“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NIV)

I’m sharing with you the powerful words of the Shema from Deuteronomy. These verses are a declaration of faith for the Jewish people and also for those of us who embrace Jesus as the Messiah. I pray that they encourage and strengthen you today!

This week, as you’ll read below, we’ve seen more progress and reasons to be hopeful concerning Israel and two Islamic countries that have signed the Abraham Accords.

There is also some good news on the coronavirus front in Israel regarding early data that shows the vaccine working to decrease hospitalizations.

And a news story to lead us to prayer – in one ultra-Orthodox city, protests against the current coronavirus restrictions have turned violent.

Thank you for your great compassion for Israel and the Jewish people. Your love and prayers are greatly treasured.

Israel’s Government Authorizes Normalization With Morocco

The normalization agreement with Morocco received a unanimous vote of approval by Israel’s cabinet on Sunday, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the agreement “a historic moment after four peace agreements with four Muslim and Arab states in four months.”

He also praised Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, adding, “Together we are advancing direct flights between the countries. It will happen soon – economic, trade, technological cooperation and the opening of missions in both countries.”

Israel and Morocco renewed relations last year within the framework of the Abraham Accords.

Israel’s Embassy Officially Opens in United Arab Emirates on Same Day UAE Approves Opening of Its Embassy in Tel Aviv

On Sunday, Israel officially opened its embassy in the UAE with the arrival of Ambassador Eitan Na’eh in Abu Dhabi. That same day, the UAE’s cabinet approved the opening of its embassy in Tel Aviv.

“The embassy will work to advance Israel’s interests and will be at the disposal of its citizens,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to The Times of Israel.

The UAE, along with Bahrain, signed the Abraham Accords normalization agreement with Israel in September 2020.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi praised the UAE decision to open its own embassy.

“This is an important decision that will advance the warm ties between countries and between nations,” he said. “We look forward to welcoming the UAE representatives soon.”

Israel Has a 60% Drop in Hospitalizations for People 60+ Three Weeks After First Vaccine Shot

Among the most vulnerable members of society, vaccines are averting serious cases of the coronavirus, according to an Israeli healthcare provider.

Full effects of Pfizer’s vaccine only kick in around a month after the first shot. But data from Israel shows there is a significant drop in infections even before this point.

Israel data is being closely monitored because the country has the fastest vaccination drive. Maccabi Healthcare Services reported earlier this month it had seen a 60% reduction in coronavirus infections three weeks after the first shot is given, according to The Times of Israel.

At that time, it wasn’t clear if the benefits were being felt equally by people likely to have a mild infection and those who would have more serious symptoms.

The decrease in hospital admissions is swift after vaccination, Maccabi suggests in its latest data. Findings show hospitalizations start to fall sharply from Day 18 after people receive the first shot. Galia Rahav, head of infectious diseases at Israel’s largest hospital, Sheba Medical Center, described the data as “very important.”

By Day 23, which is 2 days after the second shot, there is a 60% drop in hospitalizations among vaccinated people aged 60-plus, Maccabi shared after monitoring 50,777 patients. It compared their hospitalization rate at that point with their hospitalization rate soon after receiving the vaccine, using 7-day moving averages.

Rahav cautioned that some of the drop may be due to a tendency of newly vaccinated people to follow lockdown rules, which causes a drop in infection and hospitalization.

Government Approves Near-Complete Shutdown of Main Airport to Combat Coronavirus Variants

On Sunday, Israel’s cabinet ministers approved the near-complete shutdown of Ben Gurion Airport, located just east of Tel Aviv. The closure goes through the end of January when national lockdown measures are scheduled to be eased.

This step is being taken due to fears over fast-spreading or vaccine resistant coronavirus variants entering the country. As the cabinet meeting was held, the Health Ministry reported five more cases of the South African coronavirus variant were found among travelers from South Africa and Dubai. The ministry said 27 total cases of the strain have been detected in Israel, The Times of Israel reported.

A copy of the proposal the ministers approved said all foreign aircraft will be barred from entering Israeli skies or landing at Ben Gurion Airport. Exceptions will be made for cargo planes, emergency aircraft and planes that traverse Israeli airspace without landing.

The document also said departing flights would be limited to those traveling for medical treatment, essential work, legal proceedings, a funeral of a relative and traveling from one residence to another. It said the director of the Health Ministry can grant exceptions for humanitarian or “special personal” reasons.

“We are closing the country hermetically,” said Netanyahu. “Just in this week of closing the skies, we will vaccinate another million Israelis.”

New Clashes in Ultra-Orthodox City Turn Violent

Violent riots went late into the night on Sunday in Bnei Brak. Ongoing clashes have occurred as police try to enforce coronavirus regulations in this ultra-Orthodox city where there is intense opposition to such measures by radical elements in the community, The Jerusalem Post reported.

A bus driver was assaulted and chased off his bus. Later, it was set on fire, causing damage to nearby apartment buildings. Electric cables also caught fire and dozens if not hundreds of homes lost power.

Other vandalism included a traffic light knocked over and dumpsters pushed into the street and lit on fire. One video showed police officers being targeted with fireworks. Riot police responded by deploying stun grenades to disperse the rioters. The police vowed to continue enforcing the national lockdown.

These clashes occurred as lawmakers from the United Torah Judaism party and other Haredi officials held a meeting on the roof of the Bnei Brak city hall. They placed the blame for the violence on the police rather than the protesters.

Following the meeting, Bnei Brak Mayor Abraham Rubinstein and his deputy mayor were attacked by ultra-Orthodox rioters as they walked through a crowd of protesters in the city, according to The Times of Israel.

The two were pelted with eggs, rocks and other objects and were forced to flee, with reports saying security guards had to use pepper spray to distance the mob.

During the clashes in Bnei Brak, extremist ultra-Orthodox mobs attacked reporters and photographers for major networks Channel 13 and the Kan public broadcaster. They threw various objects at them, including rocks. Footage showed the journalists trying to flee the attacks, asking store owners for shelter.

Let Us Pray Together

Please pray with me for:

  • Continued progress with countries that have signed the Abraham Accords and for more nations to seek peace with Israel
  • The success of the coronavirus vaccine to continue in Israel and around the world
  • Wisdom for all involved in the violent protests that have been taking place in Bnei Brak and for peaceful resolution to be sought
  • Jewish people to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah

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