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US and Arab Leaders: Appeasing Evil With a Palestinian State Does Not Yield Peace

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

The United States and five Arab countries are uniting in an unasked-for effort to push Israel into a worn-out and ineffectual two-state solution. The “reasoning” emerging from the United States, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates borders on the delusional. That’s because for decades, Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza have proven their aversion—their outright refusal—to negotiate with Israel.

Any blueprint for a Palestinian state side by side with Israel is also doomed, because Israel has already “been there and done that”—as witnessed by the disastrous, ongoing results of October 7. A look at the Hamas charter reveals that peace will never be an option for these terrorists, only violence. That is the only solution they will consider for Israel.

Let’s examine the implausibility of this six-nation “peace plan” in light of events during the last two decades. In 2005, Israel unilaterally—without negotiations or advice from any country—handed Palestinians a state in Gaza. At the time, Israel believed its departure would permit the rise of a well-functioning government, a “Singapore by the Sea.”

In making this magnanimous move, Israel forfeited years of hard work by its Jewish community living in Gaza. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (1928-2014) ordered Israel’s own soldiers to remove more than 8,000 Jewish citizens from the enclave. Thus, on August 15, 2005, the Israel Defense Forces began removing the Jewish community from Gaza. Jewish soldiers who were forced to evacuate the Jewish families and the families themselves shared the heartbreak as these Israelis left behind their homes, businesses, synagogues, and schools. By September 22, 2005, the last IDF soldier locked the gate to Gaza behind him.

Instead of putting this windfall to good use, the Palestinians immediately trashed everything left behind that could have provided them with jobs and food—and in 2007 they voted to put Hamas in power. Eventually, Hamas proved to be a destabilizing presence, unleashing a bloodthirsty culture of terror that roped most of the Gazan population into Jew-hatred, misery, and war.

Not one Jewish person has lived in Gaza for almost two decades.

It is imperative to recall the patience Israel has exhibited while living close to those who want to murder them. The intricately planned October 7th invasion, combined with almost two decades of life under constant threat, shows why Israelis do not now support a Palestinian state. The six nations’ leaders are morally wrong to compel Israel to a cease-fire instead of holding accountable the perpetrators—Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Hezbollah, and Iran—and requiring Hamas to lay down its arms, destroy the tunnels, and release the hostages. Following the unspeakable evil and brutality of October 7th, proposing any two-state solution or ceasefire is insulting, untenable, and unworkable.     

Evacuating its citizens in Gaza in 2005, Israel’s one-of-a-kind sacrifice for peace turned into a 19-year nightmare of rocket barrages. I have traveled to the kibbutzim many times and heard their stories of trauma. However, my admiration for their bravery and zest for life grew each time. Unbelievably, the world blamed Israel every time terrorists forced the IDF into protecting its civilians living along the Gaza Envelope.

Sderot kindergartners became accustomed to indoor play areas with reinforced concrete and steel doors. And try to imagine parenting in the context of falling rockets. Moms who are alone during the day with young children chose not to take showers for fear that the Red Alert would sound, where they could not quickly grab their children and run to their safe room. A dad driving in Sderot with his children in the backseat was forced to stop the car, jump out, open the back door, and throw himself over his children to protect them.

Palestinians devised all kinds of attacks. They destroyed Israel’s beautiful crops by launching what I call a balloon intifada, arming these innocent-looking toys with explosives that floated over to Israel and burned up crops. Parents were forced to warn their children against balloons, a formerly joyful sight, if they fell into their yards.

The class schedule for Shaar Hanegev High School in Sderot was constantly disrupted with Red Alert alarms and frantic sprints to bomb shelters. In 2012, Israel spent $27.5 million on concrete walls, reinforced windows, and architectural designs to absorb and deflect rocket fire. The necessary safety features meant students could stay put. One principal commented, “You can finally teach without constantly worrying about what to do when there is a rocket attack.” 

On October 7th, Hamas murdered 50 of Sderot’s citizens. Most of the over 30,000 residents are now living in temporary shelters and lodging. Including Israelis on the Lebanon and Gaza borders, 125,000 people from kibbutzim, towns and villages are displaced. Yet the six nations are pressuring Israel, which was the target of evil, instead of the terrorists who perpetuated that evil.

Are these wrong-headed purveyors of peace pressing or arresting the top Hamas leaders who fly in private jets and appear for media interviews? No Arab countries are willing to resettle the Gazans. Yet, they expect Israel to live next to them again after years of dealing with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Further, what Palestinian can govern a state peacefully?

Amir Tsarfati, the Israeli founder of Behold Israel, succinctly describes the Palestinian mindset via his Telegram channel: “They don’t want to live next to us—they want to live instead of us.” Tsarfati does not envision either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas signing on to any new deal that recognizes Israel’s sovereignty, despite the settled biblical facts of both ancient and modern history.

I agree, since any two-state solution is akin to the Nazis’ “final solution,” which resulted in the Holocaust. Appeasing evil does not produce peace. In human terms, any such plan is a roadmap to disaster. In the past, present, and future the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob kept—or will keep—His promises to His Chosen people.

In the meantime, I support the clear, unanimous decisions on February 18 rendered by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his war cabinet: “Israel utterly rejects international diktats regarding a permanent settlement with the Palestinians. A settlement, if it is to be reached, will come about solely through direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions.” On February 21st, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, strengthened Prime Minister Netanyahu and his security cabinet’s unanimous decision by resolving to formally oppose any imposition of a Palestinian state. The vote: ninety-nine lawmakers in favor and only 9 against. Their unity is absolutely remarkable.

Before finalizing their latest foolish plan, the six leaders should not only take note of Israel’s unity but revisit the outcome of former President Clinton’s Camp David summit in 2000 with Yassar Arafat, founder of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and Ehud Barak, former Israeli Prime Minister. Barak agreed to withdraw from 97 percent of the West Bank (the biblical heartland) and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip. Further, Barak approved a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Arafat, however, refused all offers, unwilling to accept any Israeli sovereignty anywhere.

Are the six leaders aware that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has yet to condemn the 10/7 massacres? The question of who would govern a Palestinian state remains unanswered. The question eludes the misguided two-state proponents and the polluted airways filled with Palestinian lies and evil.

Former Prime Minister Golda Meir said it best: “You cannot negotiate peace with someone who has come to kill you.” As Prime Minister Netanyahu said last weekend, “There is no alternative to total victory. And there is no way to achieve total victory without destroying those battalions in Rafah, and we will do so.”

We welcome you to join our CBN Israel team this week to pray with understanding that God’s covenants with the Jewish people are eternal. Deuteronomy 14:2 reminds us, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be His treasured possession.”

Prayer Points:

  • Pray that other nations will stop meddling in Israel’s rightful decisions to defend its homeland.
  • Pray for unity to remain within Netanyahu’s war cabinet and Israel’s citizens.
  • Pray that Jew-hating voices will grow silent.
  • Pray for Hamas to free all hostages or for IDF to miraculously rescue the remaining hostages.
  • Pray for IDF preparing for a widened war to oppose Hezbollah’s attacks from Lebanon.

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

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Victim of Terrorism: Oshri’s Story

On October 7, 27-year-old Oshri woke up early in Sderot to go fishing with his father, Eliyahu. But his dad was too tired, so he went to Zikim Beach alone. As he arrived, suddenly sirens blared, rockets flew overhead, and Hamas terrorists in boats were firing machine guns.

Panicked, Oshri and others fled to a bomb shelter. Terrorists lobbed grenades inside and gunned down everyone. A bullet went through Oshri’s arm, eye socket, esophagus, and stomach. Miraculously, he survived, but barely. Buried under dead bodies, he cried for help. No one came.

So, he forced himself to stand, and somehow began the long drive to a medical center in Ashkelon. When the police stopped him, they saw his condition, and sped him to the hospital.

Meanwhile, his family hadn’t heard from him, and feared the worst. Dodging gunfire, Eliyahu was thrilled to find his son alive at the hospital, though gravely wounded. To the staff’s amazement, Oshri quickly recovered from multiple surgeries. Yet he still has a long road ahead.

But friends like you were there for Oshri. Thanks to caring donors, CBN Israel partnered with the Jewish Agency after October 7 in a special outreach, to assist terror victims and families of hostages. They supplied financial aid for Oshri and his family, along with trauma counseling.

Your gifts to CBN Israel can evacuate war victims, and give them safe lodging, meals, trauma therapy, and more—while delivering food and essentials to those still in harm’s way.

Plus, you can provide assistance across the Holy Land to single moms, Holocaust survivors, and refugees who need our help.

You can make a difference in Israel—please join with us today!

GIVE TODAY

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Biblical Israel: Mount Carmel

By Marc Turnage

Mount Carmel is a limestone ridge that bisects the coastal plain of the land of Israel branching off from the mountains of Samaria west towards the Mediterranean coast. It is most famous as the location for the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al (1 Kings 18:19).

Today, the Carmelite monastery of Mukhraka (Arabic meaning “burned place”) remembers that event. The mountain’s geographic location along the Mediterranean coast makes it fertile for agriculture (600mm average rainfall a year), which also led biblical writers and prophets to herald Carmel as a place of agricultural abundance (Song of Solomon 7:6; Isaiah 33:9; 35:2; Amos 1:2). Its fertility, rainfall, and proximity to the Phoenician coast, just to its north, made Carmel an appropriate location for the worship of Ba’al, the Phoenician god of storms and fertility. Even after Elijah, people continued to worship Ba’al of Carmel. 

The fertility, precipitation, and location of Mount Carmel play a key role in the story of Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al. Agriculture in the land of Israel proved difficult in the ancient world. The people depended solely upon God for rain to water their fields and crops due to the topography of the land (see Deuteronomy 8; 11:10-20). 

For this reason, God promised that as long as Israel obeyed Him and His commandments, He would send rain in its season; if Israel disobeyed, He would shut the heavens, so it wouldn’t rain. The concern for rain in its season (at the appropriate time) lead the Israelites to often look also to other local deities, like Ba’al, to provide rain, just in case.

The people had turned from God by worshipping Ba’al during the reign of King Ahab, and therefore, God sent drought on the land. Elijah called the children of Israel, together with the prophets of Ba’al, to gather on Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel receives some form of precipitation 250 days a year; it sits on the southern edge of Phoenicia where Ba’al worship originated. It also provided a high place. 

Ba’al is often depicted walking on the mountains, a god of high places. The drought that God sent offered a direct challenge to the god of rain. Elijah’s challenge, the god who answered with fire was God; Ba’al’s symbol was a lightening bolt. The heart of the story lies within the geographic setting of Mount Carmel. 

Of course, after God sends the fire upon Elijah’s sacrifice, and the people turn to the Lord as God, then He sends the rain. The setting and background of this story underline the challenges of daily life faced by the ancient Israelites; these challenges that raised the fundamental question that Elijah posed to the people, “If the Lord is God, then serve Him.”

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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CBN Israel Helps Provide Courses to Equip Young Gypsies in Jerusalem for Success

By Nicole Jansezian

Perhaps one of the most marginalized groups in Israel is the Domari, an ethnic minority living in the Jerusalem area for approximately eight centuries.

Considered neither Israeli nor Palestinian, the members of this gypsy group are at the bottom of the socio-economic scale and are discriminated against even though they speak Arabic and live among the Arabs in East Jerusalem.

This generations-long prejudice has contributed to a drop-out rate from school of 40 percent and an illiteracy rate among the Dom women of 80 percent. That usually leads to low-paying jobs or, worse, unemployment.

Amoun Sleem knows this from personal experience. A Dom herself, Amoun was raised in poverty and dropped out of school after being severely discriminated against by one of her teachers. After pulling herself back up, returning to school, attaining higher education degrees and even becoming the first Jerusalem Dom to travel by plane, Amoun dedicated her life to improving the lot of other Jerusalem gypsies.

She founded the Domari Society for Gypsies in Jerusalem which offers all sorts of programs to help other Dom people succeed in today’s society.

One such program is a series of courses on cosmetics and hair that is intended to propel young people into a career that will help them support themselves and their families. CBN Israel has partnered with the Domari Society to fund several of these courses including the barber program, nails and eyebrow and eyelash design for women.

The women in the program will get their own kit that allows them to start working right away.

The knowledge and skillset are meant to equip these young people with the tools that will help them find work and maybe even open their own businesses in a trending market overcoming the obstacle of a low literacy level.

“Most of the women don’t read or write so we find something to fit the situation, what the market is looking for,” Amoun said.

The course results in practical knowledge, but Amoun said the ones for women are also focused on empowerment since women hold an inferior status in the Domari community.

“Not only will they do this job with respect, but they will build self-esteem, build confidence and at the same time, it’s a career they have,” Amoun said. “It’s something they can continue to work with afterwards and, if they love  it, that’s very important.”

Because most of the older generation is illiterate, the Domari center also offers tutoring to young gypsies who choose to stay in school.

“God gave me this work for a reason,” Amoun said. “Life is difficult as a gypsy.”

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

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Living As Light Bearers For Our Spiritual Homeland

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Following the inhumane infiltration of the Jewish homeland on October 7, an octogenarian Christian acted on a bright idea which is now shining lights into the lives of  thousands of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers.

Last weekend I interviewed the 81-year-old on the phone. As I had agreed in advance to her request for complete anonymity, I nicknamed her “Lady Bright” for this article. She has refused other media interviews, so I deeply appreciated her exclusive story. In journalism, we call it a scoop to report news of importance, surprise, excitement, originality, or—like Lady Bright’s story—secrecy.

I first found out about Lady Bright last fall when a friend called asking for a Zoom briefing, aware that I was offering updates in person or online to groups both large and small. Soon, a small group joined the Zoom meeting, where I updated them about Israel’s defensive war, an existential necessity against Hamas’s public and prideful statements about murdering every Jew. A few weeks after that Zoom update, my friend called again, this time to tell me about an exceptional mission initiated by one of the participants.

I learned enough about her remarkable acquaintance to seek a telephone interview, and my friend obliged. Kurt Kaiser’s 1969 song, “Pass It On,” expresses the heart of Bright’s mission: “It only takes a spark to get a fire going. And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone; You want to pass it on.” 

In our interview, I learned that Lady Bright felt inspired to write letters to IDF soldiers. “I figured if Jesus asked me to do this,” she explained, “He’s got a way of making it happen to bless the soldiers.” And she certainly found a way. Considered the matriarch of a group of lifelong childhood friends for 70-75 years, Lady Bright reached out to them about a letter-writing campaign. Five of her friends caught the spark to pass on love—and got to work as members of Lady Bright’s private group with “just the girls that are committed to help me.”

They composed a short letter assuring the IDF of prayers to God for their safety, and that they were simply sending love and encouragement from “people in the United States who support them”—a team of women in their 70s and 80s.

Lady Bright suffers from arthritis, so handwriting is difficult. She uses her home printer, places three letters to a page, then cuts them apart. Each letter is signed with handwritten initials to make it more personal. The team spends time and energy to sign their initials and stuff envelopes—and also helps defray costs for postage, envelopes, and outside printing. 

After one team member included her two weekly Bible study groups in this enterprise, she passed on 2,500 letters to Lady Bright. They had stuffed envelopes while studying the Bible!

In her small church in small-town America, Lady Bright is a choir member and mentioned a hymn they recently sang, “Til The Storm Passes By.” She is deeply engaged in the latest information about Israel through CBN News and prays for Israel “until the storm passes by.”

Lady Bright reached out to the Jewish Federation of North America and Friends of the IDF, asking how to send letters to the IDF. Both responded with help—and now the New York Jewish Federation has been inundated with thousands of letters to Israel’s soldiers. The federation also sends letters when staff and friends are traveling to Israel.

When the Jewish Federation asked Lady Bright why Christians are writing letters to IDF soldiers, she replied, “You are God’s chosen people. We’re just ‘step kids’ and the only way we get to God’s family is through Jesus Christ, who grafted us into your land. So, we’re honored to try and help in some way. And that’s how we feel.” Prayers are also added for the letters’ safe travel to New York’s Jewish Federation and beyond to IDF units on the ground.

Lady Bright’s mission reached the Jewish community in the United States, too. On November 7, 2023, a Jewish family in metro Atlanta was devastated by the news that Sgt. Rose Ida Lubin, a 20-year-old native of Dunwoody, Georgia, had been murdered by a terrorist while on duty as an Israeli Border Police officer in Jerusalem. Grappling with grief that hit so close to home, Sgt. Lubin’s family and Jewish community were touched when they received sympathy cards from Bright and her Christian team.

It is no surprise that Jewish organizations want to interview Lady Bright, with thousands of letters already in Israel. This amazing woman’s goal is to send 360,000 letters in all! When I asked how she arrived at that number she remarked, “Because that’s how many they called up from IDF reserves.”

However, Bright’s determination for anonymity remains firm, and it’s based on her most important goal: “We want God to get all the glory. I don’t want anything to come to me. I’m not doing it for attention or anything except these boys and girls,” says the 81-year-old.

Lady Bright revealed another way publicity could interfere with the team’s task. She shrouds her identity and the letters in secrecy because “I want to get by with as many letters as we can before anybody tries to stop us. If the wrong people find out, somebody will try to shut us down.” She mentions that the people who would be opposed to the mission outnumber her team, and she wants to keep the letters just between the soldiers and her small group who are “praying for them and asking God to keep them safe and bless them.”

Lady Bright is very aware of and attuned to the Jew hatred breaking out worldwide and here in the United States. She and her team understand that covert operations might enable the small group to better reach their goals.

President Ronald Reagan once phrased it well: “They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong.” Fighting a war simultaneously above and below ground in Gaza is the most complex terrain ever encountered by any army. However, each simple letter of prayer sent to IDF soldiers is sure to light sparks of encouragement when it is opened.

Bright and her team anticipate their final, eternal destination as they conduct their covert operation here on earth. However, Matthew 25:23 heralds a glorious truth when Jesus exclaims, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” The Bright team is now in charge of hundreds of thousands of letters! And her mission is still expanding, still growing.

How many of you reading the story of Lady Bright and her team of active senior citizens will ask the Lord what you can add to your prayers for Israel? Many options await you to send practical lights of help to the IDF, to 100,000 Israeli citizens displaced from their homes, or to help organizations aiding Israel’s elderly Holocaust survivors.

In our phone interview, Lady Bright referenced Genesis 12:3, “If you bless my people, I will bless you. If you curse my people, I will curse you.” She adds, “As Christians, we have absolutely no choice but to bless God’s people, and that’s the Jews.”

We welcome you this week to join our CBN Israel team to pray and meditate on this truth in Psalms 18:28—You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.

Prayer Points:

  • Pray with thanks for small beginnings that grow into big blessings for others.
  • Pray for God’s Holy Spirit and protection for IDF members as they fight evil in dark places.
  • Pray for IDF spouses and children for shalom and strength during these deployments.
  • Pray that Hamas will release all hostages into freedom.
  • Pray that intel coming from captured terrorists will help IDF in the complex war. 

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

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Delivering Groceries to Victims of War and Terror

Imagine living through the invasion of your neighborhood by terrorists—and then worrying about having enough to eat for weeks and months afterwards.

The war in Israel has been devastating for thousands of people across the nation. Some who survived the attacks by Hamas were evacuated away from the line of fire. But others who chose to stay (or couldn’t leave) have struggled ever since to get basic necessities.

As a result of the fighting, supply chains and routes were disrupted, threatening the local inventory of groceries in many communities. With Israel’s stores understocked, and supplies running out, hunger was a very real threat. And in areas targeted by rocket fire, many elderly and others were afraid to even venture out to shop. Where could these people turn for help?

Thankfully, friends like you were there for them. Through CBN Israel, donors were delivering nutritious food to families and seniors in need. They have made door-to-door deliveries and held distributions at multiple locations—both on the streets and inside apartment buildings.

At one location, people patiently waited well into the night for our truck to arrive. When it did, everyone pitched in to help unload and get this desperately needed food distributed to everyone.

Your gift to CBN Israel can be a crucial way to let these hurting people know they are not alone. You can provide meals, temporary shelter, trauma counseling, and more to those who were evacuated. And you can bring food, water, clothing, and other essentials for those in harm’s way.

Your support is so important—please join us in making a difference today!

GIVE TODAY

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Biblical Israel: First Century Tombs and Burial

By Marc Turnage

Bible readers find the issue of Jewish burial customs and tombs interesting due to the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. While the Gospels do not provide an exact location for the tomb of Jesus, although tradition and archaeology does support the traditional location of the Holy Sepulchre, they do offer several interesting details about Jewish burial practices and the style of tombs used in the first century. And, since Jesus was placed in a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid (Luke 23:53), the style of His tomb must have been one of two known from the first century.

Jewish tombs in the first century consisted of two types: kokhim and arcosolia. The most common being the kokhim. A kokh (singular) was a long, narrow recess cut into a rock tomb in which a body, coffin, or ossuary (bone box) could be laid. The typical kokhim tomb was hewn into the hillside and consisted of a square chamber. The entrance to an ordinary kokhim tomb was a small square opening that required a person entering to stoop. The height of the chamber was usually less than that of a person, so they often cut a square pit into the floor of the chamber. This pit created a bench on three sides of the chamber where the bodies of the deceased could be prepared. 

After the chamber and the pit were cut, the kokhim were cut level with the top of the benches and perpendicular to the wall of the tomb in a counter clockwise direction, from right to left, in every wall except the entrance wall. One to three kokhim were usually cut per wall. The kokh had roughly vaulted ceilings and were the length of the deceased or a coffin. After the deceased was placed into the kokh, a blocking stone sealed the square entrance of the tomb. Small stones and plaster helped to further seal the blocking stone. The tomb was sealed in a manner that it blended into the surrounding hillside. 

After a year, when the flesh had decayed, the bones were collected and buried into the ossuary. Once the bones were placed into the ossuary, the ossuary could be placed in a loculus (kokh) within the tomb or upon the bench or floor of the main tomb chamber. Ossuaries were made of the soft, chalky limestone (a few ossuaries were made out of clay or wood) and consisted of a box where the bones were placed and a lid. The limestone was placed into water to soften the stone, which allowed the stone to be easily carved into the ossuary. 

Originally ossuaries served one individual, so the dimensions of the ossuary were the length of the femur and the width and height of the pelvis and skull. Many ossuaries, however, contain the bones of more than one person (and not complete persons at that). Most of the ossuaries discovered bear decorations, although they can be plain. Professional craftsmen decorated the ossuaries using a compass, ruler, straightedge, carving knife, gouge, mallet, and chisel. 

Many ossuaries bear inscriptions in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. These inscriptions were not done by professional scribes, but in the semi-dark of the cave by family members, to identify the deceased. Archaeologists excavating south of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1990 discovered an ornately decorated ossuary bearing the inscription “Joseph, son of Caiaphas,” the high priest who turned Jesus over to Pilate. It held the bones of a sixty-year-old male, and in the eye sockets of the skull were two coins. The practice of secondary burial in ossuaries date from the period of the first century B.C. to the first century A.D. Jews could also bury in coffins during this period as well. 

In addition to the kokhim tomb, arcosolia tombs began to appear sporadically during the first century. The arcosolia is a bench-like aperture with an arched ceiling hewn into the length of the wall. This style of burial was more expensive since only three burial places existed within a tomb chamber instead of six or nine, as typically found within kokhim tombs. Approximately 130 arcosolia tombs have been discovered in Jerusalem and over half of them also contain kokhim. Ossuaries (bone boxes) could be placed on the arcosolia benches.

The tomb identified within the Holy Sepulchre as the tomb of Jesus was originally an arcosolium (singular) with an antechamber; however, the centuries of pilgrims and the various destructions of the church have deformed and obliterated the tomb. What visitors see today is a later structure; nevertheless, the tomb originally contained a first century arcosolium tomb. 

Burial practices reflect the values, philosophy, and religion of people. The style of tombs used by Jews in the first century differ significantly from those used in the period of the Old Testament, which reflects the development of views of death and the afterlife from the period of the Old Testament to 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: Learning Meekness

“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all the people who were on the face of the earth” (Number 12:3 ESV).

Our modern culture, even our Christian culture, celebrates strong, bold, and yes, even arrogant, leaders. Moses wouldn’t have fit. Yet God selected Moses as the vehicle of His redemption of the children of Israel—as their leader to the land He promised them.

The Hebrew word translated as “meek” also means “humble.” Meekness is not weakness; it’s humility. What made Moses so humble? He learned how to lead by being a shepherd.

We do not connect shepherding with leadership in our modern culture, but the ancient world saw shepherds as an ideal model for leaders. Gods and kings were often described as shepherds, and many leaders, like Moses and David, came from shepherding. How did being a shepherd make one a meek and humble leader?

Shepherds followed a nomadic lifestyle. They pastured their flocks wherever they could find land that provided grass and scrub. They lived on the periphery of agricultural society, as farmers did not want sheep and goats crossing through their cultivated fields. Thus, the wilderness became the home of shepherds, alone among the flocks. The wilderness areas of the Middle East, which can include deserts, pose innate dangers to a shepherd.

First, they have to deal with harsh climates that can produce scorching heat in the day and cold at night. The harsh terrain poses another set of problems, as the shepherd must navigate his or her flocks to safe places of pasture. Third, predators—both animal and human—reside in the wilderness, and it falls to the shepherd to defend the flock. Such an environment develops a number of leadership qualities.

You can almost imagine how a person surviving in such conditions could develop a self-image as a self-made individual. But the opposite is actually the case. Why? Because there are no self-made individuals in the wilderness.

The conditions prove so formidable that without the help of God and others, one cannot survive. So, how did Moses learn true humility? Through his experiences as a shepherd.

Our world does not value genuine meekness and humility, but God does. The psalmist promises that “The meek shall inherit the land” (37:11 ASV), a sentiment echoed by Jesus in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:5). Paul identified meekness as a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Do we learn humility through our life circumstances? We should.

Following God often requires us to value things not valued by our culture, to cultivate behaviors counter to the world in which we live. Moses learned lessons by shepherding flocks, a very common practice in the ancient world.

We need to allow our common, everyday circumstances to help us develop godly behaviors and attitudes in our own lives.

PRAYER

Father, may we grow in genuine meekness and humility before You and others today. Amen.

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CBN Israel Partners with Israel’s Largest Food Bank to Tackle Rising Food Insecurity and Poverty

By Nicole Jansezian

More than 20 percent of the Israeli population was living below the poverty line before the war, but now more than twice that number of Israelis fear that they are on the brink of economic hardship.

With an estimated 200,000 citizens internally displaced around the country, many have lost their jobs or have been forced to close their businesses, some temporarily and others permanently. 

Recognizing this brewing crisis, CBN Israel—which partners with several food banks and distribution centers—ramped up its assistance during this time to make sure people don’t go hungry.

Latet, one of CBN Israel’s partners, estimates that 46 percent of Israelis are concerned that their economic situation will deteriorate in the aftermath of the war. Many of these citizens are living in temporary shelters and are unable to cook a hot meal for their families, while those already living in poverty have been further impacted by rising prices in Israel.

Along with other organizations, Latet, which in Hebrew means “to give,” have been scrambling to address these issues. Latet acts as an umbrella organization to 210 municipalities and local charities in Israel. These institutions have reported a 58 percent increase in the number of families asking for assistance since October 7.

In an attempt to alleviate this growing need, CBN Israel increased its support of food security organizations. In just four months, Latet was able to distribute an additional 104,000 food packages and has been providing food to soldiers and first responders who are on the frontlines of the conflict in addition to serving its regular beneficiaries—95,000 families and 1,450 Holocaust survivors.

“Truly, we the Latet team, would like to thank you. You made us feel we are not alone in a very lonely and scary time,” Tal Avnet, head of resources development at Latet, told CBN Israel. 

Israel’s largest NGO combating food insecurity and poverty, Latet is no stranger to international crises having responded to natural disasters and civil wars around the world.

Latet also produces an annual report on the state of poverty and food insecurity in Israel taking into account various factors beyond just income but other expenses such as housing, education, healthcare, and the cost of utilities. Latet uses these details to advocate within the Israeli government on behalf of the needy.

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

Latet relies on a vast network of thousands of volunteers who help sort and pack the food that goes out of the warehouse. Thanks to CBN Israel and compassionate donors, Latet has a strong ally in the ongoing fight against rising food insecurity and poverty in Israel.

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

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