FORMER ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES CHIEF OF STAFF, GADI EISENKOT, LOSES SON AND NEPHEW IN WAR
Sadly, the Swords of Iron War cannot shield everyone from injury and death. This past week, the son of the current war cabinet minister and former Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, died in battle. Master-Sergeant Gal Meir Eisenkot enlisted in Shayetet 13 and moved to the elite Maglan unit, serving as a combat medic. While a reserve soldier, he was an infantry fighter in the 699th Battalion of the 551st Reserve Brigade. He was twenty-five years old. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Herzog, and other military officials and politicians attended his funeral. War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz said, “When we approved [Swords of Iron War] plans, we knew their meaning. We knew that the arrows on the maps could become arrows to the heart of good and dear families.” Speaking directly to Gal’s father, Gadi, Gantz said, “You are my brother and brother in arms, my partner, you and your family are the embodiment of a personal example of placing the national interest above any personal consideration.”
A day after the death of Gal Eisenkot, his cousin, Sergeant Maor Cohen Eisenkot (nineteen years old), was killed in Khan Younis. He served in the Golani Brigade’s 12th Battalion and died during a raid on a mosque. An explosive device detonated near Israeli soldiers killed Eisenkot and another soldier. An attack helicopter was directed to strike Hamas gunmen on the roof of the mosque and those who came out of the nearby tunnel.
Please pray for the Eisenkot family as they grieve this tremendous loss and for other families of soldiers who have been killed.
ISRAELI SOLDIERS LIGHT THE HANUKKAH MENORAH IN GAZA
The children evacuated from Israel’s southern and northern borders made and decorated 800 Hanukkah menorahs for soldiers in Gaza. The special gifts were brought to the soldiers in the heart of Gaza, along with notes to encourage them. Even in an active battle zone, the combat soldiers lit the Hanukkah menorahs in Gaza, a moving symbol of light over darkness. Major Mor Issachar, education officer of the Southern Command, said, “The soldiers carry with them the thoughts of the children and the sense of connection and responsibility of the residents of the border communities and the entire nation. The project makes it possible to actualize and strengthen the relationship, and we are happy to be a significant part in boosting the morale of the soldiers.”
Please pray for the soldiers’ morale, as we are more than two months into this war, the weather is chilly, and the soldiers have been far from their homes and routines.
ISRAELI FORCES MAKE PROGRESS AS FOCUS SHIFTS TO SOUTHERN GAZA
This past week, the Israeli Defense Forces continued to locate tunnels while hoping to rescue the hostages still captive in Gaza. Soldiers discovered a massive weapons stockpile containing hundreds of missiles, launchers, long-range rockets, anti-tank missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones), and explosives. The cache was found in a densely populated area near a hospital and a school.
More than two months have passed since Hamas launched its surprise attack against civilians in the communities bordering Gaza, and Israel subsequently promised to destroy Hamas’ leadership and infrastructure. Israeli leaders say they still need two more months to complete the first stage of the mission against Hamas. The Israeli Defense Forces have moved from northern Gaza and its bigger cities of Gaza City and Jabaliya to the southern Gazan stronghold of Khan Younis. Clearing this area of Hamas terrorists will take three to four more weeks of fierce fighting, with an additional month to wrap up this part of the campaign against the terror organization. Soon after the war started, Hamas’ leader, Yahya Sinwar, fled from northern Gaza to Khan Younis in a humanitarian convoy, which is why Israeli forces are focusing on Khan Younis at this time.
Finally, dozens of Hamas terrorist fighters and people suspected of supporting Hamas have been surrendering to Israeli forces. Soldiers ask them to surrender their weapons and strip down to their underwear to ensure they do not have surprise explosives hidden in their clothes or suicide belts. These unprecedented images tell a story of the disintegration of Hamas infrastructure in how they suggest more and more people in Gaza oppose the Hamas leadership. These fighters in northern Gaza knew it was either surrender or face certain death, as the Israeli Defense Forces have been able to restrain terrorists found in most of northern Gaza. Israel will be able to question them for intelligence on Hamas leadership, where Sinwar is hiding, and the possible location of Israeli hostages.
Please pray for these strategic and important events in the Swords of Iron War. Pray the Lord will guide and sustain the soldiers for battle. Please pray for Israel’s leadership to make wise decisions in directing this war as the world is watching. Lastly, pray for the families of the soldiers to find peace amid such anxiety over their loved ones.
STAFF MINISTER TO ISRAELI SOLDIERS NEAR LEBANON BORDER
While most global news reports focus on details of the war in Gaza, an equally important battlefront lies in northern Israel. There, Israeli citizens face rocket bombardment from Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Israeli Defense Forces are engaged in combat with Hezbollah forces.
In support of the northern battlefront, our missionaries and local pastors are engaging in spiritual warfare while providing much-needed aid to displaced families, those without work, and soldiers called to active duty lacking many necessary supplies. We have helped with food parcels, grocery gift cards, boots, nail clippers, medical-grade first-aid kits, socks, knives, headlamps, and more.
Recently, one of the pastors of our congregation, Or HaGalil (Light of Galilee), went into a sporting goods store called Ricochet to ask the owner, whom he knows, what supplies soldiers need. The owner—not a believer yet—was so happy to see the pastor and had a profound spiritual conversation with him. He said the soldiers do not have cold-weather-rated sleeping bags for sleeping outdoors in the winter. They need good sleeping bags and often cannot afford the really warm ones. So, our pastor paid for 100 sleeping bags, and before leaving the store the same day, he gave ten to a unit commander who arrived and needed ten sleeping bags for his men. The commander could hardly believe the warm ones were already paid for as a gift from our congregation!
Another of our missionaries was recently at a store where soldiers buy supplies. He saw a young man—a believer he knows—who was called up to duty and looking for much-needed boots. This young man was with his commander, who is not yet a believer. Our missionary paid for the boots and other supplies their unit lacked, and the young soldiers thanked him.
Not long afterward, the believer wrote (translated into English from Hebrew), “I wanted to say a huge thank you for the boots. The exact timing amazed me as I talk a lot with my friend about faith, and this kind of thing happened at the right time. Amazing stuff, God’s love in action! Thank you very much. I distributed the gift bags that you gave me to the soldiers.” Even more amazingly, the unbelieving unit commander has since spoken with the pastors of our congregation, inviting them to come talk with the soldiers in his unit since he is highly intrigued by their stories.
Our congregation in the Upper Galilee is a microcosm of northern Israel, where many Jewish and Arab people live in peaceful co-existence. Just as the rockets from terrorists in Hezbollah or Hamas threaten both Arab and Jewish Israelis, the message of hope, salvation, and peace through Jesus’ atonement beckons to all. The gospel does not discriminate against any people group. We proclaim God’s message of forgiveness, open for everyone.
Please pray for our congregation Or HaGalil, and all our pastors and missionaries serving in the north and around Israel. Intercede for the Israeli soldiers fighting to protect the nation from violence and bombing. Pray our staff will have divine appointments with people hungry for spiritual nourishment. Please pray the communities of Muslims, the Jewish religious and non-religious groups, Arab Christians, the Druze, and all others in Israel will come to faith in Jesus. Thank you!