". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13

Commentary

A Call to Prayer - For the Peace of Jerusalem

April 11, 2023

Calls to prayer are quite common in the Middle East, where they emanate from churches, synagogues, and mosques on a regular basis. However, specific requests for prayer are being repeated more urgently in Israel these days, thanks to ceaseless warnings and near-constant bursts of gunfire and rocketry exploding across their troubled neighborhoods. Any of today’s flare-ups could pose a genuine threat to the Jewish State. In fact, for Jews and Christians, a Psalmist’s ancient words translate into a modern-day appeal for divine protection and intervention: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you” (Psalm 122:6).

The present dangers facing Israel are exceptionally hazardous. As Jonathan Speyer, one of Israel’s most trustworthy analysts, wrote for The Wall Street Journal on April 7:

“A sequence of dramatic events over the past three days has brought Israel to the brink of war with Iran-backed militias in Southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. This is the product of a continuing effort by Tehran and its various franchises to ‘unite the arenas’ of engagement with the Jewish state against the background of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It isn’t yet clear if Israel has developed a coherent strategy to counter this Iranian effort.”

Those who live in Israel are forever conscious of potential dangers, with a sense of awareness that becomes more acute during intensifying regional tensions. I know, because I lived in Israel beginning in 2006. In fact, my arrival took place in the midst of the second Lebanon War, with guns firing and missiles exploding. I continued to reside in Jerusalem until 2017.

From time to time during those 10-plus years, various warnings would spread like wildfire, and we would change our normal patterns of walking, riding on buses, or participating in various public gatherings. In fact, during two separate wars between Israel and Gaza while I was there, Jerusalem’s air raid sirens shrieked out warnings of incoming rockets, rushing us toward our nearest bomb shelters. I also recall specific conversations about how and where to get gas masks; this took place during threats of missiles emanating from Syria. Thankfully, the poisoned gas never drifted our way.

Cautionary warnings like these soon vanished, followed by a sense of relief, and a quick return to “normal.”

But any feeling of normalcy in Israel has been shaken in recent weeks. Angry demonstrators have flooded the streets, protesting governmental decisions. Meanwhile, increasing eruptions of violence have persisted, emanating from Iran-funded proxies such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. This and its escalating death toll have resulted in something called the “War Between the Wars.”

Now, however, real war may be lurking. Seth J. Franzman wrote on April 9 for Jerusalem Post that Iran’s proxies and allies “appear to have begun a multi-front conflict with Israel over the past week. This involved the Iranian drone operation on April 1; Gaza rocket fire from April 5-7 and 34 rockets fired at Israel from Lebanon on Passover, April 6. In addition, there was rocket fire from Syria on April 8 and 10. There were also shooting attacks on the West Bank and a drone launch from Gaza on April 3.”

The backdrop to this series of assaults might well become a matter of life and death for countless Israeli citizens if it is not contained appropriately. That would have been a matter of course in years gone by, based on well-known fierce and fervent military responses by the Israel Defense Forces. But in recent months, Israel has been torn by political disagreements and anti-government protests, some including military personnel. Meanwhile, and equally disturbing, is the dwindling support of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the U.S. government.

At first glance America’s leadership seems to be watching from the sidelines. Since September, public demonstrations in Iran have killed more than 500 peaceful protestors against Iran’s murderous regime, which leads chants calling for “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.” But contrary to all appearances, President Joe Biden’s administration has not been idle. U.S. diplomats have been working quietly behind the scenes to secure another nuclear agreement with the mullahs. In actions that mirror controversial Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) efforts during the Obama administration, such an agreement would provide billions of dollars to the Ayatollah’s regime, funding their anti-Israel terrorism and opening the door to a nuclear weapon.

David M. Weinberg wrote for Israel Hayom on April 3:

“Biden is closer than ever to acquiescing to Teheran — despite Iranian enrichment of uranium to near-bomb-ready levels (84% according to the IAEA, which is very close to the 90% level necessary for a nuclear weapon), despite its accumulation of weapons-grade uranium for an estimated five nuclear weapons within three months, and despite Biden’s pledge that he will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

“The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley said at a congressional hearing recently that the US ‘remains committed, as a matter of policy, that Iran will not have a fielded nuclear weapon.’ Notice the new term ‘fielded.’ This suggests the Biden administration is now prepared to tolerate nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands, provided the weapon is not ‘fielded,’ in other words, deployed.”

As these new and alarming decisions continue to unfold in the Middle East, it becomes increasingly urgent for us to speak up, to alert our elected representatives, and to pray for a change of heart in America’s misguided leadership. Let’s also remember those who face escalating violence across the region, and especially those grieving families who have lost loved ones or continue to face mounting danger.

In the meantime, although the Psalmist penned the words thousands of years ago, if ever there was a time to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” — and for the people and leadership of Israel — it is surely now.

Lela Gilbert is Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council and Fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom. She lived in Israel for over ten years, and is the author of "Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner."