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Israel: Living Up to its Promise as the Holy Land—Full of Blessings for the World 

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

There is so much more to Israel and her extraordinary people than what is often portrayed by the global mainstream media. Today, we are bombarded with news stories and commentary obsessed with negatives about this nation. However, behind the scenes in hospitals, offices, factories, and farmlands, Jewish citizens are busy generating blessings for the entire world. 

Numerous innovations are emerging in a timely way. Supply chain gaps, reduced crop production, and inadequate water supplies are only a few of the growing challenges facing the nations—and increasing. With inflation still on the rise and economies in freefall, Israel is researching and pioneering solutions for the basic necessities of life—and then some. 

God’s promises to use Israel as a blessing to the nations are not just ancient words. It has been a modern reality ever since May 14, 1948, when David Ben-Gurion stood in a simple art gallery in Tel Aviv and read the rebirthed state’s Declaration of Independence. Settled in their homeland now for 74 years, with roots going deep into the Holy Land’s soil, Israelis demonstrate that their creativity flourishes across countless sectors. 

In Genesis 12:2 God promised, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing” (NKJV). God’s promises are scattered across the Old and New Testaments. The word “promise” itself is mentioned 120 times in the Bible, and when we include the number of promises made in Scripture, it goes up to nearly 9,000.

Israel’s previous creations and discoveries make lives better worldwide—often without beneficiaries realizing that Israelis were behind these innovations. Among them are ReWalk, a battery-packed “exoskeleton” that lets paraplegics walk; the world’s first USB drive; the Watergen generator that produces clean drinking water out of air; SodaStream; Michal Negrin (my favorite jewelry); Mobileye car technology to make driving safer; and Waze navigation. 

Join me now for a brief tour of Israel’s unchanging destiny guided by God’s promises to bless the world with new discoveries. One of the best sites to explore these near-miraculous ideas and inventions is www.Israel21c.org. Keeping up with the latest discoveries is a full-time job, but this site is a virtual treasure trove. 

Having experienced a pandemic that continues to manifest in various versions, many people around the world will welcome the fact that Israelis are closing in on promising results from medical research they initiated in 2020. Tel Aviv University’s Dr. Natalia Freund is the lead researcher. She and her team, after examining people who have recovered from the COVID-19 virus, have determined that antibodies from those patients have a role to play in neutralizing the various strains of the virus, strengthening the immune system, and reducing the need for boosters. Stay tuned for their final results—hopefully including products to ease the fears that COVID has generated.

Converting trash to fuel isn’t a new concept, but one firm has developed a remarkable innovation in this field. The Israel-based company Boson (the name of an energy-carrying subatomic particle) is harvesting hydrogen from non-recyclable mountains of local household, medical and agricultural waste. When run through an already engineered process, it creates hydrogen fuel. With the European Union, they plan on engaging municipalities worldwide to use energy-saving equipment to produce hydrogen gas. It is estimated that one ton of trash can replace five-and-a-half barrels of crude oil. Their goal is to “bring clean air and energy to future generations by solving the world’s waste problem.” 

Animal and meat lovers alike will be delighted to learn about Future Meat Technologies. The company engages prominent biologists and bioengineers to develop animal cell agriculture and technologies that provide lab-grown meats to replace traditional animal-based foods—and talented chefs to bring these creations to the table. According to a news release, this innovative food technology is expected to “generate 80% less greenhouse emissions and use 99% less land and 96% less freshwater than traditional meat production.” They have built their first factory in Rehovot, Israel, which currently produces cultured chicken, pork, and lamb—with beef on the way. Their plans include GMO-free, lower-cost meats to provide protein for future generations. They are opening facilities in the United States.

Our pet dogs are family members that bring smiles to our faces. Yet their value can far exceed their loyalty and our enjoyment. An Israeli startup company holds great hope for those who suffer cancer or have family and friends facing this dreaded disease. Former IDF Commander Colonel (Res.) Ariel Ben-Dayan, who led the canine unit of the Israeli Defense Forces, has added his skills to training Labradors Retrievers to detect cancer. The company, SpotitEarly, uses the Labradors’ incredible sense of smell along with artificial intelligence. 

It works this way. A client will buy a home kit, which includes a face mask. They breathe into the mask for five minutes. Next, they send it to the company’s headquarters, located on a kibbutz, where the dogs live and are trained. The mask is then inserted into an on-site sniffing station. The dog’s sniffing behavior is monitored by an AI algorithm. If a cancer is detected, then Spot It Early refers the person for testing at a medical facility. 

Currently, the Labradors can sniff out breast, lung, colon, or prostate cancer from a single sample. Clinical trials are taking place at two Israeli medical centers that will end after 10 months. The company has hopes that their canine training plus AI technology will detect many other kinds of cancers. Founder Ben-Dayan and his team of three PhDs—one in animal behavior, another a data science expert, and the third a clinical lab manager—estimate that one Labrador Retriever could perform a million tests annually. What a blessing that can grow to be, since it is estimated that 10 million people worldwide die each year due to cancer. 

Turning to agriculture, the Bible comes alive once again. Isaiah 27:6 declares a delicious promise: “Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” This is a promise we can all celebrate! Israel grows and then exports flowers globally. It is among the top 10 countries in this beautiful business, attaining one percent of the global market. That may seem small, but the flowers generate $200 million per year. Fruit crops cover around 33 percent of the land. As a fun fact, the prickly pear (sabra in Hebrew) is the national fruit. Sabras, those born in Israel, describe their temperament as similar to the prickly pear, which is hard and prickly on the outside and sweet inside. 

For readers who have traveled to Israel, you may be like me. I always find their vegetables more colorful and more delicious than anywhere else. Israel produced around 2.3 million tons of vegetables with a value of $1.6 billion in 2020. Keep in mind that Israel has reclaimed parts of its barren deserts for food production.

One fascinating effort began to unfold in 2005 in the Negev Desert at Moshav Talmei Yosef. Agronomist Uri Alon started a small farm that he now calls the Salad Trail, and where he has truly—as he says—made the desert bloom. Others became interested in his efforts and began farming in the Negev, which is surely a complex area to farm. But due to the farmers’ ingenuity and endurance, lush greenhouses now produce fruits and vegetables.

Tours are offered where guides lead groups through greenhouses with everything from tomatoes to strawberries, oranges, and the “hottest pepper in the world”! The Salad Trail is described as “an intoxication of colors and smells.” More than 40,000 visitors walk the trail annually.

May we praise God for the ongoing fulfillment of His promise to Israel and her people: “So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate. I, the Lord, have spoken it, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 36:35-36).

Please join with CBN Israel this week in prayer for Israel and her people:

  • Pray with thanks for God’s promises and for all blessings He provided through Israel. 
  • Pray for an increase in Israeli agricultural research and inventions to help poorer nations with farming methods that yield greater/superior crops. 
  • Pray for Israeli farmers who are growing crops in every sector of the Holy Land.  
  • Pray for our world as concern grows about food and water shortages. May Israel’s discoveries ease these fears.
  • Pray for Israel and her people to continue fulfilling prophecy as a light to the nations and a blessing to the entire world. 

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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Holocaust Survivor: Maria’s Story

Maria’s family fled to Uzbekistan when the Nazis invaded Belarus during World War II. Struggling to live, she worked in a factory seven days a week. After the war, her family returned to Belarus, only to find their home was destroyed. So Maria lived with her aunt in St. Petersburg. 

Twenty years ago, after the Soviet Union fell, Maria immigrated to Israel. Today, she is a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor. There are about 165,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel, most over the age of 80—and 31,000 over 90. Many live in substandard housing on meager incomes. 

Maria lives alone, with no close relatives in Israel, and she only has weekly video calls with her grandson in Canada. Mostly housebound, she has limited mobility. Her caretaker helps her with chores, personal needs, and errands. Maria’s small apartment has water leaks, and she can’t afford to make repairs on her small pension. But who could help her? 

Thankfully, friends like you were there, through CBN Israel. Donors provided a contractor who repaired the damage, and renovated the apartment to current standards. Maria was thrilled to have a safe, clean, attractive home. They also gave her vouchers for nutritious food, medications, and other basic needs. Maria exclaimed gratefully, “Your kindness means more than you know!” 

Your gift to CBN Israel can let this last generation of Holocaust survivors know they are not forgotten—along with single mothers, refugees, and others. The needs across the Holy Land continue to increase. Your support can reach out to the vulnerable with groceries, housing, financial aid, and more. And you can bring Israel’s news and stories to the world through CBN News. 

Please join us in blessing this special nation and its people! 

GIVE TODAY

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Weekly Devotional: The Path of True Blessedness

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him” (Psalm 128:1). The Bible often speaks about the “fear of the Lord.” That seems odd to us because we often present God as love and loving, someone we want to draw near to, not a being to be feared. 

The Bible presents God as awesome, One Who truly inspires awe. As such, the reverence that arises can manifest itself as fear presented with such grandeur. But the psalmist described those who fear the Lord, not as those who feel the emotion of fear, rather they demonstrate their reverence for God by walking in His ways, i.e., obeying Him. 

The structure of the verse identifies those who fear God as those walking in His ways. In other words, our obedience to God (i.e., walking in His ways) fulfills the biblical injunction to fear God. It also describes those who fear the Lord, those who walk in His ways as blessed.

The book of Deuteronomy commanded the Israelites, “Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only and take your oaths in His name” (6:13). The structure of this verse, like the above quoted psalm, indicates that we fear God by serving Him. Obedience is how we demonstrate that we fear Him.

Within the language of the Old Testament, “fear of God” was synonymous with “love of God.” The two are often parallel to each other, so if our obedience demonstrates our fear of God, within the context of the Old Testament, our obedience also shows our love of God.

Deuteronomy commanded the children of Israel: “Love the Lord your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always” (11:1). We demonstrate our love for God by keeping His commands. We show that we fear God by walking in His ways. The one who does that, the psalmist said is blessed.

PRAYER

Father, today may I walk in Your ways, may I keep Your commandments in everything I do and say. Amen.

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U.S. Congress, Israel, Arabs, and American Christian Leaders Rally Against a New Iran Deal 

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Over the last seven years, the ineffectiveness of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—engineered by former President Obama and then-Vice President Biden—has been on full display. Today, the on-again, off-again negotiations have created an uproar from clear-thinking leaders in the U.S. Congress, Israel, Gulf Arab countries, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI).

Hoping to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Biden administration is unwisely using the same failed strategies—returning to negotiations again and again for the past 18 months. The proponents seem to want any kind of deal they can get, no matter what they must give up in order to achieve success.

Each time, however, Iran demands even more—or changes the terms of negotiation altogether. Since Iran refuses to negotiate directly with the United States, Russia is leading the negotiations. Yes, Russia—which stands to benefit significantly if all goes well with a renewed JCPOA by opening a back door to buy Iranian oil due to sanctions imposed on them following their invasion of Ukraine and considerable war crimes. 

Former President Obama and current President Biden began initial negotiations in secret meetings that offered significant rewards without first requiring any proof of the regime’s sincerity. In simple terms, Iran was offering something for nothing, while the U.S. extended trust to imams who glorify lies to achieve their own ends. 

Biden’s negotiating team, which is following the same 2015 strategy, seems to be in denial—as if they do not recognize that they are dealing with the most prolific terror-producing leaders in the world. Iran restricts freedom not only among their own population but many others in the region, as well. 

Iran’s overt operations through their Middle Eastern proxies are obvious, with Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthis in Yemen, and their elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria. However, Iran’s tyrannical fingerprints can also be found all over a more covert operation in Venezuela and multiple locations elsewhere in South America. Not surprisingly, their greatest allies are Russia and North Korea. These hard-core dictatorships hold to the same ideologies of control, oppression, and punishment of their own citizens, forcing them into submission in order to gain and maintain power. 

In a March 22, 2022, New York Times opinion piece, journalist Bret Stephens offered this title: “A New Iran Deal Leaves Us Meeker and Weaker.” He went on to comment, “Combined with February’s ‘no limits’ friendship pact between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, an Iran deal represents another step toward a new antidemocratic Tripartite Pact.” In other words, this would mean dangerous alliances and a weakened United States. With Iran using increased numbers of sophisticated centrifuges spinning at supersonic speeds, imagine Russia, China, and Iran savoring the thought of increased nuclear-grade uranium. 

Iran’s leadership, along with its proxies and alliances, does not recognize that authentic sovereignty belongs only in one place: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17 NKJV).

Thankfully, the U.S. Congress has been active. Earlier this year, referring to the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, 165 House Republicans sent a letter to President Biden vowing that a new deal would “meet the same fate as the JCPOA” if he didn’t “secure congressional support pursuant to the 2015 law which states that the president must submit any deal to the House and Senate for approval.” All but one Republican senator signed on. 

Then on August 19, The Washington Post reported that over 100 Republicans advised the administration that they were set to denounce any sanctions relief for Iran. 

Finally, just one week ago, a bipartisan group of 34 Democrats and 16 Republicans sent a follow-up letter to President Biden with their concerns, not only requesting to see the current deal’s document—which they have not yet seen—but expressing alarm about Russia having such a large role in the nuclear deal decisions and oversight later. Their letter included this warning: “Strengthened with an estimated one trillion dollars in sanctions relief over a decade, Iran and the IRGC would be an enormous danger to Americans at home and abroad, and to our allies.”  

That Biden is putting the United States under Russia as our negotiator for a new Iran deal is a national insult. Nothing but increased danger will emerge if a 2022 deal is codified. Clear-thinking American conservatives know it. Arabs in the Middle East know it. Israel knows it. Many members of Congress in both parties know it. Christians know that a beneficial deal for the Iranians will increase the peril that is unfolding across the world by allowing a nuclear weapon in the hands of the largest terror-producing country on the planet. 

It is stunning that the leader of the free world is all for such a lopsided agreement, since Iran is an obvious threat to the U.S. and to our greatest ally in the region, Israel. And given our current crisis at our southern border, we can be fairly certain that Iranian terrorists with chaos on their agenda are finding ways to gain entry into the U.S., which they call the “Great Satan.” Let us clearly understand that diplomacy only works when both sides will do all it takes to make peace and mean it. 

It is no surprise that for weeks, Israeli leaders have been flying back and forth between Jerusalem and Washington, D.C. Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Jake Sullivan, the U.S. Security Adviser in Washington, and with U.S. Central Command Chief of Staff General Michael Kurilla at CENTCOM’s headquarters in Florida. Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata also held meetings in D.C. Interim Prime Minister Lapid talked at length via phone with President Biden. Mossad chief David Barnea weighed in, calling the possible deal “a strategic disaster.” He flew to Washington on Labor Day to meet at the White House, State Department, Pentagon, CIA, and U.S. Congress. When Mossad gives briefings, it is a smart idea to listen.

Meanwhile, Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, wrote an eye-opening article in Gatestone Institute about the political analysts and commentators in key Arab media. Its title is sobering: “Arabs to Biden: Do Not Sign the Iran Deal, It Will Start a War.” Articles coming out of Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt are full of fears—especially about the billions Iran could receive that will generate more terror in the region.

Sayed Zahra, deputy editor of Bahrain’s daily publication Akhbar Al-Khaleej, comments that Biden has unfortunately decided to “bow to Iran.” She adds that Biden is following Obama, who “admired Iran and hated Arabs.” Syrian author Ibrahim Allush knows firsthand about what happens to a nation overrun by Iran and Russia. “The Iranian regime, with its practices, does not differ from the Taliban regime or from Islamic State (ISIS). Terrorism, destabilization, and domination of people are almost the only goals of such regimes.”

Joining the peaceful yet intense opposition from Arabs, Israel—and many members of the U.S. Congress—the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) has initiated a letter and petition to President Biden and the U.S. Congress urging, “No nuclear deal for Iran.” 

ACLI is a network of Christian leaders representing over 60 million Americans who are united in their support for the nation of Israel. Their letter requests that the Biden administration does not strike a deal that places Israel in more danger, or any funding that enables more terror, emphasizing that millions of American Christians are opposed to an ineffective deal. 

CBN Israel holds the same opinion that ACLI expresses: “If the U.S. government loosens sanctions on Iran, we will be handing them the resources and nuclear capabilities to accomplish what they have publicly vowed to do: destroy Israel.”

Please join us in praying for Israel, the Middle East, and world leaders to reconsider reviving a nuclear deal with Iran:

  • Pray daily for the peace of Jerusalem and the entire region (Psalm 122:6).
  • Pray for the Biden administration to gain tremendous wisdom in negotiations.  
  • Pray for Israel’s leaders for preparations they must undertake to defend themselves.
  • Pray for Iran’s citizens who are suffering under the ruling imams.
  • Pray for Arab countries that have miraculously aligned with Israel during the Trump administration and face increased dangers. 

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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Elderly Immigrant: Michael’s Story

Michael grew up in hardship during World War II in Uzbekistan, when it was part of the Soviet Union. At age nine, he labored long hours on a collective farm to support his mother and siblings. His father was drafted to fight the Nazis but was sent home seriously wounded. By the time he was 16, both his parents had died—leaving him to provide for his brothers and sisters. 

Eventually, Michael married, and in 1994, the couple moved to Israel. They joined his wife’s brother in Sderot, hoping for a good life—but the city endured many rocket attacks from Hamas-ruled Gaza. Then, sadly, his wife developed a serious liver disease, and died just a year ago. 

Michael had taken good care of her, despite his own health challenges. And now, he is elderly, frail with bad hearing, lives alone, and needs constant care. Surviving on Social Security and a basic widower’s pension, his income barely covers rent, utilities, groceries, and medicine. And his low-income housing has ceiling cracks that have let in water leaks and toxic mold. 

Thankfully, friends like you were there through CBN Israel. Caring donors covered the cost of removing the mold, repairing the cracks, and painting. And they provided vouchers, so he could purchase nutritious food, medicine, and essentials. Michael loves his home now, and says gratefully, “Thank you for reaching out to me and showing me this wonderful kindness!” 

Your gift to CBN Israel can bless so many who are trying to survive in the Holy Land, including Holocaust survivors, refugees, and single mothers. As more people in Israel cry out for help, your support can offer them groceries, financial aid, housing, job training, and more. 

Please join us in offering hope and humanitarian aid to those in need!

GIVE TODAY

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Weekly Devotional: What’s Your Source?

“This is the LORD’s declaration. For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:12-13 HCSB). God spoke to the people of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah using an image that they would understand. 

Within the land of Israel, water was a necessity of life. Rains provided water, but only roughly from November to April. The rest of the year people relied upon springs, rivers, wells, and cisterns. Springs, rivers, and wells provided water coming from the earth, running water, purer water—living water. Cisterns offered merely a pit cut into the rock into which water was diverted. Cisterns simply held water. 

The inside of a cistern had to be plastered in order to retain the water, so it didn’t seep out. Water that ran into a cistern usually had sediment in it, so as the water collected in the cistern the sediment settled to the bottom of the cistern. Water in cisterns could go bad or be poisoned. The plaster in the cisterns could crack and the cistern was not good anymore. Spring water, or living water, continued to give life wherever it flowed. 

Traveling through the land of Israel, even in its deserts, one can see the effect of water. Wherever living water flows, there is life and vegetation. Where there is not water, the dryness of the desert encroaches. This was the reality of the person living in the time of Jeremiah. 

Jeremiah knew a thing or two about cisterns because his hometown, Anatoth, did not have a natural source of water. Water had to be brought to the village and gathered in cisterns. His village sat on the edge of the dry wilderness to the northeast of Jerusalem, so the prophet understood the metaphor he used.

He compared Judah’s disobedience by pursuing other gods, rejecting the God of Israel to those preferring cistern water, broken cisterns at that, to living, life-giving water. By choosing other gods, Judah forsook God, the source of living water. 

Do we see God as the source of life and life-giving water in our lives? Are we like the people of Judah rejecting spring water, for a poor substitute, which, in fact, is no substitute at all? In our attempts to “go our own way,” do we fail to connect with the source of life in our lives? 

The thing about substitutes is that they fail us in the end. The people of Judah poignantly understood Jeremiah’s metaphor; they caught his meaning—you have rejected life-giving water, for something that cannot hold water. Do we do the same?

PRAYER

Father, today, I choose to follow, obey, and pursue You, the source of life and life-giving water in my life. Bring life into the dry places of my life, for Your glory. Amen.

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The Lasting Legacy of the First Zionist Congress

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

A significant quasquicentennial celebration ended yesterday: the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress held August 29–31, 1897. That inaugural congress convened on these dates in Basel, Switzerland. Theodore Herzl, father of Modern Zionism and founder of the First Zionist Congress, described that pioneering event as “three days of awakening Jewish history.” 

Indeed Herzl—“Visionary of the State” (Hebrew: Chozeh HaMedinah)—would be astonished at how Israel’s history has not only awakened but flourished—with innovations, immigration, and more than 7 million in their Jewish population. The World Zionist Organization (WZO) that Herzl also founded in 1897 drew more than 1,300 Jewish leaders in 2022 for three days of celebrations, seminars, and discussions of future plans. 

The First Zionist Congress could be considered a symbolic Jewish parliament in the early Zionist movement propelled by three factors: Herzl’s extraordinary perseverance, his book, Der Judenstaat (“The State of the Jews”), and the coalition he developed with numerous Jewish organizations. The founding platform’s goal was: “Zionism strives to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.”

Herzl’s vision, however, extended beyond the Jewish community. Here’s a little-known fact: Herzl sent 10 invitations to Christian leaders to attend the First Congress along with 200 Jewish leaders. His invitations were a precursor to strong Jewish and Christian cooperation and friendships. You may not recognize the two most prominent leaders in the delegation, but they were deeply committed to Herzl and the vision of a Jewish state: Henry Dunant and the Reverend William Hechler. 

Dunant was a Swiss banker and Christian missionary. He dedicated himself to providing humanitarian aid for wounded soldiers, thereby inspiring the founding of the Red Cross and the Geneva Convention. He later received the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901 and became an advocate for a “Jewish colony” in Palestine. Herzl called him a “Christian Zionist,” the first known use of the term, due to their common goals and Dunant’s help with the Zionist movement.

Rev. William Hechler was a minister at the British Embassy in Vienna where Herzl lived. After reading The Jewish State, he committed himself to Herzl’s vision and opened key introductions for him. Hechler’s activism won the respect of the World Zionist Organization, which later gave him a pension until his death in 1931. Herzl wrote in his diary about meeting Hechler: “Heckler declares my movement to be a biblical one, although I proceed rationally in all points.” That meeting led to an enduring friendship between the secular Jew and the Christian pastor.

Herzl did not live to see the miracle of the 1948 modern Jewish state with its reinstated ancient name, “Israel.” Nevertheless, although he died of heart failure in 1904, his legacy is strong, expansive, and deepening. 

Herzl’s legacy includes having Christian leaders in the first Zionist Congress 125 years ago to help pioneer the Zionist movement. Today, among several hundred Christian leaders attending the 2022 Zionist Congress this week, members of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) staff are also participating. ICEJ is based in Jerusalem with offices in 86 nations. The ICEJ Switzerland branch hosted an event in Basel, with ICEJ President Jurgen Buhler opening the conference and ICEJ Vice President of International Affairs, Dr. Mojmir Kallus, giving the closing address. 

ICEJ, a nondenominational evangelical charity, began in Jerusalem in 1980. Launched by Christians from 32 nations, ICEJ is founded on Isaiah 40:12, which directs them to “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” They carry out their biblical assignment in extensive ways. 

Their outreach includes providing hundreds of portable bomb shelters to Jewish communities, assisting over 150,000 Jews in Aliyah, operating their Haifa Home for Holocaust survivors, holding worldwide weekly prayer for Israel’s well-being, educating the global church to combat anti-Semitism, and promoting reconciliation between Jews, Christians, and Arabs. Their annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration and tours draw thousands worldwide for one of the biggest events in Israel. 

David Parsons, ICEJ vice president and senior spokesman, provided exciting news about Christian delegates at the Zionist Congress who created a robust, inspiring “Resolution of the Basel Conference Marking 125 Years of Zionism.” The excellent document is too long to include but here are several points. 

The Resolution honors the 1947 Seelisberg [Switzerland] Conference: The Foundation of the Jewish-Christian Dialogue, which took place after the Holocaust and prior to the rebirth of the Jewish state. It is officially known as the International Emergency Conference on Anti-Semitism. Its participants codified 10 points for an increased Christian-Jewish dialogue that served as a tool to fight anti-Semitism. All their points are useful for us today. 

A few of the 10 points: 

  • “Remember that the first disciples, the apostles, and the first martyrs were Jews.”
  • “Avoid disparaging biblical or post-biblical Judaism with the object of extolling Christianity.”
  • “Remember that Jesus was born of a Jewish mother of the seed of David and the people of Israel, and that His everlasting love and forgiveness embraces His own people and the whole world.” 
  • “Avoid speaking of the Jews as if the first members of the Church had not been Jews.”

The Resolution of the Basel Conference Marking 125 Years of Zionism also includes six additional points in the spirit of the 1947 Seelisberg Conference. Again, all points are important yet lengthy. Here are a few:

  • “We affirm the reborn nation of Israel today as evidence of God’s faithfulness to His enduring covenant relationship with the Jewish people first sealed with the Patriarch Abraham some four thousand years ago.” 
  • “We affirm that Israel’s right to exist as a nation in peace and security is indisputable. This principle was duly acknowledged by the international community when recognizing the historic, pre-existing rights and claims of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the San Remo Conference of 1920, the British Mandate over Palestine approved by the League of Nations in 1922, the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947, and the acceptance of Israel as a UN member state in 1949.”
  • “We affirm that anti-Semitism remains a prevalent threat to the Jewish people today and must be rejected and opposed by Christians everywhere.” 

Israeli president Isaac Herzog attended, along with businessmen and philanthropists from 38 countries. Although 1,000 protestors in the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement showed up, Swiss security was widespread and successful. Yaakov Hagoel, chairman of the World Zionist Organization, was dismissive of the protest: “We came to Basel because here, in this place, Zionism was actually born. Now, 125 years after the Congress, no one can shut us down. We will continue the conference in its format … in order to plan a better future for the State of Israel.” 

If Theodore Herzl and the Jewish and Christian pioneers could somehow see into 2022, they would likely break out singing HaTikvah, Israel’s national anthem adopted at the first Zionist Congress.

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

  • Pray with thankfulness for past and present inspiring, sacrificial leaders like Theodore Herzl whom God has used to carry out His eternal plans. 
  • Pray for International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and all Christian groups for their enduring support for Israel on the forefront to stop anti-Semitism. 
  • Pray that the original 10 points and six additions at the First and 125th year Zionist Congress will bear the fruit of education and activism for Israel. 
  • Pray for the Biden administration to stop pursuing the dangerous Iran deal. 

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 Law of Christ

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NKJV). How do we obey Jesus and fulfill what He commanded us? According to Paul, we bear one another’s burdens. It’s that simple.

Some today have taken to calling themselves “Christ followers” or “disciples.” Jesus said in John’s Gospel, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (13:35). The evidence of our discipleship or following Jesus, according to Him, depends upon how we love one another and bear each other’s burdens.

To bear someone’s burden requires us to walk alongside them. To be a part of their life. To operate out of love, so that a person will feel comfortable sharing what weighs him or her down. It’s not a relationship that can be formed in our Sunday services or even in our small groups. It only materializes when I place myself in another’s life and demonstrate genuine love and concern. 

The law of Christ flies in the face of our me-first, fast-paced, hectic culture. But if we are not going to actively, daily seek to fulfill His command to love one another (John 15:17), then can we truly call ourselves “Christ followers” or His disciples? Do we take time in our day truly to see the people around us, their pain, and their struggles? Are we moved with compassion for those we see? 

Bearing one another’s burdens is not only to get people to think and believe like us, and it’s not something we reserve for those we feel comfortable with. When a religious expert asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), He turned the question around and challenged the man to be a good neighbor like the Good Samaritan in His parable (Luke 10:36-37). 

Being Jesus’ disciple is not simply helping those who are like you; rather, it is loving everyone—even your enemies—and seeking to bear their burdens (see Matthew 5:43-47). How badly do we want to be disciples of the Lord? If we’re truly serious about it, we must do what He commanded; we must love one another. This is the mark of discipleship. 

PRAYER

Father, help me to see those around me today as You do. May my heart be moved with compassion to bear their burdens for Your glory. Amen.

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Seventeen Years After the Disengagement, Israel is Still Reaching Out to Help Gaza 

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

You will not hear this at the United Nations or in mainstream media: Israel will allow more work permits for carefully screened Gazans to enter Israel for jobs through the Erez crossing in Gaza’s north. Meanwhile, along Gaza’s oceanfront, Iranian proxies are delivering armaments for terror. They use speedboats to drop barrels of weapons into the Mediterranean Sea, allowing the current to carry them to the Gaza shore.

Yet, even with such hostile policies on the part of Iran, Israel’s goodness continues. The Jewish Press has announced Israel’s recent decision to add 1,500 more work and business permits, which right now stands at 15,500. Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who maintains a policy of boosting the local Gazan economy, has set the quota at 20,000. 

Last February, The Christian Science Monitor pointed out that “a new source of income to a region where 64% of the population is estimated to live in poverty and unemployment runs at 50%” would be welcome. “The number of Gazans studying Hebrew has quadrupled in some places as Israel allows more Gazans to cross the border into Israel for work.”  

Here are a few of the statistics from the first half of 2022 showing a drastic improvement in the Gazans’ quality of life: “a 311% increase in the volume of entries into Israel at the Erez crossing,” as well as a “27.7% in exports from Gaza to the Palestinian Authority territories in Judea and Samaria, and a 93.8 percent increase in exports from the Gaza” to the rest of Israel. Improvement in living conditions is increasing along with better wages and reduced unemployment. 

Major General Ghasan Alyan, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, made comments aimed at Gazans. He assured them that Israel has “no interest in being dragged into a war against them, and the Israeli security establishment will continue to allow a civilian humanitarian policy towards the Gazan public, but this is subject to the preservation of security stability.” Alyan went on to challenge them to take a look at Hamas’s damage, declaring, “Hamas is an enemy of the State of Israel and, unfortunately, also of the residents of Gaza.” He also warned that additional efforts by Hamas to disturb the peace would be met with policy changes.

This is not the first time Israel has attempted to come alongside Palestinians to improve their independence and quality of life. Israeli semi-trucks have consistently delivered humanitarian aid to Gaza despite Hamas’s rule. In fact, 17 years ago, Israelis made an extraordinary sacrifice: Under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel unilaterally left Gaza by forcing 8,500 Jewish residents to leave behind their homes, businesses, cemeteries, and synagogues. This disengagement was controversial then (2005) and still is now. Israel detractors like to say that Israel occupies Gaza. Yet not one Jew or one Israel Defense Forces soldier has remained inside Gaza since their withdrawal was completed on August 16, 2005. 

The 8,500 Jewish settlers who lived in Gaza among 1.4 million Palestinians were guarded by some 3,000 Israeli soldiers prior to the withdrawal. During the second intifada (Palestinian uprising), which was mainly instigated by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, 230 Israeli soldiers were killed. IDF Major General Ariel Sharon declared that the withdrawal would “grant Israeli citizens the maximum level of security.”

Others hoped that the traumatic move in 2005, given over to the Palestinian Authority itself, would create a prosperous “Singapore by the sea.” Regrettably, on the day the last IDF soldier closed the gates to Gaza, the Palestinians began looting and destroying greenhouses left behind where Jews employed them. They ransacked homes and synagogues—destructive actions that did not bode well for their future.

Two years later their choices worsened. In 2007, Gaza’s Palestinians voted for the terrorist organization Hamas to assume governing control from the Palestinian Authority. Instead of implementing a vision to building a thriving Palestinian state with beautiful seaside hotels, civic institutions, and employment, by their votes they brought a curse upon their families and their future. 

Seventeen years have passed since Israel removed its Jewish families from Gaza. As a pro-Israel Christian activist then and now, I vividly recall my sorrow from afar while watching the televised Israeli operation. The Jewish families wept, the soldiers cried amid screams of grief and anger that pierced the air. In a sense, 8,500 Jewish citizens were forced by their own government into a type of refugee status in another part of their ancestral homeland. 

Palestinians trampled the well-meant Israeli intent. Once again, they abandoned the idea of a state. As the pro-Palestinian chant goes, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The chant means only one thing: they want Jews eradicated. 

On Hamas’s recent 15-year anniversary on August 16, Gaza remains an entrenched Iranian terror proxy. Ariel Sharon did not live to see the results of the withdrawal and the 2007 pro-Hamas vote. He suffered a stroke in 2006 and remained in a coma until his death in 2014. His hopes for a more secure Jewish population instead grew into numerous major conflicts between Gaza and southern Israel in particular. 

The conflict takes many forms instigated by the Gaza terror proxy: rocket fire, a balloon intifada (balloons armed with explosives) to burn Israeli crops, months of tire fires and protests along Israel’s Gaza border, and terror tunnels dug into Israel. Israel’s defensive responses include Iron Dome batteries, Israeli Air Force-targeted strikes on weapons depots, and detecting and destroying border tunnels that allowed terrorists to enter the country stealthily. 

I have often stood on the fenced border alongside residents living in kibbutzim just yards away from Gaza. Their bravery is exceptional. Their trauma is deep. However, they are determined to remain in their homes, businesses, and schools and celebrate their festivals and families. 

Although their commitment to their ancestral homeland is strong, most Israelis who live in Southern Israel suffer with varying degrees of post-traumatic stress disorder. A high state of alert is woven into their brains. Fifteen years of terror, countless thousands of rockets, burned crops affecting livelihoods, and the uncertainty of wondering when the next attack is coming has taken a heavy toll on adults and children alike. 

Measures are in place to help ease fears. For example, the playground in Sderot, a city only one mile from the border, is underground to protect children from rocket fire. Portable bomb shelters are necessary along with the Red Alert alarm, which gives 15 seconds of running time for residents to find safety. The portable shelters, IDF approved and built in Israel, are an increased blessing. Many are funded by organizations like CBN Israel as well as other Christian groups and churches in the U.S. and other nations.

Palestinians suffer, too, since Gaza is a Hamas-created prison with an open sky. More than 2 million Palestinian residents are crammed into this high-density enclave. It stretches 25 miles long and three to seven-and-a-half miles wide. It is a small area of major poverty and despair.

Let us make sure we recognize that terrorists are the ones who wear the mantle of evil. As God’s chosen people, Israel wears a humanitarian mantle as evidenced in massive ways—in this instance by reaching out to Gazans with employment and wanting shalom for all. 

Israel is not a nation to be idolized. It is imperfect as all nations and peoples are, including Christians. Yet God’s eternal biblical covenants with the Jews compel us to pray and stand with them: “I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore” (Ezekiel 37:26 NKJV).

Please join CBN Israel in prayer this week for both Israelis and Palestinians: 

  • Pray that Israel’s jobs initiative for Palestinian Gazans will increase based on positive relationships between Israelis and Arabs at places of employment.
  • Pray that media will report Israel’s good news actions rather than the incessant slanders against them. 
  • Pray that Israel’s security will increase exponentially in every way on sea, land, and sky.
  • Pray that the Arab Abraham Accords nations will follow Israel’s lead to create practical ways to help Gaza without monies siphoned off by Hamas.

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: Daily Bread

When the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, God provided for their daily sustenance by giving them manna: “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day” (Exodus 16:4 HCSB). 

They could only gather enough for each day, except on the sixth day they gathered a double portion for that day and the Sabbath (verse 5). God told Moses that the reason they could only collect enough for the day was “I will test them to see whether or not they will follow My instructions” (verse 4). 

Before they entered the Promised Land, Moses called them to remember the journey that had brought them there. “Remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3 NKJV). 

The hardships of the wilderness tested Israel’s commitment and obedience to God, but God still provided daily for their needs and sustenance. They only received the provisions that were absolutely necessary for each day. In this way, He taught them to trust Him.

We live in a world that values the “self-made” person. Our rugged, self-absorbed individualism flies in the face of biblical spirituality. God’s actions in the Bible repeatedly remind His people of their need and dependence upon Him. He is the giver and sustainer of life. He provides our daily bread. 

If we let it, our world—with its busyness, anxiety, and worry about tomorrow—pushes God to the edges of our lives. We seek to be self-reliant, planning for tomorrow because tomorrow depends upon us—or so we think. The message of the manna screams to us: God is the source of your daily provision; He takes care of you. Our responsibility: follow His instructions. 

Do we only turn to God when we need something from Him? Do we merely see Him as the One who delivers us when we’re in a bind? Or, do we recognize Him as the source of our daily bread and overall existence? 

Each day, do we remind ourselves that He provides the things we need for our sustenance, and that we are daily to seek to obey His instructions? Have we learned the lessons of the hardships of the wilderness?

PRAYER

Father, thank You for providing our daily bread. God, You are the source of our life; today, may we seek to obey Your instructions. Amen.

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