Israel and Iran at war in all but name.
Iran and Israel entered into a new phase of their shadow war over the nuclear arms program of the Islamic Republic and its attempt to expand Tehran’s influence across the Middle East.
It is well known that Israel launched more than 1,000 airstrikes on Iranian weapons transports to proxies in Syria in order to prevent the further build-up of an anti-Israel force under the banner of the “Golan Liberation Brigade.” This campaign has so far prevented the Iranians from getting a solid foothold on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, but the story doesn’t end there. The Iranians now use an Afghan militia to cobble together a giant force that seems to be preparing for conflict with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the near future.
There have also been recent reports regarding Israeli naval efforts to disrupt illicit oil transports to Syria, and a ship belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has been attacked by the Israelis in the Red Sea causing only damage to the vessel. Foreign media reported more attacks on ships that were illegally transporting oil to Syria from Iran. In the end, Iran finally responded by attacking Israeli-owned ships in the Persian Gulf. The MV Hyperion Ray – which sails under a Bahamian flag but is Israeli owned – came under missile fire near the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman. Nobody took responsibility for the attack but Israeli officials believe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was behind the incident. It was the third time an Israeli-owned ship had been attacked in the Persian Gulf over the last month.
For its part, Israel continues to attack illicit weapons transports to Iran’s allies in Syria and Lebanon. Just three days ago local Syrian media reported fresh Israeli airstrikes on weapons depots in the vicinity of Damascus. Local state-controlled media said that a number of anti-aircraft missiles hit their targets, while one rocket fell on Lebanese soil. The Israel Air Force reported that all planes had returned safely.
The big news, however, in the shadow war between Iran and Israel came from the Natanz nuclear facility. Just as the new US Administration of President Joe Biden was engaging in fresh talks with the Islamic Republic over rejoining the JCPOA, the 2015 landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, a mysterious event happened at Natanz.
According to the latest information, explosives were used to disrupt the nuclear base’s internal power system. The explosion caused severe damage to the site and it could take up to nine months to repair the damage. The strike took place only a day after Iran proudly introduced new uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz in a new breach of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
The IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges will enable Iran to speed up uranium enrichment significantly. News of the advanced centrifuges came less than a year after Israel, via the Mossad, launched a devastating strike against a new facility at Natanz.
Alireza Zakani, the head of the Iranian parliament’s research center, said that several thousands of centrifuges were damaged and destroyed. Zakani’s remarks could not independently be confirmed, but Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that if Iran determines that Israel was behind the latest attack on Natanz “then it will get its response and will see what a stupid thing it has done.”
The incident in Natanz came just a day after the United States and Iran opened fresh indirect negotiations in Vienna about rejoining the original nuclear deal (JCPOA). The sides communicate with each other via European diplomats and the talks have reportedly been stalled over differences about who will make the first step in order to reach a situation whereby the Islamic Republic comes in full compliance with the JCPOA.
That means that Iran stops enriching uranium above the 3.5 percent level and gets rid of its stockpile of more than 1,000 kilograms of enriched uranium above the 20 percent level. In turn, the US will lift all the sanctions that the previous US Administration of President Donald J. Trump had slapped on Iran.
Israel has already announced that it will not be bound by a revised nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers in case the US rejoins the JCPOA. The government in Jerusalem and the Chief of Staff of the IDF, Aviv Kochavi, hinted that it was Israel that was behind the new attack on Natanz. Iran now defiantly announced that it will begin enriching uranium to an unprecedented 60 percent level. Fissile material must reach 90 percent purity to enable Iran to produce its first nuclear weapon. The Biden Administration, meanwhile, reacted to the Iranian announcement by saying it was concerned over Iran’s “provocative” actions.
How to exit Israel’s political stalemate?
The Shas Party is pushing for a vote to reform Israel’s electoral system to enable a special election for prime minister, Israel’s Channel 12 reported on 18 April. The plan was the result of a meeting between Shas leader Aryeh Deri and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, according to the report.
The idea behind the initiative is that the special vote would give Israel a way out of the political stalemate that resulted from the March 23 elections—Israel’s fourth general elections in two years. According to the Channel 12 report, Netanyahu has lent his support to the special election bill.
Netanyahu called on New Hope leader and former Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar to come back to the governing party on Sunday, but so far Sa’ar has only increased his attacks and criticized the prime minister for using the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet to “destroy Israel’s state institutions.”
Meanwhile, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who leads the second-largest Knesset faction, called on all parties opposing the prime minister to “form an Israeli unity government.”
Lapid hopes to get the presidential nod to form a government if Netanyahu fails to form a coalition by the May 4 deadline (though the president may grant a two-week extension), but has struggled to get the backing of right-wing lawmakers.
Jewish News Service
Israel claims victory over Corona.
“Israel is the first country in the world to beat Corona,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the nation during the Independence Day celebrations. “It’s all thanks to our successful national vaccination program.”
On April 19 Israel signed an agreement with Pfizer for the acquisition of millions of vaccine doses for 2022. Israel and Pfizer also agreed on an option to acquire additional millions of vaccine doses. The supplement that was signed will ensure the continuation of Israel’s ability to deal with the coronavirus in an optimal manner at least until the end of 2022.
Prime Minister Netanyahu: “I recently spoke with my friends, the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna. There were several obstacles in Israel that we needed to overcome, and we found a way to do so. If there are no surprises such as coronavirus variants that the vaccines cannot overcome, then we have signed for the acquisition of millions of additional Pfizer vaccines. I very much hope that we will also sign soon with Moderna. This means that soon we will have more than enough vaccines for both adults and children. Israel will again lead the world in the fight against the coronavirus. There will be no more lockdowns; we are all excited about this.」
Messianic Jews Around the World Today
This is a report from Israel Today by David Lazarus.
Today the Messianic Jewish Movement is well established though still relatively small. There are an estimate 100,000 Messianic Jews worldwide and about another 200,000 partly Jewish or Gentile relatives and friends who worship in their congregations. It is estimated that there are approximately 15,000 to 16,000 openly Messianic Jews living in Israel and about 130 Messianic Jewish congregations. However, their influence on both Jewish and Christian societies is much stronger than one might imagine.
There are 350–400 Messianic Jewish congregations in the US. Similarly, there are 350–400 congregations in Russia. There are also up to 5,000 Christians and Jews gathering in Messianic Jewish congregations in Germany, mostly Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The largest congregation of Messianic Jews in the world is currently in Kiev, Ukraine with over 2,000 members, about half of them being Jewish. There are Messianic groups in South Africa and other places in Africa and Asia. The numbers of all these are increasing rapidly within a relatively short period of time.
Recently, the world has become more aware of tribes in Africa and Asia who claim to be descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel (or descendants from the first diaspora). Many of these tribes have a Christian background and are now seeking for ways to integrate their claim of Hebrew ancestry with their more recent faith in Christ. Inevitably, new Messianic congregations will be formed. There are a number of Messianic Jewish congregations in Ethiopia where there is a very favourable environment for the growth of the Messianic Movement.
The witness of Jews who believe in Yeshua is often lived out at a high price. Many Jewish circles consider the Messianic Jews a threat. The most radical expression of this enmity is found in the activities of some ultra-orthodox rabbinic groups in Israel and elsewhere who fear the influence of Messianic Jews so much that they have organized “religious police troops.” An example is the Yad l’Achim movement that often terrorises Messianic centres in Israel.
An example of their activities is found in this report from 2019: Orthodox Jewish extremists crashed a Messianic gathering in Jerusalem over the weekend. According to eyewitnesses that spoke to Israel Today, dozens of religious Jews rallied in front of the entrance to the Pavilion event hall in downtown Jerusalem to block local believers from attending an annual concert of new Hebrew-language worship songs written over the past year.
“They wouldn’t let us enter. I was pushed aside violently,” said Professor Gideon, a Messianic Jew and Dean of the School of Sciences at Tel Aviv Academic College. “There were families with small children and the religious were pushing and cursing,” Gideon said. “The children were really frightened. Many were crying.”
Police eventually arrived at the site, but the anti-Messianic group refused to leave. The screams and shouts continued as police lead the Messianics into the auditorium through a side emergency door. “In the end we managed to praise God with the new Messianic songs,” Suzanna Mark, a Messianic Jewish soldier in the IDF told Israel Today. “We prayed for the Orthodox who continued screaming throughout the concert. When the concert was over the police had to escort us out the side door on order to avoid any more violence,” she said.
Jewish History in South America
The Messianic Movement in South America has the greatest potential for growth. A high percentage of inhabitants of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries in Latin America are descendants of those Jews who fled to the colonies in the 16th century from the terror of the “Catholic monarchs” and the Holy Inquisition that occurred on the Iberian Peninsula.
The consequences of this decree were horrific. Of the 600,000 Jews living on the Peninsula at that time according to most scholars, about 200,000 fled the country instead of giving up their Jewishness. In the end, up to 400,000 agreed to be baptized, but this did not bring them the freedom they were promised. The newly baptized Jews, so-called “Conversos” or New Christians, were carefully monitored by the Church for the next twenty years after their baptism. This “monitoring” was enforced by the “Holy Inquisition.”
This terrible system of Church control was invented and already perfected in the 14th century by Catholic religious orders like the Dominicans and Franciscans. It was used to terrorize these newly baptized Jewish families to make sure that the Conversos would not live a double life: Catholic Christians in public but inside the privacy of their homes still practicing Jews. These newly baptized Jews were often called Marranos, a Spanish word for pigs, because they had to eat pork publicly to prove they had given up their entire Jewish heritage. Throughout the 16th century these Conversos flooded Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile and Mexico. But even there, they were not free. The Inquisition came right behind them and installed the same system of terror even in the New World.
There is an estimate that nowadays 20 to 25 million people in South America have Jewish blood as the descendants of these Marranos. Because of this double life, many of those Marrano families today have lost their sense of identity and do not know who they really are. Over the centuries, millions of these Marranos didn’t know the joy of being able to say: “Jesus is a Jew, and so am I.” But now, with the resurrected Messianic Jewish witness, it opens the door for them to express both sides of their identity fully – to be fully Jew and fully a believer in Yeshua at the same time. These Marrano families are a huge potential for growth of the Messianic Jewish Movement!