Jerusalem’s Western Wall: The Place to Post Prayers for Israel, the IDF, Hostages, and Their Families

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

The unholy terror assaults of October 7, 2023, have generated a constant flow of humanitarian aid and prayers worldwide, including kindhearted outreaches toward Israelis from evangelical Christians. Due to Israel’s necessary existential war against barbaric trespassers, visits from overseas supporters have diminished. Our prayers, however, have not.

For both Jews and Christians, the Western Wall in Jerusalem is a sacred place to pray and insert our written prayers. The Western Wall is the retaining wall of the Temple Mount, which has been the most holy site in Judaism since Solomon built the First Temple, completed in 957 B.C.  The ideal way to leave prayers in the wall is walking up to it and wedging our prayers into crevices. Doing so is spiritually unforgettable. However, whether for those who have previously stood and touched the Kotel or those who long to go to Israel for the first time, the organization Aish HaTorah (“The Fire of Torah”) will place your prayer notes in the Kotel for you.

Founded in 1974, Aish is now a vast educational institution. Their building sits directly across—and above—the plaza from the Kotel. Simply use this link. Some years ago, advances in technology first opened this digital door for prayer. Once you send your email, Aish will print your prayer in a very small font on a very small piece of paper. One of the Aish students then quickly delivers it to the Kotel and stuffs your prayer in between the holy stones. In essence, we are participating in a centuries-long tradition through another human messenger!

I invite every reader to send supportive digital prayers now and as frequently as possible. In 2005, my dear friends Earl and Kathleen Cox organized a detailed 24/7 prayer vigil at the Kotel. Visitors from many nations signed onto the prayer schedule for the year. Earl and Kathleen wound up sitting for hours when some time slots weren’t filled. Earl is the Ambassador of Goodwill to Jews and Christians worldwide, appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Their example sets a precedent for an easy digital effort.

Describing the Western Wall in Jerusalem, you may have heard the phrase, “All prayers are local.” By writing our prayers on paper, then placing the papers into a crevice, rabbis have added their perspective, observing that this action represents “having a continual prayer linked to the prime source.” Their estimate rings true with in-person prayers from millions of people a year—Israelis and visitors alike.

These moments are a reminder that no matter how deep and dark the crisis, we should offer up our highest praises for God’s sovereignty, love, and justice. Feel free to invite your children and others to add their prayers. Include personal prayers for your family and friends, as I have done many times over the years.

Here is one of the prayers I sent to the Kotel through using this link. I chose and referred to Psalm 20 under the topic of Protection and Danger to Jewish People.

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You! Your unending love for Israel and for me and my family is a treasure! Please keep police and IDF safe on the Temple Mount and Kotel area during the threats for jihad during Ramadan. I pray that ‘You will grant support from Zion… May the enemies fall, and Israel rise up and stand firm. I will shout for joy over your victory and lift up my banners to You!’”

The Kotel, a symbol and reality for the worldwide Jewish community, is engraved into the Jewish DNA. Their prayers over thousands of years toward their ancient and modern capital, Jerusalem, have continued every day—whether the Jews were scattered all over the world, trapped in the Holocaust, or (as they are today) uniting against the evil Islamic Regime and its surrogates on their borders. In the Jewish ancestral homeland, we can be grateful that the IDF is fighting evil on the front lines, since Christians are also in the crosshairs, even in the United States.

In addition to delivering our digital prayers to the Kotel, another service provided by Aish is a 24-hour live webcam of activity at the Western Wall. You can view live feed at this link. The webcam offers opportunities to view the beautiful Jewish culture through both its celebrations and its sorrows. Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations for local and international Jewish families often take place at this site. Several IDF units hold their inspiring swearing-in occasions and other related events there, such as the opening ceremony of Yom Hazikaron—Israel’s Memorial Day for its fallen soldiers. For prayers since October 7, 2023, crowds gather on the Western Wall Plaza, which can hold some 400,000 people.

Standing as Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall Plaza contains the world’s largest synagogue, houses 153 Torah scrolls, and hosts 10 million people each year. A staff of around 150 people operate out of the central hub of the Western Wall Heritage Center next to the Kotel. One example among numerous logistics, before the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) 20 workers build a giant Sukkah at the back of the plaza. The shelter holds 400 people! The staff works in quiet excellence, in shifts around the clock, day in and day out. Every detail in their myriad tasks holds with it the sacred responsibility of the Kotel.

Under the direction of rabbis, the prayer notes are removed from the Kotel twice a year—at both Rosh Hashanah and Passover. They are reverently buried on the Mount of Olives (also sacred to us in the Christian community), where Jesus ascended to heaven. As Christians, we can be grateful for the welcome given to us at the Kotel where our Lord walked, and to know our own prayers are buried with care.

Let us stand together, more than ever, with all forms of prayer, at the Kotel—digitally, in our churches, in our homes, and in our Bible studies on behalf of our spiritual homeland and our unsurpassed ally, Israel. We welcome you to join our CBN Israel prayers from Psalm 103:19—“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.”

Prayer Points

  • Pray for our Christian commitment to continue our daily prayers for Israel.
  • Pray for safety amid Ramadan, where Imams turn their main holiday into a jihad.
  • Pray for hostages still alive or for Hamas to return the bodies of those murdered.
  • Pray for Israeli fortitude to press on in unity to rid Gaza of evil.
  • Pray for valiant IDF members fighting Hezbollah in the north and terror groups operating in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

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 on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. By invitation, Arlene attends Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summits. She also hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at

Read more

Combatting Hunger and Poverty

Before the war with Hamas, more than 20 percent of Israelis lived below the poverty line. But since then, more than twice as many people have been driven to the brink of poverty. 

In fact, an estimated 200,000 citizens have been displaced throughout Israel—with many losing jobs or having to close their businesses. Some are living in temporary shelters, and unable to cook a hot meal, while others living in poverty are barely surviving with Israel’s rising prices. And local charities report a 58 percent increase in families asking for assistance since October 7.

So, what can be done for these hurting people in their time of crisis? Thankfully, friends like you have been there. Donors have enabled CBN Israel to partner with several food banks and distribution centers—and ramp up efforts to ensure these vulnerable people won’t go hungry.

One powerful partner is Latet—Israel’s largest food bank. This umbrella organization networks with 210 municipalities and local charities. In just four months, Latet distributed an additional 104,000 food packages. They have also provided food to soldiers and first responders on the frontlines, plus serving current beneficiaries—95,000 families and 1,450 Holocaust survivors.

Latet works with grocery stores and food manufacturers to salvage fresh and canned food and makes sure it goes to people in need. It also helps provide other essentials such as back-to-school equipment, hygiene boxes, and winter equipment.

And caring donors are helping to make this happen. Tal Avnet, head of resources development at Latet, is extremely grateful, saying, “Truly, we as the Latet team, would like to thank you all. You made us feel we are not alone in a very lonely and scary time.”

Your gifts to CBN Israel can give hope and aid to so many in need who feel alone. You can offer them hot meals, safe lodging, financial help, and more.

Please consider a gift to bless others!


Read more

Biblical Israel: Jordan River

By Marc Turnage

The most dramatic geographical feature of the biblical land of Israel is the scar of the Rift Valley. Created by the tectonic plates, this forms part of the Syro-African Rift, the longest scar on the face of the planet. Within the land of Israel, the Rift Valley is referred to as the Jordan River Valley because the Jordan River flows through a large portion of it. Within this valley, Lot chose to settle in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which God destroyed (Genesis 13:10).

The Jordan River begins south of Mount Hermon where three headwaters flow together to form the Jordan River. The Jordan River flows south through the upper part of the Jordan Valley, known as the Huleh Valley, then into the Sea of Galilee. It exits the lake on its southern end traveling south over sixty-five miles into the Dead Sea. Over its journey from the Sea of Galilee (656 feet below sea level) to the Dead Sea (1310 feet below sea level), the Jordan River carves a deep and winding course and meanders roughly two hundred miles over its sixty-five-mile journey. 

The Jordan River played a significant role in a number of biblical stories. The Israelites crossed the Jordan River, when it was at flood stage, to enter the promised land and began their conquest of the land (Joshua 1-4). Biblical Israel spanned both sides of the Jordan River, its east and west bank, so too did kingdoms that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah interacted with, like Ammon and Moab. 

Thus, characters in the Bible crossed the Jordan often traveling to the land on the eastern and western sides of the river (Judges 7:22-8:17; 1 Samuel 11; 31; 2 Samuel 2:24-32; 15-19). Elisha followed Elijah on his final day before being caught up into heaven across the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:6-13). After Elijah’s departure, Elisha crossed the river dividing it with Elijah’s coat. Elisha sent Naaman the Syrian to immerse himself in the Jordan River seven time (2 Kings 5:14) to cure him from his skin ailment. 

In the region of the Jordan, John the Baptist baptized Jesus (Luke 3:3). Modern pilgrims today visit a location identified as the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism near Jericho, and just north of the Dead Sea. The identification of this site began in the Byzantine period (4th-6th centuries A.D.) to enable Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem to also visit the Jordan River, which is a day’s walk from Jerusalem. The Byzantine Christians, however, did not know that Jewish ritual purity laws of the first century considered the waters of the Jordan River south of the Sea of Galilee impure for ritual immersion (Mishnah Parah 8.10-11). 

It seems unlikely, then, that John would have baptized anyone in the Jordan south of the Sea of Galilee; however, the waters of the Jordan north of the Sea of Galilee are considered pure for immersion. This geographically fits Jesus’ meeting Philip coming out of Bethsaida (on the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee) the day after his baptism (John 1:43-44). Such a meeting would have been impossible in Bethsaida the day after his baptism if Jesus had been baptized near Jericho.

The Jordan River serves as one of the central geographic boundaries and features that plays so prominently in so many biblical stories. 

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

Read more

Weekly Devotional: Coming in Last to Serve God Best

“For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13 NKJV).

The striking image Paul chose to use to describe apostles, as being exhibited last, like men sentenced to die, came from the victory processions within the ancient world, and particularly those of the Roman Empire.

After an army won a great battle or war, the conquering general led a victory procession through the streets of the capital city. Following the general’s chariot and soldiers came the spoils of war, and last of all came the prisoners of war, whose fate usually resulted in death.

In fact, as part of the victory ceremony upon arriving at the end of the procession, they often executed many of the prisoners of war. Not a very noble position or end. Yet Paul compared God’s exhibition of apostles to such a situation.

He continues contrasting the situation of the apostles with the Corinthian believers. The apostles are weak, fools, held in disrepute. They find themselves poor, yet they respond to the abuse of others with blessing. The lives of the apostles contrast with everything people tend to want in life: material substance, favor among people, a life of peace and ease.

So why did Paul choose to remain faithful to such a life? Because he understood that the best way to serve God means being last, for God will reverse the current situation of things and the last will become first. Paul understood that his faithfulness in the midst of the present reality meant future reward and blessing from God. In other words, Paul remained faithful because he kept the end in sight.

Being an apostle or prophet in the Bible was not a pleasant experience. It often meant ridicule and revilement. It meant losing in the present to win in the end. It meant sacrificing the desires of the present for obedience to God’s ultimate plans and purposes.

This is a very different outlook than our modern world has. It’s a very different outlook than many in our churches have, including some of our leaders. If your prayer is genuinely to serve God best, then trust Him with your life even if it means hardship and suffering on this side of eternity.


Father, we trust our lives into Your hands. We are Your servants, and so do with as You please. May we serve You best, even if it means our discomfort and foolishness. Amen.

Read more

CBN Israel Supports Cafe That Becomes Haven for Soldiers Heading to War in Gaza

By Nicole Jansezian

Tucked into a back alley in the industrial area of a desert city in southern Israel, Coffee Studio unintentionally found itself a popular destination after October 7.

Just days after the Hamas invasion, Anna Lane’s artistic Bohemian cafe flooded with Israeli soldiers heading to nearby military bases after being called up to fight the war in Gaza.

“There was just a huge call up of soldiers who weren’t on active duty,” Anna said. “And so, I saw this and I was like, ‘This is such a great way to support our soldiers because it happened so fast.’”

Anna joined the many Israeli businesses which began donating to soldiers and internally displaced residents. Anyone in uniform got a free meal when they showed up at Coffee Studio.

But it was more than just coffee and a meal she offered. Anna had long been cultivating an atmosphere of tranquility and refuge in her off-the-beaten path cafe.

“Living here in Israel can be very intense,” she noted. “We don’t realize it until we come into a different environment. People are always saying just how wonderful and joyful it is here (at the cafe) and I know that it’s an environment that everyone can feel comfortable in.”

“That is really been the heartbeat of this coffee shop is to give a place where people can feel like they’ve been heard or seen and just have their day elevated just a little bit,” Anna said.

When Anna decided to open her business, she learned from a Korean coffee maker who taught her to sort through the beans by hand and pick out the moldy and rotten ones. This method keeps the coffee fresher longer, she said.

She was the first and perhaps still the only coffee provider in the country that sorts beans by hand.

“I’m very proud of that. That’s what I wanted to bring to Israel,” she said.

She also learned the art of roasting.

Anna met CBN Israel during COVID when government-mandated lockdowns were bleeding her business dry. Though she pivoted and started selling her coffee and baked goods to supermarkets since she couldn’t open the cafe, she was still not making enough.

“Everything still had to be paid, all the taxes had to be paid, all the property taxes, the rent,” she said.

CBN Israel’s business development department helped Anna with a grant and some much-needed encouragement.

“To have an organization come alongside and just to be supportive and just to hear me and where I’m at in this process of running a business in Israel was so supportive and so I could just trust in it and trust in the people and the organization,” she said.

CBN Israel has also helped Anna acquire much needed equipment to run her business better including a larger coffee roaster which has enabled her to expand her business. During the war, CBN Israel also pitched in to pay for soldiers’ meals.

Yigal Miller, head of CBN Israel’s business development department, said support like this is crucial.

“Supporting businesses in times of war and crisis is necessary and existential for Anna’s establishment and, with her help, we were able to feed soldiers and give the space and time to relax, disconnect and, for a moment, enjoy delicious food, coffee and love directed towards them,” Yigal said.

Anna said that during the first weeks after the war people were dazed, somber and some would randomly start to cry. She shared with the soldiers that organizations such as CBN Israel and Christians around the world were supporting them.

“They didn’t have any words to express just how much that meant to them. Some of them would cry… some of them would just be completely dumbfounded. Some would pay it forward and pay for the next soldiers that would come,” Anna said.

Ravit Stav was on her way to drop off her son at his army base just before he was heading into Gaza. They happened upon Studio Coffee having no idea they were about to be treated to a cup of coffee.

“It’s very touching that someone cares. I will leave here feeling strengthened,” she said. “Until now I didn’t shed a tear. And today I was very emotional. It touched me deeply.”

One soldier who couldn’t be named because of his position in the army said that soldiers have always felt supported there.

“They really try to help and lend a hand to all the soldiers here. It’s a wonderful gesture,” he said. “It’s nice to see that people from abroad are also trying to contribute to us, trying to help us. Soldiers come here to be distracted and they get some quiet here and financial support.”

Nicole Jansezian is the media coordinator for CBN Israel. A long-time journalist, Nicole was previously the news editor of All Israel News and All Arab News and a journalist at The Associated Press. On her YouTube channel, Nicole gives a platform to the minority communities in Jerusalem and highlights stories of fascinating people in this intense city. Born and raised in Queens, N.Y., she lives in Jerusalem with her husband, Tony, and their three children.

Read more

Rehabilitating Modern Politics by Following Ancient Biblical Lobbyists

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Americans view politics as though it’s the 11th plague! A 2023 poll will not surprise you with its findings. Sixty-five percent of Americans say that they “feel exhausted” just thinking about politics. Only 10 percent expressed hopefulness. Evangelicals are present in both camps. However, it is estimated that 25 million evangelicals who are registered to vote, do not vote in presidential election years. Valuing our freedom to vote and reviving our responsibility to vote are essential!

This column today is not designed to fuel division. May these words simply motivate you to re-read the stories of Moses and Esther from a fresh perspective, take them to heart, vote, and tell others to vote.

The stories are familiar. After Moses’ mother placed him in the bullrushes on the Nile River, he was found by and adopted into the Pharaoh’s family. Moses’s birth mother sacrificially saved his life after Pharoah ordered the murder of male Israelite babies. God then prepared Moses with a superb education and leadership capabilities, eventually placing him, at age 80, into his divine destiny to lead the Israelites from slavery to freedom. After embracing his Jewish identity, Moses laid aside his royal Egyptian credentials. Exodus regales readers with the dramatic story of Moses then appealing to Pharoah, “Let my people go.” Controversy still exists among scholars about the Pharoah’s’ identity; some say he was Ramses II and others, Seti I.

Moses (Moshe in Hebrew) and his brother Aaron (Aharon) were persistent in pleading with Pharoah throughout the Ten Plagues that God sent to unharden Pharoah’s cruel heart. In his role as an ancient lobbyist with Aaron as his chief of staff, Moses successfully carried out God’s plan with God’s empowerment. Pause to remember; because Moses obeyed God by accepting his role to lead hundreds of thousands of Jewish slaves to freedom, God’s redemptive plan through His chosen people remains a historical fact today, a symbol of God’s eternal promises.

The birth of Esther—as with Moses—was unremarkable, although her life was nevertheless transformed by God’s miracles. Esther (Hadassah) is described as an orphan protected by her kinsman Mordecai. Esther and Mordecai were among the Jews in Judah’s Southern Kingdom who were conquered by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C. They were exiled in Babylon from their Jewish homeland. After Persia later defeated Babylon, Esther’s political career began in an unusual and unexpected way.

Angry with his wife, Persian monarch King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes I) ordered his staff to find the most beautiful women in Persia (modern Iran) to compete in a royal beauty contest where he would choose his next queen. Advised by Mordecai, Esther kept her Jewish identity secret, competed in the contest, and was crowned by Xerxes as his queen. She walked on the runway of history in prayer and bravery.

Esther’s story grows perilous when Haman, one of the king’s top officials, decides to murder the Jewish exiles—all because Mordecai, a religious Jew, would not bow to him. Mordecai secretly passed Haman’s murderous plan to Esther, wisely observing that she was born “born for such a time as this” to save their Jewish people. Esther prepared herself with a prayerful strategy and fasting. The Queen not only revealed her Jewish identity to King Xerxes, but she also reported Haman’s evil plot. Xerxes acted quickly and reversed Haman’s decrees. The Queen rescued the Jewish community scattered throughout the vast Persian empire!

God used Moses and Esther, who began life in crises, yet as His obedient vessels they lobbied powerful leaders in two different eras when Jews faced both slavery and genocide. Neither Moses nor Esther could have predicted that God would use them politically with the top leaders in Egypt and Persia. Their actions and bravery embody politics at its finest.

Theologian C.S. Lewis gave us his grand observation in Mere Christianity: “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.”

After reading about Moses and Esther advocating politically, will you commit to advocating and voting for issues dear to you in the U.S. and those that include Israel, our spiritual homeland?

The United States remains Israel’s strongest ally after October 7. God will supernaturally keep His promises to the chosen people; however, we have an opportunity to play a pivotal role in that process. Vote and advocate with your representatives in the U.S. Congress, letting them know your positions on weighty matters. Be among Christians who are an active part of hopes for our nation and for Israel—with all men, women, and ethnicities standing together. Nearly 80 years after the Holocaust, God is giving Christians a second chance to stand with the Jewish people at a turning point in world history. 

Let us follow Jesus, our Light in the darkness and obey God like Moses and Esther. May each of us take a stand here and now in our generation and advocate for what matters to God, because we were “born for such a time as this.”

Prayer Points:

  • Pray for the U.S. Congress, the U.S. administration, and Israel’s Knesset for unity on prominent issues.
  • Prayerfully consider your role in U.S. political advocacy with Super Tuesday behind us.
  • Pray for every Christian to register to vote and that every Christian registered will vote!
  • Pray for Christians to consider whom to vote for based on biblical understanding.
  • Pray for all hostages’ release, the Israeli Defense Forces, and for Prime Minister Netanyahu and his war cabinet.

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 on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. By invitation, Arlene attends Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summits. She also hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at

Read more

Helping a Nation in Trauma Find Healing

As Israelis continue to process the Hamas atrocities of October 7, which left 1,200 dead, tens of thousands displaced, and 240 as hostages in Gaza, CBN Israel has been providing trauma counseling to victims of war and terror while also preparing to deal with an expected “tsunami” of desperately needed psychological and emotional counseling in the weeks and months ahead.

“It wasn’t just those injured, and people directly affected that were impacted by this war—it affected the whole nation,” said Arik Pelled, director of CBN Israel’s Family Department.

Experts told CBN Israel that more people are experiencing increased anxiety, fear, and insecurity. And, in addition to those personally affected by the horrific attacks, an estimated 120,000 displaced residents are living in hotels or temporary shelters. Many still endure the threat of rocket fire, and every resident is bombarded with tragic news of the war regularly.

So how can a nation in trauma find healing? Friends like you are meeting that need, through CBN Israel’s partnership with the Israel Trauma Coalition—by training more therapists, introducing emergency early-intervention treatments, and building mobile therapy units. Thanks to caring donors, more people will receive trauma care, for emergency and long-term situations.

And with so many residents scattered or displaced, donors are supporting this team in creating a national call center, which can connect people to the nearest therapist in their new location.

Plus, CBN Israel has hosted workshops for Israeli therapists, to teach them an innovative method for treating and even preventing PTSD. Leading the workshops was Dr. Gary Quinn, a psychiatrist who pioneered ISP, Immediate Stabilization Procedure—a treatment that has already proved successful in Ukraine.

CBN Israel has also been building a similar program for leaders of congregations around the country and equipping them to deal with these unprecedented traumas.

This is just one way your gift to CBN Israel can share God’s love—while also offering food, housing, and more to those in need.

Please join us in blessing Israel’s people at this time!


Read more

Biblical Israel: Sea of Galilee 

By Marc Turnage

The Sea of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake on earth. It sits 600 feet below sea level. It is a lake, and not a sea; thus, the Evangelist Luke correctly describes it often as a lake (5:1; 8:22, 33). 

The Lake of Galilee sits in the Jordan River Valley, which is part of the Syro-African Rift Valley. The Jordan River flows through the lake from the north where its three headwaters converge south of the ancient site of Dan to form the Jordan River and flow south into the lake. The river continues out of the south end of the lake on its southward journey towards the Dead Sea. The modern exit of the Jordan River on the south end of the lake is not the ancient exit of the river; the modern exit was created for the dam used to regulate the flow of water out of the lake.

Hills surround the lake on its western, northern, and eastern sides. To its south, one finds the continuation of the Jordan River Valley. On its northwest and northeast corners sit two fertile valleys into which water runoff from the surrounding hills flow. The northwest valley is known as the Gennesar Valley, which the first century Jewish historian Josephus says was the name given to the lake by the locals (see Luke 5:1). The valley on the northeast side of the lake is the Bethsaida Valley, so called for the ancient site of Bethsaida, the home of Jesus’ disciples Peter, Philip, and Andrew, which was located in the valley along the shoreline of the lake. 

The Bethsaida Valley, while fertile, has three large water tributaries, including the Jordan River, flow through it, which made it more challenging for travel by foot. Two of these tributaries flow out of the Golan Heights feeding the water of the lake along with the Jordan River. Between the Gennesar Valley and Bethsaida Valley ninety-five percent of Jesus’ ministry recorded in the Gospels took place. He fed the 5,000 in the Bethsaida Valley (Luke 9:10). Within this area, one finds the villages of Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida, which Jesus cursed (Luke 10:13-16). 

South of the Gennesar Valley sits the modern city of Tiberias, which was built by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, in the year 19-20 A.D. Antipas moved his administration from Sepphoris to Tiberias, which was where he resided during the ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist. 

The lake itself provided a fishing industry for the locals. The water off the Bethsaida Valley provided excellent fishing, especially for the local tilapia. People used the lake not only for fishing, but also for travel. Both Josephus and the Gospels indicate that people traveled around the lake by boat much more than they did by foot.

The Gospels record the sudden storms that occur on the lake. The topography of the surrounding hills and canyons create wind funnels across the lake, particularly the northern part of the lake. Storms on the Lake of Galilee are serious, especially the wind storms that blow in from the east off the Golan Heights down onto the lake. The easterly wind storms that hit the land of Israel are quite severe, and even in the present day, can cause damage to property and agriculture, even the loss of life. These easterly winds are known as sharkia, from the Arabic “shark” (east). They are most prevalent from October-May. They turn the lake’s waters into churning, violent swells, easily 10 to 12 feet high. 

The Lake of Galilee provides the setting for many of the stories in the Gospels, sayings and actions of Jesus. On its shores, He taught the people about the kingdom of Heaven and performed many miracles. 

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

Read more

Weekly Devotional: Behold Your God

Life can often distract us. It might be the unrelenting stress and busyness within our own lives, the whirlwind of anxiety often generated by a 24-hour news cycle, or the latest novelty being presented as the solution to our problems. We find ourselves consumed by the cares and worries of this world, and God gets lost in the distraction.

These are the real threats the modern world poses to our faith: the increasing demands on our valuable time, the constant worry over the chaos in our world, and the allure of comforts and conveniences that give us the illusion of self-reliance.

Each of these traps can cause us to lose sight of God, and we slowly fail to recognize the truth that “the Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28).

Keeping our faith in this modern world means choosing daily to expand our vision beyond our current situation or surrounding events and gazing into eternity, to the One who created everything. It means fixing our eyes on the God who has held the oceans in His hand, who has measured off the heavens with His fingers, who knows the weight of the earth, and who has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale (Isaiah 40:12).

Being a person of faith, however, does not simply mean acknowledging that God is our Creator. God is not merely the cause of all existence; He provides meaning to it. He is far more than a first cause; He is the author of love, truth, and life. “With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, and informed Him of the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:14). The answer: no one.

He rules over all creation: “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22). He elevates and brings low. He raises kings, nations, and leaders, and He also humbles and casts them down. But He never loses sight of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, and the weary. Instead, He is the one who strengthens them and lifts them up.

Our modern world so often captivates us with anything and everything that will steal our focus. If we’re not careful, we can spend our lives so consumed by the cares and worries of this world that we miss the opportunity to live with the hope and perspective that God is on the throne and that He is in control. God rightly challenges all of His people with the question, “To whom then will you compare Me that I would be his equal?” (Isaiah 40:25).

Living with true faith in the modern world means clearing away all of the distractions and beholding our God who is the source of love, truth, meaning, purpose, hope, and life. It means that we live each and every day in awe and wonder of Him—and Him alone.    


Father, overwhelm us with Your timeless and awesome presence. May we live each and every day in awe and wonder of You. No one is like You. May we never lose sight of that. Amen.

Read more

CBN Israel Sponsors Five New Bomb Shelters Allowing Children to Go Back to Daycare

By Nicole Jansezian

Israelis desperate to return to routine since the Israel-Hamas war broke out in October encountered many obstacles not the least of which was whether buildings were equipped with bomb shelters.

Ilanit Gindi, who runs a private nursery school serving more than 100 children in central Israel, discovered this when she wanted to reopen a few weeks after the war began. Israel’s Homefront Command prohibited her and many others from operating their schools because they didn’t have protected spaces.

Daycare in Israel is not government subsidized for kids up to 3 years old, and so most of these private establishments do not have the advantage of public benefits such as bomb shelters.

“In order to install two bomb shelters in each nursery it would cost me hundreds of thousands of shekels,” Ilanit said. “And if I had to do it on my own, I would not be able to open the day care.”

Near the coast in central Israel, Rishon LeZion was one of the heaviest bombed cities absorbing the third highest number of rockets in the weeks after October 7.

“Rishon LeZion was under fire and it was extremely dangerous,” said the manager of Gan Anglit (English Daycare). “There were many missiles that impacted the city, and we were even hit here. We found a large piece of shrapnel on one of the climbing toys.”

With the weight of the situation and her son being called up to reserve duty to the war in Gaza, Ilanit realized she was sinking into depression and determined she needed to get back to work.

“I started to think of ways I could reopen for the kids, their parents, and my staff,” she said.

Ilanit found a less-than-ideal temporary solution, renting rooms in a community center. But with cramped space she had to limit the number of staff and hence the number of children that could come back. That also meant less income despite higher expenses.

Alice, head of CBN Israel’s Victims of Terror department, empathized with these parents’ concerns—especially since she herself is a mother of two young children.

Alice has long been part of CBN Israel’s efforts to provide bomb shelters in public spaces throughout Israel. But building five bomb shelters for private daycares presented some new and interesting challenges.

She learned an important lesson: Not all bomb shelters are created equal.

“The rockets that are being fired into central Israel from Gaza—60 to 80 kilometers away—are much heavier and stronger than the ones being fired into the Gaza envelope, which is only 7 to 10 kilometers away.”

Because Rishon LeZion is much further from the Gaza border, the construction of these bomb shelters did not fit the typical formula.

“We had to have the shelters custom made in order to achieve a certain thickness of the walls. The shelters had to have air filters, AC, and electricity. All of the bomb shelters have to be built to a certain standard to meet the requirements of the Homefront Command,” she said.

In fact, these new bomb shelters were so much heavier than usual the installation also required cranes to lift them over buildings and into place.

But the installation was a game changer for dozens of families and an entire neighborhood.

“From the moment that Alice said this is possible, I felt for the first time in a long time that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and smile and be happy again,” Ilanit said.

CBN Israel enabled many families to return to work with renewed peace of mind, Alice noted.

“Parents want to feel safe and want to know their kids are safe,” she said. “The emotional burden of sirens and war and the fear is overwhelming. I praise God and thank every CBN Israel partner for thinking of the kids here and the families here.”

Ilanit said the shelters will also provide protection for the neighbors who live nearby in unprotected homes.

“I feel so safe now and I’m not worried,” she said. “If something happens, my staff are protected, and the parents will not be worried. This gives me enormous confidence to open the daycare every morning and to be able to ensure the protection of everyone—the children and my staff.”

Despite coming under frequent rounds of rocket fire in the south and the north, some 60% of Israeli apartments do not have a shelter, according to a real estate database in Israel.

Nicole Jansezian is the media coordinator for CBN Israel. A long-time journalist, Nicole was previously the news editor of All Israel News and All Arab News and a journalist at The Associated Press. On her YouTube channel, Nicole gives a platform to the minority communities in Jerusalem and highlights stories of fascinating people in this intense city. Born and raised in Queens, N.Y., she lives in Jerusalem with her husband, Tony, and their three children.

Read more