Watching Over Zion - 6th October 2016
The Word: But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat… When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our work. From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armour. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet (shofar) stayed with me. Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet (shofar), join us there. Our God will fight for us!’ (Nehemiah 4:7-9, 15-20)
The burden concerning Dumah. He calls to me from Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? (Isaiah 21:11)
Pointers for prayer: As we have been looking at in the previous reports, we continue on with the theme of Nehemiah. The Jewish people were in a mighty battle to secure Jerusalem. The enemy mocked; the enemy lied; the enemy fumed and became so angry, and the enemy plotted together to oppose the Jews. But God’s people prayed! And having prayed, they took action. I really feel we need to continue on with this theme, praying and taking action not only for the people and nation of Israel, but also for ministries who stand with Israel such as Christian Friends of Israel. I feel there are certain areas of Israel, and indeed areas of our ministry within CFI that are being exposed to the enemy. Please pray for discernment as the strong winds of opposition threaten those involved, along with the nation of Israel itself, and as you read through this week’s report do pray in line with the Word of God over these issues.
Watchmen what do you see? Before I took a break from my work, which followed a very hectic time with a CFI Area Reps conference, followed by the Annual CFI Conference (amongst many other things), the main feature in my last news report was regarding the subject of the prophet Nehemiah and ‘Standing firm on the walls of Jerusalem’. Indeed my last three reports have been centred on Nehemiah (chapters 1 to 6), and I feel it right to remain with this for now. During our time away, the theme within the book of Nehemiah, and the need to ‘breach the gap’ within the walls, remained with me. Julia and I did manage to have some days away, and though it was not intentional, we literally managed to walk along some walls as part of our ‘time out’. We spent three days in Northumberland and walked along the ancient Hadrian’s Wall.
Hadrian's Wall is a spectacular World Heritage Site, which originally stretched over 75 miles from the North Sea in the east, to the Irish Sea on the west and across some of the wildest and most dramatic countryside in northern England. It’s a great place to experience Roman life and epic history in stunning locations. For around three centuries, Hadrian’s Wall was a vibrant, multi-cultured frontier, which was built by a force of 15,000 men in less than six years – what an astounding piece of engineering. Even today, 2000 years later, the remains of Mile-castles, barracks, ramparts and forts that punctuate the diverse landscape can still be seen and explored with a dramatic backdrop. However, as we walked from Steel Rigg, along a section of Hadrian’s Wall to Sycamore Gap, a thought came to my mind regarding Nehemiah and the nation of Israel which I’ll come back to shortly.
For those of you who may not be aware, Hadrian’s Wall and Sycamore Gap in particular, appear in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as Robin and Azeem (played by Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman) make their way from the English coastline to Nottingham, where Robin Hood first encounters the Sheriff’s men as they trap Little John’s son Wolf up the tree at Sycamore Gap. Okay… so Hadrian’s Wall is nowhere near Nottingham… but this is Hollywood movies we’re talking about, not reality. But even this spoke to me, after all, in the reinvented world of ‘Palestine’, where Pallywood (a portmanteau of "Palestinian" and "Hollywood") is equally, not all it seems to be. Pallywood is a coinage that has been used to describe media manipulation, distortion or fraud by the Palestinians and other Arabs designed to win the public relations war against Israel. How many times do we see via the Western Media, film clips that are not exactly accurate, or in some cases, well wide of the truth?
Whether or not you’re a fan of the Robin Hood movie, Hadrian’s Wall and the surrounding countryside is a beautiful place to explore. However, as mentioned, as we walked back from the section of Hadrian’s Wall called ‘Sycamore Gap’, a thought came to my mind regarding Nehemiah and the nation of Israel. This area is a very exposed place to be, and the strong winds were almost strong enough to stop us from climbing down the hills. At one point I was hanging on to the wall for dear life clutching my camera in fear of losing it. It was then I felt the Lord stir my ‘inner man’ or my ‘spirit’ as I thought, “What areas of Israel and what areas of the ministry of CFI are exposed to the enemy?” What are the areas that we need to intercede for as the strong winds of opposition threaten those involved, along with the nation of Israel itself?
Areas of concern Although this doesn’t really fall into the “Pallywood” images, one example of western media only telling part of the truth was shown regarding the BBC’s coverage of the funeral of Shimon Peres. I noticed Orla Guerin was back in Israel reporting on the funeral. It was of course emphasised that the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had joined world leaders and thousands of Israelis in paying their respects at the funeral of Shimon Peres. The viewers of the BBC news were fully made aware from the repeated scenes that Abbas was willing to shake the hand of Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu. “How nice,” one thought, “to see enemies shaking hands” and in essence, so they should at times like this.
However, what wasn’t reported was the fact that while the PLO leader Abbas attended Peres funeral, the Arab members of the Israeli government (Knesset) announced that they would not attend, as the representatives of Israel's Arabs decided to boycott the funeral. This is rather shocking really as without Israel these Arab leaders would not be able to represent their people. Nor did Abbas’ presence at the funeral stop him earlier from spewing out his false accusations against Israel at the United Nations, where Abbas accused Israel of committing “extrajudicial killings” of Arabs, and claimed “Israeli aggression against ‘our’ Muslim and Christian holy sites..." (Read the full story here.) Along with this, as Palestinian Media Watch’s Itamar Marcus reported on the day after former Israeli President Shimon Peres passed away, Abbas’ Fatah party demonized Peres as a murderer about to enter Hell. Itamar Marcus writes, “In a cartoon on Fatah's official Facebook page Peres is shown trembling and handcuffed as the Grim Reaper shows or reads to Peres from an English language scroll the long list of "crimes" that the PA-Fatah accuse Peres of committing. In the background flames are seen, representing the fires of Hell that, according to Fatah, are awaiting Peres.” See the full report here.
Of course, much has been written about the late Shimon Peres, the Israeli statesman and the ninth President of Israel, who served from 2007 to 2014. I don’t feel the need to add to the enormous amounts of tributes to Peres who served twice as the Prime Minister of Israel and twice as Interim Prime Minister, but he was considered to be the last link to Israel's founding generation from when Israel was re-birthed in 1948. However, I would like to mention that in 2006, a year before Shimon Peres was elected as Israel’s president, Michael Bar-Zohar published the Hebrew edition of his Peres biography. It was aptly titled “Like a Phoenix.” By then, Peres had been active in Israeli politics and public life for more than 60 years. Yes his career had its ups and downs; he reached lofty heights and suffered humiliating failures, yet without doubt, Peres was a pillar of Israel’s leadership and will be missed by many. However, are we about to see a new phase in the history of the Jewish nation, and what should we be praying for?
The Days of Awe Along with this, we have of course just entered one of the most solemn periods on the Jewish calendar. The ‘Days of Awe’ started on Rosh Hashanah (2nd – 4th October 2016) and culminate on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) which starts on the evening of Tuesday, October 11 and ends in the evening of Wednesday, October 12. Following this, Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) starts on October 16 to the 23rd, 2016. As we ponder on the days and weeks ahead with the troubles surrounding Israel within the Middle East, one wonders what the next few months will bring.
The ‘Days of Awe’ are a time when Jewish people pause to acknowledge how they have fallen short in our duties to both God and our fellow man. And indeed both Israel and the Church have fallen short. The nation of Israel is still predominantly a secular nation. Many Jews within the land care little of what the Scriptures state, let alone desire to be a holy, set apart people. But have we, within the Church, fulfilled the role of being a people set apart any better? For those of us who declare to know the Truth... have we allowed that truth to really set us free? Or do we too need to seek forgiveness, and resolve to do better in the coming year? When I ponder on this, I’m quick to thank God that He is a gracious God, slow to anger, and full of mercy (Nehemiah 9:17. See also Psalm 145:8).
In many ways, those qualities, which abound in God, do somehow seep from His Heavenly throne into the nation of Israel. Sure Israel retaliates when bombs and terrorists threaten their country, but what nation wouldn't? And Israel has suffered probably more attacks than most other nations. Yet their desire is to live in peace. Often, they have been slow to become angry. Whenever there has been world disasters, Israel are generally first to offer their help and expertise even when the needy country has rejected them. They are, after all, still a nation set apart by God. As for the year ahead… what will we face?
Seventy-one years ago in August 1942, just a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah, Gerhard Riegner, the World Jewish Congress representative in Switzerland, informed the US and British governments of the horrific plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews using gas. Riegner had learned of the plan from a source close to the highest Nazi officials, German industrialist Eduard Schulte. Both governments were sceptical about the information and tragically wasted precious months doing nothing about it. By 1945, six million Jews were murdered; most gassed in Nazi death camps in what became known as the Holocaust, the greatest crime in the annals of human history. Since then, every American President, British Prime Minister and other political leaders around the world have pledged again and again that they will never allow history to repeat itself. Yet for the past five years in Syria, thousands upon thousands have been murdered and the world has stood by and watched. When Israel responded by sending the IDF (Israel's army) into Gaza to stop the Hamas terrorists firing rockets into Israel (of which Hamas are still firing into Israel today, as yet another exploded in Sderot today (Wed. Oct. 5, 2016), the whole world kicked off and condemned Israel, yet that same world stands in silence over Syria. What a strange world it is.
We have no idea what may come over this next 12 months, but one thing is for sure, Israel will remain centre stage, with the world, the UN and other nations and the media focused upon them, waiting to throw their accusations and stand in judgement. It’s really odd why this tiny nation, the size of Wales, is constantly under the microscopic eye. But then again, if the world is watching Israel, then they have no excuse to say, “We didn’t know” when God displays His glory! With Rosh Hashanah (2nd – 4th October 2016) the Jewish New Year now kicks off the year 5777. May we pray for a perfect year ahead (as the three sevens in the New Year might imply), but may we still be prepared for hard times as well.
The nation’s look toward Israel Without doubt, Israel is indeed constantly under the microscopic eye of the nations of the world, and we have seen this recently from the world leaders paying their respects at the funeral of Shimon Peres. However, again, I’ve noticed a few recent speeches by certain leaders appear to get little mention by the media. However, I thought these speeches worthy of some attention here.
The first comes from the British Prime Minister Theresa May (Published on Oct 3, 2016). Theresa May's message marked the Jewish New Year, and the Premier stated: “It gives me great pleasure to wish the Jewish community in Britain and around the world a very happy and peaceful New Year. This is a special time, when Jewish families join together in celebration and prayer. It is also a time of remembrance and renewal. We remember the tremendous contribution made by Britain’s Jewish community to this country from those who have served in our armed forces to those leading in fields such as business, science and the arts. You have given so much over the years, while at the same time maintaining a sense of identity, religion and culture.”
Prime Minister Theresa May continued, “In the spirit of renewal, we think of the opportunities ahead not only for ourselves, but for our country: opportunities to forge a bold and positive new role for Britain in the world, to build a better, fairer society, and to bring people closer together. I have seen for myself the inspirational work carried out by many Jewish charities and organisations in Britain: helping and supporting others and reaching out to people of different backgrounds and faiths. I want to ensure that Britain is a place where all our communities can flourish, and that means stamping out sickening and shameful hatred, including anti-Semitism the like of which I never thought we would see again. I am clear that such hatred has absolutely no place in our society. So – as the Jewish New Year begins – I want to renew my unshakeable vow to stand by our Jewish community now and for the years to come. And as Prime Minister – and working in partnership with you – I will do everything in my power to protect your community, and indeed all communities in Britain. I am also proud to support the new National Holocaust Memorial which will be built at the heart of our democracy, next to Parliament, along with an associated learning centre. We owe it to everyone who endured the horrors of the Holocaust to remind future generations of the depths into which humanity can sink, so it is never repeated again. So once again I want to wish the Jewish community all the very best this Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.” You can watch the speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW3REMV2SDk
Theresa May has also praised the UK’s relationship with Israel for being “as strong as ever” recently and declared her “long-time support” for Conservative Friends of Israel (CFofI) - not to be confused with Christian Friends of Israel, in a letter published in CFofI’s new edition of Informed magazine. In her first words as Prime Minister in support of Israel and the UK’s Jewish community, Theresa May has heralded the strong relationship between the countries, pointing to bilateral trade, scientific research, security cooperation and shared values. Declaring her “long-time support” of CFofI, the PM stated that “the Conservative Party would not be the Conservative Party without CFofI”, and thanked Conservative Friends of Israel for playing a “vital role”.
In light of the Palestinian Authority’s threat to sue the UK over the Balfour Declaration, the Prime Minister confirmed that Britain “will soon be marking a century since Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, a Conservative, confirmed the UK’s support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people”. Pointing to terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, the Prime Minister states that the “dangers that confront Israel remain considerable”, and pledges that the UK “must do everything we can to ensure [Israel’s] citizens feel safe and secure in their own country”. You can read her message here. Just click on the link and then scroll down to page 6: https://cfoi.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CFI-Informed-2016-FINAL.pdf
Here are two more links which you may find interesting. Firstly, Hilary Clinton speaking about Shimon Peres stated, “When he spoke, it could be like listening to a psalm.” Then on Rosh Hashanah Clinton stated that she has made it clear to Netanyahu she’ll defend Israel. Click here for this report. And finally, after attending former Israeli president Shimon Peres' funeral on Friday, Prince Charles visited his grandmother's final resting place at a church above the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. Click here for that story.
(CFI Church Liaison Officer (UK) & WoZ News Report Correspondent)
Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Christian Friends of Israel UK & Jerusalem, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ & Israel National Radio