On this eve of the traditional Jewish New Year, there is a ray of hope among Israelis. It has been a year of massive spiritual conflict, but the progress of the kingdom of God has been much greater. It has taught us a lesson, that when times are difficult, we need to keep the faith and keep going.
1. Abu Mazen instead of Arafat – One of the great improvements this year was that Arafat passed away. Even the Palestinians seemed to have forgotten his existence in less than 12 months. Abu Mazen has aspirations for Palestinian nationalism just like Arafat, and is even more devout as a Muslim than Arafat. However, unlike Arafat, Abu Mazen seems to be an honest person. He is against terror. He has the best interests of his people in mind. That is a big improvement.
2. Economy – Two years ago, the Israeli economy was on the verge of collapse, and seemingly without hope. Benjamin Netanyahu took the office of the Treasury and began stringent reforms. The leftists and socialists went hysterical in their complaints against him and his policies, but Netanyahu’s reforms have stabilized the country, and the economy is on the upswing again.
3. Disengagement – Despite the hysterical complaints of the ultra-Orthodox right wing (and unfortunately some Messianic Jews and Christian Zionists), the Disengagement went through much more smoothly than predicted. (There’s another spiritual lesson – don’t listen to all the “noise.” If the devil really wants to attack you, he’s going to try to keep it a secret. When the forces of evil start making a lot of noise, there’s a good chance it’s a bluff to scare you away.) Even the “rebellion” within the Likud party dwindled, and last week Sharon won a crucial vote seemingly impossibly, which reinstated his leadership within the party. The Israeli society is starting on a new period of healing, stability, and unity.
4. Terrorism – The first fruits of the Disengagement have come this week. Last week Hamas fired 20 Kasam rockets toward the Israeli town of Sederot. Israel responded by saying that the situation is now different. We are not an occupying force among your people. You have responsibility for your actions. We will not tolerate terror against us now. The Israeli army launched a large aerial and artillery attack on Gaza, called “First Rain” (hinting that if they didn’t stop the attacks, the Israel army would continue to bomb them). Amazingly enough, this bombing had the right effect, and the Palestinians on the street in Gaza blamed Hamas for provoking Israel. This is the first time in years that the Hamas has lost ground in popular support on the streets of Gaza. They finally gave in and agreed to stop attacks against Israel.
5. Palestinian Authority – For the first time as well, the PA in Gaza has started taking responsibility. They ordered Hamas and Jihad to stop military parades and any bearing of arms in public. Abu Mazen issued a statement that they should be “one people, one militia.” Whether he can enforce that or not remains to be seen, but it is the right idea. The first major confrontation occurred last night. Here is what happened:
The PA set up standard roadblocks to check for those bearing arms illegally. On Al-Naatsar street in Gaza City, they stopped a car bearing Muhammed Rentisi, son of the Hamas leader whom Israel executed last year. Rentisi refused to let the PA police search his car. An argument broke out. One of the Hamas terrorists with Rentisi threw a grenade at the PA police. Two policemen were injured. The police returned fire. Both sides called for reinforcements, and a street battle continued into the night.
In another location, at the Sheikh Reduan neighborhood in Shaati, Hamas forces attacked the Palestinian police station with rifles and RPG rockets. Shaati police chief, Ali Mecavy was killed in the attack. Dozens of injured arrived at local Gaza hospitals, some in serious condition. PA internal security condemned the “criminal actions” of Hamas. Hamas responded by saying that the PA police were acting in “cooperation with Israel and the United States” (Allah forbid!).
While we do not rejoice at the violence, it is a good sign that the PA is taking a step at confronting the Hamas terrorists with police force, and that the situation has changed from a conflict between Israel and Gaza, to a conflict within the Palestinians for law and order among their own people. Granted this is only the first time an action has been taken, yet it is a step in the right direction, and a fruit of the Israeli government’s courageous policy. Sharon and Abu Mazen even exchanged season’s greetings today by telephone, and agreed to meet soon for talks on further steps for peace.
6. Terrorist Warning in Sinai – During this vacation time, thousands of Israeli’s normally head to the Sinai desert in Egypt bordering Israel for “fun in the sun” on the beaches. There are always warnings from the Israeli government that it is not safe to go, which are totally ignored by Israeli vacationers. This time however there was direct intelligence information of an Al Quaida related terrorist group seeking to kidnap an Israeli tourist this week. The government issued a very strong warning, and for the first time, most Israelis listened, and the number who crossed the border into Egypt dropped to almost nothing. This is likely to cause a response from the Egyptian government, which, although they have no love for Israelis, certainly do not want to lower our tourist money they receive.
7. Persecution in Arad – While the persecution from the ultra-Orthodox Gur sect against the small group of Messianic Jews in Arad has continued; the situation is starting to change. (By the way, a team of our students went down to visit them this week for encouragement and to help them repair damages at the chess club that had been attacked). The sense is that the large majority of the secular population (mostly Russian immigrants) is turning in their hearts more in defense of the believers than against. The police took a small step at defending the Messianics for the first time. Some positive contact with judges and Knesset members has been made. Yet another spiritual lesson: As terrible as persecution is, it provides an opening for sharing the testimony of the Lord’s grace more effectively than any organizational technique ever could.
8. Personal Evangelism – Again, despite all the spiritual attacks, believers in this country continue to share their faith with family and friends as never before. It’s getting to the point where almost every extended Israeli family has a Messianic believer somewhere among the near or distant relatives. Please pray for this holiday as many will be sharing the time with their family. May our people come to know eternal life through the only true Messiah – Yeshua. Our team has three different outreaches planned for this holiday season.
9. Ministry Finances – We have completed reorganized our ministry finances for greater integrity and efficiency. This month we finished right on target with our new budget definitions: 1/3 goes to ministry staff and discipleship students; 1/3 to overhead costs and ministry projects, and 1/3 goes to giving – to the needy and to help other ministries serving in key breakthrough areas which do not have financing. Thank you so much for your faithful support of this work. We do not take your support for granted, but receive it in love as a holy offering bought with your “blood, sweat, and tears,” and prayer.
Blessings to you in this special season!!!
Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.
He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.
Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.