Amnesty International Offers No Amnesty to Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

Amnesty International describes itself as a global movement that protects people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied. And there’s no question that this human rights organization has a good track record at “researching and documenting human rights abuses wherever they occur,” as its website states. However, one nation is excluded from these noble goals, as evidenced in a recently released document that accuses Israel of outrageous treatment of Palestinians. The 278-page report is titled “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity.” Such a title is more fitting for actual terrorists who live in or around Israel—or for China or North Korea. 

The word “amnesty” in ancient Greek means “forgetfulness, passing over” and is defined as “a government pardon to a group or class of people.” Often this includes a political offense where a country officially “forgives” groups or individuals who are prisoners of conscience. Amnesty International has expanded its attention to a range of issues, and the United States has not escaped its criticism. For example, one of its reports cites how terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay continue to be held without adequate medical care or fair trials. 

Amnesty International was established in 1961 with headquarters in London. With offices now scattered worldwide, this non-governmental organization is dedicated to advocating for human rights. Claiming 10 million activists, it received the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize for its “defense of human dignity against torture.” Amnesty has acted in many admirable ways, for example calling out China’s enslavement of Turkic Muslim Uighurs and Iran’s harsh reprisals against its citizens.

However, when it comes to Israel, Amnesty’s report borders on an incomprehensible lack of truth telling. Its four-year project is in fact an exercise in distortion. They are demanding that the International Criminal Court investigate Israel. This strikes me as an attempt to pass itself off as an intellectual pursuit to advocate for Palestinians, yet it suffers from a lack of context. Amid the rise of worldwide anti-Semitism, Amnesty’s 278-page opinion piece veers off into libel, handing out more hate tools to use against Israel.

A Wall Street Journal editorial calls the report “a libel that distorts history.” It goes on to say, “Israel was founded in the wake of the Holocaust with broad international support. The Jews who settled in historic Palestine had to fight to survive against Arab militias and national armies that wanted to push them into the sea. … The report is a denunciation of the very existence of Israel as a refuge for the Jewish people.”

Neither Amnesty International nor the United Nations is the final authority for Israel’s rights and its very existence. The foremost facts of history are contained in the 66 books of the Bible. For 3,000 years it has enshrined God’s eternal, unconditional real estate deed to Israel as the Jewish ancestral homeland. Genesis 15:18-21 makes it clear when God visited Abraham and held one of the most significant conversations of all time: “I will assign this land to your offspring.” God’s simple words carry frequent and profound repetition throughout the Old and New Testaments. 

One thousand Bible verses attest to the Jewish people as the indigenous owners of the land.

Let us check out a few facts that Amnesty International neglected. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964. The PLO added the Palestinian Authority in 1995 as a part of conducting the practical aspects of the defunct Oslo Accords. The PLO and PA are interrelated and interchangeable. They retain several key claims in their charter: Article 9: “Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine.” Article 10: “Commando action constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war. This requires its escalation, comprehensiveness, and the mobilization of all the Palestinian popular and educational efforts and their organization and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution.” In other words, their goal hasn’t changed: to wipe the nation of Israel off the map. 

The 84-year-old Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, holds tightly to the PLO charter. On Palestinian “educational” efforts, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports that the slogan used in textbooks and speeches—“Palestine stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River”—is commonplace. The PA Ministry of Education says it in another way: “Israel does not exist.” PMW also reports that for decades Palestinian TV has been planting ideas of violence into their children to become child soldiers.

The Amnesty report mentions the almost two million Palestinians living in Gaza, calling 1.4 million of them registered refugees. It cites Gaza’s shortcomings with regard to garbage collection, inadequate water, unreliable electricity, and huge unemployment, yet fails to blame the ruling terrorist organization, Hamas, for these conditions. There’s no mention, either, about that government’s cruel use of civilians as human shields—or the fact that their top leaders live in luxury while the citizens suffer. Even as Hamas is pounding Israeli civilians with rocket barrages, Jewish truckers are crossing into danger in order to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza. Yet Hamas launched rockets against these trucks in the conflict last May, so who are the humanitarians? Surely not Hamas! 

Amnesty International’s recent report, which adds fuel to the fire of slander and libel against Israel, is described in Isaiah 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.” No nation on earth is perfect, of course, including Israel. Nevertheless, I’d like to recount a few essential facts. In 2005 Israel removed its 8,000 citizens from Gaza, hoping that after this complete disengagement, Palestinians would turn the area into a paradise on the Mediterranean. Instead, the Palestinians elected Hamas in 2007—and rockets began to rain on Israel a few years later. 

Furthermore, Israel is the only nation in the world that delivered black Africans to freedom when it airlifted thousands of Ethiopians to settle in Israel. In a proactive effort to save civilians when Israel is forced to defend its own citizens, Israel’s army is the only military that makes calls and drops leaflets to Gazan civilians telling them to vacate buildings (including schools and mosques) where Hamas purposely stores weapons. Jewish and Arab physicians work side by side in Israeli hospitals, where the lives of hundreds of Palestinian children are saved. Numerous Israeli businesses employ some 35,000 Palestinians in Judea and Samaria—the West Bank—and offer equal wages and benefits. Arabs serve in the Knesset and, although not required, proudly serve in the Israel Defense Forces. 

Although Amnesty has consistently ignored these few realities, those of us who stand with Israel could easily write our own 278-page report and call it “Israel’s Demonstrated Commitment to Peace and Equality for Everyone.” 

No matter how often Israel is slandered with apartheid or accused of living on “stolen land,” God the Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the final Authority. Ezekiel 37:21 “Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land.”

Join CBN Israel this week in prayer as we have also spoken out against this report:

  • Pray that Christians will rise up to pray and act against rising anti-Semitism.
  • Pray for Israel’s supporters to respond with wise words and facts when Israel is slandered in situations like these.  
  • Pray for a reverse of anti-Semitism among some politicians in U.S. Congress.
  • Pray that Palestinian children who are hearing hateful messages about Israel in Palestinian media be exposed to the truth. 

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

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Living with Disability: Gila and Noam’s Story

Living in Israel, Gila is 60, and a single mom of four grown children. Three live on their own—but Noam, her youngest at 20, was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy. 

Noam’s daily challenges include impaired vision and epilepsy. With the mental and verbal capacity of a child, he requires leg braces and assistance to walk, and has a manual wheelchair. As his sole caregiver, Gila now lacks the strength at her age to continue the care he needs. 

Recently, Noam became a resident in a special disabled home unit. He learns life skills with other residents—and comes home on weekends. Gila saw this as a wonderful gift. However, Noam wasn’t strong enough to propel his old wheelchair. When the home gave him lessons to use the new motorized wheelchairs, Gila knew that Noam needed one to gain more independence. On her low income, she could not afford it, and was rejected for a government grant. She then raised donations for almost half the amount—but needed help for the remainder of the cost.

Thanks to friends like you, CBN Israel was able to fund the rest—and Gila presented it to Noam for his 20th birthday! CBN Israel’s caring donors also brought her food, assistance, and encouragement. And today, Noam is thriving in the home with more freedom and mobility, bringing Gila peace of mind. She exclaimed, “Thank you so much for your kindness!” 

Your gift to CBN Israel can provide vital aid to many more in Israel with disabilities—as well as offering groceries, finances, and essentials to others in need. As the cries for help in the Holy Land persist, you can bring hope and assistance to refugees, elderly Holocaust survivors, and hurting families. 

Please join us in blessing those who desperately need our help!


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Biblical Israel: First Century Tombs and Burial

By Marc Turnage

Bible readers find the issue of Jewish burial customs and tombs interesting due to the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. While the Gospels do not provide an exact location for the tomb of Jesus, although tradition and archaeology does support the traditional location of the Holy Sepulchre, they do offer several interesting details about Jewish burial practices and the style of tombs used in the first century. And, since Jesus was placed in a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid (Luke 23:53), the style of His tomb must have been one of two known from the first century.

Jewish tombs in the first century consisted of two types: kokhim and arcosolia. The most common being the kokhim. A kokh (singular) was a long, narrow recess cut into a rock tomb in which a body, coffin, or ossuary (bone box) could be laid. The typical kokhim tomb was hewn into the hillside and consisted of a square chamber. The entrance to an ordinary kokhim tomb was a small square opening that required a person entering to stoop. The height of the chamber was usually less than that of a person, so they often cut a square pit into the floor of the chamber. This pit created a bench on three sides of the chamber where the bodies of the deceased could be prepared. 

After the chamber and the pit were cut, the kokhim were cut level with the top of the benches and perpendicular to the wall of the tomb in a counter clockwise direction, from right to left, in every wall except the entrance wall. One to three kokhim were usually cut per wall. The kokh had roughly vaulted ceilings and were the length of the deceased or a coffin. After the deceased was placed into the kokh, a blocking stone sealed the square entrance of the tomb. Small stones and plaster helped to further seal the blocking stone. The tomb was sealed in a manner that it blended into the surrounding hillside. 

After a year, when the flesh had decayed, the bones were collected and buried into the ossuary. Once the bones were placed into the ossuary, the ossuary could be placed in a loculus (kokh) within the tomb or upon the bench or floor of the main tomb chamber. Ossuaries were made of the soft, chalky limestone (a few ossuaries were made out of clay or wood) and consisted of a box where the bones were placed and a lid. The limestone was placed into water to soften the stone, which allowed the stone to be easily carved into the ossuary. 

Originally ossuaries served one individual, so the dimensions of the ossuary were the length of the femur and the width and height of the pelvis and skull. Many ossuaries, however, contain the bones of more than one person (and not complete persons at that). Most of the ossuaries discovered bear decorations, although they can be plain. Professional craftsmen decorated the ossuaries using a compass, ruler, straightedge, carving knife, gouge, mallet, and chisel. 

Many ossuaries bear inscriptions in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. These inscriptions were not done by professional scribes, but in the semi-dark of the cave by family members, to identify the deceased. Archaeologists excavating south of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1990 discovered an ornately decorated ossuary bearing the inscription “Joseph, son of Caiaphas,” the high priest who turned Jesus over to Pilate. It held the bones of a sixty-year-old male, and in the eye sockets of the skull were two coins. The practice of secondary burial in ossuaries date from the period of the first century B.C. to the first century A.D. Jews could also bury in coffins during this period as well. 

In addition to the kokhim tomb, arcosolia tombs began to appear sporadically during the first century. The arcosolia is a bench-like aperture with an arched ceiling hewn into the length of the wall. This style of burial was more expensive since only three burial places existed within a tomb chamber instead of six or nine, as typically found within kokhim tombs. Approximately 130 arcosolia tombs have been discovered in Jerusalem and over half of them also contain kokhim. Ossuaries (bone boxes) could be placed on the arcosolia benches.

The tomb identified within the Holy Sepulchre as the tomb of Jesus was originally an arcosolium (singular) with an antechamber; however, the centuries of pilgrims and the various destructions of the church have deformed and obliterated the tomb. What visitors see today is a later structure; nevertheless, the tomb originally contained a first century arcosolium tomb. 

Burial practices reflect the values, philosophy, and religion of people. The style of tombs used by Jews in the first century differ significantly from those used in the period of the Old Testament, which reflects the development of views of death and the afterlife from the period of the Old Testament to the New Testament.

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: If It Had Not Been the Lord

“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us; then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul; then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul” (Psalm 124:2-5 NKJV).

When things get difficult, whom do you turn to for aid? Do you try to figure it out yourself? Do you look to family or friends? Or do you look to God? This does not mean simply throwing a prayer heavenward in a moment of crisis; do you really look to God each day?

When you come out of moments of difficulty, do you recognize that God was near and that He was with you through it all? Do you acknowledge His deliverance and help? Do you recognize what would have happened had He not been by you?

Psalm 124 does that. It recognizes God’s nearness to His people, and it acknowledges what would have happened had He not come to their aid. The psalmist was not merely looking to God as a safety valve in a moment of trouble, although he acknowledged Israel’s reliance upon God. 

God wants to help His people; He desires to deliver them. Like any good parent wants to help and protect their children, God loves to help us, and He enjoys it even more when we recognize His divine intervention. He gains glory by what He does for us.

Of course, the question naturally comes: Why does God not deliver us from every painful or difficult situation? On the one hand, we can say that growth comes through hardship; we also gain a depth in our relationship with Him when He brings us through. But on the other hand, we have to acknowledge that within life, suffering is a great mystery too—and we do not have all the answers.

The crux of the matter, though, is that we pursue a relationship with God in which we invite Him into our daily lives and trust Him to be our God—even in the midst of our most painful moments and circumstances. And if our cries for help do not receive the exact answers we expect, will we still choose to believe that God is near and will see us through?

Where do you look for help? The psalmist declared, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8 NKJV). Is He the One you look to? When you come through hardship, do you recognize how God was with you?


Father, You are our help. You have been our help. If it weren’t for You, we certainly would have perished. May Your name be blessed for the protection and deliverance You have given for us. Amen.

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Isaiah’s Prophecy, Professor Sukenik, and the United Nations

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

Last week, the Jewish community and millions of caring people worldwide observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 2005, the United Nations finally called for an International Holocaust Remembrance Day to be observed each January 27, the day that in 1945 saw Auschwitz-Birkenau finally liberated. It was a fine-sounding, auspicious decree. However, when it comes to the United Nations and its decades-long bias against Israel, one has to wonder why there have been so many contradictory policies.

Prior to a slew of “feel good” Holocaust Remembrance events last week at the U.N., the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) reported the United Nations’ latest hypocrisy on January 23. The U.N. created a permanent investigation into Israel. It is critical to emphasize that no such open-ended inquiry has ever been directed against any other U.N. member state. Then, one day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres declared, “All societies must act to ‘tackle antisemitism, root and branch.’”  

The U.N. has consistently given a pass to the likes of Cuba, China, Iran, and North Korea. They are among 52 dictator nations as reported by the World Population Review in 2020. Central and Latin America have three, Africa has 22, and Asia and the Middle East top out at 27. The U.N.’s membership is 193 nations. The leaders of dictatorships might carry titles such as president or prime minister, but oppressive dictators they are. 

The preponderance of dictatorships sadly represents a significant failure of the United Nations Charter that was passed on October 24, 1945, by its then-51 members. A brief summation of the U.N.’s goals: Incorporate harmonious relationships among nations cooperating to solve international problems and keep the peace. 

Over the last 77 years, the U.N. seems to have abandoned its original concept that the organization is “open to all peace-loving states that accept the obligations contained in the United Nations Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able to carry out these obligations.” Nowhere is that policy concept more neglected than one of the smallest yet most miraculous nations in the world: Israel. A nation that has longed for peace since the United Nations’ vote on November 29, 1947.

On that day, the United Nations—then located in San Francisco—generated one of its most important decisions. Their vote on Resolution 181 to adopt the so-named partition plan for two states—one Jewish, one Arab—changed world history. The vote ended 25 years of British obligatory rule in what was called the Mandate of Palestine. It not only changed history; it fulfilled a prophecy in Isaiah 66:7-8: “Who has ever heard of such things? Can a country be born in a day, or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.” Of the then-57 member nations, 33 countries voted “Yes,” 13 voted “No,” and 10 countries abstained. 

Little did anyone know that another fulfillment of prophecy was unfolding in Jerusalem that same night—at the same time the vote was taking place. Israeli archaeologist and Hebrew University professor, Eleazer Sukenik, sat in his study that night in Jerusalem intently scrutinizing fragile pieces of parchment. They were part of the Dead Sea Scrolls that had recently come into his hands. As he pondered the precious scroll fragments, his son, Yigael Yadin, ran into the room shouting the news he just heard on the radio. 

The cause for Yigael’s excitement: Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, had announced the U.N. vote. Thousands upon thousands of Jews hovering near their radios were intent on hearing news about their 2,000-year hope finally becoming reality. With the historic announcement, shouts of excitement and tears of joy ensued among the Jews of the new Israel. They ran into the streets dancing. 

Tragically, less than five months later, surrounding Arab countries attacked the new Jewish nation just hours after Ben-Gurion announced Israel’s Independence on May 14, 1948. Arabs gave up their opportunity to have their own piece of the state, larger than the portion assigned to the Jews. Miraculously, Israel won that defensive war, which would turn out to be the first of many victories against the unrelenting assaults by their Arab neighbors.

The 24-hour convergence of the U.N. vote and Professor Sukenik verifying the Isaiah fragment revealed God’s unmistakable blessing on the modern state of Israel. It was reborn as God had said through the prophet Isaiah 3,000 years earlier. 

Another fascinating fact was discovered in Jerusalem and reported on February 22, 2018, that adds to the convergence. Ruth Schuster at Haaretz wrote that Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University discovered a seal impression, called a bulla, in an undisturbed section of King David’s palace. She found it near another bulla bearing King Hezekiah’s inscription. Isaiah and Hezekiah were contemporaries. Isaiah’s bulla is half an inch wide, and shows the name, Yesha’yah[u] (Isaiah’s name in ancient Hebrew script), followed by the letters N-V-Y. The letters are thought to be the first three letters of the word for prophet (navi).

Stop for a moment and allow these realizations to sink deeply into your understanding of Israel’s ancestral homeland deeded by the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. Jerusalem, Israel’s ancient capital, is also Israel’s modern capital. Miraculously, Jerusalem has survived 52 attacks, been captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice.

Some 3,000 years ago, Isaiah predicted the journey in Chapter 66, verses 7 and 8. Then Bedouins discovered the first Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946, closely followed by the U.N. vote on November 29, 1947 and Dr. Sukenik’s assessment of authenticity. Finally, adding to 3,000 years of connectivity, Dr. Mazar’s discovery of Isaiah’s bulla.

No matter what lies ahead, whether bias on the United Nations “Commission of Anti-Semitism” (my name), Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, or Iran’s presence in Syria, the Christian community will hopefully maintain vigilance on behalf of Israel and our Jewish friends worldwide. God has given us another chance. Let us not imitate the passivity of so many German Christians in the World War II era.

My favorite theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was hung in Flossenberrg by the Nazis because he risked his life trying to convince German churches to disassociate from Hitler, to wake up, and stand up for Jewish families.

Let’s recall what he wisely observed in his day: “If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t as a Christian simply wait for the catastrophe then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”

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

  • Pray for Israel’s leaders to create strategies to maintain Israel’s sovereignty. 
  • Pray that the U.S. Congress will continue to vote in favor of Israel’s security aid and that Christians will become more politically engaged on behalf of Israel.
  • Pray that Christians will not remain silent about supporting Israel since God is allowing us to live at such a time as this.
  • Pray for the Christian community to remain steadfast in prayer and action on behalf of Israel and the worldwide Jewish community. 
  • Pray for CBN Israel to have the support and resources necessary to reach millions worldwide with the true story of Israel while also blessing her people in need. 

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

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Victim of Terrorism: Ronen’s Story

Imagine being a disabled senior who can barely walk and living in a city that is a target for rocket attacks—with less than a minute’s warning to rush for cover when the sirens sound. For 60-year-old Ronen and her husband, this was their plight living in Ashdod, Israel. 

The couple lives in an old apartment building on the third floor, with no elevator. There is no safe area in the building, and no bomb shelter near enough. Ronen and her husband rarely leave their home and need assistance to get down the stairs. Walking is hard and slow for them. In a bombing attack, all they can do is seek shelter, and rely on anyone nearby to help them. 

One day, when they were at home, a rocket exploded next to their apartment. Their windows were completely blown out, with glass flying. Their building was so damaged that they had to move out for several weeks, while everything was repaired. Now, they live in fear whenever they hear any kind of siren or alert—triggering memories of that traumatic event. 

Thankfully, caring friends like you were there through CBN Israel. Partners provided emergency finances to cover food and other necessities following the attack. And they offered them trauma counseling to help them move forward. Ronen exclaimed, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and compassion! May God bless and keep you for your kindness.”

And for others who struggle to survive, your gift to CBN Israel could be a true godsend. You can provide food, housing, finances, and more to those in need. As the pandemic continues, the needs are escalating. Your support can extend a hand to aging Holocaust survivors, single mothers, and lonely refugees. 

Please join us in blessing others and let them know you care!


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Biblical Israel: Capernaum

By Marc Turnage

Mentioned more than any other location in the Gospels, apart from Jerusalem, Capernaum sits on the northern shore of the lake of Galilee. The Gospels indicate it served as an important base during Jesus’ ministry around the lake, with Matthew referring to it as “his own city” (9:1). He performed miracles in the village casting out a demon in its synagogue on the Sabbath, healing Simon’s mother-in-law, and caring for many who suffered. Jesus taught in the synagogue built by a centurion (Luke 7:5). 

Capernaum does not appear in ancient sources prior to the first century where both the Gospels and the first century historian Josephus mention it. Its name means the “village of Nahum,” although no indication of who Nahum was is known. Archaeological excavations indicate that some settlement at the site existed as early as the third millennium B.C.; however, the village that Jesus knew began around 330 B.C. and continued until the Arab conquest in A.D. 640, when the layout of the village was significantly altered. Archaeological excavations indicate a population shift and growth took place in the first century B.C., in which the population became markedly Jewish. 

The site of Capernaum today consists of two sites, one controlled by the Franciscans, which contains some houses, the synagogue, and the Christian shrine, and the other site belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church. Excavations on the Greek Orthodox property have been limited. Most of what they excavated dates to the Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries A.D.). They did discover a bathhouse (2nd-3rd century A.D.), a tomb, which dates to the 1st century, and some suggest that the sea wall of the harbor goes back to the first century as well. The more popular and developed side of Capernaum belongs to the Franciscans; however, most of the remains that visitors see date to the Byzantine period.

The synagogue that stands in the site today was constructed out of limestone, which had to be brought to the village since the local stone is the black, volcanic basalt. Certain architectural elements of the structure suggest a 3rd-4th century date; however, pottery discovered under the floor indicates that the current building was constructed in the 5th-6th century. The limestone building rests upon a basalt wall. While visitors to the site are shown this wall and told it dates to the first century, the time of Jesus, this simply does not seem to be the case. The wall supports the limestone structure above it. It is possible that they built this structure on top of the earlier, first century synagogue, but the synagogue of Jesus would have been much smaller, as excavations under the floor of the Byzantine period synagogue have revealed houses in use during the first century. 

The excavated houses date primarily to the Byzantine period; however, excavators uncovered a large courtyard to a house, which dates to the first century. The homes in Capernaum reflect a style of home popular within the ancient world known as the insula. These homes surrounded a central courtyard in which much of the domestic life of the family took place. This style of home illustrates many stories in the Gospels. 

Visitors to Capernaum encounter a large modern church built over a series of ancient ruins, which consist of three phases. The earliest phase consists of an insula home (200 B.C.-A.D. 135). The second phase reflects an insula sacra in which a certain portion of the house became a shrine (2nd-4th century A.D.). The final phase (5th-6th century A.D.) preserves a Byzantine shrine with three concentric octagonal walls with mosaic floors. This structure architecturally reflects a Byzantine shrine, built over a sacred site, but it is not a church. The excavators explained these three phrases as evidence of this site being the “House of Saint Peter.” 

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: Who Are You To Judge?

“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:11-12 NKJV)

A Jewish contemporary of Jesus said, “Do not judge your neighbor until you have come to his place.” It’s an ancient version of our modern saying: “Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” 

We live in a world that clamors for mercy, yet each group speaks evil about their opponents, and in so doing, we judge one another. Many sugarcoat their speech by claiming that they are defending the “truth,” and therefore they justify the harshness of their words against their foes. “He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law.”

This is not an appeal for universalism. It’s a call for mercy. Do not judge your neighbor until you have come to his place. The Bible is clear: God is the just Judge, and the just Judge of the world will judge justly. Leave it to Him. We are not called to judge but to show mercy. To forgive. To treat others in the same manner we want God to treat us. 

That’s not easy in the world in which we live. Our world is polarizing. It divides us. It encourages us to judge those who don’t agree with us. It fuels our suspicion and negativity toward others. And, in the midst of this, James asks us, “Who are you to judge another?” 

In our world today, we have to fight against the inertia that pulls us toward judging others. There is only One who can judge, and He reserves that right for Himself. God looks upon the hearts and minds of people, and He knows where they’ve come from.

If we reflect the same judgment that our world renders on one another, then our faith doesn’t really mean much. Let’s strive for love and mercy because the just Judge is also merciful, even towards us.


Father, may we be merciful toward others, as You are. Amen. 

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On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a Little-Known Story Offers Inspiration 

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Today, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Amid the worldwide resurgence of anti-Semitism, recommitting to the rallying cry of “Never Again” is vital. The venom of hatred is once again poisoning the world against the Jews, God’s chosen people. Simply remembering the Holocaust is not enough.

We cannot imitate many within the European Christian community, which in large part ignored what was happening all around them. From 1942 to 1944, trains inhumanely jammed with Jewish families rumbled through Germany, Poland, and other nations while Christians attended church and sang hymns. 

Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps were among the most notorious. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum describes the breadth of the horror: “Beginning in late winter 1943, trains arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau on a regular basis carrying Jews from virtually every German-occupied country of Europe—from as far north as Norway to the Greek island of Rhodes off the coast of Turkey in the south, from the French slopes of the Pyrenees in the west to the easternmost reaches of German-occupied Poland and the Baltic states. … The Germans killed nearly three million Jews in the five killing centers.” The Jewish Telegraphic Agency headlined this article in a Swedish newspaper: “10,000 Jews Deported from Germany to Poland in One Week.” 

Thankfully, some Jews escaped transport to the death camps. A remarkable story was hidden for years about Bulgaria, a nation that was occupied by Nazis in World War II. Michael Bar-Zohar—a Bulgarian Jew who immigrated to Israel in 1948 and later served as a Knesset member—shared this astounding story in his 1998 book, Beyond Hitler’s Grasp. After World War II, when the Soviet Union took over Bulgaria, its communist leaders buried this 1943 story. Finally, when the Iron Curtain opened in 1990, tales of Bulgarian heroism began to emerge in their new era of freedom. 

This particular narrative is both complex and fascinating. In 1941, Bulgaria’s King Boris III aligned with Germany. Then in early February 1943, an agreement took place between a Nazi official in Sofia—Bulgaria’s capital—and the Bulgarian Commissar for Jewish Questions. Their signatures set in motion a secret plan to deport Jews to Poland. Without warning, Bulgarian police arrested 11,343 Thracian and Macedonian Jews and took them to the border, where Nazis forced them onto the long, horrific train ride. All perished in Treblinka.

Soon after, another part of the plan became known via covert information that reached several Bulgarian legislators and religious leaders. Dimiter Peshev, Deputy President of the National Assembly, had already realized with horror his part in allowing the deportation of the Thracian and Macedonian Jews. Peshev sprang into action, as arrests were already in progress and they were just three days away from loading Jews onto the trains. Peshev and the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church’s Archbishop Stefan of Sofia galvanized the people in the capital, Sofia—creating a fire of determined peaceful resistance that lit Bulgarian hearts at all levels of society. 

Bulgaria’s national motto, “Unity Makes Strength,” symbolized that nation’s long history of diversity and harmony with its Jewish citizens. Together, Bulgaria’s citizens would help ensure freedom for its Jewish population. Although some Bulgarian Jews were put in work camps in Bulgaria, they weren’t deported to extermination camps.

There were myriad examples of Bulgarian bravery. Bishop Kiril of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church led 300 of his church members to defy Nazis by standing in front of a train filled with Jewish men, women, and children in the town of Plovdiv. Bulgarians washed away hateful slogans painted by Nazis. A teacher publicly wore a yellow star to stand up for her Jewish friends, and a baker hid Jews in his bakery oven. 

Three Nazi deportation attempts were made. All three failed, and the trains left empty. Bulgaria saved its 49,000 Jewish citizens. It was the largest rescue in Nazi-occupied Europe, yet it remained mostly hidden from historical accounts until the Soviet Union dissolved. It earned Bulgaria the distinction of being the only Axis-aligned country that didn’t deport its Jews.

Today, the actions of Bulgaria’s brave citizens can remind us to set aside apathy and denial and express in word and deed our commitment to the Jews of Israel, America, and worldwide. For Jewish and Christian communities that want to actively prevent anti-Semitism’s malignant growth, so many choices are available. 

Among these choices, cultural and artistic renditions of Holocaust-era stories can inspire us to act today. There are three I especially want to highlight: Varna International, Israel’s Violins of Hope, and The Auschwitz Album Revisited art exhibit. A dedicated group composed of Jews and Christians have organized a four-week concert tour across South Carolina beginning April 24. They and The Jerusalem Connection Report share one goal: to educate audiences—through music and the art exhibit—with inspiring stories of honor and heroism to renew the “Never Again” message.

When husband-wife team Kalin and Sharon Tchonev founded Varna International 21 years ago in Columbia, South Carolina, they had no idea their company would bloom into a globally recognized festival organizer. Specializing in large-scale, artistically rich, and customized choral-orchestral concerts throughout Europe, Israel, and the United States, they have staged performances at The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and hundreds of other esteemed venues. 

Inspired by the Bulgarian people who rescued their Jewish population from certain death, Kalin and Sharon Tchonev conceived the “Songs of Life” festival. It is their personal love story. Kalin explains, “Had it not been for the miraculous rescue of Bulgaria’s Jews, I (a Bulgarian) would not have my wife and son today. Sharon’s maternal grandparents were among the 49,000 Bulgarian Jews rescued during the Holocaust.” In 1950, her grandparents immigrated to Israel, where Sharon was born.

Israel’s Violins of Hope embodies the victory of the human spirit over evil and hatred. Famous luthiers Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshi have restored 60 violins in their Tel Aviv workshop since Amnon founded Violins of Hope in 1996. Amnon has collected instruments since the end of World War II—instruments belonging to Jews before and during the war. Violins were donated or bought from survivors; some came through family members. Although Amnon’s parents escaped the Holocaust by making Aliyah from Poland to what was then the British Mandate of Palestine in 1935, many other members of his family were later murdered in World War II. As their website explains, Violins of Hope is a “project of concerts based on the collection … not only a memorial to lost culture and people, it is also an educational act that reaches young students and adults wherever our concerts are performed.”

The final prong of this educational tour is an art exhibit called The Auschwitz Album Revisited. Christian artist Dr. Pat Mercer Hutchens (1937-2014) expertly recreated oil paintings in color from 40 black-and-white photos in a Nazi album. An  Auschwitz survivor discovered the album  when it was liberated in 1945. The artist finished the project despite suffering with cancer. Her art is permanently exhibited at the Liberty University art gallery in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The Jerusalem Connection Report joins in to honor the lost and educate the living with the art exhibit in several music locations on the tour. 

Over the four-week period starting in April, hundreds of South Carolina musicians and choirs will present Holocaust Remembrance Stories (

I pray that all Christians will make choices to stand against rising anti-Semitism. We can’t all be a Corrie ten Boom or an Oskar Schindler, but many avenues for offering help exist today. Patronizing concerts and art shows and making donations to humanitarian aid for Holocaust survivors. Supporting the production of films and documentaries by CBN Israel. Refusing to participate in slanderous Jewish jokes. Passing on facts in emails and social media. Inviting a Jewish friend to dinner or an expert to speak in your church or attending a synagogue.

Also, please join CBN Israel in prayer on this International Holocaust Remembrance Day:

  • Pray that the Jewish state will continue to be a place of refuge for the Jewish people. 
  • Pray for the remaining Holocaust survivors to be well cared for in their later years. 
  • Pray for the world to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and pledge “Never Again.” 
  • Pray for the next generations to be educated about what happened during the Holocaust. 
  • Pray for CBN Israel as it reaches out in love to Holocaust survivors throughout Israel. 

Today, may we solemnly reflect upon the weighty words of Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

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

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Remembering the Holocaust

In 2005, the United Nations designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this solemn day, the world remembers the 6 million Jewish men, women, and children who were killed by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. 

We also honor the survivors whose courage, strength, and resilience were shaped within the shadows and ashes of Europe’s extermination camps. And this horrifying genocide gave those who lived the determination to declare, “Never Again.” 

That is why today, CBN Israel honors their commitment. With CBN’s extensive international media platform, extraordinary people like you are helping to expose and stem the tide of rising global anti-Semitism. Together, Christians are sending a clear message to the world—declaring that we will stand with the Jewish nation and people. 

Through CBN News, friends like you are also sharing a biblical perspective on headlines in the Holy Land—and fighting hatred and misinformation with the truth. Plus, the dedicated support of CBN Israel partners makes it possible to produce award-winning films that share the riveting stories of Israel’s past and present. 

And caring people like you are serving Israel’s last generation of Holocaust survivors, most of whom are in their 90s. Today, there are nearly 200,000 survivors left in Israel. Sadly, many are alone—and struggle to make ends meet. But compassionate friends like you are there, making it possible to facilitate safe visits with needed food, medicine, and encouragement. 

Most of all, the loving support of CBN Israel partners lets these frail seniors know they are not forgotten, just as it does for impoverished families, new immigrants, and others in need. 

So many people in Israel are struggling to survive. Your support can bless them by offering food, housing, job training, and more. You can also unite with other Christians in taking a stand against the toxic poison of anti-Semitism in our world today. Thank you for caring! 

Please join us in remembering the Holocaust and firmly declaring, “Never Again.”

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