Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Truth about the Hamas-Israel Truce

Neighborhood Makeshift Bomb Shelter in Israel

The cease-fire agreement that brought about an end for the time being of the latest round of Palestinian rocket and missle attacks is not as good at is may seem for Israel.  I have lived through these attacks on southern Israel, and can personally attest to Israel's right to defend herself.

At best, the cease-fire agreement that Israel accepted last week puts Israel and Hamas on the same moral plane.  It erases the distinction between the only real democracy in the region--Israel--and a terrorist group recognized as such by Europe and the US--Hamas.  Israel is a nation committed to doing what we would expect of our leaders: defend her citizens.  Hamas, on the other hand, is a jihadist terrorist organization that is an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.  Israel was forced to sign an agreement with a terror group that seeks nothing less than Israel's annihilation and the establishment of an Islamic state in the land of Israel.

The second problem with the cease-fire is that it elevates Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to the position of policer of peace in the region.  Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.  It is publicly known that Egyptian President Muhamad Morsi supports Hamas, and supported Hamas during the latest attack on Israeli civilians.  By making Egypt the guarantor of peace between Hamas and Israel, Israel is forced to submit complaints about any actions of its sworn enemy to the "mother" of that terrorist group.

The Muslim Brothers received the plaudits of the US government when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama praised the Egyptian government and delegated them as the arbiters of Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the agreement.

The eight-day conflict and the eventual truce raised the profile of the Palestinian cause and elevated Hamas to a group that can be negotiated with, bringing the US Secretary of State, UN Secretary-General and a stream of Arab diplomats rushing to the region to help negotiate a cease-fire.  This week, riding that wave of renewed unity and support in the region, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will ask the United Nations to upgrade their status from Observer Entity to "Non-member State" of the UN.  Already France has indicated they will vote in favor of the Palestinian bid, and it appears certain that Abbas will get his wish.

So, Israel is in a strategic trap and is forced once again to try to coexist with Hamas, a group that is sworn to the eradication of Israel.  And this coexistence is being ensured by Hamas' sponsor, Egypt, and is applauded by western powers and the United Nations.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.  Pray for our friends and brethren in Israel, as well as for those Christians in the Palestinian Territories and in Egypt who are facing an escalation in persecution.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wars and Rumors of Wars

Having spent the past three months in Israel meeting with Members of Knesset, members of the media and IDF officers, I am impressed with an interesting phenomenon in the Middle East today.  Practical wisdom holds that Israel is the problem in the Middle East today.  Popular thinking says that if Israel could just settle its problems with her neighbors there would be peace in the world.  But is Israel really the reason for unrest in the Middle East?  The problem with popular thinking is that it does not require one to think at all, and accepting this theory indicates that one has not observed what is going on in the region.  Over the past few years, while Israel has enjoyed relative peace, the countries surrounding Israel face wars and rumors of wars.

Tunisia, Lybia, Egypt and Syria have been torn by war.  In Jordan and Iran there are rumors of war.  Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza face a discontented populace, while the Palestinian Authority is holding on to power only by a thread.  Western wisdom holds that the only thing that motivates this unrest in the Middle East is the unresolved problem that Israel supposedly presents to the region.  For nearly a generation, Western leaders have argued that reforms in the Arab nations, democracy, human rights, women's rights, religious freedom, economic development and the rule of law can only be addressed after a peace is brokered between Israel and the Palestinians.  In this view, Arab autocrats and their repressed subjects alike are so upset by the plight of the Palestinians that they can't be bothered with their own pressing needs.

Recent events in the Middle East that started what became known as the Arab Spring, which was more like a tsunami, were not instigated by Israel or conflicts between these particular nations and Israel.  Mohammed Bouazizi, the 26-year-old Tunisian college graduate who set himself on fire after regime security forces destroyed his unlicensed produce cart, did not do so because of Israel.  He did so because of the oppression in his country, setting off a series of events that birthed a revolution.  The Egyptian man who set himself on fire in Cairo outside the Egyptian parliament as the revolution swung into full force last year, and the Algerian who set himself on fire in Tebessa, did not choose to self-immolate in the public square because of their concern for the Palestinians.  So too, the anti-regime demonstrators who have been massacred by the thousands in Syria have not given their lives because there is no Palestinian State west of their borders.

The chief concern of Arab dictators is not peace in the region, but the prolongation of their grip on power.  From their perspective, one of the keys to maintaining their iron grip on power is to neutralize US support for freedom.  By arguing that Israel is the root cause of all Arab pathologies, Arab despots put the US on the defensive.  Having to defend its support for the hated Jews, the US feels less comfortable criticizing the dictators for their repression of their own people.  And since Europe apparently doesn't mind that they trample human rights, only the US constitutes a threat to the legitimacy of these Arab autocrats' iron-fisted repression of their citizens.

Wars and rumors of wars are unsettling to say the least.  But it is a fulfillment of Prophecy that we are in the Last Days.  Now more than ever, Christians need to support their best friend in the region.  As He that keepeth Israel never slumbers or sleeps, so we should never waver in our commitment to stand with the Jewish Nation in these precarious times!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Jerusalem: A City Divided

Forty-five years ago, Jerusalem was liberated and became the capital of the Jewish State.

During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.  The city was settled six thousand years ago, and was established as the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel three thousand years ago by Israel's second king, David.  Jerusalem is a holy city to the world's three major faiths--Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Old City Jerusalem, despite having an area of only .35 sq. miles, is home to many sites of tremendous religious importance, among them the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, and just outside the walls is the Garden Tomb and Golgotha.

But today, the city is divided against itself. Our Lord spoke about a kingdom divided against itself, and such a city cannot stand.  The status of Jerusalem remains one of the most disputed issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  Sixty-four years ago, during the 1948 Independence War, West Jerusalem remained in Israeli control, while East Jerusalem, including the Old City, was captured by Jordan.  In June 1967, Israel preemptively attacked three neighboring Arab states in response to an act of war on the Arabs' part.  In what became known as the Six-Day War, June 5-10, 1967, Israel captured East Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is the country's undivided capital, as recognized by Israel and her true friends, and I stand unwavering in this position.

The international community has rejected Israel's claim to an undivided Jerusalem and treats East Jerusalem as Palestinian Territory held by Israel under illegal military occupation.  The international community, the United States included, does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and the city hosts no foreign embassies.

Israel's parliament, the Knesset, is located in Jerusalem, as are the residences of the Prime Minister and of the President, and the Supreme Court.  Israel is the Middle East's only real democracy, even with Arab representatives serving in Knesset. In fact, Arabs living in Israel enjoy more freedom than those living in any other country in the region!

Persecution that Christians face in the city of Jerusalem is concentrated in East Jerusalem, the Arab side of the city. Just last week a Baptist church in East Jerusalem lost the building they were meeting in, despite having paid the rent for a year in advance. They are being evicted becuase of an interview the pastor gave, in which he told the truth of the plight of Christians in East Jerusalem and Arab towns in Israel.

Jerusalem, "City of Peace" in Hebrew, will be the center of all activities in the End Times. Keep your windows open toward Jerusalem, looking and waiting, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Independence Day in Israel: What does it mean to you?

This Thursday, Israel will celebrate her sixty-fourth Independence Day.  When any other country celebrates their independence, they obviously are celebrating their liberation from dependence to another nation.  So the obvious question is, "From whom did Israel gain her independence?"  To answer this, we must answer another question: When was Israel last an independent country?  And to find the answer, we must go to the Scriptures, which tell us that Israel was last an independent country over 2,500 years ago.  So, from whom did Israel gain her freedom?  My answer would be, that Israel gained her independence from 2,500 years of bondage!  

In sixty-four years, a people who were struggling just to survive have become one of the most vibrant and influential nations in the world.  A group of people without a home to call their own, a people oppressed in every corner of the world, a people without an army and without elected leadership became a miracle story of incredible success.  Leading in the areas of finance, medicine, science, humanitarian endeavors, one can not fail to notice the positive impact Israel has had on our world today.  Look around you right now.  Chances are that you have something near you that makes your life easier, that was invented by a Jew.  Let's start with the computer or device you're using to read this--almost surely a Jewish invention.  Do you have a refrigerator in your home?  Do you use a ballpoint pen?  How about a cell phone?  And the list goes on.  

Though Jews make up only two-tenths of one percent [.2%] of the world's population, Jews have been awarded twenty percent of the Nobel prizes for accomplishments in the areas of chemistry, literature, medicine, economics, physics and world peace.  No single explanation can be given for the success of the Jewish people, except to say that they are God's chosen people, a people blessed by Him and through whom He will bless the rest of the world.

The fact that there is a homeland for the Jewish people tells me that God still keeps His promise.  That the Jewish nation has an independent country to return to is an indication that God still loves the sons of  the Patriarchs and has a plan for them.  Because Israel is independent my family and yours is given the blessing of visiting the only democracy in the Middle East in order to see the sites where our favorite Bible stories took place--something your and my grandparents could not have said when they were our age.

But the Jewish nation has not only become relevant to your and my families since 1948.  The sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have been a blessing to the world for four thousand years!  You and I have a copy of the Scriptures, written by Jewish scribes, kings, shepherds, prophets, and fishermen.  Our Messiah was a Jew.  Our family structure was given to us by the Jews, and thankfully not by the descendants of Abraham's other son.  The democratic system of justice and governing were given us by the Old Testament writers.  The God-given principle of personal accountability was passed on to us by the Jews.

On this Independence Day [Yom Ha'atzmaut], we thank our Israeli friends for what your fathers accomplished sixty-four years ago to become a beacon of hope to a dark world.  We congratulate you for the amazing history that is yours, and we look forward to many more years standing as your loyal friends, as brothers should!

What does the miracle of Israel mean to you?

IDF Soldiers Save Life of Arab Infant

Medical Evacuation by the IDF

Did you hear this positive news from Israel?

An increasing number of Arabs living in the Binyamin region of Israel have been turning to a local IDF post for emergency medical care, the Israeli army reported on Monday. On Sunday night, a young Arab woman arrived at the post with her 12-day-old infant, who was suffering from severe breathing difficulty. The IDF Home Front Command soldiers stationed in the area treated and stabilized the baby. They then called an emergency ambulance that evacuated the infant to a nearby hospital in Ramallah.

"The baby was suffering from severe breathing difficulty and was simultaneously vomiting," explained the battalion doctor, Cpt. Dr. Michael Findler. "We provided her with initial medical care and succeeded in stabilizing her condition."

Commanders in the Binyamin Regional Brigade explained that Arabs living in the region know that when they are in need of medical assistance, the Israeli army will provide them with the care and treatment they are seeking. "Every Palestinian in the region knows there is an IDF post permanently stationed here that will provide aid," said Cpt. Dr. Findler. "Such incidents have become commonplace."

Over the past two weeks, the battalion stationed at the post treated three similar cases of emergency medical care, noted the IDF. "Last time one of our paramedics treated a Palestinian girl suffering from meningitis, and in another incident I treated a jaundice patient that arrived with a severe cerebral hemorrhage," explained the battalion doctor. "In both cases the patients were evacuated for additional medical care at Israeli hospitals."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Holocaust Remembrance Day

At 10:00am today, sirens will sound throughout Israel for everyone to pause and remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. The Psalmist prayed to God in the eighty-third Psalm, proclaiming that the enemies of Israel have taken crafty counsel against God’s people, saying, Come let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. The Prophets prophesied that Israel would be surrounded on every side by enemies seeking her destruction.

In the past few weeks, in meetings with three influential leaders in the country, we spoke about these dangers from Israel’s neighbors. I had the privilege of having supper with one of the most influential conservative media personalities in Israel. My wife and I also had supper with a person in the prime minister’s office, and then I had supper with an influential member of Knesset. All three of these individuals expressed the existential threat that is present on Israel’s every side.

If you look at a map of the Middle East, you will notice that Israel is surrounded by hostile regimes who would celebrate her annihilation. In the south, Egypt is becoming more precarious by the day, with the Muslim Brotherhood set to fill the vacuum left by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Though he could not be considered a friend of Israel, Mubarak at least kept the peace agreement with Israel and did not actively pursue war with Israel. This week, however, the last man left from this school of thought, former Chief of Intelligence Omar Suleiman, was barred by Parliament from running for president of Egypt. The candidates left are all hostile towards Israel, and are sure to disregard the agreement that ensured three decades of peace between Israel and Egypt.

In the north, Hezbollah in Lebanon has stockpiled over 40,000 rockets that can reach the largest cities in Israel, including Tel Aviv. Hezbollah is supported by the Iranian regime, and is prepared to play a vital role in the multi-faceted attack should war break out.

Israel’s northeastern neighbor, Syria, is involved in a civil war that has left thousands of civilians dead and even the UN cannot broker a peace agreement. Syrian president Bashar Assad would love nothing more than to have a conflict break out with Israel in order to deflect attention from his atrocities and mass killing of his own people. He has actively tried to provoke Israel into a regional conflict over the past few months by sending civilian activists to storm Israel’s borders with Syria.

East of the Jordan River, Israel’s weakest neighbor, Jordan, is sure to face civil unrest in the near future. Look for King Abdullah’s administration to be the next domino to fall in the so called ‘Arab Spring’, which has turned out to be more of an Arab Tsunami. Instability on this front will prove to be a challenge to the relative quiet with Israel there has been for a few decades. As the default homeland for the Palestinian people, Jordan’s peace with Israel is in danger of being disrupted in the near future.

On this Holocaust Remembrance day, we cannot fail to turn our attention to the Iranian regime and their publicly-stated goal of annihilating the Jewish Nation and destroying any remembrance of God’s chosen people. In 1979, following the revolution that brought to power a new regime in Tehran, the very first act of the new regime was to attack the US Embassy and take hostage 52 Americans. They were held hostage for 444 days, until Ronald Reagan took the reigns from Jimmy Carter and restored pride and resilience to the White House. The United States has always been on the Iranian Regime’s target and is a primary enemy. However, the Iranian problem has not been properly dealt with by the US, and therefore, now it has become Israel’s responsibility to deal with it. Israel has actually done America and the world a favor by delaying Iran’s nuclear capabilities in the past few years. But it was not Israel’s responsibility to begin with; it was and continues to be a problem that the West should actively be involved in. But because the western powers have not done so, Israel is left to defend herself, with or without the support of the rest of the world.

Since I began writing this article, 10:00am has passed. The siren sounded, and my family and I paused from our activities, gathered together and stood in silence to remember one of the lowest points in human history. But as we resume our activities, we must never forget that the enemies of the past century still seek the destruction of God’s people today. May we never forget. And may we never fail to remember that he that toucheth Israel toucheth the apple of God’s eye [Zechariah 2:8].

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bible Lands Museum Video

This week I had a meeting with some of our colleagues at the Ministry of Tourism in Jerusalem.  They have produced some videos that I know you will enjoy.  They asked me to share them with you.  This video is from the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.  In the same complex is the Israel Museum where you can see the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls.  If you haven't been to Israel yet, I hope you'll make plans to come soon! 

If you're viewing this in your e-mail reader, please click on the following link to view the video: