When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  

(John 8:12 NIV)

We’re heading into one of my favorite times of the year and I’m so excited to spend just a few minutes today writing to you! 

The Festival of Lights is a time for remembering God’s goodness and provision – throughout the history of Israel and in our own lives. 

With so much that can weigh heavy on our hearts this holiday season, as we celebrate differently than we had hoped or planned, let’s rejoice in our Messiah Jesus, the light of the world. And may we be inspired by His example to be a light for others in what can feel like a dark time. 

The headlines this week are split between the ongoing efforts for peace between Israel and her neighbors and Iran’s response to the assassination of their top nuclear scientist. 

In coronavirus news, Israel began a nightly curfew on Wednesday as new case numbers have been increasing. And the first shipment of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is expected to arrive in Israel in the coming days, according to their Health Ministry. 

Israel and UAE set fast pace with normalization process 

The UAE was the first of the three Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel in 2020 and the process is moving quickly and with apparent great enthusiasm on both sides. It even appears that the UAE has dropped, in practical terms, the usual propaganda about Israel’s “occupation of Arab lands,” CNN reported. 

Last month, the UAE hosted a group of Israeli settler leaders from the West Bank. And in October, the country imported wine produced by Israeli companies in the Golan Heights.  

In addition, the UAE, the U.S. and Israel will finance a project to modernize Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank used to monitor the movement of Palestinians. 

Mutual concern about Iranian influence in the region also brings these two countries together. 

Saudi Arabia to allow Israeli commercial planes to cross its airspace 

Early last week, after talks between Saudi officials and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Saudi Arabia agreed to let Israeli airliners cross its airspace en route to the UAE, a senior Trump administration official said. 

The agreement was reached just in time – hours before Israel’s first commercial flight to the UAE was planned, Reuters reported. 

Tourist visas will be granted for Israelis traveling to the UAE  

While the mutual visa waiver agreement is being finalized, the UAE launched tourist visas for Israeli citizens who plan to travel to their country. The same will apply to Emiratis visiting the Jewish state. 

Abu Dhabi’s foreign ministry “announced the activation of tourist entry visas through airlines and travel and tourism offices for Israeli passport holders,” the Emirates News Agency reported. 

This is the latest move in the normalization of ties between the two countries. They have already signed treaties on direct flights and visa-free travel as well as accords on investment protection, science and technology, according to The Times of Israel. 

Iran plans to ramp up uranium enrichment and bar nuclear inspectors 

In response to the assassination of its top nuclear scientist, Iran enacted a law ordering an immediate increase of its enrichment of uranium to levels closer to weapons-grade fuel. The law also requires the expulsion of international nuclear inspectors if U.S. oil and banking sanctions are not lifted by early February. 

The level of uranium enrichment would give Iran the ability to convert its entire stockpile to bomb-grade levels within six months, The New York Times reported. 

It’s not clear if this is the full retaliation of Iran in response to the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. He was regarded by U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies as the guiding force of previous Iranian efforts to design a nuclear weapon. Iranian officials have vowed to avenge his death. 

U.S. issues new Iran-related sanctions 

According to a statement released by the U.S. Treasury Department, fresh sanctions have been imposed on Shahid Meisami Group and its director, The Jerusalem Post reported. 

The entity is accused of being involved in Iran’s chemical weapons research and being linked to the Iranian Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which is blacklisted by the U.S. and formerly headed by Iran’s top nuclear scientist who was killed on November 27. 

The move comes days after the assassination of Fakhrizadeh. On Saturday, Iran’s supreme leader promised to retaliate for the killing. This raises the threat of a new confrontation with the West and Israel in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, Yahoo News reported. 

“Iran’s development of weapons of mass destruction is a threat to the security of its neighbors and the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement. “The United States will continue to counter any efforts by the Iranian regime to develop chemical weapons that may be used by the regime or its proxy groups to advance their malign agenda.” 

Let us pray together 

Please pray with me for:  

  • Additional countries to normalize ties with Israel and for those that have to work together to an even greater degree, like the UAE 

  • Protection for Israel from any potential attacks by Iran in retaliation for the assassination of their top nuclear scientist 

  • Wisdom and protection for the people of Israel as the number of new coronavirus cases are rising 

  • Continued success of clinical trials to produce effective vaccines and for Israel to get access to the necessary vaccines when they are available 

  • Jewish people to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah and the light of the world during Chanukah 

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