The year of 2020 was a difficult one for Israel as it was for much of the world, but it wasn’t all bad. Peace deals, Jews making aliyah (immigrating) to Israel, and an increase in construction were just a few of the positives that happened last year in Israel.
So what exactly did 2020 look like for Judea and Samaria? Let’s take a quick look at major events in Israel, and specifically, Judea and Samaria, in 2020.
Perhaps the most notable and exciting events in 2020, were the peace deals made with Israel, brokered by the Trump administration, which saw countries that have been historically hostile to Israel, sign peace agreements and normalize relations with Israel. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan, all signed historic peace agreements with Israel in 2020, which has led to more peace, stability, and prosperity in the Middle East.
Recognition of Judea & Samaria
In 2019, the Trump administration made the welcome and long-awaited reversal of decades-long US policy in order to recognize the legality of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). In 2020, the United States took the momentous step of acting on this declaration by expanding scientific cooperation agreements with Israel that will include Judea and Samaria as well as the Golan Heights. This agreement marks the end of a US ban on taxpayer funding for research in Judea and Samaria. This is a remarkable step as the US no longer only recognizes Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria but has now taken explicit action towards this recognition. In November, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first top American diplomat to officially visit an Israeli settlement in Judea and Samaria. The visit was a significant departure from past US policy and marks a dramatic reversal of decades of American foreign policy, replaced by the "Pompeo doctrine" which affirms that Israeli settlements in the biblical land of Judea and Samaria do not violate international law.
2020 saw a continuation of the Trump administration's favorable policy towards Israel and the many milestone events recognizing the legality of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria and what should be uncontroversial—Jews living in Judea.
Construction in Judea and Samaria
Because of the Trump administration's favorable policies towards Israel, 2020 was also a record-breaking year for the construction of homes in Judea and Samaria. Peace Now, an anti-Israel organization which tracks building in the heartland, published a report showing that Israel has approved a record 12,159 buildings in Jewish settlements in 2020, the highest total since the organization began recording in 2012. The report goes on to say that during the Trump era, approvals of building in Judea and Samaria have spiked dramatically, along with settlement activity and expansion, which is just another step towards Israel finally applying sovereignty to these areas.
Unfortunately, the breakthroughs of 2020 have not come without struggles as those who hate the God of Israel rage against his people and oppose His work of restoration. Staff Sergeant Amit Ben Yigal, Rabbi Shai Ohayon, and Esther Horgan were all victims of terror attacks in 2020, a heartbreaking reminder of the battle that continues to rage over the Land of Israel.
O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads. They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against your treasured ones. They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!” Psalm 83:1-4
Esther Horgan, mother of six, murdered brutally in a terrorist attack last month
The effects of Covid-19
As it did nearly everywhere around the world, Covid-19 has disrupted normal life in Israel and caused difficult and pressing times for many. Israel closed its borders to tourists in March, disrupting a $6 billion a year industry. The lockdowns and restrictions have caused many small businesses to shut down and put many others out of work. We’ve seen the devastating effects of the coronavirus in Judea and Samaria first hand, as many of the small businesses we support have been hit hard by the pandemic. Akiva at Off the Wall in Jerusalem has had to close his shop because they no longer have visitors, for others, their usual customers in Israel aren’t putting in orders anymore, and events that they usually attend to sell their products no longer happen. Covid has been devastating to businesses around Israel.
Aliyah to Israel
Despite the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions on and difficulty of international travel, The Jewish Agency For Israel estimates that over 20,000 people immigrated to Israel from around the globe in 2020. These numbers are amazing considering the challenging state of the worldwide pandemic and the difficulty involved in getting into Israel in 2020.
2020 has been a rollercoaster year for everyone, breakthrough events along with devastating ones, made 2020 a year that no one will ever forget. As we move into this New Year (finally!) of 2021, let’s continue to stand with Israel and pray that the work of restoration we saw in Israel in 2020 will continue. There will, no doubt, be ups and downs like we saw last year, but we must hold onto God’s promises and look towards the future with hope and excitement for everything that God has in store and the place he has in that plan for each and every one of us!