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REPORT FROM IRAQ: MEETING WITH THE PRIME MINISTER OF KURDISTAN

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2009 at 10:05 am
Joel discusses the future of Iraq and the Kurdish people with Prime Minister Barzani

Joel discusses the future of Iraq and the Kurdish people with Prime Minister Barzani

Greetings from Mumbai (aka, “Bombay”). I’m here in the commercial capital of India and the site of the horrific terrorist attacks  by Pakistani Islamic jihadists that killed more than 200 Indians at the famed Taj hotel, the Jewish “Chabad” center, and several other locations around this city. Today, I had the opportunity to visit several of these sites and pray for the survivors and for the families of those injured and killed. Currently, I’m on a two-week speaking tour throughout India with several dear friends, teaching Christian pastors, ministry leaders and lay leaders about “God’s love and plan for the people of Israel and the epicenter.” The last few days have  been so wonderful, so full and so intense that I haven’t had a spare minute to write. I promise to write more about what I’m seeing and hearing very soon.

But first I wanted to let you know a little more about my five-day trip last week to northern Iraq. By God’s grace, I had the privilege of spending time with a number of key Iraqi Christian leaders to encourage them, pray with them, oversee the progress of The Joshua Fund’s work there, and develop future plans for blessing the poor and needy in Iraq and strengthening the Iraqi church. Several colleagues and I also had the privilege of meeting with His Excellency Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). It was a fascinating discussion that lasted about an hour, twenty minutes of which I conducted a formal interview of the Prime Minister on camera for the Inside The Revolution documentary film we’re producing.

The Prime Minister is one of the region’s very impressive up-and-coming young Reformers. Born in 1966, he is the grandson of the Mustafa Barzani, the legendary champion of Kurdish rights and leader of the Kurdish independence movement. He is a Sunni Muslim who is proud of his cultural and religious heritage. But he is also a strong supporter of a united, federal Iraq and is a devout believer in helping all of Iraq become what Kurdistan has become over the past several decades — a Jeffersonian democracy, where there are full protections for free and fair elections, the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion — including the right to choose another religion if one desires.

Prime Minister Barzani told me in no uncertain terms that he strongly opposes radical Islam. His first order of business when he came to power in 1997, he said, was to shut down a Saudi-funded college teaching Sharia law because he knew it would lead to jihadist violence and fan the flames of extremism. He shut down Saudi-backed madrassas (extremist elementary and secondary schools) throughout Kurdistan.  Two years ago, he not only banned “honor killings” — the Muslim practice of murdering family members when they sin or embarass the family or convert to another faith — but has been waging a public educational campaign to convince the Muslim majority in Kurdistan that such killings are “dishonorable” and wrong.

What’s more, Prime Minister Barzani has been a strong and consistent protector of Iraqi Christians who have been badly persecuted elsewhere in the country. He has welcomed many such Christians to resettle in the Kurdish region (which includes three of Iraq’s eighteen provinces) and practice their faith freely. He has helped clear bureaucratic obstacles for Christians trying to set up businesses and build churches. He has praised Christians for doing humanitarian relief work among the Kurds. Indeed, he told me how grateful he is for the work Kurdish Christians, Iraqi Arab Christians, and evangelical followers of Jesus from around the world are doing to bless the people of Iraqi generally and Kurdistan in particular.

When I get back to the States, I will type up and post my full interview. But for now, let me just say what a pleasure it was to spend time with this impressive Iraqi leader, a true Reformer who is appreciative of his Islamic heritage but has become a real friend of the Christian community at a time when the Church has been quite embattled. Please pray for Prime Minister Barzani — for his protection, for him to have wisdom and discernment as he governs, for the Lord to show favor to him and his family and his administration as he protects Muslims, Christians, Jews and those of no faith. Please also pray that the model he is building in Iraqi Kurdistan would be soon be followed by leaders throughout all of Iraq, and even by other would-be Muslim Reformers throughout the region.

UPDATE — HEADLINES TO TRACK:

BIBLE PROPHECY UPDATE: Israel discovers “inconceivably huge quantities” of natural gas reserves off Haifa, Hamas agrees to cease fire, Russia moves to ally with Libya

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2009 at 8:27 pm

(Erbil, Iraq) — Greetings from Iraq. I’ve been here for the last few days doing some final research for the Inside The Revolution documentary film we’re working on. More on that in a future post. First, I need to note that it’s been a dramatic few days here in the epicenter, especially for those interested in the prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39.

Consider the following:

1. “LIVING SECURELY IN THE LAND” As I wrote about several days ago, there are intriguing implications of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza for the fulfillment of major Bible prophecies. This war could lead to: A) the toppling of Hamas in favor of a moderate leadership in Gaza (possible, but doubtful at this stage); or B) a cease fire between Israel and a weakened Hamas that truly holds for the next several years, and provides Israeli citizens on the southern border a real measure of safety and security (still too early to say, but increasingly possible given the events of the last 23 days and the last 48 hours). If either of these events happen, then a major precondition of Ezekiel 38-39 could come to pass in the not-too-distant future. The prophecy requires that: A) Israel is reborn as a nation (which happened in 1948); B) Jews are returning to the Holy Land after centuries of exile (this has been happening since the end of the 19th century); and C) Israelis are finally “living securely in the land” — meaning Israelis may not have true, lasting formal peace with all of its neighbors, but Israeli citizens feel more safe and more comfortable and relaxed than ever before. Most Israelis actually already feel this way today, except for those along the Gaza border. Despite all the wars and rumors of wars in the region, the vast majority of Israelis are going to the malls, going to the movies, going to the beaches, going about their daily lives feeling that the Jewish State is more stable and secure today than at any time in the past sixty years. If Israelis in the south begin to feel this level of security, too, things could get quite interesting from the perspective of Bible prophecy.

2. ISRAEL MAKES ENORMOUS AND “HISTORIC” DISCOVERY OF NATURAL GAS OFF HAIFA — Ezekiel 38-39 has another precondition that has to happen before the “War of Gog and Magog” can begin — Israel must be notably prosperous.  In my first non-fiction book, Epicenter, I noted that Israel is already far more prosperous than her immediate neighbors, the Palestinians, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Syrians and the Lebanese. But I speculated that it was possible that the Israel will get far more prosperous to fully satisfy this prophetic precondition. I further noted that based on a series of Bible prophecies, Israel will make major discoveries of petroleum in “the last days” (something that was a fictional part of The Last Jihad series, as well). Consider, then, this remarkable story on today’s Jerusalem Post website: “Three massive gas reservoirs have been discovered 80 kilometers off the Haifa coast, at the Tamar prospect, Noble Energy Inc. announced on Sunday….Speaking on Army Radio Sunday morning, an exhilarated Yitzhak Tshuva, owner of the Delek Group Ltd, one of the owners of the well, called the discovery ‘one of the biggest in the world,’ promising that the find would present a historic land mark in the economic independence of Israel. ”I have no doubt that this is a holiday for the State of Israel. We will no longer be dependent [on foreign sources] for our gas, and will even export. We are dealing with inconceivably huge quantities; Israel now has a solution for the future generations,’ Tshuva added. An ecstatic Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said before the weekly cabinet meeting that the discovery was a ‘historic’ one and could ‘change the face of Israeli industry.’….Following the announcement of the discover, shares of Delek Drilling jumped up 80%, while shares of Isramco Negev 2 skyrocketed by an unprecedented 120 percent. The rest of the Tel Aviv stock market also saw huge gains, with the TA-Index 100 climbing nearly 4 percent.” It’s too soon to draw any conclusions, but I do think this is a story worth watching closely.

    3. RUSSIA IS BUILDING ALLIANCES WITH IRAN, LIBYA, SYRIA AND LEBANON, AS HATRED OF ISRAEL GROWS — The prophecies found in Ezekiel 38-39 further tell us that Russia (Magog), Iran (Persia), Libya (Put), and Turkey (Gomer) will all form alliances together, before eventually trying to attack Israel from the North. To come from the North, they need to come through Syria and Lebanon, which means either Syria and Lebanon are active members of the coalition against Israel, or they have been overrun by military forces of the Russian-Iranian alliance. Again, I describe all this in detail in Epicenter, but it’s worth considering the following headlines in recent days:

    For me, it still remains too early to draw any definitive conclusions about what all this means. But it is worth noting that clearly several of the key countries that Ezekiel says will form alliances together — and against Israel — are, in fact, currently forming closer and closer ties, even as a wave of profound anti-Israel sentiment is rising throughout the region.

    Developing….

    ——————-

    ** Despite the ceasefire, Hamas has fired more than 15 rockets at Israel. The Joshua Fund remains committed to continuing our efforts to bless the Israelis in Sderot and the southern tier through a number of relief projects. If you would like to make a secure, tax deductible donation on-line to The Joshua Fund — or learn more about what we are doing and why — please click here **

    DID ISRAEL JUST BLINK, OR WIN?: Olmert declares unilateral cease-fire

    In Uncategorized on January 17, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    UPDATED: At 2a.m. Sunday morning, Israel ceased all offensive military operations in Gaza. It is a unilateral cease-fire that Hamas says it has no intention of honoring. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the announcement on a nationally televised broadcast, following a three-hour Cabinet meeting and a 7-2 vote (with one abstention) in favor of the decision to put Operation Cast Lead on pause.

    ORIGINAL POST: Senior Israeli officials have been signaling all day that they are close to achieving their objectives and thus may soon unilaterally declare a ceasefire. At this hour, the Israeli Cabinet is meeting behind closed doors in Tel Aviv to make a decision on how to proceed. Yet the question that must be asked is: what objectives have Israel truly achieved at this point? To be sure, IDF forces have made enormous progress against the Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza over the last 22 days. But let’s be clear: Hamas continues to fire rockets at southern Israeli towns and cities (at least 15 on Saturday, hitting a synagogue and sending a pregnant Israeli mother to the hospital after her home received a direct hit). Hundreds — if not thousands — of Hamas terrorists continue warring against Israeli forces in Gaza (9 Israeli soldiers were injured on Saturday, four of them seriously). Hamas refuses to surrender or agree to a cease fire. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in 2006 and held ever since, has not been released, nor do his parents or his country even have assurances that he is alive much less healthy. What’s more, Egypt has not yet formally agreed to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons back into Gaza (though Cairo appears to be moving in that direction). How exactly is that the kind of sweeping success Israel needs right now? I’m concerned Israel has just blinked, not won.  But let’s pray I’m wrong and that this, in time, will prove to be a dramatic victory for the IDF and true safety for the Israelis along the southern border of Gaza.

    ** Even if Israel halts its military operations, The Joshua Fund will continue to bless the Israelis in Sderot and the southern tier through a number of relief projects. If you would like to make a secure, tax deductible donation on-line to The Joshua Fund — or learn more about what we are doing and why — please click here **

    BIBLE PROPHECY AND GAZA WAR

    In Uncategorized on January 16, 2009 at 7:21 am

    “Is there a connection between Bible prophecy and the war in Gaza right now?”

    I’m getting asked that everywhere I travel here in the epicenter. It’s an intriguing question, and there are two quick answers — no, and yes.

    1.) No, there is no specific passage of Scripture that points to this specific war between Israel and terrorists in Gaza in the “last days,” though there are certainly some passages that are evocative of the current conflict. The Lord once said through the Hebrew Prophet Amos, for example, “I will send fire upon the wall of Gaza and it will consume her citadels….I will even unleash My power upon Ekron, and the remnant of the Philistines will perish.” But this was fulfilled between 760 and 750 B.C.

    2.) That said, the current war between Israel and the terrorist leaders and fighters of Hamas in Gaza could be preparing the way for the coming “War of Gog and Magog” described in Ezekiel 38-39. In that prophecy (as well as chapters 36 and 37), Ezekiel says that:

    1. The State of Israel will be resurrected in the last days
    2. Jews will pour back into the Holy Land after centuries of being scattered in exile all over the world
    3. By God’s grace, the Jews will rebuild the ancient ruins in the land of Israel
    4. By God’s grace, the Jews will see the land of Israel blossom and bear fruit like never before
    5. Ezekiel also says that prior to the alliance against Israel led by Russia (Magog) and Iran (Persia) to destroy Israel, the people of Israel will be “living securely, all of them.” (38:8b). The text, however, never uses the word “shalom,” the Hebrew word for peace. So Ezekiel does not seem to be referring to full and complete peace. Rather, he seems to be suggesting that there will be a sense among Israelis that they are safer than they previously had been.
    6. In most respects, Israelis are today living more safely and securely than any time since independence in 1948. Consider that Israel has formal and reasonably effective peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Saddam Hussein is gone. Yasser Arafat is gone. Suicide bombers are largely a terror tool of the past. Israel has the most powerful air force in the region. Israel has the most advanced missile defense system in the world. The U.S. is on offense against radical Islamic terrorists in the region. No wonder most Israelis — even today — feel more secure and relaxed than ever before, given the modern history of the Jewish people. They’re going to the malls, to the movies, to the beaches. They are getting married and having bar mitzvahs and growing their businesses and sending their kids to college. Normal stuff, like normal people, despite all the wars and rumors of wars that continue to plague the region.
    7. In my first novel (written in 2001 before 9/11, but published in November 2002), The Last Jihad, I wrote that in order for Israelis to feel secure enough to set into motion Ezekiel’s “War of Gog and Magog,” Saddam Hussein could no longer be the ruler of Iraq. After all, Iraq is not mentioned as one of the countries that is part of the Russian-Iranian alliance against Israel. Moreover, how could Israelis feel secure with the “Butcher of Baghdad” in power, a man who fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel and threatened to use chemical weapons to “scorch half of Israel” back in 1990? They couldn’t, which is why I wrote about a kamikaze attack by radical Islamic terrorists against an American city that would lead to a war between the U.S. and Saddam Hussein over fears of a link between Iraqi-sponsored terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Remarkably, these events have actually come to pass in real life. In my second novel, The Last Days, I wrote about the death of Arafat and a civil war that would ensue afterwards between the secular nationalist forces of the Palestinians (Fatah) and the Islamic Jihadists in the West Bank and Gaza (Hamas), vying for control in Arafat’s absence. That was fiction, but in real life Arafat ended up dying 13 months after the novel was published, and the battle between Fatah and Hamas erupted almost immediately.
    8. That said, in The Last Days, a moderate Palestinian rises to power and create real (though temporary) peace with Israel. In real life, a moderate by the name of Mahmoud Abbas (aka, Abu Mazen) has emerged in the West Bank, and the West Bank is very quiet. But Hamas gained control of Gaza in 2006, and Israel has remained threatened by rockets, missiles and mortars coming in from Gaza ever since. According to Ezekiel, all Israelis must be living securelybefore the conditions are set for the “War of Gog and Magog.” If that war is to happen in our lifetime — much less in the next few years — that would have to mean that rockets, missiles and mortars are not being fired from Gaza day after day, week after week, year after year at innocent civilians in southern Israel. Thus, this war — if it is truly effective in stopping the rocket barrage — could, in fact, prove to be a precursor to the coming Russian-Iranian alliance against Israel in that it may help create a secure southern border for Israelis for the next year, or the next several years.
    9. It is early yet. It is not clear what the lasting effect of this conflict will be. We must first and foremost pray for peace, and pray for Hamas to be crushed and all Gazans to be liberated from their evil tyranny. We must pray for the physical and emotional recovery for Israelis and Palestinians who have been severely affected by this war and by previous terror attacks. And we must pray that the Lord would comfort those on both sides and draw them close to His heart.
    10. At the same time, I do believe it is worth watching closely to see if we are getting closer to the events described by Ezekiel.
    11. It is noteworthy to me that Egypt is playing a somewhat helpful role in opposing Hamas and offering to do more to stop arms smuggling into Gaza — not for Israel’s sake, really, but to make sure Hamas doesn’t become a terror force that could destablize Mubarak’s regime in Cairo. Ezekiel does not mention Egypt being part of the Russian-Iranian alliance in the last days, and currently Egypt’s actions are consistent with the prophecy.
    12. Over the past few weeks, Turkey has moved significantly away from Israel and the West and towards Russia and Iran, even calling for Israel to be banned from U.N. meetings. This is noteworthy because Turkey is “Gomer” in the prophecy and is a key player with Russia and Iran against Israel.
    13. Let me conclude by reminding my readers that I have no idea when the “War of Gog and Magog” will occur. Many geopolitical events currently look consistent with Ezekiel’s writings. But we must be cautious. Let us not overreact or speculate wildly. Let us calmly and prayerfully analyze these present times, and follow our Lord Jesus Christ to do now what we know is right according to the Scriptures.

    JOSHUA FUND UPDATE:

    Thank you so, so much to all of you have graciously and generously invested in the work of The Joshua Fund. By God’s grace and by the donations of so many of you around the world, we were able to fill that storefront in Sderot with a truck load of rice, beans, corn, peas, cooking oil, flour, sugar, Corn Flakes, salt, paper towels, toilet paper, and other necessities. The truck arrived on Wednesday morning and we had a wonderful little team of volunteers to help unload the truck and get everything moved into the storefront and onto those previously barren shelves — we had Israeli sabras helping, Jews from the U.S., and evangelical Christians from the U.S. as well. Lord willing, we’ll have pictures of it all up on the site in the next few days. “Hope For Sderot” is a non-profit organization run by residents of Sderot with financial and organizational assistance from The Joshua Fund. Please be praying for these dear allies as they seek only to care for the neediest individuals and families in the rocket zone with unconditional love and unwavering support. As God provides, TJF will continue to help Hope For Sderot resupply each month, and we would be grateful for your faithful, daily prayers for them and for us, and for your financial assistance. This is just one of the projects TJF is doing to bless Israeli living on the southern border with Gaza, but it is one very near and dear to our hearts. If you would like to make a secure, tax deductible contribution to The Joshua Fund on-line — or learn more about what we’re doing to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus — please click here.

    LATEST HEADLINES TO TRACK:

    Standing with the residents of Sderot and Ashkelon as the war with Hamas continues

    In Uncategorized on January 13, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Joel meets with several Sderot residents in the new food distribution facility

    My team and I were in the Israeli town of Sderot again on Monday, meeting with several local residents in a new food distribution facility that The Joshua Fund is helping to finance and establish.

    Joshua Fund is helping a Jewish group in Sderot outfit a storefront to stock and distribute food for the needy

    The shelving is all in place now and basic renovations are almost complete. Lord willing, on Wednesday a grocery store truck will arrive to stock this facility with food that will then be distributed to those Sderot residents in severe need.

    A bomb shelter in Sderot

    This is an older bomb shelter in Sderot. It used to be fine to protect residents from small Kassam rockets. Today, however, Hamas is using larger Kassams, and thus new bomb shelters have had to be built to provide more protection.

    Inside an older bomb shelter in Sderot.

    Just moments after my colleagues snapped this picture of me inside an older bomb shelter, we heard two "Code Red" alerts -- one after another -- warning us of incoming rockets. When a "Code Red" sounds, you have no more than 15 seconds to find protection. By God's grace, we were able to get into a newer bomb shelter just up the road, near an elementary school. We huddled with several Sderot residents, including a mother trying to comfort her terrified child who had just gotten out of school.

    We saw Israeli military convoys moving equipment into position for what could be an accelerated urban offensive, though a final decison to crush Hamas has not yet been made by the Olmert government.

    We saw Israeli military convoys moving equipment into position for what could be an accelerated urban offensive, though a final decison to crush Hamas has not yet been made by the Olmert government.

    Minutes after we experienced two "Code Red" alerts and heard two Kassam rockets "boom" near us, we moved up to ridge overlooking Gaza. There we saw Israeli tanks and helicopters firing back at Hamas positions.

    Minutes after we experienced the two "Code Red" alerts and heard two Kassam rockets "boom" near us, we moved up to ridge overlooking Gaza. There we saw Israeli tanks and helicopters firing back at Hamas positions.

    I interviewed John Moser, Joshua Fund's executive director, and Jeremy Grafman, our Director of Special Projects, for a documentary film project we're working on called "Operation Epicenter."

    I interviewed John Moser, Joshua Fund's executive director, and Jeremy Grafman, our Director of Special Projects, for a documentary film project we're working on called "Operation Epicenter."

    After spending about four hours in Sderot, we spent several hours at the Barzilai Medical Center. This is the only Israeli hospital serving the half million Israelis living near the Gaza border, as well as some Palestinians who need urgent treatment. The Joshua Fund has been helping finance the purchase of much-needed medical equipment for Barzilai. We received briefings on the latest developments from the hospital's admistrators, several of whom are becoming warm friends, and had the privilege of visiting an Israeli civilian patient who was severely wounded by a Hamas rocket on Saturday in his home in Ashkelon. I was then interviewed by Israel's Channel One news on what The Joshua Fund is and why we are working to mobilize millions of Christians around the world to bless Israelis and innocent Palestinians. "This is the time for true followers of Jesus Christ to stand with Israel, bless Israel, and show all the people of Israel -- and especially those in the South -- unconditional love and unwavering support."

    After spending about four hours in Sderot, we spent several hours at the Barzilai Medical Center. This is the only Israeli hospital serving the half million Israelis living near the Gaza border, as well as some Palestinians who need urgent treatment. The Joshua Fund has been helping finance the purchase of much-needed medical equipment for Barzilai. We received briefings on the latest developments from the hospital's admistrators, several of whom are becoming warm friends, and had the privilege of visiting an Israeli civilian patient who was severely wounded by a Hamas rocket on Saturday in his home in Ashkelon. I was then interviewed by Israel's Channel One news on what The Joshua Fund is and why we are working to mobilize millions of Christians around the world to bless Israelis and innocent Palestinians. "This is the time for true followers of Jesus Christ to stand with Israel, bless Israel, and show all the people of Israel -- and especially those in the South -- unconditional love and unwavering support."

    KEY WEDNESDAY HEADLINES TO TRACK:

    ——————–

    Must read excerpts from a story in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz Tuesday:

    Shin Bet: 565 rockets, 200 mortar shells fired at Israel since start of Gaza op
    By Yanir Yanga, Haaretz

    Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired some 565 rockets and 200 mortar shells at southern Israel since the Israel Defense Forces launched its offensive on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory on December 27, the Shin Bet announced on Tuesday. According to the Shin Bet investigation, some 530 of the rockets were fired within the first 16 days of the operation. The Shin Bet estimated that another 35 were fired over the course of Monday and Tuesday, but did not include those numbers in its latest report….The report does not detail how many were long-range Katyushas, but various sources estimates they number about 10 percent of the total number of rockets fired. Some 5,700 rockets and another 4,000 mortar shells have been launched at Israel since the beginning of 2005, the Shin Bet said. Of those, more than 2,000 rockets and 1,600 shells were fired in 2008. During the six-month truce between Israel and Gaza which ended in December, some 361 rockets and 303 mortar shells were launched at Israel. This marks an average of a rocket and a mortar shell a day over the course of the cease-fire period. Since the firing began in the year 2000, 19 people were killed by rockets and another 18 by mortar shells. Some 1,272 people have been wounded by rockets and shells since the beginning of the war on Gaza 18 days ago. Gaza militants fired 12 rockets and four mortar shells at Israel’s southern communities on Tuesday morning, continuing the cross-border attacks that Israel has sought to stop in its offensive against Hamas in the coastal strip.One of the rockets exploded near a school in Ashkelon. The strike caused minimal damage, but no casualties….On Monday, Gaza militants fired 19 rockets at the western Negev, one of them scoring a direct hit on a home in the coastal city of Ashkelon. The house’s five residents managed to flee to a bomb shelter before the strike, so there were no casualties. A number of people were treated for shock. Another few rockets were also reported in Sderot and in the central Negev city of Be’er Sheva. Another rocket fired from Gaza exploded in an open field near Kiryat Gat, causing no casualties or damages….

    ———————————————–

    To learn more about how you can help bless Israelis caught in the crossfire, please go to www.joshuafund.net

    NOTES FROM CONFERENCE CALL WITH BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Warns of Iran’s “nightmare scenario”

    In Uncategorized on January 12, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Netanyahu meeting with an Israeli civilian victim of a Hamas rocket attack in Ashkelon

    Netanyahu meeting with an Israeli civilian victim of a Hamas rocket attack in Ashkelon

    ** Monday, I had the honor of being in Sderot and Ashkelon with some of our Joshua Fund team and a film crew. We were doing relief work and meeting with some of our key allies. Will write about it and post photos Tuesday, Lord willing. But thanks so much to all of you who have been praying faithfully for our safety while we’ve been in Israel. We serve a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God. There were two missile attacks on Sderot while we were there, and at least 19 attacks throughout southern Israel today. By God’s grace we were safe, but we certainly experienced emotionally — if only for a few minutes — what hundreds of thousands of Israelis face hour by hour, day after day as rockets keep falling with seemingly no end in sight and you never know where they are going to land and if you are going to be injured or killed. We had the privilege of visiting Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon where they have treated more than 430 Israelis wounded by Hamas missiles. We visited with victims of war and terror. We met with hospital officials to get briefed on the latest developments. I was also interviewed by news correspondent with Israel’s Channel One. Again, more details on Tuesday. In the meantime, please continue to pray for the Lord to protect innocent civilians on both sides of the border. Pray that Hamas’s terror network would be destroyed. And please pray that Gaza would be liberated of this Hamas evil ASAP. **

    —————–

    (Jerusalem, Israel) — Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a 25 minute conference call today with conservative bloggers in which I had the opportunity to participate, made it clear that he sees Israel’s current war against Hamas in Gaza as a “just war,” as a proxy war with Radical Muslim leaders in Iran, and very possibly as a prelude to a future war to stop Radicals in Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, an event he described as a “nightmare scenario.”

    Israel is pursuing a “just war,” Netanyahu said early in the discussion. He noted that “Hamas is pursuing an illegitimate goal to accomplish the annihilation of the Jewish State” and is using “illegitimate means,” including the “firing rockets on innocent civilians.”

    “This is a classic case of justice pitted against injustice” and “against the forces of darkness,” said the Likud leader who when the war began suspended his party’s campaign for the February 10th elections. “Everyone has to choose which side of the battle he is on?”

    Is this really an isolated local skirmish, asked one blogger, or is there a larger story at work here?

    “Our fight with Hamas,” he replied, is with terrorists who have “backers in Iran” and have shown the “willingness to use any methods including firing rockets on innocent civilians….Israel is now the front line in the battle between militant Islam and the rest of the world – witness what has happened [in terms of terrorist attacks in recent years] in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Mumbai, New York, Washington….and there are enormous global consequences. Does Iran have a victory in one of its two forward outposts [the other being Hezbollah]?”

    “Israel cannot tolerate an Iranian forward position [in Gaza],” he continued, saying that Israel’s long-term goal needs to be blocking Iran from becoming the dominant regional power. He also noted that Israel’s “immediate goal should be…removing the threat by stopping the firing and preventing the resupply of rockets and other weaponry by Hamas.”

    The call was organized by One Jerusalem, an organization founded in the fall of 2000 by former Israeli deputy prime minister Natan Sharansky. One Jerusalem’s executive director, Allen Roth, moderated the discussion.

    I had emailed in a question asking what can Jews, evangelical Christians and others can do to help Israel in the current conflict. Undoubtedly other bloggers emailed in similar questions. This was the second question posed to the former Prime Minister by Allen Roth.

    “The most important thing [friends of Israel can do] is to tell the truth,” Netanyahu said. “There is a campaign of lies against us,” including that Israel started this conflict [they didn’t], that Israel is targeting innocent Palestinian civilians [they aren’t], that Israel isn’t allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza to care for innocents who are suffering [they are]. “Get the facts straight….the facts do count….the sequence counts.”

    Hamas, he noted, has been “firing these rockets for eight years – eight years! Can you imagine what the U.S. would do if 6,000 rockets were fired from Mexico at San Diego? Would the U.S. wait eight years? Would they wait eight months? I don’t think they would wait eight minutes to fight back.”

    Netanyahu pointed out that Hamas is launching rockets out of mosques, hospitals, elementary schools, universities – putting innocent Palestinians in harm’s way when Israel seeks to retaliate. “We don’t deliberately target civilians, though we regret when civilians are injured or killed,” he said. “That basic fact should be spoken…loud and clear by the friends of Israel and the friends of Jews.”

    Regarding the immediate future of the Arab-Israeli peace process, Netanyahu said “the idea that you can have a final settlement….I think that is just not realistic.”

    He noted that he had resigned from the cabinet in 2005 when the government of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to give away Gaza for free. He said when it comes to any future potential “deals” with the Palestinians, “don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”

    Before there is anymore international talk of Israel ceding territory to the Palestinians, Israel needs to pursue four strategies:

    1. Fight Islamic radicals
    2. Strengthen Islamic moderates
    3. Reestablish security on all of Israel’s borders
    4. Begin rapid economic development for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza

    He was asked if he thought Hamas was holding out for the new administration of Barack Obama, hoping that Obama would put new pressure on Israel to stop fighting and accepting a potentially premature cease fire.

    “I do remember Mr. Obama visited Sderot not long ago and said something to the effect that, ‘If my two girls lived in a home that was rocketed by terrorists, I would do everything in my power to stop it.’” He added, “I think the U.S. has an interest in stopping terrorists wherever they are.”

    Netanyahu said the biggest threat Israel faces is not from Hamas, or even from Hezbollah, per se, but from Radical Islamic terrorists or states possessing nuclear weapons. He described Iran acquiring such weapons of mass destruction as a “nightmare scenario,” along with militant Islamists seizing control of nuclear-armed Pakistan. Though he did not lay out how he would approach the Iran crisis should he be elected Prime Minister, he strongly hinted that time is running out and that the West had to take decisive action before it is too late.

    Netanyahu concluded by insisting that Israel “should do everything can to return Gilad Shalit,” the IDF soldier kidnapped by Hamas on June 25, 2006, though he declined to criticize the current Olmert government when asked if Olmert and his team were doing enough to bring Shalit home and to make his return a precondition of a cease fire.

    Not asked —  unfortunately — was whether Netanyahu believed Israel’s government should fully invade Gaza’s urban centers and bring down the Hamas leadership and terror infrastructure once and for all. It would have been useful to get his take on this because at the moment, my read is that the Olmert government is hedging on that decision. True, they have been calling up the Reserves and putting those Reserves into the Gaza theater to bolster the IDF forces already inching towards Hamas positions. But we have not seen a full scale ground campaign into Gaza’s toughest urban centers, the strongholds of the Hamas forces. Instead, the Olmert government seems to be waiting for a deal to emerge with Hamas, Egypt and the international community to bring about a rapid cease fire. Many here in Israel are worried that Olmert will accept a cease fire too quickly, as he did with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. No Israeli parent wants to see another of their sons killed in combat. But scores of Israeli parents are telling me they want to see “the whole job done” — Hamas destroyed and the rocket threat squashed once and for all.  They do not want to have the nation sacrifice so much in the last sixteen days only to see the threat reemerge all over again. Finish the job, they say.

    Under the circumstances, I agree.

    HEADLINES TO TRACK:

    UPDATE ON ISRAEL’S HUMANITARIAN RELIEF TO THEIR ENEMIES IN GAZA:

    • On Monday, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement noting that 3,129 tons of humanitarian aid  — including basic food commodities, medical supplies and medication — were transferred to the Gaza Strip. “This is the largest shipment of humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip since the military operation began,” the Israeli authorities noted. “The commodities were conveyed on 120 trucks and included supplies for the UNRWA, the World Food Programme, UNICEF…[and] goods for the private sector.”
    • Aid agencies in Gaza resume deliveries

    REPORT FROM GAZA BORDER: The Joshua Fund blesses Israelis in Sderot as Hamas fires 30 rockets

    In Uncategorized on January 9, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    "Bags of blessings" assembled for distribution in Sderot

    "Bags of blessings" assembled for distribution in Sderot

    Volunteers distributed toys and games to children in Sderot

    Volunteers distributed toys and games to children in Sderot

    Many of the children of Sderot have been evacuated, but those whose families have no money to leave the city being pummeled by Hamas rockets need our prayers and encouragement

    Many of the children of Sderot have been evacuated, but those whose families have no money to leave the city being pummeled by Hamas rockets need our prayers and encouragement

    Joshua Fund founder Joel Rosenberg on Gaza border on Saturday, January 9, 2009

    Joshua Fund founder Joel Rosenberg on Gaza border on Saturday, January 9, 2009 following an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas target in Gaza City.

    (Sderot, Israel) — Israeli warplanes continued to pound Hamas targets in Gaza today as Hamas fired 30 rockets at Israel. Three of those rockets hit the town of Sderot just before I arrived to participate in a relief project that The Joshua Fund helped finance. By the grace of God, no Israelis were killed as a result of any of the rocket attacks, though several were wounded. Separately, three Israeli soldiers died during fighting deep inside Gaza today.

    It was an incredible honor to work with several dozen Jews and evangelical Christians to bless the poor and needy and victims of war and terror just a kilometer or two from the Gaza border at any given moment. Together, we met at about 10:30am and assembled bags of hot meals (chicken, rice, and steamed vegetables, along with several loaves of bread); bags of dry food goods (such as milk, cooking oil, noodles, tunafish, and chocolate wafer cookies); and bags of toiletries (such hand soap, shampoo, body wash, toothbrushes, cleaning wipes, and facial tissues) for needy Israeli families, mostly elderly folks. We also assembled bags of toys, games, coloring books and trading cards for the children who remain in Sderot because their families don’t have enough money to evacuate them.

    Chatting with Eeki Elner, founder of the Israel Leadership Institute in Sderot, who organized this relief project

    Chatting with Eeki Elner, founder of the Israel Leadership Institute in Sderot, who organized this relief project

    Then, after a lengthy security briefing telling us what to do if we are caught in the middle of a missile strike, we fanned out across the town to deliver these “bags of  blessing” to lists of pre-selected families, all of whom live under the poverty level. Some were native Hebrew-speaking Israelis. Some were Ethiopian immigrants. Most were Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet republics. To say that those we met and delivered the food and supplies to were deeply grateful doesn’t even begin to capture the story. Some had tears in their eyes. Most were simply stunned that we had come as no one told them that they were going to be recipients today of such gifts. All of the elderly folks and families I had the privilege of visiting today eagerly invited my Jewish and evangelical colleagues into their flats. They wanted to sit and talk. They wanted to know why in the world we had come from all over Israel — and all over the world — to bless them. They also wanted to talk about what it’s like to live under a near-constant barrage of rockets, missiles and mortars. And we were eager to listen.

    A sample of some of the food that Joshua Fund helped purchase and distribute for needy families in Sderot

    A sample of some of the food that Joshua Fund helped purchase and distribute for needy families in Sderot

    All told, about 150 Israeli families in Sderot were blessed today. The project was organized by the Israel Leadership Institute which is run by Eeki Elner, a leadership trainer and social activist who lives in Sderot, and the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, which is run by Calev Myers, a partner in one of the leading law firms in Israel. Several organizations helped finance the project and provide volunteers. Last week, The Joshua Fund paid for all the hot meals that were distributed. This week, we paid for all of the bags of dry food goods that were distributed, all of which were purchased from a local supermarket to help bless the beleagured, war-torn economy.

    ** TO SEE MORE PICTURES from the Jan. 9 relief project that The Joshua Fund assisted with, please click here **

    ** To make a secure, tax deductible, on-line contribution to The Joshua Fund, or simply to learn more about The Joshua Fund, please click here **

    ** To join more than 80,000 people from around the world who have signed up for Flash Traffic emails with geopolitical updates, urgent prayer requests from the epicenter, and Joshua Fund project descriptions, please click here *

    LATEST HEADLINES TO TRACK:

      ROCKETS FIRED FROM LEBANON AT ISRAEL: Fears of a second front

      In Uncategorized on January 8, 2009 at 4:34 pm

      “Lebanese militants fired at least three rockets into Israel early Thursday, threatening to open a new front for the Jewish state as it pushed forward with a bloody offensive in the Gaza Strip that has killed nearly 700 people,” reports the Associated Press. “Two people were lightly injured, and the rockets that exploded in Israel’s north raised the specter of renewed hostilities with Hezbollah, just 2 1/2 years after Israel battled the guerrilla group to a 34-day stalemate. Hezbollah started the 2006 war as Israel was battling Palestinian militants in Gaza.”

      “One of the Lebanese rockets went through the roof of a retirement home in Nahariya, about five miles from the border, and exploded in the kitchen as some 25 residents were eating breakfast in the adjacent dining hall. One resident suffered a broken leg, another bruises, apparently from slipping on the floor after emergency sprinklers came on. ‘The rocket entered through the roof, hurling the water heaters into the air. It went through bedrooms upstairs and then into the kitchen. There was a serious blast,’ said Henry Carmelli, the home’s manager.”

      “Shortly after the first rockets fell around the town of Nahariya, five miles south of the Lebanese border, Lebanese TV stations reported Israeli mortar fire on open areas in southern Lebanon. The Israeli military confirmed it carried out “pinpoint fire” in response without elaborating. Israeli defense commentators said they expected the rocket fire to be a one-time show of solidarity with the Palestinians, not a declaration of war. Still, police said public bomb shelters throughout the north were opened.”

      DISPATCH FROM ISRAEL: WORLD PRESSURE MOUNTING ON ISRAEL TO STOP WAR AGAINST HAMAS

      In Uncategorized on January 7, 2009 at 4:30 am
      Secretary of State Condi Rice says the U.S. supports the Mubarak-Sarzoky cease fire plan

      Secretary of State Condi Rice says the U.S. supports the Mubarak-Sarzoky cease fire plan

      Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are pushing hard for an immediate ceasefire before Hamas is crushed

      Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are pushing hard for an immediate ceasefire before Hamas is crushed

      (SOUTHERN ISRAEL, Wednesday, January 7, 2009) — Forgive me for not writing for the past few days. I flew to Israel on Sunday and arrived Monday morning, joining several colleagues in southern Israel to assess the situation and help direct The Joshua Fund’s relief efforts. It’s been an intense 48 hours, and it’s currently 5:54am Wednesday morning Israel time. Allow me, therefore, to make a few brief observations, and I will write more later.

      • First and foremost, the situation is very intense here. Hamas has fired more than 500 rockets at innocent Israeli civilians over the past ten days or so. They are coming in at 40 to 50 rockets a day. More than 500,000 Israelis live within range of these instruments of terror, and many are traumatized by the fear of injury and death, not only for them but for their children as well.
      • Six Israeli soldiers have died in the fighting so far. Israelis throughout the country are mourning their loss, name by name, family by family. That said, Israelis are also overwhelmingly relieved that their government is finally taking strong action against Hamas after some 2 1/2 years of doing virtually nothing.
      • Some 1.5 million Palestinians who live on the Gaza Strip are being held hostage by Hamas. Hundreds are dead and thousands have been injured because of Hamas’ evil reign of terror that finally provoked an Israeli response. The latest example came Tuesday when Hamas fighters fired mortars at Israeli forces from a U.N. school. This forced Israel to bomb the school to suppress the attacks. In the end, some 42 Palestinians — including the terrorists — died, and more than 50 were injured.
      • Where is the world outrage against Hamas? The Palestinian people desperately want and need to be liberated from Hamas, and would privately welcome Israeli success against the terror leaders.
      • Rather than mounting pressure on Hamas to stop the rockets, international pressure is steadily and aggressively mounting on the Israeli government to agree to a temporary ceasefire before the Hamas leadership and terror infrastructure in Gaza are crushed. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday, teaming up to push for a ceasefire resolution they hope will end the fighting immediately. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice immediately said the U.S. supports the Mubarak-Sarkozy plan.
      • Hamas is increasingly desperate for a ceasefire. Its top leaders are being killed. Scores of its best trained fighters are being killed. Its arms depots and government buildings are being bombed to smithereens. So are its vital smuggling tunnels along the Egyptian border. Reports the Jerusalem Post: Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip said on Monday that the general feeling was that Hamas does not exist any longer as a governing body. ‘All their government institutions have been destroyed,’ said a Gaza City reporter. ‘The Hamas leaders are now behaving like al-Qaida’s Osama bin Laden and [his deputy] Ayman Zawahiri. Their only public appearances are through recorded messages aired on Arab TV stations.'”
      • Preciously for this reason, now is no time to let up on Hamas. Israel should absolutely refuse to agree to the Mubarak-Sarkozy plan. As currently drafted, the agreement does not even suggest — much less mandate — the creation of an international force to prevent Hamas from re-arming. Even if it did, why should Israelis believe such an international force would be effective? The U.N. force in southern Lebanon is doing absolutely nothing to prevent Hezbollah from re-arming. To the contrary, it is now believed that Hezbollah has more than 30,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel, far more than ever before.
      • The Israeli public has been duped by such international nonsense before, and thankfully they want no part of it. A new poll here by Channel 2 news finds that 81% of Israelis believe their government has done the right thing by sending ground forces into Gaza to stop the rockets and crush Hamas, and a stunning 60% of Israelis oppose talking to Hamas to obtain a cease-fire.
      • That’s certainly the sense I have after talking to Israelis here — they want victory and they define victory as the destruction of the Hamas military and political leadership and the liberation of southern Israel from the constant threat of Hamas rocket, missile and mortar fire. Anything less than the accomplishment of these goals, they tell me, would make the situation worse because it would effectively be a victory for Hamas a defeat for Israel. Israelis don’t want to see a single soldier of theirs die, but they believe now is the time to intensify the attack on Hamas, not let up.
      • Regardless of how the public feels, however, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his government may very well accept a temporary and premature ceasefire. They accepted a premature ceasefire in Lebanon in 2006, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak signalled from the earliest hours of this conflict he wanted a quick ceasefire. The next few days will be critical to see what kind of resolve the Olmert government has this time around.
      • In the meantime, I can report that The Joshua Fund continues working with Jewish and Christian allies on the ground here to care for Israelis caught in the crossfire. Two days ago, we were able to help evacuate a bus filled with more than 40 Israelis from the southern border town of Sderot. We have moved them out of the war zone, up to a more secure location in the North of Israel, and are paying for their lodging and meals while they are there. We are working around the clock on the logistics to move more Israeli families out of harm’s way. We are also helping several organizations prepare to deliver more food and relief supplies to elderly Israeli shut-ins in Sderot. I will have more to report on these efforts soon. If you would like to make an secure, on-line emergency contribution to The Joshua Fund to help us help care for Israelis in the war zone, please click here.
      • We are also actively seeking ways to provide humanitarian aid first to followers of Jesus Christ in Gaza, and then through the Christians to Muslim Palestinians living in fear and terror of the Hamas-triggered war. Thus far, however, it is not yet clear how to help. We are in direct contact with key Arab Christian leaders. But there are reports that Hamas fighters are stealing aid that non-Christian relief agencies have sent in. And the violence is so intense right now it is not safe for aid workers to take in new relief supplies.

      URGENT PRAYER REQUESTS:

      • First and foremost: Please keep praying for real and lasting safety and security for Israelis and Palestinians on both sides of the border, and peace for Jerusalem and all of the epicenter, that the war will not spread to the North and East. (Psalm 122:6)
      • Also, please pray for true justice to be done. Let’s ask the Lord to save the souls of all the Hamas leaders and fighters, just as He has saved the soul of the son of the Hamas leader. But at the same time, please be praying for the success of the Israeli Defense Forces to have success in crushing the Hamas terror infrastructure and liberating the Palestinian people. This is not the openly declared goal of the IDF, but this is my prayer. Remember: Hamas fighters have slaughtered Christians in Gaza. They blew up the Palestinian Bible Society book store in Gaza. They throw their enemies off of high rise apartment buildings. They steal money and relief supplies that are supposed to help suffering widows and orphans. They are cruel, evil people. Pray that the Israeli forces truly turn to the Lord God of Israel and seek His power, His strength, and His victory. “Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight with me….Let those be turned back and humiliated who devise evil against me.” (Psalm 34:1,4)
      • Please pray that not a single innocent Israeli or Palestinian civilian is killed from this point forward. “The Lord…is patient toward you,” wrote the Apostle Peter, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
      • Please pray for those who have been wounded on both sides, and for the family and friends of those who have been killed on both sides of the conflict. Pray that the Lord would bring them supernatural comfort and healing. Pray that they will turn to the God who said through the Prophet Isaiah, “the Lord has annointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bink up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners…to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion…the oil of gladness instead of mourning.” (Isaiah 61-3)
      • Please keep praying for real and lasting safety and security for Israelis and Palestinians on both sides of the border.
      • Please be praying for the success of the Israeli Defense Forces to have success in crushing Hamas and liberating the Palestinian people. This is not the openly declared goal of the IDF, but this is my prayer.
      • Please  pray that not a single innocent Israeli or Palestinian civilian is killed from this point forward.
      • Please pray for the Israeli and Palestinian pastors and their congregations to have wisdom to know best how to love their neighbors and love their enemies, as Jesus Christ commands — and pray that they can help those who are suffering on both sides discover God’s true and transformative love and plan for their lives.
      • Please pray for wisdom for The Joshua Fund leadership as we seek to care for Israeli families suffering in the war zone. Pray, too, that we can find ways to care for Palestinians, as our heart goes out to both sides.
      • Finally, please pray that we can recruit 100,000 partners ready, willing and able to pray with us for the people of the epicenter. Already, more than 80,000 people from around the world have signed up for Flash Traffic emails with geopolitical updates and prayer requests. I would really like to see us reach our goal of 100,000 such prayer partners by the end of January. If you would like to sign up for these free Flash Traffic email updates, please click here.
      • Thanks so much for your faithful prayers and generous financial support. I am hearing from many Israelis here who are so grateful for the unconditional love and unwavering support of true followers of Jesus from the U.S., Canada and all over the world via The Joshua Fund. May the Lord greatly bless you and your family for blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus.

      URGENT: PLEASE HELP THE JOSHUA FUND BLESS ISRAELIS IN THE WAR ZONE

      In Uncategorized on January 4, 2009 at 1:00 am

      Would you consider making an emergency donation to help The Joshua Fund care for Israelis in the war zone?
      Would you consider making an emergency donation to help The Joshua Fund care for Israelis in the war zone?

      MEDIA ALERT: January 4-11 is “Armageddon Week” on The History Channel. Joel was interviewed for this series and asked about Bible prophecies regarding the End Times. The producers say he will appear on Monday’s night’s broadcast at 9pm eastern in a special entitled, “Seven Signs of The Apocalypse.” The description of the program reads, “The Seven Signs are clear: We will be struck by deadly plagues, famines and earthquakes, the sky will turn dark and oceans will turn to blood, and the antichrist will emerge to fight the final battle between good and evil. Could this all be true? Experts decode this powerful prophecy and come to a startling conclusion: there is now scientific evidence that many of these catastrophes could, in fact, be occurring….To reveal the ultimate truth behind the prophecy, this investigation will turn to the past to reveal why the prophecy was written, and why it keeps such a powerful hold on our imagination today. Please click here for more details.

      UPDATED: The Joshua Fund is moving quickly to bless Israeli caught in the crossfire of this escalating war between Israel and Hamas.

      On Friday, TJF helped fund a project to care for 150 elderly Israeli Jews trapped in the city of Sderot, right on the border with Gaza, which is receiving a seemingly never-ending barrage of rocket attacks. TJF paid for hot meals that were delivered personally by dozens of volunteers to these elderly shut-ins. [UPDATE: the meals included "fresh bread rolls; four different kinds of fresh salads; a rich dish of Mediterranean fish with a generous amount of baked potatoes; and a choice of roasted chicken/beef casserole with rice."] The project was organized and run by Eeki Elner and Calev Myers, co-founders of AFFI, the Alliance for the Future of Israel. Several other allies provided logistical assistance as well.

      Here is an email we just received from Calev on how the project went:

      “We have just returned from the project in Sderot. It went very well. Eeki Elner…was able to bring between 50-60 volunteers from Tel-Aviv and the North. I brought about 11 volunteers from the Jerusalem Institute of Justice in Jerusalem. Eeki received from the Mayor of Sderot the names and address of about 150 elderly people in Sderot who can not leave their homes. Many of them suffer from health problems and all of them suffer from poverty. Through the generous donation of the Joshua Fund we were able to give a hot meal to each individual, together with a brand-new down blanket (provided by JIJ).

      “All of the volunteers split up into about 14 teams with a list of names and homes, and we were able to distribute all of the gifts within about 2.5 hours. The volunteers were instructed to enter peoples home and to take their time asking if everything is okay and trying to encourage the recipients as much as possible — to give them the feeling that they are not alone. This was a little challenging at times. Most of the recipients were Russian or Ethiopian new immigrants. Out of six homes that my team covered, we only found one Hebrew speaker. However we heard a lot of hearty ‘thank you’s’ in Russian and the tears and smiles on the faces of the recipients clearly expressed their appreciation regardless of language limitations.

      “As we were going from home to home it was hard to ignore the Israeli fighter jets flying over our heads and the artillery fire in the background. It is inconceivable to me what must be going through the mind of an elderly new immigrant who does not speak Hebrew, lives in abject poverty and listens all day to the sound of war about a mile from his/her house (not to mention the Kassam rockets which frequently fall in the vicinity).

      “Eeki was also able to procure a donation of tens of boxes of brand new educative toys and games, from a toys and games factory in Israel. After we finished the distribution to the elderly, each team of volunteers filled up their cars with educative games and toys and we went door to door asking if the homes had children, and distributing the games and toys to the ones that do. This really meant a lot to the recipients because the children of Sderot do not have school due to the war, and the kids need to need to interesting games, etc, to occupy them (as they try to ignore the bombings and gunfire which they hear throughout the day).

      “We want to thank you so much for helping us bring a ray of light and encouragement into the darkness and fear of the residents of Sderot today.”

      Please pray for all of these elderly shut-ins, as well as all of the people of Sderot, that the Lord would protect them as rockets keep raining down on their homes and communities.

      Meanwhile, I just got off the phone with John Moser, our executive director, just a few hours ago. I gave him authorization to fund another project to care for Israelis in the war zone. The Joshua Fund, working closely with our Jewish allies on the ground, will begin helping Israeli families who live near the border of Gaza to move out of their homes and to a safer city for the next week or so. We are paying for the buses, the accommodations and the food for these families. Lord willing, these families will start moving out of harm’s way within the next 24 hours. I will update you as soon as I possibly can.

      Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” The Lord commanded us to love our neighbors. He commanded us to bless the people of Israel in real and practical ways, including to feed those who have no food. We are seeking to obey in the power of the Holy Spirit.

      I have also spent this afternoon praying with an Arab ministry leader, discussing how we can especially help Palestinian followers of Jesus trapped in Gaza. An estimated 400-plus Palestinians have died in the conflict so far, and more than 2,000 are believed to be injured. That said, it is not yet clear how outsiders can help yet given how tightly Hamas controls the situation and how violent the situation is at the moment. For now, we will keep assisting Jewish Israelis since we have clear access to them. When an opportunity presents itself to bless our brothers and sisters in Gaza, we will move as the Lord leads us. Let us not forget: God loves both the Israelis and the Palestinians and He does not wish for any of them to perish.

      * Please continue praying for real peace — not just the absence of conflict but the presence of true justice and true security on both sides of the fence.

      * Please also continue praying for the scores of children on both sides who are being traumatized by all the rockets and bombs — pray for the Lord to comfort and care for them in a supernatural way.

      * Please pray for the followers of Jesus in Israel and Gaza, that they will have courage and hope from the Lord, that they will hear from the Holy Spirit how best to love their neighbors and their enemies, and that by their words and actions they can communicate the good news of God’s great love and plan for Israel and her neighbors.

      * Please continue praying for wisdom and discernment for The Joshua Fund leadership team, as well. We are in contact with our allies on the ground in Israel and moving relief supplies to help them care for those in severe need. Please also pray that we find the right opportunities to get humanitarian relief supplies to Palestinians in harm’s way.

      * Please also pray that we can recruit 100,000 allies who are willing to pray knowledgeably, faithfully and consistently for the people of the epicenter. Already some 80,000 have signed up from around the world. To sign up to receive Flash Traffic geopolitical updates and prayer requests by email, please click here.

      * Please also pray about helping us financially as this war escalates.

      As always, we will do our best to keep you up-to-date on the kinds of projects we are doing, and brief you on how those projects are proceeding. We will also let you know about the kinds of projects we are developing for the future. In no way do we want to pressure anyone to give financially. We fully believe the Lord will provide for the needs of the people we seek to serve. But if you or others wish to help, we welcome your support, and all financial gifts are tax-deductible. If you would like to make a secure, emergency contribution to the on-going work of The Joshua Fund on-line, please click here.

      Or, please make your check payable to “The Joshua Fund” and send to:

      The Joshua Fund
      18950 Base Camp Road
      Monument, Colorado 80132-8009

      Thanks so much and may the Lord richly bless you and your family as you bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus — especially at critical moment in history of the epicenter.

      ——————

      HEADLINES TO TRACK:

      * Fox News Channel airs one hour special on Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of Hamas leader who has renounced Islam and become a follower of Jesus Christ

      * Ground forces sweep into northern Gaza

      * Hezbollah urges Hamas to ‘kill as many Israeli soldiers as they can’ during Gaza op

      * Israel on high alert for possible Hezbollah attacks in North

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