From top left:
4 United Arab List-Ta’al (Left/Arab/Islamism); 4 Hadash (Left/Arab/Communism/Socialism); 3 Balad (Left/Arab nationalism); 3 New Movement-Meretz (Left/Socialist/Peace Activism); 8 Labor (Left/Social democracy/Labor Zionism); 28 Kadima (Centrist/Liberalism/Zionism); 5 Independence (Centrist/Zionist); 27 Likud (Center/Right/Conservatism/Capitalism/Zionism); 15 Yisrael Beitenu (Right/Non-Orthodox); 3 The Jewish Home (Right/Modern Orthodox Judaism/Zionism); 11 Shas (Right/Ultra-Orthodox); 5 United Torah Judaism (Right/Ultra-Orthodox); 5 National Union (Right/Orthodox/Zionism)
It was Sunday evening. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise announcement to dissolve the Knesset and call for early elections. He had set a date: September 4, 2012.
As a popular head of state and leader of the Likud party, he would have been able to serve out his four-year term scheduled to end in October 2013. With a coalition of 66 Knesset members out of 120, he had a respectable majority at least for Israel. But looking into the future, he decided he needed a larger majority for what lies ahead.
His aim was to create the strongest coalition possible to withstand the expected onslaught of pressure were President Barack Obama to be re-elected. Netanyahu is altogether aware that Obama has little patience for Israel or its prime minister. And with the absence of Obama needing Jewish or Evangelical Christian approval during his second term, Israel could be in for a bruising.
Late the following night, Knesset members were busy closing down the 18th Knesset in preparation for the new elections. Then at 2:30 in the morning, Netanyahu announced a stunning change of plans that surprised the entire nation.
He revealed that his erstwhile nemesis, Shaul Mofaz, chairman of the largest opposition party (28 seats to Netanyahu’s 27 seats) was joining his government and thereby giving Netanyahu a majority of 94 seats out of the 120!
Mofaz, former military chief of staff, and current head of the Kadima party (founded by Ariel Sharon) had fiercely attacked Netanyahu and his Likud party many times, calling him every name thinkable and unthinkable. But now Mofaz stood alongside him and said to the media, “Yes, Mr. Prime Minister, I called you a liar. But we have agreed to let bygones be bygones, and we will work together!”
Now the two closest ministers surrounding Netanyahu would be Defense Minister Ehud Barak (also a former chief of staff) and Mofaz. All three men have a long history as former leaders in Israel’s elite Special Forces unit and took part in some of Israel’s most daring and successful operations such as the famous Entebbe raid.
In one fell swoop the prime minister gained everything he could have dreamed of—in short, a massive wide coalition with parties on the right and central-left. The Israeli population is generally in favor of the new unity government and even the leftist media is praising Netanyahu as a masterful political strategist. But the people are not totally convinced that when it comes time to bite the bullet, he will make the enormous reforms needed to better the country.
Will Prime Minister Netanyahu have the courage, wisdom and fortitude to fulfill the expectations of the Israeli population? The challenges are massive.
FIRST CHALLENGE: DRAFT ULTRA-ORTHODOX INTO ARMY
Israelis have had it. Period. Israel’s young men have to serve three years in the army and women two. Then there is reserve duty that can be up to a month out of every year until age 54. Of Jewish Israeli males who are not ultra-Orthodox, authorities say that about 5% are draft dodgers, although others say that the percentage could be as high as 12%.
However, of Israel’s Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) 85% of the men do not serve in the army, as the government allows them an exemption to study full time in rabbinical schools called yeshivas or kollels.
In 1948, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, felt it reasonable to allow 400 yeshiva students to be exempt from the army in order to study Torah and Talmud. However that number has now grown to 50,000 non-working full-time yeshiva students, who expect never to work or serve in the army and to forever receive their livelihood straight from the pockets of hardworking taxpayers.
Today’s 700,000 Israeli Haredim are only about 8% of the overall population, but they double their population every 12 to 20 years. They believe their rabbinical studies are the true reason Israel continues to exist and they fully expect their political representatives in the Knesset to continue to keep them on the dole and out of the army.
Not only is the public crying out against this unjust and unfair load on the middle class taxpayer, but Israel’s Supreme Court finally handed down a ruling that the government of Israel has until August 31, 2012 to change the so-called Tal law which presently exempts the Haredim from military service.
Now with Netanyahu’s massive coalition of 94 Knesset members, the ultra-Orthodox with their mere 16 seats can no longer blackmail the prime minister by threatening to pull out of the coalition and bring down the government which they were well able to do until the Kadima party joined the coalition.
The army has publicly declared that it no longer has enough soldiers to fill its ranks. And the Israeli mainstream citizens who populate the army today are simply not going to take it any longer. As Israeli soldiers say, “We are not going to be suckers any longer. The ultra-Orthodox men must serve in the army just like the rest of us.”
The question still stands: will Netanyahu have the courage to face down an enraged population of 700,000 Haredim?
All governments know, once a segment of the population receive entitlements and benefits, it is almost impossible to withdraw those benefits.
SECOND CHALLENGE: ADDRESS HIGH COST OF LIVING
Like in most every democratic nation of the world, the youth of Israel have taken to the streets demanding distribution of wealth. This summer, left-wing parties plan to set up tent cities as they did last summer and lead the protests for more social equality.
The situation in Israel doesn’t exactly parallel that of the U.S.; there are specific challenges unique to Israel. Israel started out as a socialist country partly because its early leaders came from communist countries and partly because no capitalist in his right mind would have invested in the nascent state of Israel with surrounding enemy countries having as their top priority the destruction of the Jewish state.
Even in 1967 when I arrived in Israel, salaries were low for everybody. I remember a well-known government official who was a friend of mine who made $400 a month. Israel was a third-world country and I heard many tales of new immigrants who tried to open businesses, but were thwarted at every turn by the all-powerful Histadrut which had become not only the national union but also the national owner of most large businesses.
However, as Israel grew in stability and strength, the nation began to move towards a freer economy, with the government selling off many of its companies to private enterprise though not without much howling from the Histadrut and the left.
Still, the facts are that by weaning itself off socialist-influenced policies that once brought 400% inflation and 60% income-tax brackets, Israel’s economy is now growing despite the international financial slowdown. Debt is manageable, the currency is strong; Israel’s high-tech sector is admired worldwide.
Of course all of us know that no matter how much man tries to perfect systems, fallen man sullies the best of plans through his self-centered, me-first nature. And so in Israel, there is an extraordinary small number of extremely wealthy families who control most of the banks and many of the large companies. With power (whether in government or wealth) comes corruption and Israel has its share.
The area of greatest grievance is the extremely high cost of living, compared to the low take-home pay (taxes are very high both for the worker and the employer). The demonstrators who will flood the streets this summer see the main culprit as this abnormal concentration of finances in the upper echelon of the business community.
When people talk these days about Israel’s economy, they use words like booming, resilient, even “miracle.” Nevertheless, when Israel began to reduce social benefits and entitlements, poverty grew in some sections of the public. And it is this issue with which Netanyahu will be grappling the rest of the year.
THIRD CHALLENGE: STRIP ENTITLEMENTS TO NON-WORKING HAREDIM
But there is an added reason for the woes of a shrinking middle class and the rise of Israelis living below the poverty line. The weak link can be found in none other than Israel’s you guessed it—Haredim—population, and also the Arab population which numbers 1,500,000 alongside 6,000,000 Jews.
According to the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, Haredim and Arabs will make up 78% of Israel’s population by the year 2040! And the ongoing trend among Haredim is to increase the number of non-employed men. In 1979, for example, just 20.9% of Haredi men did not work, compared to 65% today.
The Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, a world-renown economist, noted that the economic lot of Arabs is actually improving (and is much better than that of Arabs in surrounding nations) while Haredim were getting steadily worse. Six out of every 10 Haredim today live below the poverty line, while among the Arab community it is about 50%, he said. And Haredim receive many more handouts than the Arabs in the hundreds of millions of shekels a year.
In summary, of these 700,000 ultra-Orthodox citizens, today 65% of the men don’t work (compared to 15% of the non-Orthodox population) and vow that they will never work because of their lifetime full-time rabbinical studies. Even if they wanted to work, economists say Haredim are so limited in their education that they fall below third-world children, which would make it difficult for this community to supply engineers, physicists and doctors.
Fischer continued, “The growing number of Haredim choosing religious studies over gainful employment is unsustainable, and arrangements have to be made to force them into work.”
“We support a lifestyle of non-working that is pretty unparalleled in the Western world,” said Ben-David, a Tel Aviv University professor. “On the one hand, we have this state-of-the-art part of the economy. Then there is the rest of the country that is like a huge drag.”
Fischer warned that change would come, but wondered if it would materialize through a chaotic social conflict or through consensus. This is a cry for a very wise and courageous prime minister.
Now that Netanyahu actually has the opportunity with his massive coalition, will he stand up to the ultra-Orthodox and help his country by expunging corruption in both government and business?
FOURTH CHALLENGE: FIXING A BROKEN ELECTORAL SYSTEM
Prime Minister Netanyahu is presiding over Israel’s 32nd government. This means that Israel’s prime ministers last on the average only 25 months. The problem starts with the abysmally low 2% qualifying threshold for a party to obtain a seat (one of the world’s lowest). The result is that at every election a potpourri of tiny parties gain a few seats in the Knesset and from those the leader usually of the largest party must cobble together a wobbly coalition, often of strongly opposing ideologies.
In the present Knesset, 13 parties are represented. The inherent instability of these coalitions allows small parties to initiate no-confidence motions and bring down governments almost at will. All Israel wants this system changed. That is, all but the Knesset members from small parties who have the ability to dissolve a government if they feel threatened. Mr. Netanyahu, like past prime ministers, has long been blocked from restructuring these critical defects which resonate deeply with the Israeli public and go to the heart of what kind of democracy the young state will become. Will Prime Minister Netanyahu use this historic opportunity to reform this debilitating and defective system for his long-suffering Israeli people?
FIFTH CHALLENGE: SHOULD ISRAEL ATTACK IRAN?
What should Israel do about Iran?
At times it seems that this is the one issue that preoccupies Netanyahu more than any other.
But many commentators insist Israel simply does not have the military hardware to successfully destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.
According to a Fox News interview, Israel can’t do it.
- Israel’s bunker busters only penetrate to 20-50 feet. Iran’s facilities are 200 feet underground.
- Compare Israel’s small fleet of 87 F-15s, to the US’ 522. Or Israel’s F-16s: 307 to the US’ 1,280.
- Israel has no strategic bombers no B51’s, no B52’s which carry 25,000 to 30,000 lb. bombs. Her largest bombs weigh 2,000 lbs.
- The distance from Israel to Iran is 950 to 1400 miles. But Israel has only eight or nine refuelers and she would need every last plane in her possession to carry out the attack. Israel has been asking the US for help to bomb Iran for twelve years. But so far the US has refused to supply the modern armament needed to do the job. Yet, as the nuclear threat grows, Israel will become more desperate. Will Netanyahu decide to attack anyhow?
SIXTH CHALLENGE: JUST MAKE PEACE WITH THE PALESTINIANS!
These above challenges are the ones that preoccupy the Israeli public. But lest we forget, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promptly and publicly reminded Mr. Netanyahu, that because he now has a huge majority in the Knesset, it is time to make eternal peace with the Palestinians.
Never mind that the Palestinian leaders will not negotiate with Israel unless Israel agrees to a whole string of demands before talks, offering nothing in return. Never mind that every boy and girl who is born to Palestinians is brainwashed from the earliest age to grow up to fight “to the last drop of blood” the evil Israelis. Never mind that Hamas and Fatah publicly declare they will continue to fight Israel until she is destroyed. Never mind all that. Hillary demands peace. Not from the Palestinians, but from Israel. And indeed, Israel is deeply concerned as to what will happen if President Barack Obama is re-elected and no longer has to worry about pleasing American Jews or Evangelical Christians. What kind of pressure will he use to force Israel to make “peace” with the Palestinians?
There are countless other issues: Should Israel allow more houses to be built in its settlements or not; should Israel give the West Bank to the Arabs or not. Should the Haredim continue to control the religious life of the whole nation? One example of many: The fact that there is no public transportation on the Sabbath is a terrible hardship on all Israelis who don’t own cars.
And when all these challenges are successfully overcome (!) there is always the world-wide mushrooming plague of anti-Semitism in every Islamic nation, throughout Europe and in universities around the world. Nor can Israel ignore for a moment the constant bias and abuse in real threats and sanctimonious accusations to delegitimize the state of Israel coming from the UN.
If ever a man needed prayer, it is Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, March 2, 2012, on Netanyahu’s three-day stop at Ottawa to discuss the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Canada has long been considered a classical liberal democracy. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Canada is presently one of the more liberal countries in the Americas—a nation with government-regulated free market, with an emphasis on social justice and social progressivism such as abortion issues and same-sex marriage.
However, a quiet revolution has been taking place since Stephen Harper was sworn in with his own personal Bible as Canada’s 22nd prime minister in 2006.
The prime minister is a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance church, and his critics castigate him for being a “born-again Christian.” Journalist Colin Campbell of www.macleans.ca noted that “the church [of Harper] looks and sounds nothing like the ornate, staid Catholic churches attended by past prime ministers. There is no choir, organ or pews. Instead, there is a drum kit, guitars, piano and metal chairs. There is a large wooden cross at the front, but little else by way of decoration. The pastor uses PowerPoint graphics, projected onto the building’s pale pink walls to highlight his sermon. Worshippers are encouraged to clap or raise their hands to the sky while singing.” Even though this prime minister governs over a nation of whom only about 10% are evangelicals, he is immensely popular. In fact, in the 2011 parliament elections, his party won an absolute majority.
According to the Globe and Mail, Harper is moving towards smaller government, encouraging growth through low taxes and the fewest regulations possible. Within three years, his aim is to balance the national budget, “a feat virtually unequalled in the developed world.”
But his changes grabbing global headlines are in international foreign policy specifically Israel. Believe it or not, headlines in many news outlets and blogs read: “Canada is the World’s Most Pro-Israel Country.”
Journalists are somewhat baffled as to what drives the prime minister’s pro-Israel agenda. Even though he has “embraced Israel as has no Canadian leader before him,” the media notes that out of 34 million Canadians, Jews number only 315,000. In contrast, the number of Canadian Muslims is expected to nearly triple in the next 20 years, from about 940,000 in 2010 to nearly 2.7 million in 2030, according to the Pew Research Center.
The media concludes that Harper seems to be acting out of personal conviction. He has been known to stand up for Israel since 1997 when he worked for a conservative economic organization. Even then, when there could have been no political calculation he made it clear that he believed Canada should be a loyal, true ally of Israel.
And wonder of wonders, the prime minister has been able to transform Canadian policy for Israel with very little opposition.
Harper’s strong feelings for Israel can be seen as consistent with his distinctly conservative background and worldview. He believes Israel is a bulwark of democracy and Western civilization warring against terrorists in a region governed by brutal autocrats.
Soon after becoming prime minister, he was the first to cut off funds to the Palestinian Authority in 2006 when it was taken over by Hamas.
He has spoken out often about growing global anti-Semitism.
In nine items against Israel at a recent committee of the UN General Assembly, Canada consistently voted with a small group of Israel’s staunchest allies the US and four small South Pacific island nations!
Last year, Harper made world headlines when he alone refused to sign on to a G8 statement which specifically called for talks based on a return to Israel’s 1967 borders, plus some minor land swaps negotiated with Palestinians an idea President Barack Obama pressed for vigorously. Harper would not sign on until that phrase was deleted.
When UNESCO, a UN organization, decided to bypass the UN’s legal methods for accepting a new nation into the UN and voted for Palestine to be admitted to UNESCO, only 14 nations out of 194 voted against recognizing Palestinian statehood. Two of those states were the U.S. and Canada.
Last year, Canada was projected to be voted onto the all-important UN Security Council. It was not, and Harper suggested it was because of Canada’s stalwart defense of Israel.
For the prime minister, however, it was a small price to pay. “Whether it is at the United Nations or any other international forum, the easy thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric,” Harper said. “As long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie (French speaking) or anywhere else, Canada will take a stand whatever the cost.”
We go back to one of God’s great foundational promises: “I will bless those who bless you and curse him who curses you.”
There is no doubt in my mind that God is blessing and will continue to bless a nation whose leader serves God and his moral foundation is based on the Bible. Certainly the favor of God is upon Prime Minister Harper and the Canadian people. Needless to say, this prime minister needs the prayers of his citizens.
We have been very grateful for Caroline Oostrom-Best, who has represented Maoz in Canada for the last few years. However, Caroline now has another full-time job and other ministry and family responsibilities.
So we have been praying for a representative in Canada who could devote much more time to contacting and relating to Canadian Christians who might be interested in partnering with Maoz Israel Ministries to bring salvation and healing to the lost sheep of Israel. We are so very thankful for the answer God has given us: Jim and Bev Brown have joined the family of Maoz and will be managing the Maoz Canadian office in Toronto. So please read and enjoy their letter to our Canadian friends in the next article.
Jim and Bev Brown, Canadian representatives for Canadian Friends of Maoz
“Oh Canada our home and native land,” so Canada’s national anthem opens. Significantly the refrain’s first line is “God keep our land glorious and free.” A lesser known fourth verse acknowledges,
“Ruler Supreme who hearest humble prayer, Hold our Dominion in thy loving care, Help us to find O God in thee a lasting rich reward, As waiting for a better day, We stand ever on guard for thee.”
A Canadian’s normal response would be a low key, “No problem eh!” However these are profound words from our Canadian heritage.
In a day when such lyrics are being deleted, “genderized” or altered to be politically correct, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently affirmed our national anthem’s lyrics would stand “as is.” On that note, during Benjamin Netanyahu’s March visit to North America concerning the Iran issue, his first stop was with his friend and ally in Canada, our prime minister. He is a believer and an “on the record” supporter of Israel. It is crystal clear where Canada stands on Israel.
A few short months ago neither Bev nor I would have predicted that Adonai [the Lord] would throw us into the “deep end of the pool” when it comes to Israel and the Messianic movement.
We have both been believers for decades and involved in various areas of ministry. Bev comes from a Pentecostal background including grandparents who were outreach workers for Messiah and parents who had a tender heart for Israel. The Lord came into my life at the end of my college education through a friend.
At this time last year, we began to grow restless. We wondered if our hearts were growing cold and asked the Lord to do a new work of refreshing in us. As it turned out, that restlessness was the Holy Spirit urging us on. Our introduction to the Messianic movement was to have been a quick checkin to see what is going on. That was when we arrived at a City of David service. Our hearts were touched by the overflowing joy and the evident presence of the Holy Spirit.
We began reading and watching anything we could get our hands on to help us understand the roots of our faith, Israel and the Messianic movement. The more we delved into the issues, the more the Lord opened our eyes to the wonderful work He is doing among His Chosen people, the Jews, and His plans for these end times. Our perspective on our faith turned 180 degrees regarding how we are grafted into the Jewish faith! We are just grateful and undeserving recipients of God’s grace through the Jewish people and Israel! That may seem obvious to most, but it was a humbling moment for us a moment that the Lord is now using to shape our path forward.
As we continued to attend weekly Shabbat services, Rabbi Jeff & Janet Forman [Rabbi Jeff Forman, founder of City of David Congregation and his wife Janet are close friends of Ari and Shira, and serve on the Maoz Canadian board. They introduced us to Maoz. Thank you Rabbi Jeff!] consistently encouraged us with timely words, books and of course to join them on the City of David Israel trip. After the trip we felt like our faith had previously been in black & white and was now in 3D wide screen high-definition color!
Even before we left Israel we knew we wanted to somehow minister to the believers in Israel. We just didn’t know what that would look like. At the end of the Israel trip we asked ourselves should we stay and join the IDF? Should we learn Hebrew and move to Israel? Bev and I both had a sense that the Lord had prepared us for something new and we wanted with all our hearts to be involved in the expansion of God’s Kingdom.
Twenty nine years ago when we were first married, the question of reaching the lost was on our minds. Bev was an outreach worker for Messiah already. Then the Lord blessed us with the first of our three children three days after our first anniversary. All right Lord, we get it; children and parents first, outreach work later. The kids are now grown up and we have moved through most of our obligations to both children and parents. Recently, after a 32-year career, an early retirement opportunity came open for me and it was too good to pass up. The Lord’s timing is always perfect!
While in Israel we were shocked at the profound difference in the news we get about Israel compared to the reality. To say North American news is slanted would be an understatement! The Maoz Israel Report, website and emails are superior in every way, giving an accurate and Biblical perspective of events in the Middle East.
We are immensely encouraged by the Messianic believers and congregations in Israel. Supporting them through raising awareness in Canada is a humble privilege. Please join Bev and me in praying that a spirit of openness and revelation will precede us as we share the ministry of Maoz with Canadians.
Dear Maoz Friends,
A few months ago, one of my congregants asked me, “What are we doing for Israel?”
His question caught me by surprise! I have always loved Israel but it definitely had not been in the forefront of my thinking. I realized that the umbrella organization our congregation is part of was certainly funneling some funds to a few ministries in Israel, but our church was not specifically engaged and connected to any ministry in Israel.
So the next time I was attending the Connect Conference at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, I asked one of their resource pastors for a recommendation of some ministries in Israel that I might check out. He gave me a list of four or five, and Maoz Israel Ministries was one of them.
First, I checked out the website. I was truly impressed with what Maoz was doing on the ground in Israel. And I really liked that their focus was reaching the Hebrew-speaking Israelis with the gospel.
I picked up the phone and had a chance to speak to Ray, the USA representative for the ministry. We made an instant connection, and I invited him and his wife, Christy to come to our church in May, and introduce Maoz Israel Ministries to our people.
This past weekend they shared a video message from Ari and Shira, and then helped our congregation understand the importance of standing with Israel and the Jewish people, and taking them the gospel.
We were absolutely thrilled to host them, and have them share. Partnering with Maoz is a great decision for us!
When we started sending a monthly gift to Maoz four months ago, the overall giving in our church increased. Just a confirmation of God’s Word—“I will bless those who bless thee.”
Now we definitely have a personal stake to what God is doing in Israel!
Pastor Ron and Ava Bates
The Light Community Fellowship
FORTY ISRAELI YOUNG ADULTS TO ATTEND THE MESSIANIC JEWISH ALLIANCE OF AMERICA CONFERENCENEAR HARRISBURG, PA JULY 1-7, 2012
This summer we are privileged to take 40 Israeli Messianic Jews from 12 different congregations (together with two young Arab Christians) to the annual MJAA Conference at Messiah College.
The trip is being co-sponsored by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, Jewish Voice and Maoz Israel Ministries and a number of U.S. Messianic Jewish congregations.
Each Israeli participant is paying $500 towards the $2700 cost. The MJAA is covering all the expenses of the conference itself, including lodging and meals. Rabbi Eric Walker of Beth Hallel, Birmingham AL, initiated fundraising for the Israelis among other Messianic Jewish congregations in the U.S., contributing $16,000. Of the remaining $30,000 still needed, Jewish Voice and Maoz have each committed to contribute $15,000 for the trip.
We invite you to invest in this young generation of Israelis by contributing toward the needed $15,000 ($375 for each Israeli).