Prayer, the Russian War in Ukraine, and a Connection to the Holy Land

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As a nation which has been under threat for decades, our hearts as Israelis go out in great sympathy toward the millions of Ukrainians under rocket barrage and armed invasion. Many in the Israeli Messianic congregations actually immigrated to Israel from Ukraine and are watching what is unfolding with an even greater depth of personal pain.

We are too young to remember, but the world has seen a similar scene to this devastation in Ukraine before. A Russian war in southern Ukraine 170 odd years ago cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Let’s pray for a reprieve this time. Let’s pray for the Lord’s will to be done among the nations, and let’s pray for a great turning of distressed multitudes to Him, in humble repentance.

Previous conflict

Strangely enough, that previous conflict had a direct connection to the holy land. In 1853 war broke out between the Russian empire and the Ottoman empire (supported by the English, French, Sardinian and Austrians). The main battleground was in the Crimean Peninsula, in today’s contested southern Ukraine. The background that led to the war was the Muslim Ottoman Sultan’s weakened control over sea routes, which the Russians had conquered, and conflicting territorial demands. In addition, another direct cause was strife over control of the Christian sites in the Holy Land. The Muslim Ottomans oppressed the Orthodox Christians in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and in Bethlehem, which led to conflicts between Catholics and Orthodox.

The Russian Czar demanded the right to be involved in the Holy Land conflict, in order to protect the Orthodox Christians. He demanded the rights to ordain the head of the Orthodox church, just as the Catholics had received through their relationship with the French, and for the keys to the Church of the Nativity to be returned to the Orthodox church.

In Paris in 1856, the exhausting war ended with Russia suing for peace. Russia agreed to release the naval blockade on Bessarabia (today called Moldova) and gave up the religious demand to be guardian of the Orthodox churches. [Between 1877-1878 another war took place between Russia and the Ottomans, after which an agreement was formed creating the status quo of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is in place until this day.]

Fast forward over a century and a half… In 2014, Putin’s Russia invaded the same Crimean Peninsula by sea; and in February 2022 he attacked Ukraine, attempting to restore the land and people he claims belong to Russia.

Israel Connection

We must pay attention to where Israel stands in this situation. After Israel expressed public support of Ukraine at the outbreak of this present war, the Russian delegation to the U.N. posted in response a condemnation of Israel’s plans in the Golan. The Russian message said:

We are worried by Tel Aviv’s announced plans to expand settlement activity in the Golan Heights, which contradict the 1949 Geneva Convention. Russia does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights, which are part of Syria”.

In October 2021, Israel announced plans to build 7,000 houses in the Golan Heights.

The war between Russia and Ukraine could unfortunately have repercussions in Israel. Note that:

1) There are Russian armed forces stationed in Syria.

2) In their announcement, the Russians did not recognize Jerusalem, but rather Tel Aviv.

3) The Israeli parliament and main government buildings are built on land that belongs to the Orthodox Church, leased for 99 years since 1951.

4) Even one small problem in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher could create very sensitive reactions.

5) Russia has strong agreements with both Syria and Iran.

6) According to Russia, the Golan does not belong to Israel, but rather to Syria.

All this could lead to an end-times scenario.

In September 2018, a Syrian defensive missile accidentally shot down a Russian military plane with soldiers on board, after being aimed to hit an Israeli fighter plane, awakening much fury among the Russian army. Thanks to Putin’s relations with Netanyahu, the situation was calmed.

The current government in Israel has less rapport with Putin, leading to tensions with Russia which has formed close relations with Iran and the other northern powers. As it is written in Jeremiah 1 “From the north disaster will be poured out”.

This article originally appeared on Revive Israel – Tikkun Global, February 25, 2022, and reposted with permission.