Looking back at 5778, I have to say, it turned out to be a very good year, full of mostly pleasant surprises.
Without a doubt, President Donald Trump keeping his pre-election promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is Number One on the list of pleasant surprises for 5778.
The President’s ongoing and unwavering support for Israel in the UN via Ambassador Nikki Haley is another welcome change, and we certainly can’t ignore the U.S. policy changes regarding UNRWA and its false refugee narrative, as well as the passage of the Taylor Force Act. Trump also exited the very bad Iran JCPOA nuclear deal. The list of pleasant surprises from the Trump Administration for the Jewish People goes on.
Having said that, the talk of peace plans, even a “deal of the century” certainly leaves us with a lot of trepidation. They always fail, and they always bring more terror.
Last year we wrote, “I don’t know if we’ll be facing off in a full-scale war this year with Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies (or even Iran itself), but it appears we are headed in that direction. It will be a serious conflict on multiple fronts when it finally breaks out, this coming year or next.”
Israel managed to avoid a full-scale war up north, while simultaneously restricting, for the most part, Hezbollah’s access to advanced missile technology from Iran.
But there was fighting. Enemy rockets managed to shoot down an Israeli F-16i, Iranian rockets landed in the Kinneret, and Iranian drones and a Syrian pilot penetrated into Israel’s airspace. On the flip side, Israel launched over 200 successful attacks against Iranian targets in Syria, knocking out the majority of the Syrian/Iranian advanced air defense systems, while maintaining a strong diplomatic push to keep Iran away from the Israeli border.
The other big story of the year, of course, was Israel acquisition of Iran’s secret nuclear archives in a daring Mossad mission. That pretty much surprised everyone.
Hamas went the other way, inventing new strategies using low-tech terror kites and arson balloons that set the south on fire, which the IDF brass felt morally helpless to stop, letting Israel’s south take a bit of a beating.
Speaking of low-tech terror, Jewish organizations (and a Jewish news website) found themselves infiltrated by anti-Israel activists who used social media to amplify their message beyond their actual scope of influence. For the most part, those infiltrations failed to influence their intended targets and simply managed to make some fleeting headlines.
As predicted, the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas went the way of all their previous reconciliations, but that wasn’t a hard prediction to make.
Other major events of 5778 include:
Israel passing the Nation-State law.
Yitzhak Herzog becoming head of the Jewish Agency, replacing Natan Sharansky.
Elor Azaria freed from jail (and denied a personal gun license).
Netta Barzilai winning the Eurovision song contest for Israel.
A large stone falling out of the Kotel.
Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon’s failed social engineering experiment in the real estate market continuing to fail, but now the public is finally realizing it’s a bad idea.
The 70th year celebration of Israel’s independence.
There has been an upsurge in anti-Semitism, and we may very well see a lot of new Olim from the UK joining us in Israel. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaking out so explicitly against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was also a welcome surprise.
There’s no doubt that the mainstreaming of anti-Israel / pro-BDS candidates in the U.S. Democratic party is becoming cause for concern.
With so many surprises this past year, I’m hesitant to make any predictions for next year.
We may see a real war with Gaza, while up north we may see more of the same as this past year. Israeli elections may, or may not come early this year, though there will definitely be a lot of election year campaigning.
We will see the launch of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed train — we hope.
In short, a lot of maybes.
So leaving you without any real predictions for 5779, all we can offer are our best wishes, Shana Tova u’Metuka a Sweet and Happy New Year, from all of us at The Jewish Press.
A spate of attacks, in which at least 20 were killed in Nigeria’s central Plateau State over the last week of August, has shattered peace efforts by religious and political leaders in its capital, Jos.
Three months ago, heavily armed Fulani militants stormed 15 villages across the same Barkin Ladi Local Government Area (LGA), predominantly Christian, over the weekend 23-4 June, killing more than 230 in a “co-ordinated military style”, as described by the local Stefanos Foundation.
More than 11,500 people were forced to seek refuge in 13 locations across the state, while an undetermined number were injured.
The June violence, one of the deadliest episodes in recent years, forced the state governor, Simon Lalong, to impose a dusk to dawn curfew on the three affected LGAs – Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Jos South – in an attempt to curb the violence.
However, World Watch Monitor learned that more villages were attacked in the following days. Since then the violence has gone unabated.
On 28 August, communities including a mining site at Wereh village (Ropp District), Abonong, Ziyat and Bek villages (Foron District), Nafan, Sagas, Rawuru, and Rambuh villages (Fan District), all in Barkin Ladi, came under heavy attack by Fulani militants.
Victims included a pastor and four members of his family. Rev. Adamu Wurim Gyang, 50, and his three children were set ablaze and burnt beyond recognition. His wife, Jummai, 45, was shot and left to die in a pool of blood. More than 14 were killed in that attack; 95 houses were burned down and 225 farm crops awaiting harvest were destroyed. A youth at the mining site also died.
Joshua Kim, 43, who visited Abonong on 29 August told World Watch Monitor that Fulani came to his village on Tuesday night and started shooting sporadically, provoking panic among people who ran for safety. Two youths on their way to Rev. Gyang’s house to charge their phones were shot by the Fulani; one was killed, the other wounded.
Kim also learned that Rev. Gyang, who lived on his church premises, locked himself with his three children in their room during the attack. Jummai Gyang also locked herself into a toilet. But eventually the assailants attacked the pastorium. They shot Jummai and set fire to the room where her family was hiding.
Eldest son, Adamu, 27, a third year student at University of Jos survived: “I was in school when I saw a post on Facebook about the attack…I called my father, his phone was switched off. I called my mother but her phone was switched off as well”.
Adamu managed to speak to someone else, who told him about his parents and three brothers:
“I could not sleep that night”.
Early next morning, Adamu got to the village: he was “devastated” when he saw his mother’s body and the remains of his father and three brothers burnt beyond recognition.
“My father had always been the strength of our family. Right now, I don’t know how my life will be without him.”
Rotshak Linus Kamki, who visited hours after the attacks, also told World Watch Monitor: “On Tuesday around 8 to 9pm, I received a call telling me that Fulani were attacking Abonong. The next morning, I and two others from the village set out. On arrival, we saw people mourning and discussing what to do with 12 corpses already found.
“As we were still gathering the bodies, some youths were sent to mount vigilance in the bush. Not long after they left, one group came running from the hills saying they saw Fulani coming. all of a sudden, it was true.
“Before we could do anything, the Fulani started shooting. We didn’t know what to do. We were face to face with them as they came to attack us with weapons, while some were still on the hills. We were helpless”.
An eyewitness says angry village youths took to the streets in protest at the attacks. Security forces who only arrived that afternoon shot at them, killing 6 and wounding several others.
Further details from various sources, including Christian Solidarity Worldwide, revealed that the military, who arrived after the perpetrators had gone, reportedly shot and killed a woman who tried to stop them detaining the local youths, asking them to go after the Fulani militias instead.
In a video circulating online*, as a crowd holds up her body, a visibly distressed clergyman, Rev. Ezekiel Dachomo, appeals for assistance from the US, British parliamentarians and the UN:
“America, please stand for us. We are dying… Please, allow us to survive. We have nobody. Only God in heaven can stand for us. Please, I am begging you. United Nations, your silence is getting worse[er]. …Please, please, I’m begging you stand for the helpless…..Yesterday, one of my colleagues, the reverend was slaughtered with his wife and his children, and I was right there…look at the women, immediately they were commiserating, after the Fulani herdsmen have filled boarded-down two villages.
“Then the soldiers came in, trying to cause confusion. And who are these army men that are using machine-motorcycles? And then they get to shoot, and they would go, who would stand for us?
“There is nobody. Everybody…we are now ready to do [our] last prayers since an Islamic agenda is taking over the nation.
“Now, we’re live at the police station in Barkin Ladi… Look at those IDPs, we have nobody to stand, we are the survivors, now war IDPs have been added. Where do they want them to go?
“They have already [been] assigned our lands, have been relocated to them, they have [been] assigned, our villages have been relocated to Fulani herdsmen, and nobody is talking. Even my colleague reverends are keeping quiet.
“Women are dying every day, men are dying. What do you want us to do? Please, please, I am begging you, congressmen, [men] of London…please I am begging you, stand for the helpless. There is nobody [else]…!”
“There is no crisis: rather, people are attacked in their homes and killed”
WWM also learned that on 31 August, Fulani herdsmen with over 200 cattle invaded the Rakung community in Barkin Ladi LGA, and destroyed maize farms belonging to James Pam, Filibus Choji, Bulus Gyang Shut, Yusufu Boyi and Iliya Bature. Security forces, who eventually intervened, seized over 150 cows from the Fulani.
Following an investigation, the herdsmen agreed to pay 400,000 Naira (about $1,100) compensation to the farmers to get their cows back.
Fulani herdsmen reportedly also invaded farms in Dorowa community, in Mangu LGA, destroying farm crops and forcing villagers to flee.
Rev. Dachollom Chumang Datiri, President of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), condemned the ‘unacceptable’ killing of the pastor, “an innocent man of God, whose focus was to preach salvation of souls….There is no crisis in Plateau; rather people are attacked in their homes and killed. The government’s first responsibility is to provide security to its people. Go to Abonong and see the crops growing there, yet people were attacked and killed. The attackers cannot say they have issues with these innocent people. And even if they do have issues, it is not with the reverend who preaches to turn away from evil practices who is now killed alongside his family.”
The violence is often described as communal clashes between predominantly Christian farmers and Fulani herdsmen, mainly Muslims; President Buhari refers to the struggle for natural resources such as water and fertile land.
However, many Christian leaders in the area argue there is a religious dimension, and without acknowledging that, politicians will not be able to properly address the conflict. On 28 August, 100 miles away from the attacks, in Jos, a Peace Summit was ending, organized by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for the Northern Regions.
It was attended by top officials, including the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Governor Lalong, along with Church, Women and Youth leaders from the 19 States of Northern Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja).
“Sustainable Peace and Security in Northern Nigeria as Panacea for Development: The Role of Religious Leaders” aimed to bring lasting solutions to violence which has, in the last few months, amplified the growing wave of insecurity in Central and Northern Nigeria, particularly in Taraba, Adamawa, Benue, Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau and Nasarawa states.
(International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) severely injured three pastors in an attack on Saturday, September 8. The attack took place under the close watch of local policemen in Premnagar, located in the Barely District of India’s Uttar Pradesh State, where Christians were holding a two-day spiritual retreat. Pastor Ashok Benjamin, Pastor Vijay Masih, and Pastor Shivcharan were among those injured in the assault, sustaining wounds to their heads, hands, and lower backs.
Local sources told ICC that a mob of 50 radicals under the leadership of Pawan Arora, the district chief of the VHP, and a few policemen attacked a hall where approximately 25 Christians were meeting for a two-day spiritual retreat. While hurling verbal insults at the Christians, the mob savagely beat the three pastors who were leading the retreat.
“All of this happened in the presence of the police,” Pastor Masih, a 36-year-old pastor who was gravely injured in the attack, told ICC. “The police did not come to our rescue. Rather, they joined the mob in accusing us of doing forcible conversions.”
“I have terrible pain in the lower end of my spinal cord,” Pastor Masih continued. “The whole area is swollen as they kicked me there with force. Now, I am unable to walk.”
“Over a dozen people hit me with stones on my head, kicked me, and punched me,” Masih said, describing the attack. “I was in shock and did not know what to do. Their intention was to kill us, but God saved us from the mouth of death.”
“They want to kill my husband because he is a pastor and preaches about Jesus,” Sandra Ashok, Pastor Ashok Benjamin’s wife, told ICC. “My husband received multiple fractures to the nose and [a] clot in the eye. They also hit him on the head. He was bleeding heavily from his nose and also his head.”
After the attack, Pastor Benjamin was able to stand witness in the police station amid a large crowd. As he reported the attack, still covered in his own blood, the police asked him what he was doing at the retreat.
“Our lives are in danger with the negative publicity we receive, claiming we do forcible conversions,” Pastor Masih explained. “Still, I will not stop preaching Jesus.”
Although there was pressure from VHP members, the police did not file forced conversion charges against the three injured pastors. Instead, the police forced the Christians and radicals to agree to a compromise.
Two other anti-Christian attacks led by Hindu radicals took place in Uttar Pradesh in the past week. On September 2, police arrested pastors in Faizabad after they were falsely accused of forced conversions. The police kept the pastors in police custody for more than five hours, but later released them due to a lack of evidence.