The Word:  Man who is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and withers; he flees also like a shadow and continues not.  And [Lord] do You open Your eyes upon such a one, and bring me into judgment with You? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one! Since a man’s days are already determined, and the number of his months is wholly in Your control, and he cannot pass the bounds of his allotted time. Turn from him, let him rest until he has accomplished as does a hireling the appointed time for his day. For there is hope for a tree if it is cut down, that it will sprout again and that the tender shoots of it will not cease. Though its roots grow old in the earth and its stock dies in the ground, yet through the scent of water will bud and bring forth boughs like a young plant. But man must die and lie prostrate; yes, man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters evaporate from the lake, and the river drains and dries up, so man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, men will not awake nor be raised out of their sleep. (Job 14: 1-14)

“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

*      Pointers for prayer:  As I stated in last week’s pointers for prayer, we are living in a sobering moment in history that calls for all believers in Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), to take a stand with Israel. This is not about politics; this is about the Word of God, but the political ramifications are extremely dramatic.  This week, I felt led to look at the bigger picture within the Middle East, however that ‘picture’ isn’t very encouraging.  As I’m writing this report, I ‘tweeted’ a quick prayer request on Twitter for the people of Iraq, as Hezbollah Brigades - a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation - heads to Mosul.  Please pray for all innocent civilians in Iraq, and please also keep in your prayers the horrific events that continue to unfold within Syria.

*      We have to believe that God is sovereign, yet He is also a God of love (Zephaniah 3:17) – so let us declare God’s sovereign power to accomplish all His purposes in Israel and the Middle East. Stand in prayer against those who would deny Israel’s right to its ancient homeland, and please continue to pray for the complete restoration of the nation of Israel. But let us not harden our hearts against the Muslim people of the Middle East (whether Arab or Iranian/Turkish). Pray for a great revelation of Biblical truth to saturate the Arab world – especially with the Palestinian youth - along with those countries that are not ethnically Arab but Muslim (Iran and Turkey). Pray that these Arab/Muslim countries would break free from the bondage of false religion and come to a place where the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the God of Israel – would set them free (John 8:32)

These days are full of trouble   Have you ever read the book of Job?  The book is narrative history, and though the author is unknown, many believe that Job himself wrote it. It is also possible that Job is the oldest of any book of the Bible written approximately 2100-1800 B.C.   In Job, we see a man who God allows to be directly attacked by Satan. It is a tough read, and for me personally, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions as to why God allows suffering.  Yet the book of Job show us that Job is an example of faithfulness as he loses everything important to him yet remains faithful to God. Its purpose is to illustrate God’s sovereignty and faithfulness during a time of great suffering. Therefore, you might find it strange that I should use Job 14 as my main Scripture in this week’s report, yet it really spoke to me – specifically regarding the Middle East today.   Job chapter 14 speaks of ‘waters evaporating and rivers drying up, and thus man lies down and does not rise.’  If you were to view the Middle East on Google Earth, you would see vast areas of barren land that have literally dried up.  More than that, if you travelled throughout the Middle East in a vehicle, you would see lots of war-torn areas that are so bleak and dusty, where men, women and children have perished due to factions within the Islamic world who have warred with each other. 

Back in June 2016, I wrote at length about Daesh (Isis) and the U.N. Human Rights Council.  At the time, Britain was being consumed about leaving or staying in the European Union, and I questioned as to why we were being all-consumed by the EU debate, when there was, and still is a much bigger international organization that we should possibly ask each other whether we would like to remain within, or vote to leave – meaning the United Nations.  I’ll come back to this shortly.  But first, consider this.  A few months ago I reported the story of a Yazidi teenage girl who recounted how she and her family had been captured by ISIS, and was abused and repeatedly raped.  Sadly, this girl wasn’t alone in suffering these dreadful attacks and abuse.  Many Muslims and Christians have been raped, tortured and killed by various Islamic factions including Isis.  How many Yazidis (Kurdish community) have been killed by Isis?  How many Muslims have been killed by Isis?  And how many have been abused and killed by other Islamic groups who hate other Muslims simply because they follow another form of Islam, or follow Christianity?  The total is unknown but the statistics are sickening. 

One source stated that over 200,000 people (mostly Christians and Shiites) have been killed in Iraq alone by ISIS.  I remember that after Isis (or Daesh - the acronym for the Arabic name of the group alternately known as ISIS, ISIL or the Islamic State) took credit for the last brutal attacks on Paris that left 129 dead and hundreds of others injured, many were quick to blame the Muslim community as a whole for the terrorist rampage. However this is rather unfair as a Muslim is far more likely to become a victim of Daesh than to join it, and the vast majority of the group’s victims are fellow members of the Islamic faith – it’s just that there are so many factions of Islam.  However hundreds, if not thousands of Christians and Yazidis have also been murdered by ISIS (Daesh). So why isn't the United Nations demanding action?  Might it be that they are too busy trying to condemn the only true democracy in the Middle East - Israel?  Should it surprise you that between June of 2016 and November 2016 that the U.N.’s top human rights body declared Israel as the world’s worst human rights violator- beating Iran, North Korea, Russia and China for the number 1 spot? Again, I will comment more on this shortly. 

Where these violent attacks and even murders have been carried out on Muslims, our hearts surely must go out to the families of those who have perished, and these terrorist attacks have to be condemned by the UN Authorities.  However, who is it that the UN condemns on a regular basis?  It’s certainly not Isis, or Abbas’s Palestinian Authority or Hamas.  No, they condemn Israel and demand Israel accepts another Islamic State in Israel’s heart land – the mountains of Israel – or Judea and Samaria. 

Throughout 2016, when Israelis have looked around them, all they have seen is brutal civil wars such as in Syria, and ISIS on the other side of the Golan Heights border along with the border with Egypt. They see Hezbollah strengthening its position to the north, and Hamas turning Gaza into a staging ground of terror.  Let’s face the facts – the UN must know that Hamas does not hide its intention to prepare for the next round of conflict, and continues to build up its terror infrastructure - above the ground and below.

Hamas:  It has been covered before in my reports here that Hamas’ officials boast on a frequent basis of rocket factories operating day and night. They are upgrading their arsenal with longer range missiles. Hamas is also rebuilding its network of terror tunnels – though Israel is attempting to destroy them as soon as they discover them. These tunnels are an underground expressway of terror, leading straight into the heart of Israeli towns and cities. Yet even as Hamas plans attacks against Israeli citizens, and despite the constant threat of rocket attacks, Israel is still today taking steps to improve the well-being of the people in Gaza. In the past year alone, Israel has invested millions of dollars to triple the capacity of the Gaza crossing, allowing trucks from Israel filled with building material and goods to enter the Gaza Strip every day.  However, as we all know, Hamas shamefully seizes supplies intended to help the people of Gaza, in order to rebuild its terror infrastructure.  The people who condemn Israel – and we need to include all who stand with the BDS campaigns – need to face a reality check. The greatest opponent of the well-being of the people of Gaza is Hamas themselves.

In November 2016, Hamas once again pledged to stay committed to what they believe is their ‘right of return’ and liberating all of what they class as Arab Palestine (meaning Israel).  Next year is of course the commemoration and celebration of the 100 years since the Balfour Declaration on November 2nd, 2017.  In response to this, Hamas stated recently in a press statement on the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, “Our right to the land of Palestine is sacred and cannot be erased by a void promise from one criminal to another,” confirming that the Terrorist organisation will not “give up a single inch of Palestinian lands.”  Hamas stated, “We will not permit any attempt to tamper with Palestinian rights or give up the right of return,” also confirming that Hamas will never recognize Israel in what Hamas regard as ‘colonial land theft.’  Hamas stressed that Palestinian unity remains an essential necessity in the fight against Israel’s occupation, urging all Muslims to regard that the struggle to liberate Palestine as the top priority that unites all Muslims and ends the schisms dividing the Muslim Ummah (the Ummah is as one body).

Hezbollah:  While Israelis live under the shadow of threat from Hamas in the south, they also see the dark cloud of Hezbollah in the North.  Please note: This terrorist group do not hide the fact that they are committed to the destruction of Israel, and they grow stronger and more sophisticated every day. As I write, Hezbollah is heading to Mosul.  Iraqi Special Forces insist they will be in the centre of Mosul "very soon" after adopting new tactics which have seen fewer casualties and more progress - albeit slow.  The city has been under ISIS control since June 2014.  There are roughly now only about four enclaves for the troops to move through before the river Tigris.  However, they are not expecting the ISIS resistance to diminish in any way as they inch closer to the city centre.  If anything, they are bracing themselves for tougher fighting crossing the bridges and entering the western side of the city, which is less ethnically-diverse and thought to be where the ISIS support is more concentrated.

However, at the same time, reports from both the Foreign Relations Bureau of Iraq, and from Reuters state that the Hezbollah group is transporting forces, including troops and artillery, to participate in the operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State. Hezbollah Brigades is a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that is one of several Iranian-backed militias that operates in Iraq.  The convoy, which was seen in a video released by Hezbollah, was shown to include dozens of vehicles. At least 11 rocket launchers, four howitzers (including two US-made M198 howitzers), one American-made M1 Abrams, and one US M88 Recovery Vehicle were spotted. Several other vehicles transporting troops to Mosul can also be seen. 

With its involvement within Lebanon, along with its involvement in Iraq and Syria, Hezbollah is flexing its muscles in a clear message to Israel, as the organization presented its tanks, armoured vehicles and ATVs equipped with anti-tank missiles during a military parade at Al-Qusayr, Syria.  You can read a full report on this here:   Where Syria is concerned, when Hezbollah joined the fight on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad pretty much from the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the professional military assessment from Israel was one of little concern.  But then the unforeseeable happened. Russian President Vladimir Putin entered the war, lending air power, sea power, electronic warfare and special forces to the axis of Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard all fighting from the same war rooms to save Assad.  One wonders were that leaves Russian/Israeli relations?

In Lebanon, 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. Hezbollah has 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.  Take, for example, the village of Muhaybib in South Lebanon. In this small town, sources state that Hezbollah has nine arms storage sites, five rocket-launching sites, four infantry positions, three underground tunnels three anti-tank positions, and a command post in the centre of the village. Twenty five military sites in a town with only ninety houses!  In another village of Shaqra with a population of about four thousand people the IDF has identified four hundred military sites. Hezbollah has transformed these villages into terror outposts. This is the true face of Hezbollah - a brutal organization which deliberately targets Israeli civilians, and uses Lebanese civilians as human shields. And of course the link between Hamas and Hezbollah is the Islamic Republic of Iran, of whom the USA and the UN are lifting restrictions!

Iran: Wherever there is terror, there is of course Iran. Iran is the primary destabilizing factor in the Middle East, funding instability and chaos throughout the region. Iran also has a proven track record of defying every UN Council's resolutions.  Is it a coincidence that the Book of Esther is set in Susa, where king Xerxes threatened the Jews with genocide and Esther saved them?  The modern Iranian town of Shush is located at the site of ancient Susa.  It appears that the spirit of Haman lives on. 

The Palestinian Authority:  Last week, Israeli politicians and commentators, like most others around the world, woke up last Wednesday morning in shock over Donald Trump’s upset victory in the US presidential election.  But Israel was probably one of the few countries where most people viewed Trump’s win as a ‘good surprise’.  Over the past years Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has called on President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to resume negotiations on many occasions, but the PA continues to refuse. When the PA leadership is not negotiating, it is inciting its own people to murder Israelis, as we have seen from the recent terrorist attacks in Israel.  Instead of working to improve the lives of the Palestinians, the PA encourages terror by providing stipends for terrorists and their families.  However, what will be the next issue to rise from this complex situation, especially as Mr Trump has been declaring that with him as US President, it will mean an end to any possible ‘Palestinian State’?

The UN – help or hindrance?   And so, with all that is written above, one has to wonder why the United Nations committees this week adopted another 10 resolutions against Israel in one single day?  Echoing UNESCO resolutions last month, several new motions are said to ignore Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.  The committees were also taking up four other resolutions on Syria, North Korea, Iran and Crimea.  Well that makes sense… but to bring one resolution against Syria (you all know what’s happening in Syria), and one against North Korea (one of the most dangerous nuclear capable nations in the world), Iran (see above) and Crimea – all of which are countries which have appalling human rights issues… but then to bring TEN resolutions against Israel – the only country in the Middle East that is a true democracy – proves that the United Nations are determined to remove Israel in a political equivalence to how Hamas and the PLO desire to do on a practical level.  At least two of the UN resolutions involving Israel reportedly ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, referring to the holy site by its Muslim name, Al Haram Al Sharif — in echoes of two resolutions passed last month by UNESCO.

Finally, what of the super moon?   As you may be aware, the brightest moon in 68 years has been lighting up the sky this week in a treat for star watchers around the globe.  In Israel, the moon was at its brightest as it began to rise in the east at around 5:00 p.m. (Israel time). Moon gazers were advised to watch the heavenly show with the naked eye rather than using binoculars or telescopes.  However what is thought provoking is that a moon this size hasn’t been seen over Israel since the nation of Israel was re-birthed back in the land.   The 'super' moon is so-called because it is at its closest point to Earth since 1948, making it look eight percent larger than usual.

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