I usually try to stay away from directly addressing political issues – even those involving the relationship between the United States and Israel – as the focus of Chosen People Ministries is bringing the Gospel to Jewish people and to help Christians become more effective in telling their Jewish friends about the Lord. This is our priority.
Yet the modern state of Israel is also a deep concern for us at Chosen People Ministries…as I am sure it is for you. And since our president, Barack Obama, is travelling to Israel this month, I think it is important for us to pray for some of the issues that might come to the surface during his trip.
Additionally, hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians have intensified over the last few weeks because a Palestinian prisoner recently died in an Israeli jail. The circumstances of his death are currently under investigation. Palestinian authorities claim that he was tortured, and the Israelis dispute this claim. Nevertheless, the controversy over his death has sparked protests by Palestinians that are heating up, leading to protests in the West Bank and Bethlehem, and it will probably be a critical issue during Obama’s visit.
The protests and responses have been so strong that some leaders on both sides fear that another intifada might take place, and are doing what they can to keep matters calm.
Washington Post reporter Joel Greenburg reports the incident as follows:
A Palestinian prisoner who died in an Israeli jail was given a hero’s burial with military honors in the West Bank on Monday amid signs that Palestinian and Israeli leaders were working to prevent days of street clashes from triggering a wider eruption of unrest.
The surge of protests, which had stoked Israeli fears of a third Palestinian uprising, was sparked by an extended hunger strike by four Palestinian prisoners and fueled by Saturday’s death of another detainee, Arafat Jaradat, who was under interrogation by Israel’s Shin Bet security agency. (Washington Post, Feb. 25, 2013)
The New York Times adds the following,
Adnan Damiri, the spokesman of the Palestinian security apparatus, said Palestinian officials were committed to prevent fighting, saying that his forces had recently detained members of the militant Hamas group who were planning “violent confrontations.”
“The only one(s) seeking violence in West Bank is Netanyahu and Hamas, but we will not be dragged to that,” said Damiri. “Our struggle will always be peaceful.”
The clashes come weeks before Obama is scheduled to arrive in Israel and the West Bank, his first presidential visit to the region. U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the U.S. has asked Israeli and Palestinian officials to exercise “maximum restraint” at this time of high tension in the West Bank. (Feb. 26, 2013; New York Times)
Clearly, the visit of the American president to Israel will focus Americans and the rest of the world on the rising tensions in the Holy Land. And as believers in Jesus, we need to remind one another to pray even more intensively for the “peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6)
Additionally, as believers in Jesus we must learn how to think carefully about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and not believe everything we read!
For example, the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas is leveraging the current conflict and blaming Hamas for escalating violence. Of course, they are blaming Israel for her role in the conflict as well. This is clear from the following statements reported in the Jerusalem Post – note how Abbas turns the conversation towards his agenda to return Israel to the pre-1967 borders and to return Jerusalem to Palestinian control.
Referring to the current violence in the West Bank, Abbas accused the IDF of using live ammunition to kill Palestinian children. He also said that he would not allow Palestinians to remain in Israeli prisons for the rest of their lives “for no crimes they had committed.” The PA president reiterated his call for a “just and comprehensive peace” that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre- 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital. “Without Jerusalem, there will be no peace or state,” he stressed. (Jerusalem Post, Feb. 25, 2013)
I view the political agendas of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas as much the same although their strategies and tactics might seemingly differ. The PA continues to use the media to advance its cause yet have done little to de-escalate the violence of the situation. They seem to create an environment that urges conflict, and when the conflict erupts, they blame it on Hamas.
Hamas certainly deserves much of the blame for whipping up the average Palestinians into violent protest and to act in ways that lead to their arrest and detainment.
No one, including me, is claiming that Israel never makes a mistake. War never brings out the best in people! But most of what is protested could be stopped if Hamas and the PA sought a more peaceful process at this time. Israel continues to do whatever she can to protect the security of its citizens.
In the midst of all that is happening, another missile was fired from Gaza, falling in the town of Ashkelon. According to the Jerusalem Post,
Palestinian terrorists broke a three month ceasefire on Tuesday and fired a rocket from Gaza into southern Israel. The rocket fell on a road south of Ashkelon causing some damage to a road, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Al- Aqsa Martyrs Brigades took responsibility for the attack, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported. The terrorists fired a Grad rocket in response to the “liquidation” of the prisoner Jaradat, Ma’an reported. The IDF Spokesperson said there were no injuries in the incident.
This is unfortunate, as it was the firing of missiles into Israel (and the city of Ashkelon is quite a bit north of Gaza) that caused the Israeli Defense Force to mobilize a few months ago.
We are sad whenever an Israeli or Palestinian dies in the midst of this conflict – whether they are young or old, in prison or out of prison, in an army uniform or dressed as a civilian.
The Messiah of Israel loves His chosen people – the Jewish people – and the Palestinians whom He also created. He died an atoning death for both… and for the whole world!
There are no winners in this conflict – only losers. There’s no difference between the tears shed by a Jewish mother or Palestinian mother.
I do pray and hope that the conflict will end. Yet, as those who love the Bible, we need to allow Scripture to inform our analysis and guide our thinking and the ways on which we pray for peace in the Middle East. The Bible does tell us that we can only hope for temporary solutions to this conflict today, as it will continue in one way or another until the end of the age when the Messiah returns and establishes His throne of Shalom in Jerusalem as prophesied in Isaiah 2:4,
And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.
We need to continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem as a day without conflict or death is a good day, and worthy of our fervent prayers.
We should also pray for the U.S. president’s visit to Israel. I am concerned about some of the policy decisions made by our own country recently, especially our supplying the Egyptian Air Force – the fourth largest in the world – with F-16 fighter planes.
As Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East subcommittee, recently stated,
“Recent violent outbreaks and the volatile situation in Egypt should give the US reason to pause when considering continuing to provide foreign assistance to the government of Egypt,”
Even more disconcerting are Morsi’s views toward our closest friend and ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel.”She said that his statements “clearly reveal a man who holds Jews and Israel in such contempt that it would not be out of the realm of possibility to believe he is capable of turning his aggression toward Israel.” Ros-Lehtinen was referring to video footage from 2010 in which Morsi referred to Jews as “the descendants of apes and pigs” and urged Egyptians to “nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred” of Jews and Zionists. (Jerusalem Post, Feb.3, 2013)
This is an anti-Jewish statement in the Koran that has been often quoted by Arab leaders, but not by an Egyptian leader in recent days. His statement is just one further indication of the Muslim Brotherhood’s position and exposes the shift in Egyptian policy against Israel.
As a student of the Bible, I believe a day is coming when the nations of the world will turn against Jerusalem and against Israel (Zech. 12:1-12) and I fear that at this moment in time, we might be arming the enemies of Israel for Armageddon.
I hope and pray that this not true. I want our country to stand by the nation of Israel, as God promised the land to the Jewish people and blessings to those who bless the Jewish people (Gen. 12:1-3). I also want our country to be an instrument of peace – even if the peace is only temporary.
As our Messiah Jesus also said,
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Let’s hope and pray that peace will increase as a result of these discussions.
This brings me back to where I started. We are called by God to preach a message of peace, and it is our goal to bring the Prince of Peace to the Jew first and also to the Gentile; whether they be part of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority or another group that is hostile to God’s purposes in the world. We cannot and should not lose our focus – yet we are still commanded to pray for peace, and I hope you now have a better idea as to how to pray.
Thanks for your prayers on behalf of Israel. Please ask God to give our president wisdom from above as he meets with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
PS. Speaking of bringing the Good News to people… we are offering our book Isaiah 53 Explained, which I wrote, for free to any follower of Jesus who will read the book and pass it along to a Jewish friend. The best way to get the book is to go to our website www.Isaiah53.com and request a copy.
I hope that you will take advantage of this opportunity and encourage others to do the same. If you would like us to send a book directly to your Jewish friend – just let us know and we will take care of it.