People from overseas are asking how we are, what is happening here in Israel, and how they can pray.
We are reeling from shock. Many people have a distant expression. Almost everyone knows someone who was involved in the massacre somehow, killed, kidnapped, or called up to the front. Or all three. It’s a small country and feels like family, so the events of October 7th are taken very personally by absolutely everybody. It all feels extremely close, and many are in deep trauma.
People are expressing nostalgia for the life we had only a few weeks ago. Time seems to move at a different pace, with days whizzing by but it seems like a lifetime since the Feast of Tabernacles. So much has changed—the feeling in the air, the reality on the ground… Rising each day with the heaviness of what is happening, like a boulder you have to carry every minute you’re awake. And the memory of being comparatively carefree stings.
Some 200,000 households and families have been evacuated both from the south and also the northern border. Hotels around the country have been turned into refugee centers with makeshift children’s areas in conference rooms. No one knows when they might be able to return. The first day of school has been postponed till December now, so for those trying to cope with kids at home it’s like the lockdowns of 2020 all over again. Shops are often clean out of particular kinds of foods, and for a while empty shelves were common, as people started to stock up. We have been told to make sure we have enough food in the house to last several weeks if necessary.
A traumatized people
There have been requests for extra people to help dig graves, due to the unprecedented number needed at once. Some of those from the “Zaka” organisation of paramedics and first responders burdened with the unbearable task of putting the dead bodies to rest went through three years’ worth of equipment in a few days. When asked about their experiences, one man said,
“I’m in a dream right now, and it’s a very bad dream. I’m not eating, I’m not sleeping”.
It’s like a waking nightmare. I can’t imagine what those in such close proximity to the brutality of the massacre are going through. There are still people missing, and we don’t know if they’ve been killed or kidnapped. Many are struggling to sleep and function.
Some of our ONE FOR ISRAEL team are serving in army units that had the terrible assignment of clearing some of those communities, and have been badly affected by what they have witnessed.
What’s adding to the suffering is the reticence of the global community to believe the reports of the atrocities committed, yet leaping to accuse Israel of deliberately killing innocents in Gaza. These two responses make it clear that—even as Israel is trying to absorb what’s just happened—we must defend ourselves not only from Hamas but also from international fury in the wake of the worst massacre since the Holocaust.
Some 2000 terrorists broke through the barrier on October 7th, and although the army has now rounded up hundreds of them, it’s hard to really feel safe. Especially when they hear someone speaking Arabic. And this is a horror for Arab Israelis. Just a few weeks ago they were ordinary members of society. Today they will be battling prejudice like never before. “Just leave it down there please”, my friend told the supermarket delivery guy with an Arabic accent. “Of course”, he said with resignation. “Everybody says that”. It’s painful but he understands. How can you take that life-or-death chance for the sake of someone’s feelings? The 20% of Israeli citizens that speak Arabic are suffering. They have not been immune from the murders and terror inflicted upon Israel.
When Hamas terrorists attacked a Bedouin Muslim family from Rahat, the father yelled to them “we are Arabs!” to which they replied “you are more Jewish than Jews!” The terrorists then murdered the father, and shot 5-year-old Atallah. Police arrived and the paramedic determined Atallah would never make it, but they decided to transport him to a hospital anyway, despite terrorists still roaming the area. A few days later little Atallah opened his eyes in the hospital, and met the cops who saved him. He’s already told them he wants to join the police when he’s older. (Yael Bar Tur on X)
A united people?
As you walk around the streets you’ll see a lot more Israeli flags flying, and posters plastered everywhere with slogans like, “The people of Israel live! We’re united behind you on the frontline for victory.” There’s a banner by a children’s playground declaring “Those who have faith do not fear” in bright colors by the slides and swingset. Another attached to school railings, saying “The main thing is not to be afraid at all!” But it’s hard. It’s hard for adults to control fears at this time, and hard for them to assure their children that they will be safe.
Helicopters and jets are constantly flying overhead, and the alert apps on our phones sound the alarm that rockets are incoming in the area. For some, it’s a daily reality. Going outside in the south of Israel means taking your life in your hands. But we can’t just stay locked up forever.
Some areas of the country are quieter than others, but in general, people are determined to continue living life, as an expression of defiance and victory: we will not buckle to terror. We will not live in fear.
Huge armies of volunteers have been mobilized, with food and clothing drives gearing up for the enormous needs that continue to arise. Families have had to leave everything behind—they have no winter clothes for the coming months, very little in the way of toys and entertainment for the children, and the logistics of keeping everyone well fed in environments without kitchens is a constant challenge. Not to mention the huge needs that arose when 360,000 reservists turned up for duty, all needing equipment, food, and basic items like bedding. Many have risen to the occasion (including many friends from overseas) working hard to provide our army with everything they need.
Politicians are working together to form a united government for the first time in years, to deal with what’s happening in Israel. Sworn political rivals have been putting their heads together to try and find the best way forward as a country. This was arranged and announced on the same day that believers joined together as one. Jewish and Arab pastors have been praying together, united in Jesus and determined to link arms at this time of national crisis.
A repentant people?
There’s more talk of the Bible and prayer than usual. There’s more need for prayer than ever, and events seem extremely biblical with everything happening in Israel at the moment. Many here and overseas are starting to wonder if we’re seeing some prophecy coming to pass. Is this Gog and Magog? Ezekiel 38-39? Psalm 83? Rabbis are speculating that the Messiah is on His way. They’re not wrong. Of course, it’s hard to say exactly how long it might be before we see Jesus return in glory but these sort of events are certainly spoken of.
People are picking up on the fact that Hamas is in the Bible, and Psalm 27 has several Hebrew words that look just like October 7th was foreseen. One poster by a local parking lot displays a verse from the Psalms:
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
We may encourage one another not to fall into fear, but our enemies are ruthless and Israel’s security looks shakier than ever. One of our team here at ONE FOR ISRAEL has an 86 year old grandmother who has lived through all the wars but says she has never felt like this before. For the first time, she feels afraid, as if there’s no one “looking after the house”. She’s not the only one expressing this sentiment. People feel very badly let down by our those who are supposed to be protecting us.
How could this have ever happened? How could our leaders have blundered so badly? And why would God allow this?
Some say they believed that God existed up until the date of October 7th, but other non-believers are starting to pray in ways they never have before. In the nations both believers and non-believers are now looking to the Middle East, wondering about the spiritual implications of what’s happening in Israel. Everyone is tense. Many are now in an uncomfortable state of limbo, living in temporary accommodation, and everyone is feeling the insecurity.
It’s time for us to turn wholeheartedly to God, the only one who can save us. Please pray for us.