Prayer Concerning Visiting Israel

Shani Ferguson
By Shani Ferguson
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First Israeli-Arab Iyad Shalabi after winning a Gold Medal in the Paralympics. Credit: Dotan Doron

Shalom,

If you can believe it, this is the third school year to be affected by the COVID era in which we live. This week schools in Israel open their doors. Everyone is holding their breath as authorities focus on trying to keep the learning experience fluid (unlike last year where hundreds of kids and staff could be sent into quarantine over and over just because of one positive case from a staff or student). With a new school year come new anxieties, but some Israeli children have been voicing fears that are symptomatic of PTSD due to the barrage of rockets (an average of 350 rockets a day for 10 days) during the May attacks from Gaza.  

Also this week, PM Bennett returned from his trip to the U.S. saying all his goals were achieved and even surpassed. Still, the entire trip was overshadowed by the nation praying and waiting to see if Barel Shmueli would survive his gunshot wound to the head by a Palestinian protester in Gaza. He didn’t. After nine days of non-stop prayers in his hospital room and across the nation, Barel lost his last battle. His parents are too old to have another son to pass on the family name, though Barel has a younger sister who will at least be able to continue the story of their family line.

That the Jewish people will be here when God’s plan of the ages culminates is a given. However, no one ever promised we would reach the finish line unscathed, and as such we can pray at the very least that the scars Israelis must bear for living where God called them to live do not deter them from fulfilling His plan. 

We don’t always understand, but we can always worship.

1. Concerning Visiting Israel:

As Israel stares into the fourth wave, no one can deny the new variants have definitely put a dent in the previous success Israel had in getting the COVID cases down to 200 nationally earlier this summer. Thankfully, while the numbers are not yet going down, the climb is said to be slowing down. Having just come back from the summer in the U.S. I know the “V” word is best avoided as it results in intense commentary from opposing sides. So, I will say two things about it and hope this will suffice. First, I only bring up this topic to inform people looking to visit Israel of the reality on the ground. The information I am giving is not arguing for or against the “V” word, it is simply sharing information we have as locals. 

Second, Kobi and I have long taken the position that—as with everything in life—people should pray and ask God what is right for them and their family. We do not live in a perfect world and no decision guarantees safety. At Maoz we have both vaccinated and unvaccinated staff and we all get along just fine. We want believers to be an example to the world and be known for our love for one another and not our fear of or anger toward one another.

Now, to let you in on what us locals know…. While it is not a requirement, it is no secret Israel has pushed hard to vaccinate the majority of its population, which currently includes about 5.5 million out of 9 million. As I’ve mentioned before, whether their approach is the right one or not is for God to decide. But Israel has taken an aggressive stance to keep numbers down because it is surrounded by enemy countries. Afghanistan is a vivid example of how enemy forces patiently lie in wait until they see a vulnerable moment. Israel cannot allow itself to have that vulnerable moment.

  • Father, Israel is Your land of promise.
  • There are many who wish to come and visit now, and many tour companies who need the business. We recognize Lord Your timing is perfectshow those who want to come when the doors will be open again.
  • Help those in the business of tourism who are waiting for business to ramp up again to be able to provide for their families during this time of limbo.
  • Let us not be driven by emotion and seemingly reputable spokespeople when it comes to this crisis. Only You have all the answers we seek. Only You can guide us to the voices who speak accurately.
  • As people in covenant with You we ask that You show each family how to respond to the ever – changing reality of this COVID era.
  • When history is told, let those who followed You be shown to be the ones who chose well.

2. Concerning Israeli-Arab relations:

There is no simple way to describe the complexity of this issue—and by this issue I mean Israeli-Arab citizens. For sure, this past round of fighting with Gaza showed that there is a lot of work to be done in terms of building bridges, making sure their education includes intermingling with Jews, and not just learning about past offenses. 

Thankfully, despite the passionate attempts of terrorist entities to instill hatred and bizarre conspiracy theories about Jews, there are many Arab-Israelis who are not only okay with living in Israel, but who feel there is no better country in the Middle East in which to live. 

One such person is Iyad Shalabi, an Israeli-Arab born deaf and later paralyzed as a teenager in a car wreck. So far, in this Paralympics, he has won a gold medal in the 100m backstroke and is favored to win another one later this week. Winning the gold meant Israel’s national anthem was played to the sight of an ecstatic Israeli-Arab.

His win is a victory on many levels. For sure, it’s a personal victory and a win for anyone aspiring to overcome severe physical challenges. His win as the first Arab-Israeli to win a medal at the Paralympics—and a gold at that—is also sure to bring pride to his community. But it is also a testimony to the reality that Arab Israelis can not only coexist with the Jewish population, but fulfil their dreams alongside them. So, as they say in Arabic, “Mabrouk!” (Congratulations!)

  • Father, You are the Lord and Maker of every tribe and tongue.
  • You hold both the Arab and Jewish people dear to Your heart as the descendants of Abraham, each with their own significant calling.
  • We thank You for the unique culture Israeli-Arabs have and the positive influence they have on our times of food and fellowship.
  • We thank You for the brave voices of those in the Arab community who would speak in favor of coexistence and cooperation in building up this nation. 
  • Unexpected situations have often given occasion for offenses between the Arab and Jewish community where none were intended. Let a spirit of clarity of communication rest on the mouths and hearts of parties involved so that healing can take place and future offenses can be avoided.
  • With the recent tensions, many Jews and Arabs have made efforts to help each other in times of need. We ask for many more opportunities like this to happen all over Israel.
  • Many Israeli-Arabs today grow up learning of the day Jews will be no longer inhabit Israel. Remove those with power over Israeli-Arab education who sow strife and confusion in the hearts of young children.
  • Hasten the day in which all Arabs and Jews in Israel honor the God of Israel.

If you’re not already getting this weekly prayer letter, you can subscribe at MaozIsrael.org/pray

Your fellow intercessors,

Kobi and Shani Ferguson
and the entire Maoz Israel Team

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