Israeli Parliament member rips up New Testament


Joel C. Rosenberg

(Jerusalem, Israel, July 19, 2012) — Please pray for Michael Ben Ari. He’s a member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) who this week was given the gift of a Hebrew New Testament study Bible by the Israeli Bible Society but chose to rip it to shreds and throw it into the garbage and do so in front of the press. It was a reprehensible act and a childish temper tantrum and the controversy over what he did and why he did it has made headlines here in Israel and around the world. The good news is several leading Israeli officials condemned Ben Ari’s action and called for him to apologize. Personally, I’d like to see Prime Minister Netanyahu make a strong statement condemning Ben Ari’s action, as well. I’m not aware that the PM has yet done so.

At the end of this column, I post some of my thoughts about why I believe this controversy is important.

But first, here are the latest details: “MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union), a member of the Israeli parliament tore up a copy of the New Testament and threw it in the trash, an act that was apparently caught on camera,” reported Ynet News. “Ben Ari and several other Knesset members received by mail on Monday a copy of the New Testament, sent by the Bible Society in Israel, an organization that distributes religious books. In the letter sent with the book, director of the Christian organization Victor Kalisher wrote that the new edition ‘sheds light on the Holy Scriptures and helps understand them….We hope the book will help you and illuminate your way.’….However, while most MK’s chose to ignore the book or return it to its sender, the rightist lawmaker chose to term the book a ‘provocation,’ tore it up into shreds and then threw it out. ‘This abominable book (the New Testament) galvanized the murder of millions of Jews during the Inquisition and during [other] instances,’ Ben Ari said adding that ‘Sending the book to MK’s is a provocation. There is no doubt that this book and all it represents belongs in the garbage can of history.’”

“The religious and ultra-Orthodox Knesset members should honor those who want to read the book, Kalisher said,” noted the Times of Israel, “adding ‘it could help them expand their own knowledge.’ Kalisher also denied the notion of missionary activity, saying his organization studied and spread the holy scriptures, providing people with knowledge and study tools. There was no intention to ‘hurt the feelings of Knesset members,’ he said. ‘It’s a Jewish book, written by Jews. To better understand Judaism you need to study the New Testament.’

MK Ben Ari’s deplorable behavior was denounced by other Knesset members, including the Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), to their credit, also called on MK Ben Ari to apologize for his behavior. I agree with the ADL and am encouraged by their statement, which I’ve posted on the blog.

That said, I would encourage all of the Members of the Israeli Knesset to ready and carefully study this Hebrew edition of the New Testament and to proactively study the life of Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth. Indeed, my prayer is that all Israelis would read and study the New Testament and decide this question: Is Yeshua the Jewish Messiah foretold by the Hebrew prophets, or not? This is the most important question in all of human history, and the most important and urgent of questions that must be answered by each and every Jew and Gentile. Indeed, our eternal destiny depends on how we answer this question and what actions we take based on our answer. Thus, I’m grateful this controversy has been sparked. May it lead many to decide to obtain a copy of this Hebrew New Testament and study carefully it for themselves.

[To read these stories in full -- and/or to read excerpts from IMPLOSION, and/or to find links to the latest news and analysis of events and trends in the U.S., Israel, Russia, and the Middle East -- please go to: http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/.%5D

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* MOFAZ QUITS ISRAELI GOVERNMENT: Why he did it, and what it means.

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* WILL AMERICA EXPERIENCE A THIRD GREAT AWAKENING? Listen to sermon online

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* TWITTER — I’ve become active on Twitter. Please join me @jcrflashtraffic.

Gamla Mountain – Israel


From the Vulture Trail you will also get a sight of the spectacular Mount Gamla. You can cross to it from the bird watching site – following signs to the “ancient path”, a hiking trail which takes about 90 minutes to cross (it is only about 1 hour to 1 and a half hours return but is windy and steep.) For those who do venture across, ancient Mount Gamla is a site of historic importance with a similar tale to tell as Masada, aside the Dead Sea. A battle against the Romans and many people committed mass suicide to avoid falling into the hands of the enemy.

Gamla Waterfall – Israel


From the entrance of Gamla, a 90 minute trail (45 minutes each way) leads to the Gamla Waterfall, passing ancient dolmans – stone structures which are shaped like tables, but nobody is sure of why. Once you reach the waterfall, you’ll be struck with what is the tallest flowing waterfall in Israel – at 170 feet.

Nuclear talks in Baghdad go nowhere; next round in Moscow


NEW EVIDENCE SHOWS IRAN ENRICHING URANIUM TO 27% PURITY, UP FROM 20%: Nuclear talks in Baghdad go nowhere; next round in Moscow

by Joel Rosenberg

Posted: May 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

“The U.N. atomic agency has found evidence at an underground bunker in Iran that could mean the country has moved closer to producing the uranium threshold needed to arm nuclear missiles, diplomats said Friday,” according to the Associated Press. “The International Atomic Energy Agency has found traces of uranium enriched up to 27 percent at Iran’s Fordo enrichment plant, the diplomats told The Associated Press. That is still substantially below the 90-percent level needed to make the fissile core of nuclear arms. But it is above Iran’s highest-known enrichment grade, which is close to 20 percent, and which already can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly than the Islamic Republic’s main stockpile, which can only be used for fuel at around 3.5 percent.”

Meanwhile, the nuclear talks held this week in Baghdad between Iran and six world powers went nowhere. The only thing agreed upon was to hold more talks. The next round is scheduled for June 18-19 in Moscow. This will give Russian Czar Vladimir Putin an opportunity to dramatically shape the future of the showdown between Iran and Israel. How will he use it? Putin is reportedly headed to Israel in June, though as far as I know the dates are not yet set. But clearly next month is going to be a critical moment in Russian-Iranian-Israeli relations. UPDATE (5/25): Russia’s Putin to visit Israel in June.

All this comes as Iran’s top military commander said his country was fully committed to completely destroying the State of Israel. “The Iranian nation is standing for its cause and that is the full annihilation of Israel,” Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi , the Iranian military’s chief of staff, said in a speech to a defense gathering Sunday in Tehran.

Remembering the Holocaust: Never Again!


By Joel C. Rosenberg

Today in Israel, and around the world, we stop to remember the evil that was perpetrated during the Holocaust, pray for the survivors and their families, and recommit ourselves to the principle: Never Again.

“A two-minute siren sounded across the country at 10 am Thursday in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust,” reports Ynet News. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a moving address honoring Holocaust Remembrance Day, and applied its lessons to the current showdown with Iran. Israeli President Shimon Peres also discussed Iran today in light of the Holocaust. I commend these to your attention.

Last November, I had the opportunity to travel to Poland with two pastors and their wives to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps for the first time. My son, Caleb, and I produced a short video of that trip which might help you and your family and friends get a brief glimpse inside the tragedy and what it means.

Most of all, please pray for these survivors, that the Lord would draw them close to His heart and heal their memories and show them His amazing grace and mercy. As the Hebrew prophet Isaiah wrote, “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7)

Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog.

As I have stated in the past about prophecy and events that are occurring in the present, being aware is not to scare us, but to prepare us. Joel Rosenberg is a trusted source for keeping us updated on current events and biblical background.

Historian: Israel safest place in Mideast for Christians


Ryan Jones

Israel Today Magazine

The steep drop in the number of Christians living in the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories is often blamed on Israel. But Middle East historian and Israel’s current ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, says that a similar erosion of Christian populations in other countries in the region suggests the Palestinian narrative is simply not true, and that Israel is in fact the safest place in the Middle East for Christians today.

“As 800,000 Jews were once expelled from Arab countries, so are Christians being forced from lands they’ve inhabited for centuries,” Oren wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

“In Egypt, 200,000 Coptic Christians fled their homes last year after beatings and massacres by Muslim extremist mobs. Since 2003, 70 Iraqi churches have been burned and nearly a thousand Christians killed in Baghdad alone, causing more than half of this million-member community to flee. Conversion to Christianity is a capital offense in Iran… Saudi Arabia outlaws private Christian prayer. …[and] since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, half the Christian community has fled,” explained Oren.

By contrast, Oren sought to remind readers that prior to Israel’s surrender of Bethlehem and other Christian cities to Yasser Arafat’s PLO in 1995, the Palestinian Arab Christian population was actually growing. But today, Bethlehem’s Christians have been reduced from 20 percent of the population to a mere 5 percent.

And that can hardly be blamed on Israel, considering that the Christian population in those territories still controlled by the Jewish state continues to flourish.

“Since Israel’s founding in 1948, its Christian communities have expanded more than 1,000%,” wrote Oren. “Christians are prominent in all aspects of Israeli life, serving in the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry and on the Supreme Court. They are exempt from military service, but thousands have volunteered and been sworn in on special New Testaments printed in Hebrew.”

Instead, it is the same Islamic menace that is driving Christians out of the rest of the region that is also negatively impacting the Palestinian Arab church.

Oren recalls that as a government representative in 1994 he was sent to meet with clergy members in Bethlehem ahead of the city’s handover. Anticipating their new position of power over local Christians, Hamas activists had spray-painted the terror group’s name on the Church of the Nativity. The clergy “were despondent but too frightened to file a complaint,” recounts Oren.

As a non-Jewish believer in Jesus living in Israel, I can fully support Oren’s assessment. Israel is a safe haven for Christians. We are fully accepted and respected. Oren acknowledges that there are incidents of intolerance, and that is true, but it is also true of “Christian” nations like America, Germany or the UK.

To suggest that Israel is an oppressor of Christians, especially a purposeful oppressor, is a gross misrepresentation and a disservice to those Christians who truly are being oppressed and driven out by other forces.

Caesarea


Caesarea is a magnificent site, a national park where amazing amazing ancient harbor ruins, beautiful beaches, and impressive modern residences sit side by side. Caesarea is originally an ancient Herodian port city located on Israel’s Mediterranean Coast about half way between Tel Aviv and Haifa. The site recently been restored to create one of Israel’s most attractive and fascinating archaeological sites. The restored Caesarea amphitheater hosts modern-day concerts during the summer months, whilst the Old City has a range of boutiques and restaurants. The new town of Caesarea is a luxurious neighborhood of villas, whose beach, the Caesarea Aquaduct Beach is one of the best beaches in Israel.

Citadel at Caesarea by Adam Reeder, on FlickrCitadel at Caesarea by Adam Reeder, on Flickr

Caesarea National Park is one of, if not Israel’s, most impressive archaeological site. The beautifully restored harbor here was built by King Herod and is a work of engineering marvel. The site is a fascinating place to explore and the museum includes a great multimedia explanation of the history of the port.

Within the park is the Caesarea Amphitheater, also restored, which  during the summer regularly hosts concerts of both local, and international acts. The Harbor Beach is located within the Park although you can enter seperately, and is totally unique in its setting, with superb facilities.

The Park is also home to a unique museum, the world’s only underwater museum where you are able to dive through the underwater ruins of this ancient city. Wow! For more call the Caesarea Dive Club (04-6265898).

Caesarea Aqueduct by luzer, on FlickrCaesarea Aqueduct by luzer, on Flickr

Outside the national park, in the modern day neighborhood of Caesarea is the Aquaduct Beach one of the most breathtaking beaches imaginable. With an ancient aquaduct marking the edge of the beach the breathtaking approach is even more stunning up close. There is no life guard here so bathing is not strictly allowed although it does get busy on summer weekends, but the is worlds away from the beaches further south with a more rural surrounding and breathtaking archaeological feature

Caesarea Amphitheater where concerts are held in the summer by Flickr user heatkernel

Caesarea Amphitheater where concerts are held in the summer by Flickr user heatkernel

Caesarea also hosts the Ralli Museum, one of four museums around the world funded by philanthropist Harry Recanti. The two galleries at Caesarea focus on Latin American and Sephardic Jewish artwork. The museum is free to enter and has some fantastic pieces so if you’re in the area, and cant resist the urge to see some art, this is the place to go. Nearby is Caesarea Golf Club which is Israel’s only full size golf course. Recently reconstructed by renowned designer Pete Dye, this course plays host, every four years to the Maccabi Games, the Jewish Olympics.

All this is exploring is likely to get your appetite going, and there are some brilliant restaurants in Caesarea at the Harbor. They vary in price although most are pretty good and serve seafood with an awesome location overlooking the Mediterranean.

Visiting Caesarea

Caesarea National Park is a half-day attraction which is great all-year round. It is easily accesisble by road, although getting to Caesarea by public transport can be tricky. Many tourists therefore decide to visit the site on a tour of Caesarea, many of which incorporate other sites along the coast and can start from either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Caesarea is a great place to enjoy a sunset and meal so go late afternoon in the summer and enjoy the sunset in one of the many restaurants in Caeasarea harbor. The museum is open in summer months (April-September) from 8am to 6pm and winter months until 4pm, with the site itself and restaurants remaining open later into the evening.

Enquiries: 04-626-7080

Fees: Adult: NIS 38; child: NIS 23Israeli senior citizen: 50% discount. Group (over 30 people): Adult: NIS 34: child NIS 21

Caesarea is located just off of Road 2, the main coastal highway about mid-way between Haifa and Tel Aviv. It is about a 1 hour drive from downtown Tel Aviv.

Public transport to Caesarea is slightly difficult. There is a train link between Tel Aviv and Haifa, and Kesarya, however from the station you will need to take a taxi to the site about a five minute ride away (it is too far to walk). There are no inter-city buses to the town although local buses do come from Hadera irregularly during the day.

Likelihood of Israel-Iran War Growing


Some analysts say spring, others see Sept-Oct as “sweet spot”

Posted: February 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

The debate seems increasingly to be over “when,” not “if” Israel will launch preemptive strikes against Iran. A story in a major British newspaper today reports the Obama administration realizes that economic sanctions aren’t working well enough to stop Iran from vigorously pursuing nuclear weapons, and thus makes an Israeli war with Iran all the more likely. According to the story, some experts believe that the Israelis won’t strike in the April to June window suggested by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, but might wait until the fall during the height of the U.S. presidential elections. “Earlier this month, the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, told the Washington Post that he thought the window for an Israeli attack on Iran is between April and June,” the story noted. “But other official analysts working on Iran have identified what one described as a ‘sweet spot,’ where the mix of diplomacy, political timetables and practical issues come together to suggest that if Israel launches a unilateral assault it is more likely in September or October, although they describe that as a ‘best guess.’” Expect more speculation — and even disinformation — to keep the “experts” guessing. Should Israel strike, it will be hard, fast and without notice.

Time is running out, according to Bible prophecy


THE EVIL ASSAD REGIME MUST BE BROUGHT DOWN AND BROUGHT TO JUSTICE, OR FACE JUDGMENT: Time is running out according to Bible prophecy

By Joel Rosenberg

Posted: February 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

The butchery of the Assad regime is horrifying to behold. More than 6,000 Syrians have been brutally murdered by the thugs in Damascus. The evil Assad government must be brought down and brought to justice, or face judgment.

Bible prophecy tells us in Isaiah 17:1-3 and Jeremiah 49:23-27 that Damascus will be destroyed as a city in the last days. Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly when or how this will happen, but I believe that day is steadily approaching. Indeed, it may not be far off. I’m currently writing a political thriller called The Damascus Countdown about how this could play out.

In the meantime, followers of Jesus Christ around the world must be praying and working for the spiritual and political liberation of the Syrian people. We need to be praying and working to strengthen the persecuted Church in Syria, and to help believers there spread of the Gospel to every person in that precious country. Make no mistake: God loves the people of Syria. The Apostle Paul came to faith in Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. Believers were first called “Christians” in Antioch, Syria. And our God and Father wants every Syrian to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. We need to act now and share the good news with Syria before judgment comes. For God is not going to allow this current evil to go unchecked much longer. In Genesis 12:1-3, the Lord told us that those who bless the children of Israel will be blessed, and those who cursed them will be cursed. The Syrian government faces judgment for killing its own citizens, but also for killing so many Jews and Israelis over the years, and cursing the State of Israel on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, since we don’t know when the judgment of Syria’s government will happen, the U.S. government — and our allies — can and must take decisive steps to stand with and for the people of Syria against the Assad regime. This past week, 58 foreign policy experts urged President Obama to take strong, specific action. Among their recommendations:

  • Immediately establish safe zones within Syrian territory, as well as no-go zones for the Assad regime’s military and security forces, around Homs, Idlib, and other threatened areas, in order to protect Syrian civilians.  To the extent possible, the United States should work with like-minded countries like Turkey and members of the Arab League in these efforts.
  • Establish contacts with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and, in conjunction with allies in the Middle East and Europe, provide a full range of direct assistance, including self-defense aid to the FSA.
  • Improve U.S. coordination with political opposition groups and provide them with secure communications technologies and other assistance that will help to improve their ability to prepare for a post-Assad Syria.
  • Work with Congress to impose crippling U.S. and multilateral sanctions on the Syrian government, especially on Syria’s energy, banking, and shipping sectors.

The experts noted: “For eleven months now, the Syrian people have been dying on a daily basis at the hands of their government as they seek to topple the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad.  As the recent events in the city of Homs—in which hundreds of Syrians have been killed in a matter of days—have shown, Assad will stop at nothing to maintain his grip on power. Given the United Nations Security Council’s recent failure to act, we believe that the United States cannot continue to defer its strategic and moral responsibilities in Syria to regional actors such as the Arab League, or to wait for consent from the Assad regime’s protectors, Russia and China.  We therefore urge you to take immediate steps to decisively halt the Assad regime’s atrocities against Syrian civilians, and to hasten the emergence of a post-Assad government in Syria. Syria’s future is not purely a humanitarian concern.  The Assad regime poses a grave threat to national security interests of the United States.  The Syrian government, which has been on the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list since 1979, maintains a strategic partnership with the terror-sponsoring government of Iran, as well as with Hamas and Hezbollah.  For years, it facilitated the entry of foreign fighters into Iraq who killed American troops.  For years, it secretly pursued a nuclear program with North Korea’s assistance.  And for decades, it has closely cooperated with Iran and other agents of violence and instability to menace America’s allies and partners throughout the Middle East….The Syrian people are asking for international assistance.  It is apparent that American leadership is required to ensure the quickest end to the Assad regime’s brutal reign, and to clearly show the Syrian people that, as you said on February 4, 2012, the people of the free world stand with them as they seek to realize their aspirations.”

I agree. Time is running out, according to Bible prophecy. Now is the time for the free world to speak out, and act decisively. Now is also the time for followers of Jesus Christ to do our part.

Boulders on the beach by Hagai Nativ – Israel


“Behold I am laying a stone for a foundation in Zion; a sturdy stone, a precious cornerstone, a secure foundation.”

ISAIAH (28:16)

הִנְנִי יִסַּד בְּצִיּוֹן אָבֶן אֶבֶן בֹּחַן פִּנַּת יִקְרַת מוּסָד מוּסָּד הַמַּאֲמִין לֹא יָחִישׁ

ישעיהו כ’’ח:ט’ז

Hebrew Lesson

hee-ne-NEE yee-SAD be-tzee-OHN eh-VEN eh-VEN boh-KHAN pee-NOT yeek-RAT moo-SOHD moo-SOHD ha-ma-ah-MEEN loh ya-KHEESH

From United with Hebrew, “The word for ‘stone’ in HEBREW is אבן/EH-VEN. It is a very interesting word, as it is made up of the word אב/av, meaning ‘father’ and בן/ben, meaning ‘son.’ Perhaps this is because the bond between a father and son is as solid as a boulder and as precious as a fine stone.” Are you United with Hebrew?

About Today’s Photograph

Photograph of boulders on the beach by Hagai Nativ. On the peak of Mount Moriah in the Old City of Jerusalem lies the foundation stone, אבן שתיה / eh-VEN she-tee-AH. According to “Legends of Jerusalem” by Zev Vilnay, “The sages of Israel commented: ‘And it was called the Foundation Stone, because the world was founded on it. For Isaiah the prophet said: ‘Thus said the Lord, Behold I am laying a stone for a foundation in Zion.’”

Old Jaffa


English: Simon Tanner House, Jaffa, Religion i...

Image via Wikipedia

port of jaffa, Israel

Image via Wikipedia

English: House of Simon the Tanner, Jaffa, Israel.

Image via Wikipedia

Jaffa

Jaffa (Photo credit: Seetheholyland.net)

 

The Old City of Jaffa, located on the southern edge of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast, was known in ancient times as the gateway to the Land of Israel. With its 3,000 years of history, Old Jaffa is the world’s most ancient port. It is said that the city, called Yafo in Hebrew and Joppa in the New Testament, derives its name from either Japheth, one of Noah’s three sons, or from the Hebrew word “yaffa” meaning beautiful.

At the Visitors Center, located on the main square, visitors can obtain brochures, maps and general tourist information. The recently reopened Center has numerous artifacts from the Hellenistic and Roman eras on display, and screens two informative movies on the history of the city.

Jaffa is famous as the place from which Jonah sailed as he tried to flee the Lord’s calling to go preach repentance to the inhabitants of Niniveh (Jonah 1:3).  As the story tells us, Jonah’s ship was caught in a storm, and he was thrown overboard. He was swallowed by a giant fish and remainedin its belly for three days.

Jaffa is where St. Peter raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-43). He then stayed at the home of Simon the Tanner, just a short walk from the Visitors Center. It was on the rooftop of this house that Peter was praying one day when he had a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven, full of unclean animals, and he heard a voice commanding him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (Act 10:13). The command to eat unclean animals was a sign for Peter to baptize Cornelius, a Roman centurion and Gentile considered unclean by pious Jews. This meant that Gentiles, for the first time, could receive the Holy Spirit and join the Church.

The most distinctive building in Old Jaffa is St. Peter’s Church, which towers over the main square and is visible all the way up the beach of Tel Aviv. The church belongs today to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Fr. Peter, the Franciscan friar on duty, tells us that it was originally built as a guest house to welcome pilgrims sailing from around the world to Jerusalem. The principal painting in front of the church depicts St. Peter’s vision on the roof of Simon the Tanner’s house. Other panels show the major episodes in Peter’s life: the miraculous catch of fishes, the giving of the keys, the Transfiguration of Christ and the washing of the feet at the Last Supper. The pulpit, carved in the shape of a tree, is also unique. St. Peter’s Church continues to welcome pilgrims today, offering Mass in several languages for both local Christian communities and visitors from around the world.

Almond Trees in Israel


 

I will cause a sprout of righteousness to sprout forth for David, and he will administer justice and righteousness in the Land.  
JEREMIAH (33:15)

אַצְמִיחַ לְדָוִד צֶמַח צְדָקָה וְעָשָׂה מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה בָּאָרֶץ
ירמיהו ל’’ג:ט’’ו

ahts-mee-OKH le-da-VEED tze-MOKH tze-da-KAH ve-ah-SAH meesh-POT oo-tze-da-KAH ba-ah-RETS

A Taste of Torah for Shabbat
This Shabbat, Jews around the world read Parshat Yitro/Jethro, the Biblical portion (Exodus 18-20) describing the greatest event of human history, when God revealed Himself to man through His giving of the Ten Commandments. Rabbinic commentators point out that Jethro is singled out and rewarded by having this special reading eternally connected with his name because he was a righteous gentile who recognized the great miracles the One True God performed for the Jewish people. Jews have always shown admiration and appreciation for the righteous gentiles throughout our history who have stood by the People of Israel.

About Today’s Photograph
Almond trees, known in Hebrew as שקדיה/she-kay-dee-YA are amongst the first to blossom throughout Israel and are a welcome reminder that spring is just around the corner. The pink and white flowers turn into leaves and finally give way to almonds in just a few months. Almond trees have grown in Israel since Biblical times and were amongst the gifts sent by Jacob to Joseph in Egypt according to Genesis (43:11). Today’s photograph is by Galit Trager.  Happy Birthday Galit  -  יום הולדת שמח גלית

Judah will exist forever


Judah will exist forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.
JOEL (4:20)
וִיהוּדָה לְעוֹלָם תֵּשֵׁב וִירוּשָׁלִַם לְדוֹר וָדוֹר
יואל ד:כ

ve-ye-hoo-DAH le-oh-LOHM tay-SHEV vee-roo-sha-la-YEEM le-DOR va-DOR

Today’s Bible Lesson: Guest Post
by Sondra Baras, Director of CFOIC

Judah was Jacob’s fourth son and when the land was divided amongst the Tribes of Israel, Judah received the vast area of land south of Jerusalem extending from the Dead Sea in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. For centuries, this area was known as the Region of Judah, or Judea. Today, many people seek to sever the Jewish people from Judea, the Biblical Heartland of the Jewish People.  But God promised through His prophet Joel, that Judah would exist forever.  “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).

About Today’s Photograph
Photograph of a father and son walking through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City by Vladi Alon. Today’s verse and much of Jewish literature connect Jerusalem with eternity.  “While pondering the creation of the world, the sages asked: ‘From where did He create it? And the answer is ‘From Zion.’ And when the Holy One, blessed is He, shall renew the world, He shall renew it out of Zion.” From “Legends of Jerusalem” by Zev Vilnay.

Does Russia Have A Cogent Middle East Strategy?


 February 9, 2012

Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad has put it at odds with other countries in the Arab world.

Russia drew a lot of flack from Arab countries and the West when it vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at pressuring Assad to stop his crackdown on protesters. That has some analysts in Russia doubting whether the Kremlin really has a cogent strategy for the Middle East.

The dilemma for Russia policy in the Arab world can be illustrated by two very different events that took place this week.

On Tuesday, crowds of Assad supporters in Damascus greeted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the country’s foreign intelligence chief, Mikhail Fradkov.

Lavrov said Russia was willing to serve as a mediator in the conflict, although Assad’s forces continued their assault on the opposition. Meanwhile, a very different scenario was playing out in New York.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, appeared at a hastily called news conference to deny rumors that he had threatened the prime minister of Qatar. The rumors, which were widely circulated in the Arab media, said Churkin had warned the Qatari leader that Russia would “wipe Qatar off the map.”

“There was nothing, not even any hints of any threats, intimidation, rudeness from me or from the prime minister of Qatar, for that matter,” Churkin said.

Russia’s relations with Qatar have been strained since December, when customs officials in Doha allegedly manhandled Russia’s ambassador to that country.

Although Churkin denied using any bullying tactics, he added something that sounded vaguely like a warning.

“Apparently somebody is trying very hard in order to drive a wedge between Russia and the Arab world. If it’s somebody who is really coming from the Arab world, I think there is a very good Russian saying, which they, I think, should keep in mind: ‘Don’t spit into a well. You may well need it for a drink of water,’ ” he said.

At this point, it’s unclear who needs whom.

Analyst Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Moscow Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, says Russia doesn’t really need Syria as a trading partner. He says Russia’s support for Syria is part of a pragmatic effort to contain Islamic extremism by balancing opposing factions.

“Russians understand there are no nondictatorship regimes in the Middle East. There is no chance for democracy of the Western style in the Middle East. And we try to make balance,” Satanovsky says.

But other analysts say Russia needs to be careful of its image in the Arab world.

Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, points out that Russia’s stand on Syria puts it at odds with important members of the Arab League, such as Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia has enormous leverage on the global oil market. Saudi Arabia has resources that could be used to minimize Russia’s control of parts of its own country,” Trenin says. He means the North Caucasus, the region that includes volatile areas such as Chechnya.

Trenin says that what Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, tried to do in Damascus this week should have been done months ago, when the Arab Spring protests first erupted.

“If Russia wanted to uphold its prestige as an important player, it needed to engage more fully in looking for a peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict,” he says.

Both analysts say one of Russia’s main concerns is keeping a lid on Islamic radicalism, the kind that is spreading in the Muslim parts of Russia’s own territory.

Satanovsky says Russian policy seeks to play off the Islamic fundamentalist regimes of the Arab world against Iran.

In putting such strong and public support behind the Syrian regime, though, Russia has put itself at a pivot point in the major struggles of the Arab World.

It’s not clear whether it has a strategy to affect the balance there.

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