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Elderly Widow: Eliana’s Story

During World War II, when Eliana’s father was drafted, her mother and siblings fled Ukraine for Uzbekistan. A year after her father came home from serving on the front lines, Eliana was born. 

But the war was still raging, and food and essentials were scarce—especially for a family with five children. It was a time of widespread famine, disease, and poverty. Despite the hardships, her family stayed close and maintained a strong bond. 

Today, Eliana is a 76-year-old widow, who immigrated to Israel in 2009. Her two surviving siblings and daughters live far away. When COVID-19 struck, with lockdowns and restrictions, it became impossible to see them. 

Although she kept in touch with her family from a distance, Eliana felt lonely and isolated. But fortunately, she became part of a local congregation that partners with CBN Israel. We sent local volunteers to visit her safely, bringing groceries and essentials. She says, “It is so wonderful that you care enough to assist people like me in Israel … during this lonely time. Thank you!” 

Your gift to CBN Israel can assist many elderly Jewish widows and widowers, including Holocaust survivors—along with single moms and others. Your support during this pandemic and beyond can help those in need across Israel with food, housing, finances, and more. 

Please help us reach out at this critical time!

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Biblical Israel: Ashkelon

By Marc Turnage

Ashkelon sits on the southern Mediterranean coast in the modern State of Israel. The Bible identifies it as one of the five Philistine cities along with Gaza, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. Ashkelon sits on the Mediterranean coast between Gaza and Ashdod. The ancient site sat on a ridge of cemented sandstone called kurkar. Its elevated vantage point allowed for the observation of the sea routes from Egypt to Lebanon. 

Ashkelon receives, on average, almost fourteen inches of rainfall a year, which, while not a lot, is sufficient for viticulture and the cultivation of gardens. The high-water table meant that the city had an abundant supply of freshwater throughout its ancient history. Over a hundred ancient wells have been uncovered in excavations. 

The land around Ashkelon consists of sand ridges that run parallel to the coast. The local kurkar served as a basic stone for building at the site. Its location on the sea and just west of major land trade routes made Ashkelon a maritime trading center. Ancient seafaring vessels traveled using the trade winds and currents, tacking their way following the coast. Thus, Ashkelon served as an important location along the sea route between Egypt and Lebanon. 

Its close proximity to the most important overland route in the Ancient Near East, a route that connected Egypt with Damascus and Mesopotamia, meant that Ashkelon could capitalize upon its location for both land and sea trade. Throughout its history it maintained this dynamic; in the Byzantine period (4th-6th centuries A.D.), wine from Ashkelon was found in England. 

Ashkelon functioned as an important site in the Middle (1950-1550 B.C.) and Late (1550-1200 B.C.) Bronze Ages. Its fortifications from the Middle Bronze period are quite impressive including an arched gate, which is one of the oldest arches in the world. In Iron Age I (1200-1000 B.C.), Ashkelon underwent a change within its material culture. 

Excavations have revealed that during this period a distinct Philistine material culture emerged. With the Philistine appearance, both pig and dog entered the diet of the people; food avoided by both the Canaanites and Israelites. Excavators have uncovered tools and elements necessary for the manufacturing of textiles. 

Two Phoenician shipwrecks discovered off the coast of Ashkelon illustrate the importance of Ashkelon for maritime trade. These vessels contained over four hundred wine amphorae. Ashkelon, like Gaza, Ashdod, and Ekron, was destroyed around 600 B.C. by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The strategic importance of the city meant that it was rebuilt in the Persian period, and it continued to serve as in important trade center through the Byzantine period. It was eventually destroyed in A.D. 1270. 

The Bible says little about Ashkelon. That was likely due to the biblical writers being unfamiliar with the cosmopolitan center of Ashkelon. The prophets Amos, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, and Zechariah denounced the city, but it did not serve as an important focus of the Bible. That, however, does not reflect the significance of this ancient site.  

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: Have You Ever Wanted to Give Up?

Have you ever wanted to give up? Jeremiah lived in troubled days. God called him to prophesy to the kingdom of Judah in the years leading up to the Babylonian invasion of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem, its Temple, and the deportation of many of its citizens to Babylon. There were other prophets in Jerusalem at this time, too, and some of them had the very opposite message to the people from Jeremiah.

Jeremiah found himself disillusioned and discouraged: “LORD, You persuaded me and I let myself be persuaded; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, because for me the word of the LORD has resulted in taunting and derision all day long” (20:7-8 NASB). The life of a prophet was not easy. 

Jeremiah had a message that no one wanted to hear. Not the king and his court, not the priests in the house of God, and not the people. He even came to the point of despising the day he was born (20:14-18). He was ready to give up. He didn’t want the call to be a prophet anymore. It separated him from those around him, including his close friends (20:10). 

Yet, when Jeremiah came to the point of no longer speaking the word of God, he found that he could not. He could not hold it in; he had to speak, even if it meant he still felt overwhelmed, isolated, and frustrated. Why? Because Jeremiah understood something: God was King and had laid claim to his life; therefore, regardless of the circumstances and what Jeremiah felt, he had to proclaim the word God had placed in him. 

Too often we want to be comfortable in our faith. We don’t want God’s call to disrupt our lives or our standing within the world around us. We don’t want to be seen as strange or weird—one of those people. The prophets of the Bible did not always fit in. God commanded them to do some strange things to convey His message. And they did it. Why? Because God is King, and they had submitted to His call. 

Of course, not every weird thing a person does makes him or her a prophet. But sometimes living in obedience to God will put us on the opposite side of our friends, family, and society. Jeremiah endured because God had called him—and because God’s message sought to redeem His people. 

Sometimes we, too, can feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and disillusioned with our faith. We may feel like Jeremiah and want to throw up our hands and walk away. In those moments, allow the word God has put in you to burn. Remind yourself that He is King, and if we commit our cause to Him (20:12), He will redeem our faithfulness.

PRAYER

Father, never let our feelings overwhelm us to the point that we give up from what You have called us to do. May Your word burn inside of us today that regardless of our circumstances, we proclaim it to our world that needs You. Amen.

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Joel Rosenberg’s Newest Book Enemies and Allies: Stepping Into Middle East History 

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Author Joel C. Rosenberg’s latest book links his front row seat to history with his page-turning style. It’s as if he stepped into one of his previous sixteen thrillers. However, his newest book is not a novel. It is real.  

Joel’s conversations since 2016 with key Arab leaders have given him first-hand observations into the seismic shifts taking place in the Middle East. Could those shifts signal peace? 

That’s one of the issues Joel C. Rosenberg addresses in his latest book, Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey inside the Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East. In an interview earlier this month on The 700 Club, Rosenberg sees two factions at work in the Middle East. The negative one is that Iran is “dangerously close” to nuclear weapons, which could lead to a “nuclear 9/11 and a second Holocaust of Israel.” The positive one is that the Abraham Accords offer evidence of “huge positive tectonic change in the region—of attitudes toward Jews, towards Israel, and towards Christians.”

Enemies and Allies—released on September 7—joins the author’s impressive output of 16 novels and four nonfiction works. This collection of interviews with key political figures of our day—culled from five years of research—offers an insider’s look at events in the Middle East, and what new alliances may mean for the future of this volatile region. In his book, Rosenberg has skillfully fashioned first-person meetings with Arab leaders into another genre—mixing groundbreaking, off-the-record conversations into an intriguing format that makes new developments in Middle East history an adventure. 

Joel’s five-year journey has taken him to meetings in royal palaces, beginning with a surprising invitation in 2016 from Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The monarch invited Joel and his wife for a five-day visit after reading Joel’s novel The First Hostage, which included the king. In describing that remarkable event, Joel says, “The king of a sovereign nation read one of my books! Check that off my ‘Things I never thought would happen’ list.” 

A series of meetings then evolved over the next several years where, by invitation, Joel organized small groups of evangelical Christian leaders to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah, United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Reading the details of how God threaded together these remarkable meetings where American evangelical leaders played a groundbreaking part in discussions is a fascinating, history-making story.

One of the most significant moments transpired in 2018, when a group met with Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi. Joel recalls, “When we sat in his palace, he told us he was going ‘to make peace with Israel.’ We were sitting on a huge news story and yet the ground rules at the time were that the conversation was off the record. We couldn’t go out and tell everybody another Arab country—the first Gulf Arab country—is going to make peace with Israel. We kept our word.” 

After his publisher sent me a copy of Enemies and Allies, I interviewed Joel via phone. We first met in 2009 at Old Ebbits Grill, a D.C. landmark eatery when I worked for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Over lunch with Joel and several of his colleagues, we enjoyed wide-ranging discussions about Israel and the Middle East. He had already penned his first novel, The Last Jihad, which was written months before 9/11 and published in 2002, as well as four other thrillers. I later invited him to speak at the annual AIPAC Christian Delegate Dinner. We’ve continued good conversations since then, running into each other at National Religious Broadcasters conventions and Christian Media summits hosted by Israel’s Government Press Office. 

Rosenberg’s resume is packed with impressive credentials. With five million books already sold, he is a New York Times best-selling author and founder of a humanitarian charity, The Joshua Fund. In 2020, he became editor-in-chief of two Middle East news websites: All Israel News and All Arab News. With his newest book, he achieves the rightly deserved descriptor of “historian.” 

I have read all of Joel’s books, some of them twice. After absorbing Enemies and Allies, it is easy for me to recommend that this non-fiction book should be required reading in every middle and high school, home school, university, mainstream media, for pastors’ sermon prep, Sunday school classes, and small group Bible studies. It is replete with facts and an extensive bibliography—a captivating discourse on recent Middle East history. 

Maintaining the confidences shared by Arab leaders, Joel has now, in timely fashion, disclosed little-known facts and conversations that took place prior to the Abraham Accords ceremony on the White House lawn on September 15, 2020. As he said in his 700 Club interview, “It’s the first book ever to take you inside those palaces—and you meet and hear on the record from some of the Middle East’s most powerful, consequential, and controversial leaders.”

In addition to the firsthand observations and discussions on politics, freedom of religion, and a new period of change within Arab countries, Joel openly maintained his fidelity to the Bible and his faith. An evangelical Christian with a Jewish heritage, Joel made Aliyah to Israel in 2014 with his wife and four sons. Now a dual American-Israeli citizen based in Jerusalem, Joel has even more depth and perspective.

About the in-person meetings themselves, Joel reflected, “Not many of us could have foreseen Arab leaders would even invite us. That would have seemed like a totally crazy idea just five years ago. We were the first delegation in the history of the United Arab Emirates ever as evangelical Christians to be invited to come and meet with the leadership.’’

It is clear that God gave favor in this and subsequent meetings. The Christian leaders who witnessed this historic moment kept their promise to Mohammed bin Zayed about the future peace. It would become the first with a Muslim nation since 1994 between Jordan and Israel. When bin Zayed’s decision was not made public, it became a cornerstone of trust for the future between Christian and Arab leaders. Mohammed bin Zayed made the announcement himself in August 2020 during a call with President Trump and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Enemies and Allies was already on the printing presses when the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan grew into a military, civilian, and diplomatic crisis. During the interview, I asked Joel what he would write in a chapter about this calamity. 

He responded, “In Enemies and Allies I emphasize that if you don’t understand the nature and threat of the evil posed by radical Islamism, you can be blindsided by it. Biden’s surrender to the Taliban movement is one of the great catastrophes in American foreign policy. It is clear that he was blindsided.” 

Joel went on to say that with one move, President Biden pulled out the “Jenga stick” and the whole game collapsed. It was a great analogy. Jenga is a game that involves building a tower out of wooden blocks, where players take turns removing a block from the tower and stacking it on top, making the structure increasingly unstable. If the tower falls apart on your turn, you will lose the game. “By doing this, Biden has emboldened our enemies and rattled our allies,” Joel asserted.

Regarding more Arab nations joining the Abraham Accords, I asked for Joel’s observations about Saudi Arabia possibly joining in. While he cannot divulge private conversations, Joel mentioned that he’s had in-depth, off-the-record discussions with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and his inner circle. “It may be a whole process that could take years, but that’s something that we should be praying for.” If the Saudis join, Joel says it would be “the mother of all peace deals.” 

Two Bible verses are wise reminders for all believers in forming relationships with others of no faith or another faith. Psalm 37:3 exhorts: “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Joel has grown into a behind-the scenes-goodwill ambassador, an informal bridge between Christians, Israelis, and Arab leaders. The breadth and depth of his newest book reveals the way that God has used his talents during world-changing events—not only to write a compelling, fact-based history book but also to wisely navigate relationships. It is refreshing that someone so prominent in the seismic shifts of Middle East history could remain a role model for humility, prayerful approaches, and authenticity. To better understand the rapidly shifting landscape in Israel and the Arab/Muslim world, read Joel’s book, ramp up your knowledge of Middle East history, and pray for the region.  

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

  • Pray that we evangelicals will follow the Lord’s lead as His ambassadors, walking in our faith prayerfully and in wisdom with an engaging approach. 
  • Pray for Arab leaders taking risks to align with Israel, resulting in benefits to their own people and standing/serving as a bulwark against their common enemy: Iran.
  • Pray for deepened cooperative relationships with Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region and beyond. 

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 now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits 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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Giving Food and Care to Elderly Jewish Widows

Starvation. Assault. Forced to sleep on the cold, wet ground. And the constant threat of death. These are the unthinkable deprivations that many Jewish children experienced as they were seized from their villages and marched to the horrors of concentration camps. No one should have to experience that brutality, then live with the nightmarish memories all their lives. 

Today, some 140,000 survivors of the Holocaust live in Israel, and the trauma of their past is only intensified by the modern-day attacks of terrorists and rockets aimed at destroying the Jewish homeland. Thousands of these survivors are widows or widowers living in poverty, with no family to count on, barely able to stretch their small stipends to cover food, medicine, rent, and electricity. And the isolation imposed by COVID-19 has made their lives even harder. 

But you and I can change this by providing essential food and care to these elderly people. Through our efficient network of ministry partners and volunteers, you can deliver food, medical assistance, home visits, and—most of all—hope to those in great need. When give your support to CBN Israel, you can provide food and care for Jewish women and men in the Holy Land who feel hopeless and alone. 

And what a difference you’ll make! These dear people often tell us that when someone delivers food packages from CBN Israel, it is like opening a window to the world, serving as a comforting reminder that they have not been forgotten. As you share God’s love with the poor and lonely, you can help fulfill the promise of Psalm 107:9, “He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

Please join us in giving food and care to elderly Jewish widows, widowers, and others in desperate need.

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Biblical Israel: Gamla

By Marc Turnage

The ancient site Gamla sits in the central Golan Heights about six miles east of the northern end of the Sea of Galilee and the Bethsaida Valley. The ancient village sat on the spur of a hill created by two streams, Nahal Gamla and Nahal Daliyyot. The spur that the village of Gamla sat on can be seen easily from Bethsaida and the Bethsaida Valley; thus, while we never find mention of Jesus in Gamla, he would have known the site. The first century Jewish historian, Josephus, describes the village and the battle that took place there during the First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66-73). 

Gamla offers an important window into Jewish village life in the Galilee and Golan during the first century. Once the Roman army of Vespasian destroyed the site (A.D. 67), it was never reinhabited, and therefore, functions as a time capsule into a first century Jewish village. The primary settlement of the site began in the Hellenistic period. It started as a Seleucid fort. The fort eventually became a village inhabited by Jews in the first centuries B.C. and A.D. 

Excavations at Gamla uncovered only a small percentage of the village, but they provide significant information about the Jewish life in the village. Towards the upper part of the hill, excavations uncovered a large olive oil press with a Jewish ritual immersion bath (mikveh) attached to it. This indicates that the inhabitants sought to prepare olive oil with concern for ritual purity. Excavators also uncovered a second large, industrial olive oil press indicating that Gamla served as a center for olive oil production exporting it to other Jewish communities. The community also seems to have grown grain and even practiced viticulture. 

Excavators uncovered the largest known urban synagogue discovered in Israel from the Roman period. At the entrance of the building, they found a ritual immersion pool. The synagogue itself consists of the main hall, with benches around the walls of the hall. The focal point being the center of the hall where the reading of the Scriptures and explication would have occurred. To the right of then entrance, in the north wall, was an inset into the wall, which most likely housed a cabinet where scrolls were kept. A small study room is also next to the main hall. 

Excavations also yielded evidence of an affluent class within the village. Painted fragments of plaster indicate the presence of wealthy homes. Finger rings and earrings, as well as gemstones and other jewelry attest to an affluence among some of the citizens. The presence of Jewish ritual immersion pools, as well as stone vessels indicate that the population of the village adhered to Jewish ritual purity. 

Excavations also attest to Josephus’ story of the fall of Gamla. Evidence of battle, destruction (including the breach in the city’s defensive wall), arrow heads and ballista balls were discovered throughout the excavations. Its destruction preserved this first century Jewish village, which offers one of the best examples of the villages known to Jesus.

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

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

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Weekly Devotional: Who Is Your God?

And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7 NKJV).

This statement is made about God more than any other in the Old Testament. If you want to know God’s character, memorize this. Internalize it. It represents the varied nature of His character and personality: merciful and gracious, forgiving, yet holy.

Our world, even within Christian circles, often wants to make God in its image. We like a loving and forgiving God, so that’s what we often focus on. The God we imagine would never judge anyone harshly. Or we want God to bring judgment quickly. However, we don’t get to make God what we want Him to be. 

This (Exodus 34:6-7) is who He is. He is merciful and compassionate. He forgives our sins, yet He also holds us accountable, especially if we do not repent. He doesn’t deal with us as we deserve, but that in no way lessens His holy and righteous demands. 

We tend to gravitate to either extreme—a loving God who tolerates everything or a harsh God who forgives little. Yet the Bible makes clear who God is. It never loses the balance of His mercy and His justice. In fact, it makes clear that you cannot have genuine mercy without justice, just as you cannot have justice without mercy. 

Unfortunately, we find ourselves swayed by our own personal preferences or what our world tells us God should be like. We look to our society to define biblical ideas like justice, mercy, righteousness, and holiness; yet these characteristics find definition in God within the Bible—how He acts and how He expects us to act. 

He is compassionate and gracious, forgiving of sins. If we want our world to see Him, then we must behave the same. He is just; we must demonstrate His justice too. That’s hard for us; we tend to go one way over the other. But God’s not like that; He keeps His mercy and justice in perfect balance. 

When God passed before Moses and proclaimed this, Moses bowed down and worshiped God. Take a moment today to let the words of this confession penetrate your heart and soul. This is who our God is.

PRAYER

Father, we stand in awe of You. You are merciful and compassionate. You are just. How mighty and awesome are You. Amen.

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Apartheid Accusations Against Israel Misplaced

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Apartheid is an ugly term with an ugly history. Dutch for “separate” or “apartness,” apartheid was the official policy of racial segregation against nonwhites as formerly practiced in the Republic of South Africa. Between 1948 and 1994, 170,000 white Afrikaners—descendants of Dutch, German and French settlers—wielded cruel policies against 40 million Black people.  

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) successfully led the resistance movement against apartheid. Arrested in 1962 and charged with treason, he remained imprisoned until 1990. In 1993, he and then-President F.W. de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize. Soon afterward, Mandela was elected as South Africa’s president, serving from 1994 to 1999. 

Just a few years later, the United Nations held the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Taking place in Durban, South Africa—called Durban I—its advertised noble theme turned into an opportunity to bludgeon Israel with  apartheid accusations. Nations, NGOs and Palestinian activists rose up against Israel, one of the most inclusive nations on earth. The anti-Israel lies were cemented at the first Durban Conference and continued in Durban II, III, and now IV, mistakenly claiming that Israel displays discrimination against the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza.

At Durban I, both PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro castigated Israel. Venomous hypocrisy was on display from Arafat, the man who had planned the 1972 Black September murders of Israeli Olympians, and from Castro, a communist who had subjugated the Cuban people for decades. The gnarled anti-Semitic roots of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement can easily be traced back to Durban I.

This week, on September 22, apartheid was once again on prominent display at the United Nations in what is called “Durban IV.” In a preparatory declaration on December 31, 2020, the United Nations Third Committee stated they would hold a one-day high-level meeting of the [United Nations] General Assembly to “commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action” at its 76th session, on the theme “Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent.”

None of the Durban conferences has ever recognized Israel as a nation filled with champions of diversity or as the only nation in the world that has brought people of African descent to freedom instead of slavery. 

Israel has rigorously acted on “equality for people of African descent.” In its covert operations beginning in 1984, Operation Moses airlifted to Israel 7,000 Ethiopians who had walked to Sudan to escape the communist dictatorship of Ethiopian Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Thousands died on the roughly 700-to 800-mile walk. The biggest airlift in Israeli history took place on May 24, 1991, when the Israeli Air Force undertook Operation Solomon. After removing the seats, Israelis used 34 planes to safely ferry 14,500 Jews to Israeli soil in just 36 hours. The Ethiopian airlifts took place from 1984 into the 1990s. In recent years, smaller groups have been flown out. 

All the huge airlifts took place before the first Durban conference. Wouldn’t it be correct in the justice genre for the United Nations to recognize Israel’s historic fidelity to the theme of “equality for people of African descent?” Ethiopians are now settled in their ancestral homeland and, as mentioned, they are citizens, not slaves. Possessing full rights, around 165,500 Ethiopians are citizens serving in all sectors of Israeli society—from Knesset to military leadership, on college faculties, in the media, and as medical personnel. 

Israel’s history reveals the true story of a nation willing to rescue those at risk while also recognizing and undertaking the initial challenges of cultural and absorption issues. Hardships, conflicts, successes, and belonging in a free country have lived side by side within the Ethiopian community. Yet the challenges do not erase the overwhelmingly inclusive character of the Jewish nation in welcoming its new Jewish citizens from across the world. 

On many of my trips to Israel, I have visited an immigrant absorption center provided for Ethiopians first coming to their modern homeland. These were centers of help to give new citizens the tools to begin Israeli life, since most Ethiopians had left agrarian villages. People at the centers taught them how to shop, turn on electric lights, speak Hebrew, and pay bills. 

I have met and interacted with—and listened to briefings from—Ethiopians from several Israeli sectors. Among them was Shlomo Molla, who served in the Knesset from 2008 to 2013 and at one point served as its deputy speaker. I met Mr. Molla at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in 2010 when I was on AIPAC’s staff as their Southeast Region Christian Outreach Director. He also spoke in my church that year. His story is remarkable and inspiring. AIPAC’s video of his talk is worth watching (view here). In it, he tells of leaving Ethiopia on foot and walking toward Sudan. He was rescued in the middle of the night in the Sudanese desert and airlifted to his new home. In one of his interviews, he described his walk into Sudan as “praying with our feet.”

If planners of any Durban Conference decided to abandon anti-Semitism, they would surely have invited Shlomo Molla to speak. Malcolm Hedding, another leader rich with his perspective about apartheid, would also deserve an invitation. 

Reverend Hedding is an acclaimed international speaker, one of the world’s preeminent scholars on biblical Zionism. He grew up in South Africa and later lived in Israel. He knows exactly what apartheid looks like and how it operates. As an Assemblies of God pastor planting numerous churches throughout South Africa, he began confronting the evil system head-on by speaking out against apartheid from the pulpit. When he came to the attention of South African authorities, he faced a coming arrest. Urged by a congregant to leave South Africa as soon as possible with his wife and three children, the pastor and his family fled to Israel. There he served as executive director of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem for 10 years. 

In his article, “Israel and Apartheid,” Hedding reflects on living in apartheid South Africa and living in Israel: “Essentially apartheid was a totalitarian system of governance … obsessed with racial superiority.” He defines the apartheid system of segregation as “Aryanism in a new form.”

In one example, he mentions that blacks could not sit on a bench designated for whites only. He notes, “There is absolutely nothing equivalent to this in the dispute that rages between the Palestinians and Israel today. Arabs, Jews, Christians, and Palestinians share the same shopping malls, benches, hospitals, theatres, and in many cases, suburbs.” He also points out the critical distinction that Israel is a democratic state, rather than being governed by a “totalitarian minority.”

Israel and the United States walked out of Durban I in 2001 and boycotted it again this year. Around thirty-two nations joined them. Indeed, the light is growing brighter; nevertheless, the hate and lies persist. 

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

  • Pray with thanks for the growing number of nations who have decided not to support the lies and slander about Israel. 
  • Pray for leaders like Reverend Malcolm Hedding for even more opportunities to speak truth about Israel.
  • Pray for Christians worldwide who support Israel to remain steadfast in their support and not grow weary. 

May we collectively reflect upon the truth of 1 Peter 3:10-11—“For whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good. They must seek peace and pursue it.”

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 now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits 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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Biblical Israel: Wilderness of Zin

By Marc Turnage

Many travelers to Israel make the mistaken assumption that the boundaries of the modern State of Israel overlap biblical Israel. Apart from the fact that even within the Bible what constitutes the boundaries of Israel shifts from period to period, the modern State of Israel does not share the same footprint as biblical Israel. 

Biblical Israel extended east of the Jordan River into the area of Gilead. The southern part of modern Israel south of the Beersheva basin, towards the Gulf of Elat, lay outside of biblical Israel; in fact, this area comprised the Wilderness of Zin and Paran. Thus, one can tour the Wilderness of Zin in modern Israel and discuss how Moses sent spies from here into the promised land (Numbers 13:21). 

So, Moses made it into the modern State of Israel, but not inside the boundaries of biblical Israel. What further compounds this confusion is the use of biblical place names within modern Israel that do not refer to the same geographic areas, for example, the Negev. Today, the Negev refers to the land south of the Hebron Hills down to Elat. In the Bible, the Negev refers to the Beersheva basin, which cuts east-west across the central hill country that continues to the south. This can be confusing to the modern traveler to Israel. 

The largest river west of the Jordan River is the Zin River, which extends from the hills south of the Beersheva basin east towards the Jordan Valley. This river does not always run with water, but around Avdat (a Nabatean trading center) springs flow into the Zin year-round. It is fitting that in this area Moses sought water for the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 20). It was here that Moses in his frustration with the people struck the rock to bring water from it rather than speaking to it as God had commanded. 

Because of his disobedience, God did not permit Moses to enter the promised land; he could only look into it from Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34). Water was essential in the dry wilderness, yet shepherds, like Moses, often herded their flocks in such inhospitable terrain. The sheep depended upon the shepherd to provide water for them; thus, shepherds became adept at finding water in seemingly waterless wastes. 

The Nabateans, a desert people, who lived in the region in the first century, whose capital was the rose red city of Petra, learned to navigate the desert by sophisticated water collection. Their water reservoirs were known only to them, which enabled them to traverse the harsh dry land and capitalize on the trade routes between Petra and the port-city of Gaza. Avdat, which sits above the Zin Valley, served as one of their stations along these desert trade routes.

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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Sukkot: Feast of Tabernacles

By Julie Stahl

“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present food offerings to the LORD, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the LORD. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work” (Leviticus 23:34-36 NIV). 

Some call this holiday a Jewish camping trip with the conveniences of home. It’s an ancient biblical command that’s still being kept today and it begins just four days after Yom Kippur. For thousands of years, Jewish people around the world have followed the biblical injunction to live in temporary dwellings during the week-long Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. 

“It helps us remember,” says Israeli Seth Ben-Haim. “First of all, we’re commanded to remember the Exodus from Egypt and how we needed to wander through the desert for forty years without permanent dwellings, but it also reminds us that even though we’ve been brought into the land of Israel, we haven’t reached our final destination,” he says. 

Sukkot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, when Jewish people were commanded to go up to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to worship. 

For seven days, families eat, sleep, study, and pray in the sukkah or “booth.” Rabbis say it must have at least three sides and the roof must be made in such a way that the stars are visible through it at night and it’s open to the elements. Most people use either palm fronds or a straw mat for the roof. And many are decorated at least in part by the children. 

“Otherwise, we’d be in the protection of our homes and the purpose of living temporarily in this flimsy tabernacle is so that we can remember that ultimately we’re under HaShem’s [God’s] protection,” says Ben-Haim. 

Another part of the Sukkot celebration is recorded in Leviticus 23:40 (NLT), where the Bible commands the Israelites to take four species of fruit from beautiful trees—a citron or Etrog, a palm branch, a bough of leafy trees (myrtle), and a willow branch and “celebrate with joy before the LORD your God for seven days.” 

Great care is taken to choose an Etrog without a blemish but with many bumps. During morning prayers each day, Jewish men wave the Lulav (the three branches) and Etrog before the Lord. 

“We wave them in many different directions, and we really look above and that’s what this type of roof helps us to remember. We’re looking above because that’s where our help is going to come from,” says Ben-Haim. 

The New Testament records that Jesus went up to Jerusalem at the Feast: The Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, so His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go to Judea so Your disciples can see Your works that You are doing.” … When the festival was already half over, Jesus went up into the temple complex and began to teach ( John 7:2-3, 14 HCSB). 

For Christians (actually the whole world), the Feast of Tabernacles has prophetic significance. In the book of Zechariah, the prophet says that one day all nations will come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast. 

Since 1980, thousands of Christians from around the world have come up to Jerusalem every year to see prophecy fulfilled and to celebrate at the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s Feast of Tabernacles event. Other Christian ministries also hold Feast celebrations now. 

“They’re following the invitation of Zechariah 14, where it says that one day all the nations will come up to celebrate this biblical feast here in Jerusalem, to worship the Lord and keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Our showing up here now for this feast is a statement of faith that there’s coming a day when the Messiah will rule here,” says David Parsons, ICEJ spokesman. 

Zechariah 14:16-18 says, In the end, the enemies of Jerusalem who survive the plague will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, and to celebrate the [Feast of Tabernacles]. Any nation in the world that refuses to come to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, will have no rain. If the people of Egypt refuse to attend the festival, the LORD will punish them with the same plague that he sends on the other nations who refuse to go (NLT). 

Holiday Greeting: Hag Sameach (“Happy Holiday!”) and during the intermediate days, Moadim L’Simcha (“a joyful holiday!”).

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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