As I write, the headlines are dominated by war and unspeakable violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Thus far, the United States is standing by Israel's efforts to defend herself from thousands of Qassam and Grad rockets that Hamas has been firing into the civilian population areas.
Some say that Israel's response is disproportionate, but war cannot be reduced to a simple mathematical equation. The fact that Hamas is militarily inferior does not make them morally superior in this conflict. Unlike Hamas, Israel does not intentionally target civilians - but in one of the most densely populated areas of the world, military conflict inevitably results in civilian casualties, as we have seen. The horror of it is too great for words.
Jews for Jesus does not preach political positions, yet when it comes to Israel, we believe there is an unseen spiritual conflict. We remember that God told Israel, ". . . he who touches you touches the apple of His eye" (Zechariah 2:8). Those who set their heart on Israel's destruction do not realize that they are part of that larger battle. But as followers of Jesus, we need to remember that we are soldiers in that battle.
As much as we hate war, there are reasons why the Scriptures speak of our spiritual armor, and the weapons of our warfare. And while we may be thousands of miles from the war in the Middle East, we must fight with the most powerful weapon God has given us: prayer.
I hope you will join us in praying for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Please remember the many believers in Gaza and continue to pray for their safety and anointing as they minister to unbelievers in that war torn land. Please pray for open hearts among the many Palestinians who are just as much victims of the Hamas terrorists as the Israelis. We believe God would have us share the anguish of the innocents on both sides.
The only true hope for peace is found in Jesus the Prince of Peace, and so we pray that God will use these terrible circumstances to bring both Palestinian and Israeli men and women to faith in Christ.
I want you to hear from some of our friends, believers who are in the midst of the situation. As you sense their hearts, I hope it will help you to pray. The first is a Palestinian believer in Jesus from Gaza, who wishes to remain anonymous:
"Today we see Gaza is a dark and very sad place. We see people hurting one another... innocent people on both sides are hurting. I know people who have lost all of their family, maybe five, six or seven people at one time. I don't know what to say. We as believers grieve and we weep. What should we do? We pray; we ask wisdom for the leadership and we ask for stability. I think this bombing should stop on both sides. Weapons and bombings will not solve any problems. We hope and pray that people can sit and be wise enough to listen to one another and talk. We need to have a voice to speak out against injustice and on behalf of the innocents as well. Let us pray that the leadership on both sides is convinced the violence will not lead to solutions. Let us pray for all the people, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Let us pray the Lord give us real love and sympathy with all the people in Gaza."
Another friend, Salim, is a Palestinian believer from the West Bank. He says:
"To both Israelis and Palestinians, the current conflict in Gaza has brought nothing but pain and suffering. It has also caused friction among some believers who choose to pledge sole allegiance to their own people group. From the Israeli point of view, they pulled out of the Gaza Strip in the name of peace and an Islamic [terrorist] regime took over. Israel's justification for going to war was to protect its citizens against Hamas launching rockets on the communities in the Negev. Their reasoning is that it is necessary to attack now before Hamas has longer-range missiles.
"The Palestinians claim that though Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2006, the [Israeli] army is still controlling the borders, making it the biggest open-air prison in the world. In the last 18 months, 1.5 million Palestinians have been under siege and were prevented from receiving sufficient water, medical aid and food supply. . . .The Palestinians also believe they have a right to self-defense. So, what is our role as believers in this situation?
"We must become intercessors for our nation, our leaders and the other side and ask God to pour out His mercy and compassion. We must also become the prophet and convey that message of injustice happening in [both] our societies. We need to attempt to relieve the pain of the innocent [on both sides] even if we feel our side's reasoning for war is justified. Instead of pointing the finger, let us look within ourselves and repent. Then let us look at the other side with compassion and love, with a love that transcends societal boundaries, rocket fire and airstrikes."
Our missionaries in Israel are also doing their best to respond to the situation in ways that will honor the Lord. Dan Sered, our Jews for Jesus branch leader in Tel Aviv reports:
"On Monday during staff meeting we brainstormed ways to minister to the people down south who have been suffering as a result of [Hamas] rockets. After much discussion we decided to try calling people from the phone book. Today we called people in Ashdod and Ashkelon, letting them know we are Jews for Jesus, encouraging them and offering our [prayer] support as well as a copy of the Y'shua book if they are interested. Because of the situation everyone is home - no one is going out because everyone needs to stay close to a bomb shelter. We are able to get to the gospel message pretty quickly.
"After just two hours of calling we prayed with many, and 24 people had given us their names and addresses requesting more information about Y'shua (Jesus). We think we found a way to minister to a population at war and will continue to do this in the days to come. Please pray for us as we minister to the citizens down south." (So far we have one report of a man who prayed to receive Jesus during one of these phone calls. Click here to read his story.)
"Two young men from our Jews for Jesus family in Israel, Gabi and Daniel, have been called up from reserve to active duty in the Israel Defense Force. There are many other believers in the IDF currently serving in Gaza and we want to pray for them as well."
Dan has written a further reflection on the Gaza conflict from an Israeli viewpoint. You can read it in its entirety on the front of our Jews for Jesus web site, but I want to close this letter by listing his prayer requests for you here:
Pray that this war will cause more people in Israel and Gaza to consider the gospel message.
Pray for the safety of all the innocent people in harm's way in the south of Israel and in Gaza.
Pray for the protection and safety of all the soldiers who are risking their lives serving in the IDF.
Pray for wisdom and courage for our Jews for Jesus staff in Israel as we continue to bring the gospel to our people. Especially pray for our efforts to minister to people who live in the south of Israel.
Pray for the enablement, protection and safety of believers in Jesus in Gaza and the West Bank as they minister to the many suffering Palestinians who need to know the love of Messiah.
Pray that many among the Hamas fighters will be radically changed through an encounter with Jesus, and lift up the sword of the Spirit instead of instruments of destruction.
Pray that all those seeking peace in the Middle East will find hope in the Prince of Peace Himself, Jesus.