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The Long-Term Effects of Palestinian Disinformation

 By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Comparing the Palestinian Authority (PA) disinformation and United States’ First Amendment is a lesson in dictatorship versus democracy. The contrast also includes Israel’s freedoms, which are set out in its Declaration of Independence to be “based on the precepts of liberty, justice, and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets.”

Unfortunately for the Palestinian people at large and for Israelis, the policies of 87-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are a lesson in what happens when a small group of people with an anti-freedom or a jaundiced agenda are in charge. Despite Palestinian “elections,” Mr. Abbas has governed Palestinians since 2005. An election was due to be held in 2009 for another four-year term, but the Palestinian Central Council decided instead to extend his term indefinitely. Thus, he has now been serving for 17 years. 

Abbas has not languished financially in his years as president. Corruption is unbridled. Worth more than $100 million, Abbas has built a 13-million-dollar mansion in Ramallah, a thriving Palestinian city of around 40,000 residents. Luxury hotels, bars, businesses, foreign diplomatic missions, and a state-of-the-art cultural center mark the more liberal society and business atmosphere of what is considered the de facto capital of “Palestine.” It is good to know that Ramallah is doing well. Nevertheless, Palestinians are growing more discontent since Abbas is denying them the right to vote and to possibly elect younger, more progress-minded leaders who want the betterment of all Palestinians. However, embedded internal conflicts between Hamas and the PA are nearly impossible to overcome. 

On the Palestinian deception front, in a 2008 presidential decree, Abbas merged the General (state) Information Service and the Palestinian News Agency into one institution called the Palestinian News & Information Agency (WAFA). Thus, Abbas’s disinformation agency is WAFA, which is a direct conduit for him. Twisting words into disinformation or speeches with best-selling conspiracy theories, though, is not new among Palestinian leaders. 

Disinformation includes an extensive list of lies about Israel based on the 1964 Palestinian Authority Charter calling for the obliteration of Israel. The Charter still contains the destruction of Israel as its goal. This encompasses not only glorifying terrorism and shahids (martyrs) but also broadcasting media disinformation and inciting emotion—with deadly results. 

One solution against such disinformation is Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), founded in 1996. An Israeli nonprofit, the PMW focuses on translating Palestinian speeches, education, books, and policies into English. Staffed by eleven native Arabic speakers, the group achieves its mandate for truth, translating as much as possible as an asset against Palestinian lies for governments, legislators, and media worldwide to correct false narratives about Israel itself and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Biden administration favors re-starting discussions about the two-state solution, yet negotiations are a relic of a failed past for both U.S. presidents and Israeli prime ministers. For example, Mr. Abbas has refused direct negotiations with Israelis since 2009 despite over-the-top concessions being offered—which he then rejected. Without a reliable Palestinian leader willing to sit down with an Israeli prime minister, any restart of peace talks is pointless. Here’s why:

Abbas’s goal is not peace. It is incitement for power through deception—much like Joseph Goebbels, who served as Hitler’s Reich Minister of Propaganda. At least, Goebbels’ title was an honest one to describe the mixture of lies against the Jewish people leading to the Holocaust. Let us examine a few of the thousands of pieces of disinformation and incitement uncovered through PMW’s skilled Arabic translators.

School children are taught to honor suicide bombers and see them as role models. A high school in Tulkarem planted a garden for them. Twenty-eight schools are named for terrorists and three for Nazi collaborators. Here’s an example of how that is done: In August 2000, a suicide bomber was led by a female accomplice, Ahlam Tamimi, to the Sbarro pizza shop in Jerusalem. Fifteen Israelis were murdered in that bombing, including seven children. Yet in 2014, a Palestinian Authority TV host sent her “best wishes” to “our glorious” prisoner. The greeting was part of a visit called In a Fighter’s Home, where the TV host visited the family of Muhammad Wael Daghlas, who planned the earlier attack, recruited Tamimi, and is currently serving 15 life sentences. 

In 2020, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Religious Affairs (which decides content for Muslim sermons) condemned the Abraham Accords, saying, “There is nothing that harms Palestine … more than making an alliance with the Jews” and that “obedience to the Jews … will lead the nation to weakness, lawlessness, humiliation and shame.”

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Palestinian media again took the opportunity to describe Israelis as Nazis and as being akin to Hitler in their treatment of Palestinians. Incredibly, they equate Zionists with Nazis.

Paying the families of terrorists (the “pay to slay” program) is still alive and well. An opinion piece in Newsweek reported that a 2019 Abbas speech given at the United Nations included these words: “Even if I had only one penny, I would’ve given it to the families of the martyrs, prisoners and heroes.” In just the first five months of 2019, the Palestinian Authority paid $66 million to terrorists and their families! I daresay the money would have benefitted the ailing Palestinian healthcare system.

Abbas’s masterful use of disinformation began early. He earned his Ph.D. in Moscow during the Cold War. The title of his dissertation was “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism.” His mentor was Egyptian-born Yassar Arafat, who manipulated the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority with such an effective use of propaganda that he shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with former Israeli Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin “for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East” after the 1993 Oslo Accords agreement. 

Peace was not part of what motivated Arafat. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA)—another excellent resource for exploring disinformation—reports that, with Abbas as his sidekick for 40 years, Arafat engineered the 1972 murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Often called the “Modern Father of Terrorism,” Arafat planned airline hijackings; bombings; the 1973 murder of the American ambassador to Sudan, Cleo Noel; and the 1985 takeover of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, where wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly Jew, was shot dead and thrown overboard. Later, he instigated the Second Intifada, where more than 1,000 Israelis were murdered. He died on November 11, 2004, in Paris. And who should succeed him in the PA? None other than his collaborator in terror, Mahmoud Abbas. 

Palestinian disinformation is disastrously effective. Anti-Semitism is marching across the world in jackboots of propaganda, in lockstep with the Nazi past. 

Do Christians have a role? Absolutely. When the world’s six hundred million evangelicals commit to educating themselves, taking a political stand, and speaking the truth about Israel and the Jewish people, we can one day stand before our Lord Jesus, a Jew, and declare that we did what we could. 

Please join with CBN Israel this week in praying that truth will prevail:

  • Pray that Christians in the U.S. will stand boldly for Israel and the Jewish people. 
  • Pray that we will have vigilance in spotting purveyors of lies and speak out against them. 
  • Pray that more media will be convicted to disseminate the unbiased truth. 
  • Pray that believers will find the courage to be political advocates for Israel. 
  • Pray for the safety of media and commentators who are truth-tellers. 

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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Biblical Israel: Second Temple Model

By Marc Turnage

The large, scale model of Jerusalem in A.D. 66 offers one of the main attractions at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Hans Kroch, who owner of the Holy Land Hotel in Jerusalem, commissioned Professor Michael Avi-Yonah and his students to create the model in honor of Kroch’s son who died in the War of Independence in 1948. Avi-Yonah provided topographical and archaeological detail and architectural design. 

For many years, the model resided at the Holy Land Hotel. Today the model is housed at the Israel Museum. When Avi-Yonah and his students began the project, the Old City of Jerusalem as well as the City of David—the area of biblical Jerusalem—lay in East Jerusalem, which was controlled by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. 

From 1948 to 1967, the city of Jerusalem was divided between West and East Jerusalem. West Jerusalem belonged to the State of Israel, while East Jerusalem belonged to the Kingdom of Jordan. East Jerusalem contained the area of biblical Jerusalem, which meant that during the period under Jordanian control little archaeological work and activity was conducted; thus, much of the archaeological information that came to light in the latter part of the twentieth century remained unknown when Professor Avi-Yonah built the model. 

This raises the obvious question: how could he have built such an accurate model of Jerusalem in A.D. 66 without the assistance of archaeological discovery? The answer lies in the rich descriptions of Jerusalem provided by the first century Jewish historian Josephus. Josephus wrote his works for a non-Jewish, Roman audience that had never been to Jerusalem. He provided such a detailed description of the city that using what they knew about the Roman world and the land of Israel in the first century, Professor Avi-Yonah and his students were able to produce this model, which contains a great deal of accuracy. While there are some mistakes within the model, it offers a testament to Josephus and his value as our greatest source on ancient Judaism and the land of Israel in the first century. 

Visitors to the model will notice three primary features. First, Jerusalem in the first century covered much more area than the modern Old City of Jerusalem (which has nothing to do with biblical Jerusalem). 

Also, the city had two principal foci. On its western edge, at the highest point of the city, stood the palace of Herod the Great. The largest of Herod’s palaces, his palace in Jerusalem played host to the wisemen (Matthew 2) and Jesus when he stood before Pilate. On the northern end of palace stood three towers, which Herod named Mariamme, Phasael, and Hippicus. On the eastern side of the city stood the Temple and the enclosure that surrounded it, which made the Temple Mount the largest sacred enclosure within the Roman world in the first century. The Temple provided the economic and religious center of the city. 

Jerusalem in the first century produced nothing; it did not sit on a major trade route. It dealt in religion. Jewish and non-Jewish pilgrims (see Acts 2) streamed into the city from all over the known world three times a year: Passover, Pentecost, and Sukkot. Pilgrims approached the Temple from the south. On top of the Temple Mount today stands the golden Dome of the Rock. To gain perspective, Herod’s Temple, the Temple that Jesus, Peter, and Paul knew, was twice the height of the Dome of the Rock. Looking at the model, visitors gain some perspective of its awesome grandeur. 

The third feature of the city is its walls. In the model, people see three different wall lines. The wall that comes from the south-eastern part of the Temple Mount surrounding the southern and western sides of the city, which turns east and connects at the western wall of the Temple Mount, Josephus calls the first wall. A large wall includes the northern neighborhoods; this is Josephus’ third wall, which was built after the time of Jesus. Inside the third wall, visitors to the model see a second wall. The first and second walls contained the Jerusalem that Jesus knew, which was twice the size of the modern Old City. 

One of the biggest challenges for guides of Jerusalem is helping their groups understand the city’s history and many layers. The model of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum offers an excellent visual, as well as a monument to the city at its height in the first century.

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: Go Into the Wilderness

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” 

Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 

So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place (1 Kings 19:4-9 NKJV).

The dry and arid wilderness south of Beersheva where Elijah traveled is harsh and inhospitable. God takes people into the wilderness in the Bible. It serves as His classroom. Yet, often before they encounter Him in the wilderness, they find themselves overcome with the despair of their situation. 

The wilderness functioned as a place of self-confrontation. Elijah came face-to-face with himself in the wilderness. How? Because in the wilderness, one meets silence. It brings you into contact with yourself. Sometimes we have to confront ourselves before we can encounter God.

Have you noticed that our world fills our lives with noise and busyness? God often had to lead the prophet outside of civilization to quiet the noise; then the prophet could hear Him. 

We don’t need much in life. We think we do, but when we lose our health, source of support, and/or shelter, we realize what really matters. The desert reduces one to the bare essentials. It returns us to soft, malleable clay that God can shape. 

There are no self-made people in the desert. Elijah had just called fire down from heaven. He ran to Jezreel before the chariot of Ahab thinking that he would have a warm reception. Instead, Jezebel threatened to kill him, so he ran to the desert. 

He needed to be reminded that a self-made person does not exist in the desert. The angel of the Lord provided His nourishment. A person who has spent time in the desert realizes how small and powerless they truly are. 

The desert can also remove our sharp edges. Once we confront ourselves, we can finally hear God—and return to allowing Him to teach and shape us. We can learn the lessons He desires to impart to us. But we have to go into the wilderness.

PRAYER

Father, no one likes the hardship of the wilderness, but that’s where You teach and shape us. May we learn what You want to impart. May we hear Your voice and grow into the servants You want us to be. Amen.

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The Nakba, the Temple Mount, and a Magnanimous Tragedy

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Last Friday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II met with President Joe Biden at the White House. Their May 13 meeting focused in part on restoring order after hostilities intensified at the Temple Mount—Judaism’s holiest site for 3,000 years, and the world’s most contentious piece of real estate.

The White House meeting took place just a week after Israel’s Independence Day (May 4) and right before May 15, the date when Arabs annually recall the re-establishment of the Jewish homeland as a “catastrophe” (nakba). Of course, Nakba did not have to be the Arab perception of that day. Had they chosen their own statehood 74 years ago, they could have marked May 15 with celebrations of success all these years. Instead, they continued to view the new Jewish homeland of Israel as a disaster, an intractable opinion that embedded itself into the Arabs’ negative generational narrative.

Indeed, Nakba rightly rests on the shoulders of the Arab League, which rejected an Arab state for their people that had been affirmed by the United Nations Partition Plan vote. Resolution 131 created two independent states—Arabic and Jewish—for two peoples. More than seven decades later, most recent U.S. presidents offer reassurances about their support for the two-state solution that could have been enacted by Arabs in 1947. 

In his meeting with Jordan’s king, Biden did the same. Although the Partition Plan was not perfect (it was more favorable for the Arabs), Jewish leaders nevertheless accepted the plan, deciding to make the best of it. The Arab refusal of the two-state solution, plus their victim mentality and hate, reflected tragically skewed thinking.  Rather than celebrating this newly bestowed independence, the Arab nations declared war on the nascent Jewish nation almost immediately—a choice that to this day has had dreadful consequences. 

The White House readout on May 13 mentioned that Biden also reaffirmed Jordan’s role as the custodian of the Temple Mount and Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. 

If the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site, one might ask why Israeli Prime Minister Bennett was not involved in the meeting between Jordan’s King Abdullah II and President Biden? After all, Solomon’s Temple was completed in 957 B.C. and the Second Temple in 516 B.C.—both clearly predating the Dome of the Rock shrine, which was completed in 692 A.D. and the al-Aqsa Mosque in 715 A.D.

The answer is found in the 1967 Six-Day War—in a consequence unwittingly brought on by Israel itself. After the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) miraculously reunited Jerusalem—their ancient capital—the soldiers were filled with awe when they touched the Western Wall. Triumphantly, they ran the Israeli flag up a pole, and the IDF chaplain sounded his shofar. Yet shortly afterward, the distinguished Israel Defense Minister Moshe Dayan made a magnanimous yet questionable decision. He ordered the Israeli flag to be taken down and gathered the Jewish leadership together. Heated discussions followed. Finally, Dayan finally won out: The Jordanian Muslim Waqf Foundation would continue its administration of the Temple Mount, with Israeli police added to monitor and provide security. 

By making sizable concessions to Muslim worshippers, Dayan believed such actions would ultimately prevent unrest and save lives. His statement at the Western Wall expressed high hopes: “We have returned to the holiest of our places, never to be parted from them again. … We did not come to conquer the sacred sites of others or to restrict their religious rights, but rather to ensure the integrity of the city and to live in it with others in fraternity.” 

Unfortunately, his laudable intentions quickly mutated into more than a half-century of controversy, violence, and defamatory Arab politics and Islamic religious fervor. The 32-acre Temple Mount remains a tinderbox of contention. Not only do Palestinian leaders claim that there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, but many Arabs also stoke the fires of hate with the blatant lie that the “al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger from the Jews.” This is libel, not fact—libel spread by Muslims wanting to unleash bloodshed against Israelis.

Moshe Dayan’s attempt at allowing religious freedom in his 1967 proposal to the Jordanians unfortunately did not have the exact intended outcomes he and others hoped for. 

Israel had won its War of Independence, although Jewish defenders in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City could not withstand the Arab League’s superior-quality weapons and greater number of soldiers. On May 27, 1948, the Jews who survived escaped to the “New City,” where Israel held on to four-fifths of the capital. Then in 1950 the Jordanians annexed east Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, again a rampage of unending conflict.

Israel has faced its own Nakba, saturated with 74 years of terror and intransigence from past (now present-day) Palestinian Arab leadership that chose victimhood instead of victory.

More of Israel’s own catastrophe had come to light when the IDF liberated the Old City in 1967. In the 19 years between the War of Independence and the Six- Day War, the Waqf Foundation had allowed unfettered destruction in most of the Jewish quarter, including 35 synagogues, with only one left standing. Jordanians desecrated the sacred Mount of Olives cemetery and used the broken stones for roads and latrines. In echoes of Nazi tactics, Jordanians also burned countless books and Torah scrolls. To be sure, in an opposite spirit, now for 55 years the Temple Mount’s Muslim structures have not been vandalized by Jews. It has been and is protected by Israeli police.

Despite Moshe Dayan’s misplaced hope, despite Jordan’s Waqf Foundation, and despite the Palestinian leadership’s unwillingness to match Israeli sacrifices and compromises for peace, Israel is indisputably a land of miracles. Seventy-four years ago, Ben-Gurion’s May 14 announcement in a small Tel Aviv art gallery enshrined God’s promises: 

“I am going to take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will rule over all of them. They will no longer be two nations and will no longer be divided into two kingdoms” (Ezekiel 37:21-22). 

Join CBN Israel this week in recalling the reliability of our promise-keeping God:

  • Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the nation of Israel, and the surrounding region. Pray for Israel’s leaders to create strategies to maintain Israel’s sovereignty.
  • Pray for the Christian community to remain steadfast in prayer and action on behalf of Israel and the worldwide Jewish community.
  • Pray for repair of Israel and Jordan’s relationship as codified in their peace treaty.
  • Pray for Palestinian leaders to accept positive influences from Abraham Accords nations.

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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Victim of Terrorism: Alexander’s Story

Alexander’s family lives in the lovely seacoast city of Ashdod, located in southern Israel. But due to its close proximity to Gaza, it has become a target of rocket attacks from Hamas terrorists. 

At age 37, Alexander is a married father with three children. Over a year ago, his family traded apartments in the same building with his mother-in-law, a move that seemed to work for all of them. They spent the next year updating and renovating the apartment, despite COVID-19 delays, and replacing everything. They were waiting until it was finished before moving in. 

One day, Alexander’s mother-in-law was coming home from work, when suddenly an emergency siren went off. She froze as a rocket hit her family’s building, destroying their home and belongings in an instant. While the family was grateful that no one was hurt, they were severely shaken by losing everything and having to start over. And Alexander’s mother-in-law was traumatized; and still experiences terrible anxiety attacks. Where could this family turn?

Thankfully, friends like you came to their rescue through CBN Israel. Compassionate donors provided emergency funds to cover food and basic essentials. They also offered the family trauma counseling, giving them comfort and encouragement to move forward. Alexander exclaimed, “Thank you for your love and kindness. You have no idea how much it means to us!”

And your gift to CBN Israel can bless other terror victims—while offering groceries, housing, financial assistance, and job training to those in need. Many in the Holy Land are barely surviving. Your gifts can bring hope and crucial aid to refugees, elderly Holocaust survivors, lone soldiers, and more. 

Please help us reach out to those in crisis situations!

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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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