JERUSALEM – In an editorial that ALL ISRAEL NEWS published on Feb. 5, we urged Israeli leaders to call the nation to pray.
In the light of the trauma the nation is facing, we asked “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and the entire Knesset to publicly call for a National Day of Prayer, based on the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14. In this hopeful passage in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures), the Lord promises King Solomon and the nation of Israel that in times of war, famine, drought, deadly diseases and other national disasters, they can turn to Him in humble prayer and He will heal them physically and spiritually.”
“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sins and will heal their land,” says the Lord in that passage.
“Is this promise not exactly what Israel needs today?”
So far, no Israeli government officials have issued such a call. We still hope they will.
In the meantime, as Israel marks a year of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the most challenging and painful years in modern history, Israeli pastors are now calling for a National Day of Prayer on Feb. 24.
Individual congregations all over the country have been praying weekly for the Lord to have mercy on the nation and lift the pandemic.
Yet this is the first time during this period that Israel’s Messianic Jewish and Evangelical pastors have jointly called for, and organized, a day of prayer and fasting for all of the believers in the country.
This is a very encouraging and welcome development.
None of this has yet been reported in the Israeli media, but ALL ISRAEL NEWS can share with you the details of how it came about and what the goals are.
Last week, the Board of the National Conference of Congregation Leaders (BNCCL) – the national council of Israeli pastors and elders – together with the Israel College of the Bible (ICB), the nation’s only indigenous Bible school, issued an invitation to all congregations to participate in a national day of prayer.
“The idea had been discussed for a while, and we were thinking of when and how we wished to announce it,” Pastor Yossi Ovadia of the BNCCL told ALL ISRAEL NEWS. “As we were praying and thinking about it, Erez Soref [president of the ICB] called me and suggested we call for a day of fasting. We agreed on some theological basics, and I brought it up before the board. Then we elected a suitable date and how to phrase the invitation. Just as we were doing this, Meno Kalisher [pastor of House of Redemption in Jerusalem] called me and suggested the same thing, and I told him we are already working on it.”
Ovadia said the focus is simply to pray together for two main topics: "COVID-19 with all its repercussions, besides the death rates themselves and people being put out of business, there is also the controversy of yes or no to vaccine, yes or no to green passports, etcetera. Two: The upcoming elections and prayer for our leaders.”
Kalisher told ALL ISRAEL NEWS he wasn't surprised to hear others were already thinking of such a solution.
He added that he believes "within two months most congregations and synagogues in the country will be back to almost normal. The politicians are doing everything they can to reach a herd immunity and 70% vaccinated before the elections in March.”
Erez Soref told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that we don't know what normal will look like, "and which challenges it will bring."
"So we wanted to call everyone together to pray for that. And not just for that, but for our country, our people, our leaders. We will soon have a fourth election, so we should unite, at least through prayer and fasting,” he said.
The prayer will begin within congregations at 6 p.m. and then a wider Zoom meeting, either divided by area or extended nationally. The announcement sent to the elders of all Israeli congregations reads as follows:
"And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it...” (Ezekiel 22:30)
Fasting and Prayer Day: Wednesday, February 24, 2021
A year of plague ...
We have already reached thousands of dead ...
Children at home and not at school for almost a year ...
Many without work and livelihood ...
To get vaccinated or not to get vaccinated ...
Divisions in the state's leadership and between sectors in the nation ...
Fourth election in two years ...
In all of this, the Lord is Sovereign and His Word stands forever.
Therefore, we invite all the Messianic congregations in Israel to join a day of prayer and fasting to intercede for our people and our country at this time. We call on congregations' leaders to encourage the members to join as one body in this time of prayer and intercession. It will be clarified that this is not a day of national confession (although everyone is invited to do so in person or as a congregation, of course) but a day of prayer for intercession for our country and our people at this time before the Lord's throne of grace to receive mercy from Him.
In addition, we are trying to arrange a zoom meeting (s) according to geographical location at 7pm for about an hour of praise and joint prayer. Notice of this will follow. Next week we will also send suggestions for specific prayer points.
The board of the National Conference of Congregation Leaders
Israel College of the Bible
Many congregations in Israel have forwarded this message to their members.
The latest regulations allow gatherings of up to 10 people inside or 20 people outside in houses of worship, but houses of worship are also permitted to increase that figure if they accept only vaccinated people with “green passports.”
Kalisher received the vaccinations, but will not impose a green passport requirement on the congregation.
“I trust well-educated doctors, and I made my own personal choice, but I also accept other people's choices. We are not imposing the green passport, because I believe we will reach 70% vaccinated and herd immunity soon enough, anyway. At that point, most of the non-vaccinated will be children, and there won't be a need for green passports,” he said. “COVID will stay around, but it will be a manageable regular sickness that we will deal with like all others.”
In a local Messianic Facebook group, there have been long discussions on whether or not to vaccinate.
Most people echo the sentiment of Kalisher, on making a personal decision for or against, but also respecting other people's choices and keeping the Body of Messiah united.
Others are more divisive. Some are resentful against the government's aggressive campaign to get as many as possible vaccinated, while others who have had COVID urge others to take the vaccine rather than risking catching the disease.
On whether the congregations should adopt the green passport requirement, some state that they hope so.
As one put it, “I don't want to be in a congregation that risks its members' health.”
Others see the green passport as a “fascist mechanism of control.”
A number of believers have expressed the hope that these heated, and sometimes divisive, debates are reflecting a few peoples' momentarily heated sentiments, and that a unity around prayer and intercession for the congregations, the country and the situation, will bring more acceptance between the different parts of the Body of the Messiah in Israel.
Here are some of the topics that pastors are encouraging believers in Israel and around the world pray for:
The nation to turn to prayer and reading of the Scriptures, as directed in 2 Chronicles 6-7
Many to seek a personal relationship with the Lord and His hope and strength and mercy in a time of great distress
Divine relief from a plague that has left thousands dead
Comfort for those who have lost loved ones to COVID
Full recovery for those who are still battling COVID
The ending of restrictions that have kept children stuck at home and not at school
The reopening of the economy so people can get back to work
Jobs for those who are unemployed
Gentleness and respect amid debates over the vaccine and green pass
Unity amidst divisions in families and congregations
Wisdom as we vote for the Knesset in the fourth election in two years
"And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it..." (Ezekiel 22:30)
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.
Tuvia Pollack is a teacher and translator and also an unpublished writer of historical fiction novels depicting Judeo- Christian relations throughout history. His website is tuviapollack.com.