Jerusalem's Noisy Night

Hello All,

It was a noisy night her in Jerusalem's Old City.

Stun grenades and the shouts of men could be heard for hours.

Violence then broke out at the Kalandia checkpoint, the main Israeli entry/exit point to the Palestinian Authority located in the West Bank between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Some reports say more than 10,000 Palestinians protested and clashed with police in protest against the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel being played out in the Gaza Strip.

Hospital officials in Ramallah have put the death toll at five.

Police in Jerusalem arrested 39 rioters and estimate that 200 Palestinians were wounded in clashes overnight in Jerusalem.

27 police officers had been lightly hurt, including 10 Border Policemen.

Jerusalem deployed 4,000 police in Arab areas of Jerusalem including the Old City.

The police are also employing drones to fly overhead to monitor movement on the ground.

Last night Muslims celebrated Laylat al-Qader, referred to as the Night of Power, an important holiday in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

As I have been out and about today the police presence has again been beefed up for Friday prayers.

Restrictions have been placed upon Muslim worshipers entering Jerusalem and barrier checkpoints are up throughout the area.

The police helicopter can be heard overhead – like it was most of the night.

Yesterdays action allegedly started in the narrow streets of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, and quickly spread to the neighborhoods outside the walls.

At the same time, marchers proceeded from Ramallah in the West Bank to the Israeli controlled checkpoint where they were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and reportedly - live fire.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Push for Cease-Fire

Hello Everyone,

Amidst increased violence and a bleak immediate future the United Nations General Secretary Ban-Ki Moon has arrived in Israel to push for a cease-fire.

He has come out saying that no country would tolerate rocket fire into their cities, but has asked Israel to exercise maximum restraint while condemning Hamas' use of schools and hospitals to launch rockets.

The General Secretary has reiterated that both sides need to start talking.

Meanwhile in the conflict more deaths on both sides have been recorded.

But the glaring figure is that among Israelis, the deaths are among soldiers, where as among Palestinians, the deaths are largely civilian – 70% overall according to the UN.

Gaza itself is one of the most densely populated pieces of dirt on the planet. Civilian deaths in this conflict are sadly inevitable because the Gaza fighters are simply among and operate within the civilian population – which is pretty much everywhere in the Strip.

A significant development (and blow to Israel) is that it has announced that one soldier is indeed missing in Gaza. There is a general feeling that he is dead, but that he may be alive has not been ruled out.

This news comes after Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor strongly denied that an Israeli soldier had gone missing at the UN Security Council meeting held earlier this week.

Such an occurrence was meant to be avoided with the heavy troop presence Israel has as it operates in the heavily populated areas of Gaza's north.

But it also reflects another development, that Hamas and other militant groups are operating in a manner more identified with military tactics as opposed to a vigilante group.

With both US Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN's chief diplomat in the region the pressure is on to get a cease-fire in place.

But things seem to be increasing at this hour, and the fact is the Israel's stated goals of destroying tunnels and stopping the rocket fire have not been met.

Hamas will be slow to accept a proposal, because they won't see their expectations met and, they appear to have the current 'roaring' rights in causing a sizable death toll amongst Israeli soldiers while being out gunned and technically deficient - and in obtaining the one Israeli soldier.

But we should not forget that this has come at an awful price of human and physical destruction to the people of Gaza with over 600 dead and nearly 4000 wounded.

Israel too suffers, although not to the same toll. However with the announcement of a temporary suspension of a limited number of civilian aircraft flying into the country, there may be a window of opportunity to take deliberate steps towards heading the call to stop and talk.

We can pray that God may open the eyes of leadership that they may see the pain and act to utilize their influence to stop hostilities.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Update Brother's Keeper

Hi Everybody,

On the 12th day of Operation Brother's Keeper (the code name given for the Israeli Defense Force operation to locate three abducted youths), a military source related to the arrest of 57 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails who had been released in the Gilad Shalit deal said that they will be tried.

The justification for the arrests was that, in Israel's view, the men had been "engaged in terrorism since then and were not arrested in connection with abduction of the youths" and, "several of those released in the Shalit deal who have been arrested were planning additional abductions".

Security forces offered no evidence to their claims in the arrests – but all the men are associated with Hamas.

Hamas's leadership has now spoken up about what is happening both to their group and the missing teens.

They said that the Unity Deal with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas led Hamas to lower its profile regarding the abduction of the Israeli youths.

Regarding Hamas and those young Jewish men kidnapped, Khaled Mashal said; "I would be proud if Hamas members are the abductors but I have no information" as he waved pictures of the youths.

These are his first comments on the abduction.

The head of Hamas's political office refused to confirm or deny that Hamas was behind the action.

Mashal did expresses support for his groups "the struggle to free our prisoners".

Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has said that he has proof that Hamas was behind the kidnapping and will reveal that to the world soon.

Mr. Netanyahu also backtracked on his critical statements against President Abbas saying that he appreciated the Palestinian leaders words regarding the release of the teens.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Cooperation Between the US and Iran

Hello Everyone,

Somber news as ISIS militant Islamic fighters in Iraq have reportedly taken a weapons facility tied to Chemical arms in northern Iraq.

With this news we now have a real potential for huge problems.

Should ISIS use Chemical weapons in Iraq or Syria - America will react, and if that use were to occur in Shia areas within Iraq – Iran will get involved.

America has now announced they will engage in limited military actions to assist the Iraqi forces in their push back against ISIS.

But the issue will be how far the American and Iranian cooperation may go.

The two powers – at odds for decades, are now being brought together to affront the common threat.

Neither wish to see the jihadist group carve out their desired caliphate in Iraq.

Up until today, the contact and scope of talks has been secretive and low. But if ISIS use Chemical weapons – this will bring collaboration between the US and Iran.

The two powers have worked with the each other before. And to a degree are doing so now with the nuclear talks in Geneva.

But back in Iraq, after it's 2010 election, current Prime Minister Nouri Maliki was assisted by both the US and Iran to stay in power, despite the fact that his coalition had lost power in the parliament.

In 2001, Iran shared intelligence as the US invaded Afghanistan. After things calmed down, Iran offered to work under US command in rebuilding the Afghan army.

On the outside of this situation, there is yet formed a common strategy on dealing with ISIS, but the sides are at least talking.

The introduction of Chemical weapons would, in all likelihood, will facilitate rapid cooperation on every level with decisive retaliatory steps against ISIS.

Let's pray that this situation will, as best as can, be reversed – and the peoples of Iraq find the path to a unity government that would solidify coexistence and economic prosperity within this oil rich nation of huge significance to the Muslim world.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Update on Kidnapping

Hello Friends,

Earlier today the families of the three abductees meet at the Frankel family home, the home of one of the kidnapped teens, for the first time for what has been described as a joint embrace.

Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu spoke with the parents telling them that Israel is making a great effort to bring their sons home. Israel's Security establishment believes that progress has been made in the manhunt for the perpetrators.

In the effort to return the three youths, the Israel Defense Force is turning the hunt into a wide-ranging operation against the Hamas infrastructure, with the intent of extracting a heavy price.

It looks like Israel will take advantage of this opportunity to gather broad intelligence, carry out precise sweeps, and jail potential threats. This agenda is reportedly already starting to bear fruit.

The goal is to defunct Hamas from the image that it has changed or softened it's position on terrorism in light of the Palestinian Unity Government.

Israel is making it clear to the Hamas that the damage it has caused itself by the abduction – if it indeed is the one behind the kidnapping, is going to 'hurt'.

One prominent retired Israeli Intelligence Chief has casted doubt on Mr. Netanyahu's assertion of Hamas being behind the action.

But Mr. Netanyahu is making his political point to the international community that the Palestinian Authority is incapable of preventing or redeeming such situations and Hamas is not someone to make political deals with.

Some Palestinian sources are saying that if indeed the Hamas is behind the abduction that the Unity deal, just weeks old, will be dissolved.

Israeli sources have said that there is cooperation with Fatah in the situation on the ground and that there is anger within the Palestinian organization at the kidnappings as well as some relief in the action Israel is taking to route out Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank despite the political Unity agreement.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

ISIS Advances

Hello everyone,

More troubling news for the region today as the Islamist extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), supported by other Sunni militant groups and tribes, have continued advancing on the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The militants are now within about 80 miles of the capital after taking Iraq's second city of Mosul on Monday. Hundreds are reported killed and the militants are carrying out executions of civilians.

There are more territorial gains reported but not independently confirmed.

Iraq forces have finally responded by launching air strikes against Islamist militants advancing on the capital targeting fighters in control of the major cities, Mosul and Tikrit.

Over half a million refugees have fled those cities, many to the Kurdish countryside.

The Kurdish military has moved to protect the oil-rich province of Kirkuk after soldiers of the national army fled.

Some reports have indicated that the up to 30,000 Iraqi forces didn't even put up a serious fight to the hundreds of advancing ISIS forces, but rather fled Mosul.

This advance through the Northern region of Iraq is causing alarm not only in Baghdad but the Western world as well. The Iraqi government says a plan is in place to defend the city.

Hundreds of young men joined up to serve as fighters in Bagdad as the country's most senior Shia cleric urged people to take up arms against ISIS.

There is an audio recording that has emerged of ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani thanking Allah for the victories so far and admonishing his fighters not to become proud of their actions in overrunning large areas of Iraq.

He urged the militants to fight on to Baghdad and not to give up the land that they have captured.

Join me in remembering that there are but a few Christians, mostly Chaldean, who are living in these areas and need our prayerful support for their most frightening and uncertain future.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Introducing Israel's New President

Hello Everyone!

Today Israel's Members of the Knesset elected a new President of the State; veteran Likud lawmaker, and former Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin.

Israel's current President, Shimon Peres will end his seven-year term in July.

The Israeli Presidency is mostly a ceremonial position, but has definitive influence in Israeli elections and the forming of new governments.

Unlike Mr. Peres, Mr. Rivlin opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, putting him at odds with Israel's Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu who does.

However, the Israeli media is reporting that as Israel's 10th president, Mr Rivlin, will more than likely focus the presidency from international affairs to more domestic matters.

Mr. Rivlin does see eye to eye more or less with Mr. Netanyahu on support of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

President Shimon Peres said to Mr. Rivlin in congratulating him:

"...it is an incredible privilege to serve to our people. As President your role is to serve, not to rule and in my eyes there is no greater honor than to faithfully serve your nation and your people. You have all the qualities to do just that. I wish you luck and I am confident that you will succeed in your future, which is also the future of the State of Israel."

Mr. Peres is a hard act to follow, this is for sure, but so far Mr. Rivlin has received favorable reaction from most parts of the Israeli spectrum.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Prayers for Deliverence

Hello All!

Recently we celebrated Memorial Day in America, and today is a somber day as much of the Western World marks 70 years since the D-Day operations to liberate Nazi-Occupied Europe during the Second World War.

My Father is a WWII veteran serving in the Pacific theater – and did his part in securing the America we have today. (Thank you dad - for all that you did for making the world a better place both then and now!)

Former President Ronal Reagan, when marking the 40th Anniversary of D-Day at Normandy's Pointe Du Hoc, delivered one of the most memorable speeches of his career. In it, while paying tribute to the American and Allied soldiers, he said;

"These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war."

While here in the Holy Land Pope Francis, extended from his Mass in Bethlehem an unexpected invitation to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to join him at the Vatican for prayer for peace.

The Pope has "stressed that he is not seeking to jumpstart peace negotiations, but merely bring the two sides together to pray."

"It will be a prayer meeting. It's not to do mediation or find solutions," he told reporters on the flight home from Jerusalem to Rome.

Following the invitation of Pope Francis during his visit to the region: Pope Francis, President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Abbas will issue a joint call for peace at a ceremony in the Vatican

The ceremony, which will take place in the garden of the Vatican, with delegations of rabbis, imams and Christian faith leaders.

When man is not at peace, he is often at war.

It takes belief in the sovereignty of God, in His staying power, and in man's fellow man to bring an end to conflict and seek peace.

The Pope's simple invitation to the leaders for prayer for peace for their peoples here heroic.

These men are champions for standing for peace in a region dogged by bloodletting and revenge.

The leaders are 'man' enough to express the need that man needs God's help to bring peace to the Middle East.

May we all join them with our prayers for peace – and may it be so, that the LORD's name not be used for violence against man – His creation.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Shavuot is Here!

Greetings Friends,

The Sabbath horn just blew across the land – signaling the beginning of the Jewish festival of Shavuot.

This is one of Judaism's three pilgrimage festivals (along with Passover and Sukkot). It begins now (Tuesday evening) and ends at nightfall on Wednesday.

Shavuot marks the giving of the first five books of the Old Testament. In our Christian tradition we call them the Books of the Law or the Books of Moses, and in Judaism they are referred to as the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

They are considered Judaism's most basic scripture and you may recall that it was at Mt. Sinai, seven weeks after the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, where this scripture was given to Moses.

Shavuot literally means "weeks" and is celebrated exactly seven weeks after the first day of Passover, which marks the exodus itself.

Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:10 specify the celebration of Shavuot.

So what is happening right now here in the Old City of Jerusalem amongst the Jews? One can hear festive evening prayers, which are going to be followed by an equally festive meal!

Many people will follow the custom of staying awake all night and studying religious texts, and then saying morning prayers at the earliest permitted time. This is meant to express ones' enthusiasm of the Jewish people to receive the Torah.

Most synagogues and yeshivas organize special classes and lectures throughout the night of Shavuot. Here in Jerusalem, there is a custom of going down to the Western Wall tomorrow morning where it will be exceptionally crowded – for Shavuot morning prayers.

This is when one can see crowds of men and women dancing and singing along with the special hymns and scriptural readings – which includes the Book of Ruth.

Special memorial prayers for the departed are also said. Some communities maintain the custom of decorating their synagogues with green plants and flowers; this is in keeping with traditions that Mt. Sinai was a green mountain and that Shavuot is a day of judgment for fruit trees.

In ancient times, Shavuot marked the end of the barley harvest, and the beginning of the wheat harvest. Jewish farmers brought their first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 26:1-11), where special offerings were brought (Numbers 28:26-31).

Shavuot is also known as the "Day of First Fruits" and the "Harvest Festival" (as it is referred to in Numbers 28:26 and Exodus 23:16.

For us as Christians we recall that it was Pentecost, when via the Holy Spirit's decent, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was spoken by the disciples to the crowds as they had come from all over the world to celebrate this Jewish holiday. That good news was heard individually and simultaneously in men's own mother tongues, here in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-31)!

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Update on Palestinian Unity

Hello Everyone,

Lets check in on where things are at in terms of the Palestinian Unity Deal that has brought together the two rival parties of the Palestinian people – Fatah and Hamas.

Yesterday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas make the concrete step of asking the current Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to form the transitional government.

It has been largely circulated that both sides have overcome the issues separating them since the announcement of reconciliation last month.

Yet, we have not had any presentation of a formal Unity Deal.

Fatah controls the West Bank while Hamas is the dominate power in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Abbas is in no hurry to do this deal, as Israel and the Western powers spurn him for connecting with what many consider to be a terrorist organization.

It was back in 2007 that Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip and split with Fatah.

This move by Mr. Abbas could be understood as the first concrete step in the composition of a unity government because neither has published any list of ministers.

There are reports circulating that suggest neither Fatah or Hamas can come to an agreement on the choice of the Palestinian Authority's future Foreign Minister.

Dr. Rami Hamdallah is a British-educated, politically independent academic. He became Palestinian prime minister almost one year ago, replacing Salam Fayyad, whom Hamas said they would not enter into any government with him as a Minister.

Known as an academic, he was in charge of the An-Najah National University in Nablus in the West Bank for 15 years.

There are a few why the unity deal is important to the governance of the Palestinians. It was a response by Mr. Abbas to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's avoidance of US brokered negotiations to return to peace talks, but it is also because the Palestinians are due to hold elections next year.

Mr. Netanyahu has said Mr Abbas must choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. He has also said that Mr. Abbas will be held accountable for the actions of Hamas.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

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