“I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (Ps. 120:7)
“The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in, From this time forth, and even forevermore” (Ps. 121:7-8)
Dear Intercessors for Israel:
As I write this prayer letter, the world is collectively “holding its breath,” waiting to see if Russia will send its armies into the Ukraine. Diplomacy and threats of sanctions have gone nowhere. U.S. Secretary of State Blinken addressed the UN Security Council on Thursday and declared that Russian is “moving towards an imminent invasion.” Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vershinin in turn accused the United States of making “baseless accusations,” while disregarding the fact that President Putin has deployed some 150,000 troops, tanks and artillery units along the Ukraine’s Northern, Eastern and Southern borders. The United States in response has placed 8.500 of its troops on high alert. The Ukraine today also announced that there were 124 “ceasefire violations” along its borders on Thursday, February 17.
There are numerous “theories” as to why Russia’s President Putin wants to invade the Ukraine. A former Republic of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine was once nicknamed “the bread basket of the Soviet Union.” The nation possesses a fertile soil and a climate which is highly favorable for growing grain. Winter wheat, spring barley, and corn are Ukraine’s main food crops, along with sunflowers and sugar beets The Ukraine also contains deposits of iron, manganese, uranium, and titanium ores.
The Ukraine though in the ensuing years since it left the Soviet Union has become a democracy with free speech and media access. It is a nation that is actively seeking to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), something that other former Soviet controlled nations have already done. President Putin refuses to let this happen and sees the Ukraine joining NATO as an active threat to Russia. Putin also wants to place the Ukraine back into Russia’s sphere of influence (under its thumb).
Israel and the Ukraine
Israel also has a “vested interest” in the Ukraine, with that nation being the birthplace of the Hassidic movement. Rabbi Nachman, a beloved sage, is buried in Beslov, a place where his followers make annual pilgrimages. Ukraine’s Jewish history also goes back more than 1,000 years, including severe persecutions from Cossacks, Tartars, Nazis and Communists. During the 1990s, some 266,000 Ukrainian Jews made aliyah (emigrated) to Israel from there. The Ukraine and Israel in 2021 also signed a “free trade agreement” with Ukraine agreeing to export corn and wheat to Israel while Israel in turn exports its fruit to the Ukraine. There are also strong military “ties” between the two nations, but both Israel and the Ukraine have chosen not to publicly reveal what assistance is given, over concerns of possibly aggravating Russia.
The Ukrainian Church
The Ukraine is a country of some 44 million people, the majority whom are of the Eastern Orthodox faith. Yet there is a growing independent evangelical movement. Along the Russian southeastern border, these same believers are being persecuted. Pro-Russian leaders in the breakaway provinces of Donbas and Luhansk passed new laws in 2016 requiring all churches to be re-registered. Authorities in Luhansk then declared Baptists and Pentecostals to be a security threat. All Evangelical churches in these SE border areas were stated to be operating illegally. The Baptist Union then was designated as a terrorist group. Churches and Fellowships were seized, and some pastors were murdered. Igor Bandura, the vice president of the Ukraine Baptist Union stated in an interview with Christianity Today (Jan. 4, 2022) that: “Prayer is our spiritual weapon, and God can undo what the politicians are planning.”
How to Pray:
As this international crisis unfolds please pray, (prayer points from Send.org):
- Speak and decree that God’s glory be revealed in the midst of this crisis.
- Ask the Lord to redeem this situation by drawing many people to Himself. May Ukrainians and Russians discover that Jesus is the only true source of peace, safety, comfort, truth and freedom.
- Pray that Ukrainians ultimately would hope not in governments, elections or diplomacy, but in Jesus Christ.
- Ask God to deliver Ukraine from evil. May He have mercy and heal this land. May He give Ukraine peace and the chance to develop as a nation that values truth, justice and freedom, all rooted in the goodness of God.
- The conflict between Ukraine and Russia can spill over into personal conflict within families, especially when family members live on opposite sides of the border and are influenced by different sides of the “information war.” Pray for unity and a love for one another that supersedes the problems between the countries.
- Ask God to bless soldiers’ wives and children with peace and safety while their husbands and fathers are gone.
- Pray for the various world leaders involved in diplomacy over Ukraine.
- Pray for God’s protection for the Ukraine, and its 44 million citizens.
- Ask God to send comfort and peace to those hearts that are consumed by fear.
- Ask God to intervene!
Israel to Reopen its Borders
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced this past week that the severe Omicron COVID “wave is breaking” as cases are dropping daily. He indicated that Israel’s stringent travel restrictions may be lessened by March 1st. Currently travelers must undergo a PCR test before flying into Israel and then undergo another test upon arrival. The Health Ministry is now recommending dropping the pre-flight test and going with just the arrival test. Unvaccinated non-Israelis over the age of 12 are currently not allowed to enter the country, the exception being recent proof of having recovered from COVID (Times ofIsrael.com)
Birthright, a privately financed program which offers free tours of Israel to Jewish youth ages 18-32 then announced that they would be resuming their trips. All participants though must be fully vaccinated. The first tour with some 2000 youth from North America leaves this weekend. The CEO of Birthright, Gidi Mark stated that “We expect to bring about 3,000 young adults from around the world in the next two months, and during the summer, we expect about 15,000 from North America and nearly 20,000 worldwide” (JNS.org) This many “new tourists” will certainly help “revive” Israel’s devastated tourist industry.
Oasis Casino in Jericho to Open
Jericho is an ancient city, located at the base of the Judean mountains and at the top of the Dead Sea. It’s mighty walls fell to Joshua and the Israelites when the trumpets were sounded (Jos.h 6). Elijah and Elisha performed miracles here. Jesus restored blind Bartimaeus’ sight while traveling through this town. Today Jericho is a small farming city, blessed with an abundance of water and renowned for its oranges and dates. Jericho, though, is a part of the Palestinian Authority. A large red sign written in three languages is posted at each entrance to the city. It warns Israelis not to enter, for to do so would be “at risk to your life.”
Some years ago, a Casino was established near the outskirts of Jericho, employing about 1,000 people. It was called the Oasis. Muslims were forbidden to gamble there, as it was against the Koran’s decrees. But thousands of secular and religious Israelis, Russians and Europeans frequented this place, until the 2nd Intifada in 2000 caused this hotel-casino to close (P.A. snipers took over the top floor and the IDF had to “evict” them).
Now, so as to not miss out on Israel’s upcoming “wave” of tourists, the leaders of the Palestinian Authority are “in talks” with Israel to reopen this “goldmine.” This move has divided the P.A. community with many against this project, while others favor its “impact” on the economy (jpost.com)
Marylois and I once had an “encounter” with the Lord in Jericho. We were near the Sycamore tree that Zacchaeus had climbed to see Jesus. I told those in the van that I didn’t know if this was the real tree that he had climbed so long ago, but I thought Jesus must have passed close by here. The very second I said this, the VW van was flooded with an intense light which exploded within us, and took our very breath away. Then in that instance, I heard the Lord speak: “I am still passing by this way.”
Make that your prayer today. “Lord, pass by these people who sit by the side of the road in darkness.” Pray for Jericho. Pray for conversions among the Muslims, and those who may come to gamble. Pray that they may have an Emmaus road encounter with Jesus and leave forever changed.
World’s Record “Tutim”
January and February in Israel is strawberry season! Those delicious red berries are called “tutim” in Hebrew (pronounced “tootim”) and are on sale everywhere. You haven’t lived until you taste delicious Israeli “tutim.” We serve them at the House of Peace for breakfast, tea-time and even at dinner.
This year the Guinness Book of World Records awarded Israeli farmer Tzachi Ariel recognition for growing the heaviest, largest strawberry ever recorded. It weighed 289 grams or about 10 oz! The berry was found in his field which is near Kadima village in central Israel. The “tutim” was 7 inches long, 1.6 inches thick and 13 inches round. Agriculturalists present at the “weighing” of the strawberry thought that its giant size was due to a number of factors including cold weather, which enabled multiple berries to grow together into one large fruit. Agriculturalist Nir Dai, a representative from the Israeli Agricultural Research Organization stated that “This strawberry developed slowly for more than 45 days from flowering which caused its large size when it was fully ripened (TimesofIsrael.com)
The Word from the LORD to Ezekiel declares of a coming day when “You, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel for they are about to come” (Ezek. 36:8). That day is now! Amos also hears the LORD promise that His people, “shall also make gardens and eat the fruit of them” (Amos. 9:14). Israel is a “blessed land.”
Gene and Marylois/House of Peace