Inside Israel

Israel Holds Municipal Elections

An Israeli Defense Forces soldier votes in 2006 (Source: Wikimedia Commons/Israel Defense Forces)

This past week, Israel held municipal elections, originally scheduled for the end of October 2023. Hamas’ surprise attack and the resulting war led to the postponement of the elections. The government rescheduled them for the end of January but then delayed them again until the end of February. Voter turnout was still very low, with only 49.5 percent of the eligible population voting, or 3,511,758 out of 7,100,390 eligible voters.

With many still on active and reserve duty, the country’s 570 military polling sites opened a week early so soldiers had the time to vote. They are considered “double envelope” ballots because the voters cast them outside their municipal jurisdiction. There were 400,000 double envelope votes compared to 95,000 double envelope votes in the last municipal election in 2018. In addition, 180,000 evacuees remaining displaced from eleven municipalities and regional councils near the northern and Gaza border could not vote. Those elections will be held in November. Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his wife voted in Jerusalem and said,

Local government impacts our lives in a very dramatic way. Every area of life for the citizens of Israel is cared for by local authorities. Therefore, if we really want to influence the direction of our lives, it is best to go out and vote in the local authority elections. This has been proven all the more so in the war. In a state of emergency, we see the municipalities, the local authorities and councils handling and facing a host of challenges of the highest importance.

Please pray for the mayors and governing councils to guide, lead, and make wise decisions for the communities they serve.

Read more at The Times of Israel . . .

Genesis Prize Awarded to Organizations Serving Former Hostages and Families

A demonstration for the release of the Israeli hostages in Gaza, which took place in front of the Kirya in Tel Aviv in October 2023 (Source: Wikimedia Commons/ליזי שאנן)

Every year, the Genesis Prize Foundation awards the prestigious Genesis Prize (sometimes known as “the Jewish Nobel Prize”). This honor recognizes people who exemplify high levels of work and ethical commitments, widely impacting society and inspiring the next Jewish generation. The award is one million dollars and will be given to a group this year, not a sole winner. Last year, the Foundation gave it to Jewish organizations providing humanitarian relief within and for Ukraine.

This year, the prize is going to several Israeli groups caring for the hostages who have been freed. These organizations support former hostages and their family members through therapies, psychological counseling, and social reintegration. Part of the prize will also go to help those who have been injured and to help evacuees who were relocated. The Genesis Prize intends to keep reminding the international diplomatic community of the plight of the hostages still in Gaza and the challenges the ones who have been released continue to face. Stan Polovets, founder and chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation, said,

This award is not a political statement, and it is not our intent to influence government policy. The Genesis Prize is a humanitarian award, and this year, it seeks to achieve three things—ensure the world does not forget the plight of the captives; provide additional aid to organizations focused on assisting the hostages and their families; and, last but not least, honor the selfless work of organizations that spontaneously emerged after October 7.

Please pray for these groups who help and will continue to help those who are suffering because of Hamas’ actions on October 7.

Read more at YNet News . . .

Families of Hostages Complete Four-Day March

Marchers on the way to Jerusalem in support of further government action to secure the freedom of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. March 2, 2024. (Source: Hostages and Missing Families Forum)

Families of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza completed a four-day march, arriving in Jerusalem Saturday night. They are protesting the government’s failure to bring their loved ones home. As the group entered the city, they sang the folk song “Jerusalem of Gold.” By the time they arrived in Jerusalem, their protest had grown to 20,000 people and culminated in a rally. The Hostages and Missing Families Forum said, “The government of Israel, we are here to urge you not to relent and not to cease negotiations. It is time to end their suffering. Israel stands behind you.”

Please pray for the current negotiations to bring the hostages home.

Read more at The Jerusalem Post . . .

One-on-One Friendships Bear Fruit

We often write about large events attended by many people who come for fellowship, Bible study, Sabbath dinners, worship evenings, etc. But throughout the country, our staff continue to minister to people individually. Frequently, this is where the great questions come out, trust is built, and people understand and accept Jesus as their Messiah. One staff member writes,

Recently, I met a woman named Liah,* who is in her sixties. She has been reading the prophecies of the Messiah in the Tanach (Old Testament), and as she opened the New Testament, she realized Jesus “is the real deal, Jesus the Messiah!” All her friends have warned her not to explore this path. Recently, she came over for a Sabbath dinner, and we talked for hours and prayed together. She needs a community of believers to grow with and encourage her. I invited her to our women’s Bible study, and she is excited to begin to build friendships with believers and study the Bible together.

Praise God for stories like Liah’s and so many others. Please keep her in your prayers!

* Name changed.