After Several Hostage Releases, Ceasefire Collapses
Over the past few days, there have been significant updates in the Swords of Iron War. Last week, Israel saw the release of around 100 hostages, including both Israelis and foreign nationals. The country waited late into each evening, watching the tense scenes of masked Hamas terrorists handing hostages over to the Red Cross, who put them on vans and drove them away. Upon arrival in Israel, the families—and the whole country—breathed a sigh of relief. All of those released were women and children held for more than fifty days, some without any family. Their reunions brought everyone to tears.
Tales of neglect, torture, and psychological trauma during their captivity are coming out. Doctors say the civilian hostages “went through hell.” Hamas still holds around 136 Israelis and up to eight foreign nationals as hostages in Gaza. The oldest hostage, Aryeh Zalmanovich (age eighty-five), and three others have died in Hamas captivity. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar visited a group of hostages deep in a tunnel and spoke to them in near-perfect Hebrew, which he learned while imprisoned in an Israeli jail many years ago.
On Friday morning, the truce collapsed on account of the abundant violations Hamas committed. They started shooting rockets again, did not supply a list of hostages to be released, and committed a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. Two masked terrorists pulled up to a busy bus stop on the edge of the highway out of Jerusalem and opened fire, killing three people.
Since the truce collapse, Israel has resumed air strikes in Gaza and southern Lebanon. The Israeli Defense Forces are targeting locations in Gaza known to be Hamas strongholds—based on knowledge of tunnels, stock of weapons, or terrorists’ hideouts. Hamas has launched dozens of rockets into nearby Israeli communities, central Israel, and even near Jerusalem. Israel has found 800 Hamas tunnel shafts and destroyed 500 of them. Most of these tunnel shafts were in civilian areas like schools, kindergartens, mosques, and playgrounds.
Please pray for wisdom for Israel’s leaders as the war has resumed.
Pray for the safety of the soldiers as they continue fighting for and guarding Israel. Please pray for family members of soldiers to remain strong and brave.
Pray God’s mighty angels will protect and comfort the hostages who have not yet returned. Please pray for the anxious hearts of the families of these hostages.
Pray for God to heal the minds, hearts, and bodies of the returned hostages from the atrocities they experienced.
Please pray for the displaced Israelis as they try to make a home away from home, whether in a hotel or an apartment. Pray their kids can integrate and the adults can sustain their work.
Israeli Defense Forces Warn Civilians in Gaza of Dangerous Areas
As fighting resumed, Israel released an interactive map of Gaza in Arabic. Each section has a number. Israeli forces urge non-combatants in Gaza to identify where they live by number so they can listen to Israel’s instructions about the Hamas enclaves they plan to target. These instructions will help guide them to safer areas and keep them away from locations known to be terrorists’ hubs. As the Israeli forces make targeted strikes against Hamas, they seek to give non-combatants a chance to move away from future combat zones. Israel’s military also opened a safe corridor near the southern city of Khan Yunis so innocent Gazans could evacuate.
Please pray for the success of Israel’s targeted attacks on terrorist enclaves, tunnels, and stored weapons. Pray for the safety of Gazan civilians held in the crossfires.
Oketz Canine Combat Unit Saves Lives
The Oketz unit is a group of Israeli combat soldiers working alongside specially trained dogs. These dogs have been crucial in search-and-rescue missions, finding dozens of bombs and traps Hamas terrorists placed in hideouts. They also located and recovered the bodies of two murdered hostages. The dogs even located tunnels under three Gazan hospitals, including Shifa Hospital, as well as concealed bombs on hospital property, including one in a room for physical therapy.
Within the hospitals, the Oketz unit found weapons hidden everywhere—from inside machines and cabinets to under patients’ beds. Sadly, four brave dogs have died in combat, and each is credited with saving the lives of the soldiers in their unit. The Oketz unit has been critical in the Swords of Iron War.
Please pray for this special unit of dogs and soldiers to continue to find weapons and tunnels, saving the lives of countless soldiers.
Bringing Hope to a Traumatized Nation
Last Friday, hostilities resumed after an eight-day truce. There were also several quiet days before the ceasefire, so the families living in our Jerusalem Messianic Center since mid-October returned to their homes near Gaza. We continue to keep in touch with them and pray with them.
On Friday, we prepared and delivered seventy hot meals to Holocaust survivors. We also invited friends from Sderot who evacuated and now live in the nearby Jerusalem hotels to come to our Jerusalem Messianic Center to celebrate the Sabbath. Most of them are not yet believers. They love to ask questions and sometimes ask for prayer.
Our team is in touch with many young soldiers who have grown up in our children’s camps to ask about their needs. We talk about both their physical needs and spiritual needs. We listen to them, give advice, and pray with them. Two weeks ago, we gave our soldier’s friends folding beds, thermal underwear, gloves, hats, and more. These special gifts intended to make their service easier allowed the young, believing soldiers to continue proclaiming their faith and testimonies. The other soldiers were amazed when they heard the equipment was from believers who loved Israel.
Yesterday, we had a fun day for mothers and children in Ashkelon. We gave them a tour of Jerusalem. Afterward, we returned to the Jerusalem Messianic Center and ate homemade pizza. We spent time together with an exciting program of Bible study and prayer.
Now, we are preparing for Hanukkah. On Sunday, we are making 400 gifts for children. During the week, we will deliver them to children in the south of Israel. From December 8 to 12, we will hold a camp for children from the south. Everyone is looking forward to a fun week. Once again, we will be staying at our Jerusalem Messianic Center.
We also resumed our meetings with Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem and Ofakim. Our group from Sderot remains evacuated in hotels in different cities. They have been living in hotels for two months, which is very difficult. In hotels, there is no opportunity to cook their food, and their meals do not always suit their unique elderly needs. They constantly call and ask us to prepare something so they can have a visitor. Additionally, these hotels do not have washing machines, so they must wash their clothes in sinks! Last week, we delivered warm clothes to them since it was freezing, and they did not have the time to pack warm clothes.
This is just a summary of the last few days. We leave home at 7 am and return around 8 or 9 pm. Every day, we talk to dozens of people and constantly have opportunities to tell them about Jesus, and we see how the Lord works in the hearts of people. We love what we are doing and are thankful we can serve the Lord! Thank you for taking the time to read this report and praying for all the special people and projects we are involved in.
Please pray our staff in Israel will bring practical aid and the hope of the gospel to many suffering because of the war.