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Weekly Devotional: Little Is Much

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRAYER

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

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Yom HaAtzma’ut: Israel’s Independence Day

By Julie Stahl

“Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children” (Isaiah 66:8 NIV).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Resilience of the Jewish Nation and People

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yom HaZikaron: Israel’s Memorial Day

By Julie Stahl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Biblical Israel: Shiloh

By Marc Turnage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Weekly Devotional: A King and His Servants

It’s interesting to listen to how people speak about their faith. If you pay attention, you may detect that they speak in a manner of what God has done for them. That’s not wrong. The Bible provides people’s reflections on their encounters with God. 

But if we are not careful, viewing our faith through the lens of ourselves—our own experience—can turn our faith self-centered and egocentric. We who live in Western, democratic societies can be very susceptible to this, where we focus on our liberties and treat God as if He exists for our purpose (even if we wrap it in spiritual expressions).

The biblical mind never lost sight of who God is and what our relationship is to Him. “To you I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens!” God is King. We are His servants. This is proclaimed throughout the Bible. “As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until He has mercy upon us” (Psalm 123:2, NKJV). 

Within the ancient world, the king took care of his servants, and the servants lived to do the will of their king. The Bible views the world in this way. How different would our lives be if we viewed our relationship with God more as a servant to a king, just like the psalmist? 

We sometimes yearn for such familiarity with God that we can too easily lose sight of His majesty. In our desire for relationship with Him, we can never assume equality with Him; we can never forget that He is the King, and we serve Him.

As the King of the Universe, He takes care of us. He shows mercy to us. We can cry out to Him for assistance and mercy, but we can never forget the nature of our relationship.

He is a good King; therefore, we can look to Him for mercy. We can look to Him for care and provision. But, as servants, we must always stand ready to do His will, for His will matters more than our own.

PRAYER

Father, You are our King, and we are Your servants. We look for Your mercy, and we live to do Your will. Amen. 

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Holocaust Remembrance Tour Captivates American Audiences and Hearts

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Eighty-three years ago, the steel-plated treads of 2,500 Nazi tanks clattered ominously over Poland’s border along with a million-and-a-half German soldiers bent on destruction. That same day, 2,000 warplanes flew overhead to help subdue the population. Six years later, with the liberation of Buchenwald in 1945, Europe, the Jewish community, and the world reeled as they grasped the magnitude of Hitler’s legacy: the genocide of 6 million Jewish men, women, and children.

Six million is a familiar number when describing the Holocaust. 

However, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics report, which came out in advance of Holocaust Memorial Day, provides a different way to understand the magnitude and horror of that grim period of history. When Nazis launched their first assault into Poland, the worldwide Jewish population was 16.6 million. Today, the worldwide population stands at approximately 15.2 million—a net loss of 1.4 million. It is a tragedy driven by anti-Semitism that has no end. Nevertheless, the good news is that the Jewish population within the land of Israel has grown from a low of about a half-million in 1945 to around 7 million today.

On Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah), Israelis should be seen as role models of victory, not victimhood. Their population has climbed due to hard work and determination. They have become world leaders in medicine, technology, agriculture, business, and technology. Many of Israel’s brilliant innovations are wrapped into one of their cultural values to “repair the world” (tikkun olam) with humanitarian aid and generosity. 

Another improvement to mention is that evangelicals have become more informed about the Holocaust. They want to join their voices with the Jewish community to proclaim, “Never Again.” 

In fact, evangelicals and Jews are cooperating in a variety of ways here in the United States and globally, with Holocaust education and events growing in frequency. Right now, a splendid example of such efforts is unfolding in South Carolina, where a 10-member board composed of both Jews and Christians launched an ambitious project three years ago: They planned a four-week tour in four cities and 11 smaller towns in the state. Their goal from the beginning was to use the arts to inspire and educate audiences with musical stories of hope and heroism to renew the plea of “never again.” 

The board engaged Varna International and Israel’s Violins of Hope—two artistic institutions that share much more than magnificent instrumental and vocal performances. They also entwine Holocaust stories with musical reminders that vigilance against anti-Semitism must rise and hatreds must fall. 

Violins of Hope was founded by Israeli Amnon Weinstein, one of the most respected violin makers in the world. He lovingly restores violins that were played by their Jewish owners in the concentration camps and that survived the Holocaust. In the 1930s, Weinstein’s parents made Aliyah to Israel from Poland, where he had been born. However, the Weinsteins lost 400 family members in Europe during the Holocaust. Since 1996, when Weinstein founded Violins of Hope, he and his son Avshi have skillfully restored the violins in their Tel Aviv workshop.

The Violins of Hope restorations now include more than 80 instruments, donated primarily by family members who visited his workshop. Weinstein’s work honors the memory not only of his family, but of all those who perished or survived. Played by violinists in many countries, the 80- to 100-year-old instruments sing again in concerts that have won international accolades. The Weinsteins’ private collection of Holocaust violins serves as an educational message for all ages. 

“Our violins represent the victory of the human spirit over evil and hatred,” says Weinstein.

Headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina, Varna International specializes in large-scale, artistically rich, and customized choral-orchestral concerts. Their “Songs of Life” tells the World War II story of Bulgaria, which in 1943 rescued all its 49,000 Jewish citizens from trains bound for the concentration camps. It was the largest rescue in Europe. “Songs of Life” is based on a personal story about Varna International founders Sharon and Kalin Tchonev, who commissioned the music. Kalin describes their beautiful connection. “Our passion for the Songs of Life Festival comes out of the realization that had it not been for the miraculous rescue of Bulgaria’s Jews, I (a Bulgarian) would not have my wife and son today since Sharon’s maternal grandparents were among the 49,000 Bulgarian Jews rescued during the Holocaust.” After their rescue, Sharon’s grandparents made Aliyah to Israel, where Sharon was born. 

Four prominent concerts across the state are already underway. The first concert took place last Sunday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where an audience of 1,400 people listened to a glorious concert performed by the local Long Bay Symphony. At this event, the violinists made sure the Jewish violinists who played their instruments while trapped in hell on earth were beautifully remembered since Nazis forced them to play in agony while their friends and families marched to their last moments. 

The South Carolina team also included two more inspiring additions to the four-week tour. Bulgaria’s National Folklore Ensemble—a colorful, beautifully costumed part of the production—sang with voices that seemed like previews of heaven. Featured last weekend in Myrtle Beach, and now in North Charleston on Holocaust Remembrance Day, a poignant art exhibit of 40 oil paintings is on display. Called the Auschwitz Album Revisited, the exhibit was created by Christian fine artist Pat Mercer Hutchens (1927-2014), who left a remarkable legacy. Her artwork is based on an album of stark black and white photos, The Auschwitz Album, which is the only surviving photographic evidence of Jews arriving by train from Hungary to Auschwitz, one of the most notorious Nazi death camps. She devoted herself to honoring them by recreating the photos in sensitively colored oil paintings.

South Carolinian’s Violins of Hope Board and Advisory Committee members, both Christian and Jewish, are doing what they can through the Violins of Hope tour to push back against another dark chapter of anti-Semitism. Their hope is that through the music and art exhibit (running April 18 – May 14), audiences will leave with a renewed purpose to stand up for the Jewish community, the Jewish homeland, and other communities facing challenges.

Ellen Benik Thompson, South Carolina’s Violins of Hope liaison, has voiced a memorable quote for her board’s ambitious and heartfelt project: “Violins of Hope is more than music. Their sounds bring lost dreams to life, creating beauty from ashes and strength for future generations.” 

When it comes to opposing what is wrong and standing for what is right, former Bulgarian President Plevneliev offered an important reminder. “We Bulgarians made it clear that it is within the power of the civil society and ordinary people to change history; that through unwavering determination and resolute resistance even the worst of evils may be averted. [In 1943] the Bulgarian society saved not just its Jewish population, it also saved itself.”  

 Join CBN Israel this week remembering this Bible verse in Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

  • Pray for the Jewish community to find refuge in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • Pray for Christians’ willingness to be God’s vessels of help for those who are in trouble.
  • Pray for courage among Christians to stand bravely against anti-Semitism by educating their churches and communities.
  • Pray for Israel’s vigilance during recent outbreaks of terror.

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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Israel’s National Holocaust Memorial Day

The Holocaust is etched in Israel’s national memory. Each year, its victims are honored on one special national holiday called Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day). All places of entertainment are closed. In the morning, a siren sounds across the country—and everything stops for two minutes of silence, in memory of the 6 million Jewish lives tragically lost.

Their fight for survival was shaped within the shadows and ashes of Europe’s extermination camps. And it gave those who lived the determination to firmly declare, “Never Again.”

That is why today, thanks to friends like you, CBN Israel honors their commitment. We are helping to expose and stem the tide of rising global anti-Semitism, with CBN’s broad international media platform. Through CBN News, we are sharing a biblical perspective on headlines in the Holy Land—and fighting hatred and misinformation with the truth. Plus, we are producing award-winning documentaries that share the riveting stories of Israel’s past and present.

You are also serving Israel’s last generation of Holocaust survivors, most of whom are in their 90s. Today, there are approximately 165,000 survivors left in Israel; sadly, many are isolated, lonely, and struggle to make ends meet. But you are there, providing groceries, medical and financial aid, home repairs, and safe visits with needed food, supplies, and encouragement.

You gift to CBN Israel can let these frail seniors know they are not forgotten, as well as being there for Jewish refugees, terror victims, single mothers, and others in need. So many people in Israel are living week to week.

Your support can bless them by offering food, shelter, job training, finances, and more. Please help us make a difference in this special land!

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Biblical Israel: Megiddo

By Marc Turnage

Situated in the western Jezreel Valley at the foot of the lowlands of Mount Carmel stands the ancient mound of Megiddo. It overlooks where Nahal Iron crosses through the Carmel lowlands, which provided passage for one of the branches of the most important highway in the Ancient Near East, a highway that connected Egypt via Israel’s coastline, through the Jezreel Valley, onto Damascus and Mesopotamia. Megiddo’s importance stemmed from its location guarding this most import roadway. 

Archaeological excavations have revealed twenty layers of civilization beginning in the Neolithic period until the fourth century B.C. Its strategic significance made it the stage for battles through much of its history, with Pharoah Thutmoses III in 1468 B.C., Pharoah Merneptah in 1220 B.C., Pharoah Shishak in 924 B.C., and the battle in which Josiah, king of Judah, died at the hands of the forces of Pharoah Neco in 609 B.C. (2 Kings 23:29-30). 

Megiddo’s strategic importance made it the object of Israelite conquest when the Israelites entered the land (Joshua 12:21). By the “waters of Megiddo,” the forces of Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanite forces of the king of Hazor (Judges 5:19). Megiddo fell within the territorial allotment of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11), but the Manassites could not take possession of Megiddo. It remained under the control of the local Canaanites (Joshua 17:12; Judges 1:27). 

During the United Monarchy, Solomon is said to have fortified Megiddo, along with Gezer and Hazor (1 Kings 9:15)—all three cities provided overwatch of the international coastal highway running from Egypt to Damascus and Mesopotamia. The final mention of Megiddo within the Bible is the death of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-24). Within the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., Megiddo became an administrative city of the Assyrians, but its settlement steadily declined until it was abandoned in the fourth century B.C., most likely due to Alexander the Great’s conquest of the land. 

Visitors to the site today can visit two multi-chambered gate complexes from the Bronze and Iron Ages. Two separate palace and administrative complexes have been excavated, as well as an area that contained several cultic places of worship from different time periods. The site contains the remains of horse stables, stone mangers, and an exercise corral for the horses. Kings of Israel stationed horse and chariot forces, which were the tank corps of the ancient world, at Megiddo due to its strategic location. 

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the site that has been excavated is the water system. Ancient sites, especially administrative centers like Megiddo, had to provide the water needs for the city in times of peace and war. Most ancient sites sat on hills to offer the protection of elevation from an attacking army. Springs, however, usually do not sit on hills; they are found at their base. At Megiddo, the spring sits at the bottom of the west side of the mound. To bring the water into the city, the engineers cut a square shaft through the earth within the city’s fortified walls that connected to a long horizontal tunnel (80 meters long) that had been dug to the source of the spring. This tunnel brought the water to the area where the shaft had been dug, and the shaft enabled the people in the city to descend and draw water. 

A final word should be made regarding the well-known idea that the ancient site of Megiddo had some connection with John’s mention of Armageddon in Revelation (16:13-14, 16). The usual explanation, Armageddon represents the Hebrew meaning the “mountain of Megiddo.” People will speak about the Valley of Armageddon, yet the Bible never mentions a Valley of Armageddon. This is a modern fiction, which appears for the first time in the nineteenth century. 

No ancient Church father or Christian source ever connected Armageddon with Megiddo. Moreover, as we noted, Megiddo ceased to be inhabited in the fourth century B.C. The location of the site was forgotten. The first century Jewish historian Josephus did not know of it. In fact, he relocated the death of Josiah to a town he knew on the border between Egypt and the land of Israel. The fourth century Church father, Eusebius, did not know its location, nor did he connect Megiddo with Armageddon. No one, then, knew in the first century, when John wrote Revelation, where Megiddo was. 

Finally, while Megiddo sits on a hill created by layers of civilization, it cannot be described as a mountain. Hebrew has a word for “hill,” a word that accounts for the names of places like Gibeah, Geva, and Gibeon. Megiddo is a hill, and not a mountain. Time does not permit a full explanation for what stands behind John’s Armageddon, but suffice to say, he expected the gathering point for the armies of wickedness to fight against God to be Jerusalem (Revelation 11:1-2; 14:20; and 20:9), the mountain of assembly.

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 My Neighbor?

“Just then an expert in the law stood up to test [Jesus], saying, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the law?’ He asked him. ‘How do you read it?’ He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. ‘You’ve answered correctly,’ He told him. ‘Do this and you will live’” (Luke 10:25-28 HCSB).

To Jesus’ reply, the lawyer followed up with the natural question, “And who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.

Have you ever noticed the nature of that question, “Who is my neighbor?” No matter how broad or narrow you make the circle, the question seeks to draw a line and define who’s inside and who’s outside of the line. Who are we obligated to love, and who are we relieved from loving? Jesus, however, turned the lawyer’s question around: “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers” (Luke 10:36)? In other words, it is not for us to define insider and outsider, but rather: We must go be the neighbor.

Jesus drew His inspiration for His teaching from God Himself. He recognized that God does not distinguish in His mercy, and neither can we. “But I tell you, love your enemies … so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45). Jesus saw in nature God’s mercy toward all humanity, and He calls upon His followers to imitate God: “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

But that makes us uncomfortable. We want to believe that God loves us because we’re on the inside. Of course, we want Him to love those like us because they also are inside the line—they are our neighbors. But those who hate us? God must certainly feel differently toward the evil and unrighteous, right? No—not according to Jesus. He sends His sunlight and rain on everyone. His mercy extends to all of humanity without distinction, and we must follow His example.

It’s wonderful to think about how much God loves us, but He loves our enemies the same. He calls us to imitate Him in our mercy toward them. That’s hard. But it’s what we’ve been called to do.

So, who is our neighbor? The person across the street. The foreigner and stranger in our midst. Our enemies, the people who hate us. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

PRAYER

Father, You send Your sun and rain on us all to show Your great mercy. May we be merciful as You are merciful to everyone. May we demonstrate our love for You by how we love others who are created in Your image. Amen.

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