Israel, Morocco, and Bhutan Sign Normalization Agreements
Israel and Morocco, and more recently, the Kingdom of Bhutan, have begun the process to normalize ties—a major achievement. For Morocco, it is especially significant because many Israelis are of Moroccan descent. Previously, Israelis had to secure special visas to visit Morocco and do so in an organized tour group. There were no direct flights, and Israel could not fly over Morocco’s airspace. Now, that has all changed. Morocco will be the fourth Arab country to set aside hostilities since August. Also, in a surprise to many, the isolated country of Bhutan has signed a normalization agreement with Israel. The small Himalayan kingdom, nestled between China and India, only has diplomatic ties with fifty countries, and Israel is now one of them. There are close to 800,000 citizens in Bhutan, and visitors were only allowed in the country starting in 1970. Television and internet were legalized in 1999. Israel hopes to strengthen ties with Asia and will help Bhutan with health care, water management and agriculture.
Please pray for ties to be established between these two countries and for more countries to come!
Vaccine Arrival in Israel
Israel recently received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines. It was met with applause and a welcoming announcement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel will start vaccinating its citizens toward the end of the month, hopefully administering 60,000 doses a day. Prime Minister Netanyahu, in an effort to encourage all Israelis to receive the vaccination, has agreed to be the first and will be vaccinated live on television. He was proud that Israel, such a tiny country with only nine million citizens, will be able to give vaccinations at the same time as Britain and the United States. Earlier this year, Israel secured millions of doses from Pfizer. At-risk groups, such as the elderly and health care workers, will be the first to receive the vaccination. At the rate of 60,000 a day, it will take Israel five months to vaccinate everyone. In the meantime, he reminded everyone to continue to wear masks, maintain social distancing, and practice good hygiene. Israel is currently seeing an uptick in the virus with close to 1,900 new positive cases a day, compared to a month ago when it was only 600 new cases daily.
Please pray for the logistics and procedures to be well thought out for the public to start receiving the vaccination and for those who need to wait, to stay safe and healthy.
Israel’s Poverty Levels
As a result of the pandemic, Israel is seeing a massive increase in those who are poverty stricken. According to a recent survey, 268,000 Israeli families have fallen below the poverty line, and almost a million households lack essential housing, education, clothing and food. This represents an increase of 50 percent since the start of the global coronavirus crisis earlier this year. Israel is a country with eight and a half million people. Almost a million people are unemployed or on unpaid leave. Many are experiencing food insecurity, which is “the inability to ensure a constant supply of food that contains all the nutritional elements necessary for proper development and health.” There are locations within Israel that are more badly hit than others, and the socio-economic hardships are massive. With social welfare unable to provide the assistance needed due to lack of funding, charities are taking on most of the responsibility to help.
Please pray for those who are struggling to make ends meet. Please pray that their needs are met and that they find hope during this discouraging time, especially by placing their hope in Yeshua.
Fewest Security-Related Deaths in 2020
Amid or possibly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the year 2020 will have the fewest security-related deaths since the modern state of Israel’s founding. The number of Israeli military personnel and civilians who were killed in a terrorist incident or combat were low in 2019—two soldiers and seven civilians—and even lower in 2020, with only two deaths—one soldier and one civilian. “We are ending a year in which we successfully fulfilled the primary mission of the IDF: providing defense and security. We thwarted every attempt to infiltrate into Israel and we saw a drop in the number of casualties and in the number of rockets fired at Israel,” IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told reporters in a year-end briefing this week. According to the IDF, 174 rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel from Gaza in 2020, mostly in February during a two-day standoff with Islamic Jihad. This amounts to a roughly seven-fold decrease from the previous two years, when 1,296 and 1,164 projectiles were fired, respectively. Israel has almost finished constructing the underground tunnel detection system near Gaza aimed at identifying attack tunnels being built from Gaza into Israeli territory. In October, a mile-long tunnel was found very deep underground, built with electricity, air ventilation systems, and intercoms.
Please pray for continued peace and safety for the IDF and Israel’s civilians.
In Israel and all over the world, Jewish people are celebrating Hanukkah—the Festival of Lights. For eight nights, candles are lit on the menorah. It is a joyous holiday of hope and strength for the Jewish people. In Israel, people eat sufganiyot (fried jelly-filled donuts) and play a game with sivivyon (dreidels, spinning tops). Our staff in Israel wish you Happy Hanukkah! This week, we have a number of online events aimed at encouraging people through Word and testimonies, worshipping together, and fun games. We just finished one for adults and saw a lot of views and comments. We are looking forward to other events for children and young adults. Our communities of Holocaust survivors that we minister to will also have special online events, and some had a special gift delivered to their door—candles and chocolates! May the Light of the World shine in and through you as we all share the Messiah’s love!
Please pray that His Light is seen by all in this dark world in challenging times and many are drawn to His presence.