The unofficial state of war spreads as Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza continue to strike Israeli cities, hitting Jewish civilians (and occasionally Arab citizens of Israel). These jihadi rocket attacks are shot from launchers deliberately positioned by Hamas among Gaza’s civilian population – a war crime by legal and ethical definitions. Thursady 192 rockets were fired by both Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Some were even co-fired by the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah commandos. Of these, 44 were intercepted by the Iron Dome rocket defenses. Friday morning three rockets were fired from within Lebanon into Israel by an independent as-yet-unnamed jihadi group there.
How are the hostilities developing? What seem to be the next steps? What guidance can the Scriptures gives us regarding understanding and prayer?
Extending the range, looking for breakthroughs
Hamas continues to fire barrages of longer-range rockets at Israeli cities. Their rockets have for the most part been exploded out of the skies by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-ballistic defense, with debris raining down over cities and towns.
- In Beersheva rockets exploded in a school gymnasium, and demolished a private home.
- In Ashdod one home was totally destroyed, and one person was severely injured when a gas station was struck head-on.
- Mitzpeh Ramon, Sderot, Netivot, Ashkelon, Rishon l’Tziyon and the Carmel coastal plain near Haifa saw rocket fire
- In Ramle one person was injured by shrapnel at an open-air market
- In Be’er Tuvia ten cows were killed by a direct hit
- Tel Aviv saw a handful of attacks, including rocket fuselage landing in Florentine area
- A handful of rockets were targeted at the Dimona nuclear research center
- Air-raid sirens wailed at Arad (where Moses and Joshua battled the Canaanites) and Ein Gedi (where King David once encountered King Saul in a cave).
Friday Hamas rockets targeted Israel’s main Ben-Gurion Airport, causing temporary diversions in flight patterns. In the late 1970’s and 1980’s voices with foresight (including Benjamin Netanyahu) warned that allowing Palestinians their own unsupervised territory would lead to rocket attacks on Ben-Gurion Airport. We are now seeing the fulfillment of those dire warnings.
Two Israeli Beduin town in the Negev (Aro’er and Laqiya) were also struck by Hamas rockets.
A complete list of rocket attacks since hostilities began can be found on Wikipedia.
Hamas is attempting to find chinks in the armor of Iron Dome. They are firing multiple barrages of rockets in efforts to overwhelm the system’s technical limitations. In at least two cases yesterday jihadi rockets were able to evade the anti-rocket umbrella and strike targets.
Thursday Rachel and I were in Jerusalem overlooking the Temple Mount when air-raid sirens went off. Two rockets were intercepted. We watched as Muslims on the Temple Mount immediately began shouting for joy and shooting off fireworks in celebration.
“And the word of YHVH came to me saying, “Son of man, set your face toward the sons of Ammon and prophesy against them, and say to the sons of Ammon, ‘Hear the word of YHVH God! Thus says YHVH God…Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the scorn of your soul against the land of Israel, therefore, behold, I have stretched out My hand against you and I will give you for spoil to the nations. And I will cut you off from the peoples and make you perish from the lands; I will destroy you. Thus you will know that I am YHVH” (Ezekiel 25).
“All you valiant warriors” (Joshua 1:14)
Preparations intensify for a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. A 24/7 stream of Pumas (Israeli armored personnel carriers) and Merkava IV tanks flows down the highways from Judean desert bases to staging points directly across from Gaza. The first responsibility of a country is to defend its citizens from murderous enemies, and this is what the IDF is doing. A concise explanation of the military situation by one of Israel’s top military commentators, Ron Ben Yishai, is worth reading.
Israeli Military Intelligence officers have been calling the homes of Gazans living along the tense ‘border’ with Israel, telling them that it would be wise to move out of the way immediately in order to preserve their lives. Hamas on the other hand has forbidden Gazan Arabs from leaving their homes, even if it is simply to get out of harm’s way during invasion.
Last night Israeli radio announced that the military cabinet has taken two steps which are commonly understood to indicate that war is imminent. Emergency economic regimens and emergency medical frameworks were set in place.
“When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before YHVH your God, and be saved from your enemies” (Numbers 9:10)
Pray for IDF soldiers and their leaders as the battlefield rushes closer. Pray for physical preservation, discernment from the Lord of the battle (Psalm 144:1), minimal loss of life, and success on the field.
Painting the roses green
The world’s media and much of the world’s political leaders tend to place a fogging spin on military conflicts between Israel and her enemies.
The first tool in their arsenal that they reach for is describing the conflict in terms of moral equivalence. According to this viewpoint, one cannot state that Israel is right or that Hamas is wrong. They are both merely excitable and primitive Middle Easterners who resort to violence far too easily. The conflict cannot be solved by supporting Israel, but rather by forcing Israel to cease defensive military measure meant to protect Israeli citizens. And if Gazan casualties end up being greater than Israeli casualties, to them it proves that Israel is actually the aggressor and the one at fault. Therefore (they believe) Israel must be stopped as quickly as possible by threat of diplomatic sanctions or boycott.
This deceptive viewpoint ignores basic facts. Israeli casualties are less because Israel invests huge amounts in developing and operating cutting-edge civilian air defenses, as well as operating the most efficient air force and highly trained army in the Middle East. Gazan casualties are what they are because Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists deliberately use their own population centers as civilian shields as they fire into Israeli population centers.
The Israel Air Force (IAF) takes unusual pains to avoid civilian casualties, more than any other army. Here is a video clip from Gaza (from the Hebrew YNET site), which shows how the IAF ‘knocks on the roof’ of a terror home after warning the inhabitants by phone call to vacate the premises immediately. This is followed by a small rocket to one corner of the roof and then, after 60 seconds, the demolishing of the house.
British Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, has addressed this issue in world media and also at the UN quite lucidly. Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council he stated, “During its operation in Gaza (ed., 2009), the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare” (see video).
The world’s charges against Israel are not accurate, not factual and are ethically abhorrent. They are part of the propaganda arsenal being activated by Islamist forces in their ongoing warfare against the existence and survival of the Jewish people and state. Commentator Dennis Prager sums up this dynamic in a short and excellent video clip.
Pray for the inhabitants of Gaza who are being used as cannon fodder by Hamas. Pray for physical safety, for the sparing of life, for them to be in the right place at the right time, and for saving visitations of Yeshua.
Biblical points to chew on
Over the years some Christian pseudo-reconciliation groups are attempting to chill heartfelt intercession and support for Israel by categorizing the Biblical teaching about God’s love, covenants, prophetic promises and priorities for Israel as simply one of many man-made narratives. These groups draw a moral equivalence between those who believe in God’s restoration of the Jewish people to Israel, and those who deny and oppose it. See the following articles for more biblical discussion:
- True and False Reconcilation
- Tampering with Abraham’s Last Will and Testament
- Jews and Arabs, One Big Happy Abrahamic Family
A recent prayer letter by one such group describes the conflict in exactly these terms – biblically blasé and morally neutral. There is no right and wrong side. Everyone simply needs to kiss, pray and ask forgiveness – especially Israel! Yet many in these streams reveal their anti-Israel prejudice by continuing to press their churches and political leaders for boycott, divestment and sanctions activities against Israel. They show much in common with Sanballat, the biblical enemy of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:10; 6:1, 14).
Other Christian groups are trying to get Arabs and Jews together while studiously avoiding clear Biblical perspective on what the Bible says about Last Days’ dynamics between Arabs and Jews. How can one sit in the shadow of rocket attacks and sidestep discussing how jihadi Arabs are attempting to destroy Israel? There is only a short distance here to the slippery slope of the ‘moral equivalency dynamic.’ We must all press in more deeply to the word of God, leaving behind simplistic phrases like ‘there is pain on both sides’ or general calls for people ‘simply to get over’ these issues.
The Scriptures are clear that those who attempt to destroy Israel and claim her land for themselves are enemies of God Himself. According to Psalm 83, concerted efforts to weaken, cause damage, sow terror and destroy the Jewish state are simultaneously a cursing of the God of Israel and of His chosen people, the descendants of Jacob.
It is not Arabs per se who are the enemies in this above passage, nor is it Palestinians who are necessarily the enemies. It is those who are attempting to weaken and destroy the Jewish people and state who are God’s enemies.
Palestinians are not the enemies of God, unless they are also enemies of Israel.
Ezekiel 36 makes this crystal clear:
And you, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, “O mountains of Israel, hear the word of YHVH. Thus says YHVH God, Because the enemy has spoken against you, ‘Aha!’ and, ‘The everlasting heights have become our possession,’ therefore thus says YHVH God, Surely in the fire of My jealousy I have spoken against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, who appropriated My land for themselves as a possession with wholehearted joy and with scorn of soul, to drive it out for a prey” (Ezekiel 36:1-2, 5)
Based on Ezekiel’s Spirit-inspired prophecy, the stakes are quite high, and they are definitely not politically correct!
We have many Arab friends who are supporters, advocates, intercessors and even military warriors for the Jewish people and their state. We are honored to call them brothers, sisters and friends. They are our friends, friends of the Jewish people and friends of the Jewish state. May their tribe increase!
Pray for those believers who are deceived about these matters, who deny, dismiss or denigrate God’s abiding calling on Israel and gifts to her. Grant that they will receive a revelation that God’s narrative is the only real narrative, and that the restoration of Israel is His Last Days plumbline for the whole world, for all believers, and also for all Palestinian believers
God offends the mind to reveal the heart (Luke 2:34-35)
The God of the Bible might actually be unrecognizable to some believers today. Certain historical events and theological blinders have fallen upon the predominantly Gentile body of Messiah, to the point that clear Scriptural teaching regarding God’s nature (especially His warriorhood and vengeance) and His calling and love for Israel are ignored, dismissed, mocked or simply not seen. The events going on in Israel today are one of God’s ways to bring this blindness to the surface, His way of challenging us to recommit to Joshua’s ageless confession:
“Now, therefore, fear YHVH and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve YHVH.If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve YHVH, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve YHVH” (Joshua 24:14-15).