Many Christians with a significant interest in the Holy Land and the Middle East are finding this a particularly difficult time in which to pray. In the days immediately after the 7th October Hamas attack on Israel it seemed a straightforward case of asking the Lord to help Israel defend itself and comfort the survivors. But as the Israeli response developed into a lengthy assault upon Hamas terrorist facilities in the Gaza Strip, casualty figures among Gazan civilians have risen in thousands and there is great suffering among those who have fled their homes seeking shelter from the fighting. This has left many Christians unhappy about continuing to pray in support of Israel.

Like most others, at Christian Friends of Israel UK we long for peace in and around Israel. For years we have supported projects within the land that encourage cooperation between Jews and Arabs to build a single united community. There are more than two million Arab citizens of Israel, making up 21 percent of the population, most of whom live peacefully with their Jewish neighbours. With that background and the very many casualties among Gazan civilians, there is a great temptation to simply pray for an immediate end to the fighting, in the hope of developing a long-term peace thereafter.

However, that attack by Hamas and other terrorists revealed their truly barbaric intentions toward Israelis. Its horrendous nature and the pleasure that the terrorists gained from torturing, mutilating, and killing their victims have prompted many to describe the attack as demonic. Subsequently, Hamas spokesmen have confirmed that they want to repeat the attack again, and again, and again. Indeed, Hamas was formed for the very purpose of destroying Israel. So, praying for an immediate ceasefire is not appropriate when it leaves Hamas in a position of power within the Gaza Strip.

But then, many distressed onlookers say Israeli bombing of hospitals, schools, refugee camps, mosques, churches, and shelters is wrong; that it contravenes the rules of war and basic human morals. Yet such protests overlook the use of all of these places by Hamas in conducting its war of terror against Israel. By the 20th December, the number of tunnel shafts and underground passages discovered by the Israelis had risen to an astonishing 1,500. Most were deliberately placed beneath hospitals, schools and refugee camps knowing that the Israelis are hesitant to shoot at such places. They thus became legitimate targets in the war, once appropriate warning has been given.

The sights of a Scout Hall with massive rocket launchers built into one end, terror tunnel entrances in children’s playgrounds and bedrooms, as well as extensive terrorist facilities beneath hospitals, should be genuinely shocking for everyone prepared to see what the Israelis have uncovered. There is now overwhelming evidence that Hamas have spent billions of dollars of international aid money building a huge network of terrorist facilities, instead of spending the money on homes, schools, colleges, leisure centres and other community facilities for the people of the Gaza Strip.

International aid agencies are not free from guilt in this situation. They must have known something of what was being done. Indeed, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency is accused of being complicit in Hamas’ operations by UN Watch, an organisation that has produced many items of evidence that some UNWRA staff are members of Hamas. Capture of the Kamaal Aduan Hospital and subsequent questioning of terrorists arrested there has revealed that some of the medical staff are members of Hamas. And it is well known within the Gaza Strip that nothing could be done without Hamas approval. That was highlighted in a 2018 report by Human Rights Watch, titled ‘Two Authorities, One Way, Zero Dissent’ – referring to both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Back in Israel, it is not only the residents of the Gaza border communities who are suffering. As soon as Israel started to counter-attack Hamas, Hezbollah started to fire at Israelis in the north of the country, prompting the evacuation of all communities within 5km of the Lebanon border. Combined with the people from the Gaza border communities, that brought the total of displaced Israelis to around 250,000. Eleven weeks after the start of the war they are still living in temporary accommodation in a country that is fighting multiple terrorist groups on four different fronts – the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

So, while we hate to see this war and the suffering it is causing, we recognise that sometimes it is necessary to fight against enemies like Hamas. Israel needs to do this for the sake of all its 9.8 million citizens – Jews, Arabs, Druze and others. Consequently, we believe that it is appropriate to pray for Israelis to have courage in the fighting because, by their nature, terrorists try to frighten their enemies into submission. At the same time, we pray for the Israelis to be accurate in fighting the terrorists and genuinely minimise civilian casualties.

Among Western nations, the Israel Defence Forces have a reputation for doing more than any other military to avoid civilian casualties. They have used multiple techniques to enable Gazans to move away from the main areas of fighting, including leaflet drops, text messages, phone calls and maps. But Hamas have responded by preventing civilians from moving, even shooting at some of them so as not to lose their human shields. And, within that context, it is worth reflecting upon the question of why Egypt has not allowed Gazan civilians to escape temporarily into Sinai. When the Russians attacked in 2022, millions of Ukrainian civilians were able to flee into several neighbouring countries to escape the danger.

And clearly, it is most appropriate to pray that means will be found of getting the necessary provisions to the displaced Gazans until Hamas is defeated and the whole situation can move onto restoration of a civilian community free from terrorist masters.


Robin Lane

December 2023