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Biblical Israel: Pool of Siloam

By Marc Turnage

Located on the southern part of the rock cliff that marks the hill of the City of David (in Jerusalem), near the southern end of the Tyropoean Valley sits the Pool of Siloam. The pool was accidentally discovered in 2004 by workmen laying a new sewage line in the southern part of the City of David. The Gihon Spring, Jerusalem’s primary water source, supplied water to the pool in antiquity via the so-called Hezekiah’s Tunnel. 

Archaeologists uncovered two flights of five narrow steps separated by a wide landing that descend into the pool. This enabled people to descend to different levels based upon the fluctuation of the water level due to either the rainy or dry seasons within the land of Israel. Although the archaeologists only uncovered one side of the steps of the pool, it seems that such an arrangement of steps surrounded the pool on four sides. The pool covered roughly an acre of land. Coins and pottery date the construction of the stepped pool to the mid first century B.C.

To the north of the pool, archaeologists uncovered a fine pavement of stones that resemble the first century street that runs to the west of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Discovery of column drums and column bases protruding from the pavement suggests that a colonnade ran along the pavement. 

The Pool of Siloam appears twice within the New Testament (Luke 13:4; and John 9:7). In John, Jesus instructed the blind man to wash the mud from his eyes in the pool to be healed. It served the water needs of ancient Jerusalem (along with other pools in the city), and it also served as the largest ritual immersion pool within the city. Jewish pilgrims, who needed to be ritually pure before entering the sacred precincts of the Temple (see Acts 21:26), could use the Pool of Siloam for ritual immersion. Its size and proximity to the Temple makes it a suitable location for the baptism of the three thousand who responded to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). 

Archaeologists have suggested that the holes found on the steps leading into the pool might have supported screens made of wood or mats to provide privacy for those ritually immersing in the pool. Jewish ritual immersion, like what we find in the New Testament, required privacy as the person immersing did so in the nude, nothing can come between the bather and the water. 

During the first century, on the last night of the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), water was drawn from the Pool of Siloam and brought to the altar of the Temple and poured out as a libation. The festival occurs at the end of the summer (around October), and the water libation requested rains from God (see John 7:37). This ceremony, known as the Beth HaShoeva, occurred at night. Jewish sources describe how pilgrims lined the route from the pool to the Temple carrying torches.

The first century Pool of Siloam likely covers the same pool mentioned in Nehemiah (3:15). Then, at a later time, the pool was enlarged and constructed in the manner of a Jewish ritual immersion bath. 

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

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: Forgive to Be Forgiven

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 

But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:23-35 ESV). 

This parable should trouble us. Why? Because this teaching of Jesus does not fit well with many contemporary theological views about salvation. Yet, Jesus plainly states that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us. The debt God forgives us means little if we do not show mercy toward others. That should bother us.

We often live as if what truly matters is God forgiving us—but that is not the message of Jesus. If we do not allow the mercy that God shows us to lead us to show mercy to others, then we should expect God’s wrath against us. This is what happened to the servant who chose not to forgive his fellow servant. According to Jesus, we cannot love God without loving our neighbor.

Think about the world we live in. How much differently would it look if we all showed mercy to others as God has shown mercy to us? The parables of Jesus convey His theology, how He viewed God, and how we should live. But far too often, we misunderstand or gloss over aspects of His teaching, because they do not align with our own theology. Jesus commanded His disciples to “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

Can people look at our lives and see God’s mercy? Is it clear to them that we forgive others because God has forgiven us? If not, can we truly consider ourselves followers of Jesus? 

Forgiveness is not easy; it is a choice. But if we truly appreciate God’s mercy, and our need for that mercy, we must then show mercy toward others in the same way. If we do not, we run the risk of facing His judgement against us. Therefore, extend the mercy you have received.

PRAYER

Father, You have been so merciful to us; may we show that same mercy and forgiveness to others. Amen.

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We Cannot Ignore Iran’s Global Goals

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

“Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” Winston Churchill’s paraphrase of Santayana’s famous saying could easily be applied to Iran’s malicious behavior in world affairs. 

Much of what we hear about Iran today concerns its obsessive ambition to join the world’s exclusive, nine-nation nuclear club—able to launch deadly attacks against enemies near and far. Whether or not they’re successful in that goal, their Supreme Leader—Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who rules the Islamic Republic of Iran—cleverly carries out additional evil strategies bolstered by the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 

Iran’s constitution instructs the IRGC to pursue an ideological mission of jihad in God’s way … extending sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world.” Since 1979, the IRGC’s power has expanded worldwide, enabling it to carry out the regime’s revolutionary, militant Shia Islamist religious ideology both inside Iran and out. 

Today, Iran is the world’s largest exporter of terror. We simply cannot ignore its “diplomatic” efforts to recruit more surrogates like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Houthis. And these surrogates are closer than we think. 

The 2015 Obama/Biden Iran deal has failed, and yet the Biden administration insists on trying to resurrect it. Whether the Iran deal lives or dies, our leaders and negotiators must revisit the history books for a refresher course on the past 43 years. They paint a dangerous picture of the Iranian leadership’s patterns of aggression, particularly against our military. The U.S. and other nations could benefit, too, from revisiting one of Islam’s concepts, taqiyah, which gives them permission to conceal their own beliefs for their own benefit.

Even if the Iran deal is abandoned, Iranian threats against our country remain. Let us take a look at Iran’s history with the United States. Beginning in 1979, with the hostage-taking of American embassy civilians in Tehran, the 444-day Iran hostage crisis set off a shocking U.S. (and international) predicament. Finally, the hostages were set free on January 20, 1981, the day of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. 

From taking American hostages in Iran until now, the Iran Revolution has relentlessly pursued its goal to reestablish a caliphate to dominate the world. Iran’s combative hatred for Israel extends to the entire Middle East, which views Iran as a threat. They are right to do so. Israel is a prime target, but the Sunni Muslim nations are despised by the Shia Muslim Iranian leaders who want their brand of Islam to dominate the region and the world! 

Indeed, Iran has kept the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, in its crosshairs for the last 43 years. The horrific 1983 suicide truck bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, revealed Iran’s unmistakable fingerprints in causing the deaths of 220 Marines, 16 Navy personnel, and three Army soldiers. 

Some may recall two U.S. embassy bombings in 1998 in Kenya and Tanzania. Iran, again, flexed its deadly terror muscles, resulting in 224 people murdered and thousands more wounded. In 2011, a U.S. federal court determined that “the government of Iran aided, abetted and conspired with Hezbollah, Osama Bin Laden, and al-Qaeda to launch large-scale bombing attacks against the United States.”

Between 2003 and 2011 in the war on terror, Iran targeted our U.S. military members stationed in Iraq by making and using improvised explosive devices (IEDs)—roadside bombs. Iran used its IRGC to carry out their attacks. The losses are irreversible tragedies for American families that led to the alleged injury and death of more than 1,000 U.S. service members. 

In a 2016 article by the nonprofit research group Accuracy in Academia, experts sounded the alarm on Iran’s stealth strategies in establishing Iranian embassies and some 80 Islamic cultural centers, which function as outposts for proselytizing Latinos with Islamic doctrine. Since the 1980s, Latin America has been fertile ground for surrogate recruits taken in by Iranian “diplomacy.” Several of Iran’s key operating bases include Bolivia, Colombia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the island nation of Cuba—which is just 90 miles away from the Florida Keys. Right in our back yard.

On January 12, 2021, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where he announced, “The Iran-al-Qaeda axis poses a grave threat to the security of nations and to the American homeland itself, and we are taking action.” Three top al-Qaeda leaders live in a welcoming Iran. They are a perfect match. That same month, the Associated Press reported terror threats against Fort McNair in the U.S. capital and against the Army’s vice chief of staff.

Amid recent ongoing negotiations for a new Iran deal, a 2022 Annual Threat Assessment

from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reported that Iran is actively developing networks inside the U.S. That said, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken agree that they are setting aside those threats for now and will deal with them at another time. 

“These other malign activities of Iran’s, their plots against the U.S. personnel or Americans around the world we can deal with and have to deal with separately, and we should deal with them aggressively,” Schiff told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We need to go after all of this, not necessarily in one agreement.”

In April 2022, a group of 502 Iranian-American scientists, academics, and professionals sent a letter to Biden imploring him not to accept a request from Iran to remove the IRGC from the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation. These Iranian-Americans are experts on the modern dangers of their former homeland. 

More outcry against the Biden administration from various sectors includes the United States Senate, which voted in a bipartisan manner (62-33) to reject any Iran deal that does not require Iran to stop its terrorist activities and missile production and discontinue its China connections. 

This is good news, but it does not change Iran’s threats to the U.S. with its expansive presence throughout Latin America. “The Iranian regime, for three-and-a-half decades and counting, has been … exporting its revolutionary ideals to your own backyard in Latin America,” Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi explained during a panel discussion about Israel at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority Conference.”

Israel, however, best understands Iran’s terror and takeover motives. Defending the front lines of their freedom, for many nations—including Abraham Accords friends and the United States—they are a bulwark against Iran’s goals to rule the world. Israel is a “freedom friend” yet is vilified at every opportunity by those who attempt to placate the imams. 

Proverbs 14:15 instructs us “The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps.” The Iranian flag waving in the breeze gives us a visual description of the kind of nation its leaders are promoting at the expense of their own beleaguered citizens and the world. Its tricolor flag of green, white, and red shows Iran’s national emblem in the middle. It is an artistic effect representing the word “Allah” in the shape of a tulip. The tulip, in red, is considered a symbol of martyrdom.

May we in the Christian community keep Psalm 23:4 close in our thoughts as we face the disturbing realities in our nation and around the world. I love this verse best in the King James Version: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

We invite you to join CBN Israel this week in prayer: 

  • Pray for U.S. military families who have sacrificed so much in the loss of their loved ones to Iranian terror. 
  • Pray that the Biden administration will act wisely on its Iran policies.
  • Pray for Christians to understand the times yet renounce fear.
  • Pray for U.S. intelligence to remain successful in stopping terror plots. 
  • Pray with thankfulness for Israel and its security value to us.

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

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Emergency Relief for Ukrainian Jewish Refugees

“We left Kyiv on the first day after the bombs exploded near our house in a few kilometers, and then we decided to leave Kyiv. But my husband returned to defend it,” says Olga. 

You could see the sadness and exhaustion in their eyes as Jewish mothers, children, and elderly men and women stepped off the plane in Israel. The tears streaming down their faces revealed mixed emotions. They were relieved and grateful to be standing in their ancestral homeland, but they also felt sorrow and despair for the loved ones and homes they had left behind. 

The arrival of new immigrants to Israel—something the biblical prophets foretold—is usually a festive celebration. But the war in Ukraine made the homecoming bittersweet for thousands of Jewish refugees who had to flee their homes for safety and freedom in the Promised Land. 

Tragically, the most vulnerable people were hit hardest by the Russian invasion of their country: the elderly, Holocaust survivors, children, and families in poverty. Most of these refugees fled Ukraine with only the clothes on their backs and what little they could carry with them. 

In the face of this catastrophe, friends like you have been there for hundreds of Jewish refugees through CBN Israel and our strategic partners. Thousands of refugees have been evacuated from Ukraine and provided rescue flights to Israel. Compassionate donors also made it possible to give them food, clothing, shelter, and other essentials once they arrived.

Your support can give life-changing help to these refugees as they cope with their world turned upside down—while also extending aid to terror victims, single moms, Holocaust survivors, and other aging seniors. Thank you for your compassion! 

Please join us in blessing Israel and her people in need!

GIVE TODAY

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Biblical Israel: Avdat

By Marc Turnage

Located in the modern Negev Desert on the spur of a mountain ridge, overlooking the plain around the canyon of En Avdat (the “Spring of Avdat”), sits the ancient ruins of the Nabatean city of Avdat. Avdat sits along the ancient caravan routes that crossed the barren lands from Elat (ancient Aila) on the Gulf of Aqaba, and Petra, the Nabatean capital in the Transjordan, to the Mediterranean coast and the port city of Gaza. 

The Nabateans, a nomadic people, immigrated out of the Arabian Peninsula, and in the period of the New Testament, their kingdom stretched from southern Syria to the northern Hijaz in the Arabian Peninsula. Their capital was Petra, in the south of the modern Kingdom of Jordan. Although the land of their kingdom was vast, they had few urban centers. They controlled the trade and caravan routes through the Transjordan, including those that extended west to the Mediterranean coast. Their ability to travel through the dry desert regions, in part by using their caravansaries, like Avdat, enabled them to acquire a great degree of wealth. 

In the New Testament, Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist, was originally married to a Nabatean princess, the daughter of the Nabatean king Aretas IV. He divorced her in order to marry Herodias, the wife of his brother with whom he had an adulterous affair (Luke 3:19-20).

Avdat was originally settled at the end of the fourth or the beginning of the third century B.C. as a station on the caravan routes. By the end of the first century B.C. and into the first century A.D., Avdat had become a religious, military, and commercial center. Nabatean shrines were located at the site. 

The Roman annexation of the Nabatean kingdom into Provincia Arabia in A.D. 106 did not hurt Avdat. In fact, the second and third centuries A.D. saw the site flourish, as both agriculture and herding became part of the local economy. With the rise of Christianity in the fourth century A.D., two churches and a monastery were built on the site replacing the pagan shrines. Avdat relied upon the cultivation and production of a fine variety of grapes and wine during the Byzantine period. The site was abandoned in A.D. 636 with the Arab conquest. 

The earliest periods of settlement left little in terms of remains, especially a lack of architectural remains. Coins and imported pottery provide the main discoveries on the site from the fourth century B.C. to the early first century B.C. During the first century, public buildings were erected on the site including a shrine (temple) where the Nabatean pantheon were worshipped. 

Although not mentioned in the New Testament, Avdat and the Nabateans stood on the edge of the New Testament world. Herod the Great’s mother likely belonged to the Nabatean aristocracy, if not the royal family. We already mentioned the wife of Antipas. Throughout the first century, the Herodian lands came into conflict with Nabatean territory, which sets the backdrop for life in the region.

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

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: Little Is Much

And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened” (Luke 13:20-21 NKJV). 

A little leaven can leaven a larger amount of dough. Why did Jesus use this image to speak about the kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus told parables to help His audience understand His message. Because the world of the parables is not ours, we often miss His simple yet profound point. For Jesus, like His Jewish contemporaries, the kingdom of Heaven referred to God’s rule or reign. God rules and reigns wherever His people do His will: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NKJV). 

Jesus, however, used the kingdom of Heaven to refer to His movement, which He understood as part of God’s redemption that was breaking forth. He expected His followers to exemplify obedience and devotion to God, but He continually spoke about people entering the kingdom.

For Him, one entered the kingdom of Heaven through acts of charity and compassion. He described the kingdom as a treasure in a field—when one finds a thing of such value, he goes and sells all he has to buy the field. He gives everything to acquire it—just as Jesus instructed the rich ruler to do.

So, what’s the connection with leaven? A little has a great impact. It’s easy for us to look down on small acts of kindness and compassion. We figure: Oh, that doesn’t matter much. 

Jesus confronted such limited thinking and conveyed to His followers that little acts of charity and mercy had an ability to dynamically impact the world in which they lived. Those acts unleashed God’s redemptive power. So, do not undervalue them or think lightly of them.

We often think that the big things for God matter most, but Jesus didn’t see it that way. Our little acts of charity and compassion provide the opportunity for God to enter situations and people’s lives; moreover, in as much as we do to the least of these—the poor and naked, the homeless, the sick, those in prison—we do that unto the Lord.

Do we look for opportunities to introduce God into the world around us through small acts of love, mercy, and kindness?

Do we believe that these little acts can take part in God’s redemptive plan? What would happen if each of us sought to bring more of His reign and rule to our broken and hurting world through acts of charity and compassion? How different would our world look?

PRAYER

Father, may we never despise the little things that we can do in the lives of others. May we be faithful and choose daily to take part in releasing Your redemptive power into our world. Amen.

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Yom HaAtzma’ut: Israel’s Independence Day

By Julie Stahl

“Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? 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” (Isaiah 66:8 NIV).

On May 14, 1948, just before the Sabbath, some 350 guests crammed into an un-air-conditioned, Tel Aviv art gallery for a 32-minute ceremony that would change the world forever.

We, members of the people’s council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel,” declared David Ben-Gurion, Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and soon to be the first prime minister of the fledgling state.

On that historic day, Ben-Gurion spoke for 11 million Jewish men, women, and children around the world who had no voice, no address, and nowhere to go. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, they finally had their own nation in their ancestral homeland.

“It was promised to us by God. We are the only people in the history of the world that live on the same land, speaking the same language, and believing in the same God more than 3,000 years,” says Isaac Dror, who heads the education efforts for Independence Hall, the place where the declaration was made.

Among the crowd of witnesses was Yael Sharett, whose father Moshe Sharett was on stage with Ben-Gurion and was the country’s first foreign minister and second prime minister. At age 17, Yael wrote as her father dictated one of the drafts of the declaration. She shared a chair with her aunt at the ceremony.

“It’s really epic. It’s poetry actually. The only time I was really moved I must say was when the Rabbi Levine made the old age Jewish blessing: shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu la’z’man ha’zeh,” Yael told CBN News.

That ancient Jewish prayer, which is recited on momentous occasions, offers thanks to God “who has given us life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this day.”

Then they sang HaTikvah (“The Hope”), which is Israel’s national anthem.

The next day, which was the Sabbath, U.S. President Harry Truman became the first world leader to recognize Israel.

He understood something that most of his top advisors and ministers failed to see. This is truly prophecy being realized,” Dror said.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations had passed resolution 181 calling for the creation of a Jewish State and an Arab State in British-controlled Mandatory Palestine. The plan set aside land in the Galilee, along the Mediterranean and the Negev Desert for the Jewish people, while the Arabs were to receive all of biblical Judea and Samaria, later known as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and other small portions. Perhaps the most controversial part of the plan was that an international body would control Jerusalem.

Still the Jewish people accepted the plan, but the Arabs rejected it. Less than six months later the Jewish people declared independence. The following day, the armies of five Arab nations attacked Israel.

Many countries have fought wars for their independence, but Israel’s war was not common. They had been granted independence by the sovereign, Britain; the decision was confirmed by the United Nations; and the Jewish people were returning to the historic land of their ancestors. But it was their neighbors who didn’t want them to exist.

A year later, the Jewish state was still standing and had increased its size by nearly 50 percent. Against overwhelming odds, this fledgling State of Israel not only survived but grew beyond expectation.

In honor of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Partition Plan, Israel’s mission to the U.N. celebrated by returning to the hall in Flushing Meadows, New York, where the U.N. vote took place.

Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said: “In this very hall 70 years ago when the United Nations declared to the modern world an ancient truth that the Jewish people have a natural, irrevocable right to an independent state in their ancestral and eternal homeland.”

Israelis celebrate Independence Day on the 5th of the Hebrew month of Iyar. During a televised ceremony that includes Israeli leaders, Israelis make the transition from mourning on their memorial day to celebrating their independence. Later that night, in cities and towns around the country, young and old take to the streets to listen to live music and dance Israeli folk dances.

Orthodox Jews recite the Psalms (but ultra-Orthodox Jews don’t yet recognize the State).

On Independence Day, the Israeli Air Force flies over cities and along beaches to celebrate as their fellow citizens picnic and barbecue (what they call mahngal). At the close of the day, the country awards the Israel Prize to Israelis who have made a unique contribution to the country’s culture, science, arts, and humanities.

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN—first as a graduate student in Journalism at Regent University; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. She is also an integral part of CBN News’ award-winning show, Jerusalem Dateline, a weekly news program providing a biblical and prophetic perspective to what is happening in Israel and the Middle East.

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The Resilience of the Jewish Nation and People

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Yesterday at sundown, on Israel’s Memorial Day, the Jewish nation and people made an incredible leap from remembering their fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism to celebrating Israel’s Independence Day. This transition from a day of mourning those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom to a day of jubilation over the birth of the modern State of Israel is a perfect example of the resilience of the Jewish people. 

Few might recall that the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is coming up on May 16. By that date in 1943, some 300,000 Jews imprisoned in the ghetto had already met their deaths after being shipped to the gas chambers. When the SS arrived on April 19 to herd the surviving inhabitants—men, women, and children—into cattle cars to transport them to their deaths, several hundred Jewish fighters resisted.  

It is reported that these heroic fighters, using homemade explosives and other small weapons, managed to kill up to 300 Nazi soldiers that day. Yet they were no match for the tanks that arrived with orders from Heinrich Himmler to set fire to every block of the ghetto, where only 40,000 Jews remained. The uprising, which was the largest by Jews during World War II, ended after 28 days of valiant fighting. It failed, and all survivors were sent to the camps.

Certainly, the ability of the Jewish people to defend themselves has changed dramatically since the Warsaw Ghetto’s brave resistance and the killing of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. Yet decades later, the Jewish nation and people still face unrelenting dangers from enemies whose sole aim is to eradicate them from the face of the earth. This is not just hatred of Israel as a country; rather, it is a deeply held hatred for Jews. 

The threat against Israel and the Jewish people worldwide seems to be growing stronger and is reminiscent of the decades leading up to the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism is expanding like an aggressive, malignant cancer. Thankfully, due to the birth of the modern State of Israel, the Jewish people now have a place of refuge and are no longer defenseless—as they were in previous decades and centuries. Today, the Jewish nation is in charge of a world-class army, air force, and navy matched with the Mossad, Israeli police, and Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. 

What has not changed is the incredible tenacity of the Jewish people—as was demonstrated by those in the Warsaw Ghetto who bravely fought for life and liberty as well as their Jewish identity, faith, and heritage. Among other culture-sustaining values, they played music, created a newspaper, and celebrated Shabbat despite having only meager food. 

In an article from Yad Vashem’s archives, Yael Weinstock Mashbaum wrote about the Warsaw Ghetto: “They realized that physical sustenance would not be the sole route to survival. Such religious, cultural, and educational activities are termed ‘spiritual resistance,’ for resistance is not only the struggle against, but it is also the struggle for. In ghettos and camps, Jews struggled for humanity, for culture, for normalcy, and for life.”

This is what the Jewish people have done through the centuries during the Diaspora and until now. Today, the people of Israel do not dwell in victimhood despite the threats of war and terror that have been their daily reality—often 24/7—since the rebirth of Israel on May 14, 1948. 

Yes, Israeli life is intensely challenging. It is stressful. It is complicated and sometimes chaotic. Nevertheless, every week Israeli Jews dance and pray at the Western Wall. They celebrate Shabbat, Jewish feasts and festivals, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, birthdays, and create innovations almost daily in the areas of medicine, agriculture, technology, and more. Happily, tourists are returning to the Holy Land. The Abraham Accords remain a source of cooperation and success, humanitarian aid teams are active in Ukraine, and Israel is welcoming thousands of Ukrainian Jews to their ancestral homeland.

All this, despite the fact that Iran’s elite military is stationed in Syria, ready to attack. Hezbollah is embedding arsenals in Lebanese civilian areas. Hamas fires rockets from Gaza into Israel and residents wonder when the next big barrage will start. The Temple Mount is a hotbed ready to ignite any moment, whether during Ramadan or not. Terrorists are ramping up murders of innocents. For almost a year, the Biden Administration has tried to resuscitate the failed 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the Iran nuclear agreement—with no clear end in sight. 

How, then, can Israelis maintain their positivity in the face of such unbridled aggression? 

Israelis are role models of “spiritual resistance,” a value and a practice we can all utilize. They have an innate ability to survive and to create beauty amid the worst circumstances. In addition, Israel now has an almost unmatched ability to “defend themselves by themselves”—as they often say—against aggression from multiple directions. I frequently remind others that the Israeli military is named the “Israel Defense Forces” because they are not warmongers. They defend their civilians and their homeland against terror attacks and wars while desperately longing for peace.

Christian support is waning in some sectors but is also intensifying in others. Millions of Christians worldwide still stand beside Israel—funding emergency bomb shelters, giving urgent relief to terror victims, caring for Holocaust survivors, investing in Israel bonds, reaching out to the U.S. Congress, and speaking out against anti-Semitism.

Yad Vashem recognizes almost 27,000 Righteous Among the Nations as “Drops of Love in an Ocean of Poison,” as Golda Meir declared 60 years ago. Christian rescuers were too few—and many died. The brilliant, beloved German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was among them. The Nazis hung Bonhoeffer at Flossenburg a few weeks before liberation for his years-long opposition to Hitler and the Nazi regime.

Christians must pursue an identity of “Drops of Love in an Ocean of Poison.” Recognizing Judaism as the birthplace of our faith we must express our gratitude in action and not just because we want to “be blessed” as Genesis 12:13 tells us. Advocating for Israel is simply the right thing to do. God Himself deeded the Land to the Jewish people, as recorded in the most popular book in world history, the Bible. God’s legal contract codified and far exceeds anything anti-Israel detractors say or do. That includes the hapless United Nations, far-left members of Congress, leaders in the National Council of Churches hierarchy, and the European Union.  

More than 125 years have passed since Theodore Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). Herzl, the father of political Zionism, was convinced that if the Jewish people created their own Jewish nation, anti-Semitism would dim in its hatred. He said, “I think the Jews will always have sufficient enemies, such as every nation has. But once fixed in their own land, it will no longer be possible for them to scatter all over the world.” 

He was wrong, unfortunately, about anti-Semitism, which is rising at an alarming rate. Yet due to his activism, his writing, and the Zionist Congresses, Israel became a modern state on May 14, 1948. Herzl’s profound outlook underpinned his rallying cry for a Jewish state: “Zionism is a return to Judaism even before there is a return to the Jewish land.”

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

  • Pray that the people of Israel will be strengthened and encouraged as they celebrate their Independence Day with family and friends. 
  • Pray for conflict resolution for Israel’s Prime Minister Bennett and the Knesset during intensified political unrest and strife.
  • Pray for Israel’s intelligence services to detect any threats and respond quickly.
  • Pray for Israel’s leaders to navigate their complex relationships with Russia and Ukraine. 
  • Pray for Christians worldwide to hear God’s voice calling them to stand with the nation and people of Israel “for such a time as this.”  

May our rallying cry echo God’s covenant with the Jewish people: “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

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

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Yom HaZikaron: Israel’s Memorial Day

By Julie Stahl

“The LORD cares deeply when his loved ones die” (Psalm 116:15).

A week after Yom HaShoah (“Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day”), Israelis mark Yom HaZikaron (“Israel’s Memorial Day”) to honor and remember those who died fighting for their country and those murdered in terror attacks.

A televised state ceremony is held at the Western Wall and neighborhoods throughout the country hold their own ceremonies in public places, with the participation of the youth. 

Israelis stand in the streets for an hour or more as the people who died from those neighborhoods are honored.

Since Israel is frequently under attack—whether by rockets or terror attacks or infiltrations—the day is very real and relevant for most Israelis. Many visit cemeteries and attend other ceremonies on the day. Schools are in session but have special programs to honor the fallen.

Twice, on the evening before Israel’s Memorial Day and the following morning itself, Israelis collectively stand in silence as a siren sounds calling to mind the sacrifices that were made by family and friends for Israel’s freedom and security. 

“I was thinking about all the soldiers from the beginning of the modern State of Israel up until today who had to fight on the frontlines and on the home front,” said Shai Yosipov, a former IDF combat medic.

“It’s so important that everyone understands the price and the responsibility we have for living in this country. We not only remember our fallen loved ones, but we also acknowledge that there has always been a sacrifice that needed to be made so that we could be here today,” says Yosipov.

“During the siren, I was praying for families who’ve lost so many, and I prayed that God would give them comfort from the pain,” says Sarah Rivka Yekutiel, who moved to Israel from Boston many years ago.

“It’s an emotional time for everyone, whether you’ve lost family or not. This day is very heavy and intense,” said Orital Saban, who recently moved to Israel from Canada.

More than 23,000 Israeli and Jewish soldiers and more than 3,100 terror victims have fallen since 1860. 

At sundown on Israel’s Memorial Day, Israelis make an incredible leap from mourning those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, to celebrating Yom HaAtzma’ut (“Israel’s Independence Day”).

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN—first as a graduate student in Journalism at Regent University; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. She is also an integral part of CBN News’ award-winning show, Jerusalem Dateline, a weekly news program providing a biblical and prophetic perspective to what is happening in Israel and the Middle East.

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Biblical Israel: Shiloh

By Marc Turnage

Shiloh served as the place where the Israelites erected the Tabernacle and placed the Ark of the Covenant after they conquered the land (Joshua 18:1). It became a place for religious pilgrimage and the celebration of festivals (Judges 21:19; 1 Samuel 1:3). The parents of Samuel, Hannah and Elkana, came to Shiloh and encountered the priest Eli, who delivered God’s promise to Hannah’s prayer that she would give birth to a son (1 Samuel 1). Then, when Samuel came of age, she brought him to serve the Lord and Eli at Shiloh, and, at Shiloh, God revealed himself to Samuel (1 Samuel 3:21). 

News of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines reached Eli in Shiloh, as well as the death of his sons, Hophni and Phineas (1 Samuel 4). Shiloh apparently suffered a destruction, not mentioned directly in the Bible, prior to the period of David and Solomon because, when the Ark returns to Israel (1 Samuel 6), the people did not return it to Shiloh, and the prophet Jeremiah mentions its destruction in his oracle against Jerusalem and the Temple: “Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel…therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh” (7:12, 14; 26:6, 9).

Shiloh sits about twenty-five miles north of Jerusalem. The book of Judges provides a clear description of its location: “north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah” (Judges 21:19). Shiloh, then, sat on the primary north-south roadway that ran through the central hill country. Other well-known biblical towns and villages also resided along this roadway, Hebron, Bethlehem, Gibeah, Ramah, Mizpah, Bethel, Shiloh, and Shechem. Jerusalem sits just to the east of this road. 

Excavations of the site of Shiloh revealed a destruction layer caused by a fierce fire in the eleventh century B.C., which coincides with the period of the priesthood of Eli, Samuel, and the capture of the Ark. The destruction of Shiloh likely coincided with the Philistine victory against the Israelites, which resulted in the Ark’s capture. Excavations also attest in this period that Shiloh served as a religious and economic center. 

The Tabernacle and Ark remained at Shiloh for a long period of time prior to the city’s destruction. Although a small settlement appears in the latter part of the monarchy, it never had the importance that it previously had. In Jeremiah’s oracle, it became an object lesson for those who thought the mere presence of God’s dwelling place insulated the people from his judgement and destruction. What mattered to Him was obedience; if you don’t believe Him, just go and look at Shiloh.

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

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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