The Word:  It is not that I have already obtained it or already reached the goal — no, I keep pursuing it in the hope of taking hold of that for which the Messiah Yeshua took hold of me. Brothers, I, for my part, do not think of myself as having yet taken hold of it; but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind me and straining forward toward what lies ahead, I keep pursuing the goal in order to win the prize offered by God’s upward calling in the Messiah Yeshua. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.  Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them. (Ecclesiastes 9:10-12)

*      Pointers for prayer:  In the above Scriptures (one from the Hebrew Scriptures and one from the New Testament) we find examples of areas one would associate with sporting events.  Ecclesiastes mentions ‘the race is not to the swift’ and Paul in Philippians states that we must keep pursuing the goal in order to win the prize.  In 1 Kings 19:2-4, we find Elijah runs for his life (sorry, couldn’t resist) and in Judges 16: 28-31 – we read of the strength of Samson.  Of course in 1 Samuel 17, David fights Goliath and in 1 Corinthians 9:23-25, Paul again writes, ‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?’  In 2 Timothy 4:6-8 we read, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race;’ and in 2 Timothy 2:4-6 we understand that ‘An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.’ And so, in this time of the Olympic Games 2016, let all who are called to stand with Israel ‘run with endurance the race set before us’ (Hebrews 12:1-3). Let us keep battling on in prayer regarding the difficult issues within Israel and throughout the Middle East.

*      As mentioned in the prayer pointers last week, we are living in a sobering moment in history that calls us, as believers in Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), to take a stand with Israel. This is not about politics; this is about the Word of God, but the political ramifications are extremely dramatic. God is sovereign – so let us declare God’s sovereign power to accomplish all His purposes in Israel and the Middle East.  Stand in prayer against those who would deny Israel’s right to its ancient homeland, and please continue to pray for the complete restoration of the nation of Israel.  Pray for a great revelation of Biblical truth to saturate the Arab world – especially with the Palestinian youth - along with those countries that are not ethnically Arab but Muslim – such as Iran and Turkey.  Pray that these Arab/Muslim countries would break free from the bondage of false religion and come to a place where the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the God of Israel – would set them free (John 8:32)  

When sport gets ugly    2016 seems to have been one long year of sporting events.  No sooner had the football league season finished, and a new season is under way.  Football aside, with England failing miserably in the Euros International football this summer by losing against tiny Iceland, the British have exceeded themselves in winning many different sports events.  After all, Andy Murray won Wimbledon for the second time in his career in tennis; Chris Froome won the Tour de France in cycling, and England appears to be doing very nicely in the cricket.   Along with high expectations from favourites in athletics such as Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson in Rio’s Olympics, medals will be decided in the final of the women's 10,000m, where Jo Pavey hopes to become the first British woman to run in five Olympics.  Then there’s the British rowing team and already Britain is doing really well with Adam Peaty winning gold in swimming with Jazz Carlin getting silver.   In the velodrome, Sir Bradley Wiggins begins his bid for a fifth Olympic gold in the opening round of the team pursuit, while swimmer Fran Halsall attempts to win a medal in the women's 100m freestyle.   If you’re a sports fan, 2016 has been a great year!

Israel is also currently competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. This is the nation's sixteenth appearance at the Summer Olympics. Israel sent 47 athletes to the games, breaking the previous record of 43 in 2008, and also setting a new record in participation with athletes competing in 17 different sports at 53 different events. The 2016 games is also the first Israeli delegation to feature more female competitors than men. On August 3, two days prior to the start of the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee officially honoured the eleven Israelis killed during the Munich massacre, for the first time.  And there was joy to come as Yarden Gerbi claimed a bronze medal in the women's under-63 kilogram judo competition at the Rio Olympics. She became the fourth Israeli judoka to take an Olympic medal, however this is the first Olympic medal Israel have won since 2008. 

However, there is often an ugly side that rears its head in the world of sport.  We only need to look at the corrupt underhand dealings of Joseph "Sepp" Blatter - the Swiss football administrator who served as the eighth president of FIFA from 1998 to 2015.  He was finally ‘given the boot’ recently, yet even today is challenging his six-year ban from football.  Then there was Lance Armstrong bringing shame to the world of cycling in his drug induced Tour de France victories.  Of course since then, there has been the drug scandal that has appeared to involve the majority of the Russian Olympic team recently, which almost cost Russia any place at this year’s Olympics.  Yet there is now an even darker cloud that has descended on the sporting arena that should ‘stop play’.

The Olympic Games are supposed to be a celebration of the best in sports within the framework of a none political event. But guess which mind-set is trying to use this sporting event as a continuation for their hate filled lust against the Israeli team in these Olympics? Yes, the Islamic Palestinian delegation (note: a 'delegation' and not a 'nation') is being led by a renown terrorist who even today incites to violence against Israel. Even at the highest level, it seems, sport cannot free itself from politics and hatred.

Many of my sources are venting their anger that even before the opening ceremony, the Rio de Janeiro Olympics have left a bitter taste in the mouths of most Israelis. Jibril Rajoub, who is a contender for the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) after Mahmoud Abbas' time is up, is a strong supporter of terrorism and has incited to murder even during this most recent wave of terrorist violence against Israelis.  Yet this man was chosen by the Arab Palestinians to head their Olympic committee.  In many ways, this is almost as bad as the farcical decision to award PLO Terrorist Yasser Arafat with the Nobel Peace Prize some years ago.

The International Olympic Committee, and the Olympic Committee of Israel, have refrained from taking any action against Rajoub, given the importance of the Arab vote on the IOC. But bereaved families, the terrorist victims advocacy organization Almagor, and the Palestinian Media Watch organization, which has for years documented and translated Rajoub's statements in the Palestinian press, are finding it hard to stand by quietly in the face of such absurdity.  How can it be that the man who openly supports terrorism and this year congratulated murderous terrorists on Palestinian television broadcasts – and this is the same man who swore only a few years ago that if the Palestinians ever had a nuclear weapon, they would use it immediately against Israel – how is it he can today walk around in a suit and tie during the Olympics, smiling at cocktail receptions during this sporting event that symbolizes unity among nations and bridges to peace?  Surely this must be a sick joke?

The harrowing terrorist information on Rajoub, which researchers from Palestinian Media Watch have spent the last few weeks compiling, was recently placed before Israeli decision-makers. The unprecedented decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) under its German head, Thomas Bach, to hold the first memorial ceremony for the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Arab Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Games in 1972 stands in contrast to the IOC's refusal to do a thing about Rajoub. 

Now of course, the IOC generally does not interfere in politics, even when it uses them for its own purposes. Some well-known historical examples of that include the Berlin Olympics in 1936, which were opened by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler; and on the other end of the spectrum, during the Cold War, the decisions by the U.S. to boycott the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow and by the former USSR to boycott the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.  However, to appoint a renowned terrorist onto an Olympic committee is simply not acceptable, not only for the reason he is a terrorist, but also due to the fact that he is not representing a country – as there is no country called Palestine – rather a political-national entity, and he is a classic example of how ‘politics’ – if I can use that word loosely - can influence sports.

Rajoub was of course once sentenced to life in prison, but was released under the Jibril deal in 1985. He participated in the First Intifada (Arab Palestinian uprising), was deported to Lebanon in 1992, and returned to Israel in 1994, after the Oslo Accords were signed. Over the past few years, he has once again been backing terrorism, or "martyrdom," as he calls it. The Arab bloc on the IOC, comprising 46 Muslim countries, gives him a political screen. Rajoub, 63, is effectively unimpeachable. His roles as chairman of the ‘Palestinian’ Olympic Committee and the ‘Palestinian’ Football Association have raised his status. In the past, he threatened to keep Israel out of the Olympics, but his efforts were stopped.

So why haven’t Israel done more to have Rajoub banned?  Well, Israel is convinced that any attack on Rajoub could cause immediate harm to the status of Israeli athletes in the Olympic Games and other athletic bodies, too, such as FIFA, the international football federation.  Rajoub, who also serves as undersecretary for Fatah, marked his path in the latest terrorism wave very clearly on the day Israel released the bodies of 17 Palestinian terrorists for burial. The head of the POC noted that the terrorists' actions had been a source of “pride for us all…acts of heroism by individuals, a crown of glory on the heads of the Palestinians.”  The terrorist attacks, Rajoub clarified on the official PLO television station, are “acts of heroism by individuals and I am proud of them. I congratulate everyone who carried them out.”  Rajoub, who worked alongside PLO founder Yasser Arafat in Tunisia, has continually sponsored athletic events in the memory of terrorist killers, such as the "Martyr Dalal Mughrabi Tournament." Mughrabi led a terrorist attack on an Israeli bus in 1978, in which 37 civilians, including 12 children, were killed.   

Needless to say, with the backing of terrorist leaders comes deception in various other areas.  Take for example the Arab ‘Palestinian’ swimmer selected to compete in the Rio Olympics who told the world that she was unable to train properly since there were no Olympic-size pools in the Palestinian territories and the Israeli “occupation” had cut off her access to such facilities.  In fact, as Tablet Magazine points out, this was an outright lie as the Palestinian territories boast several Olympic-size pools. There’s even one in Gaza, built “with some of the leftover cement Hamas could spare after squandering billions on its terror tunnels,” the Tablet Magazine report said. Another exists in the so-called ‘West Bank’ town of Nablus. And there’s even an Olympic-size pool in Beit Sakhour, the very town that the athlete, Mary al-Atrash, hails from.  Furthermore, the report pointed out that had the 22-year-old al-Atrash applied for a permit to train in Israeli pools, her request would have likely been granted. Last month, the Israeli government office for coordinating activities in the ‘West Bank’, or COGAT, issued a statement on its Facebook page saying that al-Atrash had refused to apply for such a permit but wished her the best of luck anyway. The full report by the Tablet Magazine can be read here.

Gaza… who holds the keys?  A few years ago, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron went on record to state that “Gaza was a prison camp”.  Speaking with a friend regarding this last week, I was stirred by my friend’s comment stating, “Yes, Gaza is a prison camp, but who is holding the keys?”  His meaning was clear: It is Hamas who have control on the people of Gaza and it is they, with their tyranny and terrorist actions that hold any unfortunate Arabs within Gaza to poor lifestyles.  It is Hamas who hold the keys. 

However, in the Western Media, the British public (and indeed all in the Western World) are continually given either biased reports against Israel, or ill-informed information regarding Gaza.  In the UK, the BBC and ITV News appear to want to paint a dark picture regarding the people of Gaza.  Take for example a recent report from ITV News reporter Rageh Omaar.  Two years after the last Gaza war, Omaar reported on how hard life was, showing a video report of one Arab Palestinian woman bemoaning her tragic circumstances.  Actually, had he interviewed the many homeless women on the streets of London, I’m sure the outcome would have been similar.  Yet because this is Gaza, the report made one feel angry that Israel could have caused such devastation.  After all, on August 1, 2014, ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar reported from Gaza stating, “Gaza district's destruction 'almost post-apocalyptic'.”  But two questions need to be asked, and actually should have been addressed by any balanced media correspondent. 

The first question to be asked should have been, “Who is really to blame, Israel or Hamas?”  I believe the following report by IDF Maj. Gen. Mordechai might have been helpful. Major General Mordechai spoke in a video to the people of Gaza and stated, “I want to speak to you today about the terror organisation Hamas, which has been stealing your money to advance their terror agenda … This money was intended for construction projects, financial aid, and even food donations for Gazans in need. Hamas stole this money and passed it to its military wing to build bases, provide salary bonuses, and dig the tunnels of death that have brought destruction upon you and the Gaza Strip.”  Mordechai also clearly laid part of the blame at the feet of charities such as World Vision, who have been accused for giving funds to Hamas.  You can watch his interview here.

The second question to be asked relates to Gaza itself.  Is Gaza really as bad as the Western Media want its viewers to believe?  Well, I’ll leave you to decide.  This is a video of Gaza today that was filmed by Hamas! The title says "Thank you Hamas" previewing Hamas’ achievements in the last few years (with thanks to my friend Elias for the translation)

Palestine deleted from the map - Internet giant Google under fierce attack   I had to smile when I read this next and final section for this week’s report.  Normally, it would be me, or some other Israel supporting organisation, who would be complaining regarding Palestinian groups removing Israel off the map of the Middle East.  But this time the tables have been turned as Internet giant Google have come under fierce attacks from around the world, after replacing the name of Palestine on its maps application with Israel.  The Palestinian Journalists Front (PJF) slammed Google for the move, stating that the removal of Palestine’s name from the maps was an attempt by the “Israeli scheme to establish its name as a legitimate state for generations to come while obliterating Palestine forever.”  The facts are of course that there is no official Country or State called ‘Palestine’ and there never has been.  Yet this didn’t stop PJF claiming the move was part of an effort to “distort history and geography as well as the Palestinian people’s right to their homeland,” and “a failed attempt to tamper with the memory of Palestinians and Arabs.” 

A search for “Palestine” in Google Maps does yield a proper reference to the entity, but with a blank map of Israel, with the areas of Gaza, Judea and Samaria marked with a broken borderline but not mentioned by name.  Click here to view:,35.414449,7.77z

David Soakell  

(CFI Church Liaison Officer (UK) & WoZ News Report Correspondent)  Tweet me @David_CFI

Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Christian Friends of Israel UK & Jerusalem, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, & Israel National Radio