Light for the Last Days

Israel Desk – August 2021

Israel after the Gaza conflict.

Our April edition of Light for the Last Days had the lead article with the title ‘Israel in the last days – War or peace?’  About one month after publication Israel was being bombarded with rockets fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip.  Around 4500 missiles were fired from Gaza, most of them intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system, some falling inside Gaza (and killing Palestinians) and some getting through to their target and killing Israelis.  Israel responded by attacking Hamas launching sites, tunnels and terror infrastructure.  For this Israel was loudly condemned by the world, which seemed to expect Israel to sit back and let itself be hit by terror missiles and make no response.  

In addition to the missiles from Gaza, Israel faced the added danger of violent attacks on Israeli Jews, incited by Hamas.  Throughout the month of Ramadan, Arabs attacked Jews which they filmed and put on social media.   Palestinian extremists used the Al Aqsa Mosque to stockpile fire bombs and rocks which they used to attack Jewish worshippers and Israeli police.  When the police intervened, images of their action inside al Aqsa were beamed around the world with the accusation that this was an attack by Israel on the third holiest Muslim place during Ramadan.  

There were a series of attacks in mixed Jewish – Arab towns like Lod, causing the deliberate burning of synagogues, homes, businesses and cars.  The mayor of Lod compared the attacks to Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, when the Nazis attacked the Jewish population in 1938 in Germany, setting off the awful progress towards the Holocaust.  

As Israel faced world criticism its ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, asked delegates what they would they do if missiles were fired at their capital cities, Moscow, Beijing, Paris or London?  He said Hamas has built a huge network of terror tunnels in Gaza, underneath schools and homes.  It is hiding thousands of missiles ready to fire at Israel in the midst of its civilian population which it uses as human shields.  The Hamas Charter declares “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” 

Much of the world seems to approve of this intention.  There were demonstrations around the world, including cities of Europe and North America, calling for the end of Israel, with the slogan ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free.’  This means the end of the Jewish state of Israel in the territory between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.  There were appalling scenes of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in cities across Europe.  In our area of London Jewish people were subjected to violent calls for killing Jews and raping Jewish women.  In the US support for Israel is waning as the youth in particular turns to support for the Palestinians.  

Hamas gave thanks to Iran for its role in helping develop its arsenal and use of missiles.  Iran has also supplied Hezbollah in Lebanon with about 150,000 missiles aimed at Israel.  Currently Lebanon is in a state of economic and social collapse.  It is possible that Iran could use the crisis to take over Lebanon completely and use it as a platform from which to attack Israel.

The US Biden administration now has a number of people in significant positions of power in the US who are very critical of Israel.  It is negotiating with Iran about reviving the nuclear deal drawn up by Obama in 2015 and then cancelled by Trump.  This would strengthen Iran’s position and its destructive activity in the Middle East, an opportunity to extend its power and influence into the Middle East and supply it with funds for its support of terror in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, with the aim of confronting and destroying Israel. Time is now running out for Israel to prevent it happening, as US and European negotiators work on restoring the Iran nuclear deal.  

Turkey, which supports Hamas, is also seeking to extend its influence in the region.  President Erdogan would like to regain Turkey’s former Ottoman Empire status when it controlled most of the Middle East including Jerusalem.  He has called on Russia to demand an ‘international protection force’ to be sent in to shield the Palestinians from Israel and give Israel a strong deterrent lesson’.  He has also urged Pope Francis to help unite all of humanity against Israel and to adopt sanctions against Israel for its “massacre” of Palestinians.

As we see the nations again coming together to condemn Israel, we see signs of preparation for the last days’ conflict over the land.  The involvement of Russia, Iran and Turkey point towards the Gog and Magog War of Ezekiel 38-9.  These countries are all involved in the alliance of nations coming against Israel in this war in which God intervenes to save Israel.

Zechariah 12-14 tells us that Jerusalem will be central to the last days’ conflict, describing it as a burdensome stone burdening all nations, meaning it will be a focus of attention of the whole world.  This will lead to the final war before the Messiah returns to bring peace to the world.  

Israel’s new government.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s record 12 year run as Israel’s prime minister ended on June 13th as parliament approved a new ‘government of change.’  Naftali Bennet is Prime Minister for the next two years, after which Yair Lapid will take over as PM.  The new government is made of a number of differing factions. Naftali Bennet is well to the right of Netanyahu politically and has in the past called for Israel to annex parts of Judea and Samaria.  Lapid is a centrist liberal, who supports a Palestinian State, but opposes the division of Jerusalem. The coalition is made up of right wing, centre and left wing parties, some of which want Israel to leave the West Bank altogether and an Arab Islamist party which presumably would like to see a Palestinian Arab state replacing Israel.  For the first time in Israeli history it does not contain any of the religious parties in Israel.  One Israeli commentator likened it to a car with four wheels all pointing in different directions, whose only point of unity is their desire to remove Netanyahu from power. 

Netanyahu may have had his faults, but he did manage to create a strong Israel, able to resist the threat from Iran and its allies.  He also made peace settlements with a number of Arab countries and increased a positive influence for Israel in much of the developing world, as it exported its phenomenal achievements in agriculture, technology and medicine.  He welcomed Christian support of Israel and acknowledged God as the one who had given the Jewish people the land.  He stood for the Zionist programme of Israel’s restoration as the Jewish homeland, based on the Bible and history, unlike many of the factions that make up the present coalition.  His ouster will encourage anti-Zionist elements inside and outside of Israel.

Regarding the present coalition, Naftali Bennett has made a public commitment to the Bible (see our section ‘Bible binds Israel to America).  On the other hand one of Yair Lapid’s first acts as Foreign Minister was to hoist the Gay Rights rainbow flag on the flagpole outside the Foreign Ministry.  Where will he take Israel, when (if) he takes over as Prime Minister in two years’ time.

There is a prophecy in the Bible of an end time government of Israel which will be made up of ‘scornful men’ who will make a ‘covenant with death’ to save themselves from an ‘overflowing scourge’ (danger of invasion):

‘Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scornful men, who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol / hell we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”  Isaiah 28.14-15.  

This prophecy indicates that at the time of the end there will be a government in Israel that will scorn God’s word and covenant and will agree to a ‘covenant with death’.  This covenant will not stand and will lead to ‘the overflowing scourge passing through’ (an enemy assault).  At this time it will be ‘a terror just to understand the report’ – in other words the news will be terrible.’  (Isaiah 28.18-19).  Time will tell whether this government will move Israel in this direction, but we do see factions within it which reject the Bible and biblical moral values.  

Isaiah’s prophecy indicates that there will be a group of people who will make the right decision at this time and believe in the Lord and His Messiah:

Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily. Also I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plummet.”  Isaiah 28.16-17.

These ones will not act hastily or rashly but with faith as they believe in the Lord.  The reference to the ‘precious cornerstone, the sure foundation’ is significant because this speaks of the Messiah:

‘I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation (my Yeshua / Jesus).  The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.’  Psalm 118.21-23.

This verse is quoted or alluded to six times in the New Testament, pointing to its fulfilment in Jesus (Matthew 21.42, Mark 12.10, Luke 20.17, Acts 4.11, Ephesians 2.19-20, 1 Peter 2.6).  

‘Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”  1 Peter 2.6.

The Messiah will bring real peace and safety to Israel at His return. Scripture indicates that before this happens a temporary peace may come through the covenant spoken of in Isaiah 28 and in Daniel 9.27.  This will be a false peace mediated by one, who offers peace and safety, but brings the exact opposite:

For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labour pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.  1 Thessalonians 5.3

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week (seven years); but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.  And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.”  Daniel 9.27.

The one who makes this covenant is revealed as the ‘beast’ or antichrist (Daniel 7, Revelation 13).  He will break the agreement half way through (after three and a half years), set up the abomination of desolation in the holy place / the Temple Mount (Matthew 24.15-21).  This will lead to the final time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30) or the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24) and the final ‘consummation’ (end of the age).  At this time Jesus will return to bring an end to the one who makes desolate (the devil, the beast and the false prophet).

Meanwhile Christians who understand the prophecies should pray for Israel to be saved and protected from the powers of evil. Despite the darkness that is around us and is getting deeper, God is still in His heaven and still watches over His people, and is calling them to repentance and faith in the Messiah Yeshua, so that they may know His protection and be preserved from evil: 

‘Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
… 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.  Psalm 121.4-8.

Temple Mount tensions on Tisha B’Av.

The 9th of Av (corresponds this year to July 18th) is the date of Tisha B’Av, the fast day that commemorates the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem that once stood at the site where now two Muslim structures are located, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.  These two Muslim shrines were built in the 7th century for the purpose of expressing Islam’s superiority over Christianity and Judaism. Arabic texts on the walls and ceiling of the Dome of the Rock bear witness to this.

In 2021, the reality is no different and Muslims on the Temple Mount behave as if they have more rights to that sacred compound than other religious groups, and especially than Jews whom they routinely accuse of “defiling” the holiest site in Judaism. The 1,600 Jews who visited the Temple Mount’s courtyards on Tisha B’Av were again referred to by several Muslim states and the Palestinian Authority as “settlers” who allegedly “stormed” the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In reality, however, Jewish visitors have no interest whatsoever in Al-Aqsa and do not even try to enter it.

Israel was further accused of violating the “status quo” that has existed since 1967 when then-Minister of Defence Moshe Dayan, made the blunder of handing control over the Temple Mount to the Muslim custodian known as the Wakf, just days after Israeli troops had conquered the Old City of Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett contributed to the confusion and tensions with Muslim groups and countries. He first announced that Jews had the right to “pray” in their sacred place. That message was welcomed by the majority of Jews, but Bennett later retracted his words, saying through officials in his office that Jews had the right to “visit” the Temple Mount. Nevertheless, minyans (quorums) of the obligatory 10 Jewish men were formed on the Temple Mount to recite the prayers of Tisha B’Av. The Waqf, the Muslim custodian organisation that still manages the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount, tried to keep the Jews from praying, but the Israeli police prevented a confrontation.

Violent riots later broke out in which Muslims threw stones at police officers and Jewish visitors. Israeli Arabs from the Lower Galilee town of Umm el-Fahm locked themselves in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and barricaded the entrance to the shrine. They then tore down a wall in the mosque to have stones on hand in case the police tried to lift the blockade, which indeed happened ahead of the visits by groups of Jews. 

The flip-flop by Bennett most likely had to do with the flood of condemnations that came from the Muslim world, including that of Ra’am, the Islamist political party that is now part of the new Israeli government, as well as from alternate-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid.  “The Al-Aqsa Mosque and dunams around it are the exclusive property of the Muslims and no one else is entitled to it,” Ra’am said in a press release. It marked the first time that the Islamist coalition partner went directly against its own government.  Ra’am also used the words “storming” and was annoyed that a group of Jews had sung the Israeli national anthem HaTikvah during their visit to the Temple Mount.  Ra’am further warned that the events on the Temple Mount could heat up the situation in Jerusalem and the entire region and even lead to a “catastrophic religious war.”

The Bible says that Jerusalem is a burdensome stone and a stumbling block, and that’s true not only for the nations of the world, but for Israel’s own government, too. (Zechariah 12)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his party are largely religious nationalists who view a return of Jewish worship to the Temple Mount as central to the full restoration of Israel, and the eventual redemption of the world.  His secular Jewish partners in the coalition as well as the Islamist Ra’am party take an opposite view.  The tensions caused by this incident showed the weakness of Israel’s governing coalition and raised questions about how long it can survive.

Information from Israel Today.

Lebanon’s slow death a concern to Israel.

Lebanon is currently in the grip of the worst economic crisis in its history. There are daily shortages of fuel and electricity, a chronic lack of medical supplies, and an absence of essential medicines in hospitals. Some 77% of Lebanese households are unable to purchase sufficient food. The Lebanese pound has lost 90% of its value over the last two years. Lebanese citizens, meanwhile, are prevented from withdrawing more than $100 per week, as foreign currency reserves grow thin. The situation is reaching a point of no return, with the real possibility of widespread hunger. Lebanon is, today, by all measures a failed and collapsing state.

The current grave crisis in Lebanon is directly traceable to the distorting effect that Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors on Lebanese soil have brought.  The current situation stands as a stark warning to all countries faced with infiltration by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its various militia franchises. These are good at building paramilitary muscle and converting it into political power. They also serve as proxy armies for Iran’s war with Israel.  However they have no knowledge of or interest in economics. As a result, the net outcome of their taking of de facto power in a country will be that country’s eventual ruin and impoverishment. Lebanon is now the case study for this process.  With allowance for local variations, similar Iranian efforts are now underway in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Lebanon is the first Arab state to have been brought to the point of destruction by this project. The significance of the current events extends far beyond Lebanon’s borders. Iran is responsible for the slow death of Lebanon.

From Israel’s point of view, there is little to be done but to continue to guard the borders. There is no reason to suppose that the current chaos in Lebanon will incline the Iranians and their proxies towards launching a war against Israel. When hunger and infrastructural collapse are a real prospect, no one is likely to rally around the national colours – not those of Lebanon, and certainly not those of Iran and its local agents. Nevertheless two rockets were fired into Israel from southern Lebanon on 19th July.  The growing chaos in the country does raise the problem that rogue elements could use the vast amount of weapons stored by Hezbollah in Lebanon against Israel.  Israel has warned Hezbollah that any concerted attack on its territory would result in maximum force being used against Lebanon, resulting in the virtual demolition of the country.

Israel returns to Covid restrictions.

Israel’s top officials are warning that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is “significantly less” effective at combating the “Delta” variant of the Covid virus.  “We do not know exactly to what degree the vaccine helps, but it is significantly less,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters and cabinet members on July 17. He didn’t elaborate.  The Delta strain, which was first identified in India, now makes up a significant portion of the new COVID-19 cases in the United States and the United Kingdom, according to health officials.

For months, Israel has relied heavily on administering Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which uses mRNA technology. Officials have said that more than 5.7 million Israelis have received at least one dose of the vaccine.  After a time when Covid restrictions were thrown off, Israel has now brought in new restrictions for public places and businesses.  These must mandate masks and show proof of immunity. Any person entering a site without this could be fined 1,000 shekels ($303) with the venues facing much higher penalties.

Bible binds America to Israel.

Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said it’s not the shared moral and democratic values that bind America and the Jewish state in everlasting friendship. It’s the Bible.  Speaking at the US Embassy in Jerusalem on the occasion of America’s 245th Independence Day on 4th July, Bennett stated:  ‘Anyone who has read American history knows that the revolutionary ideas expressed by America’s founding fathers sprung from their faith in and deep understanding of the Hebrew Bible, the Tenach.  They were very learned and they founded America on the very principles of the Bible.  They saw the Bible’s insights into human nature, civic virtue, social order and political authority as essential to the establishment of this new great nation, America.

Likewise it was the vision of our ancient prophets that the scattered exiles of Zion would one day return to the Land of Israel.   It is the depth of these shared ideals and shared identity that bind our nations together in an unbreakable bond.’

Naftali Bennett was born in Israel, but both of his parents had made Aliyah from the US, and the prime minister spent a goodly portion of his childhood in America and Canada. Like Benjamin Netanyahu before him, not only is Bennett fully fluent in English, he has a deep understanding of and appreciation for the United States.  

While we welcome his reference to the Bible, we have to acknowledge that both the USA and Israel are far from living up to the moral and spiritual values that inspired the Hebrew prophets.  For this reason that bond that he speaks of may not be unbreakable after all.  God is calling both Israel and the USA to repentance and faith in His Word and in Yeshua the Messiah in the days before His return.

Tony Pearce