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Biblical Israel: Avdat

By Marc Turnage

Located in the modern Negev Desert on the spur of a mountain ridge, overlooking the plain around the canyon of En Avdat (the “Spring of Avdat”), sits the ancient ruins of the Nabatean city of Avdat. Avdat sits along the ancient caravan routes that crossed the barren lands from Elat (ancient Aila) on the Gulf of Aqaba, and Petra, the Nabatean capital in the Transjordan, to the Mediterranean coast and the port city of Gaza. 

The Nabateans, a nomadic people, immigrated out of the Arabian Peninsula, and in the period of the New Testament, their kingdom stretched from southern Syria to the northern Hijaz in the Arabian Peninsula. Their capital was Petra, in the south of the modern Kingdom of Jordan. Although the land of their kingdom was vast, they had few urban centers. They controlled the trade and caravan routes through the Transjordan, including those that extended west to the Mediterranean coast. Their ability to travel through the dry desert regions, in part by using their caravansaries, like Avdat, enabled them to acquire a great degree of wealth. 

In the New Testament, Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist, was originally married to a Nabatean princess, the daughter of the Nabatean king Aretas IV. He divorced her in order to marry Herodias, the wife of his brother with whom he had an adulterous affair (Luke 3:19-20).

Avdat was originally settled at the end of the fourth or the beginning of the third century B.C. as a station on the caravan routes. By the end of the first century B.C. and into the first century A.D., Avdat had become a religious, military, and commercial center. Nabatean shrines were located at the site. 

The Roman annexation of the Nabatean kingdom into Provincia Arabia in A.D. 106 did not hurt Avdat. In fact, the second and third centuries A.D. saw the site flourish, as both agriculture and herding became part of the local economy. With the rise of Christianity in the fourth century A.D., two churches and a monastery were built on the site replacing the pagan shrines. Avdat relied upon the cultivation and production of a fine variety of grapes and wine during the Byzantine period. The site was abandoned in A.D. 636 with the Arab conquest. 

The earliest periods of settlement left little in terms of remains, especially a lack of architectural remains. Coins and imported pottery provide the main discoveries on the site from the fourth century B.C. to the early first century B.C. During the first century, public buildings were erected on the site including a shrine (temple) where the Nabatean pantheon were worshipped. 

Although not mentioned in the New Testament, Avdat and the Nabateans stood on the edge of the New Testament world. Herod the Great’s mother likely belonged to the Nabatean aristocracy, if not the royal family. We already mentioned the wife of Antipas. Throughout the first century, the Herodian lands came into conflict with Nabatean territory, which sets the backdrop for life in the region.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: Blessed With Daily Desires

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace. Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 144:12-15 NIV).

The Bible reflects the realities and desires of those who lived in its world and time. Here, the psalmist summarized the desires of the biblical person: sons and daughters, storehouses filled with all kinds of produce, flocks and cattle, and peace. He concluded the psalm stating that those who have such are blessed.

He equated those participating in such a blessing as those whose God is the Lord of Israel. In other words, God was the source of such blessing.

Within the Old Testament, God’s promises provided practical blessings: progeny, fruitful harvest and herds, long life, and peace. People in the Bible yearned for such an existence and saw God as the provider of such.

At the same time, God’s promises were tied to the obedience of the people. If they disobeyed His commandments, the consequences of their disobedience were the cutting off of their progeny, the heavens not giving rain—which meant distress on crops and herds—their lives being cut short, and absence of peace.

For this reason, the psalmist equated those who participate in such desired blessings as those whose God is the Lord. They obey God, who provides those things they desire and need. The biblical person saw God as intimately involved in his or her daily life. The sustenance and bounty of life came from God.

To participate in such blessings, they had to live in obedience to the Lord. Failure to do so meant consequences that impacted their daily lives as well.

As modern readers of the Bible, we often spiritualize things to such a degree that we fail to see God’s provision in our everyday, ordinary lives. We want spiritual ecstasy instead of seeing God as the source for the practical needs and desires of our life.

Can we find the blessing in His provision of our daily needs? The care of our families? “Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the LORD.”

PRAYER

Father, may we daily walk in obedience to You. May our greatest joy be in Your daily provisions of the things we need. Amen.

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Biblical Israel: Pool of Siloam

By Marc Turnage

Located on the southern part of the rock cliff that marks the hill of the City of David (in Jerusalem), near the southern end of the Tyropoean Valley sits the Pool of Siloam. The pool was accidentally discovered in 2004 by workmen laying a new sewage line in the southern part of the City of David. The Gihon Spring, Jerusalem’s primary water source, supplied water to the pool in antiquity via the so-called Hezekiah’s Tunnel. 

Archaeologists uncovered two flights of five narrow steps separated by a wide landing that descend into the pool. This enabled people to descend to different levels based upon the fluctuation of the water level due to either the rainy or dry seasons within the land of Israel. Although the archaeologists only uncovered one side of the steps of the pool, it seems that such an arrangement of steps surrounded the pool on four sides. The pool covered roughly an acre of land. Coins and pottery date the construction of the stepped pool to the mid first century B.C.

To the north of the pool, archaeologists uncovered a fine pavement of stones that resemble the first century street that runs to the west of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Discovery of column drums and column bases protruding from the pavement suggests that a colonnade ran along the pavement. 

The Pool of Siloam appears twice within the New Testament (Luke 13:4; and John 9:7). In John, Jesus instructed the blind man to wash the mud from his eyes in the pool to be healed. It served the water needs of ancient Jerusalem (along with other pools in the city), and it also served as the largest ritual immersion pool within the city. Jewish pilgrims, who needed to be ritually pure before entering the sacred precincts of the Temple (see Acts 21:26), could use the Pool of Siloam for ritual immersion. Its size and proximity to the Temple makes it a suitable location for the baptism of the three thousand who responded to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). 

Archaeologists have suggested that the holes found on the steps leading into the pool might have supported screens made of wood or mats to provide privacy for those ritually immersing in the pool. Jewish ritual immersion, like what we find in the New Testament, required privacy as the person immersing did so in the nude, nothing can come between the bather and the water. 

During the first century, on the last night of the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), water was drawn from the Pool of Siloam and brought to the altar of the Temple and poured out as a libation. The festival occurs at the end of the summer (around October), and the water libation requested rains from God (see John 7:37). This ceremony, known as the Beth HaShoeva, occurred at night. Jewish sources describe how pilgrims lined the route from the pool to the Temple carrying torches.

The first century Pool of Siloam likely covers the same pool mentioned in Nehemiah (3:15). Then, at a later time, the pool was enlarged and constructed in the manner of a Jewish ritual immersion bath. 

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: The Lord Who Delivers

“And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me’” (Exodus 20:1-3 NKJV).

Why did God begin the Ten Commandments by stating, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”? Before He uttered one command or statute, He reminded the people of what He had done for them.

He brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery; therefore, He had the right to demand their loyalty and give them His commands.

God’s law began with a statement of what He already did for His people. Based upon that, they were called upon to obey His commands and live according to His ways. 

No other god saved the children of Israel. The Lord delivered them; therefore, they could not have any other gods in His place. He demanded their commitment and devotion.

God’s law is not punishment or harshness. Rather, it forms the covenant between Him and Israel and allows them to call Him their God. The covenant forms the essence of God’s relationship with Israel.

You may even say the covenant is God’s relationship with Israel. His covenant stood upon His act in delivering them from Egyptian slavery. In other words, His mercy in redeeming Israel laid the foundation for the covenant He gave them.

Seen in this light, God’s law with His people is the culmination of an act of love, for it established the covenantal relationship between God and Israel.

The redemption from Egypt freed the Israelites so that He could formulate the covenant with Israel. However, commitment and devotion stood at the heart of this relationship.

We often want relationship without any obligation whatsoever. Freedom without servanthood. Grace without law. But that’s not how it works in the Bible. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Relationship demands commitment and devotion. We are freed in order to live for God and to be a blessing to others.

PRAYER

Father, when we consider all that You have done for us, may we commit to living our lives for You and being a blessing to the world around us.

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Biblical Israel: Shiloh

By Marc Turnage

Shiloh served as the place where the Israelites erected the Tabernacle and placed the Ark of the Covenant after they conquered the land (Joshua 18:1). It became a place for religious pilgrimage and the celebration of festivals (Judges 21:19; 1 Samuel 1:3). The parents of Samuel, Hannah and Elkana, came to Shiloh and encountered the priest Eli, who delivered God’s promise to Hannah’s prayer that she would give birth to a son (1 Samuel 1). Then, when Samuel came of age, she brought him to serve the Lord and Eli at Shiloh, and, at Shiloh, God revealed himself to Samuel (1 Samuel 3:21). 

News of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines reached Eli in Shiloh, as well as the death of his sons, Hophni and Phineas (1 Samuel 4). Shiloh apparently suffered a destruction, not mentioned directly in the Bible, prior to the period of David and Solomon because, when the Ark returns to Israel (1 Samuel 6), the people did not return it to Shiloh, and the prophet Jeremiah mentions its destruction in his oracle against Jerusalem and the Temple: “Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel…therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh” (7:12, 14; 26:6, 9).

Shiloh sits about twenty-five miles north of Jerusalem. The book of Judges provides a clear description of its location: “north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah” (Judges 21:19). Shiloh, then, sat on the primary north-south roadway that ran through the central hill country. Other well-known biblical towns and villages also resided along this roadway, Hebron, Bethlehem, Gibeah, Ramah, Mizpah, Bethel, Shiloh, and Shechem. Jerusalem sits just to the east of this road. 

Excavations of the site of Shiloh revealed a destruction layer caused by a fierce fire in the eleventh century B.C., which coincides with the period of the priesthood of Eli, Samuel, and the capture of the Ark. The destruction of Shiloh likely coincided with the Philistine victory against the Israelites, which resulted in the Ark’s capture. Excavations also attest in this period that Shiloh served as a religious and economic center. 

The Tabernacle and Ark remained at Shiloh for a long period of time prior to the city’s destruction. Although a small settlement appears in the latter part of the monarchy, it never had the importance that it previously had. In Jeremiah’s oracle, it became an object lesson for those who thought the mere presence of God’s dwelling place insulated the people from his judgement and destruction. What mattered to Him was obedience; if you don’t believe Him, just go and look at Shiloh.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: Forgive As You Have Been Forgiven

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15 NASB).

Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 NIV). Because, in Christ, we have been forgiven everything, God asks us to extend that same measure of forgiveness to others.

Elsewhere Jesus taught, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7 NASB). The degree to which I receive mercy is correlated to the mercy I show others. He communicated a similar message about judging: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2 NASB). In other words, I will be judged in the same way I judge others. 

Jesus understood that forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a choice. And it is a choice we are capable of making now, wherever we are. If we desire to receive mercy and forgiveness, then, according to Jesus, we must choose to show mercy and forgiveness to others. We are to forgive those who have wronged us; others who don’t agree with us or act like us; or others who have hurt us. 

This is where Jesus’ message challenges us in very practical ways, just as it did His original audience. He understood that people have the propensity to treat others horribly, without mercy or forgiveness. Yet, it is because we have peace with God, that we should work to have peace with others. The Bible tells us that the love of Christ has been shed abroad in our hearts. We have an ample supply of love and forgiveness to share with those around us.

This is a profound thought with incredible implications. Think how different our world would look if we all lived by the principle that since we have received unending mercy and forgiveness, we must also show mercy and forgiveness to others. It would transform our world, our communities, our neighborhoods, and our families.

PRAYER

Father, let us share the forgiveness you have given us with others. Amen.

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Biblical Israel: Megiddo

By Marc Turnage

Situated in the western Jezreel Valley at the foot of the lowlands of Mount Carmel stands the ancient mound of Megiddo. It overlooks where Nahal Iron crosses through the Carmel lowlands, which provided passage for one of the branches of the most important highway in the Ancient Near East, a highway that connected Egypt via Israel’s coastline, through the Jezreel Valley, onto Damascus and Mesopotamia. Megiddo’s importance stemmed from its location guarding this most import roadway. 

Archaeological excavations have revealed twenty layers of civilization beginning in the Neolithic period until the fourth century B.C. Its strategic significance made it the stage for battles through much of its history, with Pharoah Thutmoses III in 1468 B.C., Pharoah Merneptah in 1220 B.C., Pharoah Shishak in 924 B.C., and the battle in which Josiah, king of Judah, died at the hands of the forces of Pharoah Neco in 609 B.C. (2 Kings 23:29-30). 

Megiddo’s strategic importance made it the object of Israelite conquest when the Israelites entered the land (Joshua 12:21). By the “waters of Megiddo,” the forces of Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanite forces of the king of Hazor (Judges 5:19). Megiddo fell within the territorial allotment of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11), but the Manassites could not take possession of Megiddo. It remained under the control of the local Canaanites (Joshua 17:12; Judges 1:27). 

During the United Monarchy, Solomon is said to have fortified Megiddo, along with Gezer and Hazor (1 Kings 9:15)—all three cities provided overwatch of the international coastal highway running from Egypt to Damascus and Mesopotamia. The final mention of Megiddo within the Bible is the death of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-24). Within the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., Megiddo became an administrative city of the Assyrians, but its settlement steadily declined until it was abandoned in the fourth century B.C., most likely due to Alexander the Great’s conquest of the land. 

Visitors to the site today can visit two multi-chambered gate complexes from the Bronze and Iron Ages. Two separate palace and administrative complexes have been excavated, as well as an area that contained several cultic places of worship from different time periods. The site contains the remains of horse stables, stone mangers, and an exercise corral for the horses. Kings of Israel stationed horse and chariot forces, which were the tank corps of the ancient world, at Megiddo due to its strategic location. 

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the site that has been excavated is the water system. Ancient sites, especially administrative centers like Megiddo, had to provide the water needs for the city in times of peace and war. Most ancient sites sat on hills to offer the protection of elevation from an attacking army. Springs, however, usually do not sit on hills; they are found at their base. At Megiddo, the spring sits at the bottom of the west side of the mound. To bring the water into the city, the engineers cut a square shaft through the earth within the city’s fortified walls that connected to a long horizontal tunnel (80 meters long) that had been dug to the source of the spring. This tunnel brought the water to the area where the shaft had been dug, and the shaft enabled the people in the city to descend and draw water. 

A final word should be made regarding the well-known idea that the ancient site of Megiddo had some connection with John’s mention of Armageddon in Revelation (16:13-14, 16). The usual explanation, Armageddon represents the Hebrew meaning the “mountain of Megiddo.” People will speak about the Valley of Armageddon, yet the Bible never mentions a Valley of Armageddon. This is a modern fiction, which appears for the first time in the nineteenth century. 

No ancient Church father or Christian source ever connected Armageddon with Megiddo. Moreover, as we noted, Megiddo ceased to be inhabited in the fourth century B.C. The location of the site was forgotten. The first century Jewish historian Josephus did not know of it. In fact, he relocated the death of Josiah to a town he knew on the border between Egypt and the land of Israel. The fourth century Church father, Eusebius, did not know its location, nor did he connect Megiddo with Armageddon. No one, then, knew in the first century, when John wrote Revelation, where Megiddo was. 

Finally, while Megiddo sits on a hill created by layers of civilization, it cannot be described as a mountain. Hebrew has a word for “hill,” a word that accounts for the names of places like Gibeah, Geva, and Gibeon. Megiddo is a hill, and not a mountain. Time does not permit a full explanation for what stands behind John’s Armageddon, but suffice to say, he expected the gathering point for the armies of wickedness to fight against God to be Jerusalem (Revelation 11:1-2; 14:20; and 20:9), the mountain of assembly.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: Seeking God

“He sought God throughout the lifetime of Zechariah, the teacher of the fear of God. During the time that he sought the Lord, God gave him success” (2 Chronicles 26:5 HCSB).

These words describe the early days of the reign of King Uzziah of Judah. He started out his reign by seeking God and fearing Him, but unfortunately, he did not continue on that path.

Eventually, the Lord struck Uzziah with leprosy, which he had until the day he died. The end of his life was a tragic disappointment from its promising beginning. His initial path, however, is instructional for us in several ways.

First, the Chronicler makes clear that seeking God means fearing (or revering) Him. How does one fear the Lord? “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name” (Deuteronomy 6:13 NKJV). One fears the Lord by serving Him, i.e., obeying Him. Within the Bible, then, one seeks the Lord by obeying Him. King Uzziah began his reign in this manner.

Second, “during the time that he sought the LORD, God gave him success.” If we make our principal priority seeking God, then He takes care of us and prospers us. Seeking Him, however, is not about pursuing a heightened emotional or charismatic experience. Seeking Him means obeying His words and doing what He has commanded.

Too often we identify “seeking God” as an emotional feeling. The Bible never identifies those actions as emotions; rather, we show them through our obedience to God.

Finally, King Uzziah serves as a warning to each of us. We can start out well—by seeking the Lord and experiencing the prosperity that He brings—but then we drift away from pursuing Him first. We begin to buy into ourselves too much, and we become disobedient. When that happens, we have ceased seeking God, no matter what we tell ourselves.

Do you seek the Lord each day and walk in a healthy fear of Him? Is seeking God your primary purpose? If so, you’ve set yourself on the right course.

PRAYER

Father, may we seek You daily with our whole hearts, striving to obey Your word in everything we do and say. Amen.

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Yom HaAtzma’ut: Israel’s Independence Day

By Julie Stahl

Yom HaAtzma’ut is Israel’s national Independence Day, and this year marks the 76th anniversary of the modern Jewish State!

“Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children” (Isaiah 66:8 NIV).

On May 14, 1948, just before the Sabbath, some 350 guests crammed into an un-air-conditioned, Tel Aviv art gallery for a 32-minute ceremony that would change the world forever.

We, members of the people’s council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel,” declared David Ben-Gurion, Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and soon to be the first prime minister of the fledgling state.

On that historic day, Ben-Gurion spoke for 11 million Jewish men, women, and children around the world who had no voice, no address, and nowhere to go. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, they finally had their own nation in their ancestral homeland.

“It was promised to us by God. We are the only people in the history of the world that live on the same land, speaking the same language, and believing in the same God more than 3,000 years,” says Isaac Dror, who heads the education efforts for Independence Hall, the place where the declaration was made.

Among the crowd of witnesses was Yael Sharett, whose father Moshe Sharett was on stage with Ben-Gurion and was the country’s first foreign minister and second prime minister. At age 17, Yael wrote as her father dictated one of the drafts of the declaration. She shared a chair with her aunt at the ceremony.

“It’s really epic. It’s poetry actually. The only time I was really moved I must say was when the Rabbi Levine made the old age Jewish blessing: shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu la’z’man ha’zeh,” Yael told CBN News.

That ancient Jewish prayer, which is recited on momentous occasions, offers thanks to God “who has given us life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this day.”

Then they sang HaTikvah (“The Hope”), which is Israel’s national anthem.

The next day, which was the Sabbath, U.S. President Harry Truman became the first world leader to recognize Israel.

“He understood something that most of his top advisors and ministers failed to see. This is truly prophecy being realized,” Dror said.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations had passed resolution 181 calling for the creation of a Jewish State and an Arab State in British-controlled Mandatory Palestine. The plan set aside land in the Galilee, along the Mediterranean and the Negev Desert for the Jewish people, while the Arabs were to receive all of biblical Judea and Samaria, later known as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and other small portions. Perhaps the most controversial part of the plan was that an international body would control Jerusalem.

Still the Jewish people accepted the plan, but the Arabs rejected it. Less than six months later the Jewish people declared independence. The following day, the armies of five Arab nations attacked Israel.

Many countries have fought wars for their independence, but Israel’s war was not common. They had been granted independence by the sovereign, Britain; the decision was confirmed by the United Nations; and the Jewish people were returning to the historic land of their ancestors. But it was their neighbors who didn’t want them to exist.

A year later, the Jewish state was still standing and had increased its size by nearly 50 percent. Against overwhelming odds, this fledgling State of Israel not only survived but grew beyond expectation.

In honor of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Partition Plan, Israel’s mission to the U.N. celebrated by returning to the hall in Flushing Meadows, New York, where the U.N. vote took place.

Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said: “In this very hall 70 years ago when the United Nations declared to the modern world an ancient truth that the Jewish people have a natural, irrevocable right to an independent state in their ancestral and eternal homeland.”

Israelis celebrate Independence Day on the 5th of the Hebrew month of Iyar. During a televised ceremony that includes Israeli leaders, Israelis make the transition from mourning on their memorial day to celebrating their independence. Later that night, in cities and towns around the country, young and old take to the streets to listen to live music and dance Israeli folk dances.

Orthodox Jews recite the Psalms (but ultra-Orthodox Jews don’t yet recognize the State).

On Independence Day, the Israeli Air Force flies over cities and along beaches to celebrate as their fellow citizens picnic and barbecue (what they call mahngal). At the close of the day, the country awards the Israel Prize to Israelis who have made a unique contribution to the country’s culture, science, arts, and humanities.

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN—first as a graduate student in Journalism at Regent University; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. She is also an integral part of CBN News’ award-winning show, Jerusalem Dateline, a weekly news program providing a biblical and prophetic perspective to what is happening in Israel and the Middle East.

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Yom HaZikaron: Israel’s Memorial Day

By Julie Stahl

“The LORD cares deeply when his loved ones die” (Psalm 116:15).

A week after Yom HaShoah (“Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day”), Israelis mark Yom HaZikaron (“Israel’s Memorial Day”) to honor and remember those who died fighting for their country and those murdered in terror attacks.

A televised state ceremony is held at the Western Wall and neighborhoods throughout the country hold their own ceremonies in public places, with the participation of the youth. 

Israelis stand in the streets for an hour or more as the people who died from those neighborhoods are honored.

Since Israel is frequently under attack—whether by rockets or terror attacks or infiltrations—the day is very real and relevant for most Israelis. Many visit cemeteries and attend other ceremonies on the day. Schools are in session but have special programs to honor the fallen.

Twice, on the evening before Israel’s Memorial Day and the following morning itself, Israelis collectively stand in silence as a siren sounds calling to mind the sacrifices that were made by family and friends for Israel’s freedom and security. 

“I was thinking about all the soldiers from the beginning of the modern State of Israel up until today who had to fight on the frontlines and on the home front,” said Shai Yosipov, a former IDF combat medic.

“It’s so important that everyone understands the price and the responsibility we have for living in this country. We not only remember our fallen loved ones, but we also acknowledge that there has always been a sacrifice that needed to be made so that we could be here today,” says Yosipov.

“During the siren, I was praying for families who’ve lost so many, and I prayed that God would give them comfort from the pain,” says Sarah Rivka Yekutiel, who moved to Israel from Boston many years ago.

“It’s an emotional time for everyone, whether you’ve lost family or not. This day is very heavy and intense,” said Orital Saban, who recently moved to Israel from Canada.

More than 23,000 Israeli and Jewish soldiers and more than 3,100 terror victims have fallen since 1860. 

At sundown on Israel’s Memorial Day, Israelis make an incredible leap from mourning those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, to celebrating Yom HaAtzma’ut (“Israel’s Independence Day”).

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN—first as a graduate student in Journalism at Regent University; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. She is also an integral part of CBN News’ award-winning show, Jerusalem Dateline, a weekly news program providing a biblical and prophetic perspective to what is happening in Israel and the Middle East.

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