Israeli Forces Rescue Two Hostages
Around 1 am on Monday morning, Israeli forces began a complex rescue mission in Rafah in southern Gaza. Three terrorists were guarding two hostages in a second-floor apartment. Israel used explosives to enter this apartment and kill the terrorists without harming the hostages. Fighting also broke out in nearby buildings as Israel launched airstrikes against Hamas. The two rescued hostages were Fernando Marman (61) and Louis Har (70). Both were taken captive, along with three other members of their family, from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7. Those other three were released during a hostage deal in November.
Israel took Marman and Har to Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. There, medical staff checked their condition and they reunited with their families. One Israeli soldier sustained minor injuries in this operation, but there were no Israeli fatalities. This mission marks Israel’s second successful hostage rescue in this war. The first was the rescue of Ori Megidish, a soldier, in late October. Israel estimates about 130 hostages remain in Gaza.
Praise God for this answer to prayer! Please continue to intercede for the safe and swift release of all hostages.
Israel Plans to Increase Military Service Time
The Israeli Defense Forces plan to increase the length of soldiers’ military service. Currently, a soldier completing their initial mandatory enlistment serves between twenty-eight and thirty-two months. With the proposed changes, all soldiers will need to serve thirty-six months. Prior to October 7, reservists (those who completed their initial mandatory service) needed to serve twenty-five days a year. This proposed plan will change the requirement to forty days a year. It would also extend the ages when a reservist would stop serving from ages forty, forty-five, and forty-nine (depending on their position) to ages forty-five, fifty, and fifty-two, respectively.
The purpose of increasing the mandatory draft and reserve times is to create a larger standing and reserve army. This plan, which the Knesset still has to approve, will multiply the number of available reservists to five times the current number. Currently, Israel is working under a “Draft Order 8,” which means it can call up its army at a moment’s notice. Since October 7, more than 300,000 reserve soldiers were called up under “Draft Order 8.” Now, 120,000 are still serving. The Israeli Defense Forces also need more soldiers, as there is intense fighting on more fronts than usual. So far, 563 soldiers have been killed, 2,830 have been wounded and hospitalized, and another 9,053 were wounded but not hospitalized.
Please pray Israel’s soldiers will be safe, make wise decisions, and protect the nation of Israel.
One-Third of Israelis Report Increased Faith in God Post-October 7
Lazar Research partnered with Panel4all.co.il to assess how Israel’s religious beliefs have shifted since the Hamas massacre on October 7 and the resulting war. Of the 512 Israelis who took the survey, 33 percent reported an increased faith in God. The goal of the survey was to weigh where the religious views of a wide range of Israelis stood during these difficult times.
Overall, 59 percent felt there was no change in their spiritual feelings, whereas 8 percent felt their faith shrink. Those who said their faith increased are mainly from a traditional Jewish background (as compared to secular Israelis). Younger participants were more likely to report an increased faith in God. Finally, the survey also noted 85 percent of those ages eighteen to twenty-nine reported a greater connection to the people of Israel, an increased connection to Israeli society (72 percent) and to Jewish tradition (61 percent).
Please pray Israelis will not only have greater faith in God but come to believe in Jesus the Messiah.
Serving Holocaust Survivors and Families in Israel
Here are a few glimpses of the incredible work God has been doing through our staff in Israel these past few weeks:
- We have been following up with our new not-yet-believing friends we met these past few months since October 7. It is genuinely remarkable to see many of them not only have become good friends with us but also good friends of Jesus! Some have even dedicated their lives to God and are now regular attendees at a local church. One of them, Liel,* comes to congregation with her daughter Shirel* and is overjoyed to be a believer. She is preparing for her baptism.
- These past two weeks, we organized events in Jerusalem, Ofakim, and Ashkelon to celebrate “Tu B’Shevat” with Holocaust survivors. What a meaningful and heartwarming experience to present a biblical message about how Tu B’Shevat aligns with the message of salvation—truly unforgettable! We also distributed hundreds of unique gifts for the holiday, such as beautiful baskets filled with dry fruits.
- We had a particularly touching encounter in Ofakim. While there doing ministry with our friends who are Holocaust survivors, we had the chance to meet a wonderful woman who lives across from them. Unfortunately, this brave woman lost her two children on October 7, due to tragic acts of violence by Hamas terrorists. We were grateful God allowed us to pray with her, comfort her, and offer a heartfelt hug. We plan to follow up with her as well.
- At our event in Jerusalem, the Lord pleasantly surprised us with more than fifty enthusiastic attendees, despite the challenging weather conditions—heavy rain and strong winds. Their eager faces were a wonderful sight, and we thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship and connection while eating the most delicious homemade pizza we cooked for everyone. Moments like these remind us of the importance of coming together and supporting one another.
- In Ashkelon, we also organized an event for kids who are victims of the war. Our hearts warmed as we watched the expressions change on the faces of around eighty kids and thirty adults who have been through so much trauma. For a few hours, they were able to laugh again, play, enjoy good food and games, feel happy, and hear about Jesus. Best of all, two families even decided to join our local church meetings, and we built the basis for relationships with others.
- Last week, we hosted a family camp in Haifa February 8–10 for pre-believing families from the south. This week, February 15–17, we have another one planned for believing families! It thrills us to see the Lord at work as we connect with everyone there.
- Also this week, on February 12, we are celebrating the Chinese New Year with Holocaust survivors. Our believer friends from China who are studying here in Israel are lending a helping hand. Their support and encouragement mean a lot! They taught us something fascinating—the Chinese New Year is filled with symbols relating to Jesus! Is this not amazing? We hope and pray the Lord will use these essential messages to touch hearts and bring people to experience transformation.
Please pray for all the Holocaust survivors, kids, families, and adults we have been ministering to—and for those the Lord will lead us to touch in the future. Pray for us to be the Lord’s hands, feet, and voice drawing these people to salvation in Messiah. Lastly, please pray for wisdom for some exciting plans we are working on to organize fun days for 100 kids who are victims of war in Ofakim. It is both an excellent opportunity to bring joy to these kids and a marvelous chance to proclaim the gospel among many nonbelievers in Israel.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued support and prayers!
*Names changed for privacy.