All Israel

Messianic pastors bracing for massive war in northern Israel

‘On a scale of 1 to 10 – with 10 meaning a big war is certain – I’d say it’s a 15,’ a Messianic pastor with extensive IDF experience tells me

IDF Armored forces at a staging area in Upper Galilee, near the northern Israeli border with Lebanon, October11, 2023 (credit: AYAL MARGOLIN/FLASH90)

KIRYAT SHMONA, ISRAEL – For the past several days, my wife and I have been traveling across the northern tier of Israel, meeting with Messianic pastors and their wives.

Here in Kiryat Shmona, the biggest Israeli city in the north, the population is typically about 23,000.

But today, it’s a ghost town.

Almost the entire city of able-bodied men, women, and children have been evacuated.

Some families have been put in hotels in Tiberias, located on the Sea of Galilee.

Others are staying with family and friends further south.

As Lynn and I drove here from Jerusalem, we’ve been seeing Merkava battle tanks on one flatbed truck after another being driven to the Lebanon border, just a few kilometers away.

We’re also seeing lots of army Jeeps, Humvees, and other military vehicles operating in and around the city.

What we’re not seeing are many Israeli civilians.

After all, Hezbollah has already launched more than 1,000 attacks on Israeli cities, towns, villages, and military bases since the days following October 7th.

Several missiles hit Kiryat Shmona just this week.

FEEDING HOT MEALS TO HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS AND IDF SOLDIERS

Israel Iluz is the pastor of the only Messianic church congregation this far north.

ALL ISRAEL NEWS founder Joel C. Rosenberg meets with Israeli Pastor Israel Iluz in Kiryat Shmona. (photo credit: All Israel News staff)

But despite the growing number of Hezbollah attacks, he and his family and team have not evacuated.

Amid the driving rain, fog, and cold, they’re still here.

Why?

To deliver boxes of groceries every week to Holocaust survivors and elderly shut-ins who, for various reasons, could not or would not evacuate.

To cook 300 to 400 hot meals every day and deliver them to deeply grateful IDF soldiers who otherwise are eating tuna out of cans, canned corn, and other cold canned goods.

Volunteers at Messianic congregation making 400 hot meals for people in Kiryat Shmona. (photo credit: All Israel News)

To pray for and encourage the residents of their city and the soldiers who have come to protect it.

And to be ambassadors for Yeshua – the Hebrew word for “Jesus” – explaining why He is the Jewish Messiah and answering the many spiritual questions folks up here are asking as fears of war and death grow.

Pastor Iluz and his team don’t force anyone to talk about the Gospel message or the New Testament.

Yonatan Iluz — a professional chef — and his mom, Marti, are passionate about cooking tasty meals to bless the people who are left in the ghost town that Kiryat Shmona has become. (photo credit: All Israel News staff)

They’re simply demonstrating the unconditional love of the Messiah and caring for their neighbors.

But when they show up, the soldiers and elderly light up.

They’re not getting hot meals from anyone else.

It’s like getting home-cooked meals from Mom and it’s much appreciated.

All across the country, including in Israel’s northern tier, The Joshua Fund – the ministry Lynn and I started in 2006 to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus – invests prayerfully and financially in such couples and the congregations and wonderful ministries they lead.

And over the years, such couples and their families, congregation members and volunteers have also become friends.

That’s why we decided to come up to Kiryat Shmona, Tiberias, the Carmel mountain range and Haifa.

We wanted to see these dear followers of Jesus, catch up with them, encourage them, listen to how they and the people they shepherd are doing, and pray together.

We wanted to learn how the soldiers in their congregations are doing as they fight against Hamas in Gaza.

We also wanted to hear what they are seeing and sensing spiritually and geopolitically as we move deeper into 2024.

PRAYING FOR PEACE BUT PREPARING FOR WAR

What we learned was sobering.

While every single pastoral couple told us they are praying for peace, they also told us they are preparing for war.

Indeed, they are urging those in their congregations to brace for a massive war with Hezbollah in Lebanon this year.

And possibly very, very soon.

“Yesterday, an Arab pastor friend of mine asked me what I thought the likelihood was of a much larger war in the North this year,” said one Messianic Jewish pastor with extensive experience in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) told us.

“I told him, ‘On a scale of 1 to 10 – with 10 meaning a big war is certain – I’d say it’s a 15,’” this Jewish pastor replied.

All the others we spoke to readily agreed.

GETTING BOMB SHELTERS READY FOR THE WORSE CASE SCENARIO

The pastors said they are encouraging people to stock their bomb shelters with enough food, water, medicines, and other supplies to last a month or more.

They’re getting transistor radios, flashlights, blankets, and plenty of batteries, among a list of other critical supplies.

Some are also getting satellite phones to prepare for the possibility that phone lines will be knocked out and they’ll want to stay in close touch with other pastors and ministry leaders in the Land, as well as with The Joshua Fund, which supplies many of these congregations with food and other humanitarian relief supplies.

Every single one of these Israeli followers of Jesus remember all too well the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

In August of that year, Hezbollah fired some 4,000 missiles at northern Israel.

All of which were much more powerful and deadly than the rockets that Hamas is firing from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians.

Those missiles did extensive damage.

They caused many casualties.

They also forced more than one million Israelis living in the northern tier to either evacuate and live with family or friends further south – out of missile range – or underground to hide in bomb shelters.

40,000 MISSILES?

Hezbollah missile attacks on Kiryat Shmona and neighboring communities yesterday, February 1

This time, the pastors we met with said they expect the next war with Hezbollah to be far worse.

Over the past 18 years, the Iranian-backed terror organization in Lebanon has built up a stockpile of some 150,000 missiles.

Messianic Jewish believers here say that if Israel has to invade southern Lebanon to drive Hezbollah terror forces north of the Litani River, to create a buffer zone as required by UN Security Council Resolution 1701 passed in 2006, the terror group could launch 40,000 missiles at Israel.

That would be 10 times as much as the 2006 war.

More deadly.

More devastating.

More costly.

And yet 40,000 missiles would not even represent one-third of the total Hezbollah missile arsenal.

I’ll share more about what we’ve learned in the coming articles.

For now, please pray for all Israelis – including Messianic Jewish and Arab Evangelical Christians up here – as they pray for peace but prepare for a much larger, much more devastating war to erupt soon in the north.

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

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