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Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days: Sorrow and Joy, Back to Back

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

During Israel’s 2020 Memorial Day observance, Dvora Waysman, an Israeli author and syndicated journalist, observed, “Israel is a country where so many parents have been called upon to bury their children, and the earth is saturated with tears. In the whole land, there is barely a family that has not been affected in the past 72 years, which has not lost a husband, a father or a brother, or a cousin or sweetheart.”

Memorial Day, called Yom Hazikaron, is Israel’s official remembrance of the nearly 24,000 soldiers who were killed during the struggle leading to the establishment of the modern Jewish state or who have since been killed on active duty. In recent years, civilian casualties due to terrorism have been added in the totals. The Defense Ministry’s list reports that since last year’s remembrance, 43 soldiers have died—as did an additional 69 veterans from injuries sustained while serving their country.

Thus, sirens sounded once more in Israel this past Tuesday evening and then again on Wednesday morning. Nationwide, Israelis stood still or stopped their cars to honor family and friends who died defending their small nation in wars and relentless terror attacks.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF)—ground, naval, and air—are composed of citizens from all walks of life, be they Jews, Arabs, Christians, or Druze. Families and friends visit thousands of memorials and graves in the small nation. Gravestones show ages of the fallen—both men and women—at 18 and up, since military service is mandatory right out of high school for both men and women. Men serve for three years and women for two.

Israelis also mark Yom Hazikaron with lowered flags, religious and civil ceremonies, prayers at the Western Wall, and candle-lighting. Our own American military and law enforcement families and friends also grieve loved ones who sacrificed for freedoms. But Israelis have an added reality. The wars and terror are experienced in some form by every citizen, up close and personal. Their country—the Middle East’s only democracy—is in a perilous neighborhood. The hatred for the Jewish nation results in attacks on Israel’s homeland from terror enemies located on their borders with Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as Iranian forces now actively operating in Syria.

It may be puzzling for many to grasp why Israelis have placed their Memorial Day the day before their Independence Day. It strikes me as a picture of the way life really is. The Jewish Scriptures describe this in Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Israel’s national anthem, HaTikvah (“The Hope”), helps enlighten our understanding, too. In 1878, Jewish poet Naphtali Herz Imber from Galicia (now Ukraine) wrote the lyrics. The melody was composed in 1888 by Samuel Cohen, who based it on a Romanian and Moldovan folk tune. Just as the U.S. national anthem is embedded deeply into our culture and consciousness, HaTikvah is deeply embedded in Israel’s.

Holocaust survivors sang it in Bergen-Belsen on their first Sabbath after the concentration camp was liberated. Last year, when Israel was in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Defense Ministry’s Department of Family Commemoration and Legacy invited Israelis to, “Go out to your balconies, stand by your windows, and we’ll all sing the national anthem together as one.”

The lyrics are stirring and full of promise:

“As long as within our hearts

The Jewish soul sings,

As long as forward to the East

To Zion, looks the eye –

Our hope is not yet lost,

It is two thousand years old,

To be a free people in our land

The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

During the Diaspora (scattering) throughout the world, the Jewish community prayed for Jerusalem, even in the worst circumstances, holding on to the hope of living there someday. Two thousand years of prayers and hopes were fulfilled on May 14, 1948, when the modern Jewish state was born. Hopes, tribulations, and persecutions turned into joy.

That Jewish sorrow/joy continuum is evident even in wedding celebrations. Couples marry under a wedding canopy (huppah). At the end of the ceremony, the groom steps on a glass to shatter it. The custom signifies joy and sorrow in a national anguish for the beautiful building—then destruction—of the Second Temple. The Jewish people clearly understand the paradox and the realities of mourning, then celebrating. Drawing life out of death.

After the official day of mourning, Israel’s Independence Day—Yom Ha’Atzmaut—takes off into a stratosphere of joy. The celebration marks the end of the British Mandate for Palestine. Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, once stated: “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”

When Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv, he announced the name of the modern Jewish nation, calling it “Israel”—no longer “Palestine.” Hours later, at midnight, five Arab armies thrust war upon the fledgling Jewish nation. Aish.com, “the leading Jewish content website,” recently ran an article by Rabbi Ephraim Shore that includes these brief statistics about the war’s beginning, as related in A.J. Barker’s Arab-Israeli Wars:

“In less than two weeks the government created the Israel Defense Forces, merging the Haganah (the main Jewish military organization since 1920), Irgun, and Lehi. Israel had 32,000 soldiers but only one third of them had light arms, and no heavy weapons existed. Half had zero military training. Invading Arab armies boasted 270 tanks, 150 field guns, and 300 aircraft.”

Despite overwhelming military might and numbers, the war ended on January 7, 1949, with an Israeli victory. Miracles unfolded in waves that only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could have engineered.

The last 73 years of the modern Jewish state have proven the truth of Ben-Gurion’s statement. After the staggering shock of losing one-third of the global Jewish community under the Nazis, almost 7 million Jewish citizens now live in the only Jewish nation on earth. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics breaks it down: In Israel, the total population is 9.3 million; 73.9 percent are Jewish, 21.1 percent are Arab, and 5 percent are defined as “other,” which includes Christians and Druze.

Israelis will celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut much as Americans do, with family, friends, barbecues, dancing, music, and concerts. I have been in Israel on those two days when deep sorrows spilled over into the atmosphere but were then overtaken with celebrations full of fantastic Israeli food and the glittering light of fireworks. The intensity of both was evident. 

Praying for the peace of Jerusalem conveyed in Psalm 122:6-8 is a daily prayer for many Christians: “Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘May you have peace.’” Family and friends are mentioned in verse 8. Let us focus on praying for Jewish families who live with grief daily. Let us also pray for the remarkable Israelis, their vast accomplishments, their will to live, their culture of life, and their continual longing for peace.

Join CBN Israel this week in prayer as the people of Israel observe their national Memorial and Independence Days:

  • Pray with thanksgiving that the Lord has miraculously protected and preserved Israel against all odds over these past 73 years. 
  • Pray that Israelis will come to know that millions of Christians stand with them, both in their deep sorrow over their losses and their joyous celebration of Israel’s independence.
  • Pray for each branch of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), that they will have the strength and resilience necessary to protect their country.
  • Pray for a strong and stable coalition to form in Israeli politics so that the nation does not face a fifth election.
  • Pray that God would continue to use the people and nation of Israel to be a light to all nations of the earth. 

Our collective prayers for Israel in a sense reenact traditional Jewish prayers held in minyans. Ten adults compose a minyan, the minimum number needed for public prayer or to hold services at a synagogue. But ours is a worldwide minyan with intercession across every time zone. It is reasonable to assume that someone or some group is praying somewhere in the world for Israel and the Jewish people 24/7. Our prayers can take place in a group, at church, at home, or even while looking up at the stars reflecting on the promises God made to Abraham:

“And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 26:4).

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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New Immigrant Center

Every year, thousands of immigrants travel to Israel—families with children, single men and women, seniors and young people… They come to fulfill a dream: To live in the land of their forefathers and establish roots. But despite their zeal, they face great challenges. 

Many come from very different cultural backgrounds, and most do not speak the Hebrew language. It makes it very difficult for them to do even basic things, such as finding a place to live, performing banking transactions, and navigating all their paperwork.

But thanks to friends like you, CBN Israel has partnered with the New Immigrant Center in Karmiel, which offers a safe, loving, and welcoming place for these new arrivals. They get a little apartment to live in, until they find a place of their own. Students receive help getting their certificates approved. And everyone gets free Hebrew classes, and assistance filling out forms and finding work. Plus, when the global pandemic suddenly hit, we brought even more help. 

During COVID-19, when all immigrants had to be quarantined for 2 weeks, the Center made sure they had what they needed—by grocery shopping for them, and helping them stay current with filling out government forms. And we donated refrigerators for their apartments, replacing very old, unreliable appliances. These new immigrants are finding hope and a brighter future. 

And through CBN Israel, you can help others who are struggling—including single mothers, Holocaust survivors, and terrorism victims. Your support is crucial to those trying to survive in Israel. You can provide groceries, shelter, medicine, job training, and more. 

Please join us in making an important difference in the Holy Land for those in need!

GIVE TODAY

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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 barbeque (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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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 for 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: Masada

By Marc Turnage

Masada, a palace-fortress built by Herod the Great (Matthew 2), sits on the south-western shore of the Dead Sea, fifteen and a half miles south of Ein Gedi. The fortress sits atop an isolated rock plateau that overlooks the Dead Sea Valley below. This naturally fortified rock was first built on by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus (ruled from 103-76 B.C.). Herod the Great made it into a palace fortress that could provide protection if he needed to flee Jerusalem, as well as protecting the balsam industry at Ein Gedi, which provided the cash crop for Herod’s kingdom. 

Herod built two palace complexes on top of Masada, one on the western side (the oldest), and one on the north, which boasted three levels cascading down the northern slope of the rock scarp. Both had functioning Roman style baths, living quarters, storerooms, and decorations fitting for a king. Herod also had a pool on top of Masada, as well as gardens. 

Masada receives on average only an inch to an inch and a half of rainfall annually. The need for water of Herod’s luxuries on Masada required an ingenious water catchment system using gutters, the natural slope of the plateau; he also captured the rainwater that fell to the west of Masada diverting it into channels, which flowed into cisterns along the slopes of Masada. The cisterns on Masada held millions of cubic liters of water ensuring that the residents of Masada could survive along the arid shores of the Dead Sea, as well as enjoying the luxuries of the pool and bathhouses. 

Masada’s popularity derives from the story told by Josephus about the defenders of Masada during the First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66-73). According to Josephus, a group of Jewish rebels, Sicarii, led by Elezar ben Yair held up in Masada through most of the revolt. A couple of years prior to the fall of Masada, which took place on Passover of A.D. 73, this group of rebels slaughtered the Jewish community at Ein Gedi. 

Josephus tells a tale how the Tenth Roman Legion laid siege to Masada, built a ramp up its western slope (the remains of which visitors can still see), yet when they stormed the mountain, they found that the defenders had killed their families and then themselves instead of facing slavery at the hands of the Romans. Josephus provides our only account of this story, and while it offers a daring and captivating tale, it most likely did not happen in exactly that manner. Nevertheless, visitors to Masada see evidence of the lives of the Jewish rebels. 

Not needing the luxury of Herod’s royal palace-fortress, the rebels converted portions of the palaces into more serviceable and functional purposes. The room that served as the stables for the donkeys used to bring water from the cisterns below, the rebels converted into a synagogue. Archaeologists found ancient scrolls fragments from the remains of the Jewish rebels. Some fragments preserved portions of biblical books, like Ezekiel; other fragments contained portions of other ancient Jewish literature, like Ben Sira. 

Masada offers a fascinating window into the changing political landscape of the land of Israel in the first century. In this way, it enables us to understand themes and trends that we find within the New Testament.

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: The Power of Legacy

“I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, because Abraham listened to My voice and kept My mandate, My commands, My statutes, and My instructions” (Genesis 26:4-5 HCSB).

Abraham never saw the fulfillment of God’s promises to his offspring. Yet, because he listened to God’s voice and kept His commandments, God extended the covenant with Isaac and his descendants.

We tend to think about our spiritual lives through the lens of ourselves, through the finiteness of our lives. God needs to bless me. He needs to fulfill His promises to me. If Abraham had had our shortsightedness or self-focus, God could not have used him or his offspring.

Abraham, however, understood legacy. He had a role to play in God’s plan, but when his time was up, he understood that by playing his part, listening and keeping God’s commands, God would continue to bring about His plan, which would bring blessing to all humanity.

Abraham allowed God to give him a big vision of what He wanted to do through him and his offspring. And Abraham trusted God. Isaac, too, did not see the promise fulfilled, but he likewise was faithful to the vision and the promise.

In our individualistic Western society, our vision often begins and ends with ourselves, even our vision of God. Such smallness does not allow God to achieve what He desires through us. He wants us to understand the power of legacy that will benefit future generations because of our faithfulness, because we listened and kept His commandments.

What legacy are you leaving to future generations? Will God be able to renew His promises and say about you, “he or she listened to My voice and kept My mandate, My commands, My statutes, and My instructions? Think of the impact of Abraham’s faithfulness: the children of Israel, Moses, David, the prophets, Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

We are still able to participate in the blessing of God’s promises to Abraham. Why? Because Abraham listened to God and kept His word. God still wants to show Himself to our world and future generations. What legacy will we leave that will enable Him to do so?

PRAYER

Father, may we daily listen to Your voice and obey Your commandments, so that You can bless the world through our obedience for generations to come. Amen.

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Yom HaShoah: Israel Stops and Remembers 

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

“If we wish to live and to bequeath life to our offspring, if we believe that we are to pave the way to the future, then we must first of all not forget.” 

–Professor Ben Zion Dinur

Sirens sounded in Israel this morning at 10 o’clock, Israeli time. For two minutes cars stopped on the highways. Drivers stepped out and stood in silence. Crowds walking on sidewalks immediately stopped in their tracks. The nation paused together in silence and stillness as it remembers 6 million Jewish men, women, and children who died in the Holocaust. It is Israel’s annual Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, also called Holocaust Remembrance Day (Hebrew: Yom HaShoah). 

On one of my many trips to Israel, I experienced several Yom HaShoah remembrances that made a deeper imprint on my observation of a living grief that still permeates the vibrant Jewish culture. In 2012, my husband and I vacationed for a few days after one of my professional assignments with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). We had just left Independence Hall, where Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, read the Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948, to a crowd that broke out into singing and dancing in the streets. The morning siren went off as we strolled down a Tel Aviv sidewalk. We stopped, aware of the memorial day. As we stood, still and silent, everyone within our view in the streets, sidewalks, and stores was doing the same. Israel was at a standstill. The two-minute pause felt solemn. 

In 1953 the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, instituted Yom HaShoah five years after the rebirth of the modern Jewish state. The word “Holocaust” is derived from the Greek word for “sacrifice by fire.” And indeed, the meaning is terribly true. In 1933 Europe, the Jewish population numbered 9.5 million. After the Holocaust, the stunning loss of life resulted in a vastly reduced population: 3.5 million. Hitler and the Nazis had found a way to carry out genocide on an industrial scale, killing 6 million Jewish men, women, and children. The Nazis put into operation one of the most horrific death machines ever used in order to reach its satanic “Final Solution.” 

It is impossible to even estimate what the monstrous Hitler and his evil accomplices stole not only from generations of Jewish families but also from our world. We will never know the sum of contributions lost, especially from the 1.5 million children who were murdered. The lives of future musicians, artists, educators, innovators, doctors, rabbis, and scientists were snuffed out. Their abilities to bless our world died with them. 

Given the unquestionable facts, it is shocking that anti-Semitism is rising again. “Never Again,” the watchword after the Holocaust, is now morphing into “Now Again” in the United States and other nations. It’s consistently “Now Again” in the United Nations, in the International Criminal Court, and from Iran’s leaders. It cannot be ignored. Some deniers even go so far as to say the Holocaust didn’t happen. We can thank General Dwight D. Eisenhower—who later became our 34th president—for having the foresight to bring a photographer to codify evidence of the horrors when the American forces liberated the prisoners from the concentration camps. Because these photographs are evidence, the outrageous lies that the Holocaust didn’t happen were proved to be just that: lies. Eisenhower himself said the photographs were necessary so that no one could dismiss or disbelieve the terrors that took place in the camps. 

Israeli remembrances take many forms, whether in the schools or synagogues or at official ceremonies. In the United States and other nations, Holocaust remembrances will be held. Thankfully, as anti-Semitism rises, awareness and support are also expanding, in large part due to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Here, they oversee commemorating, documenting, researching, and educating about the Holocaust. Sitting on 45 acres atop Jerusalem’s Mount of Remembrance, the Center includes museums, monuments, educational facilities, and a Children’s Memorial. It also honors the Righteous Among the Nations, courageous souls who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.

Yad Vashem rests its purpose on Isaiah 56:5—“To them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.”

Visiting Yad Vashem should be included in every itinerary. The education the exhibits provide and the facts behind them bolster our ability to oppose anti-Semitism. In 2021, it’s more important than ever to keep the facts in our minds and hearts so that we are better equipped to fight the hatred.

Let’s return to 2012 and that year’s American Israel Education Foundation trip (affiliated with AIPAC). I had recruited a group of 15 Christian leaders and then staffed the trip. We were invited as VIPs to the Jewish state’s official remembrance. Among many sobering parts of the program, six Holocaust survivors were invited to light six torches positioned on the stage. The large torches represented 6 million Jews put to death. Each survivor’s story appeared on film during the moving ceremony. And each year, six other survivors are chosen to light the torches. 

One of the notables who spoke during the event was Shimon Peres, then president of Israel. He made this observation about the Israeli people: “We have gathered unusual capacities which emerged from the depths of the Holocaust and from the peaks of our legacy. We have a commitment towards the betterment of the world and respect for humanity. The strengths of our nation are concealed in its history and contained in the souls of its sons. We used to be a question mark, now we are a strong country.”

Being seated among Israeli citizens was an honor for all of us. Although non-Jews are unable to fully comprehend the grief and sense of loss about the Holocaust, our knowledge and relationships with the Jewish community can serve to motivate Christians to do good. “My Brother’s Keeper” was the theme of the ceremony the year we attended, and the event resulted in an outstanding project for one of our participants. 

Mark Jenkins, a media pastor in Richmond, Virginia, felt compelled to return to Israel every year for this state ceremony honoring the heroes and martyrs of the Holocaust. Until COVID-19 hit, he filmed each year’s ceremony, edited it, and had the Hebrew translated into English. The ceremony is now shown every year on National Religious Broadcasters media outlets and is broadcast in Finland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, the U.S., India, Indonesia, and Taiwan (which transmits into China). Correspondence also comes in from 90 other media and civic organizations as far away as Australia and Argentina. You may view it at www.anationremembers.org.

Another example of Christians elevating Holocaust Remembrance is the artistry of Pat Mercer Hutchens (1937-2014). Mrs. Hutchens based her oil paintings on black-and-white photographs from the Auschwitz Album, a 56-page album containing the only surviving photographic evidence of the extermination process from inside a concentration camp. The album documents the arrival of Hungarian Jews in the early summer of 1944 with photos of thousands of Jews disembarking on the train ramp. On their coats are the infamous yellow stars. The photographers were most likely SS officers tasked with taking photo IDs of inmates, yet that would be unusual because the Nazis were careful to keep the “Final Solution” a secret. 

When the artist first saw the black-and-white photographs, she began having nightmares and dreamed about how she could rescue children dying around her. When she awoke, she felt compelled to paint their images—in color—to preserve their memory and mark their last breath. The album’s nearly 200 photos can be viewed in Yad Vashem’s archives and on their website. Mrs. Hutchens chose 40 photos to paint. All are now featured in book form, The Auschwitz Album Revisited, and are available for sale at thejerusalemconnection.us. Even after a diagnosis of cancer, Mrs. Hutchens kept painting until she completed 40 portraits that, color aside, were identical to the black-and-white photos. A permanent exhibit is on display at the Liberty University campus in Lynchburg, Virginia.  

The DNA of the Holocaust remains in Jewish minds and hearts because of the great loss of life and all that was taken away. Despite the past, though, the Jewish community worldwide—and specifically Israelis—have determined to build a culture of life and innovation. Interestingly, in the World Happiness Report of countries, Israel ranks 14th, and among cities, Tel Aviv ranks as the world’s eighth happiest. Israelis exhibit a type of fortitude that has propelled them to draw life out of death—a remarkable example for all of us. 

On this day of Yom HaShoah, I hope the Christian community will take a few moments of silence and stillness asking the Lord how we can contribute to standing against the growing anti-Semitism across the world. Our Jewish friends need us again and we need to stand up in far greater numbers. 

Join CBN Israel in praying for the Jewish nation as they remember the Holocaust:

  • Pray for Holocaust survivors especially during this difficult week. There are 189,000 who live in Israel and roughly 500,000 worldwide. 
  • Pray for an increase in the excellent work of Yad Vashem, which is making an impact in the world to stand for what is right. 
  • Pray that increasing numbers of Christians will seek personal, unique ways to push back on anti-Semitism using the examples of the media pastor and the artist mentioned. 
  • Pray that institutions like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, first founded on justice and peace, will extend these goals to Israel, one of the most persecuted nations in the world.

As Professor Ben Zion Dinur, a former president of Yad Vashem, said in 1956: “If we wish to live and to bequeath life to our offspring … then we must first of all not forget.” Let us keep Yom HaShoah, the nation of Israel, and Jews everywhere in our hearts on this Day of Remembrance.

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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Remembering the Holocaust

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), which begins this evening at sundown. 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.

CBN Israel is also serving Israel’s last generation of Holocaust survivors, most of who are in their 90s. Today, there are about 190,000 survivors left in Israel; sadly, many are alone, and struggle to make ends meet. But we are there, providing groceries, medical and financial aid, home repairs, and during COVID-19, 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 immigrants, 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!

GIVE TODAY

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Biblical Israel: Dead Sea

By Marc Turnage

The Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, at 1,300 feet below sea level. It formerly received six million tons of water daily from the Jordan River. It forms part of the Rift Valley. It is forty-three miles long and nine miles wide. It is deepest on its northern end, at 1,310 feet deep. 

The Bible never refers to it as the Dead Sea; rather, it uses names like the Salt Sea (Genesis 14:3; Numbers 34:12), the Sea of Arabah (Deuteronomy 3:17; Joshua 3:16; 2 Kings 14:25), and the sea of foul waters (Ezekiel 47:8). The first century Jewish historian refers to it as Lake Asphaltitis (Antiquities 1:174). By the latter half of the second century A.D., Greco-Roman writers began referring to the body of water as the Dead Sea. 

Its biblical name, the Salt Sea, derives from the salt-mineral concentration within the water of about 30% (most oceans are about 3% for comparison). The density of the water enables modern tourists to float, and it also means that the water remains relatively calm. In antiquity, the sea was valued for its salt, a valued commodity in the ancient world, and the bitumen found floating on its surface. 

The saltiness of the water, as well as the salt flats around the Dead Sea, give the name, the Valley of Salt, to the land south of the Dead Sea in the Bible (2 Kings 14:7). While the waters of the Dead Sea are too salty for normal life to live, fresh-water springs and oases, like En Gedi and En Feshkah, enabled the growth of vegetation, trees, like date palms and balsam, and agriculture in the region of the Dead Sea. 

The Dead Sea divides into two parts. The boot-shaped peninsula that extends into the water from its eastern bank divides it between its northern part, approximately thirty miles long, and the southern part, about fifteen miles long, but it is only thirty to thirty-five feet deep in this area. 

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 14:1-12) resided near the shore of the Dead Sea. Biblical writers, especially the prophets, often used the imagery of the barren, arid, and salty landscape around the Dead Sea to communicate their messages. Isaiah (35) and Ezekiel (47) envision a day when the salty water of the sea will become fresh and sweet, and only the salt flats on its shores remain. 

During the time of the Bible, people used the Dead Sea for travel between the western and eastern shores. Herod the Great (Matthew 2) built two palace-fortresses, one on the western shore (Masada), and one on the eastern shore (Macherus) to protect and watch over the industry and agriculture of the region. 

Today, the mining of the minerals of the Dead Sea by the Israelis and Jordanians, as well as the restricted flow of the Jordan River into the Dead Sea, and natural evaporation is resulting in the shrinking of the Dead Sea. 

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: He Is Risen

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in gleaming clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why are you seeking the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise from the dead.’ And they remembered His words” (Luke 24:1-8 NASB).

The Romans crucified thousands of Jews in the first century; Jesus was one of them. His death on a cross was not unique. It proved to be a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23). The difference: the resurrection. Jesus walked out of the tomb.

The resurrection became the cornerstone of the New Testament message that Jesus was God’s Messiah. He “was born of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4 NKJV). When Paul stood in Athens addressing the pagan Athenians, he sought common ground to proclaim his message to them—an altar to an unknown god, quoting their poets, not quoting the Jewish Scripture—yet the one thing he could not equivocate on was the resurrection, even though Greeks found it to be foolishness (Acts 17:16-34).

The resurrection of Jesus served as God’s promise to those who are faithful that they too will participate in the resurrection at the end of the Age (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15). It also provided a powerful reversal. The crucifixion and death of Jesus left the hopes of many shattered (Luke 24:21). While Jesus died fully trusting His good and loving Father, His followers did not share the faith of their master. But God specializes in turning the dark into light, making the impossible possible, and bringing life from death.

In the resurrection of Jesus, God triumphed over the grave. He brought life from death; He turned darkness into light. He gave hope. This is why in the midst of our deepest darkness and despair, we do not lose faith. No matter how dark the night, how devastating the diagnosis, how impossible the situation, God will triumph. He will transform death into life and darkness into light; and so, we have hope. Why? Because Jesus walked out of the tomb.

The Apostle Peter firmly declares the hope we have because of the resurrection: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away” (1 Peter 1:3-4 NASB).

Even when we come to the end our lives and face our own death, we have nothing to fear. We have extraordinary hope, for ourselves and our loved ones. Why? Because Jesus walked out of the tomb.

PRAYER

Father, You are our hope. Even in our darkest moments, You bring us light and life, and therefore we trust You. Thank you for the hope we have in the resurrection. Amen.

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