Standing in the gap for Israel 02/26

israel flagmovingPlease note: There will be no reports for the next few weeks. Apologies for any inconvenience.   

The Word:

HebrewScripturesSome people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in En Gedi. Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek Him.  Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD… and said: “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are You not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can withstand You. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham Your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for Your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in Your presence before this temple that bears Your Name and will cry out to You in our distress, and You will hear us and save us.’ (2 Chronicles 20:2-9)

Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah… and he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them…. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” Then Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” (2 Chronicles 20: 14-17, 20)  [Bold italics added – DS]

israel flagmovingPointers for prayer: Once again, with Israel holding its general election on 17 March 2015 and the UK Parliamentary general election taking place on 7 May 2015, there is much to pray about regarding these two major events. Pray that the upright and godly would be voted in, and that Israel’s future and security would not be sacrificed for political gain.

  • Israel is constantly faced with huge battles, but as I read from 2 Chronicles this week (above), 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 (throughout Scripture who spoke of these times) and prosper.
  • Please also continue to pray for the horrific situation with the issue of Isis, and as you read through this report, do bring all these issues before the Lord in prayer.

Out of action

As mentioned above, due to an operation I’m having in hospital on Monday, I will be out of action for the next few weeks.  Therefore there will be no ‘Standing in the Gap’ reports for the next few weeks – my apologies for any inconvenience.  Can I ask that emails from you be kept to the minimum, just so I don’t have a large amount on my return.  It goes without saying that I’d value your prayer for a speedy recovery and that the operation will go without any complications.  Many thanks.

How do we respond?

Anti-Semitic incidents reached a record level in the UK last year, according to the Community Security Trust. A report by the trust, which provides security for Britain’s Jewish community and monitors anti-Semitism, said the number of incidents had more than doubled to 1,168 in 2014.  As I mentioned in last week’s report, with the horrific rise of anti-Semitism in Europe following the January rampage in Paris that killed 17, and police raids in Belgium a week later that the authorities said thwarted a major terrorist operation, Denmark was then also plunged into what their Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt described as “a fight for freedom against a dark ideology.”

Having spoken to many Jewish friends over the past few weeks in the UK, and monitored various UK groups expressing their fear on Social Media such as Facebook, the report from the Community Security Trust might only fuel existing fears about the future of British Jews.  For the Jewish people living in Israel, the report for 2014 will only further confirm the futility of Diaspora life – in Europe at least.  However, I was shocked at a few people’s comments who vehemently disagree with views from within Israel.  For those who argue against the Jewish people in Israel, they actually blamed Israel for the problems, because, they state, “each significant surge of anti-Semitism comes at each of Israel’s wars.” They state that Israel is to blame for the wars, its conduct and the ensuing anti-Semitism.

However, as I stated to many of these troubled souls, how could they point the finger of blame at the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the State of Israel?  The Boycott, Divestment & Sanction (BDS) groups and other such groups like the Palestinian Solidarity Campaigners and their supporters don’t need any reasons or excuses. Was this hatred of Jews not happening before 1948? Yes, of course we know it was – just look at the slaughter of Jews by Arabs in Hebron in 1929.  And worse, Europe in the 1930s and then the Holocaust! Yes of course those who hate the Jews will use any excuse they can, but even if Netanyahu (whether you love him or hate him, support him or not) is voted in again or is no longer the PM, the hatred will still remain from those who hate ‘us’. Put it this way… if Hamas and all these other people actually got what they wanted, and totally annihilate Israel, and the State was no more, would the hatred die? Well, as mentioned, look back 70 years plus.

AntiSemitismIt angers me to see such a rise in anti-Semitism. But perhaps what angers me even more, is the actions from the groups of people who have never been to the Middle East yet demonise the nation of Israel. People such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaigners and any extremist who villainise Israel. These problems will not go away whether people approve of Netanyahu/Israel or not.  These people who blame Israel also ignore two different issues that cause or could cure modern-day European anti-Semitism. It obscures the fact that European anti-Semitism varies widely in its drivers and contexts. Western Europe is very different from Eastern Europe.  An example is the anti-Semitism found in Hungary which is different to that of the Ukraine. Anti-Semitism is also found in Greece, yet is different from both, and all these are entirely divergent from France and Belgium. Britain has some similarities with its cross-Channel neighbours but also important distinctions – notably the intensity of Muslim growth, and the role of anti-Semitism within that dynamic.  There is no doubt however that the terrorist attack on the kosher store in Paris again made anti-Semitism and Jewish concerns a dominant theme in recent UK politics and media.

In America, according to a report by JNS.org – an independent, non-profit, business resource covering Jewish and Israel news for Jewish media (http://www.jns.org/), more than half of American Jewish college students surveyed in a new national study said they have been subjected to or have witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses.  The National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students – jointly conducted by Trinity College and the Louis D. Brandeis Centre for Human Rights Under Law – found that among 1,157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 campuses nationwide, 54 percent reported instances of anti-Semitism on campus during the first six months of the 2013-2014 academic year.  And sadly, the survey revealed that there were high rates of anti-Semitism extending beyond the schools too.

jewsdie70 years is not such a long time that people should forget what happened during the 1930s leading to the Holocaust. We MUST NEVER FORGET.  But how do we respond?  To begin, the Christian Church at large must learn from history.  The church should allow no room for any type of anti-Semitism – whether conveniently disguised as ‘replacement theology, or any form of ‘supersessionist views’.  With the holiday of Purim falling in the Hebrew calendar of Adar 14 (March 4th – 5th) – may we respond like Esther, that for such a time as this, we may be brave, stand up and state a loud NO to any form of anti-Semitism.  And pray that the Church would actually read Paul’s letter to the Romans chapters 9 to 11, and learn not to boast against the ‘natural branches’ but to love them from a pure heart.  We can only do this if we align ourselves correctly with the Word of God – with Scripture itself.  But align ourselves we must.

Isis abduct at least 150 Christians

isis_flagAccording to reports coming in from Reuters, The Islamic State as they want to be known by, or ISIS have abducted at least 150 people from Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria which they raided.  A Syrian Christian group representing several NGO’s inside and outside the country said it had verified at least 150 people missing, including women and elderly, who had been kidnapped by the militants.  Earlier the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 90 were abducted when the militants carried out dawn raids on rural villages inhabited by the ancient Christian minority west of Hasaka, a city mainly held by the Kurds.  As I wrote in last week’s report, ISIS is of course possibly the biggest and most significant new phenomenon that occurred in the Middle East in 2014. Although the organization was founded ten years ago as Al Qaeda in Iraq, today it is challenging not only Al Qaeda but also the Middle East and the entire world.

Here in late February 2015, everyone can now see that ISIS presents a direct threat to any national order by threatening to conquer other countries and create alternative ‘governments’, as well as by serving as the source for jihadist ideas that use media networks, including social media, to spread the Jihad war throughout the world.  The reported kidnappings are the latest blow to the ancient Christian presence in the region, heightening insecurity and fear after a video was released by the terrorist group that showed the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.  “This is another episode in the targeting to the Christians of the east,” Habib Afram, president of the Syriac League in Lebanon, which represents the Assyrian minority stated this week. He went on to say, “We are witnessing the end of the Christian presence in the east.”

A document issued by ISIS has revealed the prices that captured Christian and Yazidi women and children are sold for as slaves.  As I read the document, I was shocked that something like this could still go on in the 21st century.  Apparently, the prices for Christian and Yazidi slaves vary according to age: 40 to 50-year-old women are to cost 50,000 dinars (£27/ €34/ $43) each; 30 to 40-year-olds are to be sold for 75,000 dinars (£40/ €51/ $64) each; and 20 to 30-year-olds cost 100,000 dinars (£54/ €68/ $84) each. Even more shocking is that children from age one to ten can be sold.  The document stated that girls aged 10-20 years old are sold for 150,000 dinars (£80/ €102/ $128), and a male or female child aged one to nine years is 200,000 dinars (£107/ €136/ $170).  The document explains that ISIS has decided to control the prices of the slaves due to a “significant decrease” in the market selling “women and spoils of war”. ISIS has vowed to execute anyone who does not abide by the price controls it has imposed, and individuals are not authorised to purchase more than three spoils – unless the buyers are foreigners such as Turks, Syrians and citizens of the Gulf Arab states.  The report went on to state that these nations include Qatar.  By the way, this is the same nation who has been voted by FIFA to host the World Cup.  According to the BBC (Wednesday) former international footballer Phil Neville has stated, “Staging the 2022 World Cup in November and December in Qatar may be the best thing that’s ever happened to England”.  Really Neville?   This is the same nation that has sponsored Isis and still sponsors the terrorist group Hamas!  Surely the decision should be to boycott Qatar of any role in football altogether!

ISISRegarding the issue of Isis selling ‘slaves’, according to the Isis group, they are only following the orders of Mohammad. In the Quran 33:50 it states that enslaving prisoners was a ‘god-given right of Muslims who were fighting a jihad.” [I use the small ‘g’ to make the point that Allah is not the God of the Bible (i.e. of the Jewish people or Christians), and needs to be distinguished as so].  The Quran 23: 1-6 allows men to have sexual intercourse with those “whom their right hands possess”.  Isis are putting this into practice.  In the hadith (traditions from early Islam), the price of slaves varies as to whether the slave is good looking or ugly, male or female, normal or handicapped.

Other children connected to Isis are being forced to re-enact ISIS’ ‘beheading videos’ in stunts staged for YouTube according to a report in the Mail OnLine.  And according to another report by NBC, ISIS are also recruiting and training children for its ‘‘Cub Fighters’. However, this is nothing new, as many media channels in Israel have frequently reported over the past 10 years or so, that Terrorist group Hamas do exactly the same thing.  Two years ago, I included a report that showed how Hamas endeavoured to train children in opening a military school to train Gazan teens in Jihad and in forcing Gaza’s schoolchildren into terrorist weapons training at their ‘summer camps’.

Like the kidnapping of these 150 Christians by Isis, all this behaviour is truly disgusting and barbaric, and much prayer is needed for these and the rest of the Christian communities throughout the Islamic Middle East.

Running the Jerusalem Marathon

David's Citidal JerusalemFinally this week, and after another heavy and rather depressing report, I thought I should end with some news that is uplifting, heartwarming and encouraging.

I believe anyone who has a Christian or Jewish faith should visit Israel! Even if a person has no faith in God, they should visit Israel, for who knows, they might even encounter the Creator of Heaven and Earth while observing this awesome place.  Okay, so I might be a little biased, but there are countless reasons to visit Israel, and specifically Israel’s ancient and modern capital City – Jerusalem.  There are reasons which are all-too-often overlooked and ignored. Israel is a country of immense natural beauty, world-class culture, unbeatable history, and amazing people.  Israel has the coolest ancient and modern coastline with Jaffa port (from where Jonah sailed) and Tel Aviv on the wonderful Mediterranean Sea.   Israel has the lowest place on earth – the Dead Sea.  Israel has such diverse scenery.  The South of Israel is the Negev Desert, a beautiful landscape which is home to an immense array of natural life, natural beauty, and inspirational stories of mankind living in these harsh conditions. The North of Israel has the famous Galilee, a lush green landscape full of outdoor adventures and historic sites. What makes this even more amazing is that it’s only about 90 minutes from the desert to the Galilee. In other words, this small country (roughly the size of Wales) is easy to explore.  Then there is the history and Biblical places that fill the Bible – the places of the birth of Judaism and Christianity.  And, as mentioned, there is the City of Gold – Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world – holy for Jews, Christians, and other religions. The Old City of Jerusalem is home to the Temple Mount and Western Wall, and then there is the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden Tomb – where Yeshua was said to be buried and rose again.  Anyone who follows the faith that flows from the roots of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is therefore instantly interested in visiting… As well as its religious side, there are tons of other things to do in Jerusalem.  But running a marathon isn’t on my list of things.  Having said that, I have run the Great North Run in the UK… but running in Jerusalem?  Well, this is a question I put to one of the Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) Area Representatives from the UK.

Matt and Immy Elwick are CFI UK Reps for Swindon, and I asked Matt Elwick, “Why on earth are you running the Jerusalem Marathon?”  Here is his reply.  Matt states, “As a young lad I always had the desire to run the London Marathon. Watching it on TV in the 80’s and 90’s it was exciting to watch and I thought it was something that I would do one day. As a man approaching his 40th year I had begun to think if I want to fulfil that dream then I better get on with it. It can be very difficult to get a placement for being part of the marathon with 50,000 entrants taking part. If you’re not successful by ballot then you can apply for charity places which demand a fee up front. Thankfully I got a place. Knowing this was something I would do; I also saw a couple of months ago an additional opportunity to run the Jerusalem Marathon which happens 6 weeks before London in the middle of March (call it a warm up if you like!).”  Well, it will be warm, that’s for sure… although not too hot, especially as Jerusalem (and indeed much of Israel) have had snow of late.

Matt Elwick continues, “I’ve been a CFI rep since 2011 and a Christian for a lot longer yet I’ve never visited Israel to date. The challenge that I sort for myself when I took on the representative role was the question, ‘How can I get the message of the miracle restoration of Israel into the hearts of young people today?’ For me it was the result of actual anti-Semitism from a family member that motivated Imogen and myself to really understand the History, Prophetic significance and miraculous restoration of Israel because we knew the Word of God commands and encourages us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to bless God’s covenanted people. For a lot of young Christians today they don’t see the relevance or importance that the restoration of Israel presents even though it is the place where our Saviour Yeshua (Jesus) will return.”

Jerusalem-Marathon-Tower-of-DavidGoing on to state how CFI is very good at presenting the ‘why’s’ to a wide audience, Matt asks, “Why were 6 million Jews the subject of hate to Nazi Germany in the 1930’s so much so that they sought to rid the earth of them? Why is Israel the subject of contempt on mainstream media when nations such as it close neighbours Syria, Iraq or other nations such as Sudan or North Korea that commit more horrendous violations of human rights are hardly ever heard of?  Why do we not hear about a nation called Israel that has taken an ancient language Hebrew and made it speak again, a barren desolate land and made it bloom again, it’s taken a broken people and given them life again?  There are many more why’s, but getting this information in front of young Christian’s and non-Christian’s has proved difficult whilst I try and manage work, family, church and social life on a weekly basis. As a CFI rep I have to work to the best of my ability and use the talents that God has given me. At times, talent sometimes feels limited but at other times it motivates one to think of ideas that are out of the box, different, and to consider with God’s help opportunities that are fresh and new. I saw by running the Jerusalem Marathon an opportunity to hopefully captivate young men and women with something that may be appealing to a younger audience. I get the opportunity to run through the sun drenched golden streets of Jerusalem, the centre of the earth, a place where faith collides, where our Saviour Jesus walked and did the miraculous, and a hot bed of history, pilgrimage and romance. How can that not be captivating to anyone and everyone?”

Matt also saw within that opportunity, something that could present itself and generate interest in local newspapers and radio – so do pray that it does.  Through this amazing achievement Matt hopes to bring blessings to CFI and extra blessings to two projects that CFI UK supports which are ‘Under His Wings’ a ministry to Israel’s terrorist victims, and Shevet Achim (ministering to Arab children with heart defects and other illnesses).  By doing this, Matt is providing an opportunity for anyone reading this to sponsor him.

Please, can I encourage anyone who would be interested in sponsoring Matt Elwick as he takes on this epic challenge of running the Jerusalem Marathon in less than three weeks to give as much as you can.  In an age of ‘Comic Relief’ and ‘Children in Need’ (all great ways to help raise money) let’s be different, and sponsor this run to help these CFI projects; ‘Shevet Achim’ & ‘Under His Wings.’  His online giving page is: https://www.justgiving.com/LoveMatthew-Elwick/ .  Alternatively people can give in the UK via text to: 70070 – do make sure that in the title you put JMME67 and then the amount £1, £2, £3, £5 or £10 you would like to give.  Thank you for your support.

David Soakell

(Middle East News Report Correspondent)

Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ & Israel National Radio

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About David Soakell

Believer in Yeshua (Jesus). In full time ministry work. Passionate about Israel, and publishes a weekly Middle East News Report.
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