Photo Friday: How Majestic

(Photo: flickr/ spacelion)

(Photo: flickr/ spacelion)

LORD, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:9)

How majestic is our God, and all that He has created. Enjoy this breathtaking view from the Golan Heights, and please pray for peace and protection of the residents there – as you do for all of Israel – as Islamist fighters in neighboring Syria are reportedly nearby. Shabbat shalom, friends.

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Friday, August 29th, 2014 at 2:19 PM  | Stand For Israel

IDF on High Alert in Golan Heights

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

Stand for Israel has been reporting on the developments across Israel’s border with Syria – of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters doing battle with Syrian forces. Israel is well aware of what is going on, and the IDF is on alert in the Golan Heights:

As a result of the fighting on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the level of alert was raised on the Israeli side, an army spokesperson said Thursday, without confirming that it had been increased to the highest level.

The announcement followed several incidents in the area, including the capture and execution of 160 Syrian soldiers by the Islamic State, gruesome pictures of which appeared online Thursday, and the abduction, also Thursday, of 43 Fijian U.N. peacekeepers by al-Qaeda-affiliate al-Nusra Front at the Quneitra crossing with Israel, where fighting has raged this week between Syrian rebels and government forces.

Please pray for the return of the captured U.N. peacekeepers, for God’s protection over the brave men and women defending Israel in this dangerous situation, and for God’s peace over all of His people.

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Friday, August 29th, 2014 at 11:51 AM  | Stand For Israel

Israel Has Emerged Stronger

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

As all wars do, Operation Protective Edge cost Israel much – in the lives lost, in the soldiers wounded, in the financial and emotional prices paid. Yet much was also gained. Writing at The Times of Israel’s blog, Dr. Daniel Polisar says that the war made Israel stronger by strengthening Israeli society, strengthening the Jewish state’s diplomacy, and weakening Israel’s enemies:

First and foremost, Israeli society was strengthened over the last seven weeks … showered soldiers with moral and material support, demonstrated gritty determination to continue the ground war despite the large number of IDF casualties, and bolstered the spirits of those most in need by attending en masse funerals of people whom they did not know—with the most sublime symbol being the sign placed near the grave of ex-Californian infantry fighter Max Steinberg, “There is no such thing as a lone soldier in Israel.”

Such acts gave Israelis and their leaders the fortitude to go on under difficult circumstances, but also have longer-term effects. They etched into the hearts of Israelis, especially those who recently came of age, that we are a people capable of great courage, compassion, and commitment when it matters most. When the dust settles and the commentaries of today and tomorrow are forgotten, it will be this sense that will remain and will instill in Israelis the conviction we have what it takes to survive and thrive, come what may.

Diplomatically, Israel was of course subject to increasing criticism from Europe and suffered a well-publicized rift with its leading ally, the United States. Even so, European actions, in any event not decisive, did not undergo a qualitative shift and the U.S.-Israel relationship remains firm, as witnessed by continued cooperation on numerous fronts. The only real strategic change was the remarkable deepening of Israel’s ties with Egypt, the most powerful Arab country …

Finally, the conduct of the war has given pause to Hamas and the heads of the more powerful Hezbollah about engaging soon in another military clash…

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Friday, August 29th, 2014 at 9:04 AM  | Stand For Israel

Nipping Terrorism in the Bud

(Photo: Oren Nahshon)

(Photo: Oren Nahshon)

While the ceasefire between Hamas holds for now, frightening developments are continuing to occur elsewhere, with the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations rampaging through the Middle East, nearing Israel, and endangering the entire world. And who knows when the battle against Hamas will reignite. Avi Dichter, former Israeli Minister of Internal Security and Shin Bet director, knows the threat of terrorism better than most. Writing at Israel Hayom, he says Israel cannot be complacent or indifferent to this threat, and must wake the rest of the world up to Hamas and other terrorist groups like them:

Israel should be the one to surprise Hamas, instead of waiting for rocket fire of any scale. Israel should not be the one left to mount a response. The days of Israel being dragged into a fight by Hamas are over.

In its seven years in power, Hamas has plunged Gaza into chaos, which should remain inside the Strip, instead of affecting the kibbutzim near the Israel-Gaza Strip border and cities nationwide.

Hamas’ brutality is growing. It is oppressing the people of Gaza and doing everything within its power to ensure Gaza does not become Westernized. Hamas favors maintaining a “Wild West” in the Gaza Strip, so that it can continue to dictate who can and cannot pull the trigger in Gaza, and how …

Hamas is more calculating than ISIS. It prevents the true scope of its atrocities from being revealed, mainly because it is wary of the wrath of the families of murdered Gazans. It has no qualms about harming women and children if it suspects one of their relatives might be a collaborator, but takes great care to conceal it.

Had Hamas been able to realize its tunnels conspiracy, infiltrate one of the communities near the border and abduct Israeli men, women and children, then Israel, the U.S. and the EU would have understood the true nature of Hamas’ cruelty.

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Friday, August 29th, 2014 at 8:45 AM  | Stand For Israel

Long-term Ceasefire Deal Reached; Hamas Claims “Victory”

iitnOn the 50th day of Operation Protective Edge — Israel’s campaign to destroy Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure — a long-term ceasefire deal was reached between the Israelis and Palestinians. Hamas claimed “victory,” although Israel finds that hard to believe after it destroyed Hamas’ terrorist tunnels and reduced its rocket arsenal from 10,000 to about 2,000.

Also this week in Israel in the News:

• This is the 12th ceasefire proposal — Hamas either violated or rejected the other 11 — but observers say this one is likely to hold.
• Israelis near the Syrian border were evacuated as Islamic radical fighters overtook the U.N.-controlled border crossing.
• Ukrainian officials broke off peace talks with Russia as 1,000 heavily armed Russian troops are in Ukraine, aiding the rebel cause.

This week’s Israel in the News Perspective features The Fellowship’s founder and President Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein with his thoughts on the tragic death of four-year-old Daniel Tragerman.

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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 at 5:00 PM  | Stand for Israel

Iraq’s Christians Weigh Taking Up Arms Against the Islamic State

(Photo: IFCJ)

(Photo: IFCJ)

As the Islamic State (IS) has made its way across Syria and Iraq, it has pushed out or killed those it sees as different. Iraq’s Christians – the Assyrians – have been a historically pacifist group. But as IS threatens their very existence, National Geographic’s Rania Abouzeid reports that many Assyrians are considering fighting the terrorist group:

Iraq’s Assyrian Christians pride themselves on having persisted in their traditional homeland for millennia, even as other civilizations thrived then disappeared, as languages and cultures died out, as ethnic groups melted into the ways and genetic pools of their conquerors.

But today Iraq’s Assyrians, and its Christians in general, fear that their place in this multiethnic, multisectarian mosaic society is shrinking, under severe threat from the ultraconservative Islamist group the Islamic State (IS).

It isn’t the first time that Iraq’s Christians have faced such a foe. The IS’s earlier incarnation, al Qaeda in Iraq—a group that formed after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003—also menaced Christians, and others, prompting tens of thousands to flee into exile.

Now, the particularly harsh nature of the IS’s assault on Christians, Yazidis, Shiite Muslims, and others who do not share allegiance to the IS’s brand of ultraconservative Sunni Islam has led some of Iraq’s Christians to take the unusual step of shedding their historical passivity and consider taking up arms to defend and eventually govern themselves …

“We keep talking about Jesus and peace, and now we’ve reached the point where it’s not enough,” [Assyrian official Harry Sarkis] said in an interview at his party’s headquarters in Dahuk. “The age of waiting for the Peshmerga to take back territory while we sit is over. We took the decision that, with our limited abilities, we will try to participate.”

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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 at 1:35 PM  | SFI

Russian Forces Capture Key Ukrainian Town

(Photo: kremlin.ru)

(Photo: kremlin.ru)

The crisis in Ukraine reached a new level today as reports from near the nation’s border with Russia state that Russian forces have captured a key Ukrainian town:

Russian forces in two armored columns captured a key southeastern coastal town near the Russian border Thursday after Ukrainian forces retreated in the face of superior firepower, a Ukrainian military spokesman said.

The two Russian columns, including tanks and armored fighting vehicles, entered the town of Novoazovsk on the Sea of Azov after a battle in which Ukrainian army positions came under fire from Grad rockets launched from Russian territory, according to the spokesman, Col. Andriy Lysenko.

“Our border servicemen and guardsmen retreated as they did not have heavy equipment,” Lysenko said in a statement.

Ukrainian authorities have denounced the latest fighting as a Russian invasion of their territory, intended to prop up pro-Moscow separatists who have been losing ground to Ukrainian forces and to open a new front in the southeastern corner of Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials said earlier that Ukrainian troops were battling combined Russian and separatist forces on the new southern front around Novoazovsk, about eight miles west of the Russian border. The Ukrainian military also said Russian troops were increasing surveillance from northern Crimea, the autonomous Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in March.

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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 at 12:21 PM  | Stand For Israel

The ISIS Dilemma

(Photo: flickr/ mehdifoundation)

(Photo: flickr/ mehdifoundation)

We have watched as the terrorist organization formerly known as ISIS (now calling itself the Islamic State, or IS) has blazed a path of death and destruction across Iraq and Syria. Now this group – and others of its ilk – look to be at Israel’s border with Syria. Writing at Israel Hayom, Professor Eyal Zisser provides an overview of the Islamic State and the threat they pose:

Unique circumstances have come together in favor of ISIS. The collapse of Iraq following the U.S. invasion in 2003 as well as the Syrian civil war of recent years have left both countries weak and vulnerable, and unfortunately, the Iraqi and Syrian regimes were the only ones that could have eliminated this phenomenon.

The Islamic State group has undergone a transformation turning it from a band of delusional individuals to a force to be reckoned with, perhaps an actual state in the making. These prospects have increased the threat ISIS poses to the world at large …

The Islamic State group’s philosophy is that of jihad and expansion, and the state it seeks to establish — and that state’s potential military — would be formed on the principles of war and conquest.

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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 at 9:34 AM  | Stand For Israel

Is the Gaza War Really Over?

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

As the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has held, Israel begins to rebuild, even as it watches warily the threats it faces on all sides. But writing at the Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh asks – in light of Hamas’ stated intentions and overall strategy – if Israel’s war in Gaza is really over:

However, it is important to note that these cease-fire demands are not part of Hamas’s or Islamic Jihad’s overall strategy, namely to have Israel wiped off the face of the earth.

Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip are not only fighting for an airport and seaport. Nor are they fighting only for the reopening of all border crossings with Israel and Egypt.

During this war, many seem to have forgotten that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are actually fighting to “liberate Jerusalem and all Palestine.” The two groups have never recognized Israel’s right to exist and continue to oppose any attempt to make peace with the “Zionist entity.”

Operation Protective Edge may have ended, but the dream to destroy Israel is still alive. Even if Hamas and Islamic Jihad eventually get their own airport and seaport, it is obvious that the two groups are now more determined than ever to pursue their fight to eliminate Israel, especially in light of the fact that they feel they have emerged from the war triumphant.

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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 at 9:23 AM  | Stand For Israel

Video: Northern Israelis Evacuated; ISIS Said to Be Close

Operation Protective Edge has ended – for now – with the truce between Israel and Hamas still in effect. But while the residents of southern Israel may – for now – feel relieved, Israelis in the northern part of the country have reason for alarm. Israel’s i24 news reports that Islamist rebels have taken the Quneitra crossing at the Syria-Israel border from Syrian government forces:

In the Golan, fierce battles between pro-and anti-Syrian government forces close to the border with Israel on Wednesday prompted the army to evacuate residents and tourists from certain areas close to the northern and southern ends of the frontier, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

Latest reports from Syria indicate that several hundred fighters of the al-Qaeda-linked al Nusra Front have managed to overtake the southern Quneitra Crossing from Syrian government forces …

A Syria TV and Iranian Press TV reporter on the Syrian side of the border, speaking with Israel’s i24 News, said ISIS/ISIL personnel were also among those fighting …

“…there is huge fighting between the ISIS and the Syrian army, and also the Israeli army. There are three teams … three armies that are fighting now,” according to Hamat Awidat …

Claiming that the strategic situation “was worse than Gaza” for Israel, Awidat charged that ISIL “was a cancer” that would destabilize the region.

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Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 at 3:29 PM  | Stand for Israel

"informing, equipping and mobilizing individuals and churches to support the
State of Israel"

Rabbi's Commentary
A Fragile Peace

As we continue to pray for a lasting peace, one of our most critical tasks is to help Israel recover – to rebuild, to restore shattered lives, to comfort those who have lost loved ones or livelihoods. And none of this is possible without you who continue to stand by the Jewish people.


Read Rabbi Eckstein's message »

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