This last Friday, approximately 250,000 people turned out for the “Gay Pride” parade in Tel Aviv, capping a week of events in that city “celebrating” the city’s large number of homosexual residents. This was the first of the “Pride” parades planned to be held in Israeli cities this summer, to be capped by a parade in Jerusalem in August.
The first “Pride Parade” was held in Tel Aviv in 1999 and was a fairly small-scale event, attracting around 10,000 participants. Over the years it has grown larger every year and in the last five years several cities in Israel which never had such events have added them to their civic calendar. This didn’t happen by itself, the Israeli government, particularly the Ministry of Tourism, has granted tens of millions of shekels of taxpayer money to the organizers of these events in order to attract gay tourists from around the world to come to Israel. This has been the policy of every government for the last two decades, despite the presence of Ultra-Orthodox factions in almost all of these governing coalitions.
Beyond that, topics related to homosexuality and transgenderism, etc. are taught to Israeli school children starting in grade school and in most Israeli cities aside from Jerusalem, large billboards featuring scantily clad women (sometimes in suggestive poses with scantily clad men and/or other women) are posted outside malls, on the sides of large buildings and in many other public spaces in order to attract the attention of shoppers. Children also see these billboards of course, but no one seems to care about that.
The IDF grants two free abortions to female soldiers during their 2 years of mandatory military service and the number of abortions performed annually in Israel is estimated to range between 35-40,000.
According to estimates by social welfare groups, the police and education officials, nearly half of Israeli teenagers smoke tobacco cigarettes on a daily basis and a much larger percentage consume alcohol, marijuana and other “recreational” drugs on a weekly basis if not more often.
The parents of these kids usually know their children are sexually promiscuous, using drugs, etc. and they shrug it off as “rites of passage” that “all children go through these days” or they feel bad about it but also don’t know what they can do about it and some just don’t care, having done the same thing when they were teenagers and not seeing anything wrong with it.
Now, why am I telling you all this?
All of these issues (and many more that I could mention if I wasn’t trying to keep my blog short enough for people to actually read it) have grown in seriousness and intensity in this country to the tragic and outrageous proportions they have while at the same time, Christian engagement with this country at all levels has also increased by leaps and bounds. There have NEVER been better relations between Israel’s government and civil society and the world’s Evangelical Christian communities than there is today.
And yet, the social and spiritual climate in this country keeps getting darker and darker.
So that brings me to the question from the title of this blog.
When you pray for Israel, what are you praying for?
Are you praying for the protection of Israeli soldiers? Are you praying for “wisdom for Israeli politicians” so they won’t make any decisions you don’t think God would want them to make?
That’s all fine and good. But can I ask you to spare a few moments to also pray into some of these other issues I’ve mentioned here?
Brothers and sisters, IDF soldiers need protection. Israeli politicians need wisdom. Many communities need bomb shelters, many hospitals, schools, fire stations, etc. need help with all kinds of things and farmers in the West Bank need help picking their grapes. Praying for and giving support to all of these things can be good and helpful.
But what Israelis need more than any of that other stuff is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All those other things will, at best, treat symptoms on the margins of the real problem.
So what, you may ask, is the real problem?
The real problem Israel has is the same problem every other country in the world has, and it’s not coming from outside, it’s coming from inside. It’s a problem that Jewish people, just like every other kind of people, are born with. It’s called sin, and it only has one solution.
My hope, for everyone who reads this, is that they’ll find a way to become part of the solution, or at least manage to avoid being part of the problem. May God give us all the wisdom and direction we need to accomplish this.