Counting the Omer

“And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that you have brought an offering unto your God.  It shall be a statute forever throughout your generation in all your dwellings.  And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath (Pesach-Passover), from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, seven Sabbath shall be complete:  Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days (Shavuot-Pentecost); and you shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.”  Leviticus 23:14-16

“In the multitude of people is the king’s honor, but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince…The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water, he turneth it whithersoever he will.”  Proverbs 14:28, 21:1

Dear Intercessors for Israel:

Greetings from Jerusalem! Tonight, as the sun set, Israel concluded its observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Ha-Shoah) in memory of those who perished at the hands of the Nazis in WWII.  All day, the nation has been remembering the memories and sacrifices of those who perished and those who fought against it, and educating its citizens so that this evil will not be repeated.

These are also wonderful days to be in Israel, the holidays are mostly over, the elections are finished (maybe), vacations are ended (our neighbor is still on vacation), the rains have stopped (we think. Today we had a Sharav or hot windy dust storm, enveloping the city, and bringing muddy sprinkles!), and the nation is gradually returning to some sort of normalcy (almost).

Next week brings the celebration of Israel’s 71st Independent Day, a public holiday often referred to as “barbecue day” (May 8th this year). The air around here will be filled with eye-watering smoke, and delicious odors coming from all the numerous “burnt offerings” cooking on the small, portable barbecues in the parks.  Already there are cars driving around the city and throughout the nation sporting Israeli flags attached to the windows of most every vehicle.  Israelis love their nation’s flag and so do we!  I bought four this year for the two cars the House of Peace has (one for each side).  And then there is the “not to be missed” national air show, when the Israeli air force as well as El-Al, the national airline, take to the skies around the nation and flyover each major city.

Of course, the day before is Memorial Day, a time when the nation mourns and reflects on the heavy price freedom has.  Numerous wars and countless terrorist attacks have exacted losses of loved ones and “lone soldiers” too.  All television stations are silent during this time except for the reading and the listing of the name of each victim.  A loud siren goes off in every town at 10 AM, and during its sound, traffic stops, and people exit their vehicles and stand at attention.  Most everyone here knows of someone who has suffered terrorism or died defending this country.

Counting the Omer
These are times of spiritual reflection too.  It is the season of the “counting of the Omer.”  In the days of the Tabernacle or (at other times) the Temple, on the first day of the Omer the Israelite priests would wave a sheaf (omer)—a tied bundle of stalks and heads of grain—before the LORD in the Holy Place. This is called s’firat ha-omer (counting the sheaves). Today it is known as “counting the Omer.”  This counting is completed on Shavuot or Pentecost. In Exodus 23:16, Shavuot is referred to as the Feast of the Harvest, indicating the time of the late spring grain harvest—the last of the spring festivals.

Messianic Jews pray a blessing each day and cite the number of days.  They specifically ask God to allow the Temple to be rebuilt, and to send forth the Messiah, speaking this prayer: “May the Merciful One restore unto us the service of the Beit HaMikdash to its place, speedily in our days. Return your Dwelling Presence to Zion, your city, and send us Yeshua our Messiah a second time. Let him reign upon the throne of David in Jerusalem, your holy city.”

Psalm 67 is also recited.  This prayer declares: “Let the people praise thee, and let all the nations be glad and sing for joy.” Lastly, they pray for purification and sanctification in preparation for Shavu’ot.  I love this appeal, for did not Jesus declare on the Mount of Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Join with us and all Israel and pray these prayers and Psalm 67, until Shavuot/Pentecost comes.

Israeli Government Coalition “Talks”
This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been occupied with the business of forming a government.  He has until May 15th to assemble a coalition to reach 61 seats in the 120 seat Knesset.  His Likud party won 34 seats, leaving him no choice but to “look” to other political parties to join him in governing Israel.  And those minor parties are exacting a high price to “come aboard.”  Prime Minister Netanyahu can ask President Rivlin for a two-week extension if a coalition is not formed by May 15th.

The two main religious parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, won 15 seats in the Knesset and want up to seven ministerial posts in the new government, plus numerous concessions to come alongside “Bibi.” Shas and UTJ want anyone who seeks to study Torah full-time to be able to do so and not serve in the army. UTJ is also demanding that no public works be done on Saturdays. The party also wants greater stipends for yeshiva students, and a plan to build housing for haredim.  A non-religious demand from UTJ is a NIS 250 million increase in the health budget, with party co-Chariman Ya’acov Litzman continuing in his role as Deputy Health Minister. Litzman proposed that half of the increase come from the regular budget and another half come from increasing the health tax by .5%.

Yisrael Beytenu, led by Avidor Lieberman has five seats, but holds opposite political views, concerning the drafting of religious orthodox men, something UTJ and Shas highly object to.  He is demanding two ministerial posts for his five seats. Meanwhile former IDF General Gantz, and his Blue and White center left political party waits in the wings.  His party won 34 seats as well, but still falls short of making a coalition.  Talks have surfaced that if PM Netanyahu is unable to form a government, he may choose to link up with Gantz’s Blue and White party and form a rotating “zipper” government where power is shared (two years Netanyahu, two years Gantz) but major political differences between them may force the nation into another round of early elections.

Pray for these ongoing “coalition talks” that a workable government may be formed that serves the people of this nation and not special interests.  This Friday, PM Netanyahu meets with the leader of the Kulanu Party, headed by Moshe Kahlon.  His party holds four seats in the Knesset and is considered center right and focused on social-economic issues.

Rockets and Incendiary Balloons
After a mostly quiet Passover holiday (except for record visitors to Israeli parks and memorable traffic jams), Hamas and Islamic Jihad have returned to shooting rockets and missiles into Israel’s south-eastern border.  Two rockets were launched this week which fell into open Israeli fields, plus a number of “fire balloons” from Gaza which set blazes in southern Israel.  The Israel Air Force responded by attacking Islamic Jihad and Hamas positions.

During Passover week, a long-range missile was fired and exploded in the ocean, near Israel’s southern coastline.  It was just a friendly “wake-up” call from Islamic Jihad to Israel to remain vigilant.  The IDF said that the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group had intended to hit land, but that the rocket missed its target and landed in the Mediterranean Sea.The army specifically named Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata as having given the order to fire the rocket after receiving a directive from the group’s leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah in Damascus.  Pray for these two men as the Holy Spirit leads.  Proverbs declares that “the wicked will have no rest.”

Please pray that these attacks be stopped or prevented.   Israel is moving up its Iron Dome anti-missile batteries, near Gaza in case another conflict occurs during Israel’s Independence Day or the Shavuot Holiday.

Growing Chinese Influence in the Middle East
The nation of China has been quietly looking for investments and business opportunities in the Middle East, as part of its “Silk Road” initiatives.  Beijing hosted the “First Trade Fair on Syrian Reconstruction Projects” in 2017.  China at that time then committed to contribute $2 billion toward rebuilding Syrian industry.

Another more recent Trade Fair was held in Damascus in September 2018, where more than 200 Chinese companies, largely state-owned, were present. China pledged deals including the construction of steel and power plants, car manufacturing, and hospital development. Some of China’s flagship involvements, which include Huawei, had previously committed in 2015 to rebuild Syria’s telecommunications system by 2020.  The China National Petroleum Corporation now owns major stakes in two of Syria’s largest oil companies, the Syrian Petroleum Company and Al Furat Petroleum. Once an acceptable level of stability is reached in Syria, Chinese businesses will be ready to build off their extensive groundwork and leverage the experience Chinese industry has in post-conflict Middle Eastern settings, courtesy of the significant contracts Chinese firms landed in Iraq following the war.

Israeli Concerns
A senior Israeli security official was recently asked who will rehabilitate Syria, ravaged by a decade-long civil war?  He replied without hesitation – the Chinese. This has been the prevailing assumption among the high-profile Israeli security experts over the past two years, and it’s no longer just an academic assessment. This development requires the Israeli government to prepare for a new Middle East in which China plays a key role. Israel’s research and assessment institutes— both governmental and military—are in the early stages of making plans should the Chinese move into Syria to rebuild its war-torn ports and cities.

The Chinese, who have both money and interest, as part of their $900 billion New Silk Route initiative, are the only ones capable to take on a project of this scale. Their plan includes a construction of land and sea routes connecting China with Europe’s largest market, while simultaneously creating Chinese dominance of future global communications. China doesn’t differentiate between national security and economic initiatives. The New Silk Road is designed to ensure China’s global dominance vis-à-vis the US and Russia. Syria will never be able to pay back the Chinese government, therefore, it will be a repeat of the investment model Beijing officials have established in Africa. China is building infrastructure in many African countries and since they are unable to repay the mounting debts, the Chinese companies are taking over these countries’ natural resources and subjugating state policies to accommodate China’s interests.

China is now involved in the economies of more than 60 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Some of these countries have become completely enslaved by the Chinese interests. Once China has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into Syria, the Russians will sit quietly in the port of Tartus—leased to them by Assad for the next 49 years—trying to protect their assets. The Iranians will also have to behave themselves.  Israel also signed with Chinese companies to improve its port in Haifa.

Israel, meanwhile, will have to deal with the fact that its border with Syria may well be under Chinese jurisdiction. When will the Israeli government begin preparing for this inevitable scenario?  That question remains to be answered by the leaders of this nation (www.ynetnews.com 04-30-2019).

Ramadan Begins
The Islamic month of Ramadan begins May 5th.  Pray for the Middle East during this time, that Jesus would be revealed to those who sit in darkness.  Pray for Muslims as they seek the true path in life.  The beginning of the Quran starts with an appeal to allah for guidance to follow the true path.  Pray that Muslims will find the one who is “the way, the truth and the life.”  Pray for the safety of Christian believers during this time, that terroristic acts against them be stopped.  Pray for angelic protection for the churches and those who worship in lands where Islam desires to rule.

House of Peace Activities
This week found our weekly prayer warriors praying over the names and photos of those Israelis elected into the 21st Knesset.  We laid hands on each one’s photo and called a godly government to be set in place.  Continue to pray for the formation of Israel’s next government.

We also prayed for the local believers here, many who are facing serious health issues.  Please continue to lift the body of Messiah in Israel and those who are contending for their healings.

Shabbat Shalom,
Gene and Marylois
House of Peace, Jerusalem