Calaniot on a hillside near Bet Shemesh
This past Wednesday, driving with two friends back to Jerusalem from a meeting near the Sea of Galilee, we were in wonder at the results of the recent rains. These friends, veteran Messianic leaders, who immigrated to Israel over 40 years ago, remarked that they had never, ever, seen such lush green clothing the hills above Tiberias—and as we journeyed southward through the Jordan valley, the green continued—far beyond the area in which it normally gives way to the yellow and brown of the desert. After some eight years of serious drought, Israel has been at last experiencing a rainy season with rain! Calaniot, the anemones which awaken in the Middle East following the flowering of the almond trees, are dotting the landscape with scarlet. News stories have commented upon the way the pastures surrounding the Gaza Strip, which were set aflame by terrorist kites last spring and summer, are now carpeted in with the red flowers. The slopes of Mount Zion, across the Hinnom Valley from the writers’ home, is green, and dotted with sheep and goats. And Mount Hermon in the far north remains covered with snow. As it melts, the level of the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s main natural water source and still dangerously low, will continue to rise.
We are so thankful for the rain, especially in the Galilee where it has been so dry. As Israel now transition from the so-called “Former Rains” of the late fall (there is virtually no rain in the Middle East from early May to mid-October) to the “Latter Rains” of the Spring, please join us in thanking the Lord—and,
“Ask the LORD for rain in the time of the latter rain…the LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give…showers of rain, Grass in the field for everyone.” (Zechariah 10:1).
A NEW GOVERNMENT IN APRIL
The present Israeli government, which held on longer than most, came to an end a few months ago (a full term would have lasted until November). Early elections will be April 9th. It is a very confusing and inefficient system. As our friend Gene Little explained in a letter earlier this week,
“Israelis go to the polls to vote to elect a political party, but each party’s top candidate campaigns for it. The percentage of votes cast for the party determine how many positions/seats it can fill in the Knesset. “After the elections, the President of Israel, who himself is not elected, but rather appointed by the Knesset) surveys the landscape of newly elected Knesset members and parties based on political ideologies. Then he determines which like-minded parties have the best chance of coming together to form a government. The President chooses as Prime Minister the party head he believes to be most capable of forming a government. To form the government, the future Prime Minister must put together a coalition of at least 61 out of the 120 members of the Knesset, or a simple majority” (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The past month has seen parties splitting or dissolving, new ones coming into being. At present, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud [“Consolidation”] appears well in front in the polls, but a new party called Hozen l’Yisrael [“Israel Resilience”] led by former General and Chief of Staff of the Military Benny Ganz is rapidly gaining ground. The Yesh Atid [“There is a Future”] party of Yair Lapid is third. Yet much can change within the next month-and-a-half.
We will say here that it is not at this time clear to us who should be our next leader. Of course, Mr Netanyahu is the only candidate with experience in the office (at this time he is Israel’s second-longest serving Prime Minister), he is a brilliant statesman, respected around the world. He has a fierce loyalty to Israel and to the Land. And up until now, he has been a prime minister in whom the people have trust regarding national security. That said, his position is presently weakened by serious allegations against him related to abuse of his office—corruption, including fraud and bribery. The Attorney General appears set to recommend indictment, perhaps before the elections. It this occurs, it would seriously impair his ability to continue to devote his energies to administrating his office with the integrity and freedom necessary. Another issue which concerns us is Mr Netanyahu’s historical inclination to bring the ultra-Orthodox parties into his government, and, having done so, invariably to grant the portfolio of Ministry of the Interior to the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. Among other things, this ministry decides “who is a Jew” for purposes of Aliyah (emigration). During the past several years under Shas, it has noticeably strengthened the strictures claiming Messianic Jews (those who believe in Yeshua) are no longer Jews, and keeping them from immigrating to Israel. The man presently holding that office held it once before, was convicted of bribery while in office and sent to prison, and through a loop-hole managed to regain his seat there in exchange for bringing his party into Netanyahu’s government. Ironically, it was an ultra-Orthodox party which brought down Netanyahu’s government in 1999, and another which forced him to go to early elections this spring.
The dramatic appearance of Mr Ganz is bringing an unexpected threat to Netanyahu and the Likud. He is a respected military leader, he presents a likable image, reasonable and a left-of-center choice against Netanyahu’s right-of-center position. But the problem is that so far he is keeping his cards covered regarding his position towards some of the hot issues. He recently seemed to voice approval for the “way things were done” in the Disengagement from Gaza. It is unclear what his stance is regarding Israeli sovereignty of the land—Judea and Samaria, and the current Israeli presence there. Might he countenance further “disengagements” from the very land in which the divine covenants were made? Ehud Barak was the most-decorated soldier in modern Israeli history, yet proved a terrible Prime Minister, who was willing to barter away almost all of the territory gained by Israel in 1967.
We believe that it is essential at each election to come to Our Lord seeking His counsels for choosing the next leader, whatever our own personal leanings. It is He who knows what lies ahead, who is more equipped to lead the country in His ways. It is He who establishes rulers, who knows who will be more likely to receive His wisdom; He knows what lies hidden, and Light dwells with him (Daniel 2:21-22).
In Exodus 18:21, when Moses’ father-in-law is expounding to him the tenets of a system of government which will bring order and righteous judgment into the leadership of the society, he instructs him, “You shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain.” The word “select” or “choose” is an interesting word in the Hebrew, techeze. It isn’t the regular Hebrew word for “choose” as appears later in verse 25, but rather a prophetic word, related to clarity of vision. As the Everett Fox translation puts it, “You are to have the vision (to select) from all the people men of caliber, holding God in awe, men of truth, hating gain…”
There is only one Source for such vision – for the insight necessary to make the proper choice for our leaders.
* For the Lord to raise up the party and leaders for the next government in Israel—and that He in mercy grant vision to a majority of the electorate to select the leaders of His own choosing—among them a Prime Minister who will lead in humility, integrity, righteousness.
* That a strong government come into place in Israel—one which will lead the people and govern all of the Land God has entrusted to them with equity, justice, integrity and truth.
* That Benjamin Netanyahu fulfill the days which the LORD (upon whose shoulders rest all government) has allotted to him to govern the land and people. That if there is “dishonest gain” which warrants exposure, it come to light; if not, that he be vindicated.