The past week has had its ups and downs and despite threats from our neighbors, real and imagined, we're still here and remain a testimony to God's faithfulness to His promises. There were even some surprises, like rain. Then again, there were expected events like Nakba Day and even an escalation of activities on the Golan Heights.
Rain, glorious rain.
Last night, the 14th of May, the beginning of the Feast of Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks), God sent forth rain. The rain continued this morning with an outpouring, the likes of which I can't remember seeing here this late in the Spring. It caught most of the weather forecasters by surprise, which is nothing new. Rain always comes as a blessing to this "dry and weary land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1).
After many days of warm, hot and hotter weather, the rain cleansed the trees of dust, allowing the beauty of the green leaves to glisten. The streets were cleaned (at least in Haifa, which is built on Mt.Carmel), as water cascaded down the mountainside. It is cool and very refreshing.
Shavuot is a national holiday. Government offices, banks, schools and most businesses are closed. Those that usually remain open are restaurants, national parks and many places that cater particularly to tourists. If there is a "downside" to the rain, it would be that it put a damper on a lot of Shavuot celebrations that were planned as outdoor events. Still, it is a time for families to be together, whether indoors or outside.
For those within the Bible-believing community, this Feast is commonly referred to as the Day of Pentecost - it being the completion of seven full weeks after Passover (see Lev. 23:16 - "You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD" - my emphasis). It is the time when the Holy Spirit was received (see Acts 2:1 and following). The world hasn't been the same since then. The next prophetic Feast will be the Feast of Trumpets, which will take place after the summer. Let's keep our ears attuned to the sound of the great Shofar (Lev. 23:24)..
Hizb'allah says Damascus will supply it with "game-changing" weapons.
Just the caption is enough to send chills down our national spine. Hassan Nasrallah, the General Secretary of the Lebanese terrorist organization, Hizb'allah, said this past Thursday: "Syriawill give the resistance special weapons it never had before...We mean game-changing." Nasrallah, who rarely appears in public, for fear of being targeted byIsrael, made his comments in a televised speech marking the 25th anniversary of the Hizb'allah's radio station.
He added that the Hizb'allah expects to receive strategic weapons fromSyriain response to the recent Israeli air strikes and claimed that this was more important than firing a rocket or carrying out an air strike againstIsrael. Nasrallah previously boasted that it has missiles capable of striking anywhere inIsrael, even as far as the southernmost resort city ofEilat.
Israel has acknowledged that the Hizb'allah has tens of thousands of mostly unguided missiles. The weapons shipments that were destroyed a week ago included precision-guided missiles. If it turns out that Nasrallah's words are more than just prideful boasting, and Syria makes a concerted effort to transfer strategic weapons to the Hizb'allah, such a situation could easily draw Israel into the midst of Syria's civil war, as Jerusalem has indicated on many occasions that it will not allow such transfers to occur.
On the other hand,Iran and its progeny, the Hizb'allah, are making considerable efforts to assist Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, in Syria's civil war, by supplying both troops and military advisers. Nasrallah went on to say: "We in the Lebanese resistance declare that we stand by the Syrian popular resistance and give our material and moral support, and cooperate and coordinate in order to liberate the Syrian Golan", the reference being, of course, to Israel's capture of the Golan Heights from Syria.
Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, when asked to respond to Nasrallah's comments, said: "We don't respond to words. We respond to action." Need I say more?
Speaking of responding to action...
I am always mindful of the Biblical admonition "Let another praise you and not your own mouth" (Prov. 27:2), particularly when it comes to national accomplishments and most definitely when it comes to military achievements. Yet, with this wise counsel in the forefront of my mind, the following is being mentioned here to remember to uphold in prayer the decision-makers in Israel and, particularly, the hearts, minds and arms of those who protect this nation in the face of threats from our enemies on the ground, in the sea and in the air.
Over the years,Israelhas invested heavily in its Air Force and in sophisticated missile systems. This investment has reaped countless dividends in defense, both at home and abroad. A classic example of this occurred during the early days of the Yom Kippur War, in 1973. Notwithstanding heavy early losses, on the fourth day of that war, 7 Israeli Air Force pilots successfully made their way to the heart of Damascus and struck, with devastating precision, the Syrian general staff headquarters, as well as the upper floors of the air force command center.
At the time of the attack,Syria was holding five Israeli pilots as prisoners of war in the basement of the command center. When those pilots were returned to Israel, they related how the Syrians fully believed that Israel knew exactly where the POWs were being held, so they avoided bombing the lower floors.
The message then, as it is now, as demonstrated by very recent events against weapons factories and shipments in Syria is clear:Israel's Air Force was and is able to reach anywhere. That message was repeated during the First Lebanon War in 1982, when 87 Syrian jets were destroyed, while all Israeli jets returned home safely. It has been repeated many times since then, including pin-point bombing last year during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, as well as only a week and a half ago.
As a result of Israel's clear superiority in the air, Syria opted years ago to improve its defense systems on the ground. As a result, it invested very heavily in ground-to-ground and surface-to-air missile systems, including, under the Assad regime, the finest Russian-made, precision-guided SA-17 missiles, which have long-range capability. These missiles are specifically intended to limit the IDF's maneuverability in Syrian airspace, as well as over Lebanon, where some of these anti-aircraft missile systems were headed (for the Hizb'allah) when the convoys transporting them were destroyed.
What does this mean for us at this time? Obviously, from a strategic, military perspective,Israel can strike anywhere, despite the existence of a considerable number of sophisticated, surface-to-air missile defense systems. The risks are definitely present, but Israel's need to overcome those risks is even greater. As one senior defense-industry source stated: "The decision by the IDF -- and, particularly, the IAF -- to equip itself with the most advanced systems has prompted us to create here inIsrael technology that even our best friends won't sell us." A senior IDF officer added to this, saying: "TodayIsrael has the ability to hit thousands of targets in a day...The combination of intelligence and firepower gives us an ability that is almost unfathomable."
With the above in mind, we should consider the ramifications of the two air strikes that took place in recent days, which, according to foreign news sources, stopped convoys carrying Fateh-110 ground-to-ground missiles, intended for the Hizb'allah, as well as destroyed weapons and munitions caches maintained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Syrian soil. Is Iranpaying attention? Probably not!
To attack Iran or not to attack Iran - a decision by the beginning of 2014.
Syria and the Hizb'allah crossed Israel's "red line". Action was taken. Now, according to MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), who is a former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs Defense Committee and a close confidant to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "We are close to the moment where the central players will need to make a decision...We are getting closer and closer to the point of no return where Iran will have enough enriched uranium to produce the bomb. The debate over whether or not they've already crossed the red line is not very important because decisions should be made this year, no later than the beginning of 2014."
While speaking at an annual conference hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Hanegbi reminded the audience that despite the imposition of severe sanctions upon Iran by the international community during the past two years, there is "no sign that the economic hardships are translating into a diplomatic change for the Iranian regime." According to a report in the Wall Street Journal of May 6th, the U.S.and Israel agreed to reassess the economic sanctions imposed on Iran after the elections that are scheduled to be held inIran in June. If it is determined that the diplomatic track is not progressing, the two countries will shift their focus to military options.
However, given the reticence of the U.S.to make a commitment regarding taking action against Iran, it would not appear that it would shift its emphasis from political efforts to military efforts right after the Iranian elections. Hanegbi, however, does not hold out much hope for a change in Iran's thinking or behavior following the elections. As he stated: "Some analysts believe that the identity of the next Iranian president will influence their nuclear policy. I believe that this is naive. In Iran, strategy is determined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. And he is not going anywhere on June 14 [the date of the Iranian presidential elections]. Khamenei has had many opportunities to reach a reasonable settlement.
Up until now there is no indication that Iran is considering any compromise. The Iranian resolve to attain the ultimate weapon of mass destruction has not been curtailed...If the only options left on the table are containment or use of force, should Israel place its fate in the hands of the United States? Can Israel be assured that its closest ally will act in due time to remove the nuclear threat? My answer is no. Such assurance can be given by no president and can be demanded by no prime minister.Israel does not and should not expect such a commitment.Israel's bond with theUnited States is unbreakable.
The threat posed to our nations by a nuclear Iran is mutual, but at the end of the day we are each beholden to our own national security policies and priorities". He added that Israel's future cannot be dependent on others, "even not our best allies...We wouldn't be able to survive without the money, help and military assistance, without the backing at the U.N., without the planes and the bombs and the tanks and everything that we get [from America]. But still, we don't want anyone to spill his blood for us. If we will have to confront Iran it should be our mission and our responsibility."
We can get a fair idea of the perspective of the U.S.from what was mentioned by Secretary of Defense Hagel, who spoke at the same conference. He emphasized that the common challenges that face the U.S.and the nations in the Middle East must be met through the force of coalitions of common interests, which include Israel and the other allies of the U.S.in the region. Hagel noted that America’s Middle East strategy is founded on and framed around its commitment to Israel. He added that the best way to meet those challenges is to deal with them politically, not militarily, and he saw America's role as that of influencing and shaping events through diplomatic, economic, humanitarian and other, non-military means. So much for getting "a little help from our friends".
Tzachi Hanegbi is right.Israel cannot, and should not, rely on other governments for help. It certainly should not place reliance on the U.S., despite the close relationship that both countries have with one another. The U.S.has "lost face" in many countries, particularly in so-called "friendly Arab countries", for failure to act decisively with Iran and for failure to intervene the Syrian arena to stop the slaughter of tens of thousands of citizens. It's not that the U.S.has lost its power, or its ability, to act. Rather, it appears that it has lost its desire to become embroiled in more military action far from American soil.
The U.S., under President George W. Bush, set a "red line" for Iran that would not allow Iran to develop enriched uranium. President Obama moved that "red line" to not allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. In light of North Korea's thumbing its now-nuclear nose at the world,Iran has no intention of being less brazen and is pursuing its nuclear ambitions, while the rest of the world waits for theU.S.to take the lead in stopping Iran, which, up to this point has not happened. All talk, no action, lends for lack of credibility. That, in turn, leads to embarrassment and "loss of face", which in this part of the world would be interpreted as weakness and could lead to disaster.
If America wants to return to a policy of isolationism, it is free to do so ... until it is forced to act, at which time it may be too late. Israel doesn't have that luxury and should not expect that countries, even close friends, will come to our aid. The worldly reality for Israel is just the opposite. "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes [or kings or presidents] (Psalm 118:9) "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forever." (Psalm 125:2)
The new Finance Minister faces reality - the public is not happy.
Yair Lapid, the head of Yesh Atid, the second largest political party in the Knesset, was given the position of Finance Minister. He would have preferred being the Foreign Minister, a position much more glorious than that of trying to balance the budget or cancel the national debt. So, when Lapid revealed his financial program, which included proposed spending cuts and increased taxes, he drew fire from almost every segment of the population.
It's not as though the public doesn't understand the need for austerity measures. It does. But, to cut spending in essential areas, while at the same time increasing taxes, which would mostly impact the "middle class" is too much. Public opinion polls show that Lapid's popularity among his own electorate dropped over 50% after he announced his financial measures. He promised not to add to the financial burdens of the "middle class", which is already shouldering most of the financial burdens and responsibilities of this country.
So, it didn't take long before a new "social protest" movement got its gears moving and called for mass street demonstrations similar to the protests that took place during the summer of 2011. As a result, when Shabbat ended last Saturday, over 10,000 protesters took to the streets in Tel-Aviv, with hundreds more joining in different cities. The numbers were very small compared to the over 400,000 people who joined the demonstrations almost two years ago. But, it's still early in the season. The weather will get warmer. People will become hotter under the collar and the protests will, in all likelihood increase.
Where will this leave Mr. Lapid, whose actions now are in opposition to the pre-election promises that he made? He has to accuse his own electorate of not understanding that he is acting for their benefit and that it may be a little tough now, but it will get better later. What he fails to understand is that making it a little tougher for those who are not making it now can mean having to choose between putting food on the table or paying the electric bill or defaulting in a half dozen different areas.
They could, before long, be added to that portion of the population who need government assistance, but won't be able to get it because of the proposed cuts in spending. Maybe the cuts should start with a 35% decrease in the salaries of Knesset Members, along with removing their cars paid for by the taxpayer, their telephone and travel allowance- just for starters. It may hurt a little now, but they'll get used to it after a while.
Jerusalem Day - 2013
On Wednesday, May 8th,Israel celebrated Jerusalem Day - Yom Yerushalayim. It is a day commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli control on June 7, 1967, the second day of the Six-Day War. It was the also the first time that Jerusalem came under Jewish control since the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D.
In 1947, the year before the establishment of the State of Israel, the relatively new United Nations proposed that the area that was under the British Mandate for Palestineshould be divided (partitioned) to establish two separate states - a Jewish state and an Arab state. the proposal included that Jerusalem would become an international city for 10 years, following which the residents of Jerusalem would decide by public referendum which country to join. As we all know, the leadership of the Jewish community accepted the proposal, while the Arabs rejected it.
The following year, 1948,Israel declared independence and was attacked by its Arab neighbors. When the War of Independence ended,Jerusalem was divided, with Jordan being in control of East Jerusalem and the OldCity. Jewish residents were forced out and Jordand estroyed and/or plundered dozens of synagogues and cemeteries in the Old City and on the Mount of Olives.
Two wars later, on June 7, 1967.Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem. Later that same day, the then Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, announced: "This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour - and with added emphasis at this hour - our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights.
We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other people's holy places and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity." The day is celebrated as a holiday on the Hebrew date when the city of Jerusalem was reunited, the 28th day of Iyar. On March 23, 1998, the day became a national holiday with the passage of the Jerusalem Day Law.
The office of President Shimon Peres issued an official statement in connection with Jerusalem Day. The communication appears below.
(Communicated by the Office of the President)
In light of the recent events on the Temple Mount and the meeting of the Jordanian parliament which voted to expel the Israeli ambassador from Jordan and recall the Jordanian ambassador from Israel, President Simon Peres, today (Wednesday, 8 May 2013), sent a message to the leadership of Jordan.
At a speech at the state ceremony to mark the unification of Jerusalem and in memory of the soldiers who fell in the battle for the city, President Peres stressed Israel's commitment to the agreements between the two countries:
"Jerusalem is dear to us. Peace with Jordan is dear to us. I want to say loudly and clearly that we respect all the holy sites of all religions and will do everything necessary to protect them as agreed between us. The peace agreement between us was the aspiration of the soldiers who fought here. The peace that was agreed between us is the dream of all Jews, Muslims and Christians as one. The whole world knows that when we heard voices of peace from Jordan and Egypt we did not delay, we did not hesitate and we stretched out our hand in peace."
President Peres continued and addressed the importance of peace and of Jerusalem for all three monotheistic religions:
"Jerusalem has mosques and churches,Israel protects and will protect them all.Israel will protect all ofJerusalem, old and new, friends and strangers.Israel will protect their freedom and security. You can hear the same prayer from the Western Wall, from the mosques and from the churches for peace in our ancient, holy city. Peace between countries. Peace between religions. Peace between nations. Our ears are open to peace. We know that our army can protect us from any threat and no threat will weaken our desire for peace."
It really would be a speech worth listening to, if he stops boasting in the arm of the flesh.
Today, 65 years ago according to the Gregorian calendar,Israel established independence. The Arabs refer to this day as the day of "catastrophe" or Nakba Day. And they usually mark it by violent demonstrations and clashes with Israeli forces. Today was no different.
At exactly 12:00 noon, a siren was sounded in "Palestinian" towns and villages for 65 seconds, one second for every year ofIsrael's existence. As expected, clashes and stone throwing took place thereafter between "Palestinian" youths and the IDF in different locations in Judea and Samaria. Some members of the IDF were slightly injured from the rocks.
In Ramallah, hundreds of demonstrators went from the grave of Yasser Arafat to the city square, where "Palestinian" President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) delivered a televised speech. He said that, as expected, that "Palestinians" will not compromise their right to a sovereign state in areas under Israeli control since 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital and that they will continue to fight for a "just solution" for "Palestinian" refugees. In other words, they want all those who voluntarily left Israel before the War of Independence, and their descendants, to be able to return here. Amazing: he claims non-existent rights to establish a state for a people who never existed.
A watchful eye on the Golan Heights
As the situation in Syria becomes more problematic, there are more and more incidents of "accidental" firing of projectiles into Israeli territory. Two mortar shells landed on our side of the Golan Heights this morning in the area of Mount Hermon. While the IDF believes that the shells were a spill over from the fighting between rebel forces and those of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it nevertheless, closed off Mount Hermon to visitors and filed a complaint with the UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observation Force). It seems that if they observe at all, there's nothing that they do about what they see. They certainly are a non-engagement force.
President Peres and the Pope
I wanted to relate to this topic, but it is turning out to be a much larger subject than I had originally intended. So, I'll need to streamline it a bit before including it. Hopefully next time.
And That was The Week That Was.
"Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham." (Genesis 26:3) "Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God".(Psalm 90:1-2)
May the rest of your week be blessed.