One year ago, as we wished one another a “Happy New Year 2020”, Covid 19 or Corona as we call it here was not in our imaginations – nor was anything else that we have all walked through in this year. When we were new in faith more than 40 years ago, we talked quite a bit about these times we are in now. We thought that upheaval and turmoil were going to happen then, but after a few years, when it didn’t, the feelings faded and we looked forward to bright futures with no big surprises. And then suddenly, when things seemed so good in the natural, the pandemic hit.
In its wake has come world wide economic distress along with political upheaval both in the US and in Israel. And no one knows if anything will return to what we used to refer to as “normal”. My grandson is 6 years old and he really doesn’t remember a time when people didn’t wear masks. This is his reality.
In Israel, tourism was at an all time high and prospects were for increasingly record growth. Suddenly, in a few short months, the once prosperous and vibrant tourist industry, the backbone of this nation was totally closed down. Who could have imagined the airport shut, closed and empty? Who could have imagined lockdowns in which kids couldn’t go to school, parents to work and every store and mall closed except for essential services.
As of a week ago, we are now in our third lockdown. This one is considered “light”, which means that students are in school, parents at work, but all commercial stores and malls are closed. We are not supposed to go more than a kilometer from our house and we are not supposed to visit anyone in their house. The vast majority of Israelis are tired, frustrated and angry at the restrictions that keep recurring and are not really observing them. The numbers continue to rise and it seems likely that a more strict full lockdown is looming in front of us.
The vaccination drive is in full swing and record numbers of people are storming the gates to get vaccinated. The government is saying that if the country will get immunized against Covid, we can be out of the pandemic by Spring! There is even talk of how to get the tourists back by this summer with the help of the vaccinations.
In the meantime, the government has collapsed and on March 16, we are going to the 4th election in two years. Netanyahu is fighting for his political life. Some of his most trusted party leaders have left Likud and have formed a new political party aimed at defeating him in the election. There seems to be a groundswell of people who want to see a change in the national leadership. The religious parties who were always committed to Netanyahu are sending messages that they would be willing to form different alliances. On the left, there has also been a rearrangement and new parties have formed. Gantz’s party, the “Blue and White” which once led the nation in mandates is one of the weakest at the moment and on the verge of collapse. The situation is complicated, and no one seems able to predict a positive outcome!
Please pray with us that God will have his way and the right candidate will be elected and Israel will enjoy a stable and effective government to take us through these incredibly turbulent waters – both within the country and internationally. Israelis are wary of the Biden-Harris combination and know that there will not be the same support as we have enjoyed under President Trump. Pray that whatever the enemy means for harm, God would work to the good and His hand of favor would continue to protect this nation. “He who guards Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.”
Please join us in praying for our congregation, Ahavat Yeshua. The end of February will be a year that we have not met together under one roof. And with this third lockdown, the newly formed home groups are no longer able to meet, unless the people live within one kilometer of each other which is not usual.
And yet, today, we are on the threshold of a New Year and in spite of all the difficulties, God has put hope in our hearts. In Israel, the one thing that never shuts down is the construction industry. There seems to be new buildings going up on every corner in every town. I was in the center of Jerusalem the other day and I almost didn’t recognize where I was walking because of all the new construction since I was there last.
As I looked around and thought about all this, I felt that God was saying that he is doing the same thing with us. He will never stop building us up, never stop doing new things in our midst. He has a master plan and we are the central players in it. No matter what happens, God is with us. He is our refuge and our fortress, an ever present help in times of trouble. We will not fear (Psalm 46).
Although we can’t envision the future, God is “building” it now. He is training our hands for battle, he is teaching us to rise up and stand our ground for truth and justice in the humility that comes from knowing Him and above all to love one another deeply from the heart.
I pray for all of you dear friends, a very happy and profoundly blessed New Year, filled with the fruit of righteousness and His unsurpassing peace in your hearts. There is no doubt that 2021 will be special – perhaps filled with great and difficult challenges but one also filled with His overwhelming, unrelenting and overpowering love. May this be a year in which we grow in this love that surpasses knowledge. And may this love overflow to the lost so that in this year we would see multitudes come to salvation.
With love from Zion,