This Purim, the lessons from the story of Esther about the Jewish people’s deliverance couldn’t be more appropriate at a time when once again the Jewish nation is fighting for its survival.

There is only one letter difference in the spelling of Haman and Hamas. Their motives are the same. Like Haman, Hamas wants to destroy the Jewish people. Simply put, that is why they are also against a Jewish state in the Middle East. But also like Haman, Hamas will ultimately not succeed. The world saw Hamas’s open attempt to annihilate Israel, when they rounded up thousands of Jews in southern Israel on 7th October, massacring 1,200 innocent Jewish lives and taking more than 200 hostages. Yet incredibly, almost six months later, many voices around the world are condemning Israel for its self-defence and efforts to bring their kindred home.

This week, Jewish people around the world united in reciting the Shema prayer in what organisers hoped would be the largest recitation in the history of the Jewish people. Thousands around the world joined in the live broadcast, together with hundreds that had gathered at the Western Wall (Kotel), to read the Psalms and to pray for the hostages’ safe return during Fast of Esther. The prayers that were said are normally reserved for the High Holidays. But this was no ordinary gathering.

“The Fast of Esther is a day when fates can change,” Gina Zohar, whose nephew Omer Neutra is being held hostage, told Israeli media. “We feel that everyone is gathering together with us with the important goal of returning the children home with God’s help, on this day, in this apt place, at our Kotel.”

“Today I feel that there is a big change,” said Varda Ben Baruch, whose grandson Idan Alexander is being held hostage. “There’s something in the air. I feel that there will be a big change starting now and continuing forward. The prayer ‘shema yisrael’ — every Jew reads the ‘Shema.’ It’s a universal thing; it’s not just us here at the Kotel. It’s everywhere in the world.”

In the account of Esther, the young queen fasted for three days prior to approaching the king after her uncle Mordecai revealed to her Haman’s plot to wipe out every Jew in the Persian kingdom. Esther 4:16 says that Esther also asked those close to her (her maidens) and every Jew in the city to join her in prayer and fasting. Mordecai challenged her that she would have no better chance of survival than any other Jew in the kingdom. Haman’s planned massacre would be indiscriminate.

But Mordecai did more than just inform Esther of the plot. Understanding the motives of the Jews’ enemy, he came alongside Esther and encouraged her to fulfil her God-ordained destiny.

Esther 3:13-14 says, “And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews.  For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

In these difficult days that we are experiencing, it is no coincidence that God has placed you in this world at this time. Has God called you into the kingdom  “for such a time as this”?

Our answer to this question should be a confident ‘YES!’ As Christians who stand with Israel and the Jewish people, we have chosen not to be silent. We have understood the motives demonstrated by Israel’s enemies; we have seen the threat, and we have heeded the warning. Our role is to be an encouragement and a comforter to the Jewish people, but we are also prepared to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the face of Jewish persecution. We have chosen not to be like many in the world who have either turned a blind-eye to Hamas’s evil, or decided to assert condemnation on the Jewish people instead. 

This Purim, let us renew our conviction to encourage the Jewish people and to pray for Israel, for Jews worldwide and for the release of the hostages.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, “Peace be within you.” Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek your good.
Psalm 122:6-9