With the epicenter on fire, Israel’s leader holds another Bible study in his home. Here are the details.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu hosted another Bible study at his official residence on Sunday evening. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The epicenter is on fire. Radical Islamic jihadists are pressing their offensive in Syria and Iraq. Iran continues marching towards nuclear weapons. Hezbollah briefly attacked Israelis on her northern border yesterday. U.S.-Israeli relations are frayed. Anti-Semitism is rising.
And amidst all his national security briefings and strategy sessions, Israel’s premier is studying the Bible.
Indeed, one of the most interesting but least known aspects in the life of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is that he has developed quite an interest in studying the Bible in recent years. The premier was not raised in a religious home growing up. But as he has gotten older, he has developed a noticeable curiosity in the ancient Scriptures.
• Netanyahu occasionally quotes the Bible in major speeches (such as the time he spoke at Auschwitz and said Ezekiel 37 had come to pass.)
• In his most recent address to world leaders at the United Nations, he quoted chapter 62 of the book written by the Hebrew prophet Isaiah. “Isaiah, our great prophet of peace, taught us nearly 3,000 years ago in Jerusalem to speak truth to power,” Netanyahu said. “‘For the sake of Zion, I will not be silent, for the sake of Jerusalem, I will not be still until her justice shines bright and her salvation glows like a flaming torch.'”
• Netanyahu told Larry King that he likes to study the Bible on Saturday mornings with his son, Avner.
• In 2011, the premier started a Bible study group that meets every few months in his official residence.
• On Sunday evening — amidst the High Holy Days in Israel and the Jewish world (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, which begins with another full blood moon tonight) — the premier and his wife, Sara, held another Bible study session in his home.
Here is some news coverage of what was discussed: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a Bible study session attended by the parents of three Israeli teens killed in June,” reported the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Iris and Uri Yifrach, Rachel and Avi Fraenkel, and Ophir and Bat-Galim Shaar joined the Tanach Study Circle at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem on Sunday evening. Netanyahu renewed the circle two years ago. Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, had started the tradition. Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron also joined the study group, which focused on the upcoming weekly Torah portion of Beresheit, the opening chapters of the Bible.”
“We are preparing to celebrate Simchat Torah, when we will conclude reading the Torah and begin it again,” the Prime Minister said as the meeting began. “The cyclical nature of reading the Torah and starting it again from Genesis also symbolizes the renewal of our people in our land. Despite all attempts to destroy us, each time we build ourselves up again, deeply linked to also growing the tree called the Jewish People, with our deep roots and branches that reach ever higher.”
These are excellent steps by the Prime Minister, and he should be commended for them.
One would have to go back to Menachem Begin — and before him, to David Ben Gurion — for Israeli premiers who have publicly studied the Bible and openly encouraged others to do the same. It is simply not a typical activity of Israeli leaders.
• Let us pray that the study of the Word of God has a powerful, personal impact on the Prime Minister and his family and each of his colleagues and guests.
• Let us pray that many Israelis would follow the Prime Minister’s lead and begin reading the Holy Scriptures again.
• Let us pray that Bible studies in people’s homes would spring up all over the Land of Israel.
• Let us pray that pray that more and more Israelis — Jews and Arabs — would develop a new and deeper curiosity about Bible prophecy, both the dramatic prophecies in the Scriptures that have already been fulfilled, and those that will come to pass soon. We explored such themes during the 2013 Epicenter Conference in Jerusalem this summer, which focused on “The Power of the Word to Change A Leader,” “The Power of the Word to Change A Nation,” and “The Power of the Word to Change the World.” I commend these messages to your attention.
Are you studying through the Bible this year? I hope so.
Currently, I am studying the life of Abraham in the Old Testament, and I Thessalonians in the New Testament.
Would you like to join me?
How deeply blessed you will be as you read and meditate on the Holy Bible, the very word of God, each and every day.
As we read in Psalm 1….
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
• PM’s Bible study group touches on God’s promise of Israel to the Jews (Jerusalem Post)
• FLASHBACK: NETANYAHU TO START BIBLE STUDY IN HIS HOME: Pray that all Israelis follow his lead and begin reading the Word, like in the days of King Josiah (December 13, 2011)
• FLASHBACK: NETANYAHU HOSTS TWO-HOUR BIBLE STUDY IN THE BOOK OF RUTH: Says “the Bible is the foundation of our existence.” (May 25, 2012)
• FLASHBACK: Amidst Iran & Syria crises, Netanyahu holds 4th Bible study session with Jewish scholars. (September 18, 2013)
Blistering criticism of President’s handling of ISIS threat coming from former top aides. Here’s the latest. Plus an update on a possible major ISIS victory that is brewing.
Will ISIS forces soon score a major victory?
Blistering criticism of the President’s handling of the ISIS threat — as well as much of his approach to the Middle East — is mounting rapidly. But it is not coming merely from conservatives. The criticism is coming from the President’s own former senior advisors, as well as from journalists typically sympathetic to the White House.
Key insiders and supporters of Mr. Obama now say the President:
• Created the vacuum in the Mideast that ISIS is now exploiting.
• Has largely ignored Iraq and botched his much-heralded exit strategy.
• Is not taking decisive action to defeat ISIS.
• Has imposed severe limitations on the U.S. military hampering our commanders’ ability to prosecute the war effectively.
• May soon hand ISIS a major victory if he allows the strategic city of Kobane — near the Syrian-Turkish border — to fall.
Consider the latest:
• Leon Panetta, the former CIA Director and Defense Secretary — who served in both positions under President Obama — said this week he believes the war against ISIS could take three decades. This, he said, is partly because Mr. Obama proved to be “reticent about whether or not we should, in fact, exercise strong world leadership” and thus “created a vacuum” in the Middle East in which “ISIS began to breed” and launched its murderous jihadist offensive.
• Christopher Hill, a career American foreign service officer and the former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq — who served in Iraq under President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — wrote an article this week charged both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton “ignored” Iraq, squandered American influence in Baghdad, botched our exit strategy, and ultimately allowed ISIS to become a major disaster. When the President and his team repeatedly kept “signaling our interest in withdrawal” of U.S. military forces from Iraq, “we began to lose more influence on the ground,” Hill wrote.
• Jimmy Carter, the former President, blasted President Obama this weak. “[W]e waited too long. We let the Islamic State build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria,” Carter said in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Then when [ISIS] moved into Iraq, the Sunni Muslims didn’t object to their being there and about a third of the territory in Iraq was abandoned.”
• The Washington Post editorial board published a scathing editorial on October 7th charging that President Obama has imposed severe “limitations” on the U.S. military that are hampering the coalition’s ability to truly defeat ISIS. The headline: “U.S. air campaign against Islamic State isn’t achieving its aims.” The Post warned that “two months after the United States began airstrikes in Iraq, and two weeks after they were extended into Syria, the forces of the Islamic State are still advancing.” Furthermore, the Post editors warned that there could be a wholesale slaughter of the Kurds in the city of Kobane — currently under a massive assault by ISIS — unless the President removed the restrictions and allowed the military to be more aggressive.
• Such unusually harsh criticism in recent days from close advisors to the President echoes similarly blistering criticisms made by Bob Gates, who served as President Obama’s first Secretary of Defense, earlier this year. “In a new memoir, former defense secretary Robert Gates unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama’s leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war, writing that by early 2010 he had concluded the president ‘doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out,” wrote Washington Post legendary reporter Bob Woodward in January. When dealing with Mr. Obama, Mr. Gates wrote that he was frequently “seething” and “running out of patience on multiple fronts.”
It is my sincerest hope that the joint military effort that the U.S. and several Sunni Arab countries launched in September will be able to “degrade and destroy” ISIS. But I confess I am deeply concerned that not only have President Obama and the international community been slow in taking action against ISIS, they are still not taking every step needed to win decisively.
• Please pray that the President will give the military the “green light” to do the job right.
• Please also pray for the Muslim and Christian people of Syria and Iraq — and particularly the Kurds in Kobane — who are in grave danger.
• Further, please pray that ISIS is defeated before they can launch terrorist attacks against Americans or Israelis in the epicenter, the homeland, or anywhere else.
MORE DETAILS ABOUT HOW THE ISIS ASSAULT ON THE CITY OF KOBANE & ITS IMPLICATIONS:
• “U.S. air campaign against Islamic State isn’t achieving its aims.” From the Washington Post: “Two months after the United States began airstrikes in Iraq, and two weeks after they were extended into Syria, the forces of the Islamic State are still advancing. Last week they captured the Iraqi towns of Hit and Kubaisa, northwest of Baghdad. On Tuesday they appeared close to overrunning Kobane, a strategic city on the border between Syria and Turkey that is populated by Kurds. The enemy victories are happening in spite of U.S. and allied airstrikes and resistance from local forces. They suggest that the U.S. air campaign is failing to achieve the minimal aim of stopping the expansion of the Islamic State — much less ‘degrading’ and ‘destroying’ it. Why can’t the U.S.-led coalition prevent a ragtag insurgent army from overrunning large towns? The answers speak to the limitations imposed on the military campaign by President Obama as well as the continuing political complications of fighting the Islamic State. Military analysts point out that U.S. strikes on Islamic State forces around Kobane have come late and in small handfuls — not enough, as of Tuesday, to turn back thousands of fighters armed with tanks and artillery. In contrast with the successful 2002 air campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, U.S. pilots cannot rely on Special Forces spotters to identify targets. Mr. Obama has ruled out such ground personnel despite requests from military commanders.”
• “ISIS Marches to a Massacre: The siege of Kobani shows the holes in Obama’s strategy.” From the Wall Street Journal editorial: “A month ago President Obama ordered the world’s greatest military ‘to degrade and ultimately destroy’ the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. America’s word isn’t what it used to be. As we went to press on Tuesday, ISIS was on the verge of a major military victory in Kobani, a mostly Kurdish city along Syria’s border with Turkey. The siege of Kobani has left hundreds dead and forced some 200,000 to flee, mostly to Turkey. The city’s fall would mean a massacre of civilians and Kurdish fighters—ISIS doesn’t distinguish among ‘apostates’—that would put Kobani in the same sentence with Srebrenica. So soon after Mr. Obama’s call to arms, it would also be a blow to American prestige and a huge recruiting tool for ISIS. The jihadists would claim they’ve defeated an America unable to stop them. After the Kurds begged for help, the U.S. on Tuesday escalated air strikes against ISIS artillery positions near Kobani. But the bombing is late and insufficient. ISIS fighters move in small teams and many are dug into urban areas. The Syrian Kurds are trapped between the President’s refusal to act beyond cursory bombing and neighboring Turkey’s cynical realpolitik. In northern Syria and across the Middle East, the Kurds are secular, mostly Sunni Muslims and staunch friends of America. The U.S. needs to protect and strengthen these allies to defeat Islamist terror and restore order in the region.”
• Krauthammer’s Take: Kobane Falling to ISIS Would Be a Huge Setback for U.S. From appearance by columnist Charles Krauthammer on Fox News & coverage by National Review Online. “On Tuesday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer said the fall of Kobane, a Kurdish city in Syria along the Turkish border, into the hands of the Islamic State would harm U.S. interests in the region,” noted NRO. “‘It would be a tremendous, strategic, and symbolic victory if ISIS succeeds and right now it is,’ Krauthammer said. ‘If this falls it’s going to be a huge setback for the United States and for any of the good guys on the ground in Syria or in Iraq.’ Krauthammer continued to explain that U.S. air strikes constituted doing ‘practically nothing,’ and called today’s five air strikes ‘utterly meaningless.’ He added that the unserious American air campaign will have grave consequences for the Kurds, who are fighting to hold on to Kobane.”