Please note: Due to CFI speaking engagements, the next report won’t be out until April 6, 2017
The Word: "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendour." …This is what the LORD says-- the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel-- to him who was despised and abhorred by the nations, to the servant of rulers: "Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you." …I will restore the land and reassign its desolate inheritances." (Isaiah 49:3-8)
The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing …For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water… (Isaiah 35:1-7)
Pointers for prayer: As we look into the events bringing potential chaos and instability within the Middle East, please pray for discernment and spiritual guidance as to how we should be interceding over these issues.
Do continue to pray for protection around the borders of Israel, and pray for the current leaders in Israel, including the Prime Minister Netanyahu. I firmly believe God is calling Christians to come alongside Israel and cry out to God on Israel's behalf, to take the deep heart cry of the nation into our own hearts; to intercede against her enemies, and to believe in the promises of God for Israel. Please continue to pray that the Lord God would indeed shelter Israel in the shadow of His wings. (Psalm 17:7–9)
As I have mentioned over the past few reports, do also pray for the Arab world. While tens of millions of Arabs have been suffering for decades from brutal oppression from their own Arab leaders, and many have been tortured and imprisoned and women humiliated and dissidents killed, the world has become obsessed with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as if the Arab Palestinians (who have rejected one peace offer after another) were the only victims in the Middle East. Please cry out for the Arab people struggling under the heavy restraints of Islamic oppression.
Through the looking glass or 20/20 vision? In my report land week, I attempted to bring a balanced argument against those who, through their ‘Israel Apartheid Week(s)’ give a very poor case against the Jewish nation. To all those who wrote in with your appreciation and encouragement, I’d like to say a huge “thank you.” One reader stated, “Fantastically accurate and detailed article to arm Israel supporters with the information to present to those who claim Israel to be an apartheid state. A big thanks to David Soakell for providing this wealth of information to share!” I’m not so sure if it was that good, but thank you all the same. However, I even created a similar report taking out all the Biblical and prayer issues so that I could use it in one of my personal blog posts (which can be read here). This was purely for advocacy purposes, and I tweeted some on the #IsraeliApartheidWeek Twitter feeds. I expected a flood of abuse, negative reactions, or at least some questions back, but did I get any? Not a jot… not a murmuring. Now of course that’s fine with me as it keeps the old blood pressure down and saves me needing to respond, but it begs the question, do these anti-Israel people even bother to look at the ‘other side’?
As I mentioned last week, the Scriptures declare that Israel is the land of milk and honey. When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He informed Moses that He would redeem the Israelis and bring them to a "good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey..." (Exodus 3:8). This is the Land of the Bible; the land God gave to the Jewish people as an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:8; 26:3 4; 35:12; Psalm 105:8- 11). Israel is also the only true democracy within the Middle East, with Jews, Arabs and Christians living in this tiny area of land – a land the size of Wales. And let’s not forget that Israel has nearly 2 million Arabs living in complete safety. When one considers that in the rest of the Middle East (which is 99.9% of the land mass) there is turmoil and genocide going on in various Islamic nations, the Arabs of Israel should know that they are far better off living under Israeli sovereignty rather than under Islamic Sharia law.
Some time ago, I remember being laid upon my bed in a darkened room with a migraine as I watched an explosion of lights in my eyes which caused my vision to be blared. At the same time, I was thinking about a report I’d read on the troubled Middle East, and I thought, “that’s it… that’s the problem… the world’s media, politicians, many University students, ‘#IsraelApartheidWeek supporters’ and sadly much of the church must suffer with migraine! They see the troubles in the Middle East but only through distorted eyes. They see Israel, but not with clear vision, and generally blame them for everything whether it’s their fault or not.”
To anyone observing the turmoil and upheaval in the Islamic Middle East, there is little doubt that unless the Jewish State is determined to commit suicide, Israel must make some ‘politically incorrect’ decisions that will, no doubt, bring further condemnation from the rest of the world. Egypt, one of the few Arab nations once willing to be at peace with Israel, isn’t the ‘friendly neighbour’ we thought. In many areas of Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has a strong say and they are closely aligned with the Hamas rulers in Gaza. Many today are wondering if there is another revolution brewing in Egypt? Six years after the Arab Spring, analysts say the conditions are in place for yet more conflict in Egypt. The Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who came to power in a coup that, in its aftermath, resulted in the massacre of more than one thousand Arab supporters of his predecessor, might have a reputation for speaking very softly. This quality often disarms foreigners. Some say “When you talk to him, unlike most Arab generals, he listens.” But is he dangerous? Well just look at what happened when he came to power.
Hamas are still dedicated to Israel's destruction and, unlike Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah, won't even mince words to gain support from the West. The problem of course is Fatah and Hamas are now closer to being ‘brothers in arms’ than they have ever been. Hamas are even, allegedly, according to reports this week, talking about agreeing to ’67 borders. Long forgotten are the days not too far back when Hamas members were throwing Fatah members off roof tops in Gaza. For now at least, they might be both singing from the same ‘hymn sheet’ – but no doubt still hate each other. They happily shake hands with each other whilst opposing Israel.
To the north of Israel, Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, has all but taken over Lebanon, and it is armed to the teeth with scores of thousands of rockets and missiles with Israel in its sights. On Tuesday March 14, 2017, Geologist and former adviser to the Israel Defence Force (IDF), Chief of Staff Yossi Langotsky, stated that it is very likely that Hezbollah have now dug tunnels into Israel. Langotsky has warned of northern border terrorist tunnel threats and told Israeli News Media that he is very worried about the possibility of a new front in northern Israel which, he says, may include tunnels that Israel’s enemies intend to use to infiltrate Israel and carry out terror attacks against Israelis. I remember reporting about this in 2016 and am surprised that Israel appears to have done little about it. Langotsky told the Israel media, “As I warned in the past, there is a high probability that Hezbollah has dug tunnels into our borders. Unfortunately, despite all that I said in the past, nothing was done about this. The rock in the north is supposed to be hard, but believe me that it’s not harder than the granite in North Korea, and the North Koreans, who are involved here in the Middle East, have dug four attack tunnels into South Korea. Every tunnel they dug was two by two metres, big enough to pass through any military vehicle short of a tank. Tunnels like that from southern Lebanon to Israel can be very unpleasant for us.”
While the situation in Syria remains deadly turbulent, regardless of who prevails, Israel loses out there as well. The most powerful opposition forces in Syria are, as within Egypt and elsewhere, the radical Islamic machine. And then of course there is Iran! No one seems to be talking about Iran at the moment… all appears to be quiet. Could it be that they are keeping their heads down while happily building nuclear weapons with all the recent cash the former US President Obama blessed them with?
This is the reality confronting Israel today... and all the while, Arab members of the Knesset (Parliament) can argue with their Jewish members of Parliament; Arab justices in the Israeli High Courts can do their work with Jewish lawyers; Arab university students can study the same subjects as their Israeli peers in Israeli universities; Jewish doctors can continue treating Arab patients and Arab doctors can treat Jewish patients… and Jews and Arabs CAN walk down the same streets and get on the same buses – despite the lies that come from the lips of the BDS supporters… and all the while the Israel Apartheid Week/Months campaigns blind the eyes of more innocent young people, who although spend all their time glued to What’s App, Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media sites, appear to be unable to ‘google’ the truth. Meanwhile, Arabs elsewhere in the vast 99.9% Islamic land mass of the oil rich Middle East, long for the freedom that Israel's own Arab citizens have...not to mention the scores of millions of non-Arabs in the rest of the Middle East who exist under various degrees of deadly subjugation at the hands of their Arab rulers.
With Iran, Syria, Hezbollah’s Lebanon, Egypt, Hamas’ Gaza and Abbas’ Palestinian controlled areas all causing dust clouds due to the uproar in the Middle East, how long we wonder before the dust clouds are caused by the stirrings of armies and tank manoeuvres? Then of course there is the whole problem with the “West Bank”. While it will be under continuous pressure to act against its bare minimal security needs, Israel must hold its ground and insist on not becoming some newly resurrected ‘Neville Chamberlain's offering’ for “peace in our time a la Munich 1938.” With its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the battle they have had since, Israel must insist there is no compromise in Judea and Samaria. To rip out the heart and lungs, the body dies… and so too will Israel, if she gives up the Biblical Mountains of Israel. The nation of Israel must never become the nine to fifteen mile wide sub-state, practically begging to be destroyed, that the armistice lines - not borders - of 1949 left it as after surviving the combined invasion of a five Arab nations armies upon its rebirth in 1948. After the renewed Arab attempt on its life in 1967, Israel was promised more defensible and more secure borders. No amount of arm twisting and PLO tirades can erase the basic justice of this. And any future deal with Syria cannot include the giving up of the very strategic Golan Heights. Whatever ill-focused views the world may peer at Israel with, one thing is for certain – without the clear vision that Israel had upon her rebirth in 1948, anything but the strong resolute spirit of the Jewish people – may result in something far more serious than a nagging headache.
Reason to be cheerful Having written what I have above, it does sound as if I should be wearing a placard with the words ‘the end of the world is nigh’ upon it. Is it really that bad you might well ask? Sadly, it could get a lot worse. With anti-Semitism being at its highest for 70 plus years, which means it’s as high now, if not higher, than in the 1930s, we can expect many battles ahead, and many more Jewish people deciding that the safest place is actually within Israel. However, as 70s pop star Ian Dury & The Blockheads once sang (of a sort) there are still many ‘reason to be cheerful’. On each occasion when travelling to Israel, as soon as my feet touch the ground, I feel I’m home. What is it about this place that I love? How can this troubled land of Israel bring me such joy and peace, yet cause me to grieve too? Has it got something to do with my Jewish roots? Maybe! Yet I know many Christians feel the same way. Without doubt, God has chosen the land of Israel for His purposes, promises and Covenant people. It might be a political minefield, yet it is truly an amazing place.
These past few weeks one of our friends from Israel has been back in the UK at our fellowship. Julie and her husband Marc made Aliyah to Israel over three years ago, and now live in Korazim in Northern Israel. It was funny listening to her stating that it was “so cold in the UK”. Well it was the north east of England after all! Of course in Israel, spring started many weeks ago, but even in the UK, we have seen spring starting to ‘lift our spirits up’.
In the scripture I use at the top of this report - of Isaiah 35 - we read of a time when the Israeli wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose! It even states it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice! I know I have painted a dark picture in the above article, and without doubt, we need to soak Israel in our intercession… however, I like to think that Israel is not just a disturbing item on the news, mostly wrongly biased in favour of the Arab world, showing them as the victims of Israeli oppression (as in the ‘#IsraelApartheidWeek supporters propaganda). It is not the tragic place of apartheid and hatred of the Arab Palestinian (as I proved in last week’s report). Yes, the situation is very complex, with both sides suffering at times, and these two different societies and cultures claiming the same piece of land. However, this precious land is also a very beautiful country, not just holy to many religions, but spectacular in its diversity of natural scenes and culture. And what’s more, when we look at the season of spring, man really has no excuse to proclaim there is no God! For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20).
Every year around February/March time, flowers start to blossom all around Israel until the end of June, in waves and cycles. I’ve travelled many times towards the Galilee, and the sight of wild red poppies certainly gladdened the heart. As one approaches Jerusalem, one can see how it is spread over many hills, and all around it are mountains, and of course there are plenty of Almond trees scattered around the city. The Jewish people of course carry almond boughs on festival days. Aaron, in the days of Moses, cut his staff from the almond. The Jewish menorah is said to represent the staff of Aaron and its branches are fashioned to resemble almond fruits. According to the Bible (Numbers 17:1), Moses put twelve rods/staffs ~ representing the twelve tribes of Israel ~ into the tabernacle in order to choose from among them which tribe should furnish the high priest. Next day, the almond rod, representing the tribe of Levi, was found to be covered with leaves and blossoms. As we watch the wilderness bloom, and the Almond trees blossom, not only can we hope and pray for better times for the Nation of Israel, we can look to the faithfulness of the LORD, who despite what we see amidst the troubles, keeps His promises, and will remain faithful ~ both to us – His Church, and His people Israel ("I see the branch of an almond tree…" The LORD said to me, "You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled." Jeremiah 1:11-12).
For those who are blessed to be in Israel during the peak wildflower season of mid-February to late March, Israel offers the most amazing places to see beauty growing wild. Down in the north-western Negev, one can enjoy the red carpets of anemones in the Reim Recreation Area and the Ruhama Forest, and there is still plenty of colour to see in late March and April. On the road just south of Beit Shemesh in the Elah Valley, more anemones appear to grow everywhere along with Givat Hatourmasim (Lupine Hill) where purple lupine (along with many other species) are in full bloom. Along with this, the Judean plains are awash with colourful wildflowers - you’ll even see almond trees and cactus flowers in bloom, and in Misgav in northern Israel, anemone’s bring wonderful colour to the land. To see some beautiful photos of the flowers of Israel click here: http://www.flowersinisrael.com/Anemonecoronaria_page.htm. However, did you know that even around the Dead Sea, life is far from ‘dead’? In a wonderful short film called ‘Treasures of the Dead Sea’ one can view some amazing wildlife. The surface and shores of the Dead Sea are 423 metres (1,388 foot) below sea level, making it Earth’s lowest elevation on land. Yet even here there is life in abundance from Desert Tawney Owls to the Arabian fox. In the following film, you’ll be amazed as you watch the gazelle, striped Hyena, wolves, Nubian Ibex, Golden Eagles, Mourning Wheatear birds, the gorgeous Little Green Bee Eaters, White storks, Honey Buzzards and much more. As birds migrate along the Dead Sea shores, be amazed, and see the splendour of how the Lord God indeed upholds all His promises to the Land of Israel. Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WYd8O_5wLc
(CFI Church Liaison Officer (UK) & WoZ News Report Correspondent)
Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ & Israel National Radio