Let Us Revive the Ancient Bonds Between Passover and Easter

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Despite three months of deepening political disunity within Israel—along with increased threats of war and terrorism from their enemies—Israeli Jews will still find a way to celebrate their 75th Passover festival (Chag Ha-Pesach) in their modern ancestral homeland. Israel is the epicenter of faith for both Jews and Christians. Two thousand years ago, God sent His beloved Son into our world as The Living Torah—The Living Word. No events will erase God’s sovereign plans.

Passover and Christian Holy Weeks are fast approaching. Christian Holy Week begins Palm Sunday, April 2, and culminates on Easter Sunday, April 9. Passover begins on April 5, lasting until April 13. The deep connections between Judaism and Christianity have suffered serious neglect. It is vitally important for our faith kinship to grow stronger—especially in the face of rising anti-Semitism and Christian persecution worldwide.

Discovering that we are grafted into the roots of Judaism through Jesus adds a rich dimension to our Christian faith. The deep connection and parallel between Passover’s freedom celebration and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is one we dare not miss. Jesus liberates believers—not from a Pharaoh’s cruelty to Israelite slaves with the resulting exodus to freedom—but freedom from sin’s dark enslavement.

Jesus completed the prophetic announcements in the Old Testament that had been written by Jewish scribes under God’s inspiration. In His three-year ministry, Jesus and His Jewish disciples started a new movement that was always intended to be the full blossoming of Judaismnot the replacement of it. Born into a Jewish family and culture, Jesus lived fully engaged in Jewish customs and religious observances. And His faith was ancient Judaism.

Because Passover was one of the three pilgrimage festivals within Judaism, thousands of Jews would have made their way to Jerusalem for freedom celebration. In fact, the ancient historian Josephus estimates a million or more pilgrims were already flowing into the capital before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. His fame had drawn adoring crowds, all hoping for a king to liberate them from their brutal Roman oppressors.

The day we call Palm Sunday is the ancient Day of Lambs. When Bethlehem shepherds herded huge flocks of Passover lambs into Jerusalem, the Perfect Lamb rode a donkey amid thousands of lambs parading into the holy city as Temple sacrifices. It is an exquisite picture of Divine context. In the first Passover in Egypt, God instructed Israelites to choose a perfect lamb to kill not only for food, but to apply its blood to their doorposts. God promised that when the Angel of Death swept over Egypt and saw the blood, death would pass over the Israelites’ firstborn. The blood of lambs saved lives!

In Jesus’ day, the Sadducees appointed expert Levitical shepherds to nurture lambs in Bethlehem’s fields owned by the religious leaders. Bethlehem, the Perfect Lamb of God’s birthplace! The Sadducees conducted a lamb “beauty contest” at the Lamb’s Gate, choosing only the perfect ones. 1 Peter 1:18-19 proclaims, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things… but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”

For Jews, from generation to generation, the Passover Seder celebration recounts the theme of freedom from slavery. The modern Jewish Passover meal is called a Seder, meaning “order,” and lasts for hours with prayers, the feast, and recounting the Exodus freedom stories. In recounting those stories, Jewish families use the Passover Haggadah, a script developed over hundreds of years. This cherished collection of prayers, psalms and benedictions, which is used as a teaching tool, is recited on the eve of Passover.

A Passover Seder centerpiece displays six items. One of them holds a secret meaning for Christians. Matzo, a flat cracker bread, has tiny holes and brownish stripes. For us, Matzo is a visual representation of nails piercing Jesus’ body on the cross and the stripes inflicted on our Lord by Romans. For Jews, it represents their unleavened bread when Israelites hastily fled Egypt after the tenth plague.

Jesus would have celebrated Passover annually even going back to His childhood: “His [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast” (Luke 2:41-42).

Jesus’ last Passover is what we later called the Last Supper. In Luke 22:15, Jesus expresses His heartfelt emotion in the Upper Room with His disciples, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” The dramatic events swiftly moved forward. Afterward, Jesus and His remaining eleven disciples left the Upper Room. In darkness, the group walked about a mile to the Mount of Olives, an important manufacturing location that made olive oil. Jesus and His disciples frequently visited Gethsemane. The English word “Gethsemane” combines two Hebrew words, Gat and Shmanim, defined as “the place where olive oil is pressed.” 

The popular geographical location is rich with symbolism. Isaiah 53:5 describes a compelling truth, “He was crushed for our iniquities.” Like the wooden beams holding up the olive crushing stones, our Savior Jesus bore the wooden beams of the crucifixion cross—crushed under the weight of our sins. The larger presses included stones (suspended with ropes from wooden beams) weighing up to a ton. The presses transformed the olives to use for cooking, anointing oil, and Temple lights.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded in Mark 14:36, “Abba [Aramaic for Father], everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” We are familiar with Jesus’ anguished prayers laced with tears of blood before His arrest. Hematidrosis is the medical name for Jesus’ tears, an extremely rare occurrence where blood is mixed with sweat. Jesus’ crushing in “the place where olive oil is pressed” produced the precious oil and blood of our redemption.

Eventually, Roman soldiers and civilians showed up. Judas Iscariot led the way, placing the kiss of death on Jesus’ face. Throughout the traumatic night, recall what Jesus declared to the Pharisees in John 10:17-18, “No man takes my life from me; I am laying it down of my own will. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Yes, many accomplices acted out their role in Jesus’ execution outside Jerusalem’s walls—the corrupt chief priests and Sadducees, Judas, Pilate, and Roman soldiers. Nevertheless, no one could stop God’s redemption plan. Jesus chose to lay down His life for the freedom and salvation of all people everywhere.

During Jesus’ crucifixion, Temple priests were slaughtering the Bethlehem lambs by the thousands. They threw lamb’s blood all over the temple court. Expertly wielding their knives, the priests chanted the Hallel (Psalms 113-118). It is possible that Jesus heard snippets of the chants where He hung outside Jerusalem’s walls. Psalm 116:3 recounts, “The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.”

Jesus’ sacrificial death seemed to be the end of every hope held by scores of Jewish believers who loved Him. In an act only the mighty hands of God could achieve, He tore the purple, scarlet, and blue veil in the Temple in two as the perfect Passover Lamb breathed His last breath. Matthew 27:51 verifies it. “At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.” The curtain—60 feet high, 30 feet wide and four inches thick—sheltered the Holy of Holies, God’s Court, containing the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. It is easy to imagine the priests’ fright and screams when they saw the torn curtain. It was incomprehensible, since only the Jewish High Priest entered the Holy of Holies—and only once a year.

When we invite our Lord Jesus into our lives, His shed blood covers the doorposts of our lives. When our Holy God the Father looks at us, He sees the One Perfect Lamb’s blood. No longer were thousands of sacrificial lambs needed! It is His tallit, His prayer shawl—covering us, saving us from death, and giving us the gift of eternal life.

The Divine connections between Passover and Easter are a cause for endless thankfulness to God. His Promised Land Israel and His Chosen people served as vessels for His vast gift of salvation imparted to us through the Jews.

Join our CBN Israel team this week rejoicing in Jesus Christ’s finished work:

  • Pray with gratefulness to God for the gift of His finished work of salvation.
  • Pray for Israel facing multiple threats inside and outside their nation.
  • Pray for Israel’s leaders to enact wise agreements for Israel’s judiciary.
  • Pray that Israel’s enemies will not attack at this vulnerable time in Israel’s history.
  • Pray for God’s people to glimpse and accept His gifts of love.

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her part-time as Outreach Director for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a board member for Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene attends Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

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Housing for Holocaust Survivors

Thanks to the dedicated support of friends like you, CBN Israel is linking arms with the Jewish Agency to help ease the plight and meet the needs of disadvantaged elderly men and women, primarily Holocaust survivors, living in Israel. This aid includes constructing affordable housing, renovating existing housing, and taking innovative measures to enhance residents’ welfare and quality of life.

The Jewish Agency states: “There are over 1,000,000 Israelis over the age of 65, 200,000 of whom live at or below the poverty line and cannot afford to purchase or even rent sustainable lodgings. A large majority of these are Holocaust survivors and new olim (immigrants) from the former Soviet Union. Recent Ministry of Absorption and Ministry of Housing figures indicate that there are in excess of 27,000 poor senior citizens waiting for a suitable housing solution. While real estate prices in the world have dropped, the cost of housing in Israel has risen sharply, making it impossible for senior citizens to purchase property or even afford rent. Without support, these older adult men and women would face devastation and ruin.”

Through CBN Israel, caring donors recently made it possible to begin construction of an apartment for a Holocaust survivor who desperately needs a home. The new unit will provide a safe and comfortable living space for a precious senior citizen.

And your support today can let other Holocaust survivors know they are not forgotten—as well as immigrants, victims of terrorism, and many others in need. Thank you!

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


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Weekly Q&A: What are the main expressions of Judaism today?

Judaism today divides along two lines primarily: the geographic origin of the Jewish community, and the Jewish community’s encounter with modernity and the modern world. Western Christians often struggle to understand the characteristics of modern Judaism because Christian communities in the West divide along theological and doctrinal lines.

This is not the case with Jewish communities. The differences between the Jewish communities do not come from doctrinal differences, but rather, from differences caused by their geographic locals and distances from other Jewish communities, and then, with the rise of the modern world, how Jewish communities responded and reacted to modernity.

The primary geographic divisions of the Jewish community are Ashkenazi and Sephardic. Synagogue communities divide into either of these two groups. The Ashkenazi come from Europe, primarily eastern Europe, and Russia. Sephardic Jews historically came from Spain, but today, Sephardic Jews refer to Jewish communities which came from Spain as well as those communities which came from North Africa and Middle Eastern countries, like Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. These Jewish communities are also referred to as Mizrahi. Ethiopian Jews are identified as Sephardic, but their synagogue liturgy has variations.

The Spanish Inquisition caused many Jews to flee from Spain. Some went to the historical land of Israel; others migrated to Thessaloniki. The principal differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic synagogues pertains to liturgical worship, which developed due to the geographic locations of the Jewish communities.

When we speak about various Jewish communities’ response to modernity, we refer to divisions of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed. Inside the Orthodox community one finds modern as well as Ultra-Orthodox communities. For centuries, Jewish communities adhered to orthodox Judaism, which continued developing the traditions of rabbinic Judaism. Learning of rabbinic works took place within yeshivas. The differences within the communities came from their geographic locations and the rabbis they formed around, but commonalities in liturgy and the library of rabbinic works, studied in a similar manner ensured a consistency of worldview.

The Enlightenment of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries impacted the Jewish communities, particularly the Ashkenazi communities of Europe. The application of reason and critical thinking to religion led to the advent of modern biblical studies and the application of modern, critical methods of studying the Bible. Jewish communities in Europe and North America were influenced by these trends. So too, Jewish communities sought to settle a dual identity, on the one hand they were Jews, but on the other, the nationalism which swept Europe in the nineteenth century impacted Jewish communities as well.

Thus, to exist within the modern world, one had to navigate being Jewish and being German or French or American. The combination of these forces led to the growth of the Conservative and Reformed streams of Judaism, which sought to reimagine Judaism for a modern world. Instead of adhering to the traditions of the past, which often isolated Jews from the communities around them, Jews sought a form of Judaism which could incorporate them into the modern world and nations in which they lived.

The Ultra-Orthodox community went the other way. They viewed modernism as a threat, and therefore, to keep the modern world out, they froze traditions and dress from the past to insulate them from the incursion of modernism.

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

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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The Libyan Diversion: Another Rosenberg Smash Hit of Truth Forecast in Fiction

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Last week, my attention was seized by an exclusive Reuters headline that quickly spread to media worldwide. Two-and-a-half tons of uranium stored in ten barrels had gone missing in Libya. I had just finished reading the New York Times best-selling author Joel Rosenberg’s newest book, The Libyan Diversion. Tyndale, his publisher, had sent me the Advanced Reader Copy so I could write a book review. The new book, exploding with electrifying twists and turns, comes out on May 16, 2023. Nevertheless, Rosenberg’s newest thriller landed on Tyndale’s desk before the Reuters headline news on March 15. Joel had once again unearthed troubling possibilities not widely known on the world stage. 

It is easy to assume that Joel is a modern-day prophet, yet he in no way claims to belong in that genre. True, this is not the first time that his readers might deem him as prophetic about a serious issue that rightly holds Israel’s attention. After all, Joel wrote his first novel, The Last Jihad, nine months before 9/11. That story included terrorists hijacking a plane and flying it into an American city. With the Middle East’s Islamic regime on a steady march to obtain nuclear weapons—of uppermost importance in Israel’s security strategies—Joel sizes up another dimension of reality and writes a “what if” scenario. And another bestseller is born. 

Making Aliyah to Israel in 2014 with his wife Lynn and their four sons, the Israeli-American author chose to feature the North African nation of Libya in his upcoming book. Rosenberg’s thriller is not only an entertaining adrenaline rush but also a wakeup call. The unstable Muslim country has no diplomatic relationship with Israel. In fact, Libya is among 36 nations that do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty. Libya aligns with the Palestinians instead. Despite having a population of just 7.5 million people, Libya’s considerable land mass makes it the fourth-largest country in Africa and the 16th-largest country in the world. Libya is constantly enmeshed in power grabs between tribes, militias, political parties, and regions. Governed by lawlessness, violence, unpredictability, and chaos, Libya is a place where human rights are scarce. Amnesty International calls a powerful militant faction within the desert nation a “catalogue of horrors.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was set to inspect Libya’s uranium storage location last year. However, security concerns forced that process to be cancelled. The inspection finally took place recently and the IAEA announced the missing barrels. Although the IAEA—the United Nations’ watchdog for nuclear compliance and threats—then announced that the 10 missing barrels of uranium had been located, the Libyan sources are questionable. Briefly, the uranium (U-235 isotopes) can undergo enrichment to produce energy by fission for use in nuclear weapons. The uranium is housed at a remote location and contains enough U-235 to build a nuclear bomb if enriched via centrifuges to over 90 percent.

According to Dr. Edwin Lyman from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the incident raised questions about IAEA’s capability to maintain a continuity of knowledge over nuclear materials in countries containing active conflict zones. My conclusion: Whether the missing barrels are found or not, the uranium storage areas are not being adequately monitored. Anything can go wrong when lawless groups run a country.  

Islamic forces like Al Qaeda are at war internally. Several efforts to form a stable government have failed, with Libya also courted by outside countries with competing interests. Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Russia back the Libyan National Army (LNA), while Turkey, Italy, and Qatar side with the Government of National Unity (GNU). It is no wonder that a crowd of nations is lined up against the country, since Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa and the ninth largest worldwide. Simply put, Libya is oil rich and security poor. Relying on any information relayed by the factions in Libya is suspect. 

The current U.S. State Department travel warnings to Americans sound the alarm: “Do not travel to Libya due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed conflict. Crime levels in Libya remain high, including the threat of kidnapping for ransom. Westerners and U.S. citizens have been targets of these crimes.” 

When you read The Libyan Diversion, you will quickly note that Rosenberg’s famous good guy protagonist, CIA’s Marcus Ryker, did not heed any U.S. State Department warnings. Ryker has appeared in four previous thrillers: The Kremlin Conspiracy, The Persian Gamble, The Jerusalem Assassin, and The Beirut Protocol. In The Libyan Diversion, Ryker is again under presidential orders and plans a complex, secretive incursion into Libya that goes shockingly sideways. The author enters new territory in the pages of The Libyan Diversion, where Christians are on the ground in nearby Yemen’s desert carrying out a humanitarian outreach. It turned Ryker’s best-laid logistics into a personal and professional nightmare. 

Winston Churchill once coined a famous saying about Russia. It is also a good description of Joel’s book about the unexpected. With a racing pulse you will discover more than terror strategies in Joel’s own version of “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The story seats you in the cockpit with an F-35 American pilot flying in a North African dust storm, sitting in the Oval office with decision makers, sitting in on Ryker’s decision to outhustle U.S. intelligence, and entering the evil mind of Abu Nakba, commander of the Kairos terrorist organization. Joel’s turn of a phrase usually pops up in all his books. This time, he called the terrorist’s threats “a terrorist Ted Talk.” 

Joel named the terror organization aptly, since kairos means “the right, critical, or opportune moment.” In ancient Greek archery, kairos is the moment when the archer sees the perfect opening to shoot his arrow to hit his target. Stunned, you will discover Abu Nakba’s colossal plans for Kairos. Edging toward Nakba’s plan in the last quarter of the 450-page book, Joel writes as if powered by brain waves in high gear with tight narrative taking readers on new, even higher Rosenberg action descriptions. I was practically out of breath amid gunfire and astonishing twists—mournfully asking myself if I would ever see Marcus Ryker again.

Joel Rosenberg’s skill in weaving facts about patriotism, Israel’s modern history, and the Islamic regime’s danger is entertainment with a purpose. He matches these important inclusions with good taste, compassion, and integrity while magnifying the importance of close relationships. His talent far exceeds the other terror thrillers I read. For Christians, Jews, and readers at large, his books are a win-win.

On a personal note, I first met Joel in 2009. It has been my pleasure to observe God’s favor on him writing 17 novels and five nonfiction books—with five million copies in print. He and Lynn founded The Joshua Fund in 2006, a non-profit charity motivating Christians to “bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus.” Donations have amounted to more than $50 million in humanitarian aid for Holocaust survivors, Syrian and Israeli refugees, and to strengthen Middle Eastern churches. Joel is also the founder and editor-in-chief of two news and analysis websites, and Weekly, you may watch The Rosenberg Report on the Trinity Broadcast Network each Thursday evening. Be sure to order The Libyan Diversion via Amazon or Lifeway books and look forward to a great read in May 2023. 

I welcome you this week to join our CBN Israel team to pray, remembering 2 Corinthians 6:14: “For what partnership has righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

Prayer Points:

  • Pray for many thousands of Libyan children and adults who face violence daily. 
  • Pray for the miraculous formation of a stable Libyan government.
  • Pray that barrels of uranium will not arrive in Iran to be spun into nuclear-grade enrichment in centrifuges. 
  • Pray that IAEA can plan a creative way to inspect Libya’s uranium storage. 
  • Pray for Joel Rosenberg and his family as he leads enormously effective projects to educate and activate evangelicals. 

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her part-time as Outreach Director for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a board member for Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene attends Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

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New Immigrants: Sergey and Ludmila’s Story

Although they lived in Russia, Sergey and Ludmila were upset by the Russian attacks on Ukraine. Sergey said, “It was horrible, watching this war escalate between people who speak the same language.” Because of their own political beliefs, they knew they had to leave.

Since Sergey is Jewish, they decided to immigrate to Israel. Ludmila wanted to give her children a better life although she feared the move might traumatize them—fears that proved to be correct. When Sergey had to take a lesser-paying job in his field, it became hard to afford furniture, a washing machine, basics for their kids’ rooms, and other essentials for their empty apartment. Yet who could help them?

Then Sergey heard about CBN Israel from Israeli relatives we helped a few years ago. Caring donors provided Sergey’s family with the furniture and washing machine they needed. They also gave them food, made the children’s rooms comfortable, and provided emotional support. 

Ludmila said, “We felt a lot of uncertainty when we got here, but CBN Israel gave us hope things would work out.” Sergey added, “Thank you… It is very touching to know there are people who care so much about families like ours. We feel like we have a future in this country.” 

Your gift to CBN Israel can help so many immigrants like Sergey who now call Israel home, especially with the surge of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. And you can also aid Holocaust survivors, single moms, and others in desperate need. 

Your support can bring groceries, housing, financial assistance, and more to those who are hurting—while sharing vital reports and stories from the Holy Land. 

Please help us reach those in crisis today!


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Weekly Q&A: What is the menorah?

The menorah refers to the seven-branched candelabra which God commanded Moses to have fashioned as part of the vessels of the Tabernacles (Exodus 25:31-40; 37:17-24). Artisans fashioned the menorah from a single ingot of gold, with the lamps carved separately from gold. Within the First Temple, the Temple of Solomon, ten golden menorot (plural, menorah) stood in the Temple building, five on the northern wall and five on the southern wall. It is not certain whether these lamps had branches, like the menorah of the Tabernacle. The Babylonians took the menorot from the Temple when they destroyed it and Jerusalem.

The rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem required the Judeans to refashion the vessels of the Temple including the menorah. The Jewish writer Jesus ben Sira mentions the golden menorah in the Second Temple in the early second century B.C. The Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, removed it when he converted the Jewish Temple into a Temple to Zeus. Judah the Maccabee made new vessels as part of his purification of the Temple, after he reconquered it from the Seleucid Greeks. It remained in the Second Temple until the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. They took the menorah with them to Rome and placed it in the Temple of Peace. Rome’s celebration of the conquest of Judaea appears on the Arch of Titus in Rome where the menorah is shown being conveyed into Rome.

The menorah became a Jewish symbol during the Second Temple period. The last Hasmonean ruler, Mattathias Antigonus, stamped a menorah upon his coins. Archaeologists have discovered menorah graffities in homes and on stones. The menorah stood in the interior of the Temple building, not the Holy of Holies, but the preceding hall. Within the Holy Place, the menorah stood with the incense altar and the table of shewbread. Twice a day priests entered the Temple to tend the lamps of the menorah and offer incense on the altar, at the time of the morning and evening sacrifices. The graffities discovered in Jerusalem depict these three elements together: the menorah, the incense altar, and the table of shewbread.

Archaeologists uncovered a unique stone in a first century synagogue in Magdala, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This stone, which archaeologist suggest was a base for a Torah reading stand, bears images from the Jerusalem Temple. The iconography of the stone comes from the Temple. It depicts the menorah and incense altar; some suggest it also shows the table of shewbread, which would be consistent with depictions of the menorah in this period.

After the menorah was taken to Rome, it became a more prominent Jewish symbol appearing in synagogue art throughout the Jewish world. The menorah was the earliest Jewish symbol identifying the presence of Jews. Many today think of the Star of David as a Jewish symbol, but this is modern. Ancient Jews made their mark with the menorah. Some mistakenly refer to the nine-branched candelabra used at Hanukkah as a menorah. It is not. It is a Hanukkiah, the special candelabra for Hanukkah.

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

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Bibi’s Broadcast to Beleaguered Iranian Citizens: Israel is on Your Side

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Last week, Iran International television news made history in a first-of-a-kind broadcast by featuring an Israeli prime minister—Benjamin Netanyahu—speaking directly to the Iranian people. On March 9, journalist Pouria Zeraati held an exclusive interview with Netanyahu, in which Bibi praised the protestors’ bravery on the streets of Iran and called the Islamic regime a “common enemy.” He expressed his personal admiration for the Woman, Life, Freedom resistance movement, describing it as “a miraculous achievement” by not bowing down to tyranny. 

Netanyahu’s comments are timely, since Iranian protestors have risked their lives to spread their demands for freedom from the hateful Ayatollahs and their nearly 190,000 enforcers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The regime’s ruthless reaction has, since September, led to more than 500 deaths and 22,000 arrests. One hundred and ten Iranians are set to face a death sentence, joining four other dissenters who have already been executed. On March 13 the Ayatollahs alleged that they now have granted amnesty to 80,000 prisoners, including some 22,000 protestors who had been arrested. That remains to be seen.

In his Twitter account, British-based Iranian journalist Zeraati also reported that the Islamic regime has poisoned school children, declaring that the regime’s message is “loud and clear, they will do whatever it takes.” The numbers are frightening to parents, with school poisonings having occurred since November in more than 100 schools. The Iranian Health Ministry claims that 13,000 students have been treated. While difficult to prove, it is easy for Iranians to view the poisonings as direct warnings from the Islamic regime’s oppressive history. 

The Israeli Prime Minister made remarks about ancient Persia and future ties between Israel and Iran. In 539 B.C., Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon. Looking to the future, Netanyahu envisions a renewed and strengthened friendship between Israel and Iran. He noted that prior to the Islamist takeover, their friendship had been strong. Obviously, his remarks are based on stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons capability—which threatens the Middle East, United States, and the world.

My friend Marziyeh (Marzi) Amirizadeh is an author and Iranian activist who was formerly imprisoned in Iran for sharing her Christian faith and giving out thousands of Bibles. Now that she’s an American citizen, her expert opinion is that many Iranians inside the country watched Netanyahu’s broadcast captioned in Farsi. She reports that the viewers reacted positively and admire Israel’s prime minister. As usual, since the protests began, the Ayatollahs have plotted internet disruptions and blackouts, thereby handcuffing freedom of speech on social media. However, Marzi notes that Iranians watch three major news media outside Iran: Iran International, Voice of America, and Manoto TV. 

Netanyahu concluded his remarks with two more messages. To Western leaders, he paraphrased Moses’ demand to Pharaoh—“Let my people go!”—by challenging the Islamic regime, “Let YOUR people go.” He added a no-nonsense point to the Ayatollahs: “We’ll be here long after you’re gone.”

Netanyahu described stopping Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons as the  “quintessential heart of my foreign policy.” His clear statement is evidenced by the ramped-up military exercises in the last few months with the United States military. On January 26, the U.S. Central Command and Israel Defense Forces completed Juniper Oak 2023 with a massive military exercise in the Middle East described as the biggest joint drill on record. Now, as of March 12, the Red Flag 23-2 exercise is underway for two weeks, hosted by the United States Air Force at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base. Israel has sent seven F-35I fighter jets and two Boeing 707 refueling planes for the drill. Joint military operations with Israel are common in both Israel and the United States. Israel has participated in five previous Red Flag drills at the U.S. base. 

I consider the joint midair refueling as one of the most significant drills, since Iran’s nuclear development sites are 1,200 miles from Israel. One drill focuses on an Israel Air Force (IAF) tanker refueling American fighter jets, with the U.S. in turn refueling Israeli aircraft. These refueling exercises make it possible for the IAF to reach Iran for the purpose of targeting Iran’s nuclear complexes—and only the nuclear complexes. 

Clearly Netanyahu speaks for Israel, which has no quarrel with the Iranian population themselves (more than 86 million people). Prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution, 80,000 Jews lived in Iran. Tens of thousands fled. Reports vary, but few in the Jewish community remain in Iran, and approximately 250,000 Jews of Iranian ancestry live in Israel. 

The Abraham Accords instituted dynamic and exciting changes in the Middle East. However, multiple levels of other sweeping changes in that region are advancing. It is essential to remain aware and prayerful for our greatest ally Israel, the suffering of the Iranian people, and wisdom for Israeli and American leaders’ decision-making. While the military alliance between Israel and the United States is vigorous, the U.S. influence in the Middle East is lessening.

One example stands out. China is now a kingmaker in the Middle East. In a secret four-day meeting, they brokered a deal in Beijing between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Chinese leaders agreed last Friday to reopen the embassies in both countries after seven years of weighty tensions. Although the deal revives the Saudi-Iran security cooperation pact of 2001, a hidden element may be at work. The deal is not official for another two months, and much could change. It is possible that Saudis would still rather connect more closely with Israel in order to rely on the Jewish state’s security against Iran. Plus, Saudis are not fond of the current U.S. administration and may be sending a wake-up message to a compromised Mr. Biden.

Aside from the seeming Chinese successes, Russia and Iran have agreed on the sale of Russian fighter jets for Iran’s recently revealed underground air force base. They named it “Eagle 44.”  EAGLE 44? I view that as the Islamic regime’s arrogance in appropriating one of the United States’ national symbols. 

We live at a time when Isaiah 5:20 is epidemic. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.” As believers, let us make sure that we pay persistent attention to our Lord Jesus, the Light of the world, amid darkening world events. We can rely on Him to help us navigate life steadied by Him. We also know that in His time, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus will settle every conflict regarding Israel, His Land, and His people, the Jews. May God have mercy on us as we await that day. 

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

  • Pray for Israeli and all Arab leaders in the Middle East to make wise decisions about the Islamic regime’s threats. 
  • Pray with thanks for the beneficial bonds between the U.S. and Israeli military.
  • Pray for strength for the Iranian people to endure as they seek their freedom. 
  • Pray for Israel’s internal peace amid controversial opinions about reshaping their Supreme Court.

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her part-time as Outreach Director for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a board member for Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene attends Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

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New Immigrants: Anna’s Story

As a single mother, Anna lived with her little boy in Eastern Ukraine when the war broke out. She recalled, “We were totally unprepared… We had to hide in the basement— it was cold and scary.” After weeks of living in fear with her son, she decided it was time to escape.

A rescue train organized by their Jewish community took them to western Ukraine. From there, the Israeli government allowed Jewish refugees to immediately make Aliyah—Israeli citizenship for Jews—and return to their ancestral homeland of Israel as immigrants. 

When they arrived, a government grant enabled them to rent an apartment. Yet, Anna needed a refrigerator and couldn’t afford one. She was alone and jobless in a new country. 

But friends like you were there. Through CBN Israel, caring donors gave her a refrigerator—plus, food vouchers, groceries, and basic furniture! Anna shared, “What a headache it is to live without a fridge… You got it for us quickly. It was a big relief, and we’re very thankful.” 

Today, just a few months later, Anna is working part time and earning an income. We visit her and her son regularly, and she adds, “Your words, your prayers, and your support help restore my faith. These acts of kindness show that there is still good in the world.” 

And your gift to CBN Israel can share God’s goodness with many in need—by bringing them nutritious meals, essentials, financial help, and more. Your support can reach out to Holocaust survivors, immigrants, terror victims, and others with nowhere to turn. 

Please join us as we bless others in this special land!


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Weekly Q&A: What is replacement theology?

Replacement theology refers to the faulty belief that God replaced Israel as His chosen people with the Church. According to those who hold this view, God’s promises to Israel now belong to the Church, and His plans no longer extend to the Jewish people or Israel. The origins of this belief are ancient. They stem from social and theological forces.

Ancient Judaism attracted non-Jews. Most chose not to identify fully with Judaism, which required a man to undergo the rite of circumcision. So too, the Jewish commandments proved too hard for non-Jews and alienated them from their families and civic identities. Non-Jews attracted to Judaism were called God-fearers (or God-worshippers).

The Jewish followers of Jesus attracted non-Jews as well. The Jewish followers of Jesus decided non-Jews could remain non-Jews, but they had to avoid meat sacrificed to idols, prohibited sexual unions, and bloodshed. Jesus’ community required them to adopt a Jewish morality without fully converting to Judaism. They lived Jewishly without being fully part of the Jewish community. This was Paul’s position as well.

Non-Jews stood on the edge of the synagogue, not fully part of the community. This created an inferiority complex, a sense of being an outsider. Such feelings can produce resentment over time. They can be overcome by the outsiders concluding they represent the true faith. Jews failed, and God rejected them. Their laws were null and a hinderance to salvation. Scattered evidence of this logic appears among non-Jews prior to the rise of Christianity, but with the rise of Christianity, these ideas became more widespread as Christianity showed itself as the true religion and Israel’s replacement.

An apocryphal work known as Fifth Ezra reflects this belief. This work likely dates to the second century A.D. Preserved in Latin, it was originally written in Greek. The author proclaims, “What can I do about you Jacob? You would not listen to me, Judah. I will turn to another nation and give it my name in order that they may keep my decrees. Because you have forsaken me, I will forsake you…I am going to deliver your houses to a coming people who, though they have not heard me, believe; [those] to whom I showed no signs will do what I decreed. They did not see the prophets, yet they will keep in mind their time-honored [admonitions]” (1:24-25, 35-36).

Justin Martyr (about A.D. 100-165) also embraced this belief. In his Dialogue with Trypho a Jew, he interpreted Genesis 9:27 as, “Accordingly, as two peoples were blessed—those from Shem, and those from Japhet—and as the offspring of Shem were decreed first to possess the dwellings of Canaan, and the offspring of Japhet were predicted as in turn receiving the same possessions…so Christ has come calling men to…a living together of all the saints in the same land whose possession He promised, as has already been proven.

Whence men from all parts, whether slave or free, who believe in Christ and know the truth in His and the prophets’ words, know that they will be with Him in that land, there to inherit the things that are eternal and incorruptible” (139:4-5). Justin elsewhere described Gentile Christians as the “true Israel” (Dialogue 11:5; 120:5). The idea emerged quite early within Gentile Christianity that God had rejected the Jews, and their laws were not relevant.

It is critical that Christians understand the dangers of these distorted beliefs. For centuries, sermons and writings espousing replacement theology have planted the seeds of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. Not only did this lead to widespread discrimination and violence against the Jewish community in much of Western society; it left the door wide open for six million Jews to be murdered in the Holocaust. 

While not all Christian groups accept this theology, it has seen a resurgence in recent years within many Christian circles, and it is absolutely imperative that we oppose and root out this toxic thinking. 

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

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Israeli Apartheid Week: What Is It and What Can We do?

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Apartheid is an ugly accusation, and absolutely wrong when it is used to describe Israel. Israeli Apartheid Week, a series of university rallies and lectures that began in 2005 to “raise awareness” about Zionism, will again be crowded with anti-Israel events held this year between March 13–27.

A disturbingly effective disinformation campaign, Israeli Apartheid Week is an offshoot of the Palestinian invention of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The simple definition of BDS is “economic warfare against Israel.” It is anti-Semitism in another guise and now forcefully promotes its own kind of apartheid—only against Israeli Jews.

The truth: Israel is not an apartheid nation. It treats its citizens—Jewish, Arab, Druze, Ethiopian, and Christian—with equality. Palestinians are not citizens, but that is by the choice of their own dictatorial leadership, who instead prefer violence and hate-mongering media. 

An evil policy, apartheid takes its name from South Africa’s former system of institutionalized discrimination that brutally enforced segregation against non-white citizens. South Africa’s decades-long racial tyranny officially ended on April 27, 1994. However, BDS propaganda and its campus spinoffs have grown for 17 years into Israeli Apartheid Week at more than 200 universities.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) helps us better understand Israeli Apartheid Week. A highly respected, non-partisan source of information, CAMERA monitors media in order to promote accurate, fair reporting about Israel and the Middle East. Among many of their resources is their CAMERA on Campus outreach, where they expose the rampant threats against Jewish students on university campuses. Such threats now overlap against pro-Israel Christian students. This year, for the third time, CAMERA on Campus is running its Apartheid Week Exposed (AWE) campaign. CAMERA coalitions operate on some 80 campuses, including such institutions as Princeton, UC Berkeley, Harvard, Duke, and William & Mary.

The CAMERA coalitions are confronted by an anti-Israel organization called Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), among others. SJP claims a presence on 200 campuses. The lies are endless: “Israel refused to vaccinate Palestinians. Israel steals Palestinian water. Israel imprisons children. A wall completely surrounds Bethlehem. Israel will not allow Palestinians into their hospitals. Israel turns off electricity in Gaza.”

Threats mark the SJP’s actions to individual students, lobbying university presidents to deny Israeli or conservative speakers on campus, or calling for disruptive demonstrations when they come.  

The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy published a report several years ago titled “National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) and the Promotion of Hate and Antisemitism on the University Campus: The Threat to Academic Freedom.” They listed a few quotes from their membership that characterize their animosity. Wrote a member at San Diego State University, “I hope all of you have sweet dreams of slaughtering Zionists.” A member at the University of Texas Dallas posted, “Three words a day to live by. Blame the Jews. #Hitler.” Yet another at New York University wrote, “May Allah not help them and burn them in the hell fire. Let the Jews burn silently.”

Hali Spiegel, CAMERA’s North American campus director, explains: “They depict the State of Israel as a manifestation of pure evil: racist, genocidal, murderous. Worse yet, they pitch this false narrative to students looking to support a just cause. That’s where our campaign comes in. Their lies cannot go unchallenged.”

Student leaders in the CAMERA on Campus coalitions will face opposition in their on-campus efforts to disseminate facts, host expert speakers, and pass out information. Their bravery is inspiring.

Two months before this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week, Bard—a private New York college—launched a new course titled “Apartheid in Israel-Palestine.” Bard’s syllabus includes this description: “This course will examine Israel-Palestine and the crime of apartheid.”

As examples of what sort of events occur during Israeli Apartheid Week itself, the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign directed some of its branches to hold a Boycott Israeli Goods in stores on March 4 telling shoppers not to buy any Israeli products in Irish stores. In England, to offset the Irish activism, a delegation of Israeli students traveled from Israel to advocate alongside the British CAMERA team in the Apartheid Week Exposed campaign. That group included CAMERA on Campus Israel’s campus advisor, Tom Yohay, who explains, “As Israelis, we have a responsibility to share the truth about Israel. We are calling for dialogue, even if we are confronted with hostility and bigotry, our willingness to sit at the table sends an important message.”

Not to be left behind in disinformation efforts, some American churches are creating their own programming. For example, on March 15, the Methodist Federation for Social Action will present a Zoom panel discussing “Apartheid-Free Communities: Exposing & Resisting Israeli Apartheid, Occupation, and Settler-Colonialism.”

Canadians are joining in—with Buses Against Apartheid rolling down the streets of St. John’s, Newfoundland, throughout March. Three public buses will display big placards on the back of their buses spreading the falsehood: “The State of Israel Practices Apartheid.” 

The theme for Israeli Apartheid Week 2023 is “People Against Apartheid.” In its own advertising, BDS is seeking to unite more grassroots organizations including Black Lives Matter. They highlight their versions of “liberation, decolonization, and racial justice” across the world.

The BDS movement—and students, churches, and institutions lured into their way of thinking—claims to promote policies that help the Palestinians. Yet the boomerang effect on the Palestinians is anything but helpful. For example, in 2015 a BDS uproar drove the SodaStream company out of the West Bank—Israel’s biblical heartland. Palestinians were earning better salaries at SodaStream than anywhere else on the West Bank and wanted to work there alongside Jews. Forcing SodaStream to relocate to another part of Israel meant Palestinian workers and families suffered by losing their jobs. It’s estimated that Israeli companies employ around 35,000 or more Palestinians in the biblical heartland, where employees make better salaries working for Israeli companies. 

BDS especially targets the biblical heartland, calling Judea and Samaria “occupied” and belonging to Palestinians. The bottom-line motive behind the BDS movement is not peace or even a Palestinian state. It is hatred and destruction. Their goal is to eradicate Israel. The BDS slogan is clear: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”

We live in an upside-down world described by the renowned prophet Isaiah: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). BDS is putting “darkness for light” as a global stalker not only against Israel itself but infecting students on college campuses. That results in shaping student minds in two ways: either with propaganda and anger or fear and threats to those who subscribe to biblical truth.

We must find ways to constrain the tentacles that are wrapping around students on their campuses. Here are a few practical ways to bless brave students on campuses. Become familiar with CAMERA and support the students standing up for true justice. Post their excellent advocacy on your social media. Passages Israel, a 501(c)(3) Christian organization, has taken more than 10,000 college students for trips to Israel to educate and equip them in pro-Israel advocacy. Camera on Campus and Passages Israel are two excellent ways to contribute to students’ understanding and involvement!

Join our CBN Israel team expressing thanks to God for campus revivals sweeping across the United States and other countries. Pray for diminished threats against both Jewish and Christian students! Focus on this scripture passage as you pray for students advocating for Israel on campus: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV).

Please join CBN Israel this week in prayer:

  • Pray for students who are leading Apartheid Week Exposed (AWE).
  • Pray for each student who hears or reads the unbiased facts about Israel to gain clear understanding about truth.
  • Pray for the safety of all students on each campus.
  • Pray for Christian activism to increase in order to spread truth in conversations, social media, and churches. 

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her part-time as Outreach Director for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a board member for Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene attends Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

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