As the Israeli military stepped up airstrikes on Palestinian weapons sites on Thursday in response to some 1,600 rockets fired into Israel by the Islamic terrorist group Hamas since Monday, evangelical Christians were spurring fellow believers to pray for peace and for Gospel advancement in the Middle East.
The latest fighting there had killed a reported 83 people in Gaza, including more than 30 Hamas militants and 17 children, according to Palestinian officials. Meanwhile in Israel, at least six Israelis including one child were reported killed by rocket fire. According to news reports, the Israeli government was urging its citizens to avoid vigilantism in the wake of several violent incidents between Jews and Palestinians and ongoing tensions between Israeli police and Palestinians in neighborhoods near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The latest round of violence there was believed to be tied to a land dispute between Israeli authorities and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem.
In Washington, D.C., Republican leaders urged Democratic President Joe Biden to cease talks about a renewed nuclear deal with Iran, which is Hamas’ largest financial backer and a staunch foe of Israel. A headline in the Jerusalem Post posed the question: “Is massive Hamas attack on Israel the assault Iran warned of?” alluding to an Iranian military leader’s threat last week against Israel.
In the U.S., evangelicals sounded alarms and asked for prayer on behalf of America’s strongest Middle East ally.
“I have many friends who live in Israel, both Arab and Jew, so we are very concerned about the situation there,” Franklin Graham said on Facebook. “People have been killed, families are cowering in fear in bomb shelters, and they need our prayers. As we are commanded in the Scriptures, let us ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem’ (Psalm 122:6).”
Evangelical author Joel C. Rosenberg, who lives in Israel and holds dual American and Israeli citizenship, replied to a prayerful message on Twitter by stating: “Thanks so much, @CE_Albanese — we’ll take all the prayers we can get right now. It’s crazy over here. Something straight out of one of my #MarcusRyker novels.” Rosenberg had just tweeted that more than 100 rockets “are being fired at Tel Aviv and central Israel as I write this.”
Israel says its Iron Dome air defense system has successfully intercepted “85 percent to 90 percent” of the Hamas rockets fired since Monday.
On Wednesday, California pastor Greg Laurie tweeted: “We all need to be praying for Israel. … The Bible tells us to ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’ (Psalm 122:6).”
Christians understand Israel and the Jewish people as vessels through whom God kept His promise to Abraham to bless the whole world via Abraham’s offspring. Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah who died for the sins of the world and offers eternal salvation to all who place their trust in Him, is the fulfillment of that promise.
Michael Brown, a Jewish believer in Jesus, radio host and occasional contributor to Decision magazine, offered this via Twitter: “If Jerusalem was not beset by so much conflict, the Scriptures wouldn’t call us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And if Jerusalem was not the city to which Jesus the Messiah will return, Satan would not care so much about that place. Let’s put two and two together.”
Later, Brown tweeted: “It is a terrible tragedy when Palestinian or Israeli children are killed by bombs. Sadly, both happen by the design of Hamas, who are glad to bomb a school filled with children and who shoot their rockets from next to hospitals and schools, making children their human shields.”
According to the New York Times, President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “at length” Wednesday night, with Biden reiterating “unwavering support” for Israel’s right to defend itself. The Times also said Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin offered “ironclad support” for Israel’s response in a phone call with the Israeli defense secretary.
Above: A huge column of smoke seen from Gaza city billows from an oil facility in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on May 12 after rockets were fired by Hamas jihadists from the Gaza Strip towards Israel.
Photo: AP/Majdi Fathi