Kobane Boost of Moral

Hello Everyone!

The most impactful news right now may be that Turkey will now reportedly allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters (not Syrian Kurds, not Turkish Kurds) to enter the Syrian border town of Kobane to fight Islamic State.

It is being understood as a reversal of their earlier policy.

The news came after America carried out air drops of weapons, ammunition, and first aid supplies to the Kurdish fighters who have long complained that they are outgunned by IS who has tanks, armored personnel carriers and heavy weaponry.

Sometimes using home made bombs, the defenders have regained a fairly large portion of the city – but the battle isn't over yet.

This announcement is huge because the Islamic State has freely sent supplies and fighters as reinforcements into battle where as the Kurdish forces were left on their own not able to receive much in terms of fighting relief or supplies.

Perhaps as many as 200,000 people have fled Kobane in the recent months of fighting.

Many Kurds who fled with their families into Turkey have sought to return to fight in defense of their homes.

Turkey has not officially allowed re-entry into Kobane.

This has caused hundreds to stand upon the hills and offer only their cheers as support for their brothers fighting a desperate battle.

At points durring the past weeks, Kurds have broken through border fencing to reach the town - which is roughly a mile away from the border.

This past week saw an major increase in US Coalition airstrikes upon IS targets in and around Kobane, shifting the momentum back into the hands of the Kurdish fighters of the town. For a second day now it has been somewhat quite.

There are still battles, but not the same intensity and breadth across the town.

Perhaps the biggest thing to come out of this is a boost of moral for these men and women who have, particularly over this last month, lost many of their comrades and friends who fought to defend this strategic and symbolic city.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Update on Islamic State

Hello Friends,

Lets update ourselves on the situation with the Islamic State.

In Iraq, advancing Islamic State fighters now appear to hold as much as 80% of the Anbar province west of Baghdad.

IS fighters reportedly reached as close to 6 miles distance from Baghdad's International airport before retreating under fire from American Apache helicopter gunships sent to stop their advance.

Despite this occurrence Iraqi and American officials remain confident that Baghdad itself will not fall to Islamic State.

In Baghdad this week the Shia areas suffered from extensive car and suicide bombings. Markets, checkpoints, and crowed streets were targeted where perhaps as many as 100 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded in the series of daily attacks which included mortar rounds striking Shia neighborhoods. Meanwhile in Syria where intensified US airstrikes and a resolute Kurdish fighting force on the ground appear to have made progress in retaking parts of the Syrian Kurd border town of Kobane.

The fighting in and around Kobani has ebbed and flowed this week, where more than 550 people, the majority of them Islamic State fighters, have died. Islamic State outnumbers and outguns the Kurds with tanks and heavy weaponry, and the free flow of supplies and fresh fighters. But increased Coalition airstrikes have served to assist the pushing back of the Jihadists who had reportedly taken up to 50% of the besieged town. Lets continue to pray for those effected, displaced, wounded, and suffering from the fighting – and that God in His great mercy would find His way into the hearts of men – so desperately needing Him.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Sukkoth 2014

Hello Everyone!

As I'm sure you know from watching the Harvest Show – that this week I'm giving you Moments from the Holy Land - it's Sukkoth here in Israel.

Tonight will usher in the final day of the holiday.

Let's look at what the holiday is all about.

It is a seven-day festival (and the Old City has been absolutely packed) and largely a family gathering time.

In the Old Testament you can find the references to the holiday in Leviticus 23:34-35 and 23:39-43.

Essentially, it is a time of remembrance that God delivered the Children of Israel from the hand of Egypt's bondage.

The center point is the Sukkot, the temporary 'throw together booth' in which Jewish families will typically share a meal within, talk about (what we refer to as the Old Testament) interpretations, and even sleep within if possible.

It is primarily meant to remind Jews of the wondering their forefathers did in the wilderness – and how God provided for them in every way.

Sukkoth is characterized by two main practices today.

First is the hut I just described, and the second today a special bouquet.

It consists of a closed palm frond, a citron, a myrtle branch and a willow branch – which is held during morning prayers.

Its origins derive from Leviticus 23:40, and there are many extra-biblical traditional explanations of its symbolism.

Join me tomorrow on the Harvest Show to learn more about Sukkoth, in our Moments from the Holy Land - together from here in Jerusalem!

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Lets Pray

Hello Everyone,

Today I'd like to draw our attention to Father Hanna Jallouf and his parishioners taken captive by Jihadist rebels.

Father Hanna is Franciscan friar. I do not know him personally, but I know many of his brothers in the Custody of the Holy Land serving here and through out the Middle East.

They were taken at gunpoint by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front last Sunday from their convent – and yesterday Fr. Hanna was released – however the approximately 20 men who were taken with him were not - their fate is unknown.

They live in the St Joseph Convent in Knayeh, which is in the Idlib province in Northern Syria.

Nuns who were inside the convent at the time have taken refuge in nearby homes.

There have been several documented abductions of nuns, monks and priests who have been kidnapped or killed in Syria since the conflict erupted three and half years ago.

Islamic militants mostly look at Christians as being "collaborators" with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Last December, al-Nusra kidnapped a group of Greek Orthodox nuns and their attendants in Maaloula.

As part of a prisoner exchange back in March involving women and children held by the government, they were freed unharmed.

A month later a Dutch Jesuit priest, Frans van der Lugt, was beaten and shot dead by gunmen at his monastery in Homs.

Italian Jesuit priest Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, who has long promoted religious dialogue in Syria, was kidnapped in July 2013 and is still missing. Christians made up about 10% of Syria's population before the conflict in the country erupted.

Lets pray for these whom we know, and those who we don't, who are being held against their will by Jihadists – that God would be their strength, that they would be able to serve those around them in captivity, and that their hearts would be full of hope by the Holy Spirit of God Almighty. Lets pray - and Thank you.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Once Every 33 Years

Hello Friends,

It happens once every 33 years...

Two important holidays are being observed beginning tonight for both the Jews and Muslims – Yom Kippur and Eid Al-Adha.

Both holidays center around sacrifice – that's what they have in common.

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, where we remember that the High Priest of the Jews, went once a year into the Holy of Holies with a sacrifice for the sins of the people of Israel.

The day is a 24 hour full fast, with the overwhelming amount of Jewish Israelis observing a day of introspection, believing that their fates for the coming year are sealed this day.

Eid al-Adha is the Muslim observance of commemorating Abraham's willingness to offer his first born son, Ishmael, according to Islamic believe.

Sheep, goats, and even cows occasionally are slaughtered for the celebration, with family and friends.

One third of the meat is to be donated to the needy.

It is also a time of gift exchange where many people are seen wearing new clothes during the four days of festivity.

It also brings to a close the annual Haij pilgrimage period to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Police have been gearing up for possible friction in places like Jerusalem, Akko, Jaffa, Haifa and other places of mixed religious concentrations.

The Old City is the focal point where many faithful will be present, and at the time of posting this – all is fine. But complicating matters is the fact that Jewish settlers have just moved into 25 homes in dubious circumstances just outside the city walls in the predominately Muslim neighborhood of Silwan. This is a problem going forward – long past the holidays.

For me, having been here over twenty years, it is not the first time something like this has happened, not is it the first time important holidays for both faiths have coincided.

Other holidays have coincided before, and there have not been no conflicts... The tricky part is that the central places of worship are in such close proximity, and now we have this delicate situation on top of that with the settlers taking action at this sensitive time.

But like everyday life, where people interact with others of different persuasions for mutually shared interests without incident – it is possible (and desired by most) for people to come together for the common and peaceful observance of religious holidays.

That's the positive message for this - the holiest day in Judaism falling upon one of the most significant Muslim Holidays in the calendar.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Netanyahu's Response

Hello Everyone,

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the podium at the UN's General Assembly. He's been privileged to speak from there several times now in his political career.

His direct message was that a nuclear Iran is more of a threat to the world than Islamic State (IS).

Mr. Netanyahu also took the opportunity to respond to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's speech given earlier in the Assembly to make his point that world leaders should not be condemning Israel in it's recent conflict against Hamas militants in Gaza, saying Hamas and IS were "branches of the same poisonous tree".

Netanyahu again (third time in four UN speeches) used his now famous props – pointing out Hamas fighters had used children as human shields in areas where it was firing rockets into Israel.

He also compared Hamas to the Nazis, and characterized the UN Human Rights Council as a "terrorist rights council"

The Israeli press said that the Prime Minister was not at his worst, but believes his speech didn't work in many ways, sounding stale – with one commentator labeling it as 'retro'.

The hot topics today have been Mr. Netanyahu using the New York Yankees veteran shortstop Derek Jeter in an analogy of Iran, and for "throwing a dry bone" to Israel's Arab neighbors essentially saying come back to me with a new peace proposal.

The Palestinian response was direct, with PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi calling Mr. Netanyahu's speech was "a blatant manipulation of facts" and a delivering of "hate language, slander and argument of obfuscation".

She went on to say that Netanyahu refuses "to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself or the actions of the Israeli army of occupation in committing massacres and war crimes".

She made the case that Mr. Netanyahu had turned to the Arab world instead of accepting at two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines to buy "more time to create facts that will destroy the chances of peace for the foreseeable future."

In a press conference US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki disagreed with Mr. Netanyahu's assessment on several points, including the handling of the Iranian Nuclear negotiations, the comparison of Hamas and Islamic State, and Netanyahu's description of the UN Human Rights Council.

Perhaps the Prime Minister was doing what he knows best; speaking confidently, ideally, capturing the headlines... and being as one Israeli media source said:

"Vintage Bibi".

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Prsedident Abbas's speech

Israel didn't like it.

America didn't like it.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out a "war of genocide" in the Gaza Strip.

He was referring to the 50-day conflict over the summer that left approximately 2,100 Palestinians, 72 Israelis and one Thai national dead.

President Abbas has, since 2012 has said that the Palestinians would take the issues of occupation, collective punishments, and (in their view) war crimes to the International Criminal Court, but made no mention of this specifically in his speech – this being seen as a concession itself.

The Israeli delegation was not present in the hall during Mr. Abbas's speech, but Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Mr. Abbas's speech was a "speech of incitement filled with lies". He then accused the Palestinian leader of "diplomatic terrorism".

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said President the speech "included offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing".

Analysts are saying the speech was particularly strongly worded because the worlds attention, which was focused on the Palestinian plight and gaining steam diplomatically – has lost out in the headlines to the barbarism of Islamic State and their campaign of carving out a Caliphate.

But what I hear in part on the ground is that Mr. Abbas is losing some degree of popularity and respect among his people to the more hard line elements in the PA – ultimately Hamas itself.

Palestinians complain that they have done as Israel has asked them to do, and Israel has not reciprocated.

This then gives credence in some peoples minds to the actions, like what was seen in Gaza, which has brought to Gazans incredible amounts of loss and destruction – but has achieved greater fishing rights at sea and a loosening in the siege on the character and amount of goods allowed into the Strip.

Abbas told the Assembly, "There is no meaning or value in negotiations for which the agreed objective is not ending the Israeli occupation and achieving the independence of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital on the entire Palestinian Territory occupied in the 1967 war."

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Rosh Hashanah

Hello Everyone!

Preparations are under way here for the Jewish New Year on the 24th!

For observant Jews, this period before the New Year observation is marked by special penitential prayers recited before the regular morning prayers.

The blowing of the ram's horn, called a 'shofar' in Hebrew, happens after the morning prayer service.

Jews of different areas sometimes do things differently to add a bit of flare.

North African and Middle Eastern Jews began to recite these special prayers early, a few days before the holiday comes.

Jews of European origin began to recite them very early this morning!

These special prayers are said daily, except on the New Year holiday itself, and last until the day before Yom Kippur – which follows ten days after the New Year.

Despite the spiritual beginnings to the day, the rest of it can be quite hectic as people rush the overstuffed super markets and catch up on things like paying bills and updating permits...

But when Rosh Hashanah (New Year in Hebrew) comes there will be largely quite during the two day observance marked by special prayers and scriptural readings.

Then it's off to socializing and food – and a bit of nature!

In Synagogues the main event of the Rosh Hashanah service is the blowing of the shofar during morning prayers.

Here in the Old City of Jerusalem we will hear it throughout the day as friends and families gather together.

The Old Testament observance for the New Year can be found in Leviticus 23:23-25.

When visiting one's home, there will be one special custom observed.

This is the eating of apple slices dipped in honey which symbolizes the hope that the coming year will be "sweet."

The other big custom associated with the 'new start' is the going to a natural source of flowing water like an ocean, river, or spring, and reading a selection of scripture followed by the casting of pieces of bread into the water.

All this is meant to symbolize the "casting off" of ones previous year's sins. (You can look this up in Micah 7:19).

So with the conflict over with Gaza, and the children back in school, the nation will now celebrate it's new year with peace – and hopefully it will remain so for the coming year and beyond.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

What It Takes To Win The Battle

Hello Friends,

The regional news is about President Obama's declared commitment to US soldiers: "I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq".

So are hailing this decision – believing America causes more damage than good, citing Afghanistan and Iraq as examples.

Others say that without the superiority of US forces on the ground fighting Islamic State, the conflict will continue for years to come, further instability and terrorism will flourish.

The President did say that America has "unique abilities" to respond to IS.

This of course is the air power we have seen over the past few weeks.

This air support, in the open desert warfare of the day, gives the Iraqi and Kurdish fighters on the ground the strong advantage.

But what about IS in Syria – people here in the Middle East are worried that if they are not dealt with in total (including in Syria), then they will never be defeated.

Mr. Obama spoke of his new strategy that allows for reconnaissance and air strikes in Syria, while building a 40 strong coalition of countries to fight and defeat IS.

He is also adamant about attacking the militant ideology too, calling upon the Muslim world to educate Muslims on this radicalization and to reject it publicly.

This will be the hardest and longest fight.

It is a fight that Muslims the world over must take at those who seek to radicalize youth and those who are marginalized – and it must come from within.

Saudi Arabia is home to the Sunni branch of Islam with it's Muslim Holy sites.

Yesterday we saw a prominent Saudi Cleric begin to tackle this issue. There will need to be more... just like their will need to be more airstrikes.

And just as the fight will rage in the desert of Iraq and potentially Syria, so too the war must be won within the mosques, with many Arab commentators asking if their fellow Muslims have what it takes to win the battle.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

The Cheif Diplomat

Hello All,

America and Great Britain are now supplying Iraq's unity government with increased military aid in it's fight against the Islamic State.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry touched down in Baghdad vowing to build a "broad coalition" of nations that would fight Islamic State.

That was Mr. Kerry's first stop on a regional tour where has enlisted 10 Arab countries in a global coalition to defeat IS. Mr. Kerry says that about 40 nations are helping in the fight against IS in Iraq. Officials traveling with Secretary Kerry, who was traveling in the Middle East this week said that the appointment of the new Iraqi government would kick-start US President Barak Obama's strategy to combat the Islamic State and ultimately defeat it.

Mr. Kerry, America's chief diplomat is tonight in Turkey, after having secured Saudi Arabia and Jordan for hosting logistical efforts and training camps for the fight against IS. Qatar and Turkey, who have supported Islamic interests and movements in the past, are on board in a capacity yet defined in the effort to rid the region of IS.

Turkey has around 49 of it's citizens being held hostage in Syria and they wish to tread carefully in their decisions so as not to irresponsibly provoke their captors.

The President wants an international coalition, made up of Arab countries with American logistical and air support, to aggressively pursue IS in Iraq and is now willing to commit to airstrikes in Syria against IS forces.

Troubling updated assessment data was released this week where the Central Intelligence Agency in America has concluded that there may be up to 31,500 Islamic State Fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The CIA is saying that more than 15,000 fighters, including 2,000 Westerners, have gone to Syria to join the Islamic State. The jihadist fighters have reportedly come from more than 80 countries across the world.

Mr. Kerry's diplomatic drive centers on building regional support for a global coalition to combat ISIS. He met with King Abdullah II in Jordan on Wednesday and with leaders of six Persian Gulf nations in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Kerry wants support for the military campaign against ISIS, and a crack down on Islamic State funding in addition to the stop of foreign fighters flowing into Syria and Iraq. The US also wants Sunni Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, to counter the IS narrative in the hope of persuading Sunni Muslims not to follow its ideology.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

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