Israel has been in its third lockdown for over one month now. While Israel continues to vaccinate its population at the fastest rate in the world, we are still in the throes of increasing numbers of infections and rising rates of severely ill patients. Israel has been in full lockdown more than any other country in the world since March 2020 - 139 days (4.5 months). Government officials closed the only international airport in Israel on January 24th for at least two weeks, an unprecedented move aimed at keeping various mutations from entering Israel while Israel works to vaccinate more of the population. Israelis are reaching a breaking point on various levels - mentally, emotionally, financially - and people are struggling to keep their heads above water. Please pray for Israel in this difficult season! While we are hopeful that the vaccines will help us to emerge from the pandemic, and help us to establish a new "normal", we know our only true hope is in the LORD; only He can truly watch over us and keep us in His peace.
PLEASE JOIN US IN INTERCEDING ON BEHALF OF ISRAEL FOR:
In cities throughout the country, the ultra-Orthodox (Haredim) have been violently protesting over the police implementing lockdown laws. Although comprising only about 15% of the total population, the Orthodox Jewish community is very politically powerful. In the past two lockdowns, religious schools and synagogues have remained opened and operated at almost full capacity. In this current lockdown, police began to crack down on violators, to which many young Orthodox men responded with rowdy and violent protests. The rate of infection within the Orthodox Jewish community has been the highest of all sub-groups in Israel, and there has been high morbidity in this community, sadly. Please pray for wisdom for Israel's governing officials in how to effectively address the problem of non-adherence to the laws that are actually meant to protect the very people who refuse to follow them. Please also pray for the rising tensions between secular Israelis and Orthodox Jewish Israelis, as this past year has revealed a level of division and, at times, downright hatred between them. Lastly, please pray that the religious leaders of the Orthodox Jewish community will understand the importance of following the law and take active measures to protect those under their guidance.
Coronavirus & Vaccines
Israel was in lockdown the entire month of January. According to the Israeli Ministry of Health, the so-called British mutation, which is a more contagious strain, is responsible for the increased number of Coronavirus cases, particularly among children and teenagers. Pregnant women and their babies were particularly vulnerable to this new strain of the virus, and sadly, numerous pregnant women have died from being infected. At the same time, however, Israel led the world in vaccinating its citizens at an impressive speed. To date, 1.5 million Israelis have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is almost 20% of the population. 80% of Israel's elderly have been fully vaccinated. Please continue to pray for a miracle as we enter February, for healing for all infected, and for wisdom for Israel's public health leaders as they continually face tough decisions regarding slowing the spread of the virus. Please also pray for strong communication between the government and various sectors in Israeli society. Please pray that the vaccination campaign will continue strong through February, and that in the next few months, children will return to school, the country will reopen to tourists, and Israelis can begin to live our "new normal" in the post-pandemic world. Lastly, please pray for a miraculous and complete stop to the quick spread of the virus.
The third lockdown has taken an enormous toll on Israel's economy. Roughly 800,000 Israelis are out of work. Of those, 150,000 Israelis lost their jobs in the current lockdown. An Israeli aid organization released a report last month showing that poverty rates in Israel have increased 50% since the start of the pandemic and the ensuing economic recession. The number of families living below the poverty line jumped from 20.1% in 2019 to 29.3% (some 850,000 families) during 2020. The organization also found that the country’s middle class shrank by 15.5%, which is significant. Thousands of small businesses have closed as a lack of government aid has forced them to shut their doors for good. Please pray for Israel's people to endure this difficult time with grace from the LORD, and practical help from one another. Please also pray for miraculous provision for families and individuals who are out of work or have had to cut working hours. Lastly, please pray for wisdom for Israel's leadership as they seek to solve the economic situation while keeping the infection rate from soaring.
Israeli Security Situation
In late January, the Palestinian Authority announced that it will hold elections in July. Hamas, the Iranian proxy in Gaza and parts of the PA in Judea & Samaria, has also announced internal elections will take place February 10. These elections historically tend to be fixed and not a true representation of the people's voice. In addition, Iranian proxies surround Israel. From Hezbollah in Lebanon, to the Syrian army, to Gaza, militant groups funded by Iran seek Israel's ultimate destruction. Israel is constantly on the defense against such groups - and occasionally strikes an offensive blow against them, as is the case in Lebanon and Syria. While last month was relatively quiet, Israel continues to constantly be on guard against potential attacks. Please continue to pray for Israel's protection from enemies that constantly seek our total destruction. Please also pray for wisdom for our military leaders, that they would have the ability to stop attacks before they happen. Lastly, please pray that the plans of Israel's enemies will be absolutely frustrated and that all will see the mighty hand of God move to defend Israel, the apple of His eye!
New U.S. Administration
The Biden Administration took office in late January and President Biden has yet to contact PM Netanyahu, which is seen by many as a political snub. Many in Israel are nervous about this new administration, especially because the Trump Administration was very pro-Israel. Please pray for wisdom for Israel's governing officials regarding its approach to the Biden Administration, especially since Israel relies heavily on foreign aid from the USA. Please also pray for a positive and fruitful relationship between President Biden and whoever ends up being elected Prime Minister in Israel's upcoming elections in March.
FOLLOWING ARE SOME MINISTRY REQUESTS FOR HOPE FOR ISRAEL:
Moran & Family
Moran and his wife, Melissa, continue to work from home while their children are distance learning full-time. There are challenging moments, for sure, but there are also wonderful opportunities for family time! Moran continues to seek wisdom from the LORD about the ever-changing nature of the ministry in these times. He also continues to face challenging decisions regarding the tour operations, so please keep praying for wisdom, discernment, peace, and patience for him! Please also pray for his family, for health, patience, flexibility, and grace as they continue to navigate this tough season.
Please continue to pray for comfort for the CEO of our board, Mike Faye and his family, as they grieve the death of Cheryl, Mike's wife. Please pray for wisdom for the board as they continue to make important decisions that affect the future of the ministry. Please pray for protection over all of HFI’s board members and their families, that the LORD would shield them from illness and spiritual warfare. Please also pray for healing for several of the board members’ spouses from various diseases and for strength during these difficult health challenges.
Our staff continues to work from home, and we are hoping to get back to the office at a lower capacity in "capsules" once the lockdown is lifted (God willing) in February. It's been a challenging year to have to constantly adjust between the back and forth of working from home, then partly from the office, and then from home again, but our staff is meeting the challenge with grace and eagerness! Please pray for our staff as we are all juggling work and family responsibilities. Please also keep our staff and their families covered in prayer, especially as we continue to face the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak in Israel.
We ask for prayer that God will continue to bless the ministry’s finances so that we can continue to pay our staff salaries, our bills, and most importantly, to bless as many people as possible, especially in this season where so many people in Israel have lost their jobs and businesses. Please pray that, as much as possible, we will have a financial blessing to continue with our current projects to bless the people of Israel, and really help those in need in this season.
NerYah Youth Group
It continues to be a tough time for the youth in general, and many are struggling with being isolated and not being able to see their peers. The youth group continues to meet virtually and has developed a network of small groups by geographic area so that the youth can be in touch with one another and be of mutual encouragement. The leadership also contacts each one of the youth regularly to check in and encourage them. Please pray for protection of the youth from feelings of loneliness and stress due to the pandemic. Please also continue to pray for Tigist, Hellen & Eliashiv, and for the other young adult volunteers that they will receive wisdom, encouragement, and clear direction in this time, and for unity among the team. Lastly, please continue to pray for health and protection from infection for the youth.
Believing Soldiers Groups
Please continue to pray for the believing soldiers with whom Efrat and Judi are working, that they would be strengthened by God's grace and peace in these tough times. Please pray for the soldiers' emotional and physical health. Please also pray for the young adult volunteers to continue to have a fresh desire to bless and encourage the believing soldiers. Lastly, please continue to pray that our outreach will be a constant encouragement and reminder that God is in control, and that He cares for them!
Students are still in exam season and writing term papers. All studies continue to be online, so that has its challenges as well. We will be hosting some virtual workshops this coming month, in an effort to offer practical support for them. Please continue to pray for the believing students who receive financial & moral support from us, that they would be able to focus on their studies and achieve excellence despite the challenges that they face. Please continue to pray for an abundant financial provision for us to continue to award scholarships that will impact Israel's believing students.
We are hopeful that we can host our annual Experience Israel Tour in June! Registration has begun and we pray for many to join this special tour, which includes an optional extension to Greece. These tours generate income for the ministry, which goes to cover our overhead, thus allowing a higher percentage of donations to go to our projects. The closure of the tourism sector in Israel for almost an entire year has significantly impacted the overall financial situation of HFI. We are hopeful that we will resume tour operations in 2021, but things change daily and it is very difficult to plan anything with any kind of certainty! Please join us in praying for wisdom for Moran as he continues to make tough decisions regarding the tour operations. Please pray for Judi & BJ for wisdom and flexibility in working with all those involved in rescheduling tours from 2020. There are a lot of details "up in the air" due to ever-changing local rules and global regulations, not only specific to sites in Israel, but also individual to the airlines, hotels and other players. Lastly, please pray for the Lord's continuous provision for the ministry despite the lack of income from the tours!
Thank you for joining us in prayer for these things! May the LORD bless you!
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