Palestinians encroaching on Israel's southern border. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90) (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Gaza border riots


Israel faces multi-faceted threats on several fronts, the result of ancient religious rivalries and disputes, and still succeeds despite adversity. 

By: Lela Gilbert

With every passing day, explosive events in the Middle East threaten the peaceful lives of Israelis – Jewish, Christian, and Muslim alike.

Even as I write, the radical Islamist group Hamas is choreographing riots intended to breach the Gaza/Israel border fence. This has already cost dozens of Arab lives and is causing hundreds of injuries every day.

Tens of thousands of Arabs recruited by Hamas – an Islamist terrorist faction – are attempting to breach the Gaza-Israel border.

Most international media describe the raging, rioting, tire-burning throngs as “protestors” against Israel’s 70th Anniversary of Israel as a Jewish State.

However, Hamas is deploying these civilians in virtual suicide missions, thrust by their terrorist masters into the face of Israeli snipers who are tasked to defend their border.

When killed or captured, the invaders are found to be armed with wire-cutters as well as explosives, windborne incendiary devices, grenades, slingshots, and other deadly weaponry.

At the same time, in Israel’s north, Israeli forces remain on high alert following a volley of 20 Iranian rockets fired into Israel. This came in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the notoriously flawed nuclear agreement – the JCPOA.

The northern onslaught was met with a fiery response from Israeli Defense Forces rocketry, striking dozens of Iranian targets inside Syria.

Today’s Unrest Ignited by Ancient Religious Disputes

In sum, the Middle East seems to be on the brink of war. And if so, the contributing factors reach well beyond everyday politics.

In fact, today’s unrest is ignited by ancient religious disputes regarding matters of both faith and freedom.

Why such violence? A photo of a Gaza protestor, featured in Iran’s PressTV website, is captioned, “Jerusalem Belongs to the Muslims.”

My colleague Hillel Fradkin, Director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Islam, explains:

“This violence is not about the U.S. Embassy being moved to Jerusalem. And it is not a demonstration, either. It is an attempt by Palestinians to break through Israel’s border and ‘return’ to their alleged homes which their forebears were instructed to leave by their own leadership in 1948. It is a response to what the Muslims call ‘Nakba Day’ – the anniversary of the state of Israel”s founding.

“In the eyes of Hamas and other radicals, Jews have no right to any state. For them, Judaism has been superseded by Islam, and for Jews to have a state dishonors Islam.”

A Turkish politician’s words seem to confirm this view.

“Jerusalem cannot be Israel’s capital,” MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli said in a written statement. “Both human conscience and the deep heritage of our faith and its ancient rights will not allow this.”

Angered by Israel’s defensive actions against the ongoing Hamas assault, Turkey’s radical President Tayyip Recep Erdogan declares, “What Israel has done is genocide!”

But Egypt apparently disagrees.

According to Israel Hayom, “Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was summoned urgently to Cairo Monday, where Egyptian officials severely admonished him over the terrorist group’s insistence on instigating violent demonstrations on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, Israel Hayom learned Tuesday.”

And despite widespread media condemnation of Israeli snipers who killed some 62 civilian rioters, the Times of Israel reports: “A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.”

Iran’s Aggressive Attempt to Control the Mideast

Meanwhile, the Middle East’s shifting boundary lines are increasingly defined by yet another religious matter – the ancient Islamic dispute between Sunni and Shiite rivals.

Apart from Turkey, today’s Sunni states – including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain — and the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) persistently proclaim their dedication to Islamic reform and religious moderation. They are led by the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

They are quietly seeking rapprochement with former enemies, even – very quietly – with Israel. Saudi journalist Amal ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Al-Hazzani writes:

“There are two things that the Arabs must understand well: First, that Trump will not backtrack, and [second,] that he has [his own] considerations with respect to Israel, which is a very good friend [of the U.S.]. Just as he took a courageous step to defend the Arabs against the hostile Iranian influence in spite of the [opposing] stance of his European allies, so today he is doing [something] that will protect his ally Israel. Washington need not behave according to the expectations of the Arabs . . .”

Why this moderating attitude among many of today’s Sunnis?

Perhaps because they are distressed by the relentless invasive activity of Iran’s Shiite armies and militias in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.

In short, Iran is aggressively attempting to control the Middle East.

Although the Iranian population seeks freedom from the country’s cruel and misogynistic mullahs and ayatollahs, those same religious leaders continue to lead their loyal followers in chants of “Death to Israel,” and “Death to America.”

Despite Endless Threats, Israel Prospers

And yet, despite those endless threats, President Donald Trump decided to reject the JCPOA, to declare U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and to move the US Embassy there.

In honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary of its founding as the world’s only Jewish state, massive displays beautify Jerusalem in a profusion of fluttering US and Israeli flags, alongside myriad colorful gardens and joyful crowds.

President Trump’s actions, and Israel’s successful defenses, have also inspired myriad prayers of gratitude among Jews as well as Evangelical Christians.


As for the Israeli people and their own intercessions, after living among them for more than a decade, I quote this traditional Jewish benediction.

Mi she-g’malcha kol tuv, hu yi-g’malcha kol tuv selah.

May he who rewarded you with all goodness reward you with all goodness forever.

Lela Gilbert is an internationally recognized expert on religious persecution, an award-winning writer, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute who lived in Jerusalem for over a decade.

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