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Thursday, January 31, 2013

LIFE FINDS A WAY



Having just returned from Jerusalem where I had the opportunity to interact with many Knesset (Israel's Parliament) leaders and other government officials, I want to pass along some observations:

·      In general, the State of Israel continues to move forward under very difficult circumstances. New construction seems to be everywhere, especially in Jerusalem. There is a growing housing shortage in Israel.
·      One of the major contributors to the housing shortage is the large increase of Jews moving to the Holy Land, especially from Africa.
·      Tensions seem to be mounting between the “Haredim” (often referred to as ”ultra-Orthodox” by others) and other observant religious Jews along with the large secular community, especially in Tel Aviv. The principle issues are things such as how women are viewed and treated, the Haredi men who do not work traditional jobs (they spend the bulk of their time in studies and prayer), and their resistance to military service.
·      The Israeli governmental leadership, along with major worldwide Jewish organizations is increasingly looking for cooperative efforts with Christians. This is a difficult but welcome turn of events. The efforts of the Israel Allies Foundation have made a significant impact on this change.
·      The Centrist Parties made big advances in the election of Knesset Members last week. This is a bit disconcerting for those who do not believe that additional land giveaways will increase the peace.
·      Increased tensions with Syria, Egypt, Gaza, Southern Lebanon and Iran and the negative tone of the United Nations toward the State of Israel are very troubling.
·      The likelihood of a nuclear-armed Iran casts a huge shadow over the entire Middle East, especially Israel.

With all that said, life goes on. The cities, towns and villages spread across the Holy Land are bustling with everyday life. Keep in mind the words of King David: If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill]. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.” Psalm 137:5-6 NIV

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, now more than ever…and if you can, plan a trip to visit Israel.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

SURROUNDED


The military threat zone for Israel is from every side. The Jewish State is literally surrounded by those who wish to destroy it. Let me reiterate a bit of what has happened lately:

·      On October 6, 2012, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) shot down an unmanned drone in Israeli territory. It had entered Israeli airspace from Gaza, having been first tracked by the IDF over the Mediterranean. Iranian supplied and supported “Hezbollah” in Southern Lebanon later confirmed they had sent the drone into Israeli airspace.
·      On November 11, 2012, a mortar was fired into Israel’s Golan Territory by the Syrian Army (Iranian allies). On the 12th, another mortar was fired by the Syrian Army and Israel responded by destroying the mortar battery. On that same day an IDF soldier was shot from the Syrian side. He was not seriously injured.
·      On Sunday, November 25, 2012, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah stated Hezbollah (Iranian allies) “would fire thousands of rockets into Israel in any future war and target cities in the country’s heartland.”
·      Over 2,300 rockets have been launched at Israel from Gaza by Hamas militants (Iranian allies) since January 2012. While most of the rockets have been fired from Gaza, some have been fired from Egyptian Territory. Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were targeted in specific defiance of what Binyamin Netanyahu had previously referred to as a “red line.”

There is more but let’s consider something very troubling in these cited examples: these attacks and threats are what is known in military language as a “Perimeter Test.” Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and the Mediterranean surround over half of the State of Israel. Now, growing unrest of the same type that has collapsed several Mideast governments and empowered avowed enemies of Israel is breaking out in Jordan. The fall of friendly Jordan into the hands of extremists would close the circle of hatred around Israel. Just yesterday Shihab-Eddim, one of the top aides to Egypt’s president Mohammad Morsi stated: “The myth of the Holocaust is an industry that America invented. U.S. intelligence agencies in cooperation with their counterparts in allied nations during World War II created it [the Holocaust] to destroy the image of their opponents in Germany, and to justify war and massive destruction against military and civilian facilities of the Axis powers, and especially to hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the atomic bomb.” “These outlandish claims were made as the world marked Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.

Is it any wonder that Israel feels threatened? Should America also feel threatened by this kind of radical perversion of reality by a so-called ally? We must pay attention to what is happening.

Today it is being broadcast in the worldwide media that Israel attacked a convoy in Syria. It is reported in the Jerusalem Post: “Israel strikes Syrian weapons en route to Hezbollah. Target was truckload of weapons, going from Syria to Lebanon,” says diplomat, adding that cache likely not chemical weapons; source says load probably included high-tech anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.”

Syria, of course has a different version of what happened, but in any case, Israel will not hesitate to act when it feels legitimately threatened.

I returned from Israel yesterday. Last Saturday, Sharon, my wife and I sat in park in Jerusalem and watched families picnic together; a dog chased every soccer ball he could get near, children played on slides, runners circled the park. Just mere weeks ago sirens warned of incoming rockets. Life must go on in the Holy Land.

You and I can help protect lives in Jerusalem: Arab, Jewish, resident foreigners and religious pilgrims’ lives from around the world. How?

First, pay attention. Second, be informed. Third, communicate your concerns to your spiritual and political leaders, Fourth and most importantly…pray. Pray for those trapped in these conflicts. Pray for Middle Eastern Leaders. Pray for those engaged in working to bring comfort and security to the land God proclaimed sacred.

And as we are commanded by Scripture, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

SHADOWS OF DARKNESS, BEAMS OF LIGHT


A surprising and significant event occurred just a few weeks ago in Hungary. Over 10,000 Hungarians protested in front of the Parliament building in an anti-Nazi rally in Budapest. This demonstration resulted from a proposal of a far-right leader to develop lists of Hungarian Jews who, according to this parliamentarian, presented a “security risk”. Leaders of the government and opposition parties joined the protest. This controversy began when Marton Gyongyosi of the of the Hungarian Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik), stated it should be determined “how many people of Jewish origin there are here, especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who represent a certain national security risk."

That is when Christian and Jewish leaders began to mobilize thousands of protestors who rallied on December 12, 2012. The Israeli and American ambassadors also attended the rally. The US embassy said in a statement: "The recurrence of anti-Semitic and other racist statements in the Hungarian parliament demonstrates the need to further empower voices of tolerance and peaceful coexistence in Hungary."

Thank God for those who stood and continue to stand against anti-Semitism in Hungary. There are over 100,000 Jews living in Hungary today.

In May of 1944, a seven-week campaign began that resulted in more than 430,000 Hungarian Jews being transported to the infamous Nazi Death Camp  “Auschwitz” in Poland. Many more were simply shot and pushed into the Danube by members of the fascist "Arrow Cross Party".

In October of 2011, while in Budapest attending an event sponsored by the “Israel Allies Foundation”, I stood at the edge of the famous and beautiful river where this horrific tragedy occurred. A monument to those who lost their lives at the hands of anti-Semitism is spread along the modern boardwalk. "Shoes on the Danube", created by sculptors Gyula Pauer and Can Togay is simple, gruesome and heart rending – 60 pairs of shoes large and small, cast in iron along the concrete walkway on the bank of the river. I wiped away tears as I thought of the beautiful Israeli children I know. Fascism is again trying to emerge throughout Europe. Again, the Jews are being vilified. We cannot stand idly by. We will not.

The Jewish people are spread throughout the world as productive citizens who significantly contribute to the success of the nations in which they reside. Yet, in so many places, they are resented, condemned and persecuted.

There MUST be one place on earth where the Jewish people can live without fear of retribution; the State of Israel must exist within secure and peaceful borders with Jerusalem as its undivided capital.

The recent events in Hungary remind us that shadows of darkness still prevail, but also remind us that Jewish/Christian cooperation and understanding can explode into beams of light. So we pray and work, not in despair, but in hope.

Pray for the Hungarian Government. Pray for the Jewish and Christian leaders. Pray for the 100,000 Jews who live under the shadow of rising anti-Semitism in Hungary and across much of Europe.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.