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FIFA World Cup: Anti-Israel Drama Plus Iran’s Brutality Exposed

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Every four years, the FIFA World Cup grabs international attention as the biggest sporting event on the planet. FIFA stands, of course, for the International Federation of Association Football, which governs the event. And while Americans call the sport soccer, it is the word football that sends fans worldwide into a competition frenzy. This year’s soccer extravaganza—held between November 20 and December 18—may be viewed by upwards of 5 billion people.

However, an unwelcome kind of sport is infringing on the event’s enjoyment for 10,000-plus Israeli fans: the hateful pastime of anti-Semitism.

This year, the nation of Qatar is hosting the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East. To comply with hosting requirements, Qatar agreed to allow in Israeli fans. Yet at the games, Israeli journalists are facing hostility on numerous fronts. Two journalists for Israel’s Ynet News—Raz Shechnik and Oz Mualem—say that whenever they report, they are followed by Palestinians, Iranians, Qataris, Moroccans, Jordanians, Syrians, Egyptians, and Lebanese—all giving them “looks full of hate.” And, although FIFA requested there be no political messages at the World Cup, Tunisian fans prominently displayed a “Free Palestine” flag at a game between Tunisia and Australia.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry advised its citizens to keep a low profile while in the small, authoritarian Muslim nation. They provided careful instructions about Qatar’s laws, which outlaw alcohol and drugs of any kind, and a list of other policies that carry heavy penalties or imprisonment.

To say that travel arrangements between Israel and Qatar were complicated would be an understatement. Sunday’s direct commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Doha was a first. However, Israel’s El Al airline was not allowed to land in the Shiite Muslim country, which has no diplomatic relationship with the Jewish state. Undeterred, Israel chartered flights through Cypriot Tus Airways, which departed from Tel Aviv.

But not all the drama at the games is about Israel’s reception—or the events happening on the playing field. What some might find surprising is that Iran’s leaders are threatening their own team (affectionately called Team Melli), so that Iran’s menace against its own citizens is on full display. And media around the world are reporting these transgressions.

Here’s what made headlines. In its first game on November 21, Team Melli bravely refused to sing the Iranian national anthem. Their message on the world stage was to support the courageous female-led freedom protests against regime leaders. The following day, at its second game, Team Melli sang their anthem—but did so quietly. Half-heartedly.

We now understand why. CNN and numerous other news outlets reported that Iran’s terrorist leaders, ahead of the match with the U.S. team on Tuesday, had threatened their team with imprisonment and torture if the players did not “behave.” Threats of violence were extended to the players’ families, as well.

In an opposite and welcomed way, the U.S. State Department issued support for Team Melli, declaring, “Iran’s leadership should be heeding their athletes’ calls for change, rather than stifling them through intimidation and threats. The people of Iran and the nations of the world will be watching the athletes’ treatment upon their return to Iran.”

Bolstering their own threats, Iran deployed its elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to monitor Team Melli, which is not allowed to associate with anyone but their teammates. Spectators have booed Iran’s national anthem—likely including Israeli and Arab fans also threatened by Iran. Iranian team supporters waved a huge flag emblazoned with, “Woman, life, freedom,” a refrain supporting the ongoing protests inside Iran. IRGC escorted them out of the stadium. Pro-Ayatollah-government Iranians and the IRGC have intimidated anti-government Iranian fans wearing protest gear outside the stadiums.

While Iranian threats are playing out on the world stage, Israelis are enjoying the World Cup experience, despite being fully aware of the security threats and complications. Neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian team made it into this year’s competition. However, eager Israeli football fans have traveled to Qatar to view the 32 teams playing. Israel notes that number could reach 20,000.

The U.S. Soccer Federation, in a visual statement with strong humanitarian overtones, changed the Iranian flag in a photo by omitting its icon and leaving only its stripes. The U.S. Federation explained they did this as a show of solidarity—an indication of “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.” The U.S. Federation said it changed the flag for only 24 hours. An angered Iran asked FIFA to kick the U.S. out of the World Cup, thankfully to no avail. Protests continue in Iran, where with Human Rights activists report that 451 protesters are dead and 18,000 people have been arrested.

Amid the convergence of athletics and human rights taking center stage, when fans enter the 45,857-seat Khalifa International Stadium, they step into a world of athletic opulence and excitement on steroids. With an estimated 2.89 million tickets sold as of November 14, fans will be rubbing shoulders with countless thousands from nations around the globe.

I find it interesting that, in contrast to the hustle and excitement of the games, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chose a quieter entry to the World Cup—perhaps to avoid flaunting the opulence he enjoys while his countrymen have so little. Few Palestinians will ever experience the luxury Abbas enjoys not only at the World Cup but in his mansion in Ramallah; his government’s corruption keeps most of the population in poor circumstances. Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, is covering the World Cup but did not mention Abbas’s delegation even though Abbas attended the dazzling opening ceremony.

In a leaked document, Palestinian Media Watch provided an inside look at Abbas and his 16-member World Cup entourage. The documents contained correspondence between Abbas’s office, the Palestinian Embassy in Qatar, and the Qatari Foreign Office. One document shows Abbas’s State of Palestine Delegation invoice from the Ritz Carlton Hotel for November 16–26. The amount: a staggering $79,478.02. The Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Liberation Organization’s glamorous trip comes amid their claims of a “severe financial crisis”—one that clearly does not affect the Palestinian leaders.

Hamas leaders are likely attending the World Cup and are doubtless ensconced in luxury boxes at Khalifa International Stadium, since Hamas and Qatar are good friends. Qatar funds the Gazan terror that has plagued Israel since Hamas took over in 2007. Key Hamas terrorist leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khalil al-Hayya now live in Qatar instead of the poor conditions they left behind in Gaza among 2 million Gazan Palestinians. As reported in January 2022 by the Arabic news source Al-Awsat, eight Hamas leaders have exited Gaza to live in Qatar and Turkey.

A financial dark side lurks within Qatar’s World Cup fame. In a recent Jewish Chronicle article, Israeli civil rights attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner commented on the wealth that stuffs the pockets of terrorists so they can continue their hatred toward the world’s only Jewish state. Darshan-Leitner successfully prosecutes terrorists on behalf of Jewish victims. She points out that Qatar has already financed billions of dollars for Hamas to reinforce its terror activities against Israel.

“If Qatar profits with billions of dollars from the World Cup, a percentage of that will be given to Hamas for rockets, guns, tunnels, and training to kill Jews,” she says. “Qatar and Iran are the main Hamas funders. Every T-shirt and every scarf sold in Doha pays for another bullet and another knife aimed at innocent Jews.” Darshan-Leitner calls Qatar “the ATM of terror organizations, mainly Hamas.”

Americans will definitely enjoy the entertaining games, interviews, and media via TV and live streaming that NBC Sports predicts will pull in 5 billion viewers. If any of you are among the fans, take a moment to pray for Israeli fans, Team Melli, and enthusiasts courageously and peacefully protesting during the remaining eighteen days of the World Cup.

These two verses fit both the FIFA World Cup and our own walk with the Lord:

“Athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5 NLT).

“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize” (1 Corinthians 9:25 NLT).

Please join CBN Israel this week in prayer for Israel and the Middle East:

  • Pray for Team Melli and their families that they will not face torture or prison when they return to Tehran.
  • Pray for all athletes at the World Cup for good sportsmanship and no injuries.
  • Pray for fans and athletes who are expressing their support for protestors in Iran.
  • Pray that social gatherings and meetings at the World Cup will contribute to cooperation on many levels beyond athletics.
  • Pray that love and peace would prevail in the Middle East over the hatred and hostility often shown to Israel and the Jewish people.
  • Pray for CBN Israel and CBN News to continue shining the light of truth about the Jewish nation and people.

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

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Weekly Devotional: To Hear and To Do

“He [Moses] then took the covenant scroll and read it aloud to the people. They responded, ‘We will do and obey everything that the LORD has commanded’” (Exodus 24:7 HCSB).

This event occurs after Moses has been on top of Sinai and received the covenant from the Lord. When he comes down to the people and reads the covenant to them, they respond “We will do and obey everything that the LORD has commanded.”

The words “listen” and “obey” appear frequently within the Bible: “Now, Israel, listen to the statutes and ordinances I am teaching you to follow, so that you may live, enter, and take possession of the land Yahweh, the God of your fathers, is giving you” (Deuteronomy 4:1). Elsewhere we read, “If only you obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow every one of these commands I am giving you today” (Deuteronomy 15:5). 

The context of these passages indicate that the biblical authors drew a connection between hearing God’s word and doing it. In fact, that was their definition of obedience: to hear and to do.

Often when we say that we “hear” or “listen” to someone, it does not necessarily translate into action. In fact, the phrase, “I hear you,” can serve as our response meaning a certain level of inaction. Yet, within the Bible, obedience required action, both parts were necessary. To not hear and do meant for the writers of Scripture that judgment was imminent.

The author of Kings identified the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel as due to their disobedience: “Because they did not listen to the voice of the LORD their God but violated His covenant—all He had commanded Moses the servant of the LORD. They did not listen, and they did not obey” (2 Kings 18:12). Failure to listen and obey resulted in Israel transgressing the law of the Lord. 

In the New Testament, Jesus also emphasized our hearing and doing. He compared those who hear and do His words as like one who built his house upon a rock; while the one who only hears but does not do, he is like one who built his house on the sand (Matthew 7:24-27). Paul likewise states that it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous, but the doers of the law who will be justified (Romans 2:13).

Do we spend time listening to the word of God? And do we translate what we have heard into action? If we are going to obey as the Bible intended, then we must both hear and do. 

PRAYER

Father, as I seek to draw closer to You, may I obey You by hearing Your word and doing it. May Your name be glorified through my obedient action to You and Your word. Amen.

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A Memorial of Thanksgiving to be Unveiled in Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Americans gather today on Thanksgiving to celebrate our beginnings, led by brave Mayflower Pilgrims and other settlers in the 1600s. They sought religious and other freedoms that eventually led to the Revolutionary War and the blessings enshrined in our Declaration of Independence. Republican President Abraham Lincoln, whose leadership reversed the appalling evil of slavery, codified Thanksgiving in 1863. Our much-anticipated annual Thanksgiving holidays are now filled with family, friends, freedom, food, and football. 

Israel does not have a Thanksgiving day as such. This year, however—just a few days after our American Thanksgiving—Israel will unveil a memorial on November 29: the 1947 Partition Resolution Memorial. It symbolizes a world-changing thanksgiving for the fulfillment of God’s ancient promise to Abraham in Genesis 17:8: “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God” (NIV). 

The birth of modern Jewish state took place at the United Nations General Assembly on November 29, 1947. Thus, 2022 marks the 75th anniversary of their momentous vote—the United Nations Partition Plan, Resolution 181. This vote signaled the end of the British Mandate for Palestine, which ended on May 14, 1948, with a Declaration of Independence and name change to “Israel.” The Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the city of Netanya, Israel, cooperated and funded the memorial, which overlooks Route 2 (the Coastal Highway) on a hill next to Einstein Park. The memorial is the creation of famed Jerusalem sculptor Sam Philipe, whose works have received international acclaim. The public is invited to share this momentous occasion with prominent leaders, veterans, ambassadors, and representatives of foreign states.

I view the 1947 Partition Resolution Memorial as a reminder of the most prized vote in United Nations history. In the years since, the UN’s reckless anti-Israel prejudice cannot erase the decision made seven-and-a-half decades ago—a decision that enacted God’s worldwide blessings through the Jews to be officially resettled in their ancestral homeland. 

On that November day in 1947, the United Nations—then located in San Francisco—voted on Resolution 181 to adopt a Partition Plan for two states—one Jewish, one Arab—and changed world history. The vote ended 25 years of British obligatory rule after World War I in what was then called the Mandate of Palestine. It not only changed history; it fulfilled a prophecy in Isaiah 66:8: “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” (NIV). 

Among the then-57 member UN nations, 33 countries voted “Yes,” 13 voted “No,” and 10 countries abstained—a 75 percent “Yes” vote. The Arabs rejected the partition and determined to go to war while the Jews accepted it, although the borders it laid out were much smaller than God’s geographical promise. 

Little did anyone know that another fulfillment of highly regarded prophecy was unfolding in Jerusalem that same night—at the same time the vote was taking place! Israeli archaeologist and Hebrew University professor Eleazer Sukenik sat in his study intently scrutinizing fragile pieces of parchment that had come into his possession in a somewhat covert exchange. You could call it “divine connectivity.” 

As Sukenik pondered the fragments, his son, Yigael Yadin, ran into the room shouting the news just announced on the radio. David Ben-Gurion, who became Israel’s first prime minister on May 14, 1948, had announced the UN vote. Around 600,000 Jews lived in “Palestine” at the time. I daresay most of them hovered around their radios, intent on hearing news about their 2,000-year hope finally becoming reality. With the historic announcement, ecstatic crowds began running into the streets to celebrate, some even dressed in their pajamas.  

In a Israel Forever Foundation blog, you will find a fantastic first-person description of that night and the next day written by Tzippy Porath in a letter to her parents. Tzippy was a young American Jew studying at the Hebrew University for a year. (Letters from Jerusalem: 1947-1948. Jonathan Publications, 2005, pp. 43-47.) Click here to read all her exciting descriptions of this joyous occasion: A Nation Celebrates in Jerusalem, November 30, 1947: The Israel Forever Foundation. She aptly described the Partition Plan vote celebrations as “fifty non-stop hours of delirium.” She and her classmates joined the throngs of “happy people, hugging each other, dancing horas and jigs.”

The crowds flooded the streets in front of the building that housed the Jewish Agency, which worked at the forefront of hope for a Jewish State. “We looked at each other, drew closer together, wrapped arms about each other’s chilled shoulders and felt the thrill of experiencing a historic wonder, dawn bidding Shalom to a Jewish State,” Tzippy wrote.

Against the backdrop of unbridled joy in the streets, Professor Sukenik quietly realized that he held in his hands Isaiah fragments of what came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls! That night, God revealed His unmistakable holy stamp upon the UN vote while Professor Sukenik held the ancient fragments that had been found in a Qumran cave by a Bedouin shepherd. 

The 33 nations that voted “Yes” had no idea that they were earthly vessels carrying out God’s promises to the ancient nation of Israel, reborn as God had said through the prophet Isaiah 3,000 years earlier. The 24-hour convergence of the U.N. vote and Professor Sukenik verifying the fragments from Isaiah was a colossal God-stamp—opening the doors for Jews to return to their homeland after 2,000 years in dispersion and unfolding innovations in the subsequent years that have blessed our world in myriad ways. 

Our own early American history reveals that theologians and American history experts often trace the early colonists’ harvest of thanks to the ancient and still-celebrated Jewish festival of Sukkot. In colonial America, the Bible was their most important book and throughout the Old Testament, they read about Israel’s festivals and the Psalms crammed with expressions of thanks. Also called the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot takes place in the fall to celebrate both the harvest and the 40-year wanderings when Israelites lived in temporary shelters journeying toward the Promised Land. Sukkot is often called “the time of our happiness.” It is a reminder that in life’s instability and crises, God is our supreme shelter.

A letter written by Edward Winslow in December 1621 to a friend in England briefly mentions their harvest and his gratitude as an eyewitness. Winslow, a 1620 Mayflower voyager, wrote, “Our harvest being gotten in … so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors … by the goodness of God.” 

Our Thanksgiving feasts today would astonish the Pilgrims and early Virginians if they could sit at our tables filled with our bountiful foods. However, reinvigorating their examples of thankfulness and dedicated reverence for the Bible in honoring Judaism’s teachings, we must again become guiding lights for our culture today.  

On Thanksgiving, let us prayerfully give the Lord glory for these four blessings: deeding the Holy Land to its rightful owners, for Judaism as the foundation of our Christian faith, for its influence on America’s early settlers and founders, and for our close friendship today that benefits both the United States of America and Israel. We don’t often have a chance to positively recognize the United Nations but let us give thanks for them, too, where in 1947 God mysteriously moved them to vote rightly. 

Our CBN Israel team wishes you a memorable and blessed Thanksgiving! 

Join us in prayer this week with hearts of gratitude:

  • Pray that our thoughts will be overflowing with gratitude to our Lord Jesus.
  • Pray for broad and positive coverage of The 1947 Partition Resolution Memorial dedication on Tuesday, November 29. 
  • Pray for those in need throughout our nation and give thanks for the many people and organizations who help alleviate poverty and hunger. 
  • Pray that the United Nations will veer away from its anti-Semitic hostility toward Israel and imitate their significant 1947 decision. 

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

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New Immigrant: Irina’s Story

Irina admitted, “I don’t really live… I just try to survive.” Suffering from fibromyalgia and other illnesses, she lacked the strength and memory to run her salon in Ukraine—while her body fought to withstand the cold weather. However, she saw a door of hope in Israel. 

Israel offered better healthcare than Ukraine—and being Jewish, she was eligible for citizenship benefits. So, she immigrated there in 2021, and later arranged for her autistic son Adrian, who had been in a full-time facility, to join her. Irina was thrilled to have him living with her and loved the warmth of Israel’s weather and people. But the move brought new challenges. 

Caring daily for her special needs son is an added strain, as Adrian struggles to adapt and learn Hebrew. Irina also battles anxiety over the war in Ukraine, especially after losing many close loved ones. Plus, living on a small income that barely covers the basics, she panicked when her refrigerator stopped working properly. Her doctors warned her that severe stress could undermine all of her recent treatment. But where could she turn? 

Thanks to friends like you, Irina got the help she needed. Through CBN Israel, donors provided her with a brand-new refrigerator, and grocery vouchers to buy food for her and her son. She said gratefully, “Thank you for your generous support. Your kindness is such a blessing to us!” 

And your gift to CBN Israel can bless many others in need across the Holy Land—with food, shelter, financial assistance, job training, and more. As the cries for help increase, your support can offer a lifeline to Holocaust survivors, immigrants, single mothers, and terror victims. 

Please help us make a difference in this special land today!

GIVE TODAY

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Weekly Devotional: Gleanings

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:22 NKJV).

Farming in the ancient world was tough. A farmer had to plow his field—most often with oxen—then sowed the seed into the broken-up earth. He then prayed for rain, because if the rains didn’t come within about a week, the seed he had sowed would be useless and would not produce a crop. After the rains he waited, letting his crop grow. 

Then came the time to harvest. Having toiled in his field under the scorching sun, sowing seed in the hope of a growing crop, he received the reward for his hard labor, prayers, and patience. And then he was told to leave the edges of his fields unharvested and not to pick up whatever fell during the harvest. These—the edges of his field and the gleanings—belonged to the poor and the foreigners. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? 

The farmer worked and toiled. He labored. The field belonged to him, and so did its crops. Yet God required that Israelite farmers leave the edges and the gleanings for the poor and foreigners. 

We know that ancient Israelite farmers did exactly as God commanded. The story of Ruth and Naomi demonstrates this. Naomi instructed Ruth to gather the gleanings, which she was permitted to do and did.

The Bible often challenges our me-first, egocentric, I-pull-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps culture. Biblical spirituality assumes that I care about the wellbeing of those around me. One of the fascinating things about the law God gave Israel was that in very practical, everyday activities, God called upon the Israelites to demonstrate their obedience to Him.

He concludes the law of the gleanings with the statement: “I am the LORD your God.” You mean I demonstrate God’s lordship in how I care for the poor and foreigner in my midst? Yes!

We show our relationship to God in how we treat others, especially those who are less fortunate and are outcast within our society. God blessed the work of the farmer by sending rain in its season so the crops would grow. In response, the farmer left portions of his field and harvest to those who had no claim to it.  

Do we look at those in our culture who have no claim to what is ours and say, “God has blessed me, so what I have I share with you?” We proclaim God’s lordship in our generosity to others, especially the poor and foreigners. 

PRAYER

Father, all that we have comes from Your hand. Thank you. May we proclaim Your lordship and our love for You by showing generosity to those in need. Amen.

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A Famous Conductor Answers the Question, “Where was God?”  

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

I daresay humankind has asked the question “Where was God?” trillions of times over the centuries when trying to untangle the reasons and pain of personal or national tragedy. Certainly this question must have occupied the minds of Jews held in Nazi death camps.

Since we are living in a season of upheaval, disappointments, and sorting through truths and untruths, I hope my column this week with its little-known Holocaust story—combined with a famous conductor’s reply to the question “Where was God”—will be helpful. As Christians and believers in Jesus, it is absolutely essential that we take to heart this beautiful truth Paul conveyed to the Corinthians: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV).

When I attended a concert a few years ago at the Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Atlanta, Georgia, I heard a quote from the conductor, Maestro Murry Sidlin, that immediately grabbed my attention. The concert was titled “Hours of Freedom: The Story of the Terezin Composers.” The name Terezin (pronounced teh·ruh·zeen) was unfamiliar to me until the concert, where I learned that Nazis in Terezin—Czechoslovakia’s Theresienstadt Concentration Camp—tragically and expertly used it as a highly effective cover-up tactic.  

Let’s take a look now into past and present history and how these extraordinary concerts came to be. Seventy-seven years have passed since the Nazi death camps were liberated in 1945. The Nazi machine snuffed out 6 million European Jews—men, women, and children—between 1933 and 1945. During that time, Nazis set up more than 44,000 camps of varied sizes and functions. In ghettos, labor camps, and those erected for mass murder, the question, “Where was God?” had to have lurked in Jewish minds as they faced unimaginable evil.

Today, Israeli Holocaust survivors number around 165,000. In the United States we have some 50,000, the youngest now in their late 70s. During the intervening years, Holocaust survivors have found success and built families, yet far too many in the U.S. and Israel face poverty. The traumas of the Holocaust—the Shoah—still reverberate today. Our generation is the last that can make a significant difference for Holocaust survivors who need adequate food, housing, and attention. Often, it is Christian organizations like CBN Israel that are actively giving help and hope to this aging population through tangible relief and caring friendship—reminding them that they are not forgotten, and they are not alone. 

Other positive responses include a notable conference that was hosted by the Czech Republic on November 3 of this year. This meeting was based on the Terezin Declaration of 2009, which was signed by 47 governments including the United States. The recent conference served as a follow-up to prior commitments and addressed those concerns. These included restitution of Holocaust-era stolen properties and providing humanitarian aid for survivors plagued by inadequate food and housing. You may access the entire Terezin Declaration of 2009 here: https://wjro.org.il/cms/assets/uploads/2019/06/terezin_declaration.pdf. 

At the concert, “Hours of Freedom: The Story of the Terezin Composers,” I sat transfixed in the synagogue balcony. The program skillfully interwove narratives, films, soloists, photographs, and the Hours of Freedom Chamber Players. The composers and performers were 15 gifted Jewish musicians trapped in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, in what is now Czech Republic. They would have become famous if they had survived the war. Most of them were in their 20s and 30s before they were sent to Auschwitz to die. The poignant music and narrative showed me the original composers’ will to live—by choosing to rely on the arts to escape the grim realities of their lives under the Nazi regime. 

Two films were intermingled in the Atlanta concert. The first, a documentary titled Terezin Diary, was created to set the record straight about the horrors of this camp and reveal the enormous breadth of Nazi lies. Terezin was the so-called model camp established by the Nazis in 1941 at Terezin, an old fortress town near Prague. Its purpose: to fool the world about what they claimed was “humane” treatment of Jewish prisoners. 

Terezin Diary starts with a 1968 reunion of the camp’s survivors—and their stories are chilling. One scene showed a hundred Jewish children singing. As I watched, a dreadful thought ran through my mind—as if the children were singing at their own funeral. Later, all of them would become part of the million-and-a-half children murdered. I felt as if I was walking again through the Children’s Memorial at Israel’s Yad Vashem, listening to their names in a darkness lit by dim candles—candles reflecting the millions of lights that were snuffed out. 

The other was a Nazi propaganda film, The Fuhrer Gives a Town to the Jews. It showed Theresienstadt as a “model” setting where Jewish families comfortably lived, worked, and played. (Prominent visitors and even a Red Cross team came to Theresienstadt to see for themselves and then voiced their approval.) One scene in this film depicted the Hours of Freedom Chamber Players, with prisoners applauding and trying to look content. They were somewhat well dressed, no doubt only for the film. On its website, the National Center for Jewish Film calls the movie “an elaborately staged hoax presenting a completely false picture of camp life.” During the concert here in Atlanta, the 15 chamber players on stage played with the 15 Terezin musicians in the film. Jarring, sobering moments unfolded as these 30 musicians played together seven decades later. It was a vivid and haunting remembrance of the Terezin musicians’ unfulfilled hopes that would be so violently extinguished. 

The “Hours of Freedom” referred to the prisoners’ times of composing and writing on tiny pieces of foraged scrap paper and then playing their instruments after horrific 15-hour workdays and scant food. The concert’s “Nine Chapters” included titles like “The Broken Heart,” “Longing,” and “The Eyewitness.” Some of the music was agonizingly mournful yet brilliant in composition. A fascinating interplay of cello and violin portrayed a dissonance, an inharmoniousness, that superbly expressed the paradox of pain and pleasure amid horror. Surprisingly, some of the compositions were upbeat as if to recall better times and future hopes.

The concerts were created by Murry Sidlin, a famous conductor and president of The Defiant Requiem Foundation, which promotes the concerts worldwide. It is his quote that I found so compelling. Stuart Eizenstat, chairman of the Defiant Requiem Foundation and former ambassador to the EU, introduced his friend Murry Sidlin. (Eizenstat is also a key activist for the Terezin Declaration of 2009 and this year’s November 3 conference in the Czech Republic.) In his glowing remarks, Eizenstat noted that Maestro Sidlin is often asked, “Where was God when the Holocaust happened?” The maestro’s reply: “Where was God? Instead, the real question is, ‘Where was man, who had free will?’”

I identified with Maestro Sidlin’s quote instantly. I consider it one of the best answers for the age-old questions about life’s tragedies. I wonder if your conclusions about the maestro’s answer are similar to mine. We live in an often-mysterious paradox of completely relying on God’s sovereignty, yet the problem of evil is ever present, and it is easy to ask, “Where is God?” 

Part of my conclusion is that we cannot blame God when we choose to passively sit back, complain, and/or do nothing. A level of responsibility rests upon us to oppose wrongdoing or alleviate suffering. It may be speaking up about an anti-Semitic remark, donating to trusted programs for others in need, contacting our congressional leaders to keep our cooperation with Israel strong, or encouraging anyone around us who needs help or hope.  

Where was God? Well, I am choosing to trust God as best as I can and am asking myself, “Where will I oppose the toxic spread of anti-Semitism toward Israel and the Jewish community? Where will I show compassion to those in need throughout our world?” 

Please join CBN Israel in prayer this week for Israel and the Jewish people:

  • Pray for the Christian community to remain steadfast in prayer and action on behalf of Israel and the worldwide Jewish community. 
  • Pray that the warmth and love between Jews and Christians will increase to make us stronger together. 
  • Pray against the rising tide of anti-Semitism in our world, which ultimately threatens the very existence of the Jewish nation and people. 
  • Pray for the 165,000 Holocaust survivors who live in Israel today. Tens of thousands of them live in poverty and need compassionate people like you to remind them that they are not forgotten, and they are not alone. 

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

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New Immigrant: Boris’s Story

Boris and his family lived in Belarus, one of the poorest nations of the former Soviet Union. Even after gaining its independence, the president alone still wields most of the country’s power. Wanting a better life for his people, Boris spoke out against the system. But his political activism caused the government to target him and his family. 

Fearing more repercussions, Boris’s family moved to Kiev in Ukraine, and planned to make it their home. Then, with the outbreak of war in Ukraine, it became unsafe to remain there. So, they sought refuge in Israel, in the small, welcoming northern city of Karmiel. 

Because they had to leave in haste, they had little time for planning or packing. They came without furniture or belongings. Like many refugees fleeing the Ukraine war, the family received basic help when they arrived, but it soon ran out. So where could they turn? 

Thankfully, friends like you were there for them through CBN Israel. Caring donors helped furnish their home and provided vouchers to purchase nutritious groceries. And they are helping them find jobs, learn Hebrew, and adjust to life in Israel. Boris exclaimed, “When we came here, the apartment was completely empty. But thanks to you, we now have basic furniture, appliances, and food on the table. I am deeply grateful… I will never forget it.”

Your gift to CBN Israel can offer encouragement and vital assistance to so many hurting refugees, Holocaust survivors, single mothers, and more. As the needs in the Holy Land are escalating, your support can provide crucial food, housing, job training, and financial aid to those who are desperate. 

Please join us in reaching out to others in crisis!

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Weekly Devotional: The Classroom of Humility

“Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3 NKJV).

We remember Moses as God’s chosen leader for the children of Israel—to bring them out of Egyptian bondage and through the wilderness to the edge of the Promised Land. But what was Moses’ occupation? For forty years before appearing in front of Pharaoh, he was a shepherd.

Moses’ time shepherding flocks in the desert prepared him to lead God’s people. In the harsh climate of the deserts of the Middle East, the shepherd cared for his flock—making sure the animals found water, food, and shelter and protecting them from potential threats. Moses’ time as a shepherd prepared him for the role that God chose for him to deliver and lead Israel. 

Likewise, Moses’ time in the desert herding sheep and goats helped form his character: How so? The climate of the desert is incredibly harsh. Temperatures can fluctuate as much as 80 degrees within 24 hours; the scorching heat of the sun can give way to the cold of the night. Water and food are not easy to find; the sheep and goats rely on the shepherd to find them sustenance. 

The desert presents the threat of dangerous enemies, both four footed and two, that the shepherd must protect the flock from. These are the brutal conditions faced by the shepherd in the desert. His life and that of his flock faced imminent dangers within its wild expanse. 

The desert served as God’s classroom in the Bible. God takes people into the desert to teach them and build their character. One of the principal lessons that He imparts to them in the desert is humility. There are no “self-made” individuals in the desert. You cannot overcome the harsh and threatening conditions by yourself—and that realization humbles a person. 

Moses spent forty years in the desert, and he learned this lesson well. He understood the need for decisive action in leading the children of Israel, but he also recognized his need to take advice from and rely on others. He was humble. He learned the vital lesson of the desert: One cannot survive alone. Community is essential. 

The lessons of the desert often fly in the face of the rugged individualism we honor in our Western culture. That individualism often spills over into our spirituality, where we tend to think solely in terms of our personal relationship with God. Such attitudes are absent within the spirituality of the Bible.  

God still leads us into the wilderness to teach us humility and the foolishness of our self-reliance. He used Moses mightily for His purposes and glory because Moses learned humility. Do we allow Him to build the same character within us by leading us into the desert?

PRAYER

Father, in every place You lead, may I learn to rely upon You and others. May I never become arrogant or self-reliant in anything I do. May I always recognize my dependence upon You and those around me. Amen. 

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Does Small Israel Have Outsized Solutions for Global Food Shortages?

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

According to the World Bank, we are in a global food crisis. Food shortages across the world are mushrooming like unwelcome weeds amid a nourishing crop of golden wheat. 

In the United States, the Center for Security Policy (CSP) published a revealing report on November 3, 2022, titled “Food Security is National Security.” Presently the U.S., other countries, and concerned organizations are meeting to assess vulnerabilities and discuss solutions. CSP lists varying food security challenges in the U.S.—from cyberattacks and suspicious fires at food-processing plants to power outages from snowstorms and hurricanes, supply chain slowdowns, and trucking interrupted by critically low diesel fuel reserves. The United States is the biggest producer of food worldwide, yet we do not have a strategic food reserve or a plan to deal with inevitable disruptions.

The World Bank also sounded an alarm about food shortages in its latest Food Security Update on October 31, 2022. Delving into only a few primary reasons here, the World Bank’s update is sobering for the poorest of the poor who for decades have already experienced the tragic suffering that famine and inadequate clean water bring. However, for multilayered reasons, Western nations and others are now facing challenges with food supplies. 

Among them: Inflation and oil shortages are driving up food prices. COVID-19 shutdowns slowed the transportation of goods around the globe. In its war against Ukraine, Russia has caused a worldwide crisis, since both nations are top wheat sources. (Russia is also a top fertilizer producer; a shortage affects farmers’ yields.) In response to ongoing food concerns, the World Bank Group has decided to set aside up to $30 billion for the next 15 months for agriculture, nutrition, water, and irrigation. Much of the monies have been earmarked for the most vulnerable populations.

Where else can we turn for answers to this urgent and growing problem?

In pre-state Israel—beginning with the first significant wave of immigration (Aliyah) in 1881—land reclamation, innovation, and determination marked the labor and spirit of Jewish Zionists. Today, the diminutive nation of Israel is an outsized world leader in abundant AgTech, Food Tech, and Water Tech research, development, and production. God’s promises to Israel and all nations in Genesis 12:3 are, once again, a blessing to the world in the face of food shortages. Israel’s innovations in an array of technologies improve planting and harvesting crops, and desalinating water.

Israel’s history proves that there is hope. Against all odds—the backbreaking work, the malaria outbreaks—the Zionists’ and Israelis’ determination fulfilled God’s promises in Isaiah 35:1-3, making His promise a reality. “The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands. The desert will sing and shout for joy. … Everyone will see the Lord’s splendor, see His greatness and power.” Indeed, as verse 3 exclaims, God “gave strength to hands that were tired and to knees that trembled with weakness.”

When deserts and desolation greeted the first Jewish immigration wave, the early Zionists were undaunted. Committing themselves to the soil, they were driven by a national longing for their ancient homeland. They were also moved by awareness of 2,000 years of prayers for those living during the Jewish diaspora. The Ottoman Empire was in control of what was then called Palestine until 1917 when the British defeated the Ottomans. Although the Muslim Ottomans ruled for 400 years, they did not cultivate the land. 

Four more early Aliyah waves were followed by the fifth wave in 1939—a 58-year span. Mark Twain, who visited in 1867, could not have imagined what Israel would one day become. In The Innocents Abroad, Twain described the pre-state Israel that he and other travelers toured: “The further we went the hotter the sun got, and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became. … There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” That is, until the first five waves of Aliyah kept coming to plant and cultivate the land until World War II broke out. As an interesting historical note, Twain stayed in the Imperial Hotel right inside Jerusalem’s Jaffa gate. The New Imperial Hotel still welcomes guests in its upgraded 19th-century building.

Israel has been helping other nations with agricultural tools for some time—as it helps itself.

For years, Africa and India have used water and crop technologies through Tel Aviv’s Nitsan Sustainable Development Lab to aid their populations. Nitsan focuses on small farmers, as noted by Director Ram Fishman: “Many farmers around the world look to Israel as a model of how to manage and flourish in conditions of water scarcity and a hotter, drier climate.” 

A few more success stories of Israel developing new technologies to give Mother Nature a helping hand:

• Yatir Forest—planted by the Jewish National Fund to provide work for new immigrants in the 1950s—is now one of the world’s only fully functional forests in hot, semiarid climates. 

Fish in the desert, unthinkable? Aquatech Fisheries, founded in 2012, raises fish using water technologies that Israel has employed for decades in its water-empty landscape. Aquatech’s near-miraculous efforts result in thousands of tons of fish in the Negev Desert without any environmental damage. 

• To meet the challenges caused by population growth, depleted soils, and weather unpredictabilities, BetterSeeds is devoted to the production of seeds that adapt to many climates and also contain more nutrients. 

• And with worldwide bee populations dwindling, Israelis are addressing this critical issue. They have created an artificial pollinator service and BeeHero “smart” hives to better protect the tiny winged heroes that play such an important role in continuing our food supply.

• Every three years, Israel hosts AgriTech Israel, an international exhibition and conference that draws thousands of delegates from dozens of countries—people at the forefront of technological innovations in agriculture.

Various regions in the United States use Israeli agricultural and water technologies, too. For example, via a public-private partnership between Israel and San Diego, California, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant provides clean, safe water from the ocean to more than 300,000 Californians. With the worst drought in 1,200 years gripping Western states, this plant—completed in 2015—pumps out 50 million gallons of fresh water daily. 

Partnerships take place in many contexts. Challenges, solutions, and opportunities are what brought together Israeli and Florida scientists, tech experts and growers. In 2020, the Florida-Israel Agriculture Innovation Summit met for four days in Tallahassee with a crowd of 600 registered attendees hearing from 63 speakers and panelists from 27 companies—all interested in discussing innovations and prospects in agricultural technology. The future of food security in Florida and other states looks bright for those combining U.S. and Israeli production plans.  

As Scripture beautifully notes, “In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit” (Isaiah 27:6). Now more than ever, hopefully, the World Bank, United Nations, and citizens of the earth will recognize Israel as a light to the world, a powerhouse in food technology. As believers, we are thankful to God for equipping His people to export their food and water miracles into a world concerned about food security. 

Please join CBN Israel in prayer this week for Israel and the entire globe:

  • Pray with thanksgiving to God for empowering Israel with big ideas for blessings.
  • Pray for smart, effective management solutions for countries to increase food security.
  • Pray for international institutions to donate wisely to countries and limit corruption.
  • Pray for the poorest nations to benefit from food supplies to alleviate their vulnerability. 
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Weekly Devotional: Put Your Hope in God

“As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, ‘Where is your God?’ I remember this as I pour out my heart: how I walked with many, leading the festive procession to the house of God, with joyful and thankful shouts. Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:1-5 HCSB).

Do you ever find yourself longing for God? Do you ever feel so overwhelmed by your circumstances that you cry out to God in absolute desperation yearning for His help? Do you ever find yourself asking, “God, where are You?”

The writer of Psalm 42 felt that way. He found himself overwhelmed by his circumstances, downcast within his soul. He felt buried under the billows and waves. His memories of the past—when he experienced the joy of traveling to the house of the Lord on pilgrimage—didn’t soothe his torment; they actually added to it: “Why, my soul, are you downcast?” He longed for God, for His deliverance.  

His circumstances, those around him, and even he himself questioned of God, “Why have You forgotten me?” It’s understandable when we find ourselves overcome with life and our circumstances to feel forgotten by God, to feel isolated and alone. The author’s strength, however, comes from his ability to affirm his hope in God within his circumstances: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” 

He asks the question twice (verses 5 and 11), “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” The answer, in part, pertains to the very real and overwhelming circumstances in which he found himself. Yet, both times, he answers his question affirming his belief that God had not abandoned him.

By the end of the psalm, his circumstances have not changed and neither have his emotions; he closes the psalm asking why his soul is downcast. But, in spite of his circumstances and emotions, he confesses his confidence in God and that he will yet praise Him. This is not merely the power of positive thinking. His conviction emerges from a deep realization that, regardless of his situation and feelings, God had not abandoned him; God is still his hope. 

Faith is not willing ourselves to believe. Faith doesn’t require a lot in moments of joy, fulfillment, and security. The test of our faith appears in those moments when, even after professing our belief in God, nothing changes. Maybe the depression even deepens. 

Do we have the deep, penetrating conviction that God has not abandoned us regardless of how things seem? Can we remain convinced that He is our hope, even when we do not see or feel it? When we feel abandoned by God, do we still long for Him even as the parched deer longs for the cool streams of water?

PRAYER

Father, regardless of our circumstances or feelings, You are our hope and our God. Come to us in our desperation. Amen.

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