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


Tumultuous Times in Israel

June 18, 2024

Today, across the war-torn state of Israel, parents are holding their breath, praying both for their loved ones’ protection and for military success, as their sons and daughters are deployed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Other worried parents are on the battle lines themselves, pleading with heaven to watch over the loved ones they left behind.

At the same time, 200,000 Israelis in the northern communities near the Lebanon border are facing continuous and deadly attacks by Hezbollah rockets and missiles. Nearly all of the northernmost residents have evacuated their homes. Those further south, in towns and kibbutzim that haven’t already fled, continue to live in both fear and hope, unsure whether Hezbollah is about to launch deadly rockets their way.

One friend wrote to let me know that her daughter’s husband is waiting for military orders to serve in the northern border from central Israel, but “it’s not yet clear whether the government is going to declare war on Lebanon.”

Another friend writes that although “Tel Aviv has been quiet, the north is under constant rocket and drone attack, and literally on fire.” One of her sons came home from Gaza last week. He could be called back to service for a third tour of duty, but “… he’s had it — his kids and his business are suffering terribly from his absence.”

Still other friends, who live in a scenic area near the Sea of Galilee, periodically seek shelter in their “safe room” when Hezbollah rockets are randomly fired in their direction from Lebanon.

In recent days, both military and political conflicts have continued to rage in Israel. Media attention swings from Israeli hostages and intense fighting in Gaza, to the increasingly explosive Lebanon border, where the threat of war between the IDF and Iran-backed Hezbollah swells by the hour.

On Monday, The Times of Israel reported that U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that a full-blown war could break out at the northern border with Iran-backed Hezbollah, after over eight months of escalating exchanges of fire. Hezbollah began attacking Israel shortly after October 7, expressing their support of the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

Meanwhile, of the roughly 250 Israelis and foreigners kidnapped during the October 7 Hamas attacks, some 120 are believed to remain in Gaza. Unfortunately, Israeli authorities fear that perhaps at least a third of them have died. A Hamas spokesman claims, “No one has any idea how many hostages remain alive.”

And as if that weren’t enough stressful news, political hostility and upheaval at the highest levels of Israeli’s leadership is elevating the country’s feelings of uncertainty. The ominous warning, “A nation divided against itself cannot stand” is another very real danger Israel faces.

Fortunately, a little good news recently mitigated the uncertainties. Commentary Magazine reported:

“The astonishing rescue of four Israeli hostages in central Gaza taught us something about the courage and camaraderie still extant in the Jewish state. The reaction to it taught us a lesson in the moral blindness and cruelty in vast sectors of the enlightened West. And the whole episode taught us how to exit the distorted looking-glass world and see the entire conflict with fresh eyes.”

According to several online reports, the rescue operation took place in one of the most densely populated civilian areas in Gaza — a location Israel did not choose. With typical disregard for human life, Hamas intentionally hid hostages there, using their own civilians as human shields.

According to Open Source Intel on X, this was one of the most complex and successful hostage rescue operations in history. “Israel went into the heart of enemy territory, in an urban environment with a dense civilian population being used as human shields, to extract four people. The Associated Press reported:

“Noa Argamani, a 26-year-old who had emerged as an icon of the hostage crisis, was being held in one apartment and three male hostages — Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, were in another [location] about 200 meters away. All had been abducted from a desert rave-turned-massacre site during the Oct. 7 attack that ignited the war.

“They had been moved among different locations but were never held in Hamas’ notorious tunnels. At the time of their rescue they were in locked rooms guarded by Hamas gunmen. Israeli intelligence figured out where they were and commandos spent weeks practicing the raid on life-size models of the buildings, according to Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman. ‘It needed to be like a surgical operation, like a brain operation,’ he said.”

The good news, bad news aspects of Israel’s present war have placed President Joe Biden in an awkward position during an election year. Traditionally, the U.S. is largely supportive of Israel, particularly in the wake of horrific violence against Israeli citizens — and worse, hostage-taking that includes U.S. citizens. However, with a tight election race coming up in a few months, Biden fears losing Muslim voters.

ABC News reported in February, “…Biden’s response to the conflict has greatly alienated [Arab Americans and Muslims] from the Democratic Party. According to a John Zogby Strategies/Arab American Institute poll conducted Oct. 23-27, Trump led Biden 40 percent to 17 percent among Arab American voters. And Arab Americans also disapproved of Biden’s response to the violence in Palestine and Israel 67 percent to 24 percent.”

Nonetheless, whatever toll the war may take on American politics or popular opinion, the price Israel continues to pay in this seemingly endless conflict is widespread and painful. Daily life is disrupted in myriad ways, whether by shocking headlines, warning sirens and incoming rocketry, sons and daughters out of touch while serving in remote areas, political upheaval, and relentless divisive debates dominating the news. Perhaps even worse is the devastating lack of information about hundreds of innocent hostages.

As the ancient adage goes, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” But for now, let’s be a little more specific: Let’s pray for the rescue of hostages, for the safety of soldiers, for the wisdom of military commanders, and for prudent decisions by the prime minister and other international and Israeli leaders. As we’ve long been warned, “In the last days perilous times will come.” This seems to be one of those times. May God keep his eyes on Israel’s people. And may He guide us as we uphold them in our prayers.

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."