The Word:  Now Esther spoke again to the king, fell down at his feet, and implored him with tears to counteract the evil of Haman the Agagite, and the scheme which he had devised against the Jews. And the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose and stood before the king, and said, "If it pleases the king, and if I have found favour in his sight... let it be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman... which he wrote to annihilate the Jews who are in all the king's provinces.  For how can I endure to see the evil that will come to my people? Or how can I endure to see the destruction of my countrymen?"  Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and Mordecai the Jew, "Indeed, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows because he tried to lay his hand on the Jews. You yourselves write a decree for the Jews, as you please, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's signet ring; for a letter which is written in the king's name and sealed with the king's signet ring no one can revoke." (Esther 8:3-8)

*      Pointers for prayer:  As I mentioned in my last report two weeks ago, the festival of Purim begins in the evening of Saturday, March 11 and ends in the evening of Sunday, March 12.  Purim is the most festive of Jewish holidays, a time of prizes, costumes and treats. It commemorates a major victory over oppression and is recounted in the story of Esther.  As we approach these festive days may we pray that Israel would know God’s protection over them once again.  Over this festive and joyous time may we rejoice in our King of Kings that He has preserved and blessed the nation of Israel, but may this also be a time of breakthrough when we see curses turned to blessings.

*      Throughout the world there is so much deception and lies spoken out against Israel. Whether it is groups who promote anti-Semitism, areas of the church that promote replacement theology, the media or political campaigns speaking out against the Jewish state. No matter what the issues might be, God is concerned for truth and so should we.  Please continue to pray that the truth will be revealed and that lies and deception will be cast down, wherever they are found. 

*      Please also pray for the Arab world. While tens of millions of Arabs have been suffering for decades from brutal oppression from their own Arab leaders, and many have been tortured and imprisoned and women humiliated and dissidents killed, the world has become obsessed with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as if the Arab Palestinians (who have rejected one peace offer after another) were the only victims in the Middle East.  Please cry out for the Arab people struggling under the heavy restraints of Islamic oppression.  Pray that they may find freedom in following the Lord God.

Land of Apartheid?  According to the Scriptures, Israel is the land of milk and honey.  When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He informed Moses that He would redeem the Israelis and bring them to a "good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey..." (Exodus 3:8).  This is the Land of the Bible; the land God gave to the Jewish people as an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:8; 26:3 4; 35:12; Psalm 105:8- 11). Israel is also the only true democracy within the Middle East, with Jews, Arabs and Christians living in this tiny area of land the size of Wales.  And let’s not forget that within this Jewish State, when I mention Arabs living there, Israel has nearly 2 million Arabs living in complete safety – and when one considers that in the rest of the Middle East (which is 99.9% of the land mass) there has been and still is genocide going on.  This genocide has been going on for years and years in the Islamic Middle East in general and Syria in particular. Islamic group ISIS have killed multitudes of Christian and other minorities; and in Syria, Shia Muslims join Alawite Muslims to exterminate Sunni Muslims – basically Muslims killing Muslims. This is the classic definition of genocide where an ethnic group is target for annihilation.  So when we take all this into account, Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Muslims are actually safe. 

So when we sit back and look at the whole picture of the Middle East, why do we have this evil battle raging from various political groups throwing false accusations around, boycotting Israel, and promoting this ongoing ‘Israel Apartheid Week’?  These actions of the BDS campaigners are slanted by those whose only agenda is to denigrate the only Jewish Nation on earth.  Is it a coincidence that as the holiday of Purim kicks in, which is quickly followed by Passover in April (another celebration of the Jewish peoples freedom from slavery and the enemy), Israel Apartheid Week - which isn't a week at all - takes place? 

‘Israel Apartheid Week 2017’ happens during March and April in dozens of cities across the world.  According to the official ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ website, they describe themselves as an organisation who offers, “An international series of events that seeks to raise awareness of Israel’s settler-colonial project and apartheid system over the Palestinian people and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.”  They state that they are, “Inspired by the popular resistance across historic Palestine and struggles worldwide, IAW 2016 included a wide range of events, from lectures, film screenings, cultural performances, BDS actions, to postering in metro stations, setting up apartheid walls on campuses, and many more. These actions took place in more than 225 cities across the world.”  The anti- Israel organisation go on to state, “The coming year (2017) will mark 100 years of Palestinian resistance against settler colonialism, since the inception of the Balfour Declaration. IAW will be an opportunity to reflect on this resistance and further advance BDS campaigns for the continued growth and impact of the movement.

As you will see from the above quotes from the ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ website, there are many serious errors.  First of all, do any of their actions and protests actually help the Arab Palestinians?  No, they offer no help to the Arab Palestinians - only hatred towards the Israel. In fact it’s worse than that, they actually cause suffering to the Arabs such as when the Israeli Soda-Stream had to make the Arab Palestinians redundant due to the BDS movement.   They mention a “historic Palestine”.  The only historic Palestine was a Jewish Palestine – a land given by God in an eternal covenant that was changed from Israel to Palestina by the Romans.  There never has been an Arab country or State called Palestine run by Arabs.  And of course the biggest error is regarding apartheid in Israel.  If apartheid was in Israel there wouldn’t be Arab members of the Knesset, or Parliament; If apartheid was in Israel there wouldn’t be Arab justices in the Israeli High Court; If apartheid was in Israel there wouldn’t be Arab university students studying the same subjects as their Israeli peers in Israeli universities; If apartheid was in Israel, there wouldn’t be Jewish doctors treating Arab patients and Arab doctors treating Jewish patients; If apartheid was in Israel there couldn’t be suicide bombers on buses or knife attacks on Jews or attacks in cafes, as the Arabs would not be allowed in these places.  The simple truth is – as you will see from the rest of this report - there is no apartheid in Israel and any allegations by these BDS/anti-Israel haters that there is, is a wicked lie!

The good news however, is that we are seeing breakthroughs, so do keep praying.  Very recently, a UK university cancelled an Israel Apartheid Week event because it was deemed to have contravened the government’s newly adopted definition of anti-Semitism. The University of Central Lancashire blocked an event scheduled to feature prominent anti-Israel activists after deciding it was “unlawful” under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism.  The panel session, which was scheduled to take place on Tuesday, was to include anti-Israel activist Ben White, who once said he could “understand” why people are anti-Semites.  Other universities, including Essex, Liverpool and Sussex, are also giving active consideration to similar bans, with numerous events scheduled to take place on campuses over the next two months under the annual ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ banner.

As mentioned, on the evening of Saturday, March 11, 2017 the Jewish people commemorate the survival of their own people in ancient Persia from the threat of annihilation at the hand of the powerful and evil ‘political leader’ Haman.  Through prayer and the actions of brave people, these plans against God’s people were turned on their head. Let’s pray that we will have more victories against these anti-Semitic events, and that people would know the truth.

Testimonies of the truth.  As I state above, if people can declare that Israel is an apartheid state, why are Arab Christians and Muslims serving in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF)?  Disproving the lie that Israel is a racist, apartheid state, Israeli-Arab Christian and Muslims are joining the IDF in increasing numbers, wanting to serve their country in a meaningful way. IDF service is only mandatory for Israeli Jews.  But what of the soldiers who make these decisions to serve their country in the IDF; is it difficult for them?  One female soldier, a Christian Arab serving in a sensitive operational unit, had to overcome social challenges in her home community. After enlisting, she said, “I was walking around the [Arab] neighbourhood where I live in uniform. When people saw me they deleted me from their Facebook and erased my number from their telephone. It was very hard, but a few friends still supported me, and I have made a lot of new friends in the army.”  Another female soldier stated, “I have never been ashamed of my Muslim faith, not even in the army… I wanted to enlist because it is my duty to serve and protect my country. I want to serve in a way that makes a significant contribution.”  What I felt was equally important was the fact that this Arab Muslim soldier faces no difficulties practicing her religion while serving within the IDF.  She explained, “They allow me to go home during the Muslim Ramadan fast, once a week to be with my family.

On my many travels throughout Israel, I’ve witnessed Arab Muslims, Arab Christians, Druze and Bedouins who serve in the IDF, and who support Israel and are proud of being Israeli citizens. On one of my recent trips for ‘reporting purposes’ I was taken to the Negev and onto an army base where there were many Druze and Bedouin Arabs training in the IDF. I had many opportunities to interview the young soldiers.  The majority of the soldiers at this base were Druze; however I also met Christian Arabs in the army. You might wonder why this is.  Well, the reason is due to the fact that the majority were born in Israel. It is their own nation, and they are proud to protect it. I realise for some outside of Israel that this might be hard to grasp, but it proves yet again that Israel is not an apartheid state.

Here are a few short testimonies of people who have gone public with their names and want their stories to be told.  Ibrahim Bari is an African Muslim refugee.  He went public and stated, “It was in the army that I started to feel Israeli I learned the culture and history and that made me love the country. In the army, I made friends for life [and] would do everything to defend Israel.”  Elinor Joseph, an Arab Christian serving in the IDF states, “I do not image myself living anywhere else.  This is my country.  When I see the [Israeli] flag waving in the wind I get excited.  My heart beats stronger.”  Monaliza Abdo, an Arab Israeli Soldier, states, “I came to serve my country and my home.”  One testimony that the International non-profit Israel education organization, ‘StandWithUs’ use, is that of Maj. Ala Wahib – the highest ranking Muslim in the IDF.   Maj. Ala Wahib states, “Is Israel inherently racist, an apartheid state? Well, do you think that such a country would tolerate a person like myself getting to the position I am today?  Someone who has not only fought alongside Jewish soldiers, but now trains them too?  Would a truly racist state allow me to play such an integral role in our nation’s defences?  I do not serve in the army to kill people – I serve in it to save people.  When Hamas fires rockets, or Fatah encourages stabbings, we are here to protect the lives of all Israeli citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish.”

One final testimony with the soldiers comes from Adam Ram.  This soldier states, “My name is Adam Ram, I come from the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel, and I’ve decided to break the silence!  I’ve decided to break the silence and stand against the slandering and constant defamation of Israeli soldiers and the IDF that’s going on in Israel and around the world.  I am a Bedouin, and a combat soldier in the Nachal infantry unit serving in Hebron. This post is not about left versus right or Jews versus Arabs; it’s about our everyday reality! …Anyone who’s served in Hebron knows how intense the tension between us soldiers and the Palestinian population can be.  The war is against all Israelis, regardless of who you are, because when a terrorist leaves their home with a knife, planning on murdering a soldier or a civilian, they do not care if their victim is a Jew, a Muslim, or a Christian. They do not know if you are religious, or what religion you believe in. They do not care if you voted left or right, as long as you hold a blue Israeli ID card - you are a fair target.”

Adam Ram continues, “You hear people talk about the “occupation army”, but what’s actually going on is the polar opposite, because when I saw a nine-year-old Palestinian child in the streets of Hebron and asked him if he hates us, he said that the reverse is true. No, he said, he prefers the IDF to the Palestinian police because we have values, we have respect for people's lives, and we do not go around killing people and chopping off heads. As opposed to Daesh and other Islamic regimes, Israel is democratic and extends rights even to those who are not citizens of the state.  And when you hear the same thing from another kid, and another man, and another woman, you realize they see the IDF as their protector, letting them sleep more peacefully at night in a sense, and quite the opposite to what you might hear, they prefer you there than to be left to the failure that is the Palestinian Authority.  We do not murder or pillage, we chose to be combat soldiers and to contribute to the State of Israel. (I personally am a volunteer and wasn’t obligated to join the IDF.) We serve so that all of Israel’s citizens, our parents brothers and sisters, everyone can live peacefully and in security, without being stabbed on the street, or get blown to pieces in a bomb attack on the bus while on the way to school or work.”  If you are on Facebook, you can read his full story here.

If space allows, I’ll try and share more on these stories next week, however, here’s another ‘large hole in the argument’ for those who proclaim Israel is an apartheid state!  Over 100,000 Palestinian Arab patients were treated in Israel in 2015 - and the Israelis pay for their treatment!  Yes, in 2015, Israeli hospitals treated over 97,000 Arabs from the area the world calls ‘the West Bank’ (allowing over 100,000 people to accompany them). In addition, over 31,787 Gaza patients and escorts arrived in 2015.  At any given time there are 60-70 Gazans receiving care at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv alone.  Only 10% of the cost to care for these patients comes from the Palestinian Authority. The rest is paid for by the Israeli taxpayer.  This is while the Arab Palestinian leadership continues to pay full salaries to terrorists and their families. But they can't be bothered to pay for medical care of their regular populace - because the Israelis will.

Israel – an apartheid state!  Really?  While the Israel Apartheid Week organisation churn out their anti-Semitism against Israel, and while the United Nations appear to do little but argue regarding Syria; Amaliah, an NGO founded by Moti Kahana in 2013, has delivered humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians along Israel's northern border, and provides transportation for Syrian women and children into Israel for urgent medical care.  One of the projects of Amaliah is committed to building a “Safe Zone,” a designated territory in Southern Syria, which would allow Syrian civilians to have access to schools for their children and much needed medical treatment. A safe zone makes it possible to provide relief to those in need inside the country so they will not be forced to flee as refugees.  Ultimately, their objective is to create a stabilised environment that will catalyse the rebuilding of Syrian civil society, and pave the way for friendly and supportive relations with Syria’s neighbours.  In the following video, you can view a bus picking up Syrians who need help and taking them to Israel for medical care.

Finally, as mentioned, the ‘Israel Apartheid Week 2017’ website describes themselves as an organisation who offers, “An international series of events that seeks to raise awareness of Israel’s settler-colonial project and apartheid system over the Palestinian people and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.”  They state that they are, “Inspired by the popular resistance across historic Palestine.”  I think you can clearly see that that statement is a total nonsense.  As for an historic Palestine?  Well let’s hear what Danny Ayalon, Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ambassador to the United States has to say.  Here he explains the facts about Jerusalem and the Jewish People in just 4 minutes:

David Soakell  

(CFI Church Liaison Officer (UK) & WoZ News Report Correspondent)

Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Christian Friends of Israel UK & Jerusalem, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, & Israel National Radio