Prayer Letter — January 2021

It's a new calendar year - 2021! Last year was incredibly challenging, and although the pandemic is still very much with us, we can look back on the many ways God has been - and continues to be - faithful through it all. Israel is in the midst of a vigorous vaccination campaign, and at the end of December, approximately 800,000 Israelis have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The shadow of lockdown still looms over Israel, but we are entering January with renewed hope for the future.


Political Upheaval
Israel will hold its fourth elections in two years this coming March. The Knesset (Israeli parliament) was dissolved due to failure to pass a budget. Political theater is at its peak as two top politicians in Prime Minister Netanyahu's party, Likud, defected to start their own party, New Hope. Gidon Sa'ar, the head of this new party, is expected to do very well in the upcoming elections, possibly even unseating Netanyahu from office after a 12-year tenure. There is further instability in the political realm as PM Netanyahu is currently on trial for a slew of corruption charges.   The unfortunate reality is that Israelis are strongly divided along political lines, and the troubling state of social affairs in the country is only making things worse. Sadly, another round of elections will cost the country billions of shekels, which will result in the slashing of crucial government services for people who really need them right now. Please continue to pray for Israel in this difficult season, for provision for those in great need, and for unity among Israelis despite political differences. Please also pray that despite the failures of our government officials that Israel will seek God as our primary source for wisdom and peace. Lastly, please pray for the upcoming elections, for calm throughout the country and that we will ultimately trust that the entire situation is in His hands.

Israel in Third Lockdown
Israel's daily infection rate skyrocketed last month. The government imposed a third lockdown in December in order to reduce the rise in morbidity and to alleviate the strain on hospitals, which were at capacity treating the very sick. Despite the vaccine that has arrived in Israel, which has brought some relief to this situation, there is still a long way to go for Israel to emerge from the pandemic. Thankfully, elementary schools are still operating under previous guidelines, in capsules, and 4 days a week. Grades 7-10, however, are still fully distance learning. UPDATE: Israel entered a tighter lockdown on January 7th. All schools have been closed (including preschools and daycare centers), as have all non-essential businesses, and offices. Please continue to pray for a miracle as we enter January, 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. Lastly, please pray for a miraculous and complete stop to the quick spread of the virus.

Israeli Economy
The toll the pandemic has taken on Israel's economy is enormous. Unemployment is currently hovering around 4.7%; pre-pandemic, the rate was at an all-time low of 3.4%. The country has virtually been closed to anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident since March. Tourism has been destroyed throughout the country, and hundreds of thousands of employees have either been terminated or relegated to non-paid vacation. Restaurants remain closed since mid-September, with only delivery services allowed, and with the winter season here, it seems sit-in dining will only resume in the spring. Thousands of small businesses have closed as a lack of government aid has forced them to shut their doors for good. Sadly, families throughout the country are struggling to meet basic needs, and domestic violence is rising sharply. 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.

Iranian Proxies Vs. Israel
Iranian proxies surround Israel. From Hezbollah in Lebanon, to the Syrian army, to Gaza, militant groups funded by Iran seek Israel's ultimate destruction. Palestinian militants held a joint exercise last month to prepare for the possibility that either the U.S. or Israel attacks Iran. Militant groups in the Gaza Strip, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Popular Resistance Committee joined together to shoot numerous missiles into the Mediterranean Sea. Hamas receives approximately $30 million in funding from Iran every month in exchange for intel on Israel, and would be a serious threat to Israel's security if a war did break out with Iran. 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. 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!


Moran & Family
Moran continues to seek wisdom from the Lord about the ever-changing nature of the ministry in these times. It continues to be a season of deepening his trust and dependence on God's provision, especially as he has not been able to travel for over a year to teach and fundraise. He continues to face challenging decisions not only regarding the ministry, but also 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 navigate a tough season of partial school attendance and partial learning from home.

HFI Board
Last month was a significant time for the board members as they met for the annual board meeting. Although this meeting happened virtually, it was very fruitful and they are looking forward to the coming year. Sadly, the CEO of our board, Mike Faye's wife, Cheryl, passed away after a long season of illness. Please pray for comfort for the Faye family in this difficult time, and for strength to continue in her absence. Please pray for wisdom for the board as they continue to make important decisions that affect the future of the ministry. Pleasepray 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.

HFI Staff
Due to the third lockdown, our staff is working from home. 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 aplomb! 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.

Ministry Finances
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 also pray for the believing lone soldiers that are enlisting this month, for a tremendous blessing on them as they enter this new season of life. One soldier was recently drafted to become a fitness trainer- she's in basic training now! Another soldier was released from the army and is trying to find work in this challenging time. Some soldiers in our program had to enter isolation recently due to exposure to the virus, so please pray for their emotional and physical health. 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!

University Students
Students are beginning the season of exams and wrapping up the semester, which ends this month. All studies continue to be online, so that has its challenges as well. 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.

Hope for Israel’s 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 has significantly impacted the overall financial situation of HFI.  We are hopeful that we will be able to resume tour operations in 2021, but everything is very uncertain right now. Please join us in praying for wisdom for Moran as he continues to make tough decisions regarding the tour operations. Please pray 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!

In His Service,
The Hope for Israel Prayer Team

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