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2018 in Focus

Yael Eckstein at Western Wall

December 27, 2018

Every Friday, like most Israelis, I pick up flowers in honor of the Sabbath and place them on our dining room table. Throughout Shabbat, the flowers remind us that this day is different than all the others, that it is special and beautiful.

Last Friday, my daughter decided to tag along with me on my Friday morning errands. Together, we chose which fruit we would buy in honor of Shabbat, which “Shabbat treat” the kids would enjoy, and also, which flowers to buy.

As we approached the flowers that were for sale, my daughter immediately walked over to the red roses and said, “These – I want us to get these for Shabbat!” I noticed that the stems of these roses were covered in sharp, ugly thorns, so I told my daughter to pick something else instead. But she insisted. “Ima, who cares about the thorns? The flower is so beautiful!”

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the New Year and past year. I was feeling a bit down because of all of the bad stuff that happened in 2018. Israel was bombarded with 500 rockets in one day. Southern Israel is charred and burnt from the incendiary balloons that Hamas terrorists in Gaza launched at Israel regularly. In Northern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces have located 4 underground tunnels dug by Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon for the purpose of infiltrating Israel – and they believe there are more tunnels yet to be found.

We lost precious people in stabbing, gun, and ramming attacks around Israel. We witnessed a huge jump in anti-Semitism around the world, the highest levels since WWII! We were shocked by the worst terror attack on Jews in America ever when a shooter killed 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

There is plenty to be concerned about going into 2019. But my daughter’s comment reminded me that I was focused on the wrong thing – on all the thorns instead of the flowers.

Overall, the Jewish people are in a much better position than we have been in the last 2,000 years.

Unlike any other time Jews experienced anti-Semitism, today there is a Jewish State. When Jews were threatened in Yemen, Israel recued them and brought them to our homeland. Ethiopian Jews suffering from harsh conditions and poverty were saved and brought to Israel. Jews from France and all around Europe who are fleeing from anti-Semitism can find refuge in Israel.

What a gift! What a miracle! We have so much to be happy about!

So now, when I look back at this past year, I acknowledge the hard things and I pray about them – but I don’t make that my focus. Instead I think about all of the beautiful things that have happened this year and that gives me hope for next year.

I think about greeting a plane of Ukrainian Jews that The Fellowship brought to Israel on one of our Freedom Flights. I think about the Jews that we were able to sneak out of dangerous Arab countries and bring safely to Israel. I think about the hundreds of bomb shelters that we built for the residents of Israel’s south, telling them that Christians love them and that they are not alone. I think about the Holocaust survivor who I brought a warm blanket to and how grateful she was that someone thought of her. And I think about the churches I spoke in this year who stand strongly with Israel, and are committed to fighting evil in this world.

In 2018, The Fellowship assisted 1.5 million people! That is what I choose to focus on.

Whatever we focus on grows stronger. So my prayer for 2019 is that we all choose to focus on the good things. We can choose to focus on the beauty instead of the difficulties, to focus on the rose instead of the thorns. We can shine a spotlight on all the good in the world and, with God’s help, that goodness will grow.

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