The Word:  Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:13)

"And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! (Matthew 6:28-30)

That is why this celebration is called Purim, because it is the ancient word for casting lots. So because of Mordecai's letter and because of what they had experienced, the Jews throughout the realm agreed to inaugurate this tradition and to pass it on to their descendants… They declared they would never fail to celebrate these two prescribed days at the appointed time each year. (Esther 9:26, 27)

*   Pointers for prayer:  The Festival of Purim will soon be celebrated throughout Israel, commemorating a major victory over oppression and recounting the story of Esther.  Purim is the most festive of Jewish holidays, a time of prizes, costumes and treats.  Over this festive and joyous time may we rejoice in our King of Kings that He has preserved and blessed the nation of Israel.  May this be a time of breakthrough when we see curses turned into blessings.

*   May we continue to approach the Throne of God’s Grace in prayer for victory over the plans of any people, state or group with plans to wipe Israel off the map.  Please ask the Lord for wisdom on how to pray for the difficult situations that Israel faces today. Pray that He may fill each prayer warrior anew with the Spirit of God and discernment for every situation that demands Biblical prayers in line with God’s Word. Praying the Psalms is often a good way to be led by the Spirit.

*   Ask God to deliver many Arab Palestinian people from the spirit of deep-seated hatred for the Jewish people. God can reach into hearts where we cannot and He can perform miracles where no one else can go.

*   As mentioned in last week’s report, Israel is constantly faced with huge battles, but as I read from 2 Chronicles 20: 14- 20 (see last week’s report), I felt we needed to believe for a miracle.  Let us pray that the nation of Israel would position themselves to be able to ‘stand still and see the salvation of the Lord’; that they would not fear or be dismayed; and that they would ‘believe in the Lord their God and believe in His prophets’ and prosper.

The colourful highs of Purim     

As Purim is just around the corner, this week’s report is the first of a two week theme.  We will start by looking at the ‘highs’ of Purim, before looking at the ‘lows’ next week.  As news is often rather depressing where the Middle East is concerned, especially with the recent Arab Palestinian uprising against Israeli’s, I know the readers of this report – though appreciative of the facts from Israel – must yearn for some ‘good news’.  Sadly, good news is rare; however I felt led this week to report on the positive that we often forget about at this time of the year.  In many ways, the very survival of the Jewish people throughout history is nothing short of miraculous. The very fact that Israel exist as a nation today stands in testimony to the existence of God who acts in history. By any historical measure, the Jewish people should have disappeared long ago. David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the modern State of Israel once said: “A Jew who does not believe in miracles is not a realist.”  Why did he say that? Simply because miracles are the only possible explanation for the existence of the Jewish people.  This is what Purim is about. However today, as in past times with Israel, we need to see a miracle. 

This year, the ‘religious’ events in spring appear to be slightly ‘out of sync’ to the norm.  Often the Seder meal (Passover) falls around the Easter period – which makes much more sense when enabling the church to understand her Hebraic roots.  However, Easter 2016 is a lot earlier this year, which means, rather strangely, that Purim, which begins in the evening of Wednesday, March 23 and ends in the evening of Thursday, March 24 falls the day before ‘Good Friday’.  So Easter will be well gone by the time Passover happens this year – which begins in the evening of Friday, April 22 and ends in the evening of Saturday, April 30, 2016. 

Purim is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in Israel and is embraced by the whole country, from religious Jews in Jerusalem to the more secular Jews of Tel Aviv.  It is a time of festivity and celebrated far beyond its original Biblical roots. Purim parties take place across Israel, with Purim street parties bringing a carnival atmosphere in almost every city, town and village in the country. Purim is also one of the biggest nights of the year at clubs up and down the country. With so much going on, and so much colour in the amazing costumes that can be seen, Purim in Israel is a fascinating time to be in the country.  However it’s not just the colour of the costumes that brings joy to the land, as unlike the UK, Israel has been in the midst of Spring for some time turning Israel into a rich colour just about everywhere you look.  

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.  Almond trees and cyclamens are in bloom this time of year on the western fringes of Jerusalem.  Carpets of lupines and irises are blooming across the Carmel region, and in the hills surrounding the Beit Shean Valley incredible irises can be seen.  In fact, the Gilboa Iris was chosen as the symbol of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.  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:

Last Monday, I was speaking at a CFI meeting on the prophet Zechariah.  In Chapter 1:8 it states, "I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him there were red horses, speckled, and white".   The myrtle tree gives another opportunity to see the beautiful blossom – and the Myrtle tree is also a symbol of Jerusalem. Myrtle trees grow in the valleys around Jerusalem, and are characterized by their dark, green, glossy leaves. They are adorned with flowers and during Zechariah's time were often used as wedding decorations.  Perfume also was made from myrtle trees.

With all this in mind, it’s interesting to read that in a time of the Jewish people being brought back to the land of Israel, Isaiah 55:13 states, “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress [When Israel was cast out of the Land, the land became barren of fruit and vineyards etc., and thorns grew all over the place]; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”  Now it’s worth noting what it states here: They (Israel) shall never be cut off - backing up Amos 9:14 &15 – ‘And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them… and I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.’   The green leaves of the myrtle tree point to Israel's hope and future. When one sees the large amount of myrtle trees in Israel today, one can know with assurance that no matter what the Islamic world try to do, and no matter what the EU, UN or the Obama US Government demand, Jewish Jerusalem will not fade – Israel will not fade. It will bloom before the Lord forever.

Back in the UK, spring is slowly ‘defrosting’ the country – or rather drying up the flood saturated fields, but we are well behind Israel.  However, according to the long-range forecast, Britain will bask in 10 days of glorious sunshine, blue skies and warmer temperatures as spring finally arrives.  Things should be looking up by the time Easter arrives with the mercury likely to nudge 19C over the bank holiday weekend.  Without wanting to sound as if I’m adding weather forecasts to my WoZ reports, many weather experts have promised largely calm and settled weather for much of the remainder of this month.  Forecasters put the change in weather down to a huge swathe of high pressure wedged close to the UK holding wind and rain at bay.  So, with hopefully some warmer days, the chocolate ‘Easter bunnies’ and Easter eggs might start to melt and disappear, as paganism, which often engulfs ‘resurrection Sunday’ might allow for the deeper meaning of this time of year.  Sadly however, Easter is often similar to the way many Israeli’s often celebrate Purim – many don’t even understand the truths behind this festival.

Purim of course celebrates the Jewish people in the Persian Empire’s survival in the face of destruction in the wake of a plot by Haman.  As mentioned, the festival is widely celebrated but this is not a ‘Shabbat’ as many businesses are open as usual. The main symbols of Purim are masquerading, and from kids to adults, this tradition is widely embraced, and festive drinking often takes place among all elements of society. Special foods, including sweet pastry filled with, typically, a sweet poppy seed filling, are eaten, and bakeries across Israel will be baking these in the run up to the festival.   However, like Easter in the UK, in the midst of the fun and folly, there is a much deeper message through Purim that needs to be understood by all within Israel.  Next week, we will look at this message.

UK Stamp honouring Sir Nicholas Winton    

As you may have read in my Holocaust Memorial special report in January 2016, many of the Area Reps for Christian Friends of Israel focused their Holocaust Memorial services this year on Sir Nicholas Winton.  This week, the Royal Mail postal service in the UK has issued a stamp honouring Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 Jewish children from Europe in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.  Winton, who is known as the British Schindler, arranged for eight trains carrying the children to travel from Prague to the UK, utilizing Britain’s Kindertransport program allowing for refugees under 17 from the continent to gain asylum if they had a hosting family.

Bribing Nazi officials, Winton arranged for forged travel documents and found families to take the children in and pay a £50 deposit for their eventual return travel fees. Sadly, the families of most of the children rescued were murdered during the Holocaust.  Winton, who died last year aged 106, is one of six humanitarians honoured in the Royal Mail’s presentation pack issued on Tuesday, including Sue Ryder, John Boyd Orr, Eglantyne Jebb, Joseph Rowntree, and Josephine Butler.  Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust in the UK stated, “Sir Nicholas Winton was a true hero of our time and it is fantastic that Royal Mail is recognizing this remarkable man in such a special way. The Holocaust Educational Trust is thrilled that this commemorative stamp is now available for everyone to purchase and spread the story of Sir Nicholas’s extraordinary selflessness far and wide.

CFI’s Kristie King produced a very moving drama in Sheffield for HMD which was presented by Kristie herself and the Sh’ma Kingdom Dancers.  The whole drama brilliantly portrayed the anguish of a Czech family, making the heart breaking decision to send their children on the Kinder Transport, and was a fitting and poignant tribute to the life and work of Nicholas Winton. A fascinating interview by Kristie with Sue Pearson – a Kinder transport survivor, was shown and you can watch the interview here (Kristie’s interview starts with her journeying on the train at one minute, 37 seconds into the video):  

CFI UK sell both the book of Sir Nicholas Winton – entitled ‘If it’s not impossible – The life of Sir Nicholas Winton’ and the DVD ‘Nicky’s Family’ on their website shop here:

In related news, according to, the oldest man in the world is Yisrael Kristal, a 112-year-old Israeli Holocaust survivor.  His daughter, Shula Kuperstoch of Haifa says that her father attributes his longevity to God. He always called his life a miracle. Born September 15, 1903, in Tarnow, Poland, as the son of a Torah scholar, he attended religious primary school until age 11. He remained religious throughout his life.  Apparently, Yisrael Kristal was always an optimist and he enjoyed making people happy.  His daughter stated in the interview, “The Holocaust did not affect his beliefs.  He believes he was saved because that’s what God wanted. He is not an angry person, he is not someone who seeks an accounting, he believes everything has a reason in the world.”  To read the full report click here:

Proof that Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions do not work   

If proof that Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs want to work peacefully together was needed, then this video shows just that.  It is an advert published on February 20, 2016 pleading not to boycott Israel, and not to boycott peace, but keep the hope alive!  You can view it here:

Sadly, due to all those who support the BDS campaign, hundreds of Arab Palestinian workers have been left unemployed after the Israeli SodaStream factory where they worked were forced to move out of what the world calls ‘the West Bank’ – Judea and Samaria - and set up a new factory in Israel’s Negev Desert following an international boycott campaign.  So was this a BDS success for all those who support this action such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, or the Scottish Green Party, or those who backed the Methodist Church BDS campaigns?  It would be interesting to know if those within the UK who stand with this offensive BDS machine are actually in employment.  It would then be interesting to know how they feel having campaigned so strongly against what they would class as “Apartheid Israel”.  It would be interesting to know how they feel about making the very people they are supposed to be “supporting”, to be forced out of work as the 500 Arab Palestinians have lost their jobs after the factory was forced to move. 

Daniel Birnbaum, chief executive of SodaStream International, said the last 74 Palestinian workers left at the beginning of March 2016.  “We gave them an opportunity to work,” he told Israel’s Channel 2 TV, calling Palestinians the main victims of the boycott movement.  The BDS movement seeks to ostracise Israel by lobbying corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with the Jewish state. Supporters say the boycott is aimed at furthering Palestinian aspirations for independence, and that their efforts are modelled on an earlier campaign against apartheid South Africa.  However, by stating the BDS efforts are modelled on an earlier campaign against apartheid South Africa is the biggest insult one can make to Black South Africans, as you will see here if you watch the following film clip.

So, is Israel an “apartheid state,” as its BDS campaigners claim? Who better to answer that charge than a Black South African who lived through apartheid? Kenneth Meshoe, a member of the South African parliament, fits that bill. He examines the evidence against Israel and draws a compelling conclusion. Click here to view:

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