The words of U.S. General William Tecumseh Sherman ring out from the pages of history and echo over Gaza’s jihadi terrorists of Hamas:
“You people … don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people (in) the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed … You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth – right at your doors. You are bound to fail” (The Civil War: A Narrative (1986), Shelby Foote, p. 58).
As the war against jihad enters its second week, IDF forces are penetrating the built-up suburbs of eastern Gaza, engaging in house-to-house combat with Hamas fighters. The priority focus is still the discovery and destruction of terror tunnels leading into Israel, as well as the elimination of rockets and launchers. IDF casualties to date are 32.
- What is happening on the ground?
- What perspective can the Scriptures offer?
- What are our prayer targets?
Tunnels – from Viet Cong to Hamas
During the French Indochinese War, the Viet Minh built a huge network of underground tunnels in the Iron Triangle as part of their asymmetrical guerilla warfare against superior military forces (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Triangle_(Vietnam)). These networks were expanded by the Viet Cong in their battles against the Americans and Australians.
Hamas has studied this history. They have also received professional guidance from the Lebanese Shi’ite terror group Hezbollah in constructing their Gazan terror-tunnel networks.
Original Israeli security estimates were that there were 10-12 major terror tunnels. That number is rapidly being adjusted upwards (www.investigativeproject.org/4471/exclusive-us-intelligence-source-claims-hamas-has; www.timesofisrael.com/idf-didnt-follow-up-on-mri-style-below-surface-technology-to-find-tunnels/#ixzz38LFA9mko). So far 31 have been uncovered and, of these, 11 have been destroyed. Guestimates are now hovering at 60 plus. In the hands of a violent jihadi group these tunnels remain a clear and present danger to Israel. A ceasefire under these conditions is not realistic.
Hamas engineers sometimes build two tunnels in the same area, so that if one is discovered, the other in close proximity can still be used for terror attacks. The knowledge of where those tunnels are is a closely guarded secret known to less than a handful of unit leaders – the tunnel squads are organized like communist revolutionary cells.
- Pray for the IDF ‘Weasels’ Combat Engineers – for divine discernment and success in discovering and neutralizing all the Hamas terror tunnels still functional
Dancing on the blood of one’s own people
The cynical and cruel use by Hamas of hospitals, mosques, schools, playgrounds, homes and ambulances to hide rocket launchers, rocket storehouses and terrorists has been thoroughly documented in recent history, and especially during this war.
Hamas has been filmed firing rockets at Israeli civilians and submachine guns at the IDF from the al Wafaa hospital in Shuja’iya (eastern Gaza). Two days of warnings by leaflets, texts and phone calls were followed by a direct phone call by IDF Military Intelligence to the hospital directors, ascertaining that all patients and medical personnel were evacuated. Only at that point was the hospital destroyed by pinpoint aerial bombardment. Here is the IDF video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=8O9AHzUKYk8&app=desktop
Dr. Michael Oren, CNN Middle East analyst and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, points out that Hamas’ media strategy relies on mounting “a sophisticated media campaign that can threaten Israel’s basic security” using “one of the world’s most powerful weapons: the international media.” Deliberating shooting at the IDF from behind the backs of its own civilians, Hamas crows over the casualties and hands the video footage over to the international media, who use those gory shots to demonize Israel. Oren concludes that “journalists must take a hard look at the way they cover this conflict. They must not allow themselves to act as accessories to Hamas’s murderous strategy that delegitimizes Israel and prolongs the Palestinians’ suffering” (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/07/21/opinion/oren-hamas-media-strategy/index.html).
Former US President Bill Clinton told India’s NDTV last week that Hamas has “a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own (Palestinian) civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them” (www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/hamas-is-killing-its-own/story-e6frgd0x-1226997934042?nk=b243bf5b80cbf315b10c70fef388369e).
- Pray for the IDF airmen and soldiers who are actively hunting down Islamist terrorists, their tunnels, weapons storehouses and command centers
So far 32 IDF soldiers have been killed in the fighting. Many have been targeted by RPG or sniper fire and some by booby-trapped buildings. The spontaneous outpouring of national identification and sympathy with three ‘lone soldiers’ – young Jewish men who made aliyah to Israel and joined the IDF, even though their families remained in the Diaspora – deeply moved the whole nation.
- More than 6,000 people, most of them unknown to the soldier, attended the funeral of 22-year old Staff-Sergeant Jordan Ben Simon, born in Lyons, France, who immigrated to Israel at the age of 16 (www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.606702).
- 20,000 attended the funeral of 21-year old Staff-Sergeant Nissim Seann Carmeli, formerly of South Padre Island, Texas (www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-gaza-conflict-2014/.premium-1.606545).
- Over 30,000 attended the funeral of 24-year old Staff-Sergeant Max Steinberg, formerly of Los Angeles (www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Fallen-IDF-soldier-Max-Steinberg-A-Lion-of-Zion-368656; www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4548586,00.html).
Colonel Ghassan Alian, a highly respected warrior in the IDF and Druze head of the Golani Brigade, was wounded in action leading his men into battle and was treated at Soroka Hospital in Beersheva. Ignoring doctors’ suggestions that he recuperate, Colonel Alian returned to the front, battle-scarred, to lead his men on the frontlines (www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4548235,00.html). His example stirred many hearts in this country, and incarnates the biblical principles of warfare that the IDF is known for in our day – military leaders who actually lead their troops into war.
The Berlin blockade
In June 1948 the Soviet Union blocked the Allies’ rail and canal access to Berlin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Blockade). The famous Berlin Airlift was the Allied response to these warlike acts. Aircrews from the American USAF, the British RAF, the Canadian RCAF, the Australian RAF, the New Zealand RNZAF and the South African Air Force flew over 200,000 flights in one year, daily providing up to 4,700 tons of fuel, food and other necessities to thankful Berliners.
On July 22 a Hamas rocket landed in Yehud, a town 9 kilometers away from Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport, damaging a home. By the end of the day, three U.S. airlines decides to suspend flights to Israel for 24 hours. This created a domino effect among European carriers as well (www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Report-US-considering-grounding-flights-to-Israel-amid-rocket-threat-368492).
The effect of this was chilling for many in Israel, reminding us of how national airlines refused to fly into Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. The feeling was that “all the world is against us,” a not-surprising reaction in light of two thousand years of both Gentile anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. For many in Israel, the historical reverberations of this FAA domino-decision were most sobering.
Hamas was quick to crow, once again, that a victory had been won for the forces of jihad: “’The success of Hamas in closing Israeli airspace is a great victory for the resistance, and is the crown of Israel’s failure,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement” (http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/07/23/World-suspension-of-Israel-flights-a-great-victory-Hamas.html).
Within 28 hours the FAA reversed its position and allowed American flights back into Israel (www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/FAA-lifts-flight-ban-on-US-flights-to-Israel-368705; www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4549146,00.html). But the historical lessons of these events bear earnest consideration.
When pro-Western Berlin was attacked, the Allies stood up to be counted. When the 9/11 terror attack happened, the nations of the world did not call for suspension of flights to the U.S.A. But after two weeks of rocket fire, the American-run FAA effectively throttled Israel’s air connections with the world and gave a stunning shot in the arm to jihadi terror. Playing it safe, not choosing sides, non-committal good business behavior – the same arguments were used by feckless Western businessmen who preached appeasement and accommodationism with Adolf Hitler.
- Pray for Western business and political leaders – that God would grant them understanding of the present warfare against jihad, and reveal to them the influential part they can play in defending Western civilization and freedoms, and in blessing the seed of Jacob
No one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
In Bob Dylan’s sizzling rock masterpiece about Israel, “Neighborhood Bully,” ((www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/neighborhood-bully#ixzz38Nvvh9vx) he says, “He got no allies to really speak of. What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love. He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied, but no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side – he’s the neighborhood bully!”
The Scriptures’ perspective on standing with Israel is quite different from some of the internet buzz that is passing for principled philosophical discourse these days. We have recently been running into the phrase “I don’t take sides” as a kind of Christian mantra.
The gist of the discussion seems to be:
- God loves everybody
- God doesn’t take sides
- Muslims and Jews don’t believe in Jesus, so neither side is right and both are equally wrong
- Westerners have a superior (or should one say ‘condescending’) perspective because they do not live in the Middle East
- Neutrality is good for business
Glib comparisons are occasionally made, shaped unwittingly by jihadi and Islamist perspectives. Israeli behavior is demonized, while emotional appeals are made, pulling on Western sympathy for the ‘underdog.’ As well, anti-Semitic stereotypes are dragged out, ascribing nefarious motives to Jewish people, like world domination and blood-sucking economic lust.
How are believers in Yeshua to respond to this multi-pronged onslaught?
Choosing to stand with the people of God
The prophet Isaiah has given us so many precious prophecies and insights into the heart of God. YHVH’s perspective is made clear in this book on how the nations (and sometimes even believers within those nations) dismiss or downplay the calling and the gifts irrevocably given to Israel (Romans 11:28-29). Here is the God of Israel’s broad historical summation of how the nations relate to the Jewish people:
And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede. Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head. And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle. According to their deeds, so He will repay – wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies. To the coastlands He will make recompense. So they will fear the name of YHVH from the west and His glory from the rising of the sun. For He will come like a rushing stream which the wind of YHVH drives. A Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob, declares YHVH (Isaiah 59:16-20).
Sometimes it seems that these nations are so very big, and that Israel is so very small, a tiny minority (see Amos 7:2, 5). Why should super-powers kneel before God’s purposes in their international relations with that country? Isaiah could not be more bold or more forthright on this point:
“Who has directed the Spirit of YHVH, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales. Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him. They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.”
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth – but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble” (Isaiah 40:13-17, 21-24).
Across the Great Divide
Moses knew something about standing up for the God of Israel in threatening and trying times. He knew what it was like to take sides: “Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control – for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies – then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Whoever is for YHVH, come to me!’” (Exodus 32:25-26).
Joshua knew what it like to take sides. He had committed his life to following YHVH the Lord of armies, and had been called by YHVH to be His warrior and general. He paced the ground at midnight, his mind occupied by the coming morning battle with Canaanite Jericho. Joshua’s desert tradecraft suddenly picked up an intruder, and he quickly tried to discern if this person was friend or foe:
Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of YHVH.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of YHVH’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so…YHVH said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors. You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days (Joshua 5:13-15; 6:2-3).
Some preachers love to quote Joshua on this point, but they usually miss God’s main point here. Joshua already was on YHVH’s side; he was already “on a mission from God!” It would be foolish to think that God was being evenhanded in this situation. It would be out of touch with reality to suppose that God was trying to be politically correct by weighing Jewish and Canaanite sensibilities equally. The text makes it crystal-clear: YHVH of armies had taken a stand, and Joshua was standing right next to Him. This was all very bad news if you were a Canaanite, but very good news if you were a descendant of Jacob.
Joshua and Moses were not blinded to the spiritual condition of many in Israel (Deuteronomy 31:27-29; Joshua 23:11-16). But that was not the schwerpunkt, the main point that God was emphasizing at that meeting. God was for Israel, would fight their battles alongside of them, and would judge both His enemies and those who remained ‘uninvolved’ or ‘uncommitted’ bystanders (see Obadiah 1:11-14).
- Sometimes, not taking a stand is also taking a stand.
Choosing to stand with the people of Israel
When Moses lived in Egypt, he had it made in the shade. He was at the top of Egypt’s “Most Likely to Succeed” list. Yet he chose to link his fate to that of the Jewish people, to get in sync with God’s program.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Messiah greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward (Hebrews 11:24-26).
There are some who are interested in heavenly reward, but do not yet see the connection between the heavenly reward (on one hand) and earthly courage and covenant faithfulness with the Jewish people (on the other hand). When Messiah comes, many will stand with Israel, but our challenge today is more immediate: Will we stand with the Jewish people and with the Jewish state (still in the process of being restored) – not in order to get a spiritual thrill and not primarily for our own spiritual blessing – but because we recognize that God is already standing beside Joshua, and beside the people of Israel?
Thus says YHVH of armies, It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of YHVH, and to seek YHVH of armies; I will also go.” So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek YHVH of armies in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says YHVH of armies, In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you (Zechariah 8:20-23).
There is, of course, another option available – rather than standing with God and His people. It is the option of standing apart from Him and against His people Israel. That would involve breathing life into Israel’s enemies, encouraging their murderous agendas, seeding doubt as to God’s heart and purposes concerning the Jewish people, and acting as the enemy’s mouthpiece. May the Lord God of Israel keep His beloved children from doing that!
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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