For now, the rockets have stopped. For now, the alerts no longer constantly appear on our phones. For now, damage assessments can begin and daily life can gradually resume. For now, the wounded can be treated and the fatally wounded can be buried. For now, it is quiet.
While the sirens sound and families race to their safe rooms, believers in God feel the calling to pray, mainly because they feel incapable of doing anything else. I hope Israelis know that they have many friends outside Israel who are paying attention and praying for their safety.
For an article in Breaking Israel News, Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz emailed me to ask, “Do you use the Red Alert app to pray for Israel?” I replied,
“I have the Red Alert app on my phone and watch the alerts as they come in. They often wake me up in the middle of the night. I pray for the protection of the innocent victims in their homes and for the IDF soldiers who will be fighting. I pray for the evil terrorists to be defeated. I pray for Israel’s leaders to make bold and wise decisions. I send messages of encouragement to friends who live in these areas under attack. I also answer questions from American Christians who see news reports and want to learn more details about geography or life in Israel.”
Even when the sirens go silent and the phone alerts cease, God-fearing people, in Israel and in Texas, continue to pray, entreating the Lord for the families of those who have tragically lost their lives in the most recent barrage of 700+ missiles. We ask the Lord to comfort the loved ones of Moshe Feder, Pinchas Pshuzman, Zaid al-Hamamdah, and Moshe Agadi. As we remember those who heartbreakingly perished, we remember the words of Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.”
Many people will feel the urge to pray but wonder what to say. What are the proper words to express our grief and sorrow and anger and confusion?
For about one thousand years, Jews have prayed the Mourner’s Kaddish in funerals and memorial services. For Christians who long for peace in the Middle East, their prayers might be directed by the words of 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
After we pray, we want to ask questions and find answers. Those of us not in Cabinet meetings, those not charged with making life-or-death military decisions, often cry out, “When is this going to stop?”
When we read chilling news accounts or harrowing testimonies on social media, normal people ask questions like…
*Why must Israelis tolerate constant THREATS of rocket attacks and frequent ACTUAL rocket attacks?
*Why do terrorists in Gaza want to destroy Israeli lives MORE than they want to better Palestinian lives?
*What would the United States government do if Mexico committed, or even threatened, genocidal missile attacks across the border into my native Texas?
These are important questions in need of real answers. While we search for answers, people of all faith backgrounds must agree on a few basic tenets to guide conversations among individuals and deliberations among governmental leaders. If a peaceful future exists for Israelis and Palestinians, there have to be agreed upon principles that set boundaries for the actions and words of all parties.
Let’s begin by agreeing on the intrinsic value of human life and abide by the Lord’s command (#5 on Moses’ Top Ten List), “you shall not murder.” Life is a gift from God. All human life is valuable, no matter the age or nationality. Murder of innocent civilians as a geopolitical strategy must be condemned.
Let’s refuse to tolerate war crimes committed when civilians, especially children, are used as human shields. As the Gatestone Institute wrote in February of 2019, “It is time for the international community to call on Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip to stop hiding behind women and children and to stop using them as human shields in their jihad to eliminate Israel.”
Let’s admit that “pay for slay” is pure evil. Payments to terrorists, whether they be salaries given to individual families or multimillion-dollar subsidies given to ruling parties, only incentivize more terrorism. I am grateful that the American Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law the Taylor Force Act, named after my fellow Texan and fellow West Point graduate, Taylor Force, who was murdered in March of 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist named Bashar Masalha. As reported in the Jerusalem Post in February of 2017, “Masalha’s family will receive a pension for life, amounting to three times the average yearly salary in the West Bank.” American taxpayers like me will no longer fund the salaries or pensions of Palestinian murderers. Citizens of other nations should refuse to do so as well and demand that their governments end this horrific policy.
Finally, let’s demand that media outlets around the world stop exaggerating the actions of the IDF and minimizing the actions of terrorists groups in Gaza (or anywhere else). Responsible media consumers should not tolerate misleading headlines like “Under heavy rocket fire, Israeli reprisals kill 4” (Associated Press) or “More than 20 reported dead in Gaza, 4 in Israel after hail of rockets and airstrikes” (CNN). The last few days have not featured “rockets and airstrikes” as in conventional warfare. These traumatic days have featured terrorist attacks on civilians followed by justified responses from a trained and moral military force.
Thanks to monitoring organizations like Honest Reporting, false and distorted news reports are being challenged and corrected. Fruitful communication and conflict resolution are impossible when people can’t even agree on the most basic facts and the honest definitions of words.
King Solomon, a man given abundant wisdom by the Lord, taught us that there is “a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). Sadly, Israelis have learned from experience that war is required to reach peace when one side desires peace but the other side insists on war.
It may be quiet for now, but we don’t have real peace. Keep praying.