however are amazing places such as the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. Surrounding the Western Wall are other important Jewish sites - the Western Wall Tunnels, the unique Davidson Centre, the Jewish quarter with its magnificent Cardo and David’s Citadel, towering proudly in its beauty. Outside the Walls of Jerusalem, those new to Israel, along with those who have been many times can be blessed to walk through the Garden Tomb where Yeshua (Jesus) is believed to have been buried and from where He rose again.  When in Jerusalem, a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is a must.  It will challenge you and hopefully enable you to ‘never forget’ what went on during the Nazi Holocaust within Europe.

However, this time, we were in Israel for personal reasons which meant we would remain in the Galilee.  We also had many meetings with CFI Jerusalem staff and friends.  However on one day we visited an area that many visitors to Israel don’t get chance to experience, and that is Hamat Gader.  This is one of the most unique places in the north of Israel. Tucked away near the south of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and eastward of the Jordan River, Hamat Gader features many attractions. The main attraction is the thermal springs which have been exploited by mankind since the Romans, some 2,000 plus years ago. But there is more, Hamat Gader also hosts the only crocodile farm in all of the Middle East.  Hamat Gader is situated in a valley surrounded by brown cliff-edged mountains about fifteen minutes from the Sea of Galilee in the southern part of the Golan Heights. The geographical location provides it with gushing springs of hot thermal water (600 cubic metres per hour at 42 degrees Celsius) that is renowned for therapeutic benefits.

Throughout history, ancient rabbinical figures and prominent Greek and Roman historians and philosophers spent time in the springs’ calming waters. Hamat Gader contains two ancient Roman sites, a large complex of partially collapsed buildings around a large rectangular pool which once bubbled with thermal waters and a segment of what once was an amphitheatre.  In the Roman period the hot springs were renowned for their therapeutic qualities and the second-largest bath complex in the entire Roman Empire was built at Hamat Gader.  Gadara and its hot springs were part of the "region of the Decapolis" - an area of Greek cities that Yeshua (Jesus) would have known well. Here, in the Land of the Gadarenes, and in the region of the Decapolis, Jesus and his disciples travelled many times - healing and teaching.  According to several Gospel accounts, this area was the region where Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) spoke a word and drove out demonic darkness that was tormenting individuals who lived there (Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1 and Luke 8:26).

Today, the Hamat Gader Park spreads over an area of 40 acres of tropical parkland that includes covered outdoor settings, restaurants, lawns, Ancient Roman Baths and the thermos-mineral pool area. Furthermore Hamat Gader boasts an amazing Crocodile farm with over 200 crocodiles and Alligators of various species.  The thermos-mineral water baths include: Spacious pools filled with water containing potent medicinal and curative properties, Jacuzzi beds and chairs, water jets that relieve neck, shoulder and back tension, a luxurious bubble pool and a hot water waterfall. The thermos-mineral water at Hamat Gader has two important properties; heat and mineral-rich content. The water gushes at a steady temperature of 42 C, and of course contains sulphur as well as other important minerals. It is said, that bathing in the water contributes to accelerated metabolism, cell renewal and contributes to the relief of joint pains. Due to the large capacity of the hot springs, the water circulates every four hours, ensuring it remains clean and fresh.  For some reason, May 2016 was unusually hot when we were there, and sitting in natural hot springs made one feel ‘heady’ and often you would feel the atmosphere lulling one to sleep.  Without doubt we all felt great benefit to having a day of relaxation.

However, I also felt that this was a ‘picture’ of both the church and the 99.9% of the Middle East.  Enjoying these ‘pleasures of life’ is a very Roman/Greek experience.  Just how much of today’s church suffers from a ‘Hellenistic-Greek mind-set’?  How we need the revelation of the Hebraic roots of our faith and the fresh revelation of the Spirit to free us from ways that have blinded much of the church towards Israel. 

And then there is the Islamic Arab Middle East… a hotbed of trouble, where the various factions of Islam fight each other, and Isis beheads the true Christian.  The Sunni Muslims will not tolerate the Shiite Muslims (and visa-versa) and all the while, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and the PA/PLO sit waiting like the great crocodiles we saw, waiting to snap and devour Eretz Israel.    May those who stand with Israel, remain awake and intercede for nation of Israel in the weeks and months ahead.  May we also pray that the world-wide church would awaken from her slumber and understand the times that we live in.

Would a Palestinian State be an oppressive police state?   The demands for Israel to withdraw from areas of Judea and Samaria (otherwise known as the so-called ‘West Bank’) and allow the Arab Palestinians to create yet another Islamic state will not go away.  And yet if proof was needed, an Arab Palestinian university student has this week provided further evidence that an independent Palestinian state could become an oppressive police state. In fact, in many ways, it already is.  People are also quick to forget as to why the nation of Jordan (Trans-Jordan) was originally created.  This was to be the Arab Palestinian State, while Jewish Palestine would become Israel. 

In many reports this week, Emad Halayqa, a student at Beirzeit University in Ramallah, posted to Facebook that he would “far rather be arrested by Israel than by the Palestinian Authority.”  Halayqa stated, “The last time [PA] intelligence arrested me, one of their investigators told me: ‘I warn you not to tell anyone that we have beaten you.’”   Stories of widespread human rights violations in the Islamic Palestinian-controlled territories have been hitting social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook for years. But few in the mainstream media pay any attention to them.  It would appear that both the Media in the West, along with most Politicians are only interested in a “two-state solution” to acknowledge that the Arab Palestinian regime it created is anything but a peaceful and democratic entity.

Emad Halayqa, the Arab University student from Ramallah told his own Palestinian government, “The Palestinian democracy you talked about before the elections has been exposed in its ugliest character after the elections… I am not your servant and I will not be. Send me the Jews. I wish they would arrest me and save me from your violations.”  He went on to state, “The last time Fatah intelligence arrested me, one of their investigators told me: 'I warn you not to tell anyone that we have beaten you.  In the morning I received three phone calls from the intelligence services, and in the evening they came to my house and demanded that I surrender tomorrow," Halayqa wrote.  He did not specify in his post the reason for his arrest, but he may have been targeted by Palestinian intelligence because he participated in Kutla Islamiyah's elections campaign at Birzeit University at the end of April. The Hamas-affiliated students union scored a stirring victory in these elections.

Gaza children put on play about stabbing & killing Israelis    We have often reported in the past via sources such as Palestinian Media Watch and Honest Reporting about the way Arab Palestinian children are taught to hate Jewish Israelis.  This week Israel’s Channel Two News brought new footage from a children’s festival in the Gaza Strip showing the children play-acting.  Arab Palestinian children are seen urging each other to “die as martyrs” and “blow up their enemies,” and includes mock presentations of them capturing Israeli soldiers and running through what appears to be a tunnel. A video of the events, part of the eighth annual “Childhood Festival” by the Islamic Association in Khan Younis in April, was uploaded to the internet this week.  

During one segment, a young girl calls on her ‘child’ to “join the battle! Die as a martyr, and blow up the enemies.” Others show young boys clasping toy assault rifles as they strike poses in formation and run through what appears to be a tunnel (Click here to watch).  A previous video from the festival which was broadcast by Channel 2 in late April showed children brandishing toy knives and machine guns as they performed a play simulating violence against Israelis.  This was picked up by The Daily Mail newspaper last month who went on to report that a British pro-Palestinian charity supported by UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn funded the festival. The Daily Mail stated that the charity Interpal, formally known as the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, donated £6,800 (approx. $10,000) to the event. Corbyn, the Mail said, has spoken at fundraisers for Interpal. In 2013 he “accepted” from it a tour of Gaza costing £2,800 (approx. $4,000), and even appeared in a promotional video for the charity. The report also said that the Labour leader referred to Interpal boss Ibrahim Hewitt — whom the paper calls “a notorious Islamic hardliner who has said adulterers should be stoned” — as a “very good friend.” The event was broadcast on a Hamas television channel dedicated to culture, available in Gaza and the West Bank, according to Channel 2 news.  To read the report from the Daily Mail and see further footage, click here.

Meanwhile, in their latest report from Palestinian Media Watch, Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik have released news on an event for children arranged by the Palestine Red Crescent.  The Palestinian Authority TV News chose to include a young Palestinian girl’s hate speech demonizing Jews at this event. The young girl, who obviously has been told lies and has been told what to say states, “Like all the children of Palestine, I do not like the occupation.  I am scared of the Jews when they come to our village. They kill worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. They kill our people and imprison small children.”  You can watch the video clip on YouTube here and read the full report by Palestinian Media Watch here.

And finally…. Some good news from the Methodist church    According to various reports, the United Methodist Church has rejected several resolutions calling for the 12-million-member Protestant church to divest from companies engaging in business with Israel over its alleged ‘poor treatment’ of Palestinians.  Church committees over the weekend voted down four Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) resolutions brought to a vote at the church’s quadrennial United Methodist Church General Conference in Portland, Oregon, taking place this week.  The resolutions “pretty much went down in flames,” UMC delegate and BDS opponent John Lomperis told Religion News Service on Sunday.

The resolutions would have seen UMC divestment from three companies that pro-Palestinian activists have accused of working with Israeli security forces to sustain Israel’s West Bank settlement enterprise: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.  Similar BDS petitions in the UMC failed in both 2008 and 2012.  The defeat comes on the heels of Hillary Clinton’s May 9 letter to Jewish leaders reasserting her position that BDS campaigns are counterproductive to Mideast peace and calling for the reversal of the trend of increasing “attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”  For more on this story, go to the article from The Times of Israel here.

David Soakell  

(CFI Church Liaison Officer (UK) & WoZ News Report Correspondent)  Tweet me @David_CFI



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