Weekly Q&A: How do religious Jews observe the Sabbath?

God commanded the Israelites, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).

God forbade the Israelites from working and kindling a fire on the Sabbath. While the Old Testament does not specify the parameters of “work,” Jewish tradition sought to define what constituted work, and therefore, what one must avoid on the Sabbath. Observance of the Sabbath distinguished Jews from other people within the ancient world. The Romans viewed the Jewish practice of Sabbath observance as a sign of Jewish laziness.

The Jewish Sabbath begins Friday night at sundown and continues until an hour after sundown on Saturday night. Although religious Jews go to the synagogue on the Sabbath, the home functions as the primary place for Sabbath observance. Families walk to the synagogue on Friday to pray the evening prayers within the congregation. Returning home, they eat a large meal which was prepared prior to the start of the Sabbath. No telephones, computers, or televisions interrupt Friday night Shabbat dinner.

The family sits around the table, young and old, talks, recites the benedictions and blessings, and enjoys one another’s company. Saturday morning some of the family, usually the men, walk back to the synagogue for morning prayers, and return home. During the day Saturday, they rest. Some will read, but nothing for work. Phones are shut off, as are televisions and computers. Food, which has been simmering since before the Sabbath began, is consumed, but no one is permitted to light a stove or turn on an oven.

Judaism views the Sabbath as one of God’s greatest gifts to Israel. The other commandments seek to remind Jews of their relationship to God, so they can sanctify Him by obeying Him in their daily lives. The Sabbath sanctifies God in time. It was not only a day of rest for the master of the house, animals and servants also were given a Sabbath’s rest by God. By forcing people to cease from their work, they bring their worship of God into time, not just space.

The home functions as the center of this. The celebration of Sabbath does not focus on the synagogue or the larger community; it focuses on the family. The family becomes the keeper and transmitter of the commandments and traditions God entrusted to Israel. Sabbath enabled Judaism to survive without a land and a Temple.

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.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

Read more

Israel Stopped Syrian and Iraqi Nuclear Ambitions: Is Iran Next?

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Debates about nuclear weapons, Chinese spy balloons, Abrams tanks, and war permeate the news cycle with alarming facts and theories. Missing in action is the recognition both of Israel’s past role to ensure that Iraq and Syria did not join the nuclear club—and the danger posed by Iran’s current Islamic regime. Also missing in action is media fairness when reporting on Israel.

So let’s review the facts.

In June 1981, Israel attacked Iraq’s Osirak nuclear research reactor during a stealth operation the Jewish nation code-named “Operation Opera.” Like present-day Iran, Iraq had claimed that its goals in pursuing nuclear power were peaceful. Unfortunately, most world leaders and media were quick to join in a chorus of accusations and condemnation, accusing Israel of acting as an unprovoked aggressor as they chose to accept the claims of Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein. Israel claimed its pre-emptive attack had been in self-defense; the small nation didn’t believe Hussein’s assurances of peace. Israel’s June attacks partially destroyed the reactor and today, 42 years later, Iraq is still not a nuclear power. 

Moving ahead more than a quarter of a century: In 2007, Israel undertook another action to deter nuclear capability in another nation, Syria—then, as now, governed by the dictator Bashar al-Assad. Looking at the benign photos of Assad and his wife, Asma, both dressed stylishly in western garb, it is hard to imagine their complicity in Syria’s civil war, which broke out in 2011. However, supported by Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah, President Assad oversaw the murders of hundreds of thousands of his citizens and pushed many thousands more into fleeing as refugees. 

On September 5, 2007, Israeli planes flew into neighboring Syria—before the outbreak of that nation’s civil war. In “Operation Out of the Box,” the Israeli Air Force dropped tons of explosives on the nuclear reactor that North Korea helped build. It was camouflaged as an agricultural farm. Syria is an enemy of Israel and policed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). No peace treaty exists between Israel and Syria. As happened in 1981, condemnation of Israel was harsh, although in both instances Israel acted only after conducting extensive research and verifying the threats of the nuclear sites. 

Israel’s decisions to remove credible nuclear threats from Iraq and Syria in order to defend its own freedoms and citizenry deserve accolades, not condemnation. Their actions weren’t only for their own benefit; the attacks reduced threats from these two unstable countries against the rest of the Middle East and beyond. Amid the horrors of war in Iraq and Syria, Israel’s actions removed one lethal aspect of war that the world does not face today from these two nations. 

Nevertheless, other nations—especially in the region—remain anxious about another threat: how Iran’s leaders are rushing toward an apocalyptic nuclear strength. That possibility threatens not only Israel and its Arab neighbors: The regime holds the dreadful distinction of being the world’s largest sponsor of terror, which has its deadly sights set on Europe, the United States, South America, and others. 

Drone production is emerging as a new wave of warfare built on the ground and launched into the skies. (For example, the Russian army is using this airborne weapon to spread fear and reduce resistance in Ukraine.) Amid the challenges in today’s conflicts, it is important to understand how Iran and Russia are currently allied in drone warfare. The Times of Israel reported on February 5 that Iranian officials visited Russia to finalize building a drone plant there. Last year, Russian officials had visited Tehran, Iran’s capital. Reportedly, once the Russian factory is built it will be able to produce 6,000 drones in the next few years. That cooperation is of concern to Israel, the United States, and many other Western nations. Iran has already shipped suicide drones to Russia and has developed prolific drone manufacturing inside Iran. The Wall Street Journal describes it as “reshaping security in the Middle East.” That concern explains Israel’s recently launched drone attack in Isfahan, Iran, at an ammunition manufacturing location, as reported in The Jerusalem Post. 

The media often characterize Israel as the instigator of terror—that it is trigger-happy at every turn. The truth is that Israel’s enemies shamelessly proclaim their goal of battering Israel into oblivion. Those goals necessitate Israel’s defending itself against its declared enemies—whether inside Israel (from Palestinian leaders and terrorists), from Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iranian military in Syria, or Hamas in Gaza. Regarding the Islamic Republic and evidenced by attacks in Iraq and Syria in 1981 and 2007, Israel takes measured steps against Iran. However, Prime Minister Netanyahu—now in his sixth term—stated on January 28, “I have come back to office … for one main reason, to do everything I can to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu’s leadership, supporting ingenious ways to prevent Iran from accomplishing its goals, became evident in a dramatic operation. In 2018, a covert operation was carried out by members of Israel’s Mossad inside Tehran; they entered a warehouse stored with documents verifying Iran’s nuclear information. In one night, the Mossad famously heisted a half-ton of crucial security information. They escaped with 10,000 documents, videos, and photographs.

At the United Nations General Assembly later that year, Prime Minister Netanyahu showed that “Iran lied about its nuclear ambitions and deceived powers involved in the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.” Netanyahu’s biting observation is still a major concern. Despite the current internal chaos in Israel due to the proposed judicial reforms, Iran is the predominant threat to Israel’s safety. If Israel is forced to launch attacks of a more robust nature against the Islamic regime, keep in mind what you have read here and understand that Israel is on the front line of danger. Remember, Iran’s Ayatollahs subscribe to world domination through a tyrannical version of Islamic law.

Thankfully, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin announced at a press conference that a renewed nuclear deal with Iran is “no longer a priority.” The United States has wisely turned its focus toward the Islamic regime’s close relationship with Russia and Iran’s treatment of its citizens—arresting and imprisoning thousands and murdering hundreds since the protests began in September. 

One of Judaism’s cultural foundations is to “repair the world” (Hebrew: Tikkun Olam). The biblical concept of compassion embraces actions intended to improve the world. Israelis long for peace, not war, to shape their homeland with shalom—a shalom that encompasses the meanings of peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility. Their peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, the Abraham Accords, and consistent efforts to negotiate with Palestinian leaders are evidence of Israel’s goals. Tikkun Olam offers proof that the world’s only Jewish state extends humanitarian aid where possible even to nations and peoples who hate them or where conflict exists.

Israelis intensely understand trauma and crisis, meeting their own challenges by developing logistics and aid. They send their expertise worldwide. Amid this week’s devastating earthquake in Turkey, where Reuters reports the death toll has already soared above 12,000 deaths, IsraAID teams quickly landed in Turkey offering expert search and rescue efforts. This international non-governmental humanitarian aid organization is based in Israel and since 2001 has rushed to more than 50 nations in humanitarian crisis. In Syria more than 2,000 have died and Israel has mounted assistance with medications, tents, and other supplies. Although Syria and Israel have no peace treaty, and anti-Israel Iranian military are stationed in Syria, Israel has also offered medical treatment for Syrians in Israeli hospitals.

For thousands of years, God’s faithfulness to His chosen people and land has been evident. Israel survives against all odds and remains a light to the world enacting Tikkun Olam.

Join us at CBN Israel this week to pray for Israel, its neighbors, and its enemies. As we are reminded in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Please join CBN Israel in prayer for Turkey and Syria as well as the entire region:

  • Pray for Turkish citizens amid the earthquake’s traumatic results.
  • Pray for members of IsraAID going to Turkey and aid sent to Syria.
  • Pray for Israel’s strategies regarding drone warfare and security breaches.
  • Pray for the safety of Israel Defense Forces in all military on land, sea, cyberspace, Mossad, Shin Bet, and police.
  • Pray for Christians to actively promote facts about Israel wherever possible.

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.

Read more

New Immigrant: Vladimir’s Story

As a 33-year-old Jewish Ukrainian, Vladimir arrived in Israel on February 20, 2022. He was on a free 10-day tour to explore the possibility of someday moving his family there. Four days later, Russia attacked Ukraine. And suddenly, “someday” became an emergency decision. 

Vladimir recalled, “In one moment everything changed.” He worried about his pregnant wife and little boy back in Ukraine and called her frantically. They both decided it was safer for them to join him in Israel, and days later, she and their son were evacuated to meet him there. 

The family received temporary housing near Tel Aviv. Fleeing in haste, they had brought very little, and had no money or packed possessions. So, they were given the basics they would need, including free intensive Hebrew language classes, and a small stipend to get them started. They soon settled in Haifa, yet still lacked many essentials in a new land. But who could help?

Thankfully, friends like you were there through CBN Israel. Caring donors gave them vouchers to buy food and other basics. They also provided them with a new refrigerator and necessary furniture. In addition, they offered counseling and assistance, including connecting them with local partners who offer Hebrew classes, job training, and other services crucial to this transition. 

As Vladimir learns Hebrew to find work, and his wife is weeks from giving birth, he is grateful for your help, saying, “We feel at home here.” And your gift to CBN Israel can bless more refugees—as well as Holocaust survivors, terror victims, and others. 

So many in Israel are in crisis situations. Your support can bring housing, groceries, financial aid, and more to those in need. 

Please help us extend a hand to those who are struggling!



Read more

The United States and Israel: Still Standing Together

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

As we look for light amid the darkness of world events, the U.S. Congress might seem a surprising place to find it. Yet the enduring cooperation between the people and governments of the United States and Israel—surely a beacon of promise and hope—survives despite turnovers in Congress and the presidency. 

The U.S. Congress votes in favor of Israel’s annual security aid, a necessity more urgent now than ever before. The Christian community’s mark among members of Congress to promote legislation that will strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship is significant and helps increase the safety of both allies. Although Congress may not base its decisions on Genesis 12:3, that “God will bless those who bless Israel,” politically active Christians are motivated by scripture and congress matches its decision-making about our staunch ally important for our own nation.  

The Islamic regime continues marching toward possessing and using nuclear weapons. Its surrogates surround Israel’s borders in Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria—geographic proximity that brings terror up close. However, when it comes to Israel, terror shatters the peace within Israel’s borders. It is up close and personal when a 21-year-old terrorist living in east Jerusalem arrives at Ateret Avraham synagogue on Shabbat and starts shooting. During that four-minute shooting spree last week, the terrorist shot and killed seven Israelis and wounded three others, all on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. When a second terror attack took place the following morning in the City of David, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) added three additional battalions and ramped up the security alert to its highest level. The murders are considered the worst terror outbreak in years. 

Meanwhile, government officials from two nations that are responsible for murdering their own populations recently met in Damascus to arrange a meeting between Iran’s president, Ebrahim Riasi, and Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad. At this meeting, Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and Syria’s foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, recapped their “challenges” with Western nations. Mekdad observed that they must “secure their national interests.” He named the United States and the “Zionist Regime” (Israel) and their “mercenaries” as threats. 

On another front, the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog—the International Atomic Energy Agency—plans to travel back to Iran in his attempt to revive the 2015 Iran deal. Director Rafael Grossi reports that although Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon yet, it has “amassed enough nuclear material for several nuclear weapons, not one.” I believe this latest attempt at a deal with the Islamic regime will fail, since the ayatollahs are fixated on one goal: using nuclear bombs to establish a worldwide caliphate governed under tyrannical Islamic law. The Gulf Arab states, Israel, and the United States are their prime targets. 

Iran’s leaders view United Nations diplomacy as simply another forum for propaganda. The Iran regime’s dangers to its own population and the active terror from its surrogates in Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria are intensifying. 

But here’s one kind of message that is bound to get their attention. On January 26, the U.S. Central Command and Israel Defense Forces completed a massive military exercise called Juniper Oak 2023, the biggest joint drill on record. Its size and scope must have sent an unmistakable message to the ayatollahs. As U.S. General Michael “Erik” Kurilla observed on NBC, “It would not surprise me if Iran sees the scale and the nature of these activities and understands what the two of us are capable of doing.” 

The combined participation included 1,100 Israeli soldiers and 6,400 U.S. soldiers in the drill. The Times of Israel reported that 142 aircraft were involved: F-35, F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 fighter jets; AC-130 Hercules transports; B-52 heavy bombers; and AH-64 Apache helicopters. A U.S. Navy carrier strike group coordinated operations with six Israeli ships and a submarine that carried out maneuvers with the American aircraft carrier.

Israel provides unmatched efforts that help our own U.S. security, as Israel shares intelligence with the U.S. government and military. The advantages of this cooperation spill over into our civilian airline safety methods that were gleaned from Israeli resources. Another benefit is that Israel never asks for American boots on the ground. Their policy is to defend themselves by themselves. 

When it comes to Return on Investment (ROI), our relationship with Israel is quite favorable. Such benefits manifest themselves in our economy. Our U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the capital, reported in 2021 that bilateral trade resulted in nearly $50 billion in goods and services annually. Another example worth noting: Israelis themselves invested around $24 billion in the United States. Compare huge Israeli investments to our Congress’s Ten-Year Memorandum of Understanding with Israel. Renewed again in 2018, the memorandum commits $3.8 billion annually in U.S. funds for Israel’s security for the following decade. Seventy-five percent remains in the U.S.—in factories that manufacture some of Israel’s advanced weaponry and employ American citizens. We are surely on the winning end.

When it comes to the U.S. Congress, although Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and several other members of the House of Representatives are anti-Semitic (as evidenced by their comments and votes), both Democrats and Republicans are staunch pro-Israel votes on important legislation and resolutions to continue strengthening the US-Israel relationship. 

Last week, on January 25, 2023, a recent bipartisan resolution—House Resolution 7—roundly won approval, passing in a 420-1 vote. Republican House member Thomas Massie (R-KY) cast the only NO vote. The resolution condemned the “violent suppression” of women-led protesters in Iran for the last five months. Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-NY) described the protests as the “most significant popular protest” in Iran since the 1979 takeover by the Islamic regime. 

The 24/7 news cycle thrives on bad news. However, focusing on good news, some that I have mentioned above, provides motivation to do what we can, where we can. Prayer is our foundation, and putting feet on our prayers is faith in action. Three hundred and sixty-five times in Scripture, God says, “Fear not.” He assures us in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 

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

  • Pray for citizens in the Islamic Republic who are demonstrating, imprisoned, and killed by the regime.
  • Pray for Israelis who are once again on high alert for terror, including Hamas rockets launched into Israeli civilian areas.
  • Pray that world leaders will pressure Israel’s enemies, not Israel—which defends its citizens from terrorists. 
  • Pray for hundreds of thousands of Syrian families who have fled Syria as well as those left amid the Iranian presence in their nation. 

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.

Read more

Help Redeem the Past on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

“May this archive, which serves as restitution for the victims and their families, be a warning to all future generations to never again allow such a horror to afflict humanity.” 

Since 1952, this phrase has been embedded into a wall in the main building at the Arolsen Archives – International Center on Nazi Persecution in Bad Arolsen, Germany. And it is fitting to remember it this week, the 78th anniversary of the Allies’ liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

This day in history will bypass the attention of most communities worldwide. Yet Friday, January 27, is deeply engraved in the minds and hearts of Holocaust survivors, their descendants, and the nation of Israel. It marks the day when the Nazis’ genocidal machinery was finally exposed for the world to see. It is a date in Jewish history that lives in infamy.

Seventy-eight years ago, on January 27, 1945, soldiers from Russia—then one of the allied powers determined to stop Hitler—liberated more than 7,000 Jewish survivors from Auschwitz-Birkenau. The United Nations General Assembly later designated this date as International Holocaust Remembrance Day to commemorate all victims of the Holocaust. The theme this year is “Home and Belonging.”

Today, I’m compelled to convey a solemn history about the Arolsen Archives – International Center on Nazi Persecution in Bad Arolsen, Germany. It was established to track millions of displaced, deported, and murdered Jews and other communities. As you read, you will discover a simple yet powerful way to help redeem the past and highlight the “Home and Belonging” theme—as part of an international team of more than 60,000 volunteers with more needed. By joining in on the “Every Name Counts” project, volunteers add names to the largest digital database in the world. We become part of remembering and honoring six million Jewish men, women, and children who perished. This link explains how it works:

Each year, more Holocaust survivors fade into history. Their passing is an irreplaceable loss to families and friends. In April 2022, Israel reported that some 161,000 survivors were living within its borders. In the U.S., approximately 50,000 Holocaust victims survive. Estimates in 2020 indicated that only 400,000 remain worldwide. Moreover, Holocaust survivors are living proof that genocides remain as an evil presence in our world. Among them are the governments of Nigeria, China, Syria, and Iraq, governments that perpetuate cruelty toward Christians and other minorities. 

The heartache of Holocaust survivors only continued in the immediate post-World War II years. The traumas linger even amid making a new life. History reveals that there could have been more possibilities for Jewish families to connect and reunite. When Jewish survivors desperately searched for relatives and friends in the Holocaust’s grim aftermath, trying to categorize and answer requests about family members was an impossibility. Factors on the ground in Europe coalesced into an intractable deadlock of numbers, confusion, and devastation. In 1943, the British Red Cross set up the Central Tracing Bureau, and later the International Red Cross took over these daunting tasks. 

Six million is the general figure used to document Jewish murders in concentration camps, but it does not take into account “shooting operations” and other atrocities in Poland, Italy, Romania, and Russia. Nor does it include the number of gypsies, disabled people, gays, and prisoners—which could total three times more. In addition, not a single World War II master list exists. Approximately 250,000 Jewish people displaced between 1945 and 1952 are an example of just one numerical challenge the International Red Cross faced. 

Later, in 1948, a coalition of nine nations was tasked to oversee the Bad Arolsen archives. More than 15 miles of document shelving was stashed in a former Nazi SS barracks and a castle in the small, wooded German town located in the American Occupation Zone. The archives contain 50 million index cards for about 17.5 million people. Originally, nine countries served on an International Commission of the International Tracing Service (ITS): Belgium, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the United States, with Greece and Poland joining later. 

Until late 2007, the ITS in Bad Arolsen was the largest unopened Holocaust archive in the world. For decades, survivors, families, and historians pleaded for answers to their inquiries. After the war, Holocaust-related documents dumped into the buildings in Bad Arolsen grew into battlegrounds in diplomacy and differing opinions between the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and European allies. 

A system failure to connect survivors intensified as the 11-country commission sank into a bureaucratic tangle. Infighting over policies, tasks, and a myriad of other issues delayed their purpose of reunification, placement, and searches for missing persons. Disagreements over privacy questions about victims’ personal data clogged the process, as did the  advancing Cold War era, which slowed down the archival work. 

Lack of adequate funding and staff problems intensified within the International Tracing Service and with it, the compounded victimization of the European Jewish community. Charles-Claude Biedermann, the International Red Cross official in charge of the archive for two decades, seemed to embody the spirit of this frustrating impasse. He enforced a policy of restricted access even to certain buildings, keeping to a very narrow definition of who could be helped. Tracing work languished with 400,000 requests. 

After an internal investigation in 2006, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) approved and released a document on April 27 asserting, “This failure is aggravated by the fact that the ICRC did not do everything in its power to put an end to the persecutions and help the victims. The organization remained a prisoner of its traditional procedures and of the overly narrow legal framework in which it operated.” Biedermann defied a 2006 U.S. push to open the archives. Finally, he was fired. 

In 2008, the ITS at long last opened its archives. In 2012, the ICRC withdrew from management and the German Federal Archives took over. The facility name changed to the Arolsen Archives–International Center on Nazi Persecution. 

Given the mountains of paper—some written on scraps of cigarette cartons—technology has added a welcome improvement on World War II era record-keeping. In 2019, the Associated Press released an important announcement from Bad Arolsen. The archive released over 13 million digitized records on 2.2 million victims. These records, which had been meticulously documented by Nazis, included death and prisoner notices. The Arolsen Archives records are now online, with search improvements increasing. Search for documents in the Arolsen Archives ( Arolsen Archives belongs to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Memory of the World. 

The archive should—and will—remain in its preeminent place as a source of knowledge and help. Nevertheless, 78 years of missing persons sorrowfully prevents the possibility of reunions even with technology. In the aftermath of World War II, a 12-year-old looking for a parent, a mother searching for her toddler hidden in a convent, or a grandfather desperate to know if he has a grandchild—none has any answers.

While technology has improved the Arolsen Archives’ institutional health, it is the organization’s collaboration with Yad Vashem, Israel’s World Holocaust Remembrance Center, that has created a powerful united force. Together, these organizations facilitate and accelerate locating every single Holocaust survivor so that they may be interviewed, honored, and remembered. Indeed, Yad Vashem’s technology is a tremendous asset, and Arolsen Archives now process around 20,000 requests a year. 

The 11 member states on the International Commission of the ITS and more than 200 archive employees operate in a more effective way. Arolsen Archives are funded by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. While I have attempted to synthesize some of the history of the Arolsen Archives, I highly recommend an excellent, detailed article written in 2013 by Jean-Marc Dreyfus: “Opening the Nazi archives at Bad Arolsen.”

Please join us in prayer this week as the world remembers the Holocaust on January 27th:

  • Pray that Christians will bless Holocaust victims through CBN Israel’s ministry to survivors in Israel.
  • Pray that volunteers will increase to complete the “Every Name Counts” project.
  • Pray that all believers will choose one way to support a Holocaust survivor in Israel, U.S, or another nation.  
  • Pray that rising anti-Semitism will be met with advocacy from Christians on behalf of Jewish communities everywhere.

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.

Read more

Weekly Devotional: The Fruits of Repentance

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. … Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same. … Don’t collect any more than you are required to. … Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” (Luke 3:8, 11, 13, 14 NIV).

Repentance is usually seen as something between God and us. We sin and disobey; we come to Him in repentance. John the Baptist led a spiritual revival calling people to repent and return to God. For him, the people needed to show that their repentance was genuine by bearing the fruits of repentance. 

While John called the people to return to God—“Prepare the way of the Lord”—when they inquired what they should do to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” he gave them rather practical actions. Perhaps even more significant than their practicality is that the actions John advised all pertained to how they related with others instead of God: Give clothes and food to those who are without, don’t extort, don’t rob. 

As Christians, we often compartmentalize our spirituality from our everyday life. When I’m spiritual, that pertains mainly to my relationship with God. How I behave as I go through my day, well, that’s just life. Yet the biblical view does not accept such segregation. 

The way to God is through others. In other words, the true evidence of my spirituality and relationship with God is manifested in how I treat others, including practical issues like caring for the poor and hungry and conducting business relationships and interactions. 

John not only called the people to repent, preparing the way of the Lord; he also instructed them to bear the fruits of repentance. And what were those? How they treated one another. How they cared for the poor and hungry. How they behaved in business dealings with others. 

Too often we proclaim our love for God, yet our treatment of those around us, those we encounter in our daily lives, does not bear the fruit of the relationship we claim. John expected those who embraced his movement to show in their treatment of others the fruit born from their repentance.


Father, as we turn to You today, may we bear the fruit of our repentance in our daily lives and relationships, with family, friends, and strangers. Amen.

Read more

Weekly Q&A: How did we get the Bible?

This history of how we got the Bible is fascinating. When we hold our Bibles in our hands, we rarely consider how the Bible came to us. So, how did we get the Bible?

The Old and New Testaments preserve a library of books written by different authors, composed of different genres, and, in the case of the Old Testament, written over hundreds of years. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Jewish scribes translated it into Greek in the late third and second centuries B.C. The Greek translation of the Old Testament is known as the Septuagint.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek in less than a hundred years. The writers of the biblical books originally wrote their book by itself. Only later were individual books made part of collections for the community of faith. We refer to the original manuscript penned by the author as an autograph. We do not have any autographs of any books of the Bible.

So, how did we go from the autographs to our Bibles?

Ancient writers used several different materials to compose their books. They composed their works on scrolls. The scrolls were made from either animal skin—parchment (treated sheepskin or cowskin) or vellum (treated calfskin)—or papyrus, made from the reed papyrus plant. They could stich pieces of animal skin together to make a longer scroll.

Books, like 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, are one complete book. They did not fit onto one scroll and required two scrolls to contain their content. They used ink made from gall. Until the first century A.D., manuscripts were written on scrolls. In the first century, people began to use the codex—the stacking of pages upon each other to form books.

After the original author penned his autograph, scribes copied and transmitted these works. This transmission from one scribe to the next happened over hundreds and thousands of years. We have roughly 5,000 manuscripts which contain all or part of the New Testament.

The original author wrote his work without punctuation or paragraphing. In the case of the books in the Old Testament, the Hebrew was written without vowels. No manuscripts contained chapters or verses; these were added later. Evidence for verse divisions within the Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament date from the fifth-sixth centuries A.D., but we only have manuscript evidence for this practice from the ninth century A.D.

Stephen Langton established the chapter divisions of the Old Testament around 1204-1205 while he was lecturing at the University of Paris. The earliest manuscripts displaying his chapter divisions dates to the thirteenth century A.D. New Testament manuscripts show some chapter divisions (although not our modern divisions) by the fifth century A.D. Hugo de Sancto Caro first introduced chapter divisions into the Christian Bible, but Stephen Langton (1204-1205) created the chapter divisions used today.

These divisions were first inserted into the Greek text of the New Testament in the sixteenth century. The first use of verse divisions in an English translation of the Bible appeared in the translation of William Whittingham (c. 1524-1579) in 1557. The Geneva Bible (1560) used both chapter and verse divisions within an English translation of the Bible for the first time.

It took time for the Bible to come to us. Unnamed scribes, translators, and other figures along the way enabled us to have the Bibles we hold in our hands today.

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.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

Read more

A Small Christian Charity with a Big Impact in Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

The word “compassion” beautifully describes an American charity named The Works of His Hands. Since 2007, this ministry of mercy—known in Hebrew as Maasay Yahdav—has enveloped thousands upon thousands of Israelis in a kaleidoscope of kindnesses and practical helps. Psalm 111:7 is the primary source for their name: “The works of His hands are verity and judgment; all His commandments are sure.”

The charity was established by Alice Long and Doris Billings Mintz, who took their first trip to Israel in 2007. They boarded their flight carrying a single bag of stuffed animals and hand puppets and visited patients in the only Israeli hospital that opened its doors to them. The women gathered information and met with leaders and organizations to explore future opportunities. Their modest beginnings in a 501(c)(3) humanitarian journey blossomed into partnerships with 38-plus organizations today. The exhortation in Zechariah 4:10—“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin”—surely applies to them.

The founders’ multifaceted professional backgrounds—Doris’s corporate position in the healthcare industry and Alice’s nursing and telecommunications career—helped equip them to launch the charity. From its inception, their ministry was built on Isaiah 40:1: “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God.” Everyone active in Maasay Yahdav is a volunteer, including the founders and six-member board. No one receives a salary.

As Maasay Yahdav enters its 16th year, Doris reflects on their first trip. “Our hearts were deeply pierced by the stories of Holocaust survivors, at-risk children, new immigrants, and those suffering in hospitals.” She recounts an unforgettable conversation with Leah Goldin, whose son Hadar—serving in an elite IDF unit—was murdered on the Gaza border by terrorists during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. His body has yet to be returned. “We could feel her grieving heart and palpable grief,” Doris said. “It moved us to do something to memorialize their beautiful fallen sons and daughters.” Outreach to Israel Defense Forces, their families, lone soldiers, and Israeli civilians living under daily threats of rockets is carefully woven into their ministry.

During the group’s year-round operations in the United States, they prepare for ministry in Israel. Teams travel twice a year (spring and fall) with volunteers varying in number from five to 29. In the ministry’s early years, the mostly female volunteers wrestled with four huge duffel bags of handmade quilts, baby clothes, and stuffed animals at the airport. Those efforts grew into dragging 50 duffel bags to the airport! Thankfully, for six years Maasay Yahdav has partnered with First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tennessee, as well as Harvest of Israel, which has shipped more than 75 containers packed with humanitarian aid. Maasay Yahdav adds their contributions, and the shipments await them when the volunteers arrive in Israel to carry donations throughout the land.

In between their two annual trips, Maasay Yahdav is hard at work. They view each day as an opportunity to gather more aid to ensure that their next shipment and trip to Israel are a reality—not a dream. Doris and Alice make presentations in churches, synagogues, and businesses to raise funds for portable bomb shelters and to directly support children, babies, and Holocaust survivors. Many activities throughout the year involve church groups of talented women who fashion beautiful handmade quilts and caps for tiny babies in neonatal intensive care. One year, Doris and Alice delivered a quilt to a Holocaust survivor who lived alone in a small apartment. When they unfolded the quilt for his single bed, with tears in his eyes he said, “This is my first night sleeping under something where I know I am loved.” Stories of blessings abound.

The ministry is a little giant of ever-expanding compassionate help. They solicited more than $100,000 to help place four portable bomb shelters via the Israeli charity, Operation Lifeshield. Each shelter honors the memory of a life extinguished by terror: Lieutenant Hadar Goldin in 2015, Hallel Yaffa Ariel in 2016, Michael Levin in 2017, and Ari Fuld in 2018. In addition, Maasay Yahdav raised enough money to completely finance two permanent bomb shelters. A plaque is affixed on each shelter with the names of the individuals and/or organizations that donated them.

One permanent bomb shelter dedication took place at Makor Chaim High School in Gush Etzion, Israel’s biblical heartland. The plaque on the bomb shelter honors three teenagers murdered in 2014. Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel were kidnapped by terrorists on their walk home from school—a tragedy that made international headlines. Yossi Baumol, director of development at the world-famous Makor Chaim Institutions, remarked with gratitude: “The generous people of Maasay Yahdav stepped forward to fund a full-fledged permanent bomb shelter in the student dormitory.”

Baumol describes their precarious security situation amid building a newer donated campus in the isolated area. “To the west looms a hill topped with a hostile Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions project called the Tent of Nations. Many European anarchists visit regularly. Our security staff fears the possibility of armed attack or Molotov cocktails from the hill.” Indeed every inch, every Israeli, is at risk. Christians worldwide, following Maasay Yahdav’s example, have a role to play in prayer and help.


Another permanent bomb shelter was dedicated in honor of Doris’s husband, the late Dr. Steve Mintz, who supported his wife’s efforts. She remains dedicated to honoring his Jewish heritage. The bomb shelter is located at the Beit Singer boarding school for children from high-risk homes. It also serves as a classroom. Explains Assistant Executive Director Ariel Rascovsky, We have a very special chemistry with Maasay Yahdav that for years has resulted in significant efforts to improve the lives of at-risk children. Our children need them very much.” For three months, Alice stayed at Beit Singer where she “loved on them, listened in their loneliness, hurts and anger and experienced the joys and laughter of children from ages 6 to 18 years old. They are the future of tomorrow.”

Maasay Yahdav emphasizes lifesaving in Israel not only through bomb shelters. They also raise donations for a motorcycle ambulance (medicycle) to help Magen David Adom (Israel’s version of the Red Cross). These motorcycles can quickly navigate busy narrow streets to bring lifesaving equipment to ill or injured patients.

Israel is rarely far away from the hearts and minds of Maasay Yahdav’s founders. Although the organization can’t boast many volunteers or much wealth, with a vigorous commitment and a foundation of spirited prayers, the results are plentiful. Those they meet in Israel become family. Doris and Alice are full of gratitude for the love and kindness of donors and volunteers helping to carry out The Works of His Hands together.

Please join CBN Israel this week in praying for Israel and her people in need:

  • Pray for Maasay Yahdav in their continual ministry to Israelis as well as for Doris Mintz and Alice Long as they lead this wonderful charity.
  • Pray for underserved, low-income Israelis who need a helping hand.
  • Pray for Israel’s government to increase aid specifically for Holocaust survivors.
  • Pray for Christians to seek ways to bless Israel with mercy along with speaking up for them amid growing anti-Semitism.
  • Pray for CBN Israel in our ongoing ministry outreaches to aid those in desperate need—including Holocaust survivors, refugees, terror victims, impoverished families, and more.

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.

Read more

Weekly Devotional: How Do You Treat Your Enemies?

“Don’t gloat when your enemy falls, and don’t let your heart rejoice when he stumbles, or the LORD will see, be displeased, and turn His wrath away from him” (Proverbs 24:17-18 HCSB).

How we treat our enemies says a lot about our relationship with God. Society today takes great joy in the falling and stumbling of those seen as our adversaries or opponents. Such attitudes permeate our civil and political discourse. We rejoice whenever our enemies fail.

We grow up like this. How often, as kids, did we mock someone who physically fell or stumbled? It’s natural that as adults we rejoice in the falling of our enemies. Sometimes we even attach divine justice to their stumbling as proof that God prefers us and looks out for us against our enemies. Such sentiments, however, are evil in the eyes of the Lord.

Jesus commanded His followers, “I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” (Luke 6:27-28 NLT). He called upon His followers to love their enemies; in fact, for Him, this was the principal characteristic for those belonging to the kingdom of Heaven—love your enemies.

While rejoicing in our enemy’s failures and failings is simple human nature, love of our enemies requires our obedience to Jesus. In a world where the misfortune of our enemies provides cause for rejoicing, Jesus demands His followers to live differently, to love their enemies.

Even the misfortunes of those hostile to our faith and God we cannot celebrate, for God causes His rain and sun to come upon the righteous and unrighteous alike (Matthew 5:45). God does not distinguish between friend and foe in His mercy, and neither can we (Luke 6:36).

The test of our faith is not how we treat those who think like us, act like us, or even like us. The test of whether we are true followers of Jesus is how we love those who don’t think like us, who are not like us, and who don’t even like us. “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.”


Father, may I walk in obedience to You today by loving my enemies and showing mercy to them, as You show mercy to them. Amen.

Read more

Weekly Q&A: What is the Bible?

The term Bible comes from the Greek ta biblia, which means “the scrolls.” The name conveys the Bible contains a collection of scrolls, books. As such, it is a library of books written over hundreds of years. But before we can understand how the Bible came to us, we need to answer, “Whose Bible are we referring to?”

The Judeo-Christian traditions preserves five Bibles used by different Jewish and Christian groups. The Jewish Bible, the Tanak (which stands for Torah, Prophets, and Writings), parallels the Christian Old Testament. It contains the same books, but in a different order. The Samaritans use their Pentateuch known as the Samaritan Pentateuch. It contains the Five Books of Moses but has differences from Jewish Bible-Old Testament versions of the books. The Samaritan Pentateuch preserves interpretations which reflect Samaritan ideological and theological ideas.

The Catholic Bible comprises the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Apocrypha. These are books written by Jews from the fourth/third century B.C. to the first century A.D. Catholics view these books as deuterocanonical, meaning they are useful for study and instruction, but they do not carry the same authority of the Old and New Testaments.

The Orthodox Bible is like the Catholic Bible except for some differences within the collection of apocryphal works. But within the Orthodox Church, each community—Greek, Slavonic, Georgian, Armenian, Syriac, and Coptic—uses a Bible with slight variations, beyond language. Most of us are familiar with the Protestant Bible, which emerged from the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Bible consists of the Old and New Testaments.

A survey of the different Bibles used within Judeo-Christian traditions helps us to define what is the Bible. The Bible is a unique fixed, closed collection of ancient literature, written over hundreds of years, comprised of different genres—narrative, poetry, prophecy, wisdom sayings, letters, and apocalypses—collected as divine revelation for the community of faith as a rule of faith and practice. This definition holds for any of the Bibles within the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The Bible serves as the Canon for the community of faith. The word “canon” originally meant a “straight bar” and came to mean “standard” or “rule.” Applied to literary collections, Canon means a collection of works which are the standard. Within a community of faith, the Canon serves as the rule of faith and practice.

The establishment of a Canon of sacred literature forms the final step in a process of transmission. There was an initial event, utterance, teaching, psalm, which were transmitted orally or written snippets. The writers of the biblical books collected these, organized them, and composed their book—the book of Isaiah, the Gospel of Luke. Scribes copied and transmitted these manuscripts of books, sometimes for hundreds of years.

Communities then began to form collections of these books, such as the Five Books of Moses. These collections circulated prior to the bringing together of all the books. Finally, the community brought the entire collection of books together, which then circulated within the community, until eventually the community treated that collection of books as closed or fixed. The Bible now serves as the Canon for the community of faith.

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.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

Read more