Christian Coalition

In 2005 a team of Christians traveled to Israel to join the Jewish people at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount to pray for eight hours each day for that entire year asking G-d to make peace in Jerusalem and seeking His protection for the tiny Jewish state. Soon another Christian prayer team will arrive at the Western Wall again praying for eight hours each day for blessings to be upon Israel and her people; the people G-d Himself calls the “apple of His eye.”

In reading the Book of Psalms in the Bible, it’s interesting to discover that so many of the Psalms include prayers to G-d for the peace of Jerusalem and the Israel of that day. Though penned long ago, they sound as if they were written for today. In the days of the Psalmist David, Jerusalem was obviously in some peril and surrounded by enemies. David continually begs G-d to keep his country safe and free.

Each day hundreds and even thousands of Israeli men and women go to the Western Wall to pray. If you ask them what they are praying for they will tell you, “For our country, for G-d to keep us safe so that we can live with our families and communities in peace.”

Christians stand with the Israeli people in these prayers. We also plead with our G-d, whom we acknowledge to be the G-d of Israel, to keep the lone Jewish nation strong, free and prosperous.

It’s amazing to review how G-d has fulfilled His Biblical prophecies concerning Israel over the past centuries. The Jewish people were dispelled from their own country and dispersed around the world in the first century as punishment for worshiping idols and for their rebellion against the terms of the special covenant G-d made with them as His chosen people. But G-d, as He said He would, helped the Jewish people to retain their identity and He eventually brought them back to their ancient homeland. And 68 years ago, in 1948, He restored their ancient nation.

G-d promised through His Biblical prophets that He would bless the restored nation of Israel causing it to flourish and promising that they would never again be removed from off their land which is their rightful, G-d given, inheritance. G-d also said that, "The desert would blossom as the rose," and Israeli agriculture today is a marvelous development. The same is true of Israeli industry, its economy and its government. In so many ways, Israel is definitely a miracle nation.

Christians the world over rejoice with the Jewish and Israeli people over what G-d has done for Jerusalem and for all the land of Israel and her people. G-d has truly blessed Israel but the best is yet to come.  The Bible says Israel will one day be a light unto all the nations and The L-rd will rule and reign from Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel.

 

Numerous prophecies have been fulfilled over the last century, but one of the most exciting is Isaiah 43: 5-6. In that passage, the Lord is speaking through the prophet Isaiah, declaring that He will bring the descendants of Israel from the east, the west, the north, and the south.

 

Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
Bring My sons from afar,
And My daughters from the ends of the earth—

(Isaiah 43:5-6, NKJV)

The partial return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland after the first exile took place under the Persian Empire and was largely from the northeast. We read about it in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra. However, Isaiah 43 describes perfectly the second return of the Jews to their homeland which took place after being dispersed to the ends of the earth over a period of 2,000 years. This return to the land, known today as Aliyah, has taken place over the last 150 years and includes several waves of immigration.

The earliest waves of Aliyah back in the 19th century emanated from Russia. But, once the modern State of Israel was founded in 1948, a large wave of immigrants came to Israel from the Muslim world. They were called Mizrahi, or “Eastern,” Jews. Almost overnight the majority of Israel’s population was from “the East.”

Then, in 1989-1990, the world witnessed the amazing moment when the Iron Curtain fell and the Jews of Russia were allowed to immigrate to Israel. After years of persecution, and even imprisonment for wanting to move to Israel, it was as if the Lord said to the land of the North: “Give them up!” Over the next decade a wave of some one million Jews left the land of the North for Israel. Today, one in five Israelis are Russian speaking. 

This brings us to the wave of Aliyah from the South. The very existence of Ethiopian Jews is extraordinary, but the story of their journey to Israel is nothing short of a miracle. In spite of poverty, civil war, and dictatorial governments, some 100,000 Ethiopian Jews, claiming descent from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, have now come home to Israel.

 

Now is the Time

The final wave of Ethiopian Aliyah is now in progress following the Israeli government’s approval for the absorption of the last 9,000 Jews from Ethiopia. But the process will take years and they face increasing danger as escalating conflicts in the region put them at great risk.

Anti-government demonstrations, ethnic conflict in the northern part of Ethiopia where the Jewish Ethiopians live, and fighting in nearby South Sudan where some Ethiopian Jewish refugees are stranded is causing instability and limiting options.  There is also a severe drought which some predict may be followed by severe floods this fall.

Because of the worsening security situation, the Jews waiting in transit camps for their departure to Israel are in what some have called “mortal danger.”

 

Bring Them Home! 

Christians today have the privilege of not just watching prophecy being fulfilled, but of being a part of it! In Isaiah 43, the Lord says that He is the one who will bring the Jews back from around the world. Then, in verse 6, He commands us to, “Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.

That verse is a clear directive to bring the exiles back to their homeland! In response, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is helping to bring these precious Ethiopian Jews home to Israel. 

 

Susan M. Michael is the US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  The ICEJ has helped over 120,000 Jews to make Aliyah. For information on how you can help go to www.icejusa.org/ethiopia.  

 

 

 

Following the Israeli investigation of Mohammed El Halabi for being a terrorist, it was disclosed that El Halabi had been a life-long member of the Islamic terrorist organization known as Hamas. Why is this important?  Because El Halabi is World Vision’s director of their Gaza branch. While in detention, El Halabi reportedly confessed that in 2004 he was tasked by Hamas to “infiltrate an international aid organization and exploit its resources.” It was learned in the investigation that El Halabi was diverting tens of millions of dollars annually to the militant arm of Hamas to fund military salaries, dig tunnels to terrorize Israel and buy arms. It was also learned that high ranking Hamas officials had been pilfering money for themselves. Is anyone really surprised?

World Vision is one of the largest charitable Christian organizations in the world. It is based in the USA and has been supposedly serving the world’s poor and needy since 1950. World Vision raises millions upon millions of dollars annually from well-meaning donors.

The people of Gaza are in need of humanitarian aid but it’s because their government is top-heavy with corruption. Those who need the aid are receiving barely a fraction of what is being reported to the world.  Based on this report, it is very likely that many unsuspecting charities are funding terrorism instead of feeding the poor. Yet, in spite of there being a serious humanitarian need in Gaza, Hamas is siphoning funds and is also reported to be providing a safe haven and medical aid for ISIS members.  Hamas, the government of the Palestinians living in Gaza, is sending out mixed signals to the world and Israel seems to be the only country which recognizes this and is not afraid to act. The rest of us are being duped.

Since it is now known that Hamas has successfully infiltrated a well-known Christian charity such as World Vision and diverted significant amounts of financial resources into the hands of terrorists, are we in the United States so naïve as to think that those NGOs - those humanitarian aid organizations contracted by the U.S. government to resettle Syrian refugees into quiet, suburban communities often under the cover of darkness and to the reported tune of $1,000.00 per person - have not also been infiltrated by terrorists such as ISIS?  The U.S. government is actually relying on these NGOs to perform background checks and fully vet the refugees.  Talk about the “fox guarding the hen house!” It’s hard to believe but it’s true.  The mainstream media in the United States is not reporting on this but the information is readily available on the internet from very credible international news sources.  We need to cast a wary eye on these “charities” otherwise we will be complicit in the demise of America as we know it.  World Vision was blindsided. How many others? It seems impossible that El Halabi could have been acting alone. A large organization such as World Vision has accountants and bookkeepers and checks and balances in place.  El Halabi had to have been very crafty otherwise how could they not have known something was amiss when there was no appreciable change in the living conditions of the Palestinians despite having been given huge sums of money for humanitarian aid?  Perhaps there are more infiltrators at the top of the corporate chain in this charity and if here, then surely also in others.  Hamas was simply given huge sums of money without any accountability. Although Hamas is the recognized government of the Palestinians living in Gaza, it is also a recognized terrorist organization and by definition any terrorist organization is a criminal organization. Who would expect any terrorist organization to provide truthful accountability even if asked to do so? For this reason, how could World Vision have so naively provided humanitarian funds without proper investigation of its resource allocations?  Is the U.S. government guilty of the same lack of oversight?

All charities and especially those operating under the Christian banner have a moral and fiduciary responsibility to handle donor funds with the utmost care and prudence. World Vision’s antennae should have been raised from the beginning. The people they were trusting are Islamists; a group that is steeped in Islam’s code of conduct which “allows” the criminal activity of stealing and lying when doing so to an infidel.  Who is an infidel?  Anyone who is not Muslim. Infidels may be lied to and stolen from with impunity and if Islam will ultimately benefit from such immoral and criminal behavior, then such behavior is even encouraged. Shocking but true and it is common knowledge around the world but those who live in the West seem to be “thick-headed.”  We tend to think that everyone is playing from the same set of rules and with the same moral standards and values and this will be our downfall. 

Fundamental Islamic organizations operate like well-oiled machines.  They have a plan to conquer and establish a world-wide caliphate and they are at work everywhere putting their plan into action – even in small town, Middle America.  News such as Hamas hijacking a well-meaning humanitarian organization will not be embarrassed by this discrediting revelation. The only lessons they and others like them will learn is to be better practiced and more clandestine in the art of deception. 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light... (Isaiah 9:2)

The common application of Isaiah 9:2 is a spiritual one in which the “people who walked in darkness” are those who lived prior to Christ and without knowledge of His saving power. While that is a valid spiritual application, this verse is actually referring to the people of a specific geographical area: the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, known as the Galilee of the Gentiles.

Upon them a great light would shine when, according to verse 6, “unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Jesus is the light that would one day shine upon the Galilee, according to Isaiah.

 

Jesus’ Ministry in Galilee

Galilee had become largely gentile after 722 B.C. when Assyrian forces exiled most of the Israelites and replaced them with pagan and idolatrous Assyrians causing spiritual darkness to fall over the region. While many Jews had returned to the area and repopulated it over the centuries, significant idolatry remained and was encouraged by subsequent Greek and Roman invaders.

In chapter four of his gospel, Matthew explains that Jesus conducted the bulk of His ministry in the Galilee in fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1-7. Just as Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and His return from refuge in Egypt (Hosea 11:1) was a fulfillment of prophecy, so was his upbringing in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23) and subsequent ministry in the Galilee.

Jesus travelled throughout the Galilee healing all manners of sickness, opening blind eyes and deaf ears, raising the dead, and casting out demons. It was on the Sea of Galilee that He performed two of His most dramatic miracles: stilling the storm and walking on the water.

 

Walking Where Jesus Walked

Tourists today can visit the archeological remains of some of the cities in which Jesus ministered. The remains of the first century synagogues in those cities are of the most exciting finds, because one can be fairly certain Jesus visited, and even preached in, them. Both Mark and Matthew say that He preached in all the synagogues of the region.

The synagogue visible today in Capernaum dates to the third century, but it is built over the remains of the first century synagogue that Jesus likely taught in. Another incredible find there is the possible home of Simon Peter. We know Jesus visited this home and on one occasion healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. It is even possible He lived there while in Capernaum.

Mark 1:29 tells us that Peter’s home was very near to the entrance to the synagogue. Archaeologists have uncovered a first century home in that area with a number of indications to its historical significance. The house had eleven coats of plaster on the walls indicating it was a special place that had been well cared for over a long period of time.

The threshold stone is broken but never replaced indicating someone important may have stepped on that stone, and numerous pieces of wall plaster have writing on them referring to Jesus as Lord, the Most High, the Savior, and Messiah, while three of them mention Peter himself. A fifth century church was built over the site indicating it was known by the locals as Peter’s home which had been frequented by Jesus.

 In nearby Magdala, a first century synagogue has been uncovered where visitors can see the very floor Jesus may have walked on. Another exciting find in that synagogue is an altar or stone table that is the earliest known artistic depiction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus probably rested the Torah scroll upon this stone table as He taught.

 

The Three Impenitent Cities

While these archaeological finds are exciting and help us to imagine the life and ministry of Jesus, they are also a stark reminder of what happens when light is rejected. Darkness remains.

Matthew refers to Capernaum, Korazin and Bethsaida as the cities in which most of Jesus’ miracles were performed. Yet, Jesus rebuked these three impenitent cities and said that if the mighty works which had been done in them were done in the gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon, or the sinful city of Sodom, they would have repented. He then declared that judgment would result and Capernaum would be “brought down to Hades” (Matthew 11:20-24).

All three cities were destroyed by a series of earthquakes between the fourth and eighth centuries and remain in ruins to this day. What a powerful reminder of Jesus’ words that “everyone to whom much is given, much will be required.” Those privileged to have enjoyed the light of His presence in their midst, and witnessed the miracles He performed, would suffer judgment for rejecting that light.

To better understand the words of Jesus one must read the scriptures in their geographical, historical and cultural context. Thankfully, the Israeli government safeguards archaeological finds and holy sites, so Christians can visit them and not just recount, but experience, the words and ministry of Jesus on a whole new level.

 

Susan M. Michael is US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem www.icejusa.org. This article is seventh in a series to introduce Israel and various biblical sites of interest to the Christian reader. For information on ICEJ tours to Israel: www.icejusa.org/tours

Burning of Israeli and US Flags outside the DNC

Many of us were shocked to see images of Israeli and American flags being burned outside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, July 26. The angry protestors shouted “Long live the Intifada” in reference to the violent Palestinian uprisings against Israeli sovereignty.Why would these protestors, most of whom are disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters, burn an Israeli flag in a protest against the corruption of DNC leaders? 

Many of Sanders’ supporters are college students who have been indoctrinated by extremist professors propagating lies about Israel and attempting to lay blame at Israel’s feet for all of the ills of the world. Once limited to college campuses, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement they have nourished is now going beyond the campus. Mrs. Clinton has previously promised to take the fight against the BDS movement to the campuses of America, but it looks like that fight has already come to her.

Shifting Party Lines

I grew up in Kentucky, a Democratic state at the time, and my father was a Democratic State Representative for over ten years. But, the Democrats I grew up around are all voting Republican these days: Both US Senators from Kentucky are Republican as are five out of six US Congressmen. This shift is indicative of a move by the Democratic party farther to the left than many of its members, especially so under the Presidency of Barack Obama.

A more pronounced indication of this major shift leftward of the Democratic party was the strength of Bernie Sanders’ campaign and the reaction of his followers to the “too conservative” candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Granted, the latest email scandal rocking her campaign exacerbated the response, but the fact that US and Israeli flags were burned outside by Sanders’ supporters demonstrates that a much larger movement is at hand.

One might conclude that since the DNC platform included more appeasing language on Israel than is acceptable to most progressives and the BDS movement, this must have been taken as proof of collaboration between corrupt DNC leaders and the larger US-Israel “Zionist conspiracy.” Protestors chanting “intifada” as they burned the flags just shows that any protest against the establishment now is inspired by Palestinian intifadas against Israel. 

What Lies Ahead

Whatever the reason this all puts Hillary Clinton between a rock and a hard place. She needs to move towards the center in order to win the general election, but she also needs to move left to win the over 43% of voters who favored Sanders in the Democratic primaries. Which direction she takes will determine the future of the party and possibly the future of the country.

Already troubling enough about the Clinton campaign was the revelation from her forced email dump earlier this year that a huge segment of her close advisers and confidantes were attacking Israel, condemning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and strategizing how to force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank at all costs. 

Thomas Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, wrote to her suggesting a secret plan to stir up major Palestinian protests, to engulf the West Bank “just like Tahrir Square,” in an attempt to force the Israeli government into peace negotiations. Mrs. Clinton forwarded the email to Monica Hanley and asked her to “pls print.”

Mrs. Clinton’s director of policy planning devised a scheme to get billionaires and multimillionaires to donate to a “Pledge for Palestine” campaign that would have a “shaming effect re Israelis.” Mrs. Clinton said “I am very interested-pls flesh out. Thx.”

If the Democrats burning flags outside the DNC get their way and force Mrs. Clinton to move even farther to the left, it will either mean the demise of her campaign, or four hard years ahead for Israel.

Susan Michael is the US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. www.icejusa.org

 

 

The world has truly been turned upside down and inside out.  It is a world in total chaos.  Evil is being called good and good is thought to be evil.  In a quest to be politically correct, which is really just a euphemism for willful ignorance and self-deception, we are giving Islam a wide open door and a chance to take root.  The uninformed in the United States, those who have not bothered to educate themselves as to what is really happening in our country, are allowing Islam to take full advantage of this ignorance and confusion.

Leftist myopia is a problem for Israel and has become a plague in America.  The US president, himself a closet Muslim, refuses to acknowledge that Islam is at the root of all terrorist acts.  He refuses to use words that identify the numerous murders of innocent American civilians by those who are Muslims as being acts of terror.  In fact, he and others of his kind have actually accelerated the pace of bringing in to the United States 10,000 unvetted Syrian Muslim refugees.  To think ISIS operatives and other terrorists are not among those being resettled in the US is an act of willful self-deception and ignorance by those altering the immigration rules.  In reality it is treason against the American people.  Very few are speaking out.  Are there any leaders today who are of the same caliber as those who helped build America?  Where are today’s Patrick Henrys who were not afraid to proclaim, “Give me liberty or give me death?”  If Islam continues to grow in America, Sharia will become the law of the land.  Those of us who are not Muslim will not get liberty but we will get death.

The Orlando shooter who killed and injured close to 100 people had pledged his allegiance to ISIS.  Instead of using his platform to condemn Islamic terrorism, the President of the United States once again diverted the public’s attention away from the evil of Islam.  Instead he used his media time to make a case for gun control and the hampering of free speech by Americans who oppose the evil ideology of Islam.

By now it is understood by much of the world that the current American president is soft on Islam and favoring of Muslims.  He has weakened America from without in countless ways one of which was the making of a horrible nuclear deal with Iran.  He is also actively weakening America from within by importing Muslim refugees and spreading them throughout the United States.  In a very short time these refugees will grow in number, become voters, get elected to public offices and then fundamentally change America forever.  The effects if this will be felt the world over, but especially in Israel. 

It is no secret that Iran, which is an Islamic nation, has developed an illicit network of suppliers operating in Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere which supplies Iran with material and equipment useful in the manufacture of ballistic missiles.  Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel recently spoke out warning that Iran is continuing “unabated” to build its rocket program and nuclear development technology.  Both of these are direct violations of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, yet we hear nothing from Iran’s friends in the White House.

The United States and the world in general are in a very dangerous place by refusing to name and admit that Islam is an insidious ideology that promotes hate and violence.  As the United States moves toward the November elections, there is much at stake for which we need a leader who will give us a ‘new, clear direction’ rather than a ‘nuclear direction.’  We need a leader who is not in the business of appeasing our enemies but rather in fortifying our nation and undergirding our allies. 

The United States could learn much from our Israeli friends who are unafraid to identify their foes and stand prepared to hold their ground.  Freedom is not free.  Many have sacrificed and paid for it with their blood.  If the free world is to remain free, we must be prepared to defend ourselves and the freedoms we enjoy.

The Bible talks much about self-examination and is filled from cover to cover with lessons of morality, honor, integrity and values.  Christian history as it relates to Israel and the Jewish people is not one of which those who claim the name of Christ ought to be proud.  In fact, it is cause for us to hang our heads in shame and disgrace.  Time and again when the people which God Himself calls the ‘Apple of His eye’ needed us - needed anyone - to come to their rescue, we turned our backs and closed our eyes.  As a result, the lives of six million Jews and others were brutally snuffed out in the most horrible and agonizing ways imaginable and the atmosphere is ripe for it to happen again.  As Christians we have an obligation to stand up for the weak and speak out for those who are being marginalized, persecuted and slaughtered because of race or religion yet our silence is deafening as people around the world are suffering and dying in Syria and elsewhere. The Good News is not so good if we fail to express our faith to the world not only in word but, more importantly, in deed even if it means there is a personal price to pay.  God will honor us if we honor Him – in word, yes, but, more importantly, in deed. As my mother always said, “Actions speak louder than words.”

 

Followers of Christ are called Christians. As His disciples, we are to follow His teachings and reflect His love to the “world” which means in our homes, in our businesses, in our churches and in the world beyond.  The manner and fashion in which we conduct our lives matters.  Are we fair and honest in all we do and say?  Do we conduct our business affairs with diligence and integrity?  Do we put the best interest of others above our own desires?  Do we tell the truth and take responsibility for our decisions and actions even if there is personal cost involved? God knows the beginning from the end and there is nothing we can hide from Him which will not be revealed.

 

God’s Word makes it abundantly clear as to what is acceptable and what is not.  The Bible clearly states that the Jews are His chosen people and Israel is His special land deeded to the Jews in an everlasting covenant.  Those who would come against the Jews simply because they are Jews will suffer the wrath of God who likens these precious yet peculiar people to being the ‘apple of His eye.’

 

Almost daily there are news reports of Israel being condemned on the world stage for one contrived grievance or another. God chose Israel and the Jews to be the recorders and keepers of His Word to pass it down from generation to generation.  If it weren’t for the Jews, there would be no Christianity and the Bible clearly warns that it is not the “branch which bears the root, but the root thee.” If we believe God’s Word is true from cover to cover, then as Christians have a duty to stand with Israel and the Jews because they are the root.  All who claim to be Christians but are actively engaged in anti-Israel, anti-Semitic campaigns such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions will suffer the wrath of the Almighty.

 

As Christians, we have been given another chance to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters.  While we’ve failed miserably in the past, it’s not too late to make a change.  We should take it as a personal affront when the world unfairly and unjustly condemns Israel for taking necessary protective action to defend her borders and her people from aggression and terrorism.  We should stand against those who engage in BDS campaigns claiming they are “helping” the Palestinians by punishing Israel.  This is an outright lie.  BDS is nothing but an anti-Semitic effort to promote an anti-Israel agenda.  Just ask any Palestinian who is gainfully employed by an Israeli company located on the “other” side of the so-called “Green Line.”  Does it help them feed their families or pay their mortgages when business is taken away thus forcing work hours to be cut or eliminated?  The time for sitting on the sidelines is over. It’s time for Christians to join in the game of “The World versus Israel.”  Going forward, Christians must determine what we want our legacy to be and for this we must ask ourselves whose side we are on. Are we in line with God’s Word and therefore standing with Israel or are we on the side of the world which is clearly against Israel and the Jews?  Those churches or universities with which we are affiliated, are they investing in Israel or divesting?  How about your pension fund?  Is it divesting from Israel? Remember, God will not be mocked. Just as those who bless Israel will be blessed, so those who curse Israel will be cursed.  As we do unto Israel, so it will be done unto us.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2 NIV).


Psalm 18 is said to be a Psalm of David that was written when the Lord delivered him from the hand of Saul. We read about just such a day in 1 Samuel 24:22 where it says that after Saul and David made an agreement that “…Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.”


A stronghold during the time of the Israelites was a natural stone high place or mountain that was protective and a place of safety. When David was hiding from Saul, he dwelt in the “strongholds” at Ein Gedi, an oasis fed by a waterfall descending from the barren mountains alongside the Dead Sea. There are many caves visible high on the cliffs above Ein Gedi similar to the ones David may have hidden in.

 

But in 1 Samuel 24:22 it says that David went up to “the stronghold,” indicating that there was one stronghold that everyone knew about that stood out amongst all the rest. It is possible that stronghold could have been the 1,300 foot high rock plateau, overlooking Ein Gedi, that is known today as Masada (fortress). There is no way to know if it is the stronghold David dwelt in, but there is no better example of what David meant when he described the Lord as his stronghold.


Masada

 

Masada has a history almost as rugged and deadly as it looks. It was the first site Herod the Great fortified after he gained control of his kingdom. He built a three-tiered palace down the cliffs on the northern edge of Masada that included a swimming pool, Roman bath and throne room. The entire fortress was self-sufficient with cisterns, aqueducts, agricultural plots, storage rooms, servants’ housing and a synagogue.

 

But, Masada is best known for the dramatic last stand of a small band of Jewish zealots who had fled there from Jerusalem in 70 AD after the destruction of the Temple by Roman forces. Some 900 zealots lived there and resisted Roman rule until 73 AD when a Roman legion laid siege to Masada building a large siege ramp so a battering ram could reach the wall around the fortress. Once the Roman assault began to penetrate the wall, the Jewish resistance ended in a mass murder-suicide leaving only seven survivors, two mothers and five children who hid in a cistern.

 

When archeologists first excavated the site in the 1960’s, they found many scrolls stored in the synagogue, but the scroll that had been taken out for the last teaching of the zealots was Ezekiel 35-38. In those chapters the Lord speaks judgment on the surrounding nations for their treatment of His people. He also promises to regather the Jewish people back to their land in a time of blessing and peace. In chapter 37 that future rebirth of Jewish sovereignty on the land is described as dry bones coming back to life from the dead.

 

These zealots took their lives in utter hopelessness, choosing death over a life of slavery to the Roman oppressors, yet knowing that one day God would fulfill His promises and raise up the nation even if from dead, dry bones. This is why Masada is such a moving place to visit today.


A heavenly stronghold

 

But the real lesson of Masada is found in the life and words of David.  He benefited greatly from the great strongholds of his day and hid in them for his physical protection. But David did not put his trust in earthly strongholds. He knew that God was his true stronghold, and only in Him could he trust.

As we visit the magnificent mountain stronghold of Masada, we are reminded of how mighty and strong is our God, like a high tower that we can run to for safety in times of trouble. And that while even a physical stronghold as protective as Masada cannot be trusted, our God can.

 

He is our rock, a high tower and shield — the One in whom we can take refuge (Psalm 144:1-2).

 

Susan M. Michael is US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem www.icejusa.org.  

The biblical, historical, and future significance of the Temple Mount makes it the most hotly contested piece of real estate in the entire world. An example of the extreme sensitivity over ownership of the site is that Jews and Christians are not allowed to pray there. The Jewish place of prayer, where Christians are also welcomed, is below the Temple Mount facing the outer retaining wall of the complex known as the “Western Wall.”

I witnessed this tension firsthand a few months ago when we took a tour group onto the Temple Mount. We were followed and even questioned by special guards whose duty it was to make sure that our Christian group was not praying. Likewise, I saw a Jewish visitor surrounded by guards to make sure he did not pray and to escort him safely outside the gates of the compound.

This site is holy to three religions, yet only the adherents of one of those religions can actually pray there. This is discriminatory and insulting, but also part of a larger effort to rewrite the history and significance of the Temple Mount.

Erasing Jewish History . . .

For Jews and Christians there is no question that both Solomon and Herod’s Temples were built on Mount Moriah, or what is today called the Temple Mount. Not only is the Bible clear about this but archaeology confirms it.

Some of the archaeological finds include an engraved stone marking the southeast corner of the Mount where trumpets announced the beginning and the end of the Sabbath as described by the Jewish historian Josephus. Another stone was discovered in 1871 along the northeastern corner of the Temple Mount, and is now housed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum in Turkey, on which a Greek inscription warns Gentiles not to proceed past the wall that defined the court of the Gentiles in the Temple. There are a number of other significant finds that support the biblical history of the area.

But, the Muslim world neither regards the Bible as accurate, nor appreciates non-Islamic history. What is worse, they will destroy archaeological evidence that disagrees with their distorted historical account. For the last 10 years, the Temple Mount Sifting Project has been recovering precious Temple artifacts that were discarded as debris during the construction of a mosque on the Temple Mount platform.

It is not surprising that UNESCO just adopted a resolution on safeguarding Palestinian heritage, proposed by several Muslim countries, which referred to the Temple Mount only by the Muslim name, Aqsa Mosque, or by the Arabic, Al-Haram Al-Sharif. The resolution, which totally ignored the Jewish history of the area, was approved by 33 states, including France, Russia, Spain, and Sweden. Seventeen countries abstained, while six voted against it: the United States, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

This growing campaign of Temple Denial is considered a serious enough threat to Israel and the Jewish people that it was mentioned by Prime Minister Netanyahu in his speech on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah. He knows that if a godless world can erase Jewish history from the Temple Mount and deny all of the biblical, historical and archaeological evidence to the contrary, then they will have erased the Jewish significance of Jerusalem itself.

. . . and Erasing Christian History

The fact remains that the Jewish history of Jerusalem is our own Christian history. The Jewish scriptures are part of the Christian Bible, and Jesus came into the world in a Jewish context as the Jewish Messiah. He frequented the Jewish Temple on Mt. Moriah and most probably entered by way of the massive southern steps now uncovered by archaeological digs. If the Christian world does not stand up for the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, then one day we will discover that our own historical and spiritual connection to the Holy Sites there has also been erased.

The ICEJ was formed in 1980 for this very reason. When the nations of the world sought to deny this historical connection and refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel we stood up. We have been representing Christian solidarity with the people of Israel and their connection to the city ever since.

Zechariah 12:2-3 predicts a day when Jerusalem will become such an international controversy that the nations will gather against her. Thus, it is no surprise to see that this tension has been growing over the last 70 years and shows no signs of letting up. It is our duty as Christians to stand for the truth and to stand with the Jewish people and their connection to Jerusalem.


Susan Michael is the US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem www.icejusa.org

 

 

The Senate Tuesday passed its version of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, setting up a conference process between the House and Senate to merge the two dissimilar bills.

The Senate passed the bill by a 85-13 vote. Notable "nays" include Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Texas, and Ben Sasse, Nebraska.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., summed up the vote saying, "I'd like to criticize the 13 who voted against."

The bill contains major changes to the military's organizational structure, splits the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics into two jobs and requires women ages 18-26 to register for the draft.

This version of the NDAA would update Goldwater Nichols, a 30-year-old law governing military command structure, to give the Joint Chiefs chairman more responsibility with coordinating and planning for troop movement while still impartially advising the president and defense secretary.

The Senate's proposal to split the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics would create two jobs: one focusing solely on bringing more innovation to the Pentagon and the other solely focused on business. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has criticized this move,calling on lawmakers to "remember the Joint Strike Fighter's growing pains."

A provision to make women age 18-26 to register for the draft has come under intense debate. Heritage Action went as far as to urge the Senate to not vote passage of the whole defense policy bill over concerns on "differences between men and women that are relevant to accomplishing the military mission."

 

Passage of the Senate NDAA comes as President Obama threatens to veto both the Senate and House versions of the bill. His main objections include a personnel limit to the National Security Council, and prohibition on closing Guantanamo Bay, a major campaign promise.