Normally we would have been at our service this past Shabbat morning with all the others from Nachalat Yeshua/Yeshua's Inheritance, but, due to the once again conflict with a terror group in Gaza (this time the Islamic Jihad), Beer Sheva is within the 40 km range within which the Home Front Command has restricted gatherings. We do not have a bomb shelter on the premises for our service, and even if we did, it would need to be large enough for more than 100 people. Indoor gatherings up to 100 persons are permissible, if there is a bomb shelter. The risk is not only while we are assembled during the service, but also for the going out and the coming in of the people to and from the property.
Although Beer Sheva remained quiet all day, fighting was still going on, with most of the threat being much closer to Gaza, like in Sderot and in Ashkelon. Nachalat Yeshua/Yeshua’s Inheritance Congregation has at least three families who live in close range to the fighting and missile threats, constantly having to be wary of the next barrage. At least one of the families, with young children, evacuated the area to go stay with relatives in a city closer to Tel Aviv. Those Israelis who have chosen to live – and to remain – in the border towns and communities so close to danger have suffered much anxiety and trauma ever since the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 of all Israelis. On the other hand, they are heroes for their courage and commitment to live in Israel, even if some of them are there only for the economic benefits for living in such a region. In Beer Sheva, we have 60 seconds to get sheltered from the time that we hear the air raid sirens; in Sderot, they have only 15 seconds max. There is no question that the stress and uncertainties have a huge negative effect on the residents, especially the children.
Since the legal establishment of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948 (on the Western calendar), Israel has had to fight wars with their surrounding neighbors in each and every decade. Following the awe-inspiring victory of Israel in the Six Day War in June of 1967, the Arabic countries around Israel engaged in a war of attrition against Israel, rather than attack her directly. They learned after three major wars against the chosen nation of YHVH God that they could not defeat the Israelis militarily. So they began not long after that defeat, until around August of 1970, the conflict, launched by Egypt, meant to wear down Israel by means of a long engagement and so provide Egypt with the opportunity to regain the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had captured from Egypt in the Six-Day War. The Egyptian President at that time was Gamal Nasser, who believed that because most of Israel’s army was made up mostly of citizen reservists (rather than professional soldiers), they would not be able to continue active engagement in a lengthy war of attrition, meant to wear them down and to weaken their morale and determination to defend their country. Such a war of attrition would cause an economic burden and constant casualties among the Israeli combatants and citizenry.
This is similar to what the God of Israel says about Amalek (a grandson of Esau/Edom), against whom He, and His people, are at war each generation until He blots out their name and memory from His people. ([Ex 17:14-16; Dt 25:17-19) For those of us who discern, this is also the nature of the spiritual warfare being waged by the devil and his spiritual troop of evil spirits against believers in Yeshua/Jesus. Satan is constantly wanting us to compromise on matters of morality and integrity rather than continuing to fight the good fight of faith against sin and unrighteousness.
As you know, Israel is continually having to both fight and to prepare to fight for its survival. All through the years the Jewish people seek peace – “live and let live”, as they would define it – while their enemies seek their destruction. Each and every war or conflict or skirmish, and the many terrorist attacks within and without the country bring more and more of the people to either want the government and the military to “finish off the job”, or to make a long-term political compromise agreement. The resolve to keep fighting just to survive is being worn down; and today the country is seen as weakened and polarized over its identity and way of life. (I say this as if Israel's hope is only in this world and dependent upon human capability to make permanent peace and a better world.)
So Iran (formerly Persia, and where Haman the Amalekite sought the genocide of the Jews in the whole of the Persian kingdom), who spearheads and sponsors the terrorist groups of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, perhaps thought that now was a good time to further weaken the nation by starting this latest conflict out from Gaza. After the hunger-strike death early this month of one of the leading terrorist leaders held in prison by Israel, the Islamic Jihad fired more than 100 rockets into Israel. After about a week, Israel retaliated by taking out three of their chief leaders in Gaza. This opened up the latest five-day conflict which “ended” Saturday night, May 13, at 10:00. The people of Israel had united again, despite all of its internal strife, to withstand the attempts of their perpetual enemies to defeat them.
For unrepentant Israel, this is all they know to do: be stronger and more determined than their enemies. (By the way, this is what I also hear from many even Christian pundits in the American media who put their hope, it seems, in the U.S. forever remaining the world's superpower, which it is already clear is not going to be the case.) Praise God that Yeshua/Jesus will come back to make HIS peace in HIS righteousness for Israel, and all of the other surviving nations after the Day of the LORD!
But before that will happen, Israel's strength must be broken, so that the nation will call upon the name of YHVH/Yeshua to save them. (Dt 32:36-43; Mt 23:37-39; Acts 4:8-12; Zech 12:7-14) When Jacob became Israel, although he had strength to wrestle with the "Man" all night; and he had been struggling with his twin brother Esau/Edom, and with his uncle Laban for most of his life till then, he received the blessing and the new name and the assurance of the covenantal promise of the land only after the much stronger yet disciplining Man put Jacob's thigh out of joint. Forever after that, until his death, Jacob/Israel walked with a cane. He had struggled with God and with man, and prevailed/overcame. (Gen 32:27-32) He had finally come to recognize, and to accept, that GOD REIGNS, not him, nor man in general. Willingly and gladly submitting to reality, Jacob can become a prince with God, being in agreement with YHVH's will and purpose and way. (Rom 11:26-27) Brothers and sisters in Messiah/Christ, this is how we, too, will be overcomers to rule and reign with the Lord for the 1000 years of His soon coming Kingdom. (Rev 2:24-29; 3:19-22; 20:4-6)
We pray that Israel will continue to be able to defend its citizens (and others under her rule and authority) and her borders, but as long as we pray only for this, we are not helping the nation, or the Jewish people individually, to know their need of repentance unto YHVH their God and faith in His Messiah, the Son of God, that He sent them -- first of all to Israel/the Jews, and also for the very many Gentiles of all tribes and people groups. (Rom 11:11-15, 25-36) Please pray for the salvation of many more Arab and Jewish people, that they may be saved “today”, the day of salvation, and while it is still the “acceptable year of the LORD”.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.