State of the Epicenter 2011
A report to The Joshua Fund’s board on the geopolitical challenges facing Israel at year-end
By Joel C. Rosenberg
On December 2 and 3, The Joshua Fund held our last board meeting of the year. We reviewed our work in 2011, prayed for our staff and allies and for the peace of Jerusalem, and approved our budget for 2012. We are currently producing and mailing to our donors a year-end report on the kinds of projects we have invested in this year to: 1) educate and mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus; 2) to care for the poor and needy in Israel in real and practical ways, including caring for Holocaust survivors, the elderly, single mothers, orphans and others; and 3) to expand our humanitarian relief operations to care for more people and to stockpile supplies ahead of the next war. Soon, we will post this report online as well.
During our meetings, I briefed the board of directors and senior staff on the "State of the Epicenter" and the geopolitical challenges facing Israel and the Christian community in the epicenter at the moment. What follows is an executive summary of my report. I hope you'll read it and share it with others. I also hope that you'll pray faithfully for our board and staff that we can be faithful to the work that the Lord has called us. And would you prayerfully consider making a generous, year-end, tax deductible donation to The Joshua Fund at this critical time? Thank you so very much.
1. The geopolitical climate in the epicenter deteriorated significantly in 2011, as has religious freedom in most of the Arab and Persian world.
- All evidence indicates that Iran is closer than ever to building nuclear weapons, while also building up its missile forces and the missile forces of its allies such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
- The Iranian regime is signaling that the Arab revolutions point to the imminent arrival of the Twelfth Imam and the destruction of Israel.
- The Iranian regime is cracking down ferociously on the house church networks there.
- The Muslim Brotherhood's cynically named "Freedom and Justice Party" dominated the first round of Egyptian parliamentary elections. Together with the radical Salafist "Al-Nour" party, the hardline Islamists have captured more than 60% of the vote. Israelis expect Egyptian relations with them to sour and Egyptian Christians expect persecution to intensify.
- Libya now appears to be in the hands of radical Muslims imposing Sharia law–the situation could end up being worse there than under Gadhafi.
- Syria’s bloodthirsty regime has killed more than 3,500 of its own citizens this year and the openness that existed to spread the Gospel has evaporated–the regime deserves to be overthrown.
- Iraq is requiring all U.S. military forces to leave by the end of 2011.
- With Iraqi Christians increasingly under attack, including a direct attack inside a church in Baghdad in October 2010, a deadly series of attacks on churches in April 2011 at Easter, and a car bombing directly in front of a church in Baghdad in August 2011, thousands of born-again believers and nominal Christians have received visas to leave Iraq on the basis of religious persecution.
- The Palestinian leadership has made peace with Hamas rather than Israel, and is trying to build an international coalition at the U.N. to allow them to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state without directly negotiating with Israel.
- Russia will become an increasingly important factor in the epicenter in 2012 as Vladimir Putin runs for president again next March. If Putin wins, we should expect the Kremlin to aggressively deepen alliances with Israel’s enemies.
2. As 2011 ends, the prospect of a major war in the epicenter in 2012 is significantly rising.
- Recently, I spoke with a member of Congress who met personally with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli leaders just before Thanksgiving. He reported that the Israeli leaders weren’t asking for help; they all seem resigned to the prospect that Israel will have to take action on their own, and probably sooner than later.
- Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are clearly laying the political groundwork inside Israel to launch preemptive strikes if the world doesn’t take decisive action first.
- The leaks out of Jerusalem about the Netanyahu cabinet actively discussing a preemptive strike don’t appear to be planned, but they appear to be accurate.
- In early November, the Israeli Air Force launched another major exercise to practice long range bombing runs. Previously the exercise had taken IAF fighter jets to Greece; this time they flew to Italy.
- The former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, is warning Israel not to launch a war that he says would be a “catastrophe.”
- Barak is reported to believe Israel has a window of no more than one year to stop Iran from getting the Bomb.
- The Obama administration is publicly pressuring Israel not to consider preemptive strikes, based on the notion that they fear Israel is preparing for such strikes.
- The French, British and Canadians recently imposed new economic sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank in attempt to force the Iranian regime to the negotiating table and to forestall an Israeli first strike; the Obama administration, however, refused to sanction Iran's Central Bank.
3. In light of these sobering realities, The Joshua Fundmust remain focused on executing our “Operation Epicenter” strategy as we “pray for peace, but prepare for war.”
- We must be READY for all eventualities–for a war, if it comes...for other possible national disasters and crises...for a year that is calm after all and provides us the opportunity to continue expanding our humanitarian relief efforts to care for more poor and needy Israelis and Palestinians, and to stockpile more resources for the future.
- We must be FAITHFUL in teaching the Word of God in order to: 1) educate and mobilize the Church to bless Israel and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem; 2) to strengthen the persecuted followers of Jesus Christ in the epicenter; and 3) to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to rediscover the power of Holy Scriptures and obey every command of the Lord. After all, the Hebrew Scriptures teach us: "The word of the Lord came to Joel, son of Pethuel: Hear this, O elders, and listen, all inhabitants of the land....'Wake up, you drunkards!'....Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the Day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near....Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning....Then the Lord will be zealous for His land and will have pity on His people." (Book of Joel, excerpts from chapters one and two)
- We must NOT GROW WEARY in well-doing. It is not easy to stand with Israel, or be a true blessing to the Jewish and Palestinian people, or be a follower of Jesus Christ in the Middle East, but now is not a time to get discouraged or fall asleep on the job, or get distracted, or question whether the Lord hears our prayers and will answer them with power. To the contrary, now is the time to trust the Lord will all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and to remember that we serve a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God, a wonder-working God.
Here are some Scriptures we need to keep in mind during this coming year:
- Ezekiel 38:7– “Get ready, be prepared.”
- Psalm 40:10-- "I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation."
- Isaiah 26:2-- “Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, The one that remains faithful."
- Luke 16:10-- "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much."
- 2 Timothy 2:2-- "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
- Galatians 6:9-10-- “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
Thanks so much for your faithful prayers and generous financial support, especially given how challenging the economy is right now. We are so grateful to the Lord for you, and we ask the Lord to bless you and your family as you bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus.