Early Saturday, just before the holiday of Simchat Torah, while my husband and I took our regular Shabbat prayer walk in the warmth of the Georgia sunshine, we lifted our family, our nation and the nation of Israel up to God, expressing each need in our hearts and on our minds. Having turned off our phones the night before, we remained in the peacefulness of a Sabbath rest with no other sounds except the Mourning Dove’s low, owl-like calls and the gentle breeze blowing through the trees.
We had no idea a storm was brewing through the previous night and into Saturday morning along the southern border of the land we hold so close to our hearts. While we peacefully went about the day praying and resting, over 3,500 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza and the worst wave of murderous terror was unleashed onto the Jewish people in one day since the Holocaust, killing over 1,200 Israelis.
When we returned home late in the afternoon, I picked up my cell phone to see a message on WhatsApp from a friend whose family is living in Israel. The link read: “Israel at War, over 200 dead.” Stunned, I clicked on it and read the accounts of Hamas terrorists bursting through the southern border fence, murdering and kidnapping hundreds of Israelis, including women, children and the elderly. My heart broke into pieces as I read headline after headline and saw the pictures of young women, men and grandparents who were taken by the terrorists, hundreds being held hostage and abused.
Tears flooded my eyes and pain pierced my soul as the images on the screen called to mind the brutal killing of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, 153 members of my own father’s family among those who perished.
Over the past 72 hours, the numbers of those who’ve been murdered continue to rise and the horrific headlines persist, showing pictures of Hamas executing entire families and infants, all while we simultaneously watch pro-Palestinian groups and government officials here in America rejoice in the “victory” Hamas has won in their effort to “free” Palestine.
How do we process the myriad of emotions swelling within us? And when I say we, it includes those of us who are in Israel or outside of Israel. Christians and Jews. Those of us that love and pray for Israel.
The anger. The horror. The paralyzing fear. The determination to remain steady in a chaotic time. The perseverance to believe that, somehow, God will still bring good when there’s nothing good before our eyes.
And that’s not even scratching the surface when it comes to all the questions demanding to be answered about how this attack went under the radar of military intelligence and government officials, or how Americans have allowed the Biden administration to free up $6 billion dollars in assets to the Iranian regime.
But there’s no time to ponder those questions very long because every ounce of energy needs to be focused on what’s facing the nation now, in this moment and in the coming days. Every ounce of energy needs to be focused on praying for the return of the hostages – women, children and the elderly – and how we can care for the grieving, wounded and traumatized.
Yet, as Christians and Jews, we must ask those questions.
As an American Jew, I’m outraged by what’s happening in this country, especially in the last several years with regards to taxpayer money funding the Palestinian Authority and Iran, which, in turn, funds Hezbollah and Hamas terror groups. How did we, Israel’s strongest ally, get here? The answer to that question is too multifaceted to cover here in this article, but what must be acknowledged and dealt with is the complacency and lack of understanding over these issues that has permeated American society for too long.
About 22 years ago, when 9/11 happened, everyone knew Islamic terrorism was the biggest threat to freedom and democracy throughout the world, not just in Israel. How, in one generation, has that understanding been so completely lost?
Over the past couple of decades, the culture wars and the complacent response to them have produced a young generation of seriously confused people. That confusion has directly impacted the rise of antisemitism throughout Europe and the U.S. It’s become en vogue to be pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel.
But, perhaps even worse than the antisemitic rhetoric that’s been continuously coming out of college campuses and “The Squad” (the group of leftist democrats in Congress), is the turning of a blind eye to it all. And make no mistake: The casualties of turning a blind eye are the young people in this country on those college campuses, and thousands of others in this country who have inherited the false ideologies and anti-Israel rhetoric, and don’t know their right hand from their left.
This must stop and there’s only one way to stop it.
Americans must speak up. We must set our differences aside to elect a new speaker of the House. We must contact our representatives and call for the removal of these extreme anti-Israel, antisemitic, anti-American lawmakers who have infiltrated our democracy. If Americans don’t start speaking up and out about the truth, we won’t have the ability to do it at all.
Currently, in this country, we still have the right to free speech. We need to use it before we lose it.
It is heartening to see landmarks from around the world lit up with the colors of the Israeli flag and to hear lawmakers and leaders speak out against the atrocities Hamas has committed. But it needs to go further than that. America needs to demonstrate our solidarity with Israel by sending special forces to assist Israel for the rescue of the hostages who are left. We need to financially support the agencies and ministries in the land who are helping the traumatized and grieving.
And we must take the command in Deuteronomy 6:7 to educate our children and grandchildren about the truth of scripture and the history of Israel seriously. We must lovingly and passionately engage in conversations with others about Israel that may be uncomfortable or may have a cost. We must pray and then pray some more. This isn’t the time to shrink back and only use our voices to concur with one another about how crazy the world is. We must make sure people understand the root cause of this darkness and evil that seeks to annihilate the Jewish people and Christians alike. If your pastor isn’t talking about the threat of Islamic Jihad and regularly leading your congregation in praying for Israel, you need to ask why not. If your family or neighbors are misinformed about the conflict in Israel, they need to know the truth.
We need to know what the Bible says about the Gaza region. Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations that have their roots as far back as Joshua’s time in the Bible. While officially founded in 1987, Hamas ideologies date back to the Philistines.
Gaza, or Aza in Hebrew was a city on the southern coastal plain of ancient Israel. It was inhabited by the Philistines but was allotted to the tribe of Judah in the eternal covenant God made with Israel. (Joshua 15:47)
In Numbers, chapter 34, after the Exodus, God told Moses to tell the people to “drive out all the inhabitants of the land” once they crossed the Jordan River. These people were committing the most perverse atrocities against God. When Israel conquered the land of Canaan, Joshua subdued the whole region “just as the Lord had commanded…from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon…because the Lord , the God of Israel, fought for Israel.”
In the eleventh chapter of Joshua, we read that Joshua “destroyed the Anakites from the hill country…no Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive.”
Fast-forward to 2006, when Hamas took over Gaza and has continuously fired rockets into Israel and oppressed their own people. Up until the horrific attack a few days ago on Oct. 7, which will be marked as one of Israel’s darkest days, thousands of Gazans were crossing into Israel every day to work alongside Israelis in peace. Hamas has ended all of that. They’ve brought war upon themselves and the peaceful Palestinians who didn’t ask for it.
This attack is a resurgence of the same spirit of hatred at work during biblical times. It’s a hatred not just directed toward Jews and their return to their God-given homeland in 1948; it’s a hatred against the God of Israel himself.
When Israel went to physical war three days ago, those of us outside of Israel were called to a higher level of engagement of spiritual warfare. We must pray as 2 Corinthians 10:4 says, taking “up our weapons of warfare” that “are not carnal, but are mighty in God for pulling down strongholds and casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
We need to pray for the generational spirit of hatred to be broken off the Palestinian people who are sympathetic to the Islamic regime and for their spiritual eyes to be opened. We need to pray for innocent life to be preserved and for hearts to be softened. We need to pray for both Arabs and Jews to come to Yeshua. We need to pray for every family impacted by the war, and for the release of the hostages.
And, of course, we need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as Psalm 122 commands us to do.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you’ For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.”
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