Commentary: What we should know about the current conflict in Israel and how to help


I was born into a religious Jewish home. I remember the day the Yom Kippur War broke out in October of 1973. I was 13. As our synagogue got the news of the attack, I vividly remember running out to my parents 1968 Buick Skylark to turn on the radio with my 10-year-old brother to listen to the reports of the attack. Six years later, I met Jesus while a student at the University of North Carolina, was called into ministry, and have spent the last 40 years helping my Jewish people hear the message of Jesus and the church understand the Jewish roots of our faith.

The conflict we are witnessing today in Israel and the Middle East is not only a modern conflict, but an ancient conflict rooted in biblical history. It began with the birth of the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. It has continued throughout history and will culminate with the return of our Messiah (Zechariah 12-14). Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of the Lord. There will not be peace in Israel, Jerusalem, or in the Middle East for that matter, until Jesus returns to establish His kingdom. Yet, as we wait and pray for that day, we will experience the pain of labor and the contractions of conflict. Today we are experiencing a major contraction.

Because of the brutal, horrific, evil, and tragic attack on Israel by Hamas of Saturday morning, life was changed in an instant for Israelis and Jewish people around the world. We were to leave on that day to spend a month in Israel and lead two tours. Of course, that was cancelled. In Israel there are families who have lost friends and relatives. Our tour operator has children who are social workers. They were called to help evacuees from the Gaza attack that had to be taken to hotels at the Dead Sea. One of our guides was called to active duty leaving behind his wife and 4 children.

People are traumatized. They are afraid. Hostages have been taken. Israel has to make decisions that have enormous geopolitical ramifications.

We have spent extensive time communicating with those we love in Israel. Friends are sheltering in place. Friends, and children of friends, are being called into active duty. Missionaries are having to leave home to fight in the Israeli Defense Force. Husbands are leaving their families to fight. Wives and children are terrified. They are all shell shocked, grieving, and processing the tragic events of the last two days.

We have to do something to help those in need, the families who are being split apart, and those who are losing income. This war has brought about massive casualty, destruction, and trauma. The mental and emotional toll is one thing. The economic toll is another. We are going to help. I informed our tour guides that we would ensure that the income expected from our cancelled tour will be sent to them.

To that end we are establishing an Emergency Israel Aid Fund. All donations received for this purpose will go towards humanitarian aid in Israel needed as a result of the ongoing war. We will make sure that families in Israel who are losing income and traumatized by the war will get needed financial support. We are going to make sure that our tour guides, operator, and ministry families being affected will get something to help them out. They need our help.

Here are some specific prayer requests:

Pray for the safety of the hostages and for their rescue and release.

Pray for all of the victims of these horrific attacks, for their healing, and for the families.

Pray for the Israeli Defense Forces called to the front lines, for their children and families remains strong as they retaliate.

Pray that international support for Israel to remain strong as they retaliate against Hamas.

Pray for the government of Israel to have wisdom and regroup well.

Pray for the tour groups there now to be protected and return home safely.

Pray for all ministry workers and their families in Israel to be protected.

Pray for the gospel to be strongly proclaimed during this difficult time.

Please pray for our ministry staff. We are in need of strength and encouragement.

The church must respond, not only through prayer and support for humanitarian aid, but through education. Please do not forget that “…salvation has come to the gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy” Romans 11:11.

My Jewish people need Jesus. Their enemies do as well. We have the opportunity now to take the Prince of Peace to the Middle East. We have an opportunity to share Jesus with Jewish people and our Muslim friends as well. We know of many in Israel now who are doing just that. We also have local Georgia churches reaching out to us for understanding. There are churches pivoting as they did during 9/11 to have services of worship and prayer for Israel and the Middle East. Their members are asking questions. We are here to help you and your church.

May the Lord God of Israel bring peace in the midst of this horribly tragic situation. May the Lord God of Israel make himself know to those who do not yet know him. May he bring comfort to the grieving and hope to the hopeless. Most importantly, may Jesus make himself known and be glorified in all of this.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Murray Tilles is the founder and executive director of Light of Messiah Ministries in Roswell, Ga., and a member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta.