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Around and Around We Go Again:
The Battle of the Tree

Monthly Report: September 2010
Elul 5770 - Tishrei 5771
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0910-Top
Israel prunes a tree over its border fence but still within Israeli land. The so-called “Blue Line,” the international Israeli-Lebanese border as certified by the U.N. is to the left (north) of the soldier cutting down tree.


 

By Shira Sorko-Ram

At 6:00 a.m. Tuesday, August 3, Israel notified the United Nations peacekeeping troops in Lebanon (UNIFIL) that the Israel Defence Forces would be trimming trees on Israel’s side of its northern border at 9:00 a.m.

This was a routine operation; the army has done this many times as foliage along the border has given terrorists cover to spring an ambush on border patrols. In the past, terrorists have hidden in such bushes and trees and have both killed and kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

UNIFIL asked Israel for a two-hour extension so they would have time to coordinate activities with the Lebanese Armed Forces per protocol in order to prevent a pretext for violence by Hezbollah terrorists. The IDF was about to begin work when the UNIFIL commander asked for a further delay while he telephoned his supervisor for final authorization. Israeli soldiers then began pruning at 11:30 a.m.

However, unknown to Israel, the Lebanese army had used the extra two and a half hours to plan an ambush with Hezbollah bringing along a bevy of journalists to record the event. As Israel’s Battalion Commander looked on from a hill some 100 meters from the fence, a Lebanese sniper shot him in the face, killing him and critically wounding his company commander in the chest. The Lebanese army then continued the assault by firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

Israel returned the fire, killing two Lebanese soldiers and one journalist. General Gadi Eizencott who quickly arrived to oversee the Israeli response, later stated that “part of our fire was purposely aimed off in the wrong direction because there was a mixture of Lebanese soldiers, UNIFIL soldiers and citizens. Had we shot at them, dozens would have been needlessly killed.” (Yediot Aharonot 6July10)

The regiment of UNIFIL Muslim Indonesians making the arrangements had been commissioned to keep Hezbollah from rearming and to monitor the border. However, when the Lebanese army started shooting at the Israelis, UNIFIL soldiers were photographed standing beside them watching but doing nothing to stop them. Other video footage clearly showed them shouting at the Israelis to stop cutting down the foliage rather than attempting to stop Lebanese fire.

0910 - Border Incident 1
1. After receiving authorization from the U.N. peacekeeping
forces (UNIFIL) Israel’s army operates a “cherry picker”
to cut down a tree inside the Israeli border.

0910 - Border Incident 2
2. The ill-fated tree the IDF was cutting down
when Lebanon attacked.

0910 - Border Incident 3
0910 - Border incident 4
3. & 4. U.N. peacekeeping troops stand watching
as Lebanon shoots at Israeli soldiers.

0910 - Border incident 5
5. Israeli soldier returns fire.

0910 - Border incident 6
6. U.N. soldier waving to Israel to stop tree cutting.
(The following day, Israel’s army personnel returned
to finish cutting down the tree.)

It is important to note that Israel purposely built its electronic surveillance fence a few meters inside the Israeli border so that IDF soldiers could clear trees and bushes from touching the fence – which would interfere with the surveillance – and still remain completely on the Israeli side of the border.

The border – called the Blue Line – had been designated and confirmed by none other than the U.N. itself as the true international border between Israel and Lebanon. This was to prevent “misunderstandings.”

REACTION

- Israel was furious, charging that the Lebanese army had used the two and a half extra hours to plan and execute a violent border assault against Israeli soldiers. Even the most leftist of Israeli journalists were enraged that the Lebanese army had instigated such a blatant and unprovoked attack with the potential to set the border on fire bringing the two countries very close to war again.

- The U.N. did confirm that Israel had coordinated its intentions to clear foliage with the U.N., and also confirmed that Israel was pruning trees and bushes only on the Israeli side of the border. Lebanon of course refuted this claim. After thinking it over, however, the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon explained it had yet to ascertain the circumstances leading to the bloodshed.

- The U.N. Security Council held a closed-door session with the head of the U.N. peacekeeping forces, Alain LeRoy, who did not blame either side for the incident, nor did he accept Israel’s claim that the Lebanon troops opened fire first. The Security Council called on both sides to show restraint.

- U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told a press conference, “We deeply regret the loss of life; we urge both sides to exercise maximum restraint to avoid an escalation and maintain the ceasefire that is now in place.”

- The U.N. Security Council called on all parties to practice utmost restraint, strictly abide by their obligations under resolution 1701 (which stated that no Hezbollah forces would be allowed near the Israeli border!), observe the cessation of hostilities and prevent any further escalation on the Blue Line,” according to Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.

- The European Union sent out tepid admonitions, attempting to keep an “even handed” approach without squarely condemning Lebanon.

- The Israeli government complained to the U.N Security Council over the clash, saying it held the government of Lebanon responsible.

- Hezbollah leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said his powerful Shi’ite guerrillas would intervene if Israel attacked the Lebanese army again.

However, pictures began to circulate showing U.N. peacekeepers standing alongside Lebanese soldiers during the exchange, who, instead of working to stop Lebanon from shooting, were calling on Israel to stop clearing the trees, even though Israel had informed the UNIFIL authorities of the impending operation six hours earlier.

- Lebanon’s Higher Council for Defense headed by President Michel Suleiman said it held Israel accountable for Tuesday’s clash and it would complain to the U.N. Security Council. The Lebanese army’s story was that the Israeli patrol had crossed the “technical” line [what does this mean??] of the border although U.N. peacekeepers had told Israel to stop.

- A.P. News Service stated that “nobody knows where the border between Lebanon and Israel is.”

Finally UNIFIL commanders admitted to the U.N. Security Council late Tuesday that Israel had indeed given advance notification of its plans and had operated only on its side of the border.

- U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley then labeled the Lebanese fire on IDF soldiers “wholly unjustified and unwarranted.” He continued, “The United Nations has now established that the trees cut by the Israeli Defense Forces were on the Israeli side of the line that separates Israel and Lebanon.”

Another important fact: The United States has provided more than $720 million in assistance to the Lebanese army since 2006, according to the U.S. Embassy website.

Asked whether the United States was confident the Lebanese army was not being “manipulated by any particular political group,” Crowley said, “We’re in support of the civilian government in Lebanon, and we think improving the capability and performance of the Lebanese government, both across the government, but including in the security sector, contributes to stability in the region and is in our interest.”

However, Israel has already begun launching a diplomatic campaign for the U.S. and France to stop arming the Lebanese army. As one officer said, “We always warned the U.S. that any arms they give to the Lebanese army could fall into Hezbollah’s hands. Now, we see the Lebanese army itself is using those arms directly against us.”

In response, Congress has frozen - at least for now - $100 million slated for the Lebanese army in 2010.

WHAT CAUSED LEBANON TO MOUNT AN ATTACK?

Even so, Israel’s northern border with Lebanon has been quiet for the most part since 2006 when Israel went to war with Hezbollah which showered thousands of rockets into the cities and towns of Galilee after kidnapping two Israeli soldiers – who were later returned to Israel dead.

To end that war, the United Nations called for a cease-fire under resolution 1701 and stationed 13,000 troops in Lebanon to keep Hezbollah from rearming. Yet Iran, by way of Syria, has rearmed Hezbollah with a total of 40,000 rockets, both long and short range, under the noses of the U.N. troops. So much for resolution 1701.

Israeli intelligence has recently been aware that the Lebanese army – until now thought to be relatively friendly to Israel – is being radicalized by Shiite soldiers who have begun working closely with Hezbollah. According to Israel, the local Lebanese army commander, a Shia with radical leanings but not a member of Hezbollah, decided to use UNIFIL’s delay to plan an ambush, deployed troops firing rocket-propelled grenades and snipers, and invited Hezbollah to bring the media to cover it.

“We have been clearing bushes along the border for the past year,” said IDF spokesperson Avital Leibovitch. “It’s not something new that began yesterday. Let me take you back to 2006 with the kidnapping of the soldiers. In that area, the terrorists hid behind bushes very similar to the ones we took down yesterday. This is one of the reasons why we conduct this maintenance work.”

THE METHOD IN THEIR MADNESS

This is exactly the kind of “misunderstanding” that can cause a war. It’s this kind of thing that comes out of the blue – but not really. There is method in this madness behind such an attack. But it is so complicated you wouldn’t want to know the details.

Just a hint – in 2005 Hezbollah, with Syrian help, allegedly assassinated Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a multimillionaire and a popular politician whose vision was to rebuild an independent Lebanon not under Syrian control. His son Saad, the new prime minister, has now been maneuvered into being nothing more than Syria’s lackey as the Lebanese people voted Hezbollah terrorists as major players in Lebanon’s government. Syria is one of Hezbollah’s patrons.

0910-intel photo
Recently, the IDF decided to release intelligence photos such as this one – showing how Hezbollah has spread its weaponry throughout Lebanese villages in homes, mosques, hospitals and schools – making it impossible for Israel to defend itself against terrorist attacks without causing substantial civilian casualties such as happened in the Gaza war. The IDF had to make a decision as whether to keep this intelligence secret (from Hezbollah) or to let the world (and Hezbollah) know that Israel knows exactly where their arms are stockpiled.

Now, believe it or not, a U.N. investigation that is about to be wrapped up is rumored to have found evidence that Hezbollah killed the elder Hariri. This would not be good for Hezbollah and could even destabilize Lebanon if the Lebanese people turn against the terrorist group. Hezbollah’s answer? Create a situation that would divert attention from Hezbollah onto Israel.

Lately there have been rumblings that Hezbollah is building scores of tunnels under the border into Israel with the goal of kidnapping more soldiers.

On the other hand, Israeli intelligence says that Iran doesn’t exactly want Hezbollah to get into a war right now. It wants those 40,000 rockets it has given to Hezbollah to be ready to rain down on the Jewish nation if Israel’s air force goes after Iran’s nuclear instillations. So Hezbollah will probably try to keep the border hot while not hot enough to turn the Holy Land into another blazing war zone. At least, not yet.

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Once Again:
Israel Prepares for War

The aim of Israel’s attackers would be to maintain intense fire for weeks and even months – confining Israelis to bomb shelters and extracting decisions from a government weakened by panicking citizens.

By Shira Sorko-Ram

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has been in hiding since the Lebanese-Israeli war in 2006 because he is afraid he will be assassinated. He still is no superpower at this moment. If the U.S. or even Europe stood up to him and his terrorist organization, his place in history would end quickly. But when American government officials like John Brennan, adviser to President Barack Obama (counterterrorism and homeland security) pontificates about the value of trying “to build up the more moderate elements in Hezbollah,” these naïve officials simply create an intoxicating rush of adrenalin and inspiration for the Palestinian “freedom fighters.”

0910-kids in emergency drill
Israeli children participate in five-day emergency drill for missile attack

Syrian President Bashar Assad happily offered his perception of the region as undergoing an “epochal change” which he said was sweeping the Middle East and the world. He outlined a new alliance, consisting of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey – and Russia. He explained that all these countries are linking themselves together, even physically, through gas and oil pipelines, railways, roadways and systems for transporting electricity. (Jerusalem Post, 28May10)

He further described a new “Cold War” that is, according to him, a natural reaction to America’s attempt to dominate the world. (Ibid.)

These Jihadists obviously are aware of their own weaknesses in comparison with the U.S. and even Israel. However, they believe that because of their greater will and determination and patience, they will in the end, win their war against Israel, and finally the West. (Ibid.)

One matter should be noted: With all the wars that have taken place since the Jewish people have been returning to their ancient homeland, no Arab nation or terrorist group has dared to use biological weapons against Israelis.

The Tel Aviv area where a quarter of the nation lives “could be hit – hit hard, and hit often – in the next war.”
~ David Horowitz, Editor, Jerusalem Post

Perhaps the greatest reason is because of their belief that Israel has nuclear weapons, although Israel has never confirmed or denied that. But the fear of such weapons possessed by Israel has been a major obstacle against using any weapon of mass destruction (such as biological weapons which they have) against the “Zionist enemy.”

0910-Gas Masks
All Israeli citizens receive free gas masks,
including citizens with large families!

Now Egypt (one of the two Arab countries at peace with Israel) is heading up an Arab lobby in the U.N. “to make the Middle East a nuclearfree area.” Translation: force Israel to give up her nuclear weapons. Not surprisingly, President Obama is all for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, although he says he does not like the U.N. just zeroing in on Israel alone.

Forcing Israel to give up her nuclear weapons would, of course, leave her defenseless against countries like Iran and Syria who have “agreed” to such a nuclear-free Middle East, while secretly continuing to construct their weapons in hidden installations – with one agenda in mind.

BIBLICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Reading the Bible through every year gives a person continuous input to understanding how God has dealt with Israel in the past and how He will continue to deal with her. For example, I find in the word of God that when Israel sinned, God lifted his protection and her enemies swooped in on her. When His people turned back to the Lord, He listened to their cries and delivered them.

It seems to me that if a person does not “soak” in the word of God where it becomes part of his or her DNA, Biblical principles seem foolish, even primitive – not only to the world, but also to many believers.

For instance, the Bible clearly teaches that war comes as a result of sin. Over and over this truth is emphasized – in the books of Joshua, Judges, Kings, Chronicles – not to speak of Moses and the prophets who warned Israel over and over again that sin would lead to the destruction of the nation.

If you obey the Lord your God... the Lord will cause your enemies to be defeated before you... (Deuteronomy 28:1,7)

If you will not obey the Lord your God... the Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies... (Deuteronomy 28:15, 25)

ISRAEL: GOD'S ROLE MODEL TO DEMONSTRATE HIS DEALINGS WITH ALL NATIONS

Another heavenly standard: The Lord uses the nations to punish Israel for her sins. However, and this is an incredibly important “however,” the Lord then punishes these same nations for assaulting Israel.

In His justice, God judges in righteousness – because God’s justice declares, “as you judge, you shall be judged.” Therefore the wicked nations of the world – although used by God to judge sinful Israel, will certainly be judged by that same measure – and found wanting. Is America more righteous than Israel? Is Egypt? Is Great Britain? Is Germany? How about the U.N.?

Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with rockets and missiles of ever-increasing capability. We are at a point now where Hezbollah has far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world.
~ US Defense Secretary Robert Gates

0910-Missile Count

One of the reasons God’s word goes into such detail concerning his dealings with his beloved nation, Israel, is because He wants the nations to understand His principles – His standard for relating to Israel is His standard for relating to the human race. Israel is his example. His model. His illustration. He protects and nurtures and prospers those who love Him, and He punishes those who turn their backs on Him.

Again, this is a truth so simple, so black and white, that it is a hard pill for mere mortals to understand, let alone accept. But there are simply hundreds of Biblical passages confirming exactly this truth. Thankfully, this is not all the truth. God has a plan to give the planet another chance. He has determined to pour out His Spirit on the human race (all flesh) in one great act of mercy – and give them a final opportunity to hear the Gospel, escape the Kingdom of Darkness and gain eternal life. (See Joel 2:28)

THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL

The prophets speak often of the “latter days” when several key events will take place in Israel, not necessarily in this order, but with much overlapping of the various events.

  1. The scattered people of Israel will return to their land. (Jeremiah 32:37)
  2. The nations of the world will come against Zion. (Zechariah 12, 14)
  3. Israel will suffer great tribulation because of her sins. Read Jeremiah 30 – one of the most blunt and unequivocal chapters in the Bible.
  4. The people of Israel will cry out to God. (Hosea 5:15)
  5. The Messiah Yeshua will be unveiled to the entire nation. (Zechariah 12:10)
  6. Israel will fulfill her God-given call to be a blessing and a light to the nations for salvation as was promised to Abraham and his descendents. (See Isaiah 49:6, Acts 13:47 and Romans 11:29)
  7. The God of Israel will physically save His people and destroy the nations who came against her. (Zechariah 14)

These are hard words – for Israel and for the nations. But ignoring them will not change a thing.

0910-Soldiers Drill
Israeli soldiers stage biggest mass-scale war preparation drill ever in preparation for possible biological attacks

On the other hand, the children of God – those who are committed and submitted to the King of Kings – are specifically told not to fear nor worry. Not Jewish believers nor Gentile believers. Indeed the Bible tells those of us who are born again to lift up our heads. To rejoice! Our redemption is on its way!

These troubles that will envelop the world will generate the greatest opportunity ever to bring the Gospel to the world with unprecedented results.

And those who bless Israel will be blessed. Since the word of God “stands forever,” that promise is true – yesterday, today and forever!

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10-Day Summer Youth Conference

Over a hundred Israeli teenagers from the country’s Messianic Jewish congregations gathered for a 10-day summer conference.

The spiritual depth of the conference was amazing and life-changing commitments made by the youth during this time were immediate and astounding!

Every pastor and parent could only say “Thank you God and thank the Israeli leaders who led the camp!”

There was a good representation of Congregation Tiferet Yeshua’s teens, and Maoz Israel Ministries partners contributed 10,000 to enable as many Israeli youth as possible to attend.

0910-Katzir Youth
(photo by Cariño casas)

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They Shall Know You
By Your Love One for Another

0910 - Fellowship 1

Last month Congregation Adonai Roi (the Lord is my Shepherd) and Congregation Tiferet Yeshua (the Glory of Yeshua), both located in Tel Aviv, joined together for a wonderful Sabbath morning.

0910 - Fellowship 2

The worship team was made up of members from both congregations; the children also met new friends. (The teenagers already have friends from all the congregations in the area!)

0910 - Fellowship 3

Pastor Avi Mizrachi gave a powerful message on the meaning of salvation beginning with Genesis 1:1.

0910 - Fellowship 4  0910 - Fellowship 5

Afterwards, Avi Mizrachi and his wife Chaya together with Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram received prayer and a blessing from Elana Cantor who prayed that this representation of unity would bear much fruit in Tel Aviv.

Avi presented Ari with a menorah as a token of Adonai Roi’s friendship.

 

 


September 2010

Dear Maoz Partner,

Towards late afternoon on September 8th, the cities and villages of Israel will become calm and quiet.  At dusk, traffic will disappear, and Israelis will be home with relatives and friends preparing for the New Year feast.

In Jerusalem and other Orthodox areas of the country, families dressed in their finest will walk to their local synagogue to pray and worship before they sit down to their festive meal. 

This is New Years eve (the Biblical Feast of Trumpets), the beginning of the Days of Awe. 

For ten days until the total fast day of Yom Kippur – when the vast majority of Israelis fast for 26 hours without food or water – pious Jews will be praying, hoping that God will forgive their sins.

But they have no Atonement...

What a great gift we have been given.  The very Lamb of God!  But how could we keep this precious gift to ourselves?

It is for this reason that year after year we have labored, prayed, worked, and shared the Good News with Israelis that we have found the answer to LIFE in Yeshua—the Son of God!

And nothing makes us happier than to see our believing Israeli youth come together from around the country to worship, share, fellowship, and be inspired.

Did you see their faces?  Do you see the joy, the exhilaration, the sheer enthusiasm our young people have about their faith?  That’s what makes our lives worth living.  That’s the “pay-off”!  That’s worth all the struggle, the pain, and the persecution.

And YOU, our partners, have been with us every step of the way!

Look at those faces again.  Some of those young people are your fruit!  They are going to say “thank you” to you when you meet them in heaven. 

“Thank you” for providing them a safe place to come together, fellowship, and worship their God. 

“Thank you” for the resources—books, CD’s, videos, and websites. 

“Thank you” for the discipleship and mentoring provided by exceptional teachers and leaders across the Land.  (You may think you didn’t provide this—but you did!  Your gifts have allowed us to devote our entire adult lives to reach the next generations of believers.)

We are consistently amazed at your faithfulness in giving, your faithfulness in prayer, your faithfulness in sharing our ministry with your pastors, leaders, and friends.  This is what sustains us, encourages us, and keeps us moving forward.

Remember, we can’t do what we do without you!

          With love and thanks,
Ari & Shira Signature
          Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram

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