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When rockets fall and synagogues burn

– A personal update

Jerusalem, May 21, 2021


By the time you see this, the skies over Israel will probably be quiet again and our normal lives will have resumed. To date, 4,340 rockets from Gaza have been fired at Israel’s civilians, landing as far north as Tel Aviv and as far south as Eilat.

On May 10, when the shelling began, seven landed in the Jerusalem area for the first time in half a century. When we heard the sirens, we rushed to our bomb shelters. In some areas, it’s not that easy. In Sderot, adjacent to the border with Gaza, at times the sirens have been wailing every minute. Children have been traumatized for life. In Tel Aviv, where rockets hadn’t fallen since Saddam Hussein’s Scuds in the Gulf War of 1991, some 130 rockets fell in one five-minute period!

Hamas, the terrorist organization controlling Gaza, has better rockets now. They reach farther and their frequency is higher than ever before, at times overwhelming Israel’s famed Iron Dome defense system, meaning some rockets have been reaching their targets. Hamas has also been using drone technology to drop explosives on population centers.

Hamas’s goal is mass murder. Apartments, schools and kindergartens, synagogues, restaurants and buses have been struck by its rockets. But God’s protection has saved thousands of lives. Even so, a dozen have died and hundreds have been injured or maimed.

Some prominent religious and political leaders have condemned both sides equally, but unfairly. Unlike Hamas, Israel is not aiming at civilians; rather it is targeting the Hamas terrorist network.

Israel’s response could have been far greater, but it gave up the advantage of strength and surprise in order to protect civilians: Phone calls have been made to building managers to warn occupants to evacuate. Similarly, “roof-knocking” missiles causing negligible damage have been fired at structures where Hamas was operating in violation of humanitarian law. Every Gazan knows that Hamas terrorists hiding among civilians in apartments, schools and mosques are being targeted by Israel.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hadn’t called for new elections since his term ended in 2009. He finally agreed to hold elections this May 22. But, realizing he and his corrupt, inept party would lose to Hamas, he cancelled them.

He then diverted attention by inciting demonstrations against Israel on a trumped-up charge that Israel was seizing Palestinian homes. In fact, the Israeli Supreme Court had sided with Jewish owners of four homes who hadn’t been paid rent for 50 years by Arab squatters.

It being Ramadan, the Muslim month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, thousands of Arabs heard sermons inciting against the Jews. At night, there have been violent demonstrations in an unprecedented dozen towns and cities from Beersheba to Haifa.

Stones kill, so do Molotov cocktails, even if they are not high-tech weapons. Fires destroy. In the city of Lod, five synagogues have been scorched, 10 nationwide. Torah scrolls have been burned, vivid reminders of Kristallnacht for Israel’s 200,000 Holocaust survivors.

Abbas’s timing was strategic as the Americans are focusing on domestic, not foreign, matters. Unlike his predecessor, President Joe Biden designated $300 million for the PA, effectively funding weapons and the PA aid program for terrorists and their families. It signaled that the Americans would be soft on PA violence. For now, to appear balanced, the White House has said Israel has a right to secure borders.

Hamas, already furious about the cancelled elections, needed a way to regain relevance amid waning support. Firing rockets at Israel was a sure-fire formula to do so. International opposition has prevented Israel from ever finishing conflicts begun by Hamas (in 2006, 2008-2009, 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2019). Without Hamas terrorists needing to surrender, the result has been that Israel has only had pauses between conflicts, but no assured peace.

The Europeans could be counted on to condemn Israeli actions again. In fact, 25 European nations did acknowledge Israel’s right to defend itself, but there have been plenty cautions against vigorous actions. Israeli political adviser and columnist David Weinberg rightly asked, “What value is Western support for ‘Israel’s right to exist within secure and recognized borders’ if those borders cannot be defended?” (, May 14, 2021).

What we are witnessing now is, ultimately, only a practice round before the next one. Hamas’s patron, Iran, is watching, developing new tactics by assessing the rocket campaigns and Israel’s response. Iran’s other proxies–Hizbullah in Lebanon and rebels in Iraq, Syria and Yemen–await orders to attack. Many of Hizbullah’s 150,000 sophisticated missiles are GPS-guided and can reach any point in Israel.

Iran, like the PA, perceives President Biden as weak and therefore not an obstacle. He is seen as practically pleading for Iran to make a nuclear deal with the Americans.

Observers outside the Middle East often see it all as madness. Pictures of enraged, screaming men and women, their eyes wild with rage, veins bulging in their necks, affect us emotionally, the spectacle repeating itself over and over just as long as the cameras are recording.

The simplistic explanation blames it on “warring cousins.” There is another aspect, the one the news media and politicians don’t touch: The Jewish people and their ancient speck of land are in the midst of a millennia-old battle “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). We are witness to a hellish war against God and His “light[house] to the nations” (Isai. 49:6).

In such a confrontation, the outcome is clear. God and His chosen nation will be victorious, even if the world seethes. Despite casualties, Israel will endure because “He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Ps. 121:4). These are well-worn verses.

An appeal to you, our readers: The greatest weapon against Israel is silence. Those who claim to love Israel, but say nothing, are missing an opportunity to bless Israel in word.

Your prayers will reap blessings, as will your donation, but your voice and the ink of your pen are also needed. Even if there is a temporary quiet in this Holy Land, proclaim your stand for Israel boldly to neighbors, but also to elected officials and the news media. They will react based on the tally of opinions they receive. They are certainly hearing the opinions of Israel’s enemies.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (122:6) and all Israel.