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When a year ends and the New Year begins, it is worth noting what is happening in the Holy Land. After the numerous wars and intifadas Israel can include another conflagration in the history books: "The war for our own possessions" with a "fire intifada"! ...God is speaking to all of us through disasters, to call us to repent and return to Him. 
Abimelek son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, ‘Ask all the citizens of Shechem, “Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?” Remember, I am your flesh and blood.’ When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelek, for they said, ‘He is related to us.’ They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelek used it to hire reckless scoundrels, who became his followers. He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelek king.
When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, ‘Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, “Be our king.” ‘But the olive tree answered, “Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honoured, to hold sway over the trees?”
‘Next, the trees said to the fig-tree, “Come and be our king.” ‘But the fig-tree replied, “Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?” ‘Then the trees said to the vine, “Come and be our king.” ‘But the vine answered, “Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?”
‘Finally all the trees said to the thorn-bush, “Come and be our king.” ‘The thorn-bush said to the trees, “If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thorn-bush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!”
‘Have you acted honourably and in good faith by making Abimelek king? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you treated him as he deserves? Remember that my father fought for you and risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian. But today you have revolted against my father’s family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made Abimelek, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you. So have you acted honourably and in good faith towards Jerub-Baal and his family today? If you have, may Abimelek be your joy, and may you be his, too! But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelek and consume you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelek!’ Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelek.           JUDGES 9:1-21.
The passage quoted above from the Book of Judges contains the parable of the trees; the importance of whom you should elect as your leader. Biblical prophets used trees to represent leaders or nations. In this context, Gideon is the so called Jerub-Baal, and Abimelek his son by a Shechemite concubine. In his lifetime, Gideon refused to establish a dynasty in Israel and did not wish his sons to rule the people. After his father’s death, however, Abimelek moved to Shechem (the northern West Bank, today) to start his campaign against his half-brothers. Since the day of Israel’s patriarchs, both Israelites and Canaanites lived together in Schechem, and Abimelek must have considered himself as a representative of both nations.

Abimelek slaughtered sixty nine of his brothers (apart from Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon) and broke the first two commandments by accepting public money from Baal worshipers to finance his revolution, making himself a king, and defiling a historically sacred place in Shechem. He also broke the third and the ninth Commandments through deception and blasphemy, making empty promises to protect his people and to obey the law at his coronation. His selfish ambition and agenda made Abimelek go from one crime to another.

Jotham probably stood on the side of Gerizim as he spoke out the parable of the trees, where a natural pulpit might have been formed so that his voice could be heard as far as Mt. Ebal across the narrow valley. Interestingly Mt. Gerizim was the place where the blessings were to be read according to the Law, while Mt. Ebal was where cursed were to be read as written in Deuteronomy 27: 12-13, although Jotham’s speech was far from pronouncing blessings. In his parable, each tree of olive, fig and vine refused the honour because each would have to sacrifice something to reign and none of them was prepared to make that sacrifice. It was only the thorn-bush, a most useless and worthless plant in the Middle East which bore no fruit, and did not provide any shade that willingly accepted the offer to reign even with a threat of utter surrender. As some passages in the Scripture show, fires would break out in the thorn-bush and threaten the safety of other trees: 
‘But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns, which are not gathered with the hand. Whoever touches thorns uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear; they are burned up where they lie’ (2Sa.23:6-7), ‘Surely wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns, it sets the forest thickets ablaze, so that it rolls upwards in a column of smoke. By the wrath of the LORD Almighty the land will be scorched and the people will be fuel for the fire; they will not spare one another’ (Is.9:18-19) and ‘The Light of Israel will become a fire,  their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers’ (Is.10:17).
These passages also suggest that thorns could not be used for construction and were only good as fuel for the fire. In Jotham’s parable, it was a symbol of Abimelek. Jotham appealed to the men of Shechem to consider their folly in having chosen to make Abimelech king. He made a prophetic statement that the thorn king would be unable to protect the people and on the contrary, would draw the Lord’s judgment and destroy all those who trusted in him. This prophecy literally came true in verses 56-57, when Abimelek and his followers destroyed one another: 
‘Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelek had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the people of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them’. 
Although God did not promptly intervene in the situation to help Jotham, He eventually and seriously avenged the wickedness of Abimelek who had shed so much innocent blood.

Turning our attention to the present Israel, the country has been experiencing dry winters in the last eight years, with another warning of a major drought in November ’16. The Jordan River is the primary water source for the Sea of Galilee, which is in turn Israel’s primary fresh water reservoir, but the water pressure was reported to be lower than it had been in the past 90 years, or since such measurements began. Due to a lack of rainfall in recent years, not only have the Jordan’s tributaries been left dry but also the southern portion of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. The seriousness of the present situation is demonstrated in the fact that the water level of the country’s main reservoirs are falling every year, and while Israel’s desalination plants have increasingly supplied the national demand for water, they are not an alternative to the necessity of rainfall.

It was in the context of such a desperate climate situation that forest fires raged across Israel for five consecutive days, starting with the first arson on the 22nd of November. This incident reminded me of the passages quoted at the beginning from Judges Chapter 9.

BreakingIsraelNews issued on 26th puts it: 
Fires, many of them arson set by Palestinian terrorists, raged across Israel for the fifth straight day, shutting down the Jerusalem Tel-Aviv Highway on Saturday, and burning over 32,000 acres of forest all across the country. The damage so far is approximately 30 percent worse than the Carmel Forest fire of 2010. The area affected includes the Judean Hills national park and the Kfir natural reserve. …“And call ye on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Hashem; and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.’ And all the people answered and said: ‘It is well spoken.’” I Kings 18:24 (The Israel Bible™)  On Friday night, arsonists set fires in three separate locations in the town of Neve Ysuf in Samaria. All 350 families were evacuated. 15 homes were completely destroyed and 25 others were damaged. Four people were injured in the blaze. Also on Friday night, arsonists set fire to Bet Meir outside of Jerusalem. The residents were evacuated. Several arsonists were seen fleeing the scene, and one suspect was arrested. …A fire was also reported near Harashim in the Galilee. …Fire-fighting planes arrived in Israel from Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Turkey and Russia. 69 fire-fighters arrived from Cyprus on Saturday to help fight the fires. Eight firetrucks and 40 firemen from the Palestinian Authority joined in the effort. Jordan is sending firetrucks to Israel, and Egypt is sending two firefighting helicopters. A Boeing 747 converted for use in firefighting, nicknamed the Supertanker, arrived in Israel Friday night after a 14 hour flight from Nevada. It is the largest aerial firefighting aircraft in the world and is capable of carrying up to 19,600 gallons of retardant or water. Contracted from the company Global Super tanker, it is the only firefighting aircraft capable of operating at night. ( reported on 27th that 180 were injured and 560 homes were burnt after 5 days of raging fires, and as swathes of the country were still smouldering, security forces began making arrests against a number of individuals suspected of deliberately starting the fires in an act of terror, along with those caught on social media networks inciting readers to arson. Also, during a press conference held on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself was reported to have warned that the population could be witnessing a new phenomenon of terror.  

It is worth noting that BreakingIsraelNews quoted above connects the disaster by fire in the land of Israel to “God who answers by fire”, by quoting 1Ki. 18:24. The following article entitled ‘A Tree of Life’, issued on 28th Nov. also connects the disaster to a biblical message:
"Wisdom is a tree of life to all who take hold of her; and blessed are they that hold her fast." (Proverbs 3:18) 
After the numerous wars and intifadas (Arab uprisings) Israel can include another conflagration in the history books: "The war for our own possessions" with a "fire intifada"! This is not new terror but rather just another way to fight Israel! Since last Tuesday, the 22nd of November when the first fire was intentionally set, the Israeli fire service and rearguard soldiers have fought the flames in numerous places like Haifa and the Jerusalem mountains. More than 500 homes and houses have been completely destroyed and in Haifa more than 60,000 people were evacuated at the height of the fires. 

Firefighting aircraft from all over the world helped to fight the fires. Israel's citizens have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder in support, among them Arab citizens, who opened their hearts and doors to fire victims. Approximately 3,000 acres of forests in Haifa and the Jerusalem hills have been destroyed. Now the houses have to be rebuilt and the forests have to be replanted. It will take years and, in some cases, even decades until nature regenerates itself. The coverage of this event has been very scant in the West. With Israel Today you will not miss out on what is happening in the Holy Land. 

Israel Today issued on 29th Nov. also informs us how serious the disaster was: 30 Years to Fully Recover From Israel Fires Israeli experts lamented that it could take as much as 30 years to fully recover from the wave of fires that ravaged the country over the past two weeks. While hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed by the flames (mostly in the Haifa and Jerusalem areas) huge tracts of forests, including entire nature reserves, were decimated. Current estimates are that well over 35,000 acres of forest were destroyed, and much of the wildlife living there was killed. “While some of the foxes and hyenas and other animals managed to flee the fires, others were not so lucky. Snakes and turtles for example, did not survive,” Uri Naveh, head of the Nature and Parks Authority Jerusalem District, told Israel’s Ynet news portal. (

The following article issued on 23rd December shows that God is always behind the scenes even in situations that seem out of control and it highlights the fact that no lives were lost and that torrential rain fell on a parched land suffering from scarcity of water. 
Hope rises from the Ashes The forest fires which devastated parts of Israel were contained by fire fighters and then finally doused by torrential rain. Now the task of rebuilding people's lives and homes has begun, as well as the environment. Thousands of trees need to be replaced. Give thanks that God has heard the call for rain and that no lives were lost. Give thanks too that so many nations came to the help of Israel, a just response for the many occasions when Israel has gone to the help of nations suffering natural disasters. Although the hot, dry weather started some fires and fanned the combustion, the authorities estimate that half the fires were due to arson. Pray that all the perpetrators will be caught and brought to justice. Israel made many improvements following the devastating fires in the Carmel region some years ago. Pray that they will learn the additional lessons from these recent fires. Israel still desperately needs rain. Pray that God will heed this call. "For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings." (Romans 15:27)
According to the Scripture, God is speaking to all of us through disasters, to call us to repent and return to Him. Otherwise judgment will soon fall out on the unregenerate.


This month, a money gift of £**** has been sent to Mary Jane in the Philippines to support her ministry of reaching out to minority tribes and to the impoverished children with the sustenance of livelihoods and the Word, including the personnel cost of labour for the engagement in organic vegetable gardens and in pig breeding and poultry farming. Also, surgical operation costs of the pastor hit by a traffic accident, and her hospitalization and treatment costs are included. She has been discharged from hospital and undergoes rehabilitation.
This year, Mary Jane is thinking of her postponed outreach to remote islands, the Romblon and Capiz, which are notorious for witchcraft and many Filipino folklore evil spirits, and where the gospel has not been heard yet. 
Pray for her new plans and also for her ministry being continuously blessed by the Lord.