Hamas Sends Rockets into Israel
Over the weekend, forty Hamas rockets shattered the relative calm at the Gaza border with Israel. The missile launch, which targeted civilian territories in the south of Israel, triggered sirens Friday evening through Saturday night, sending residents into their bomb shelters. The activated Iron Dome shot down some of the rockets, though others fell harmlessly while several never actually made it past the Gaza border and landed in the Gaza Strip. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi canceled his planned trip to the United States in case the situation escalated. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that if attacks persist, wider action will take place, which is a sentiment reiterated by Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister. IDF fighter jets bombed targeted points in Gaza, including rocket launchers and underground infrastructure. An IDF tank also struck a Hamas observation post on the border. Palestinian terror groups have said that the rocket attacks are in response to ongoing unrest in Jerusalem. Far-right racist Jewish nationalists have led violent demonstrations against Arabs. Israeli leaders have called for calm.
Please pray tensions in Gaza and also in Jerusalem do not escalate.
Signs That Israel Is Beating COVID-19
Israel has reached three important milestones indicating that it is winning the fight against the coronavirus. First, after more than a year of operation, Israel closed its last two COVID-19 hospital wards. Beginning in March 2020, hospitals opened separate units to deal with the incredibly high number of cases caused by the novel coronavirus. These additional floors required staffing, and in many cases, nurses and doctors from other parts of the hospital, leading to a critical shortage of medical personnel. During the rapid vaccination campaign that started in January, many of these wards began closing. This past Monday, the final two COVID-19 wards transferred their few patients to regular units in their hospitals, and staff have been reassigned to other wards. The second milestone reached is the number five million. Israel just vaccinated its five-millionth person with the second dose, leading the country toward herd immunity. More than 10.4 million doses have been administered to date. Lastly, with the opening of businesses and schools, unemployment rates have decreased to less than 10 percent for the first time since last spring when unemployment neared 30 percent of the population. Dropping to 9.8 percent at the beginning of March, the rate continued to fall through the month, ending at 8.9 percent. The Bank of Israel estimated that the unemployment rate will fall to around 7.5 percent by the end of 2021. When asked about the current unpaid leave payments, Minister of Finance Israel Katz indicated that they will remain in place so as not to penalize those still unemployed, especially from the tourism sector.
Praise God for the amazing strides Israel is making toward fighting the virus! Please continue to pray for those who are still ill, unemployed, or feeling the effects of months of financial insecurity.
Israel Signs with Pfizer
Many months ago, even before the vaccine against COVID-19 was approved, Israel entered into an agreement with Pfizer to purchase millions of doses of the vaccine in exchange for sharing valuable post-vaccination clinical data with Pfizer on the effects of the vaccine on a large population. Now, although five million Israelis have already received two vaccine doses, Israel just purchased millions more to protect the country until at least the end of 2022. These extra doses would be supplied by the end of next year when a possible third dose booster might be required. Additionally, once the United States Food and Drug Administration approves the vaccine for use in younger people, Israel is hoping to use the new supply to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds.
Please pray for scientists who continue to develop treatments against and preventions for COVID-19 and for the safe and rapid approval of the vaccine in additional population groups.
Many Special Conversations
Over the last year, our workers continued to reach out personally to people in many different and creative ways. We chatted on the phone, by email, by video, in the parks, playgrounds, and on walks. In whatever ways the Lord provided the means, we responded, even while maintaining social distancing. Many asked questions about the Lord, asked for prayer, asked for help, cried, and even laughed. We look forward to continuing these special relationships and sharing about the Lord, our life, and testimony. Please keep praying for us!
Please pray for our continuing conversations with all these dear people.