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Millions of Israelis Prepare to Celebrate the Jewish New Year Amid Escalating Security Challenges

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

The Jewish community lights its candles for Shabbat tomorrow evening, September 15, signifying the arrival of the Jewish new year, 5784, for Rosh Hashanah (“Head of the Year”) celebrations. It also marks the beginning of the Days of Awe that end on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, 10 days later. 

Globally, millions of Evangelicals will express genuine greetings especially toward Israel, our spiritual homeland. Delicious apples and honey treats served at the dinner table reflect wishes for a sweet new year. We might adopt a few well-wishes in Hebrew, including Shana tova (“Have a good year”) and Gmar chatima tova (“May you be inscribed in the Book of Life”).

Entering 5784, Israel simultaneously inhabits two contradictory realities. The nation thrives with bold innovations, long-desired alliances in the Abraham Accords, and countries newly locating their embassies in Jerusalem. The covenant-keeping God of Heaven has kept His eternal promises, preserving a Jewish remnant for thousands of years and into their new year 5784. Unfortunately, the waves of hate—and those choosing to ignore facts about the world’s only Jewish state—are still intruding into the chosen people’s history, decisions, and privileged stature as a parliamentary democracy. And some of Israel’s most dangerous security challenges are escalating.

One such challenge can be found in the United States Congress. Last Friday, 15 Democratic senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, requesting a phone call. They asked Blinken to stop granting visas to Israelis until Israel makes certain concessions for Palestinian Arabs who live in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Recent (and long overdue) discussions have been ongoing for a Visa Waiver Program, and a September 30 deadline is looming. In July, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed that allows Israeli citizens to travel to the U.S. without a visa and remain for 90 days. 

In a lead-up pilot program, Israel agreed that Palestinian Americans in the West Bank, as well as Iranian Americans and other Arab Americans, could transit Israel to enter the United States for 90 days without background checks. Right now, Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas seem positive about approving the waiver. A last-ditch effort from a minority in the Democratic Senate caucus accuses Israel of a two-tier system when it comes to Palestinians. This particular group of senators tends to lean toward varying criticisms of Israel, claiming that the Jewish nation discriminates against Palestinian-Americans—ignoring essential facts about Palestinian policies. 

Israeli officials report that during the pilot program, over 12,000 Palestinian Americans living in the West Bank entered Israel under the new regulations within the last two months and several thousand Palestinian Americans who live in the U.S. used the new regulations to land at Ben Gurion Airport. 

However, if Israel must reconsider aspects of the MOU, it is because increased terror is emerging from Palestinian towns emboldened and supplied by Iran’s Islamic regime. As of August 21, 2023 is now the deadliest year for terrorism since the Second Intifada (2000-2005). Thirty-four Israelis—men, women, and children—have been murdered, some simply innocently driving along a highway. These 15 Democratic senators could certainly moderate their positions by recognizing the real terror threats on the ground and remembering that Israel has no Palestinian negotiating partner to help shape a peace plan.

Eighty-seven-year-old Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has refused direct negotiations with Israeli leaders since 2009. Yet Arab refusals began decades ago. For those too young to know or who have forgotten, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted for two states, one Arab, one Jewish. Arabs refused the two-state deal. Jews accepted it and established a modern Jewish state on May 14, 1948. Since then, PA leaders have refused several generous offers from some U.S. presidents and Israeli prime ministers. 

Do Palestinian leaders want peace? History says no. For them, it is all or nothing. Elected in 2005, Abbas is still president in his “four-year” term. His civilian population rightly considers him corrupt. He praises Palestinian terrorists as martyrs, names streets after them, donates money to their families, and approves a sewer of hate to flow through Palestinian state media.  

Despite these facts, the letter itself, penned by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), was co-signed by Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Tina Smith (D-MN).

The bottom line is, this letter brings into view Israel’s necessary security reality. First Yassar Arafat, and now Mahmoud Abbas—Arafat’s 40-year terror sidekick—have rejected Israel’s consistent efforts to restart stalled peace talks. Without fail, criticisms also emerge not only from segments of the U.S. Congress, but also from the United Nations, European Union, and others when Israel is forced to defend its civilians. 

In the meantime, I encourage readers to contact these senators to respectfully ask them to reconsider their support for our best ally in the region, Israel? 

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

  • Pray for the U.S. Congress to maintain its highest levels of support for the longstanding U.S.-Israel relationship.
  • Pray for the safety of Jewish Israelis during the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
  • Pray for vigilance on behalf of Jews in the United States and worldwide.
  • Pray for Secretary of State Blinken to cautiously approve the visa agreement mindful of Israel’s security.

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 and has 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 her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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New Immigrant: Diana’s Story

Diana and her daughter were living in Western Ukraine when suddenly, war with Russia broke out. She recalls, “I was scared for my daughter and myself, but I didn’t know where to go, or what to do. I reached out to my local synagogue, asking them for help.”

As their hometown was invaded, this Jewish single mother and her daughter decided to seek refuge in Israel. They fled Ukraine with only their suitcases, leaving everything else behind.

Yet, Diana faced many challenges, admitting, “It was very difficult… I needed to find a job and an apartment, learn Hebrew, and find a kindergarten for my daughter.” She found an apartment in central Israel that was close to a kindergarten and a job. But she still needed several major household appliances, and couldn’t afford to purchase them. Where could she turn?

Thankfully, friends like you were there to help. Several Ukrainian refugees told her about CBN Israel. Donors provided her with an oven, a washing machine, and paid for much-needed repairs in her apartment. And they gave her food vouchers, so she could put nutritious food on the table.

Diana exclaimed, “It makes a colossal difference for people like me, who come to Israel without any belongings. It gives me peace of mind knowing you are there. Thank you so much!”

Your gifts to CBN Israel can extend a hand of friendship to many in need across Israel—offering food, housing, furniture, appliances, and financial aid.

And your support will bring hope and help to Israel’s refugees, Holocaust survivors, single mothers, and terror victims. Your generosity can do so much—please join with us today!

Will you reach out in kindness and compassion to those in need?

GIVE TODAY

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Weekly Q&A: Why is it so crucial to rediscover the Jewishness of Jesus?

God’s greatest revelation of Himself is Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1-18; Galatians 4:4; and Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus was not a religious idea, a man for all generations. He did not belong to the Old Testament world of ancient Israel and Judah, nor was He a student of the Reformation. Jesus belonged to the world and faith of ancient Judaism, in the land of Israel, in the first century A.D. (Galatians 4:4). Failure to encounter the historical Jesus of Nazareth means we follow a Jesus we have made in our own image. The Jesus of faith is only the Jesus of history.

This has often been ignored within much of Christian history and interpretation concerning Jesus. Faith in Jesus has often superseded the faith of Jesus.

Jesus did not belong to the world of the Old Testament. His words, parables, faith, view of God all grew from the soil of ancient Judaism. To understand His words, we must understand the world that bore him. So too, Jesus did not belong to the world of Medieval or modern Judaism; He never wore a kippa.

Our encounter, then, of the Incarnation—God entering a specific time, within a definite space, in a particular culture—must place Jesus within His world, the world of ancient Judaism. This does not mean dressing a Gentile Jesus as a modern Jew, nor does it mean turning the historical Jesus into a modern Gentile Christian.

The Incarnation calls us to encounter Jesus as a historical person whose words meant something within their historical and cultural context. He is not a religious ideal, a superman to be worshiped. Rather, He is our Lord, and as His disciples, we must study His words, do them, and teach others (Ezra 7:10; Matthew 28:18-20). To understand His words, however, we must enter His world, the world of ancient Judaism.

Jesus’ most frequently used story parables to teach. Outside of the Gospels, the only other place we encounter story parables are on the lips of the Sages of the land of Israel. To understand His words, we must understand His world. The most common phrase Jesus used was the kingdom of Heaven. So too, this phrase only appears on the lips of His Jewish contemporaries, the Sages of Israel. To ignore His world means we will misunderstand and misinterpret His words.

That Jesus was a Jew of the first century does not mean His non-Jewish followers should become Jewish (see Acts 15). But we should not deny Him His historical identity because we are not Jews; moreover, we should not seek to cast Him as a modern or Messianic Jew. Encountering the Jesus of history brings us face-to-face with the Jesus 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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Iran’s Campaign of Aggression Against Israel Also Targets the United States

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Both history and the sacrifice of U.S. military troops are vital proofs to help us understand threats in our world today. Although significant facts may have slipped from the minds of most Americans, our military, their families, and friends have not forgotten the direct, deadly attacks engineered by the Iranian regime for decades.

Forty years ago, a horrific terror attack killed 241 U.S. marines, soldiers, and sailors deployed to Beirut, Lebanon, as part of a multinational peacekeeping force during the Lebanese Civil War. The attack had the highest single-day death toll for the U.S. Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. That day—October 23, 1983—a Hezbollah terrorist financed and armed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps drove a 19-ton Mercedes truck into an American barracks near the Beirut airport. Marines standing guard outside were following the peacetime rules of engagement, which required their guns to be unloaded. The truck plowed through concertina wire and exploded at the barracks while our soldiers slept. Although our military came in peace, it mattered not to the Islamic regime and its proxies. Then, as now, terrorists’ rules of engagement do not value life and freedom as we do in the United States and in Israel.

The Iraq War (2003-2011) is still fresh and painful for American families whose loved ones died or suffered traumatic wounds to mind and body during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Iran’s border with Iraq, stretching for 994 miles, allowed easy access to our heroic American soldiers on the ground.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) used “asymmetric (irregular) warfare” against our troops. Using a simply made, deadly mixture that utilizes homemade elements such as fertilizer, gunpowder, and hydrogen peroxide, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are quite versatile. Ranging in size from small pipe bombs to larger, sophisticated devices, IEDs can be hidden in the dirt, thrown from a distance, or placed in cars or inside innocent-looking packages. Tucked out of sight, they can exact massive damage. Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) are roadside bombs that penetrate even armored vehicles. Overall, Iran is responsible—either directly or indirectly—for nearly one out of every six American combat deaths in Iraq.

The number and severity of injuries—and the devastating loss of life—from Operation Iraqi Freedom are heartbreaking, with 4,492 U.S. service members dead and 32,292 wounded. During the Iraq war, American deaths were a cause for elation among Iranian leaders and their elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iran has established itself more deeply now in Israel, within Palestinian-run towns right in Israel’s biblical heartland. Remember that the Islamic regime views the United States as the “great satan” and Israel as the “small satan.” Our freedoms and cooperation are closely tied together as targets of the biggest terror-sponsoring state on earth.   

Security threats are tightening around Israel. The Islamic regime’s surrogates surrounding the tiny Jewish State have now implemented the use of IEDs and EFPs to murder Israeli civilians and members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). On 24/7 alert, Israel is already fully engaged in tracking every inch of its borders due to terrorists in Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria funded by Iran’s apocalyptic leaders.

Not since the Second Intifada (2000-2005), where terrorists murdered over 1,000 Israelis and injured thousands more, has Israel faced such a growing number of internal dangers. In that uprising, Palestinians enlisted human suicide bombers to kill and maim Israelis. Now IEDs and EFPs are becoming murder weapons for Palestinian terror groups that are banding together, united by hate. Among them are Hamas, the Jenin Lion’s Den, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, IRGC in Syria, and others—inside, outside, and alongside Israel.

Now, the deadly devices can be manufactured in Palestinian towns. Thus, in early July, the IDF were forced to carry out a two-day defensive operation in Jenin to find and remove weapons and manufacturing labs. An example of what they discovered: The IDF located a large weapons cache in tunnels dug within the al-Ansari mosque. During the 48-hour counterterrorism operation, Israeli Ambassador Mike Herzog tweeted: “Over the past two years, Jenin has become a major hub of terrorism and an Iranian stronghold close to Israeli population centers. Most of the terror attacks against Israelis originated from Jenin. No nation would sit idly by as terrorists strike its citizens.”

Stabbings and car rammings are already prevalent, with added cross-border weapons smuggled from terrorists to terrorists. Last week, an IED injured four IDF soldiers. It was set off while the soldiers were securing the entrance for Jewish pilgrims visiting Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem located in Samaria. 

However, two incidents last month make it clear that Iran is also activating its dangerous assaults anywhere possible. Israeli Arab citizens were caught smuggling explosives into Lod, a city in central Israel. Then two large explosives were stopped, this time coming in from Jordan.

Commemorations will take place once again in the United States marking the 40th anniversary of the 241 peacekeepers—service members who were murdered in Lebanon while they slept in their beds. Our great ally Israel has encountered (and will encounter still more) loss, trauma, and burials due to actions sanctioned by the evil Ayatollahs and their surrogates, who applaud when IEDs, EFPs, cars, knives, and guns enable the murder of innocents—even among their own desperate population.

In closing, the Biden administration’s appeasement plan to release billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets via Iraq and South Korea empowers Iran. Although those funds are ostensibly to pay Iraq’s gas and electricity debt to Iran—so Iranian gas will keep flowing to Iraqi citizens—the Iranian regime will undoubtedly use that money to do what it’s always done: perpetrate hate and killings and imprisoning its freedom-starved population. For decades, Iran has annually provided roughly $700 million to Hezbollah, $100 million to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and hundreds of millions to IRGC in Iraq and Syria to attack Israelis and Americans. Does the Islamic regime need more money to murder Americans, Israelis, and others?

A fact: Mr. Biden is bypassing Congress despite their Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). The legislation does not allow the president to issue any “statutory sanctions relief for Iran in connection with any broadly defined agreement … regardless of the form it takes … and regardless of whether it is legally binding or not.”

Although John Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, stated that Iran is only using the money for “humanitarian purposes,” the Iranian foreign minister has declared, “The decision on how to utilize these unfrozen resources and financial assets lies with the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Again, history shows American naivete. The relief money will not reach Iran’s desperate population. Instead, it will empower Iran’s terror and its unceasing quest for a nuclear weapon.

Our CBN Israel team welcomes you to join us this week to pray by holding fast to Psalm 46:1-3 NIV: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Prayer Points:

  • Pray for Gold Star families amid their tragic losses.
  • Pray for American soldiers wounded in mind and body from traumas of war.
  • Pray for Israeli families burying their loved ones to sense comfort and relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus.
  • Pray for wisdom for the Biden administration.
  • Pray for Americans and Israelis to remain strong together.

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 and has 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 her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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New Immigrant: Olga’s Story

As the Russians invaded Ukraine, Olga and her husband were suddenly living on the frontlines. In fact, their apartment in Mariupol was completely destroyed during the bombings. When their rabbi left the city, they took refuge in the synagogue’s basement. But as the explosions intensified, they realized the building could not withstand further bombardments.

So just several weeks into the attacks, with only half of their city still standing, the couple decided to leave Mariupol and flee to Israel. They headed for Berdyansk, and came under fire. “It took us awhile to finally get out of Ukraine,” Olga recalled. “Everywhere we turned, there was chaos and danger. Sadly, many tried to leave but did not make it. It was very risky.”

They dodged numerous landmines in the road and saw cars that had been blown up. Looters tried to attack them. They refueled in Crimea and made it to Rostov—where they were finally able to board a rescue flight for Israel. Yet, as new immigrants, who would help them?

Thankfully, friends like you were there. Upon arriving, they heard CBN Israel could assist them, and called the number. As they settled near Nazareth, donors provided finances to purchase food, clothing, furniture, and other necessities. Olga exclaimed, “We are deeply grateful to you for helping us start a new life in our ancestral homeland. We will never forget your generosity!”

Your gifts to CBN Israel can offer compassionate relief to many others in need—including single mothers, Holocaust survivors, and terror victims.

And your support can bring essential aid—such as groceries, housing, appliances, and financial help—to those who are hurting. Please let us hear from you today!

Will you reach out in kindness and compassion to those in need?

GIVE TODAY

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Weekly Q&A: Why should Christians learn about ancient and modern Judaism?

Christianity and Judaism (modern Judaism) are sisters; their mother is ancient Judaism. The New Testament belongs to the world of ancient Judaism. As such, to understand the New Testament, we need to study ancient Judaism. We find within ancient Judaism the faith, ideas, forms of teachings, theological developments, and manner of biblical interpretation found within the New Testament; thus, ancient Judaism provides windows through which we interpret and understand the New Testament. 

Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John expressed their ideas, faith, and expectations within the context of the world of ancient Judaism. For we as modern readers of the Bible, who find ourselves separated from the world of ancient Judaism, the study of ancient Judaism enables us to better understand the words of the New Testament figures and writers.  

Even beyond the New Testament, the first century was an axial period within human history, which gave birth to Judaism and Christianity, both of which eventually influenced the foundation of Islam. To understand history, particularly the history of Mediterranean region, from the first century until now, requires us to know something about the world of ancient Judaism, which gave us many ideas prevalent within the history of the Western world that remain with us today. 

Between the world of ancient Judaism and modern Judaism stand the last two thousand years of history. A history which has witnessed the ascendancy of Christianity, and as with many siblings, the history of Christianity and Judaism has been contentious, bitter, and hurtful, especially to Judaism. 

Studying modern Judaism does not necessarily assist one in better understanding the New Testament, but it does explain how we move from Jesus, a Jew, to Judaism’s hostility towards him. It has little to do with Jesus, and mostly to do with his followers, especially his non-Jewish followers. 

Learning about modern Judaism forces Christians to confront a very ugly history of how Christians have treated the Jews, often being the source of anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic attitudes and voices, which remain with us until today. 

Learning about modern Judaism enables modern Christians to understand the challenges of Jewish-Christian dialogue and interactions. Learning about modern Judaism explains modern Zionism and the founding of the State of Israel. 

Learning about modern Judaism should lead Christians to ask some theological questions of themselves concerning the Jewish people and Israel. Learning about modern Judaism, however, also provides the ability to understand Jews and Judaism, to see the world from their perspective historically, culturally, and theologically.

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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Jews, Arabs, and Druze in a Vibrant Israeli Tapestry

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Israel’s citizens make up a colorful tapestry of religions and ethnicities, with some two million Arab citizens and more than seven million Jewish citizens who immigrated (made Aliyah) from 112 countries. Most formerly lived in the Diaspora region outside ancient Israel, which began in the sixth century B.C. after the Babylonian exile. Jews were forcibly scattered throughout the world for millennia.

When more Jews began trickling back into their homeland in the 1800s, they brought centuries of prayers with them. Due their deeply grounded spiritual DNA, even in exile they practiced Judaism as best they could and steadfastly proclaimed, “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Their varied languages, foods, and traditions from previous nations were bound together upon arriving in Israel, as they learned and acclimated to Hebrew. Now, they celebrate their freedom in the only Jewish country in the world.

Jews portray many colors of the world, coming as they do from Ethiopia, Asia, Russia, Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, the Pacific, and beyond. In fair-skinned, black, or toffee skin tones, they gazed upon their ancestral homeland with blue, black, and brown and green eyes. The indigenous wanderers are home now, full of hopes and dreams that became reality—evidence of promises from the God of their ancestors: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Adding to Israel’s fascinating tapestry are the Druze, one of Israel’s minority social and religious communities. I have wonderful memories spent with Druze after a daylong visit in Bukata, one of 18 Druze villages in Israel’s Golan Heights. A friend arranged for a group of us to visit before the 2019 Government Press Office’s Christian Media Summit began in Jerusalem. So, we boarded a bus and traveled north.

Stepping off the bus after traveling up via breathtaking hairpin turns and taking in the beauty of the Golan, we were greeted warmly by the Bukata Local Council members. First, we celebrated by eating their delicious food spread out on a decorated table in their meeting hall. Then we walked over to the soccer field where they held a game in our honor and presented us with heavy, gold-colored medallions imprinted on both sides—one with Local Council Bukata in Arabic and their flag, and the other side with an Israeli and American flag with the Bukata name in Hebrew. The beribboned lanyard featured blue and white, the colors of Israel’s flag. When the leaders hung them around our necks as the soccer teams competed, I was delighted with their warm expressions of welcome.

The Druze emerged from Islam centuries ago. They speak Arabic but practice their own religion. The Druze are ethnically Arab but do not identify as Palestinians. They are monotheistic, do not proselytize, and allow no outsiders into their religion, contrasting with their open arms of hospitality.

Druze number about 138,000 in Israel. Others live in Lebanon and Syria. One English-speaking Druze commented that they live in the Golan Heights in three bordering countries yet near each other—within “shouting distance,” like an extended family. The Israeli Druze fare much better in Israel than under the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon and the Iran-controlled regime in Syria.

Israel has offered Druze citizenship since 1980. Nevertheless, Druze have maintained a strong relationship with Syrian Druze. In a Times of Israel article last year, “As ties to Syria fade, Golan Druze increasingly turning to Israel for citizenship,” it reports an excellent summary of the ins and outs of Druze dissatisfaction with Israel. Yet within their philosophy is a concept called taqiyya, which calls them to be loyal to the country in which they live.

Applications for citizenship are increasing though because Syria—since 2011—has fragmented into a disaster under President Assad and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The article mentions that currently 20 percent of Druze are Israeli citizens, and the remainder are Permanent Residents.

Israel does not require Arabs to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), although they may choose to do so. Like Jews, though, Druze are required to serve after reaching the age of 18 while Druze women do not serve. At Israel’s 75th Independence Day ceremony last April, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog honored 120 members from the three branches of the IDF and their families at the president’s official residence. In his speech, Herzog referred to pre-state Israel, saying, “We were, and still are, like dreamers,” telling the honorees that they represent the realization of that dream. He closed his heartfelt remarks by voicing the reality that “We could not have done any of this if we hadn’t done it all together!” Each soldier received medals, certificates, and scholarships, including Jews, Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, and yes, Druze who often serve in elite and combat units.

I enjoyed another encounter with a Druze representative in a memorable event also in the Golan Heights. Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) initiated a history-making proclamation ceremony for 120 of us in Christian media from 30 nations. The event was moderated by Eric Stakelbeck, TBN’s host of The Watchman, who highlighted the unity among three faiths: Christianity, Judaism, and Druze. Representatives included David Parsons, vice president and senior spokesman for International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, and Aharon Eisental, chief rabbi of Hispin Village. The trio also included a Druze representative, Sheik Salim Abu Salach.

One of the GPO staff offered her own, original heartfelt prayer: “Our Father in heaven, Rock and Redeemer of Israel and Jerusalem, bless the Golan Heights and those who seek its peace and send blessings and success to all their work. Envelop us in Your peace, bestow eternal happiness to the inhabitants of our land. Remove war and bloodshed from the world and bequeath a great and wondrous peace from heaven. ‘Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore’” [Isaiah 2:4].

This prayer is currently very much needed, especially in the Druze community, as I conclude with a sorrowful, shocking event.

Last week, four Druze were shot to death in northern Israel’s Abu Snan, a majority-Druze town. One of the four victims was Ghazi Sa’ab, who was running for mayor and was a former IDF and Border Police officer. The quadruple murders come amid an internal Arab crime wave that has already taken the lives of 157 Arabs this year. One hundred forty-eight killed were Arab Israelis. Earlier this week, Israel’s Shin Bet and police met with Arab leaders who are demanding action in what is thought to be organized Arab crime.

I invite you to join our CBN Israel team to pray with hope for the day when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).

Prayer Points:

  • Pray for the Druze community who are suffering the grief of shocking murders.
  • Pray for the Druze, a minority who are loyal to Israel, having sacrificed more lives relative to their small population than all the others. 
  • Pray for practical solutions to stem the tidal wave of crime against Arab Israelis.
  • Pray for Israel’s security personnel who are already under intense stress from enemies that have sworn to destroy them.
  • Pray for Israel and our world to acknowledge the blessed hope that our Lord offers through His sacrificial love.

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 and has 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 her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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Weekly Q&A: Why is it important to understand the cultural world of the Bible?

The Bible is God’s revelation in time, place, and culture. The Bible represents the cultural world and worldviews of its authors and their audiences. The cultural world of the Old Testament is that of ancient Israel within the broader context of the Ancient Near East. In the New Testament, it is the cultural world of ancient Judaism within the broader context of the Greco-Roman world. 

Thus, the Bible does not represent a single culture, but multiple cultures. Culture evolves through time. As events transpire within the history of a people, the culture changes and adapts; thus, the cultural world of the Old Testament is not that of the New Testament.

Modern students of the Bible often struggle reading the Bible within its cultural contexts. We tend to import our culture into the Bible rather than understanding the Bible within its cultures. 

Language represents one of the clearest communications of culture. Through language, people communicate their ideas, values, perceptions of reality and the world, hopes, and understanding. Language is culture. It is also the most sanative part of a culture to historical events and processes. The history of a people leaves its fingerprints within its language from period to period. Thus, when we read the Bible, even if we read it in our language, we must remember that words and the ideas they communicate likely did not mean the same thing to them as it did us. 

Culture also pertains to things like marriage, birth and child rearing, inheritance practices, death and burial, tribal and family structure, economic life, village life, shepherding and farming, laws, justice, and judgement, weapons and warfare. People express their beliefs, values, and worldviews through culture. Whenever we read the Bible, we must be cognizant of the cultures it contains. Often the authors do not explain culture and its nuances to us because they could assume their primary audience understood them. 

The two primary means we have to engage the cultural context of the Bible are ancient written sources contemporary with the Bible and archaeology. Ancient written sources provide windows into the cultural world of the Bible. They often explain cultural details or provide greater background than we find in the Bible. They offer a broader repository of language, vocabulary, and ideas, which help us understand the words of the Bible within their cultural context. 

Archaeology offers a window into the material cultural of the people who lived in the world of the Bible. It uncovers the daily existence and tools people used during their lives within the world of the Bible. It can illuminate passages within the Bible and enables us to touch the world of the Bible in a way which can aide our ability to read and understand the Bible.

If we want to understand what the writers of the Bible meant, to better understand what the Bible means for us today, then we must study the cultural world of the Bible.

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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Israel’s Ministry of Interior Faces Losses If It Denies Visas to Christian Ministries

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

Although there has been some friction in the past over issuing visas to Christian organizations and clergy, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) and Israel’s Ministry of Interior have quietly settled those issues behind the scenes. However, the Interior Ministry’s recent surprising move to deny essential visas to ICEJ—a prominent international Christian organization home based in Israel—is now out in the open. 

ICEJ’s Vice President and senior spokesman, David Parsons, explained that the Interior Ministry refused to issue visas during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he’s concerned because the rejections have now expanded into three years. Parsons comments, “We finally had to go public, and they are saying now we are not a religious organization.”

Since its founding in 1980, ICEJ has been registered as a religious organization. The hopes are that an upcoming hearing will expose a bureaucratic mistake, followed by a possible reversal. Israeli law clearly confirms that the decisions of the Ministry of Interior require that granting or denying visas must be based on correct, reasonable facts without bias.

Parsons described the results if the decision is not reversed: “We are slowly being squeezed out of existence by the Interior Ministry. We cannot continue our vital work to build global Christian support for Israel under these strict new rules.” No explanation is forthcoming yet to ICEJ. Moshe Arbel, interior minister in the Knesset, would do well to seriously reconsider several deeply troubling consequences of its damaging decision. Arbel must pay attention to the relational damage toward dedicated Christian staff and 600 million evangelicals worldwide who financially support a range of respected Christian ministries and media in the Holy Land. 

Using the concept of return on investment (ROI), the Shas religious party’s ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Arbel might consider an evaluation of the economic and humanitarian benefits to Israel from ICEJ and numerous other respected Christian organizations in Israel. One fact to note is explained in an article written by American Rabbi Dr. Daniel Friedman. He explores the concept, “Is It Permissible to Accept Charity from Christians?” He estimates that American Christians donate “hundreds of millions of dollars to both Christian and Jewish charities in Israel.”  

Here is what Interior Minister Arbel would discover about ICEJ if he were to examine its past actions:  

In 1980, ICEJ drove a stake in the ground through prayer and established a Christian embassy. The Knesset had officially declared Israel’s sovereignty over all of Jerusalem on July 30, 1980, enacting Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel. Abandoning biblical history and Israel’s sovereign decision-making rights, nations (including the U.S.) reacted by relocating their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The minimally funded founders of ICEJ, who met in a small, cramped Jerusalem office, made the decision to stand with Israel in Jerusalem—Israel’s eternal capital. 

Now in its 43rd year, ICEJ has offices in 93 countries, and an immeasurable humanitarian imprint on the ground in Israel. Israel’s citizens—Jews, Arabs, Druze, Ethiopians, and more—benefit from ICEJ staff and volunteers in numerous outreaches throughout Israel. Aiding women in crisis, distributing food, and improving children’s homes, ICEJ’s merciful work with Holocaust survivors is also essential in the waning days of their lives.  

Sadly, a quarter of Israel’s 165,000 Holocaust survivors live in poverty. Ninety percent of survivors are above 80 years old. Illness and loneliness are rampant. ICEJ provides food and friendship with in-person visits—especially to those living alone. CBN Israel also carries out an active ministry to Holocaust survivors in need. In 2009 ICEJ—partnering with a local Jewish charity—founded the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors, which provides assisted living and a loving staff. ICEJ has also established an emergency call line for Holocaust survivors in crisis. 

Another lifesaving achievement implemented by ICEJ, with the financial commitment of churches and individuals worldwide, is the placement of more than 150 portable bomb shelters manufactured in Israel that protect Israeli civilians under fire from Gaza terrorists. ICEJ’s efforts have also resulted in more than 160,000 Jews immigrating (making Aliyah) to their ancestral homeland from all over the world. ICEJ works closely with the Jewish Agency for Israel and many other organizations in this massive effort. Isaiah 49:22 NIV captures the spirit of Aliyah—“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips.” 

I daresay Rabbi Moshe Arbel, interior minister, would not want to slow down the arrival of Jews to their homeland based on God’s promises in Isaiah 49:22. But with visas presently denied, the number of staff and volunteers is reduced—and Israelis go wanting without the love and help that Christians provide. How will the Ministry of Interior overcome such a shortfall? 

Additionally, the Christian media presence inside and outside Israel is an important factor that Interior Minister Arbel hopefully will consider. As a Christian journalist, I have attended several Christian Media Summits hosted by Israel’s Government Press Office. At both summits, in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s keynotes, he praised Evangelicals and Christian media in glowing terms. He described Christian media as “Ambassadors of truth—you’re not merely the greatest ambassadors that Israel has around the world—you’re champions of truth.”

ICEJ is among respected Christian media worldwide that report news, educational resources, and truths about Israel. It also hosts tours, and annually implements the biggest tourist event in Israel, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). Upwards of 5,000 evangelicals worldwide travel to Israel each year for weeklong celebrations. Their presence is not only an economic boon; it is an outflow of encouragement to Jewish families lining Jerusalem’s streets during Israel’s Parade of Nations. This year’s celebration, held September 29 through October 6, has the theme King of All the Earth.

ICEJ—and many other fine Christian ministries in Israel, worldwide Christian media, and Evangelicals—are what I call “information armies of facts.” We stand as a bulwark—with God’s help, strength, and wisdom—to oppose the poisonous propaganda of Israel’s enemies. 

May Rabbi Moshe Arbel and Israel’s Interior Ministry view us all as friends who will continue to exert prayers and actions on behalf of Israel’s diverse population. 

CBN Israel staff welcome you to join us in prayer this week: 

  • Pray for ICEJ and all Christian ministries in Israel for visa approvals. 
  • Pray that Rabbi Moshe Arbel will accept the sincere friendship of Christians and restored cooperation.
  • Pray that we as Christians will react to these challenges in a way that honors our Lord. 
  • Pray for Christian ministry personnel, their strength, shalom, and blessings. 

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 and has 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 her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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Weekly Q&A: Why is it essential to know the historical context of the Bible?

The Bible is God’s revelation in time, space, and culture. History is humanity’s reflection upon its past. The Bible is not one book; it is a collection of books composed by different authors, in different literary genres, written at different times. And, while the Bible contains history, it is not a history book per se. It also frames its literature within various historical periods.

The biblical writers include historical empires, kings, and figures without providing much detail about these historical characters. They often assume our familiarity with historical details, figures, and empires on the macro and micro levels. They set their narratives against the backdrop of these historical contexts.

For example, the book of Kings frames many of its narratives against the backdrop of Assyrian expansion, the turbulence this caused among the regional kingdoms of the Levant, and the varied responses of those kingdoms to the Assyrian threat. So too, the Gospels assume the historical incursion and annexation of the land of Israel by Rome, the collapse of the Hasmonean State, and the rise of the Herodian family, which began in the first century B.C.

Because the Bible spans periods of time, we must keep this in mind. Between Abraham and David stands one thousand years. Between David and Jesus stand a thousand years. We would never seek to understand a person living today by studying those who lived a thousand years ago; neither should we treat David and Jesus as belonging to the same worldview or world.

The period between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament spans roughly four hundred years. Within this period, Judaism underwent events which profoundly impacted and transformed it. Historical events, empires, wars, and rebellions shaped the world of ancient Judaism making it a different world from that of the Old Testament.

In other words, Jesus stepped into a different world from that of any of the Old Testament figures. When we study the New Testament, we should be aware of this history and the history of the land of Israel within the first century, because it forms the backdrop to the New Testament accounts (see Luke 3:1-3).

The biblical writers most often had a firsthand or at least a secondhand connection to the historical events within their world. Their writings often assume our knowledge of these historical events as they serve as background to their narratives, prophecies, visions, and letters.

If we want to understand what the writers of the Bible meant, to better understand what the Bible means for us today, then we must study the historical contexts of the world of the Bible.

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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