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From Thanksgiving to the hope of Hanukkah miracles

Lighting of a menorah (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Oh, give thanks to the Lord for He is good!

For His mercy endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, 

Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,

And gathered out of the lands.” Psalm 107

Since the beginning of the Thanksgiving holiday, the world has watched the release of 105 hostages from the terror grip of Hamas, including 81 Israeli citizens and 24 foreign nationals. After 45 harrowing days of waiting on the edge of our seats and praying for a miracle, we saw parents reunited with their children, grandparents with their grandchildren and husbands with their wives. 

We rejoiced as we watched them embrace for the first time since the Hamas death cult breached the southern border of Israel on October 7 and brutally slaughtered 1,200 innocent civilians and abducted 240 more, including women, children and Holocaust survivors. We cried tears of relief as we saw the videos of children running into the arms of their parents and families tightly hugging each other, grateful to have their loved ones with them once again. We listened in awe as they expressed their determination to wait until every hostage returns to fully celebrate.   

Our hearts have overflowed with thanksgiving to God for his care and protection over the ones who have returned. Specifically, my family and I gave thanks for the individuals we had been praying for, their names written on our hands as a reminder of God’s declaration in Isaiah that he has inscribed their names on the palms of his hands. This week, we were overjoyed and filled with gratitude to see some of those we’ve been praying for finally reunited with siblings and family. 

Still, this moment of thanksgiving and praise is bittersweet because we know the “negotiations” were what some are calling “a deal with the devil,” a capitulation to a terror group that has no interest in a permanent “ceasefire” but seeks to use the pause to regain its footing with 150 freshly-released convicted criminals from Israeli prisons. But Israel cannot turn its back on its people. It is a small and tightly-knit country of people who value their citizens enough to halt a military operation against their enemies in order to save lives. 

It isn’t surprising to see much of the media comparing the release of innocent hostages (many of which were peace activists) to the release of criminals, as if they were equal. However, it is sickening to watch the terrorists portray themselves as if they are performing some kind of act of mercy, as they wave to the children and assist the elderly women. These are the same monsters who raped women so brutally their pelvis bones were shattered. 

The comparison of terrorists releasing one innocent infant, child or elderly person from underground tunnels and a peace-loving country releasing three convicted murderers and criminals from their prisons in a so-called “equal exchange” would be laughable anywhere else in Western civilization.

While Hamas uses its people as human shields in the fight to kill Jews, Israel hits pause on the play button of defending its very existence to preserve as many sacred lives of its citizens as possible. Hamas knows how much Israel values the lives of its citizens and they use it as a tactic against them.

Hamas is a death cult with a clear objective in its charter: To kill as many Jews as possible. In contrast, Jewish tradition and law are guided by the veneration of life and the philosophy that “Whoever saves a life saves the world entire”. 

Israel, forced to defend itself after Hamas’ brutal attack on October 7, made the difficult decision to stop their military offensive long enough to rescue its people and deliver aid to the Palestinians in Gaza even though 46% of them voted the terror group into power. This aid will undoubtedly be used by Hamas to fortify itself, regroup and reload against Israel, not to help their own people. Hamas will continue to use the temporary ceasefire to call for international pressure and push Israel into a two-state solution. 

But we know this would be a final solution employed by the Palestinians whose war cry is, “From the river to the Sea,” to wipe Israel entirely off the map.

On Wednesday, the United Nations stated: "It is long past time to move in a determined, irreversible way towards a two-state solution, on the basis of United Nations resolutions and international law." The spokesperson went on to say, this would mean “Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security with Jerusalem as the capital of both states."

Israel must eliminate Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian jihadists. If they aren’t eliminated, the Palestinian people have no hope for freedom from the terrorist regimes and their death cults. And the West will be the next target in their holy war against all who do not bow to radical Islam. Israel is not only fighting for its own, but they’re also fighting for us here, for the freedom of the Palestinian people and the deradicalization of the region.

Another reason the last week of hostage releases has been bittersweet is because we know some of those Israeli children released from Hamas have no parents waiting for them and the traumas they’ve experienced have inflicted life-long wounds. Many wives are still separated from their husbands and fathers from their children. Some elderly whose lives and homes have been destroyed or burned by the terrorists won’t return to the familiar place that once held a lifetime of joy and memories, and many of the hostages are just now learning of the death of their loved ones, another level of trauma placed on them.

This dark reality brings the awareness that as much as Israelis like to pride themselves on being self-reliant, they are a people in great pain and in great need. In need of restoration, comfort, healing and miraculous faith. Faith to be able to rebuild lives and homes. Faith to be able to overcome the trauma and devastation, the horrific memories and the loss. Faith to somehow forgive the demonic perpetrators and faith to believe God will take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it around for their good. 

The Jewish people have walked through dark times in every generation, and they will come through this one as well, because the God of Israel is a “father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” (Psalm 68:5-6)

From Moses to the Maccabees, to Messiah Yeshua, God has delivered His people from dark times through one overarching principle: Faith. 

And the people of Israel have defeated their enemies through that same principle. 

Moses defeated Pharaoh by faith.

Gideon defeated the Midianites through faith.

Esther defeated Haman through faith.

David overcame Saul’s jealousy and hatred through faith.

Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem by faith.

The Maccabees resisted tyranny and the pervasive, pagan culture by faith.

The small remnant of Jews living in Judea, in the town of Modi'in, held to their faith and quite literally lit the way for Yeshua the Messiah to come to his people.

Like the Maccabees of old who rededicated themselves and the temple to God, Israel needs to dedicate herself to the God who sent His Messiah to “bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:1)

Defeating Hamas is necessary, but it is only one part of the battle that rages against God’s people. As we approach Hanukkah, The Festival of Lights and The Feast of Dedication, we pray for the rest of the hostages to be released and we pray for Israelis to miraculously come to faith in their Messiah Yeshua, the only one who can heal their wounds and restore their land.

And we need to pray for the Gazan civilians to come to know the savior of the world and yes, even pray for the terrorists to surrender in the hope that they would be delivered from the kingdom of darkness, death and violence and brought into the kingdom of the son, whom He loves (Colossians 1:13). 

As people who believe the Bible, we know nothing is too hard for the Lord and His right arm is not too short to save. 

“Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord.” Zechariah 4:6

Avigayil Rivkah is a writer and speaker, specializing in content related to arts and entertainment, Jewish culture and faith, natural living and Israel news. She is a Jewish believer in Jesus and the founder of ajoyfuljewishjourney.com

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