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


Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem and the People of Israel

October 25, 2023

As the saying goes, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” And since Jerusalem was my home for more than 10 years, I’m immediately wide-awake when terror and war strike there once again. Attacks on Israel are a powerful blow to the soul of everyone who loves the Jewish state and its people.

During that remarkable decade in my life — from 2006 to 2017 — I made some dear friends. Some, like me, are parents of grown children. Today those families — not only in Jerusalem but across Israel — are living in a war zone. And several of their sons and daughters are deployed in a war against one of the world’s most notorious terror groups: Hamas.

From time to time during my residence there, violence broke out between the State of Israel and Hamas or other terrorist organizations. Some were skirmishes, some were officially called “terror attacks,” and others became full-blown wars. But today a new conflict has begun, and it has already exceeded the death and destruction of many previous confrontations.

On October 7, “Hamas militants massacred 1,400 Israelis including babies, women and elderly, and kidnapped more than 200 people in their Oct. 7 rampage. Little is known about their well-being and whereabouts…”

Hamas is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, a notorious terror group related to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in the 1920s. The group is dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish State and has vowed to “annihilate Israel” through suicide bombings and other murderous means, both targeting civilians and Israeli soldiers. The U.S. State Department designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997.

Since October 7, I’ve been in touch with several Israeli friends and their now-growing families to see how they are coping with their current circumstances. I’ll share what they’ve written to me since the war began.

One Tel Aviv friend has four grown children: three sons and a daughter. She writes: “I’m ok, other than when there are rockets overhead. My family is ok too, but my daughter is about to give birth any day now and her husband is away in the reserves. Meanwhile, my oldest son is also away on reserve duty and is worried about his kids. The schools have been closed since the Sukkot holiday, which ended the day the war started.”

Two of her sons “have been deployed since that awful day on Oct. 7. They just haven’t gone into Gaza yet. But they haven’t been home either. They’re training and waiting near the border for the order to launch the ground and sea operation, along with the air force.”

Another friend lives in Jerusalem. She apologetically writes, “I’ve tried to sit down to write to you every day the past week. Events overtake (keeping up with the news of caring for grandkids) or overwhelm me — especially when the enormity of it all sinks in. What’s it like in Jerusalem? It’s relatively calmer than some other places: the sirens warning us of rocket launches and the booms of the interceptions (almost all are intercepted, thank God) are relatively rare, so there is generally freedom of movement.”

“The war on the personal front leaves no family untouched,” she writes, “ours included. My son and son-in-law are deployed in the north and one of my husband’s sons is serving in the Hebron area but may soon be posted somewhere closer to the conflict zone. So we’re housing their ‘refugee’ wives and kids…”

A close friend in Jerusalem’s Old City emails, “Grocery stores and pharmacies are generally well stocked, though there have been some shortages that are usually filled after a day or two — primarily milk, chicken and eggs, due to the ‘sudden shortage’ of manpower in the southern kibbutzim, not to mention the theft and wanton destruction of livestock and crops. Jerusalem and schools in areas inland from the southern and northern borders reopened this week on limited schedules, offering online classes for children who’ve had to relocate. Coffeeshops operate during the day, but many restaurants are take-out only.”

“No movies, theaters, concerts, but of course who would be in the mood?” she asks somberly. “Still, the Israel Philharmonic broadcasted a concert for the public last night, and tonight there’s a telethon featuring top Israeli performers, and those performers flood army bases, staging grounds to entertain the troops, as well as the hotels housing refugees from the gutted communities surrounding Gaza and evacuees from the north.”

Hamas recently released two hostages “for humanitarian reasons.” Meanwhile, some 200-plus other hostages of many nationalities are being held captive by that notoriously ruthless group. Their brutality during the assault in Southern Israel was unspeakable.

Meanwhile, all who can serve in the defense of Israel are being called to service. At this moment, loved ones are saying goodbye to fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, and family friends who are leaving home — armed and in IDF uniforms. They are trying to prepare their hearts and minds for perilous confrontations.

Sometimes the phrase “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” almost sounds like a cliché. But these days it’s a genuine cry for help — for that “holy city” and every other village, town, and municipality in the country. It is a heartfelt appeal for divine intervention. It is also a timely and encouraging reminder to us all: the God of Israel never slumbers nor sleeps.

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."