Please note: There will be no reports for two weeks. The next ‘Standing in the Gap’ report will be out on May 12, 2016
A Word from the Hebrew Scriptures:
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you. ‘Afflicted city [Jerusalem?], lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with lapis lazuli. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace. In righteousness you will be established: tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you… no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,’ declares the Lord. (Isaiah 54: 10 – 17)
No weapon forged against you will prevail?
[Above photo of the 2002 Mexico Street, Jerusalem bus bombing with bus shelter from where the incident took place – now a shrine to the dead. Photo by David Soakell]
I will never forget that day back in 2002. I was having a harrowing flight back to the UK from Israel following a time when the Arab intifada was full on in Israel, and I should have been on a bus that was blown up by a Palestinian terrorist on Mexico Street, Jerusalem. Thankfully, I never caught that bus – yet my mind-set was stretched to breaking point and I think I was suffering a bit of trauma looking back. The flight back to the UK was awful with the El Al plane struggling in the storm we had hit. As I looked out of my window, I saw a white light in the distance through the clouds of thunder and lightning. I shuddered… what was it? In my confusion, it looked like the main light at the front of another plane and it was heading straight towards us. Fear took over, and like a frightened child in bed that pulls the duvet over their face, I rather stupidly closed the shutter on the window though not sure why. I then prayed for safety. Ten minutes went past and all was well. The storm was still bad though and the seatbelt sign remained on and we were still being shook somewhat. But what had happened to the light I saw? I opened my shutter on the window again, and through the cloud and rain I could still see the light… I couldn’t believe it. It was only then I realised that I was sat near the wing, and the light was the wing light! Did I feel stupid or what? You bet! It’s amazing what fears a storm can bring when flying in the midst, but then, I was rather stressed out.
The reason for my stressed state was due to the fact that earlier that week, I had travelled, as per norm, to the place where I was staying on the No. 20 bus through the neighbourhoods of Jerusalem. I wasn’t as familiar with the City then, and I remember I had to follow the map of Jerusalem as I travelled. I knew that after two stops after passing Mexico Street I needed to get off.
The following day should have seen me making the same journey back into the City, however for some reason, I got a lift by car. As we travelled in the car, the sound of a huge explosion rang out, and almost at once, sirens were wailing as the emergency vehicles rushed through the major roads. The suicide bombing of Egged Bus No.20 in Jerusalem on 21st November 2002, will live in my memory as long as I live. On that very bus that I regularly travelled on, eleven people were killed and some 50 seriously wounded by an Arab Palestinian suicide bomber. It happened on that same bus on Mexico Street in the Kiryat Menahem neighbourhood of Jerusalem. The bus was filled with passengers, including schoolchildren, travelling toward the centre of the city during rush hour. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. Thankfully, my life was spared, yet the trauma lasted a long time.
I learned that ‘Post-traumatic stress disorder’ (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. I often had strange dreams following that day about being attacked by Islamic terrorists. In those years I was a regular visitor to Israel; however it took me three years before I got on another bus, and of course, I could return to ‘normality’ in England – not so for those who lived in Jerusalem.
Often on my visits to terrorist victims, especially in Sderot on the Gaza border, where they suffer from Hamas rocket attacks, these symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day life. That is why the Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) team in Jerusalem have a humanitarian work called ‘Project Under His Wings’ that exists to reach out to terror and trauma victims with comfort and compassion through one-on-one visitations and various practical and financial gifts. You see, CFI desires to be a “light in the darkness” to many lives in Israel – lives where people have had their families forever torn apart and where surviving victims are often scarred physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives. These people are often in the news media for a day or two but months and years later they are often forgotten among the general population. Living with the memories of those horrible and tragic moments, they are depressed, emotionally distraught and feeling forgotten. Sadly, Israeli civilians never know where a suicide bomber may strike next. The new threat in recent years also includes constant rocket attacks on towns not just in the Southern part of Israel near Gaza but some in the North of Israel too. On top of that there are the many recent attacks from stabbings and car ramming’s.
During those years that I regularly travelled in Israel – between the years of 2000 to 2006 – there were 1,290 people murdered in Israel by Palestinian terrorists (160 murdered in the summer of 2006 alone). Over 6,000 were maimed and/or severely wounded. This is only statistics from the intifada period and I’ve not even mentioning the rocket trauma that disrupts daily lives in these communities! As Jerusalem suffered the first bus bombing this week for the first time in a long time on Monday April 18, 2016, I wondered just how the people would react. As many Israeli Jews are struggling for their lives after being involved in the bus bombing, many Arab Palestinians reacted by handing out candy sweets to “celebrate.” This sick act of violence is not something to be celebrated, it should be condemned! Fatah, the faction headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, welcomed Monday’s bomb attack in Jerusalem, in which 21 people were wounded. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is Fatah’s so-called “military wing”, praised the attack and said its perpetrators “responded to our calls to carry out suicide attacks as the only way to respond to the crimes of the Israeli occupation,” even though it is actually the PLO that occupies the large sections of Judea and Samaria, along with the Temple Mount. Earlier, both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad welcomed the Jerusalem attack, with Hamas calling it “the natural response to Israeli crimes, particularly the field executions it conducts, and the assaults on the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” Do you know what these alleged allegations and assaults on the Al-Aqsa Mosque are that they keep mentioning? Islamic Jihad also justified the attack, saying that it “delivered the message that the Intifada would continue.” While all three groups welcomed the bombing, none of them have to this point claimed responsibility for it. For a full report on ‘Celebrating Terrorism, Palestinian Style’ check out this report by the Gatestone Institute: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7879/palestinians-celebrating-terrorism.
[Above photo: Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighbourhood bus bombing. April 18, 2016]
Police confirmed that the bus explosion in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighbourhood that wounded 21 people, including two critically, was the result of a bomb. Remarkably, no deaths were reported following the carnage on the major thoroughfare of Bar-Am Street, where two Egged buses and a third vehicle were reduced to exposed charred iron and ash. After initial confusion over the cause of the fire, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a forensics team, aided by bomb disposal experts at the site, confirmed the fires were ignited by an explosive device. Many sources were stating it was a terrorist bomb that caused the bus explosion on Moshe Bar’am Street near Hebron Road in Jerusalem. Two of the victims, a man, 30, and a woman, 28, were critically injured, six moderately and the rest sustained light injuries, including two children ages 10 and 12.
Thankfully our CFI Jerusalem staff were not travelling at that time in that area. Former CFI UK staff member Robin Benson who now works in our Jerusalem office told me, “After something like this you have choices to make: sit at home afraid or try to get on with life and go about your business. But it leaves people suspicious of anyone with a backpack…which is just about anyone as most people have one.” I also heard from Jim and Linda McKenzie, who are also CFI Jerusalem staff and Linda stated, “As I sit on the bus on the way to work this morning in Jerusalem, I look at the faces of my fellow travellers, knowing each one of us is thinking of last night’s bus bombing. And yet, here we all are, going on with life…”
For two passengers on the No. 12 bus that had to travel on the following day, Monday’s bombing also evoked dark memories of the 1990s and early 2000s, when buses exploded with horrifying regularity. One of the passengers stated, “I feel unsafe the whole time, whenever I get on a bus and I see an Arab woman with a head-covering and a bag I’m afraid.” However, like most passengers in Jerusalem she never considers of not getting on the bus since “there’s no alternative,” adding that taxis were too expensive for her to consider. The bombing on Monday stirred unpleasant memories for her however, noting that her neighbour is a widow of a victim of the No. 32 bus bombing in 2002, and that her colleague lost a son in one of the bombings on the No. 18 bus in the mid ’90s. You can read the full story of these peoples experiences in the Jerusalem Post here: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Riding-the-No-12-bus-the-day-after-451753
So where does CFI come in? Following a terrorist attack there is usually an initial outpouring of help from the community and government, but after a few months to a year… people “forget.” But grief, trauma, and pain do not go away quickly – even many years’ later victims and their families are often still coping with the aftermath: on-going medical and psychological problems, loss of body parts, ended careers, financial ruin, and coping with grief/fears/nightmares. CFI Volunteers in the Under His Wings program visit with the victims at these times, compassionately “listening” and acknowledging their continuing pain, bringing love gifts and financial help from Christians throughout the Nations. If you would like help in standing in the gap with this then please go on the Christian Friends of Israel website and click on ‘Under His Wings’ here.
Terror tunnel discovered from Gaza into Israel
It has finally been cleared for publication that the Israel Defence Force (IDF) recently discovered a terror tunnel from Gaza into southern Israel, marking the first such discovery since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. The tunnel was a particularly large and complex one; its route stretched along the eastern sector of Gaza all the way to southern Gaza, and crossed onto the Israeli side. At some points it reached as much as 30 metres in depth. As I have reported the last two weeks, various sources have stated that Hamas are continuing to expand its tunnel network in the Gaza Strip. Israeli security sources said the Hamas regime was upgrading tunnels as well as building deeper passages from the Gaza Strip. According to latest reports, the Hamas terrorist organization invests hundreds of thousands of dollars each month in their tunnel digging activities – using money sent via the world governments which is supposed to make life better for the people of Gaza, along with cement sent from Israel that was to be used to build better schools and hospitals.
After being discovered, IDF forces quickly mobilized to secure and neutralize the tunnel, although I can’t state as to exactly where this is located as there is a ‘restriction order’ due to the sensitivity of the tunnel’s route. However, a senior defence official has stated that the IDF’s number one priority over the past year has been to locate such terror tunnels, which Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups in Gaza have been busily rebuilding since the 2014 war. Israel has repeatedly protested Hamas’s use of international aid – particularly building materials – to rebuild its tunnel capabilities, while preventing the aid from reaching civilians in Gaza.
The military source added that Israeli operations against the tunnels were being aided by revolutionary advanced technology, though he did not elaborate. “Today the State of Israel possesses capabilities which no other country in the world possesses. The tunnel is a great one, so we have invested vastly in tunnel prevention and destruction capabilities.” However, locating and securing such tunnels is an extremely complex and demanding job. The source stated, “Locating tunnels like this requires intelligence and advanced technological ability, while actually securing and sealing or destroying it requires the use of technology, engineering capabilities and operational work on the ground.” Responding to the discovery, the IDF emphasized that Israel is not interested in an escalation, but will operate wherever and whenever necessary to neutralize potential threats to the citizens of Israel.
Back on the radio
Recently, I was back on the radio of Branch FM speaking on behalf of Christian Friends of Israel, and this time Julia also joined me. We spoke on the importance of Lobby Day at Westminster (which is also featured in the latest CFI ‘In Touch’ magazine); the huge problem that is BDS (Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions against Israel), and on Julia’s new role with CFI amongst other issues. To listen to the show and hear what else we have been up to, click here: https://www.mixcloud.com/Branchfm/christian-friends-of-israel-apr-2016/
Israel conference in Perth, Scotland
Finally, for those who may have missed it last week, and for those who may be able to attend, my wife Julia and I will be in Scotland on Saturday (and for four days) before dashing back to Israel. The reason for us being in Scotland is that we have been invited as speakers for Christian Friends of Israel to a conference in Perth. We would love for many Israel supporters in Scotland to come, however we would hope many ‘non supporters’ would also come to learn about the whole subject of Israel. Our CFI Perthshire Scottish Rep – Donald MacDougall has organised the conference for Saturday 23rd April 2016 (10am – 4pm). Both my wife Julia and I (CFI UK) are speaking, along with Helen Mears (Streams in the Dessert) who works with the elderly in Israel, and Pat Frame (Ezra) who helps with Aliyah to Israel will also be speaking. I will also be leading the worship.
So, if you are in Scotland, or the Borders of Scotland/England, do come along for the conference on ‘Standing in the gap for Israel’. The venue is the National Christian Outreach Centre, Riggs Road, Perth, PH1 1PR. For booking information telephone: 01738 639792. Do pass the conference information on to people you may think might be interested, and we do hope to see as many of you there.
Some pointers for prayer: As we continue to monitor events in and around Israel and pray into these situations, may we know at all times that the LORD God is in complete control irrespective of what we see. As the nation of Israel prepares for Passover, may we be seen to carry them on our prayers, asking the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for blessings to be bestowed upon Israel.
As Jerusalem comes to terms with the first bus bombing in many years, please pray that this will not be a renewed effort from the Arab Palestinian Terrorists to wage war against Israel. Please pray for the victims of this terrorist attack and once more pray that the Lord would put a wall of fire around Jerusalem –and as the IDF discover tunnels being dug from Gaza into Israel, pray that the Lord would extend that protection around the rest of Israel.
(Middle East News Report Correspondent) Tweet me @David_CFI
Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ & Israel National Radio