“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and 
saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

Shalom, my friend. After the national tragedy that occurred in Israel last week, I am especially thankful to be able to write to you and ask for your prayers on behalf of the Jewish people, especially the Haredi Jews who are suffering this great loss the most. I know this grieves your heart, too.

Last Thursday, 45 ultra-Orthodox Jews were killed in a stampede at Mount Meron and more than 150 were injured. During what was supposed to be a celebration marking the end of a traditional mourning period, mourning began again.

Please pray for all of the families of those who died – some even from the U.S. and other countries beyond Israel.

As you do, please also pray over the other issues in the news stories I’m sharing here – including ongoing negotiations of the nuclear deal with Iran and the U.S. and Israel working together more closely.

ISRAEL HOLDS DAY OF MOURNING FOR VICTIMS OF MOUNT MERON TRAGEDY

After thousands of Haredi Jews died when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the ultra-Orthodox community especially hard, now nearly 50 more were killed in the stampede at Mount Meron late last week and more than 150 were injured, many in critical condition, according to The Times of Israel.

On Sunday, Israel held a national day of mourning in honor of those killed at Mount Meron in the country’s deadliest-ever civil disaster. The dead included more than a dozen children and teenagers.

The headline on the front page of Yated Ne’eman, a Haredi newspaper, the morning after the tragedy read, “The joy of our heart has ceased, our dancing has turned into mourning.”  It is a verse from Lamentations, the biblical book read on Tisha b’Av (a day of mourning for the many tragic events that happened on the Jewish calendar’s 9th of Av), the saddest day on the Jewish religious calendar.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the day of mourning after visiting Mount Meron last Friday, the day after the tragedy. The site is the second-most visited religious site in Israel after the Western Wall.

“There were heartbreaking scenes here. People who were crushed to death, including children,” Netanyahu said, The Times of Israel reported.

More than 100,000 people were taking part in the night of music, dancing and bonfires for the annual Lag B’Omer gathering (Lag B’Omer is a Jewish celebration that takes place on the 33rd day of the Omer (the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot)).

The celebration quickly became a tragedy when a large crowd began to leave. As people entered into the narrow, sloping walkway to exit, some slipped on the metal floor and others fell on them. As the congestion increased, more people were crushed.

What should have been a festive night marking the end of a religious period of mourning turned into yet another tragedy, especially for Haredi Jews.

ISRAEL’S NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY DIRECTOR TALKS WITH BIDEN IN UNPLANNED MEETING

Last week, while a delegation of senior Israeli officials was in Washington, D.C. to meet with U.S. officials about the Iran nuclear issue, an important unplanned meeting took place.

Yossi Cohen, the director of Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, met with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday.

It is reported that Biden dropped by a meeting taking place between Cohen and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan where the pair were discussing regional security issues.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the meeting between Biden and Cohen lasted a full hour and that CIA Director William Burns also joined the meeting in which the three discussed Iran in depth.

NEW REPORT: BIDEN SAID U.S. NOT CLOSE TO RETURN TO DEAL WITH IRAN

A news report on Sunday said that Cohen told Biden it would be a mistake for the U.S. to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran. It’s reported that Biden said the U.S. had a long way to go before it agrees to a return to full compliance with the JCPOA. The Times of Israel said the news report cited an unnamed senior Israeli official who had been briefed on the Friday meeting.

The White House would not comment on the report.

Israel wants to convince the Biden administration to negotiate for an improved deal that would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons rather than rejoin the JCPOA.

U.S. CONSIDERS ROLLBACK OF SANCTIONS IMPOSED ON IRAN

The U.S. State Department said the Biden administration is committed to coordination and transparency with Israel in its dealings with Iran regarding nuclear issues.

Yet it’s being reported that the administration is considering a rollback of some of the sanctions imposed on Iran during the Trump administration, with the goal of getting Iran to return to compliance with the JCPOA deal. This is according to both current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter, The Times of Israel reported.

Indirect talks continue in Vienna because Iran has refused to have face-to-face meetings with the U.S. American officials are not saying which sanctions are being considered but have talked about being open to lifting non-nuclear sanctions.

Meanwhile, Iran is demanding that all sanctions be removed. Iran’s leadership says it won’t agree to stop its nuclear activities that are in violation of the JCPOA unless the U.S. lifts at least some of the sanctions.

It’s expected that a rollback of sanctions will be strongly opposed by Israel and Gulf states such as United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

AMERICAN CONGRESS PREPARES TO ACT WITH RESOLUTION

If the Biden administration makes concessions beyond nuclear-specific sanctions, there will be a response from members of the U.S. Congress. There is wide bipartisan support for resolutions encouraging the president’s administration to take a tougher stance on Iran.

One resolution, with more than 220 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, was introduced last Wednesday. This resolution calls for the administration to recognize “the rights of the Iranian people and their struggle to establish a democratic, secular and non-nuclear Republic of Iran while holding the ruling regime accountable for its destructive behavior.”

U.S. AND ISRAEL FORM WORKING GROUP FOCUSED ON THREAT FROM IRAN’S DRONES AND MISSILES

Last Tuesday, the White House said the U.S. and Israel are establishing an inter-agency working group “to focus particular attention on the growing threat of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Precision-Guided Missiles produced by Iran and provided to its proxies in the Middle East region.”

The announcement came after meetings at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. between delegations from the U.S. and Israel, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“The U.S. and Israeli officials discussed their serious concerns about advancements in Iran’s nuclear program in recent years,” the White House statement read.

During these meetings, the U.S. also updated Israel on the JCPOA talks in Vienna and assured Israel of “President Biden’s unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself,” according to the statement.

“The United States remains unyielding in its commitment to Israel’s security, and will work to strengthen all aspects of the U.S.-Israel partnership,” it also read.

U.S SHIP FIRES WARNING SHOTS WHEN IRANIAN VESSELS GET TOO CLOSE

On April 26, U.S. Navy officials said two American ships were swarmed by three small vessels commonly used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in international waters in the Persian Gulf. A similar incident occurred on April 2.

U.S. officials said the three Iranian boats were armed and came within 70 yards of the American ships, a U.S. Navy patrol ship and a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Both U.S. ships issued multiple warnings via radio and loudspeaker. When the Iranian boats continued to come closer, the Navy ship fired warning shots and the Iranian boats moved away.

LET US PRAY TOGETHER

Please pray with me for:

  • Comfort for the grieving and brokenhearted in the wake of the Mount Meron tragedy
  • God’s provision and direction concerning the JCPOA nuclear deal negotiations
  • Strong relationships to be built between U.S. and Israeli leaders
  • A peaceful God-inspired solution for Israel’s government following the country’s fourth inconclusive election in the past two years
  • Protection for the people of Israel from variants of COVID-19 – two of which have now been documented in Israel
  • Jewish people to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah

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