A Small Christian Charity with a Big Impact in Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

The word “compassion” beautifully describes an American charity named The Works of His Hands. Since 2007, this ministry of mercy—known in Hebrew as Maasay Yahdav—has enveloped thousands upon thousands of Israelis in a kaleidoscope of kindnesses and practical helps. Psalm 111:7 is the primary source for their name: “The works of His hands are verity and judgment; all His commandments are sure.”

The charity was established by Alice Long and Doris Billings Mintz, who took their first trip to Israel in 2007. They boarded their flight carrying a single bag of stuffed animals and hand puppets and visited patients in the only Israeli hospital that opened its doors to them. The women gathered information and met with leaders and organizations to explore future opportunities. Their modest beginnings in a 501(c)(3) humanitarian journey blossomed into partnerships with 38-plus organizations today. The exhortation in Zechariah 4:10—“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin”—surely applies to them.

The founders’ multifaceted professional backgrounds—Doris’s corporate position in the healthcare industry and Alice’s nursing and telecommunications career—helped equip them to launch the charity. From its inception, their ministry was built on Isaiah 40:1: “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God.” Everyone active in Maasay Yahdav is a volunteer, including the founders and six-member board. No one receives a salary.

As Maasay Yahdav enters its 16th year, Doris reflects on their first trip. “Our hearts were deeply pierced by the stories of Holocaust survivors, at-risk children, new immigrants, and those suffering in hospitals.” She recounts an unforgettable conversation with Leah Goldin, whose son Hadar—serving in an elite IDF unit—was murdered on the Gaza border by terrorists during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. His body has yet to be returned. “We could feel her grieving heart and palpable grief,” Doris said. “It moved us to do something to memorialize their beautiful fallen sons and daughters.” Outreach to Israel Defense Forces, their families, lone soldiers, and Israeli civilians living under daily threats of rockets is carefully woven into their ministry.

During the group’s year-round operations in the United States, they prepare for ministry in Israel. Teams travel twice a year (spring and fall) with volunteers varying in number from five to 29. In the ministry’s early years, the mostly female volunteers wrestled with four huge duffel bags of handmade quilts, baby clothes, and stuffed animals at the airport. Those efforts grew into dragging 50 duffel bags to the airport! Thankfully, for six years Maasay Yahdav has partnered with First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tennessee, as well as Harvest of Israel, which has shipped more than 75 containers packed with humanitarian aid. Maasay Yahdav adds their contributions, and the shipments await them when the volunteers arrive in Israel to carry donations throughout the land.

In between their two annual trips, Maasay Yahdav is hard at work. They view each day as an opportunity to gather more aid to ensure that their next shipment and trip to Israel are a reality—not a dream. Doris and Alice make presentations in churches, synagogues, and businesses to raise funds for portable bomb shelters and to directly support children, babies, and Holocaust survivors. Many activities throughout the year involve church groups of talented women who fashion beautiful handmade quilts and caps for tiny babies in neonatal intensive care. One year, Doris and Alice delivered a quilt to a Holocaust survivor who lived alone in a small apartment. When they unfolded the quilt for his single bed, with tears in his eyes he said, “This is my first night sleeping under something where I know I am loved.” Stories of blessings abound.

The ministry is a little giant of ever-expanding compassionate help. They solicited more than $100,000 to help place four portable bomb shelters via the Israeli charity, Operation Lifeshield. Each shelter honors the memory of a life extinguished by terror: Lieutenant Hadar Goldin in 2015, Hallel Yaffa Ariel in 2016, Michael Levin in 2017, and Ari Fuld in 2018. In addition, Maasay Yahdav raised enough money to completely finance two permanent bomb shelters. A plaque is affixed on each shelter with the names of the individuals and/or organizations that donated them.

One permanent bomb shelter dedication took place at Makor Chaim High School in Gush Etzion, Israel’s biblical heartland. The plaque on the bomb shelter honors three teenagers murdered in 2014. Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel were kidnapped by terrorists on their walk home from school—a tragedy that made international headlines. Yossi Baumol, director of development at the world-famous Makor Chaim Institutions, remarked with gratitude: “The generous people of Maasay Yahdav stepped forward to fund a full-fledged permanent bomb shelter in the student dormitory.”

Baumol describes their precarious security situation amid building a newer donated campus in the isolated area. “To the west looms a hill topped with a hostile Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions project called the Tent of Nations. Many European anarchists visit regularly. Our security staff fears the possibility of armed attack or Molotov cocktails from the hill.” Indeed every inch, every Israeli, is at risk. Christians worldwide, following Maasay Yahdav’s example, have a role to play in prayer and help.


Another permanent bomb shelter was dedicated in honor of Doris’s husband, the late Dr. Steve Mintz, who supported his wife’s efforts. She remains dedicated to honoring his Jewish heritage. The bomb shelter is located at the Beit Singer boarding school for children from high-risk homes. It also serves as a classroom. Explains Assistant Executive Director Ariel Rascovsky, We have a very special chemistry with Maasay Yahdav that for years has resulted in significant efforts to improve the lives of at-risk children. Our children need them very much.” For three months, Alice stayed at Beit Singer where she “loved on them, listened in their loneliness, hurts and anger and experienced the joys and laughter of children from ages 6 to 18 years old. They are the future of tomorrow.”

Maasay Yahdav emphasizes lifesaving in Israel not only through bomb shelters. They also raise donations for a motorcycle ambulance (medicycle) to help Magen David Adom (Israel’s version of the Red Cross). These motorcycles can quickly navigate busy narrow streets to bring lifesaving equipment to ill or injured patients.

Israel is rarely far away from the hearts and minds of Maasay Yahdav’s founders. Although the organization can’t boast many volunteers or much wealth, with a vigorous commitment and a foundation of spirited prayers, the results are plentiful. Those they meet in Israel become family. Doris and Alice are full of gratitude for the love and kindness of donors and volunteers helping to carry out The Works of His Hands together.

Please join CBN Israel this week in praying for Israel and her people in need:

  • Pray for Maasay Yahdav in their continual ministry to Israelis as well as for Doris Mintz and Alice Long as they lead this wonderful charity.
  • Pray for underserved, low-income Israelis who need a helping hand.
  • Pray for Israel’s government to increase aid specifically for Holocaust survivors.
  • Pray for Christians to seek ways to bless Israel with mercy along with speaking up for them amid growing anti-Semitism.
  • Pray for CBN Israel in our ongoing ministry outreaches to aid those in desperate need—including Holocaust survivors, refugees, terror victims, impoverished families, and more.

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

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Biblical Israel: Chorazin

By Marc Turnage

Located two and a half miles north of Capernaum, Chorazin sits in the hills overlooking the lake of Galilee at 45-46 meters above sea level and 267-273 meters above the lake. Although only mentioned once in the Gospels (Matthew 11:21-24; Luke 10:13-16), Jesus cursed the village for not repenting when seeing the miracles he worked in its midst. He cursed Chorazin, along with Capernaum and Bethsaida. Incidentally, the land between these three villages, on the north shore of the lake of Galilee, covers much of the territory of Jesus’ ministry recorded in the Gospels. 

The distance of Chorazin from the lake meant that it did not participate directly in the fishing industry on the lake. We learn from rabbinic literature that Chorazin produced exceptional wheat. Excavations of the site reveal that the village, which began in the first century A.D., was a Jewish village.

The majority of the ruins one sees when visiting Chorazin today date from after the first century, but they reflect Jewish village life in the Galilee. The central structure from the later village is the synagogue. Built perhaps as early as the third century A.D., the basalt structure resembles the Galilean style synagogues excavated at places like Capernaum, Bar’am, Meiron, and Arbel. 

The synagogue sits in the center of the village. Worshippers entered the hall through three entrances from a large staircase on the south, which faces towards Jerusalem. Two tiers of benches line the two long aisles and the short wall opposite the entrance in a “U” shape. Inside the synagogue, the basalt stone, which is hard to fashion, bears carvings and decorations. 

Excavators uncovered pieces of what appears to be a Torah Ark, where biblical scrolls read in the synagogue were kept. They also discovered a basalt stone seat, which was known as the Seat of Moses (see Matthew 23:1-2; Luke 4:20). The chair bears a dedicatory inscription in Aramaic, which reads, “Remember for good Yudan son of Ishmael, who made (or donated) this stoa, and its steps from his property. May he have a portion with the righteous.” Recent excavations in the floor of this synagogue indicate that it may stand on an earlier public building, perhaps the first century synagogue. 

Although the ruins of Chorazin that one sees today date to after the first century, the site contains a number of features in the homes, installations, like a covered Jewish ritual immersion bath, and details within the synagogue that help to illustrate stories from the Gospels and the life and ministry of Jesus.

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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Weekly Devotional: How Do You Treat Your Enemies?

“Don’t gloat when your enemy falls, and don’t let your heart rejoice when he stumbles, or the LORD will see, be displeased, and turn His wrath away from him” (Proverbs 24:17-18 HCSB).

How we treat our enemies says a lot about our relationship with God. Society today takes great joy in the falling and stumbling of those seen as our adversaries or opponents. Such attitudes permeate our civil and political discourse. We rejoice whenever our enemies fail.

We grow up like this. How often, as kids, did we mock someone who physically fell or stumbled? It’s natural that as adults we rejoice in the falling of our enemies. Sometimes we even attach divine justice to their stumbling as proof that God prefers us and looks out for us against our enemies. Such sentiments, however, are evil in the eyes of the Lord.

Jesus commanded His followers, “I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” (Luke 6:27-28 NLT). He called upon His followers to love their enemies; in fact, for Him, this was the principal characteristic for those belonging to the kingdom of Heaven—love your enemies.

While rejoicing in our enemy’s failures and failings is simple human nature, love of our enemies requires our obedience to Jesus. In a world where the misfortune of our enemies provides cause for rejoicing, Jesus demands His followers to live differently, to love their enemies.

Even the misfortunes of those hostile to our faith and God we cannot celebrate, for God causes His rain and sun to come upon the righteous and unrighteous alike (Matthew 5:45). God does not distinguish between friend and foe in His mercy, and neither can we (Luke 6:36).

The test of our faith is not how we treat those who think like us, act like us, or even like us. The test of whether we are true followers of Jesus is how we love those who don’t think like us, who are not like us, and who don’t even like us. “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.”


Father, may I walk in obedience to You today by loving my enemies and showing mercy to them, as You show mercy to them. Amen.

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Weekly Q&A: What is the Bible?

The term Bible comes from the Greek ta biblia, which means “the scrolls.” The name conveys the Bible contains a collection of scrolls, books. As such, it is a library of books written over hundreds of years. But before we can understand how the Bible came to us, we need to answer, “Whose Bible are we referring to?”

The Judeo-Christian traditions preserves five Bibles used by different Jewish and Christian groups. The Jewish Bible, the Tanak (which stands for Torah, Prophets, and Writings), parallels the Christian Old Testament. It contains the same books, but in a different order. The Samaritans use their Pentateuch known as the Samaritan Pentateuch. It contains the Five Books of Moses but has differences from Jewish Bible-Old Testament versions of the books. The Samaritan Pentateuch preserves interpretations which reflect Samaritan ideological and theological ideas.

The Catholic Bible comprises the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Apocrypha. These are books written by Jews from the fourth/third century B.C. to the first century A.D. Catholics view these books as deuterocanonical, meaning they are useful for study and instruction, but they do not carry the same authority of the Old and New Testaments.

The Orthodox Bible is like the Catholic Bible except for some differences within the collection of apocryphal works. But within the Orthodox Church, each community—Greek, Slavonic, Georgian, Armenian, Syriac, and Coptic—uses a Bible with slight variations, beyond language. Most of us are familiar with the Protestant Bible, which emerged from the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Bible consists of the Old and New Testaments.

A survey of the different Bibles used within Judeo-Christian traditions helps us to define what is the Bible. The Bible is a unique fixed, closed collection of ancient literature, written over hundreds of years, comprised of different genres—narrative, poetry, prophecy, wisdom sayings, letters, and apocalypses—collected as divine revelation for the community of faith as a rule of faith and practice. This definition holds for any of the Bibles within the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The Bible serves as the Canon for the community of faith. The word “canon” originally meant a “straight bar” and came to mean “standard” or “rule.” Applied to literary collections, Canon means a collection of works which are the standard. Within a community of faith, the Canon serves as the rule of faith and practice.

The establishment of a Canon of sacred literature forms the final step in a process of transmission. There was an initial event, utterance, teaching, psalm, which were transmitted orally or written snippets. The writers of the biblical books collected these, organized them, and composed their book—the book of Isaiah, the Gospel of Luke. Scribes copied and transmitted these manuscripts of books, sometimes for hundreds of years.

Communities then began to form collections of these books, such as the Five Books of Moses. These collections circulated prior to the bringing together of all the books. Finally, the community brought the entire collection of books together, which then circulated within the community, until eventually the community treated that collection of books as closed or fixed. The Bible now serves as the Canon for the community of faith.

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

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hot Meals for the Elderly

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

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

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

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

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

Will you join us today in helping others?


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Biblical Israel: Magdala

By Marc Turnage

The site of Magdala sits a little over three miles north of Tiberias, on the southern edge of the plain of Gennesar, on the shore of the lake of Galilee.

Ancient sources seemingly refer to this site by three names; Greek and Latin sources refer to it as Taricheae; Hebrew and Aramaic sources use the names Magdala or Migdal Nunaya. Although a question remains whether all three names refer to the same site, many accept that they do. Since the Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries A.D.), tradition has identified this site as the home of Mary Magdalene, mentioned in the Gospels, but Mary’s connection with this site is by no means certain. 

The ancient sources written in Greek and Latin, dating to the 1st century, refer to the site as Taricheae. Taricheae served as an important administrative center from the 1st century B.C. into the 1st century A.D. Its name in Greek refers to “factories (vats) for salting fish.” The city’s location on the shores of the lake of Galilee indicate that fishing and fish processing served as its primary industry. The administrative role of the city, as well as its size, suggest that its fishing and fish processing involved smaller villages that lay within its toparchy, like Capernaum. 

Gennesar (Gennesereth) is a large fertile plain on the northwest corner of the lake of Galilee. The name refers to the region of the fertile plain. Magdala functioned as the largest city and port serving the Gennesar Valley; thus, when Jesus arrives by boat to Gennesar (the region) in the Gospels, he likely used the port of Magdala. 

Archaeologists first excavated a small section of the site in the 1970s. Excavations since the 2000s have provided a number of significant finds that shed light on Jewish life around the lake of Galilee during the ministry of Jesus. Excavations have uncovered installations that likely served for the processing and salting of fish, indicating the identification of the site as Taricheae. They also uncovered a series of streets laid out in an urban grid pattern, and along some of these streets, houses were uncovered that speak to the wealth of the people that lived in them.

They were built with finely cut stones having mosaic tile floors. Pottery and glass vessels discovered in these homes further speak to the wealth of the inhabitants. These homes also had private Jewish ritual immersion baths (mikva’ot). Ground water filled and refilled these pools. Their presence is rather unique since the lake itself could serve Jewish ritual purity needs. The owners of these homes apparently desired a high degree of ritual purity, which required them to include private ritual immersion baths in their homes.

Excavations uncovered the ancient Hasmonean (1st century B.C.) and early Roman (1st century A.D.) harbor of Magdala. Pottery and coins provided a clear date for the structure, which had the mooring stones still in place. This harbor served the fishing industry of Magdala, as well as provided transit for travel around the lake. Magdala sits just below Mount Arbel, which overlooked a pass through which a road led from the northwest corner of the lake west into Galilee, and which could also be used by Galilean pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. 

Excavators uncovered a modest public building, which they have identified as a synagogue. This building consists of three phases. The middle phase dates to the early-mid 1st century A.D. This structure consists of an entrance with a narrow rectangular hall from the west, possibly a room for study known as a beit midrash. One passes from the entry vestibule into the main hall, which is surrounded on all sides by benches. This placed the focal point of the hall in the center of the room (this is a common layout for first century synagogues).

The aisles had mosaic floors, and the columns of the main hall were covered with frescoed plaster. The walls also had frescoes plaster upon them. In the center of the main hall, archaeologists discovered a stone with four short legs. This decorated stone preserves a number of images, the most striking of which is the seven branched menorah that resided in the Jerusalem Temple. The iconography of this stone seems to tie to the Temple in Jerusalem indicating that those in this synagogue connected their worship with the worship in the Temple. 

In the land of Israel in the 1st century, the primary function of the synagogue was the reading and teaching of the Torah. We see this with Jesus in the Gospels. The layout and orientation of 1st century synagogues in the land of Israel, like the one in Magdala, focus on the center of the hall where the Torah would be read and expounded upon. This stone discovered in Magdala has been identified as the base for a Torah reading stand. Jews read the Torah standing; they sit to teach (just like Jesus; see Luke 4:16-20). This decorated stone likely served as a base for a stand for the Torah reading, when all eyes would be fixed on the one reading and explicating the Torah (Luke 4:16-20).

The Gospels do not mention Jesus in Magdala. Yet, he sailed to the region of Gennesar where Magdala was located. He taught in all the synagogues of the villages and cities of Galilee. The Magdala synagogue dates from the time of his ministry; he could have taught there. Excavations at Magdala reveal that the population of the Galilee in the 1st century was Jewish, and devout Jews at that. Some had wealth, but they adhered to Jewish concerns of purity and worship.

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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Weekly Devotional: The Fruit of the Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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A New Year’s Resolution Suggestion for the UN: Book Archaeology Tours to Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Before fireworks saturated the skies across the world, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) rang in 2023 on December 30 with another irrational resolution against Israel. This time, it requested that the International Court of Justice investigate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli “annexation,” and the “legal status of the occupation.” By December 1, 2022, the UNGA had already passed 15 resolutions defaming Israel and only 13 for the rest of the world combined. The Assembly barely noticed the nightmarish policies of Iran, North Korea, and Syria against their citizens. 

The UNGA’s misguided resolutions do not escape the watchful eyes of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. Our Heavenly Father is the ultimate authority who deeded Israel to the Jews and chose them for His redemptive purposes to make the land bloom, transcribe His words into Scripture, and visit Earth as Immanuel—God with us. 

Israel’s abundant archaeological discoveries in 2022 surpass any UNGA resolutions and repeatedly authenticate the Bible. Noted as the most popular book in world history, the Bible has sold nearly 4 billion copies in the past 50 years. Biblical archaeology commenced in the 19th century and now adds up in a storehouse of celebration in its own kind of fireworks, with facts that connect modern Israel to Scripture’s ancient pages. 

The 2022 archaeological achievements have become too numerous to list, but I am highlighting some of my favorites heading into 2023. It promises to be another good year, with modern technology helping to reveal the authenticity of the facts on and under the ground. 

For example, by using a sophisticated geomagnetic dating method, an exciting new dating tool can reconstruct a magnetic field. In 2022, it verified the destruction of the First Temple and the city of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army in 586 B.C. You may read about it in 2 Kings 25:2. The magnetic field instrument is enhancing scientific data about Egyptian, Aramean, Assyrian, and Babylonian military campaigns against Israel and Judah. To date, research has led Tel Aviv and Hebrew University professors—plus 20 researchers from other countries—to verify 21 layers of destruction in 17 excavation sites. Their report is published in the National Academy of Sciences (USA). 

One of my favorite discoveries is further evidence of King Hezekiah’s reign. Hezekiah is no stranger to biblical (and now scientific) history. His name is mentioned 128 times in Scripture. In 2022, Israeli archaeologists, after years of research, deciphered inscriptions on stone tablets previously found in Jerusalem with more evidence about eighth-century B.C. King Hezekiah. In November 2019, the day before I attended Israel’s Christian Media Summit, I waded through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a 1,750-foot marvel of ancient construction. Splashing through it, mostly ankle deep, I was newly astonished by Hezekiah’s decision to bring water from one side of Jerusalem to the other in order to protect this vital resource. I touched a tunnel wall marker in wonder at the exact middle engineered by workers’ construction—which had begun at opposite ends! 

One mention is found in 2 Chronicles 32:30 (NIV): “It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David.” Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, observed, “Before our very eyes, these new finds become the biblical verses themselves and speak in their voice.” In their research, archeologists Gershon Galil and Eli Shukron concluded in 2022 that a piece of limestone dug up in 2007 has a partial inscription that Galil deciphers as “Hezekiah made pools in Jerusalem.” Further, he believes that this rock was part of a monument, which were virtually unknown in ancient Israel. Yet now there is evidence of them. 

With so much concern today about the dangers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is inspiring to revisit their earliest history—in ancient Persia. Last year, scholars announced success in unlocking a linguistic mystery where they can now explore a Persian language called Linear Elamite from 4,000 years ago. The 40-cuneiform system—the earliest known writing system—was all found in Iran. Cyrus the Great conquered the Elamites, making that region part of his Persian empire. 

Queen Esther, beloved by both Christians and Jews, lived in Susa, the Elamite capital. In this historic reality, Queen Esther lobbied her king (by the way, setting an example for today’s Christians) and saved her people, as part of God’s plan to reinvigorate the Jewish ancestral homeland in 1948. Elam is mentioned in Genesis and Isaiah, and in Daniel 8:2, the prophet wrote: “In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam.” Acts 2:7-9 mentions Elamites on the day of Pentecost (Shavuot) when the Holy Spirit fell on the gathering in Jerusalem. “Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites…’” 

Another of my favorite discoveries is Shiloh in Israel’s biblical heartland (Judea and Samaria). The site includes a number of amazing finds led by archaeologist Scott Stripling. Among his extensive credentials, he is Director of Excavations for the Associates for Biblical Research at ancient Shiloh. A Christian, his staff is comprised of additional distinguished experts both Jewish and Christian. 

Dr. Stripling explained a discovery in May and June 2022 with volunteers from 11 nations and 12 different universities. He observed, “We believe we found piers that formed a door into a gate complex at the northern edge of the biblical city.” He went on to say that Eli the High Priest died at the gate mentioned in 1 Samuel 4:18. Associates for Biblical Research has spent four seasons of excavations unearthing evidence of the Tabernacle. Walking on the grounds of Shiloh where Eli lived and where Samuel’s mother dedicated him to service is an experience I will always treasure. The Tabernacle rested for 369 years in Shiloh with the Ark of the Covenant inside.

It is also exciting when reading about children discovering Israeli artifacts. A few days before Hanukkah 2022, Alon Cohen, Liam Atias, and Rotem Levnat found a rare oil lamp completely intact. The three fourth-grade boys were on a school field trip; they carefully pulled the lamp out of the ground and informed their parents, who contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority. They deservedly received Good Citizen Awards. The trio of Israeli boys could serve as outstanding examples to the United Nations to choose what is right and true regarding Israel.

With these samples and a vast store of on-the-ground facts, it is shameful that many countries in the United Nations—blindsided by hatred—cling to falsehoods rather than facts. The December 30, 2022, resolution reveals once again that facts are not celebrated, whether in years past or new. Reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu weighed in on this resolution that he accused of “distorting historical facts,” adding that the Jewish people cannot be “an occupier” in their own land.

As my title suggests, 2023 should find the United Nations participating on archaeological tours in Israel. Maybe Bibi should issue an invitation. 

May we remember Psalm 105:8-11 as God’s guidepost: “He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac. Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan, as the portion of your inheritance.’”

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

  • Pray that United Nations will cast votes based on facts about Israel. 
  • Pray for added wisdom for PM Netanyahu and his new coalition.
  • Pray for Israeli leaders and a coalition of free nations to make decisions that keep Iran from nuclear capability.
  • Pray for Christians to increase prayers and public advocacy for Israel worldwide.

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

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