UPDATED: (Jerusalem, Israel) — Shalom from Jerusalem. Please keep both Israelis and Palestinians in your prayers today and all month. If there was ever a time to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, this would be it for we are in a unique moment in history.
The mood here among Israeli Jews is celebratory — festive, jubilant — as Washington formally moves her Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem today in official recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. The move was timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the modern rebirth of Israel. There are American flags everywhere. Israelis are so grateful for the friendship and alliance of the U.S. and are expressing this openly.
- Watch a replay of the Embassy dedication ceremony here.
- Read text of President Trump’s video address to those attending the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem
Most Palestinians, however — and particularly Palestinian Authority leaders — are furious with the move. President Mahmoud Abbas and P.A. officials have chosen to boycott all meetings with U.S. representatives for the foreseeable future. [UPDATE: Abbas blasts U.S. Embassy Move: An insult to the world and to the Palestinians.]
The latest rhetoric against Israel by Palestinian leaders and Iranian leaders is as dark as ever. Terrorist attacks against Israel are increasing. What’s more, some radical Islamist leaders are threatening all-out war against the Jewish State.
That said, it does not feel dangerous in Jerusalem or most population centers in Israel. Tens of thousands of police and security officials are on the streets of Jerusalem and deployed around the country. Most of the attacks are occurring on the southern border with Gaza, the northern border with Syria, and against Israeli settlers in Judea and Samaria (commonly known as the West Bank).
Tourism to Israel is at an all-time high — no tour groups go anywhere near dangerous areas. “An all-time record 3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017 — 25% more than in 2016,” reported Globes, a publication which tracks the Israeli economy. “The country from which the largest number of tourists to Israel come is the US — over 700,000 tourists — 21% more than in 2016.” In fact, tourism in 2018 is hitting record-highs, as well.
Lynn and I live in Jerusalem with our sons and we don’t feel worried. We remain on track for welcoming The Joshua Fund tour here in July, and hosting the Epicenter Prayer Summit. Indeed, I’ve also been speaking to numerous Evangelical tour groups that have been visiting here in recent months and everything has been safe and wonderful.
That said, here are the latest developments worth noting. These are among the many reasons we would be grateful for your faithful and ongoing prayers.
- At this hour, an estimated 50,000 Palestinians in Gaza are participating in a “Day of Rage” against Israel. Many are trying to tear down, burn down, or blow up the security fence that protects our southern border and to storm into Israel en masse.
- Reports in recent days said as many as 100,000 Palestinians were planning to participate. So far it hasn’t got that big — but the violence is real.
- “The IDF killed three [Palestinian] terrorists who tried to plant an explosive device in the Rafah area and attacked a Hamas post in the northern strip after shots were fired on soldiers,” reported Ynet News. As of 4pm Israel time, 37 Palestinians had been killed and hundreds more wounded trying to destroy the security fence and penetrate into Israel.
- UPDATE: As of 6pm local time, 43 Palestinians have reportedly been killed trying to penetrate Israel’s southern border fence with Gaza.
- UPDATE: As of 8pm local time, the Palestinian death toll has climbed to 52 people — and the Israeli Air Force struck Hamas targets in Gaza.
- UPDATE: As of 9am local time on Tuesday, the Palestinian death toll has climbed to 58 people.
- UPDATE: IDF calls Gaza riots “unprecedented,” insists it followed rules as dozens killed — “Army spokesman says Hamas sent 12 cells to breach border; adds that despite bribes and threats, it failed to bring out the masses it hoped; blames terror group for high death toll,” reports the Times of Israel.
- UPDATE: On Friday, “a group of some 200 Palestinians…set fire to the Gaza Strip’s only fuel terminal and a conveyor belt used for raw construction materials. Two conveyor belts which brought animal feed into Gaza were also wrecked, according to the deputy director of the crossing,” reported the Times of Israel. “According to assessments by Israeli and Palestinian engineers, it will take weeks to repair the damage to the pipelines, which brought diesel and gasoline into Gaza. There is no alternative. ‘There’s just no possibility [now] to bring fuel into Gaza,’ said the senior officer from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories liaison unit.”
- Since President Trump announced in December his intention to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in keeping with U.S. law (originally passed in 1995 and unanimously reaffirmed by the Senate in 2017), the number of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli soldiers and military sites has tripled.
- This month, Iran directly engaged Israel militarily for the first-time ever. The attack came just after Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the Mossad had stolen 100,000 top secret Iranian nuclear warhead documents, and President Trump formally announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the deeply flawed and dangerous nuclear deal with Iran. “Iranian forces fired 20 rockets at Israel Defense Forces positions in the Golan Heights on Wednesday night. Four of the rockets aimed toward Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system while the remaining rockets exploded on Syrian territory, the [Israeli] military said,” reported Haaretz. “The Iranian attack prompted the most extensive Israeli strike on Syria in decades; overnight, Israel openly attacked dozens of Iranian military and logistics targets in Syria.”
- Meanwhile, Ayman al-Zawahiri — the Egyptian-born head of Al Qaeda — has just made a new call for Muslims to wage “jihad” against Israel.
- UPDATE: Al-Qaida chief claims Tel Aviv is ‘Muslim land’
- And a top Shia religious cleric in Iran has just vowed that “Tel Aviv and Haifa will be totally destroyed” if Israel continues to behave “foolishly” (i.e., exist and defend herself), repeating yet again the kind of belligerent rhetoric that has characterized the Iranian regime for decades.
That’s where we are at the moment. I promise to keep you posted and encourage you to follow me on Twitter for the up-to-the-minute updates.
- To order a copy of The Kremlin Conspiracy — now available in hardcover, e-book and audio formats — please click here, or order from any of your favorite general market or Christian bookstores.
- To order copies of the new mass market paperbacks of the J.B. Collins novels — my most recent trilogy of novels about ISIS plotting attacks on the U.S., Israel, Jordan and Egypt — please click here.
- Learn all about The Joshua Fund’s Holy Land tour in July and the 2018 Epicenter Prayer Summit in Jerusalem — only about 20 seats left — come meet Israelis and Palestinians and pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the region!
- Would you like to make a secure, tax deductible investment in The Joshua Fund (www.joshuafund.com)? This is the non-profit organization that my wife, Lynn, and I founded in 2006 to educate and mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, to care for the poor and needy in Israel (both Jews and Arabs) with food and other humanitarian relief, care for Holocaust survivors, care for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and strengthen the Church in the epicenter. The Joshua Fund is a member in good standing of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Please click here to learn more. Thanks so much!