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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: https://everynamecounts.arolsen-archives.org/en

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.org) 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.

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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.

PRAYER

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.”

PRAYER

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.

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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.

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

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Widespread Anti-Semitic Defamation Attempts to Erase Judaism’s Holiest Place

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site. Jerusalem is the ancient and modern Jewish capital, and Israel is the ancestral Jewish homeland. These are verifiable and substantiated facts of history!

Yet Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount last week proves once again that the deepest dogma of anti-Semitism since the Holocaust is against the foundation of Judaism itself. While Ben-Gvir is an extremely divisive and controversial figure, this does not erase the fact that the Temple Mount is still the holiest site for the Jewish people. 

Anti-Semitic attacks wrapped in lies can be likened to another version of an improvised explosive device (IED), as evidenced by how condemnation of Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount detonated across the world. Last week, Ben-Gvir—newly appointed as Israel’s National Security Minister—decided to do the unthinkable: he, a Jew, walked up to Judaism’s holiest site. The Temple Mount is permanently inscribed in Jewish biblical history, secular history, and archaeological discoveries. Its walls were built around the summit of Mount Moriah. 

Biblically, this is where Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice. In Genesis 22:1-2, we read: “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’”

Nevertheless, Ben-Gvir’s visit triggered a worldwide uproar. His decision to visit the Temple Mount was met by worries from Israelis who feared a Third Palestinian Intifada (uprising). It was not an unfounded fear. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in 2000 set off an Intifada (uprising) by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. 

During this Second Intifada, from 2000 to 2005, Palestinian Muslims murdered more than a thousand Israeli civilians on the streets, on buses, and in restaurants. It wasn’t until months later that the Palestinian Authority Communications Minister, Imad Faluji, acknowledged that the uprising after Sharon’s visit had been part of Arafat’s plan to trigger more violence. By then it was far too late. The lies hardened into a counterfeit version of history and still circulate around the globe to this day. 

Earlier history from 1967 describes an unfortunate yet well-meant decision by Moshe Dayan, a respected Israeli general and statesman. (The Israel Defense Forces miraculously changed history and united east and west Jerusalem and recovered their biblical heartland: Judea and Samaria.) In an act of tolerance and religious freedom, General Dayan opened a door after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War. He allowed the Jordanian Foundation, the Waqf, to remain as the administrator of the Temple Mount. Jordan had ruled over the Temple Mount, east Jerusalem, and the Western Wall (Kotel) for 20 years since Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948. The Jordanians excluded Jews from their holiest site, the Temple Mount, as well as the Western Wall.

Fifty-six years have passed, and the Waqf’s grip remains tight and has produced a mountain of historical forgetfulness teamed with propaganda. Slight improvements have taken place at the site. Nevertheless, atop the 32 acres, which can accommodate more than 400,000 worshippers, Jews are limited in their visitation days, and hours, and they can enter only through the Mughrabi Gate adjacent to the Kotel. Christians are also penalized. Scripture enlightens us that Jesus, our Jewish Messiah, frequented the Temple Mount.

The current media reports about Ben-Gvir’s visit rely on sensationalism, not historic facts. The media parrots the Palestinians’ erroneous narrative of history. Astonishingly, the United Nations declared an emergency meeting last Thursday in protest. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations rightly commented, “There is absolutely no reason that this emergency session should be held. To hold it on a non-event is truly absurd.” He then asked, “Why are we holding an emergency session for something as simple as a Jew walking to the holiest site in Judaism?”

Indeed! Since 1967, the Jordanian Waqf still governs the Temple Mount with countless uncalled-for actions. Their policies eventually mutated into a United Nations General Assembly vote a few years ago in a Resolution—129 to 11, and 31 abstentions—to refer to Judaism’s holiest site only by its Arabic names: Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and al-Buraq, the Western Wall. What a travesty!

In Hebrew, the Temple Mount is called Har Habayit, the site of the First Temple, which was built in 957 B.C. and destroyed in 587/586 B.C. The Second Temple was completed around 516 B.C. and destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Jesus visited and worshipped in the Second Temple throughout His life. As mentioned previously, the current location of the Temple Mount was originally known as Mount Moriah, which marks Abraham’s profound moment of obedience when God asked him to sacrifice his son. Antiquity verifies these facts in contrast to the more recent Dome of the Rock (A.D. 691) and the al-Aqsa mosque (A.D. 705). In fact, both Jewish Temples predate Islam’s incursion by 1,700 years! 

The facts were not always distorted. In 1924, an Islamic guidebook written by the Supreme Muslim Council recognized the Temple Mount’s Jewishness. “Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which ‘David built there an altar unto the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings’” (2 Samuel 24:25). Almost 100 years later, the massive amounts of propaganda have attempted to erase these facts. 

As part of our discussion, let us acknowledge Islam’s foremost sacred place, Mecca, and its second most holy site, Medina, both of which are in Saudi Arabia. A pilgrimage, the Hajj, takes place in Mecca annually—where upwards of 2.5 million Muslims circle and pray around the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure, the holiest shrine in Islam. All Muslims are required to visit Mecca at least once in their lifetime if financially and physically feasible. 

Muslim pilgrims walk a path they believe to have been taken by the Prophet Muhammad 1,400 years ago and spend five days performing rituals said to bring them closer to God. Hajj occurs in the last month (Dhul-Hijjah) of the Islamic calendar. In 2023 it takes place June 27–July 1 on Islam’s lunar calendar. Non-Muslims are not allowed at the Hajj. Saudi government bans non-Muslims from Mecca itself. 

Do world leaders ever condemn Saudi Arabia over such restrictions at the Hajj? Does the global mainstream media ever report negatively on these matters? Are Muslims ever condemned for holding to their religious traditions? 

The United States, Jordan, and nations in Europe and beyond quickly lined up against Israel minutes after Ben-Gvir walked back down to the Western Wall Plaza. The Crown Prince of United Arab Emirates accused Ben-Gvir of “storming the al-Aqsa mosque.” Yet however controversial or provocative the National Security Minister is deemed to be, Ben-Gvir went to the Temple Mount at 7 a.m.—a prescribed hour for Jews. In fact, as CBN News recently reported: “Ben-Gvir consulted with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before his visit, and also met with Israeli police and internal security officials. His time on the Temple Mount lasted about 15 minutes and ended without incident.”

This truth must be strongly restated because of the barrage of attacks against it. As I said at the beginning of this article, these truths are substantiated facts of history and cannot be disputed: The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site. Jerusalem is both the ancient and modern Jewish capital, and Israel is the ancestral Jewish homeland. And even so, Israel remains dedicated to sharing its most sacred site with the three monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Proverbs 12:22 tells us that “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are His delight.”

Join us at CBN Israel in praying for truth to prevail when it comes to Israel:

  • Pray for the Christian community to increasingly share truths about Israel. 
  • Pray for Ben-Givr and all in Netanyahu’s government to act and speak wisely.
  • Pray that Palestinians will not explode into a Third Intifada. 
  • Pray that God’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and for the peace of Jerusalem. 


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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Hot Meals for the Elderly

Imagine going to bed hungry every night, or missing meals so you can afford medication. For one quarter of Israel’s elderly population, food insecurity is a sad reality. And malnutrition can lead to added health problems and make existing financial and life struggles worse.

In fact, many who live in elderly care facilities are isolated, without family to help, and often need physical assistance and emotional support. Some are immigrants or Holocaust survivors. Those in low-income senior residence centers often live on a government stipend of just $600 a month—making it hard to survive with dignity.

But fortunately, friends like you were there. Generous donors enabled CBN Israel to partner with a local organization that rescues surplus prepared food from hotels, corporate cafeterias, and IDF military bases. It is then refrigerated overnight at distribution hubs and delivered the next day to at-risk seniors in housing facilities, or through senior day centers.

Working together, they have helped provide hot, nutritious meals to hundreds of vulnerable seniors, four days a week throughout the year. For those with nowhere to turn, this vital aid alleviated their fears—and let them know they aren’t forgotten.

And your gift to CBN Israel can let others in crisis situations know they aren’t forgotten, including refugees, single mothers, terror victims, and more. As the needs become greater during these colder months, your support can supply groceries, housing, financial help, and other essentials to those who are struggling.

Will you join us today in helping others?

GIVE TODAY

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Weekly Devotional: The Fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).

We have a problem: The world we live in does not produce the fruit of the Spirit, and too often we fall into the trap of allowing it to inhibit their growth in us. While our world talks about love, in actuality it shows very little true love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Watch the news, look on social media, or just take a walk down the street. Our world is filled with the anti-fruit of the Spirit. Instead of love, we express hate or indifference; instead of joy, misery and despair. Violence and restlessness are predominant over peace. We struggle to show patience to others or ourselves. And so on and so forth.

Two important things we should note about the fruit of the Spirit. First, they don’t grow naturally. If we do not nurture them in our lives, they will not grow. If we do not obey God’s commands and the Spirit’s leading, we will not produce them. We have to choose to grow them and manifest them in our lives. They do not happen naturally, and our world does not foster or encourage their growth. Second, the fruit of the Spirit pertain primarily to our relationships with others. We don’t manifest gentleness with God; we show it to those around us. If we are truly walking by the Spirit, we should produce these fruits in our relationships with family, friends, strangers, and even our enemies.

Our world may not naturally produce the fruit of the Spirit but does recognize them whenever they genuinely see and experience them. The world may not encourage their growth, even in us, but does respond to their sweet taste. Take a look at your life today. Where can you choose to allow the fruit of the Spirit to grow in you and your relationships?

PRAYER

Father, lead us in Your ways, so that Your fruit will grow in us. Help us to choose to walk in obedience to You. Amen.

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Weekly Q&A: What does the term “Torah” mean?

The word “Torah” comes from the Hebrew root meaning “to shoot an arrow in a straight direction.” The noun torah as it appears within the Old Testament means “instruction.”

By the end of the Old Testament period, the Judeans began to collect writings they deemed authoritative and inspired. The first collection were five books, which tradition ascribed to Moses—the Five Books of Moses, also called the Pentateuch. Because these were seen as God’s instruction and authoritative, they received the name “Torah,” Instruction. Although not everything in the Five Books of Moses were instructional, for example there are narrative stories, ancient Judaism came to see everything as God’s instruction to His people.

The Jewish Scriptures were collected into three groups of writings by the first century—Moses, Prophets, and Psalms. This threefold division fits the organization of the Jewish Canon today—Torah, Prophets, and Writings. The “Torah” can refer either to the first five books, or it can refer to the entire collection of the Jewish Canon.

Many Christians have gained a negative sense of the Torah because in Greek the word is translated as nomos, law. The juxtaposition of “law and grace,” “faith and works” within Protestantism has left many Christians to think of the Torah negatively. Yet, within the New Testament—in the words of Jesus, Paul, and James—the Torah is connected to life, as it is within Judaism. In fact, it would be more accurate to gain a sense for what the New Testament writers, like Paul, meant if we translated nomos as “instruction” instead of “law.”

Because the Torah was written and transmitted through manuscripts, some Jewish groups felt it improper to write down their interpretation and commentary on the Torah. Thus, Pharisaic Judaism spoke of two “Torahs”—the Written Torah, which refers to the Old Testament, Jewish Canon, and the Oral Torah. The Oral Torah refers to the oral teachings, interpretation, and commentary which built up around the Torah but came from the Sages of Israel.

The Oral Torah was not seen as contrary to the Written Torah; rather, it was complementary. The Oral Torah sought to make the instruction of the Torah plain, relevant, and understandable within the contemporary situation of the Sage and his disciples. It is no different than what pastors do on any given Sunday when they seek to provide contemporary relevance and instruction from ancient texts to their congregation.

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

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

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