The Word:   When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it... Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: "Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono." But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?" …the fifth time, Sanballat sent his assistant to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written: "It is reported among the nations-- and Geshem says it is true-- that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall… I sent him this reply: "Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head." They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed." [But I prayed,] "Now strengthen my hands." (Edited from Nehemiah 6:1-9)

*      Pointers for prayer: As you read through this week’s report please pray in line with the Word of God over these issues.  Pray that the heart of the nation of Israel would indeed seek the Lord God and hunger after His Word. 

*      Do continue to pray for protection around the borders of Israel, and pray for the current leaders in Israel, especially the Prime Minister Netanyahu. Pray too for all those who stand with Israel.  There is nothing more that the enemy – Satan - wants than to wipe out the nation of Israel, along with those who stand with her.  Please pray for all ministries standing with Israel – but especially Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) in the UK, and the International office of CFI in Jerusalem.

*      Do continue to pray for the Arab/Muslim people throughout the Middle East and those within the nation of Israel.  “Cause them Lord to be blessed, and to be a blessing to their ancient cousin.  May they desire to dwell peacefully with the Jewish nation and in reconciliation.”

The ridicule of the Jews for building in Jerusalem    Towards the end of last week’s report, I posed the question, “Is Netanyahu still the right man to lead Israel?”  I have had a few interesting emails since from both Christians who are 100% in support of Netanyahu, along with some who believe Israel needs a fresh leader. As I stated, you will all have your own opinion, and I know Israeli’s have a much divided opinion on this.  Yet as I stated last week, under Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has managed to stay out of wars that sucked others in; they have managed to improve its diplomatic position while isolating rivals; under Netanyahu’s leadership Israel has remained flexible on policies but firm on red lines, and most importantly, have kept Israeli residents (both Jews, Christians and Arabs) safe (apart from impossible situations where stabbings by Arab Palestinians have brought death and injuries to some of the Jewish people in Israel).

When we compare this to the troubles in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and many other areas within the Middle East, Israel’s success is no small accomplishment.  Was I contradicting myself when I stated last week that “since Netanyahu regained his role as Prime Minister in 2009, Israel has faced a multitude of challenges—from Iran’s nuclear program to Turkey’s hostile turn; From Hamas’s cross-border tunnels and rocket attacks on civilians, to the horrific knifings and other attacks from Arab Palestinians”?  No, absolutely not.  Israel could have faced far worse circumstances had any one of these issues been increased by the said countries or terrorist groups. What is more, Egypt and Syria have both collapsed into turmoil during the past seven years, yet none of this has caused major problems for Israel.  Yes, the fall of Mubarak in Egypt meant that a Muslim Brotherhood government temporarily bordered the Gaza Strip and could have supplied more weapons to its Palestinian faction, Hamas. And of course the Golan Heights have become vulnerable to various Islamic terrorists who pledge allegiance to ISIS.  Yet Israel still remains well in control of all these situations.

The biggest threat to Israel’s security and stability hasn’t been from the Islamic nations and terrorist groups, but rather from their biggest ‘ally’ - the United States (even the people of the US who read these reports have agreed with me on this one).  Sadly, through the years of Obama’s leadership, America’s approach to the Middle East changed in drastic ways.  And, as I stated last week, we wait with bated breath to who the new American President will be.  Would you want either candidate as leader?  Without doubt, Obama has indeed been determined to force incredible security issues with Israel by demanding a ‘Two-State’ solution which would radically tear Israel’s heart land – the Mountains of Israel – away from the Jewish state.  Obama has also been determined to build bridges to the Muslim world by claiming Israeli communities (or ‘settlements’ as the world calls them) as the central obstacle to peace with the Arab World.  However, again, as mentioned last week, this is rather ridiculous when one poses the question, “Why was there no peace in 1966?”  One chap (not a supporter of Israel or CFI I hasten to add) who read my report last week went into a rant stating that, “there was no peace in Israel before 1966 due to Israel being created in 1948… and it was all Britain’s fault by implementing the Balfour Declaration.”  Okay… forget 1966… let’s ask the question, “why was there no peace pre 1948?  After all, there were many Islamic terrorist attacks even before the state of Israel was rebirthed in 1948.  Anti-Israel groups appear to forget the Hebron massacre when sixty-nine Jews were murdered by Arabs on August 24, 1929 in Hebron - then part of Mandatory Jewish Palestine - by Arabs incited to violence by false rumours that Jews were planning to seize control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  How strange that here we are, 87 years later, and the Palestinian Arabs (who would not have been classed as ‘Palestinians’ pre 1964) are continuing to incite violence by false rumours that Jews are planning to seize control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

However, I also received a few comments via Facebook from an independent article I posted on my personal blog page declaring that “Christians should not take sides, and should certainly have nothing to do with politics – especially politics within the Middle East.”  With this is mind, I referred them to a Scripture that spoke to me regarding today's situation in Israel.  It came from Nehemiah 2:19-20, where we read about Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab ridiculing the Jews for building in Jerusalem.  Sanballat and Geshem the Arab were clearly Israel's enemies. The story picks up the theme of Sanballat being angered by the fact that the Jews were back in the Land trying to rebuild Jerusalem (how annoying).  Yet Nehemiah resents their insinuation, and clearly tells those who are not Jews that "they have no right in Jerusalem, nor any interest in its affairs", in fact, Nehemiah doesn't 'mince his words' and boldly states, "As for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it." (Nehemiah 2:19-20).  Let me repeat that: Nehemiah clearly tells those who are not Jews, "As for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it." (Nehemiah 2:19-20).  Wow. Was Nehemiah wrong? What was Nehemiah saying, and should he, a man of God, be getting involved in ‘politics’?

Dwight L. Moody once stated, “I should like to call your attention to the prophet Nehemiah. We may gain some help from that distinguished man who accomplished a great work. He was one of the last of the prophets, was supposed to be contemporary with Malachi, and perhaps his book was one of the last of the Old Testament books that was written. He might have known Daniel, for he was a young man in the declining years of that very eminent and godly statesman. We are sure of one thing at least -- he was a man of sterling worth. Although he was brought up in the Persian court among idolaters, yet he had a character that has stood all these centuries. Notice his prayer in which he made confession of Israel's apostasy from God. There may be some confessions we need to make to be brought into close fellowship with God. I have no doubt that numbers of Christians are hungering and thirsting for a personal blessing, and have a great desire to get closer to God. If that is the desire of your heart, keep in mind that if there is some obstacle in the way which you can remove, you will not get a blessing until you remove it. We must cooperate with God.”  Sadly, many within today’s church have a large obstacle stopping them being blessed.  It’s called replacement theology.

Nehemiah and his Jewish builders decide that “peace talks” were not the “way forward” and vigorously hurried the work, while Sanballat and his mob organised their forces to fight against Jerusalem. Five different times Sanballat and his confederates challenged Nehemiah and the Jews to meet them in battle, but Nehemiah simply got on with the work at hand. In the above reading at the top of this report, we also read of Sanballat and Geshem sending a message stating: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono (located south-east of Joppa).” But, according to the Scriptures, they were scheming to harm the Jews.

Taking all this into account, and the way ‘the world’ perceives Israel, the words of Nehemiah 8 came to mind (to get the full picture, you need to read from chapter 6 through to the end of chapter 8).  What was amazing was the fact that by the time we reach chapter eight, the Jews of Jerusalem are in the month of Tishri, celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (Neh.8:14,15).  Why were they fulfilling this command of the Lord?  Simply because, “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read (Neh. 8:8)”.  Oh that Israel today would know the Word of God.  Oh that the leaders of Israel would study the Word of God (indeed Netanyahu does!).  And oh how our leaders here in the UK, along with the Church need to know the Word of God.  However, they also need to know the historical facts relating to the legal background (i.e. the San Remo Resolution) of Israel's right to build in the Land of Israel, including in the areas of Judea and Samaria. May we pray that Teresa May and dare I say, even Jeremy Corbyn, understand clearly the truth regarding the role Britain had in deciding to endorse the establishment of a Jewish homeland in what was then known as ‘Palestine’ (though nothing to do with the modern Palestinian entity).  The last entity to have domain over Palestine, after the Ottoman Empire, was The British Empire. That’s why the Balfour Declaration – which we will celebrate next year - from 1917 by Arthur James Balfour, and why subsequent Declaration’s and Ratification’s that build on this document, are so vitally important to Israel’s legal right to their land. 

Today, the world appears enraged at the fact the Israel is building communities in and around Jerusalem.  I am amazed at just how much time and effort is put into political debates regarding this issue.  I'm equally amazed at how much effort the media will take in reporting this issue.  Yet while all this goes on, it would appear that the more serious issues like Syria and Arab oppression under the Islamic leaders of Hamas/the Palestinian Authority and Isis are neglected.  Only this week, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council on Monday that recommendations offered by the so-called Middle East Quartet, comprising the USA, Russia, the EU and the UN, on the way forward in the peace process have been ignored by Israel, pointing to a surge in Israeli ‘settlement-related’ announcements and continuing demolitions of illegal Arab construction in Area C, which is under full Israeli control. The Quartet’s recommendations include an end to Israel’s settlement policy and a halt to the PA’s incitement to violence.  Mladenov reported that a “major threat to peace is a fact that since the beginning of July Israel has advanced plans for more than 1,000 housing units in eastern Jerusalem.” He pointed to promised new apartments in Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramot, Har Homa, and Gilo, as well as to 735 units in Ma’ale Adumim and other Judea and Samaria communities as the culprits.

The envoy had nothing to report on efforts to reduce anti-Semitic Palestinian Authority and Hamas incitement, so one presumes he must think that all must be well on that front. However Mladenov did report violent incidents over the past month that included the extrajudicial execution by the Palestinian Security Forces of a man in custody; the firing of two rockets from Gaza, to which Israel responded by directing fire at suspected military installations in Gaza; and the killing by the Israeli Security Forces of an Arab man who was reportedly “under psychiatric care.”  Speaking on the issue of Gaza, Mladenov said, “We need a radical overhaul of how we deal with the problems of Gaza.” However he failed to mention the arrests and indictments by Israel of an international charity administrator and a UNDP employee, both of whom confessed to directing millions of dollars in international funds to the terrorist activities of Hamas.

In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office released a statement to the envoy’s report, saying, “The UN envoy to the Middle East’s remarks to the Security Council distort history and international law and push peace farther away. Jews have been in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for thousands of years and their presence there is not an obstacle to peace. The obstacle to peace is the unending attempt to deny the Jewish People’s connection to parts of their historic land and the obdurate refusal to recognize that they are not foreigners there. The claim that Jewish construction in Jerusalem is illegal is as absurd as the claim that American construction in Washington or French construction in Paris is illegal. The Palestinian demand that a future Palestinian state be ethnically cleansed of Jews is outrageous and the UN must condemn it instead of adopting it.”

So according to the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, it would appear that while Israel's needs appear ‘frivolous’, the Palestinian needs are the most important thing ever!  Now of course, we shouldn't ignore the Arab Palestinian needs, and we, as Believers who stand with Israel do need to keep in check our attitude to the Arab Palestinians.  That is why I will often point these issues out in my reports; however, I believe we can do that without jeopardizing the main issue over Israel and the Land covenants etc. Today’s ‘Sanballat and Geshem the Arab’ are again clearly opposing Israel's presence, and certainly oppose any building within the nation of Israel.  May we pray that we would have ears to hear, and hearts open to the real issues... that of what the Lord God desires, and to see what the Lord has decreed within His Word, be taught in our fellowships, churches, world governments and even in the corridors of our parliament.

Thank You Am Israel   I’d like to close with two short news items that are heart-warming and inspiring, and both stories have links so that you can read the full report or view the video.  The first story is regarding a Syrian refugee who has created a website to thank Israelis for their help.  Aboud Dandachi says the world should know about 'the assistance given to Syrian refugees by Israeli and Jewish organizations and individuals.'  The website, which can be viewed here is called ‘Thank You Am Israel’, and highlights the humanitarian aid being given to displaced Syrians but also refutes any reasons why Israelis and Syrians should be enemies.

Dandachi writes, “As a Syrian, I am morally obligated to ensure that the goodwill that Israelis and Jews have displayed towards my people will not be overlooked nor forgotten. The day will come when the conflict in Syria will come to an end, as all things come to an end. On that day, it is imperative that Syrians reciprocate the enormous goodwill shown towards us by Israelis and the Jewish people. Whatever supposed reasons we may have had to be adversaries is dwarfed by the compassion shown to us during our darkest days, a time when we have nothing to give back except our gratitude.”  Dandachi calls himself “a displaced Syrian refugee currently living in Istanbul.” His site chronicles aid, assistance and medical care to Syrian refugees from 2011 to the present.  Some time ago, Dandachi told Ynet News about his childhood anti-Israel education. “I grew up with statements like ‘These people are your enemies. The Jews are evil.’ And then I saw that the Jews are the most humane and generous people of this era. When I see that Hezbollah and the Iranians are coming to kill me and I’m forced from my home by Syrians, and then I hear that Israelis and Jews are helping Syrians, my view of the world changes.”

Thousands of Arabs worshipping Yeshua   In many ways I could have filled another 10 pages with stories of doom and gloom, however this story is really encouraging.  A recipient of my news reports sent me a YouTube clip of some wonderfully refreshing worship from the Cave Church in Egypt. It is a beautiful bright spot of life and hope in the midst of all the terrible things going on today in the Middle East. To hear and witness their worship to Jesus (Yeshua) is such an inspiration. Notice too, the large shofar being blown at the end! What better way of blessing the Jewish Nation of Israel than former Muslims embracing Yeshua and then praying for Israel. Pray for these churches.

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