Jesus Celebrated Hanukkah’s Momentous Victory at the Festival of Lights 

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

The festival of Hanukkah (“dedication” in Hebrew) celebrates far more than delicious latkes, candles, gifts, and jelly doughnuts. As an observant Jew, Jesus celebrated the enduring major festivals—Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. He annually walked the recently rediscovered Pilgrim Road up to the Temple in Jerusalem. 

Yet the only mention of Hanukkah in Scripture appears in John 10:22-23: “Then the Festival of Dedication[a] took place in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 Jesus was walking in the temple complex in Solomon’s Colonnade” (HCSB). Hanukkah thus marks the joyous victory of a small band of dedicated fighters who had prevailed against the formidable army of Syrian King Antiochus IV some 400 years before Jesus’ birth.

Most Christians have heard of the Maccabees who organized themselves to oppose Antiochus IV. In 168 B.C., Antiochus’ hatred of the Jews resulted in his campaign of destruction and lawlessness to force the Jews to abandon their Judaism, substitute pagan practices for it, and assimilate into Greek culture. His soldiers vandalized and desecrated the Temple. 

In a series of miracles, the Maccabees won against all odds, cleansed, and restored the Temple, and found a small earthenware flask of Temple oil that burned not for a single night but for an astonishing eight days—until a big batch of specialized oil could be made. The eight days of oil in the Temple Menorah served as a symbol of the Maccabees’ victory, one of God’s many promises guaranteeing the survival of His people.

Today, Israelis and Jews worldwide now light their own menorahs for eight days each year. The festival is celebrated annually on Judaism’s lunar calendar on the 25th of Kislev, and generally falls in December and sometimes November on our Gregorian calendar. This year, Hanukkah candles are lit each night from sundown December 18 to sundown December 26. The dates intersect with our celebrations of Jesus as the Light of the world and the Hebrews’ Maccabean victory. 

That long-ago conflict over Jerusalem was far from unusual, given its religious and geographic strategic importance. Over the centuries Israel’s capital has been attacked 52 times, captured (then recaptured) 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice. Aggressive wars against Israel can be viewed as modern miracles—a small nation like a small band of Maccabees, defeating bigger enemies that are bent on destroying them. Among these conflicts were the 1948 War of Independence, 1967 Six-Day War, and 1973 Yom Kippur War. 

Like replicas of Antiochus IV, modern dictators issue threats against Israel—from Iran’s ayatollahs and their surrogates in Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza to Putin’s Russia. Furthermore, false claims accusing Israel of apartheid persist in the United Nations. UN Watch reports that on December 1, 2022, the United Nations carried out an astonishing 15 resolutions against Israel—yet just 13 against the rest of the world combined. Take a moment to absorb these outrageous facts. 

Even though Israel provides humanitarian aid to other nations, even though its innovations offer worldwide benefits to humankind, Israel is the UN’s only scapegoat. Not Iran, whose security police have already killed more than 400 protesters and are holding thousands more. Not Syria’s President Assad, who’s guilty of promoting a civil war that has killed half a million Syrian citizens. Not Russia, senselessly murdering Ukrainians. Not Boko Haram, the terrorist Shiite Muslims who murder, kidnap, rape, and burn churches in northern Nigeria. Just Israel.

In another look at the Hanukkah calendar, Hanukkah began nearly 600 years before the first official Christmas date was decided. Still a controversial discussion among Christians today, December 25 was chosen as our Lord’s birthday by Pope Julius—350 years after Jesus’ birth—and made official in 529 A.D. by Roman Emperor Justinian, who made it a civic holiday. The pope and emperor connected Christmas to the Winter Solstice, a pagan festival, while claiming to dismiss the pagan practices. 

It is more than unfortunate that these decisions helped cement a version of Christianity that disavowed its Jewish roots, thus making way for Replacement Theology, which wrongly declares that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. Non-Jews who believe in our Jewish Lord Jesus are adopted into the ancient root of Judaism, but we do not replace the Jews. God’s covenants with the Jews are permanent. Through adoption, God has invited us into His family. 

Reinforcing His pledges to this very day, God has enacted the ancient Maccabee triumph of 2,200 years ago with every victory before and since, based on His covenants with the Jews. The word “covenant” is repeated 313 times in Scripture, emphasizing God’s unbreakable promises and His bond with His chosen people. From Abraham, Moses, and the prophets to Jesus, His disciples, and the Apostle Paul, God chose and prepared them as vessels in world history—to transcribe His words into our Old and New Testaments. In an astonishing act of unconditional love, He came to earth as Immanuel—God with us—through His birth into the Jewish culture. 

Imperfect vessels—just like us Christians and every human born—the Jews have since the time of Abraham transported in their culture the keys to redemption planned by God the Father from the very beginning of His creation and His decision to offer free will to all. 

Despite Antiochus IV and every hateful dictator who has attempted and is now trying to eradicate all Jews from the face of the earth, God has unconditionally maintained His covenant whether Jews followed or rejected Him at different moments in history.   

In a timely happening for the Hanukkah season, The Jerusalem Post reported on November 23, 2022, that the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered a theft that turned up a rare coin from 169-164 B.C. The ancient coin features none other than Antiochus IV. In the article, Dr. Danny Shion observed, “Antiochus, king of the Seleucid kingdom, was officially named ‘Epiphanes’—the face of God, but behind his back his subjects called him ‘Epimanes’—the crazy Antiochus.” Antiochus is among blasphemous leaders who equate themselves with God. Israel haters and those who scorn the Bible indeed reenact the evil Antiochus IV, who held Jews in contempt and sought to destroy them.

Bible scholars have varying opinions about what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the Light of the World.” But I agree with those who believe that Jesus declared Himself as the light at the Festival of Lights, the Festival of Rededication. Solomon’s Colonnade was a public location that many of us have visited in Jerusalem. The only mention of Hanukkah in John 10:22 goes on to say in verse 24, “The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’” It is easy to assume that He declared Himself as the true Light of the World among the candle-lit menorahs at the Festival of Lights.

Jesus, Immanuel, is our Light to the door of eternal life, the Victor over death and hate, who comes in the Holy Spirit to light our lives now and forever! 

The Christian community celebrates Jesus’ birth where, 2,000 years ago, serenaded by a heavenly host, Levitical shepherds rushed to Bethlehem Ephrathah (“fruitful”), its ancient name. Our Messiah, the Shepherd of our souls, was born into the ancient Jewish culture, enacted Jewish customs, read from Old Testament scrolls, and chose to sacrifice Himself as the Perfect Lamb of God. 

This Christmas let us ask Jesus to renew His light within us, to stand stronger against Israel’s oppressive enemies in their enmity toward Jesus’ earthly Jewish tribe.

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

  • Pray for Jewish families worldwide for safety as they celebrate Hanukkah.
  • Pray that the true reasons for Hanukkah and Christmas emerge amid the commercial trappings. 
  • Pray for the restoration of Judeo-Christian values in our nation and the world.
  • Pray for believers to reach out to those who are homeless or 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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Combatting Poverty and Food Insecurity in Israel

After the pandemic, many families have fallen into economic hardship; from illness or unemployment to any number of constraints the pandemic put on families around the world. More than two years later, many of these families are still in serious need of help.

Additionally, this year has seen many unexpected hardships, including the Ukrainian refugee crisis and rising inflation, making for a dire economic situation. Thanks to compassionate friends like you, CBN Israel has been able to pivot to address the influx of needs throughout the country, with many additional families becoming reliant on monthly assistance. Rising prices, political instability, and the cost of living changed the landscape of the community and required swift action to address the incoming need.

Because of caring donors, CBN Israel has been there for hundreds of destitute seniors and families across the nation—providing regular deliveries of food packages, food vouchers, and other essential aid. In fact, you have made it possible to distribute record amounts of groceries and basic relief to Israel’s most vulnerable people.

Daniel Carlson, the national director of CBN Israel, exclaimed, “Thank you for sharing God’s love and hope with those who are poor and deprived throughout the Holy Land! My team and I see the dire needs on a daily basis, and so I’m especially grateful to you for unwavering support. Your commitment to blessing Israel and her people in need is making a substantial difference.”

Your prayers and provisions can let so many in Israel know they are not forgotten—including lonely refugees, aging Holocaust survivors, single moms, and terror victims. Together, we can be a tremendous blessing to this special land—thank you!

The cries continue daily in the Holy Land from those who are hurting. Your generous support can provide them with groceries, housing, and financial aid—while also reporting true stories and news from Jerusalem.


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Bethlehem’s Christmas Amid the Palestinian Authority’s Upside-Down History

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

On Saturday December 3, lights were set ablaze on the tall Christmas tree in Bethlehem’s Manger Square. Its lighting marked the beginning of the Christmas season where Christian pilgrims by the thousands will travel to Israel for festivities—the first time since the two-year COVID-19 lockdown left Bethlehem’s streets empty. Expectations run high for the “Christmas rejoicing” in this city of 100,000. Paramount in the minds of Christians is singing beloved carols and standing in the land where Jesus was born.

I am grateful that Christians celebrating Jesus’ birth in Israel are familiar with biblical truths. However, the light of truth has dimmed amid the Muslim Palestinian leaders’ versions of Christmas, which are sacrilegious in the extreme. Here’s when that sacrilege began:

In 1995, an extraordinary announcement was made on the roof of the Church of the Nativity, when now-deceased Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat declared, “Welcome to Bethlehem, birthplace of the first Palestinian Christian—Jesus Christ.” We know that Jesus was neither a Christian nor a Palestinian. Yet current Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has kept up the Arafat lies, falsely asserting that Jesus was “a Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions around the world.”

Unfortunately, many have swallowed the “Palestinian messengers”  propaganda—among them Palestinians, world media, far too many United Nations member nations, and yes, Christians who do not follow scriptural truths.

It gets worse. The Palestinian Authority Daily published an imam’s 2020 comment about Jesus, calling Him “the first Palestinian fida’i (self-sacrificing fighter).” That term reveals the true nature of the PLO and PA’s Fatah leaders who in essence seek to coopt Jesus and portray Him as the first Palestinian terrorist. Palestinian Media Watch reports that in political cartoons, they depict Palestinians on a crucifix. It seems that the Palestinian leadership and media are willing to stoop so low as to substitute the words “Jesus” and “Israel” for “Palestinian” and “Palestine” without any hesitation or remorse.

Tragically, the hopes for peace never materialized from the 1993 Oslo Accords signing that granted governance through Yasser Arafat’s PLO to the Palestinian Authority. Instead, Bethlehem’s Arab Christians have suffered intimidation for decades—ever since the Muslim Palestinian rule began.

For readers who have traveled to Bethlehem in earlier years and better times, you blessed the Arab Christian businesspeople in their shops filled with beautiful mementos. Since the Muslim Palestinian Arabs have taken over, however, the Arab Christian population has dwindled as persecution escalated. For example, before the Oslo Accords, Christian Arabs lived as the majority in Bethlehem. As the Muslim population has increased for the last 50 years, the Arab Christian majority has fallen from 80 percent to 15 percent. Unlike in Israel—a country that protects religious freedom—no such Palestinian law exists. Although Palestinian leaders insist they protect every religion, the reality is far different. Christians are now treated as second-class citizens. They can no longer travel freely, or shop wherever they want. Small wonder that Christians choose to leave Bethlehem.

Nevertheless, another reality shines far brighter: dispelling darkness in Bible-believing hearts. What I am sharing about Bethlehem isn’t the usual Christmas story outlined in our beloved Christmas carol’s reference to the sleepy, humble “little town.” Rather, we go back further in history to Genesis 35:19-21, which describes the location of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (Ephrath) as being situated on the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. 

In Genesis 35:19-21, Jacob cast his tent at Migdal where he buried Rachel, the love of his life. “So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb. Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder.” Micah 4:8—a prophecy written around 700 years before Jesus’ birth—expands the details: “As for you, watchtower of the flock, stronghold of Daughter Zion, the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to Daughter Jerusalem.”

The Hebrew words migdal (tower) and eder (flock) help Christians make superb strides toward rediscovering the Jewish roots of our faith and Jesus’ Jewish ancestry. Jewish sages, writings, and prophetic Bible passages are essential for that purpose.

For centuries, shepherds were familiar with the Tower of the Flock, which could be considered an ancient animal hospital. The tower and the Bethlehem fields were their workplace. The stone structure was two stories, allowing the chief shepherd to look out over the flock for predators. Shepherds also led the ewes from the fields into the tower to give birth.

The religious leaders of that day appointed the Bethlehem shepherds—since they were experts in animal husbandry—as shepherd or Levitical priests. The thousands of lambs they tended on the birthing floor of Migdal Eder each year were special, too. At birth, the shepherds wrapped them in swaddling cloths and put them in mangers so the lambs would not harm their limbs. Otherwise, they would be disqualified as a Temple sacrifice, for perfection was the rule. When the lambs reached a year old, the shepherds herded thousands of them into Jerusalem on what the ancient Jews called the Day of Lambs to present them to the Temple priests. They were the Chosen Passover sacrificial lambs without spot or blemish—a description of our Savior also sacrificed at His last Passover for us.

The Tower of the Flock no longer stands, but various writings reinforce the shepherds retelling their stories for hundreds of years—until a Byzantine monastery was built over the site of Migdal Eder in the fourth century.

King David, who was born in Bethlehem, would have known about Migdal Eder from Jewish scrolls and from shepherding. Joseph, Mary, and everyone else in the Roman world were required to go to their ancestral town by Caesar Augustus’ imperial decree for a census. Surely it was no coincidence that the young Jewish couple would go to Bethlehem, Joseph’s hometown. Rather, it was all part of God’s plan that Mary would give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem—in or close proximity to the Tower of the Flock. 

These glistening threads of history are wondrous. When angels appeared to the shepherds in the Bethlehem fields with their glorious birth announcement, the shepherds appeared to know where to go based on the directions provided in Luke 2:11-12: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” The connection between the birthplace of Jesus and the location of the Tower of the Flock, where the Temple lambs were born, is fascinating.

The late Dr. Jimmy DeYoung Sr., in his Day of Discovery program, described his research on the shepherds’ skill: “They would reach into the mother’s womb and pull out this newborn lamb. Then they would reach for some swaddling and snugly wrap the lamb and lay it in a manger until it calmed down. Then they would unwrap the swaddling and let it run off to its mother for some food.”

Allow this realization to sink deeply into your heart: Jesus’ birthplace was intricately linked with the ancient Levitical shepherds and the Temple-destined Passover lambs. While Roman soldiers nailed the Perfect Lamb of God to the cross—His blood shed outside the walls of Jerusalem—the Temple priests were slaughtering the perfect Passover lambs born in the Tower of the Flock.

Throughout the Christmas season, our decorated trees and homes glow… a wonderful source of joy, tradition, and family memories. May we reflect upon that first Christmas when Jesus, the Perfect Lamb of God, entered time and space as Immanuel, “God with us.” Let us not miss the humble yet splendid context of ancient Migdal Eder in or near where the perfect Lamb of God was born.

Please join CBN Israel this week in praying for Jewish and Arab believers in the region as they celebrate the birth of the Savior:

  • Pray for the safety of Arab Christians still living in Bethlehem.
  • Pray that Christian pilgrims visiting Bethlehem will increase profits of Christian Arab businesses with their purchases.
  • Pray for all believers living in Israel that violence will not mar Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations. 
  • Pray for Christians to delve into the rich Jewish roots of our faith.

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 Immigrants: Anna and Oleg’s Story

Anna and Oleg enjoyed their life in Ukraine. Then suddenly, the Russians invaded their country, and everything changed. The young couple had a five-year-old little girl, and they feared for her future. Seeing the growing danger, they quickly fled to Israel. 

Immigrating to Israel was a leap of faith. Yet as they settled in Haifa, they saw doors open. They expected the citizenship process to be more complicated—especially with the exodus of Ukrainians from the war. To their surprise, the Jewish Agency expedited their applications. 

Still, they face challenges. Anna is taking an intensive Hebrew course, while her daughter is in kindergarten. Oleg, who was a mechanic in Ukraine, now works installing kitchens. And though they have already endured a wave of terror attacks, Oleg says they feel much safer than in Ukraine. Anna adds, “Here we feel like there’s life, and not just survival.” However, they worry about loved ones left behind, enduring terrible losses, and send what little money they can spare.

But they had their own financial stress of starting over in a new country and needing the basics. Thankfully, friends like you were there, through CBN Israel. Caring donors provided them with a refrigerator and blender—plus vouchers to buy nutritious food, medicine, and essentials. Anna exclaimed, “Thank you… It means so much to our family during this challenging transition!” 

As more immigrants arrive, your gift to CBN Israel can offer critical aid to them—as well as to Holocaust survivors, single moms, and terror victims. With the needs in the Holy Land increasing, your support can bring groceries, housing, financial aid, and more to those in crisis. 

Please consider a gift to help others today!


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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. 


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!


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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. 


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: 

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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