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The Tragic Murder of Syrian Activist Raed Fares

Sun, 11/25/2018 - 02:00

A “beacon of hope and bravery,” an icon, a modest and humble man who exuded the hope of the early, peaceful, revolution in Syria in 2011. That is how Raed Fares is remembered. He was murdered on Friday, November 23, the latest victim of the Syrian conflict which had cost hundreds of thousands of lives and driven millions from their homes. Raed’s death is seen as symbolic, particularly because of the unique role he played at his media center and radio station, where he sought to highlight the peaceful activism of local, average, Syrians.

His death is shocking because it also may symbolic worse to come in Idlib. In September fears that the Assad regime would launch an offensive were put on hold when Turkey and Russia signed an agreement. Heavy weapons and extremists would withdraw from a buffer zone and Turkey would make sure that the people were protected.

Muhammed Fares, a Syrian journalist, notes that although we don’t know who did it, the assassination leaves an impression that worse is to come. “It could be HTS. Raed was arrested before by Nusra along with Hadi Al Abdallah. The escalation of assassinations is a hint that Russia/Assad are coming. Mysterious assassinations such as Zahran Alloush and Ahmad al-Ghadban come before something bigger.”

Fares, who is not a relative of Raed’s tweeted about the killing. “The loss of such people is huge for every Syrian human rights defender, media activist, and journalist… I talked with Raed several times on Facebook in order to check facts in Idlib. He was such a humble and honest person. I guess that the whole Kafranbel revolution concept is such an innovative thing in the Syrian revolution concept. Being one of the creators of Kafranbel concept, I guess that Raed will be remembered as an example of the peaceful revolution that has been killed by all the radicals: Assad, ISIS, Nusra and the likes.”

His killing has sent shockwaves through the local community and followers online, particularly among journalists and activists who follow Syrian and the Syrian conflict. It is the latest high profile attack on a journalist since the killing of Saudi Arabian journalist and former insider Jamal Khashoggi in October.

According to reports in local Arabic media Fares was murdered in Kafranbel where he was well known locally for documenting the struggle of Syrian opposition against the Bashar al-Assad regime. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said he was killed in Ma’arat al-Numan, a town near Kafranbel, so the location of the killing is still unclear.

“The message of the Kafranbel media center is that the people of Kafranbel condemn the state’s violence, as well as the violence of armed militias.”

He was murdered alongside Hamod Jnaid, another activist. Fares ran the Kafranbel Media Centre. He had been threatened before. Unknown gunmen tried to kill him in 2014 and in 2016 members of the Nusra Front, a branch of Al Qaeda, detained him. In 2014 after the attempt on his life, one account noted: “Al-Fares, who was known as the main impetus behind the Kafranbel banners which made the small town world famous, had been, since the early days of the revolution, one of the main proponents of nonviolent activism against the regime of Assad. His convictions that creative, nonviolent and civil resistance was the only path to victory for the revolution, had set him up on a collision course with Islamist militias from the early days of militarization.”

According to a report in 2016; “Mr Fares and Mr Abdullah were arrested at 8am on Sunday when members of al-Nusra raided the station. It forced staff to step on the green, white and black flag of the original Syrian revolution – since rejected by the group in favour of a black banner – before burning it.” They had been warned against playing music. ““They said that the songs were inciting evil and immorality,” a worker at the station said to The Independent.

Many people online, including prominent Syrian activists and supporters, expressed shock at the murder. Lina J. Al wrote “words cannot describe the good you brought into the world.” Iyad el-Baghdadi, President of the Kawaakibi Foundation linked the loss to a “stream of terrible news.” It was an irreplaceable loss, he wrote, “an inspiration, a friend, an icon.” Fares was seen as an iconic original member of the Syrian revolutionaries who arose in 2014 hoping to change Syria’s dictatorship and taking inspiration from the Arab Spring. He was the “mastermind of the famous Kafranbel banners,” wrote Molly Crabapple, co-author of Brothers of the Gun.

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A video of Fares posted online shows him speaking about the desire for freedom and dignity. He discussed how he founded his media center. “I used to take pictures of demonstrations and spread them on the internet,” he said in 2013. But the regime would shut down telecommunications access in his town to prevent the dissemination of images. “So I used to go to other cities in order to upload the videos.” Once Kafranbel was liberated from the government he was able to set up a media center in a former government building to document the rebellion. He posted video and photos of the banners he became famous for photographing. One banner reads “Assad government members who defend Assad authenticated crimes should be sent to the ICC, not Geneva,” a reference to charging them with war crimes, not negotiating with them. Another reads “force Assad and Hezbollah to free Madaya,” a besieged Syrian town.

Kafranbel, where Fares was from, is a town of around 15,000 in Syria in a historic region of Idlib known for the “dead cities” of the Byzantine era. There are other historic landmarks nearby, some 700 ancient settlements that include historic churches and ruins.

In his most recent tweets he put up videos of demonstrations. In Idlib in September a video shows hundreds of activists marching with flags. “Take a look, take a deep look, do you see terrorists,” asked Fares. “Russia and Assad are preparing to attack these people, these people are here to say stop the war criminals.”

Questions abound about who might have murdered Fares and his colleague. Locals said a van had pulled up and shot him. The killing will leave many questions about security in Idlib. Idlib province has been the site of tensions because it is one of the few areas in Syria still controlled by the opposition. Now it is part of the wider Turkish sphere of influence in Afrin and Jarabulus.

In September, after the Syrian regime threatened an offensive to re-take Idlib, Russia and Turkey agreed on a ceasefire in the province. As part of the agreement Turkey, which backs the Syrian rebels, would ensure that heavy weapons were withdrawn from a buffer zone in Idlib and that extremist groups, such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) would withdraw. HTS is the current name of Nusra, the same group that once harassed Fares. For instance they tried to get him to stop playing music on his radio station, so he played farm animal noises in 2017.

Turkey was supposed to increase its role in Idlib after the agreement. This was intended to mean that the extreme armed groups leave the province, or accept the new reality, and reduce infighting among rebel groups. This increased hope in what might come next in Idlib. Russia has said that Turkey has been unable to get HTS to withdraw and clashes between HTS and the regime continue from time to time. The killing of Fares will now raise questions as to who is responsible. He was a passionate opponent of the regime but he also faced difficulties from militants and extremist groups.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Seth Frantzman

Hamas and Fatah Unmasked

Sun, 11/25/2018 - 01:00

The recent almost-war with Hamas taught us a lot about the terror regime. It also taught us a lot about Hamas’s rival, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority it controls in Ramallah. Israel’s most urgent task is to understand the implications of what we now know.

The first thing we learned about Hamas is that its control over Gaza is all encompassing.

This week, the media published the communications between Hamas forces during their battle with IDF Special Forces in Gaza on November 11. From those communications we learned that Hamas forces detected the vehicle carrying the Israeli forces very quickly. While they didn’t know who was in the vehicle, they knew the vehicle was suspicious and dispatched a force to intercept it.

Hamas’s ability to detect the vehicle and act swiftly to intercept it demonstrated the terror regime’s ability to use both technological and physical assets to maintain its control over Gaza in a manner reminiscent of the Stasi in East Germany.

THE ALMOST-WAR with Hamas last week also taught us that contrary to the longstanding assessment of the IDF’s General Staff, Hamas is not at all interested in reaching a long-term ceasefire with Israel and therefore there is no point in trying to negotiate one.

For the past several months, various experts inside the Israeli government and military and in foreign countries have claimed that Hamas’s leadership in Gaza is split between two factions.

The first faction, led by Hamas Secretary General Ismail Haniyeh, works with Iran and Qatar to scuttle all efforts to reach a long-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. The second ostensible faction in this ostensible rivalry is led by Hamas terror boss Yahya Sinwar. The Sinwar faction, so the thinking goes, while dedicated to fighting Israel until it is destroyed, believes that the most urgent order of business is solving Gaza’s humanitarian crisis. Based on this assessment, Israel opted to permit Qatar to supply Gaza with gas to fuel its power stations and cash to fill its pockets. The day before Hamas’s largest rocket and mortar onslaught against southern Israel ever, Israel permitted Qatar to transfer $15 million in cash to Hamas.

The fact that right after receiving the cash Sinwar turned around and ordered the rocket assault on Israel shows that his purported interest in a long-term ceasefire with Israel, and the alleged breach between Haniyeh on the one hand and Sinwar on the other was a ruse. He didn’t want a ceasefire. He wanted to fight under optimal conditions – with the power plant purring, his pockets full of cash and his public ecstatic at his great success in bamboozling the bumbling Jews.

THE THIRD THING we learned about Hamas last week is that it is in the process of swallowing the PLO. Pinchas Inbari from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs reported that Hamas brought two PLO factions – the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine – into its war room in Gaza. Both the PFLP and the DFLP have been outspoken in their condemnations of the main PLO faction Fatah and Fatah’s leader Mahmoud Abbas for his refusal to supply Hamas-controlled Gaza with money and electricity. By allowing them a seat at the table in its war room, Hamas is effectively replacing Fatah as the PLO ruling faction.

Last month, in the lead up to the PLO’s Palestinian National Council meeting in Ramallah, Abbas was threatening to stiffen his sanctions against Hamas. But Inbari revealed that ahead of the PNC meeting which took place three weeks ago, Fatah Tanzim terrorists warned Abbas that if he ordered more sanctions against Hamas, Hamas would go to war against Fatah forces in Judea and Samaria.

Like his Tanzim terror operatives, Abbas recognized that Fatah will lose such a war. So he stood down.
Fatah would lose a war with Hamas because as Hamas gets stronger, Fatah is falling apart.

TODAY, Fatah and the PA are beset by three crises which, together and separately, ensure that it will soon implode.

First, it is in a leadership crisis. Abbas is 83 years old. He suffers from multiple medical problems which reportedly include prostate cancer and heart disease. While a number of Fatah officials jockey to replace him, none has the backing of a significant enough cross section of Palestinian power brokers and outside powers to succeed Abbas without a fight that will leave the PA/Fatah bloodied, hollowed out and discredited in the eyes of its public and its foreign stakeholders.

Abbas’s waning power manifests itself almost daily. On May 15, the day the American Embassy opened in Jerusalem, his PA had ordered Arab Jerusalemites to hold a general strike. As Inbari notes, the initiative was a complete flop. It went largely unnoticed only because Hamas staged a massive, violent riot against Israel along the border fence with Gaza that day which captured all of the media’s attention.

In the recent Jerusalem municipal elections, Arab Jerusalemites tried to defy the PA’s order to boycott the poll. Several attempted to stand for election. In the end, the PA was able to force the would-be candidates to opt out of the race and keep Jerusalem’s Arabs away from the polls. But this showed that the local Arab population’s defiance of the PA is rapidly growing.

Rather than disassociate from Israel, increasing numbers of Jerusalem Arabs are applying for Israeli citizenship.

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THE SECOND CRISIS afflicting the PA is economic. The US suspension of budgetary assistance to the PA and financial support for UNRWA has caused significant harm to the Palestinian economy. And the public is revolting.

While all eyes were glued to Gaza and Hamas’s rocket onslaught against southern Israel last week, tens of thousands of Palestinians were demonstrating in Ramallah against the PA’s decision to nationalize private pensions and insurance policies. The mass protests have continued this week.

Shortly after the PA was established in Gaza in 1994, Israel handed over the pension funds it set up for local employees of the Civil Administration. In a matter of months, the PA emptied the accounts leaving the administration’s pensioners penniless. Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria are uninterested in having that happen to their savings.

The PA’s demand that Palestinians end their economic cooperation with Israel and stop working for Israeli companies is similarly being met with derision and fury. Inbari reported that Sahar Saed, chairman of the board of commerce in Nablus, attacked Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions groups for calling for Palestinians to stop working for Israeli companies. Saad said that so long as there are no alternative job opportunities for the Palestinians, the BDS groups and the PA which backs them need to stop bothering Palestinian workers at Israeli-managed industrial parks in Judea and Samaria.

THE THIRD CRISIS which is destroying Fatah and its Palestinian Authority is the Arab world’s decision, for the first time in 70 years, to effectively abandon the Palestinian cause as a unifying force for the Arab world.

Some Arab leaders openly express a desire to move beyond the Palestinians and rejection of Israel and concentrate the efforts of the Arab League on unifying against Iran and Turkey.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, has begun directly undermining the basis of PLO power.

Riyadh recently announced it would stop accepting laissez passes from Arab Jerusalemites and instead will require them to use real passports. In response, Arab Jerusalemites are applying for Israeli citizenship.

Equally, if not more significantly, the Saudis have begun pressuring the Lebanese government to naturalize the Palestinians who have lived in Lebanon for 70 years in UN refugee camps.

Ahead of his address before the UN General Assembly in September, Abbas was unable to secure meetings with Arab leaders. The only leaders willing to meet with him were the Europeans who have replaced the Arabs as the main supporter of the PLO specifically and the Palestinians more generally.

Abbas was similarly blindsided by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Oman, and Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev’s visit to Abu Dhabi for the world judo championships.

For their part, both the IDF General Staff and the government have shown little awareness or ability to deal coherently with the unfolding realities revealed in Hamas-ruled Gaza and in the Fatah-controlled PA.

AS FAR AS Hamas is concerned, its complete control over Gaza and its across-the-board rejection of any significant cessation of hostilities with Israel shows that the IDF’s longstanding assessments of Hamas have been wrong. The IDF General Staff’s insistence on appeasing Hamas to achieve a long-term ceasefire was justified on the basis of an incorrect reading of Hamas’s interests and goals. The government’s decision to agree to sue for a ceasefire was predicated on the General Staff’s failure to understand or reconcile with Hamas’s interests and goals.

And if the General Staff failed to understand Hamas’s intentions and so misinformed the government, the government and the IDF have together failed to deal competently with the PA’s rapidly encroaching collapse. This failure was exposed in part in a document authored by Col. Alon Mednes, who served until recently as Operations Officer of Central Command. Mednes’s letter on the state of Central Command was written in the summer and leaked to the media earlier this week. Among the many worrying assessments included in his letter, one related to Central Command’s continued role as military commander of Judea and Samaria is of particular significance in light of Fatah’s disintegration.

Mednes wrote, “When you’re here [in Judea and Samaria], you understand that without a narrative about our present governance here, which is reinforced from time to time, the Command is liable to become irrelevant.”

THE MAIN reason that Central Command doesn’t have a narrative is because its continued military rule makes no sense. Israel transferred governing power from the Military Government to the PA 22 years ago. Ever since, the Military Government has been limited to Area C. The overwhelming majority of the residents of Area C are not Palestinians but Israelis. In other words, for 22 years, the Military Government has governed Israeli citizens.

Clearly, the IDF has no ready narrative to explain this absurd state of affairs. The IDF has little to contribute as a governing authority to the daily lives of half a million Israelis. Even worse, its continued political power diminishes the IDF’s coherence as a fighting force while harming the civil rights of Israelis who live in the area.

Israelis are divided over whether the PA’s coming collapse is a good or bad thing. But regardless of its potential value, it will blow up in Israel’s face if the government doesn’t decide now how it wants to deal with a post-Fatah/PA Judea and Samaria .

We learned a lot about the Palestinians over the past few weeks. The most urgent order of business for the government and the IDF is to deal realistically with what we now know.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post

How Ohio Democrat Corruption Killed a Black Woman

Sun, 11/25/2018 - 00:00

On the way back from a funeral, Judge Lance Mason beat his wife so badly that he broke her orbital socket. A woman who called 911 had described a horrifying scene of “fists flying” inside the car.

Their two children, ages 4 and 6, were in the SUV when their father assaulted their mother, choked her and bit her on the ear and the cheek. According to Aisha, Judge Mason “struck me in the face, yanked my hair, slammed my head into the dashboard and armrest of the car.”

She later called the police, telling them, “I’m afraid he’s going to hurt my daughters.”

Aisha had to be hospitalized and required reconstructive surgery to repair the damage to her ace.

When the cops came to arrest Judge Mason, they found semi-automatic rifles, 2,500 rounds of ammunition, a bulletproof vest and a sword.

Judge Mason wasn’t just anybody. He had deep roots in the local Democrat machine. He had been appointed to the bench by Governor Ted Strickland. Before that he had worked as a district director for Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, his mentor. Then he wrangled an appointment to the Ohio State House, and moved on to the State Senate, where he became notable for opposing a bill regulating strip clubs.

When Governor Strickland appointed Mason, the Democrat claimed that the future domestic abuser’s experience in politics “will make him an effective and respected judge.” Mason claimed that he wanted to be a judge for the sake of his family. “I’ve got to get home and help out my wife with my baby.”

The huge pay bump to $121,350 probably didn’t play a role for this devoted family man.

Despite his horrific crime, Mason was still able to call on the support of numerous Ohio Democrats, including Rep. Marcia Fudge, who wrote a letter in his defense, claiming, “Lance Mason is a good man who made a very bad mistake. I can only hope you can see in Lance what I and others see.”

The Ohio Supreme Court had to assign a special judge to hear the case after Mason’s colleagues recused themselves. Judge Mason attempted to avoid jail time in a move that the assistant county prosecutor described as a statement conveying that, “I’m special; I’m not like the other people”.

Despite the prejudiced assumptions of white liberals, Mason came from a privileged background. His father had been a doctor and his cousin a lawyer. A profile written during his Capitol Hill days describes him as being “torn between a career in medicine or law”.

Judge Mason couldn’t escape jail. He was sentenced to two years. But when he got out, the Ohio Democratic party did not abandon its favorite son. Instead Ohio Dems, who condemned President Trump for not caring about “women’s rights”, gave him a plum position as the Minority Business Development Administrator for Cleveland despite beating his wife so badly she needed surgery.

Then she was murdered.

The body of Aisha Fraser, a beloved teacher at Woodbury Elementary, and the mother of a daughter with Down syndrome, was found, stabbed to death, in the driveway of her home.

Mason was reportedly caught trying to flee the scene. He struck a police officer with his car and rammed into the police car hard enough to disable both cars.

The officer suffered injuries to his legs and ribs.

And then Cleveland finally fired its monster.

Mayor Frank Jackson defended hiring Mason as part of Cleveland’s second-chance for felons program. “We hire many ex-felons and almost all of them turn out well because we have second chance as a part of what we do as a policy in the City of Cleveland,” the Democrat insisted.

In an interview, Mayor Jackson suggested that domestic violence cases were too complex to lay blame.

He claimed that murderers and drug dealers, “have come to work for the city of Cleveland and they have done quite well for us.” Even people convicted of “public corruption” are being employed by Cleveland.

They include City Council member Sabra T. Pierce Scott who was sentenced to probation for soliciting a job for her son and taking a bribe from a contractor, before being hired as Cleveland’s first director of quality control and performance management at a $95,000 salary. Scott is a Democrat.

Scott’s son was shot by a police officer after allegedly reaching for a gun.

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Mayor Jackson personally swore in a politician who had been found guilty in the biggest corruption scandal in the region, aiding a $125 million project for corrupt reasons. Scott had escaped with a slap on the wrist, teaching ethics to high school students, before landing a top government job.

Mason had also gotten a virtual slap on the wrist.

He had been indicted on charges of kidnapping for driving away with the children after throwing his wife out of the car, and on charges of domestic violence, felonious assault, attempted felonious assault and child endangerment. But all he did was plead guilty to domestic violence and attempted felonious assault. And then in a short time, he was out and back working for his corrupt political organization.

Like Mason, Scott had benefited from the patronage of her party, with current and former Democrat council members showing up to support her at her sentencing hearing. Democrat politicians had used programs meant to help released convicts looking for a fresh start to employ their own criminals.

Mayor Jackson had personally hired Mason and admitted he knew him because of his relationship with fellow Democrat, Rep. Tubbs. It was rumored that Jackson had hired Mason as a favor to Rep. Marcia Fudge, a top Democrat currently running against Rep. Nancy Pelosi to serve as Speaker of the House.

Rep. Fudge had endorsed Mayor Jackson, but denies that she pulled any political strings for Mason. She claimed that by reporting on the story, the media is guilty of the “traumatization and victimization of Mr. Mason’s family”. That family would not include Aisha Fraser, whom Mason allegedly murdered.

Her concern for the two surviving children is as transparently phony as Mayor Jackson’s condolences.

The simple and ugly truth of the Mason case is that he benefited from Democrat political privilege. But in Mason’s case, the Democrats were not satisfied with protecting crooks and instead decided to cover for a monster because, no matter what he did or whom he hurt, he was a Democrat monster.

“I learned that when I had been stripped of public acclaim, I had far more friends than I had imagined. I didn’t lose a friend,” Mason wrote on his blog. “People who I didn’t think I was close to were kind, gave encouraging words (even several prosecutors)… Eleven attorneys donated time to work on my cases.”

When you’re a Democrat, prosecutors offer you encouraging words instead of throwing the book at you.

The political party that claims to protect women got a woman killed. The faction that claims to love “women of color” helped put one in the ground.

Aisha Fraser might be alive today if Lance Mason had been held accountable. Instead he was coddled and protected because of his relationships within the Democrat establishment. If he had been put away for a substantial prison term, the way that any ordinary person would have, Aisha would still be alive. And her daughters would still have their mother and her students would have their teacher.

Instead Mason got a slap of the wrist, and after that slap, Cleveland officials, from Mayor Jackson on down, made it clear that he still had the backing and the protection of his fellow Democrats.

Is it any wonder that Lance Mason believed that he could get away with killing his wife?

Reprinted with author’s permission from Sultan Knish Blog

A Pastor and a Rabbi United to Help Feed Jerusalem’s Neediest on Thanksgiving

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 07:05

At a special Thanksgiving Day event, Pastor Jentezen Franklin and Rabbi Tuly Weisz, a Christian and a Jew, came together – under the auspices of Colel Chabad – to help some of Jerusalem’s poorest and neediest residents.

Franklin is currently in Israel leading a mission with his congregation – the Free Chapel Worship Center, based in Gainesville, Georgia. Their tour has taken in many of Christianity’s holiest sites; Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea and Jerusalem. Each week his television program, Kingdom Connection, is broadcast on major networks all over the world. He has recently been dubbed one of Israel’s best friends for his work with Holocaust survivors and the Friends of Zion Museum.

Colel Chabad – where Franklin and Weisz, publisher of Breaking Israel News volunteered – is Israel’s oldest charity, having served the Holy Land’s struggling citizens for 230 years. Every day of the year, the charity organization feeds hungry Israelis, runs unique programs to ensure that orphans succeed in school and in day-to-day life, and offers daycare services to build the future of Israel’s youth, regardless of gender, age, marital status, ethnicity or religious observance. Its comprehensive services include programs for widows and indigent families, Holocaust survivors, immigrants, and the chronically ill.

Pastor Jentezen Franklin volunteering to help feed Jerusalem’s poor and needy on Thanksgiving. (Credit: Rabbi Tuly Weisz/Breaking Israel News)

Rabbi Weisz praised Colel Chabad’s work, which they undertake every day of the year and not just on Thanksgiving. “While typically on Thanksgiving families are spending the day together, enjoying themselves and feasting on huge meals, the volunteers at Colel Chabad are ensuring that no-one goes hungry; not only on Thanksgiving, but every day of the year,” he told Breaking Israel News.

Both Jews and Christians trace the origins of the holiday of Thanksgiving to the Bible; and by Franklin and Weisz serving together on the holiday, it shows a unique example of the growing relationship between Jews and Christians. It is another example of the coming together – more than at any other time in history – over a shared love for the Bible and Israel. It was not the first time that Franklin and Weisz have paired up to spread a message of unity and brotherly love, having penned a piece published on Breaking Israel News yesterday.

It is clearly a deeply spiritual and religious experience for Christians to come to the Holy Land and walk in such hallowed footsteps. However, Weisz intuited a deeper meaning behind Pastor Franklin’s Thanksgiving gesture. “It’s so important that Christians visit the Holy sites of Israel, but it’s more important when they meet with the people of Israel and offer encouragement,” Weisz explained. “Although he was so busy leading his group it’s amazing that Pastor Franklin took time away from his group on Thanksgiving to help serve Jerusalem’s poor and needy,” he added.

Out of the Bible, First Temple Period Weight Unearthed in Jerusalem

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 04:58

A weight with Hebrew description from the First Temple era, dated from the 10th-century BCE to 586 BCE when the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, was found in Jerusalem.

It was discovered in archaeological soil from the foot of Robinson’s Arch at the Western Wall. The soil was taken from the excavation site to the sifting area in the Emek Tzurim National Park for sorting, when the weight was unearthed.

The Beka weight was utilized to examine the half-shekel donation given by Jews for both maintenance of the Temple and as a census, as outlined in the book of Exodus: “One Beka per head; [that is] half a shekel, according to the holy shekel, for each one who goes through the counting, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred three thousand, five hundred and fifty [people].”

The word also appears in the book of Genesis in reference to the weight of gold in a nose ring given to the matriarch Rebecca.

The biblical shekel weighed almost 0.4 ounces.

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“When the half-shekel tax was brought to the Temple during the First Temple period, there were no coins, so they used silver ingots. In order to calculate the weight of these silver pieces they would put them on one side of the scales and on the other side they placed the Beka weight,” explained Eli Shukron, who directed the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The Beka was equivalent to the half-shekel, which every person from the age of 20 years and up was required to bring to the Temple,” he continued.

“Beka weights from the First Temple period are rare; however this weight is even rarer, because the inscription on it is written in mirror script and the letters are engraved from left to right instead of right to left,” added Shukron. “It can therefore be concluded that the artist who engraved the inscription on the weight specialized in engraving seals, since seals were always written in mirror script so that once stamped the inscription would appear in regular legible script.”

Doron Spielman, vice president of the City of David Foundation, said “this 3,000-year-old Beka weight, inscribed with ancient Hebrew, was likely used in the First Temple, anchoring once again, the deep historical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. It is a reminder from our ancestors in First Temple times telling us that the State of Israel of today does not rest only on a 70-year-old [United Nations] vote, but rather, rests upon a foundation that began more than three millennia ago.”

The artifact will be on display to the public in Emek Tzurim National Park during Hanukkah, according to the City of David Foundation.

Did Scientists Just Confirm Biblical Account of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 04:20

A recent scientific study confirmed what students of the Bible have known all along: a catastrophe from the heavens destroyed all life in the area of the Dead Sea many thousands of years ago.

After a decade of digging, archaeologist Phillip Silvian of Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque reported on his research on the Dead Sea are last week at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

Silvia led excavations at five large sites on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River. According to Silvia, the 15 square-mile circular Middle Ghor was a fertile plain, populated continuously for at least 2,500 hundred years. Some form of catastrophe 3,700 years ago brought this to a sudden end, wiping out all of the estimated 40,000 to 65,000 people who inhabited the area at the time.

Studies of the remains of 120 small settlements in the region showed signs of extreme, collapse-inducing heat and wind. Pottery was discovered to have been exposed to heat so intense that it melted into glass. Zircon crystals in those glassy coats formed within one second at extremely high temperatures, perhaps as hot as the surface of the sun. Pottery fragments discovered at the Tall el-Hammam site contained tiny, spherical mineral grains that apparently rained down on the area.

The event was so catastrophic that the area remained unpopulated for 600 years.

The signs were clear but the precise nature of the catastrophe eluded researchers until they turned their eyes heavenward.

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They suspected a huge and powerful meteor strike but the lack of a crater stymied them. An impact of that intensity would surely leave behind signs. The researchers came up with a slightly different scenario: a meteoric airburst like one that took place 100 years ago in Russia.

Tunguska is a sparsely populated forested region in Siberia, Russia. On the morning of 30 June 1908, a huge explosion flattened 770 square miles of forest. The explosion is generally attributed to the airburst of a meteor. Scientists concluded the destruction was the result of an airburst 3-6 miles above the area of destruction. The burst equaled that of a 15-megaton nuclear explosion, or 1,000 times more powerful than the first nuclear bomb ever made that was dropped on Hiroshima 37 years later. There were no known human casualties in the Tunguska Event.

“The destruction not only of Tall el-Hammam (Sodom), but also its neighbors (Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain) was most likely caused by a meteoritic airburst event,” the authors conclude.

Silvia also found evidence that shockwaves from the explosion pushed a bubbling brine of Dead Sea salts over once-fertile farmland.

The scientific explanation clearly reflects the Biblical description of the destruction of the twin cities of evil located in the same area.

Hashem rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulfurous fire from Hashem out of heaven. He annihilated those cities and the entire Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation of the ground. Genesis 19:24-25

The similarity of their conclusions was not lost on the researchers. Co-author of the research paper, Dr. Steven Collins, wrote in an article in Biblical Archaeology Review article that the Biblical account was a result of a real event being incorporated into the collective unconscious and consequently being recorded in the Bible.

“The memory of the destruction of ha-kikkar, with its large population and extensive agricultural lands, was preserved in the Book of Genesis and ultimately incorporated into a traditional tale that, drawing on the layer of ash that covered the destruction of one of its major cities, remembered a place consumed by a fiery catastrophe from ‘out of the heavens’,” he writes. “The Bible gives the city’s name: Sodom.”

Is Jerusalem’s ‘Holy Air’ the Secret to Startup Success?

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 03:20

What’s the secret to startup success?

“If you want to become Mobileye then you have to come to Jerusalem,” said Julia Kagan, a senior associate for Jerusalem Venture Partners, referring to the global leader in the development of vision technology for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving. “It’s the holy air.”

Kagan was speaking as part of a panel titled “Innovation, Technology and Economic Growth” at the Jerusalem Leaders Summit, which took place earlier this week at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel. The Nov. 18 event brought together and engaged an international delegation of entrepreneurs and business leaders from America, Britain, continental Europe and India with the goal of advancing policy initiatives that champion the expansion of free and fair trade.

This was the third such summit. The first one took place in 2015.

“The Jerusalem Leaders Summit is a high-level public policy conference in Israel where participants can witness firsthand how in Israel the desert blooms, innovation thrives, and timeless principles are affirmed,” said summit co-founder Joel Anand Samy.

This was certainly the case during the innovation session, where speakers were able to showcase the modern accomplishments of the ancient and holy city.

Lior Shabo, founder of the Jerusalem Parliament – a network of young, Jerusalem-based leaders from the worlds of business, social entrepreneurship, public policy, grassroots activism, journalism and politics for monthly networking events – and a seventh-generation Jerusalemite, said he is seeing a renaissance in Jerusalem.

“Ten years ago, people wanted to give up on the city and thought, ‘this is the end,’” Shabo said, noting that with its population of nearly 1 million – the largest city in Israel – Jerusalem is ranked the country’s poorest large city. This is in part because nearly 40 percent of residents are Arabs living in the eastern part of the city and ultra-Orthodox, both communities who historically have not been well-integrated into the workforce.

“This diversity created a challenge,” Shabo said. “But Jerusalemites have turned it into an opportunity and a new, creative way of thinking.

“Jerusalem is a microcosm of Israeli society, so when we create a new solution it is eventually adopted by the rest of Israel.”

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That is exactly what Jerusalem has done and is doing. Shabo said there have been successful and optimistic efforts to bolster these two populations.

Take BizMax, the first accelerator designed and catered for ultra-Orthodox entrepreneurs interested in developing their own startups. BizMax offers an innovative business area for men, including an advanced work environment, networking and other backing that successful entrepreneurs need when they are getting started.

Hanan Brand, founder of Made in Jerusalem (MadeinJLM), an NGO that connects and promotes Jerusalem’s tech and startup community, said that in the last five years it has come apparent that while Israel has many startups it lacks talent. He said only about eight percent – 350,000 people – of the Israeli population works in tech.

“It’s not enough to support Israel’s rapid innovation,” Brand said. “The solution is to train the Arabs and ultra-Orthodox to fill this void.

“In our city, we are making them part of the startup ecosystem,” he continued. “This will mean a better future for our economy.”

Kagan said she is optimistic.

When asked why she thinks Jewish people, including Israelis, win so many Nobel Prizes in comparison to the rest of the population, she said this is largely because of our difficult Jewish past.

“We were not so popular when we lived outside of Israel,” Kagan said, referring to the Holocaust and other tragedies that came before it. “I believe one of the driving forces of our success is knowing that we can only trust our minds and nothing else.”

She also quipped that the stereotype of the nagging Jewish mother is true.

“When I was 18, my parents said I was studying engineering,” Kagan said with a laugh. “They did not ask me what I wanted to study. They said, ‘You are studying engineering.’ The only question was what type.”

She continued, “Even the ultra-Orthodox study all the time – they are learning Torah. A focus on education is also a key to success.”

Amalek, Jewish Injustice, Converts and a Warning to the Chief Rabbinate

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 02:00

בני אליפז בכור עשו…

אלוף קרח אלוף געתם אלוף עמלק…

These became the chieftains of the sons of Esav: the sons of Eliphaz, Esav’s firstborn… Chief Korach, Chief Gaatam, Chief Amalek…

Bereshit 36:16-17

The Jews’ most formidable enemy in biblical times was the nation of Amalek. This nation was, and symbolically still is, the personification of evil, brutality, racism and anti-Semitism. Amalek is seared into the Jewish consciousness as the unprecedented enemy of the People of Israel after their exodus from Egypt. What revealed Amalek’s moral bankruptcy was not only that they dared to fight the Israelites but that this evil nation attacked the Israelites from the back, focusing on the weak and tired people.

In later days, it was Haman the Amalekite, known from the Purim story, who once again displayed the evil intentions of this nation. Only through a miracle was Israel saved from the hands of this wicked person.

Who was Amalek? The Torah tells us that the first Amalek was the son of Esav’s son Eliphaz. He was the eponymous ancestor of the Amalekite people. Eliphaz took a concubine by the name of Timna, who then became pregnant and gave birth to Amalek. This means that Amelek was a descendent from Yitzchak and Rivka!

The Rejection of Timna as a Proselyte

The Talmud inquires why Timna married Eliphaz and provides us with a stunning explanation:

Timna desired to become a (Jewish) proselyte, so she went to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov, but they did not accept her. As a result, she went and became a concubine to Eliphaz, the son of Esav, saying: “I would rather be a servant to this (Jewish) people than a mistress of another nation.” From her Amalek, who afflicted Israel, was descended. Why so? Because they should not have rejected her.

This Talmudic statement is difficult to understand. It is, after all, unclear why the forefathers refused to take her under their wing and why they did not allow her to join the Jewish people, especially when we know that they went out of their way to convert as many people as possible. Furthermore, one would expect the Talmud to justify the decision of the three forefathers; instead, the sages rebuke the Patriarchs for their failure to accept her for conversion. The sages’ commitment to truth exceeded their love for the Patriarchs. This is unprecedented. They could have suppressed the story, or they could have stated that Timna was indeed unworthy. The fact that they did not do anything of that sort proves their integrity and uncompromising commitment to truth.

What is even more surprising is that they considered the Patriarchs’ refusal to accept Timna into Judaism as the prime reason why Israel would later be afflicted by the offspring of the first Amalek.

Sarah’s Sin

This reminds us of a statement made by Ramban when he discusses the reasons why the Arab nations have exhibited so much hostility toward the Jewish people. When Hagar became pregnant from Avraham and subsequently looked down on Sarah (who could not become pregnant), Sarah complained to Avraham about her. “Then Avraham said to Sarai: ‘Behold, your maid is in your hands; do to her that which is good in your eyes.’ Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she (Hagar) fled from her.” Ramban’s comment is most telling:

Sarah, our mother, sinned in dealing harshly (with Hagar)–and Avraham, too, by allowing her to do so. God heard her (Hagar’s) suffering and gave her a son who was destined to be a lawless person, who would afflict the seed of Avraham and Sarah with all kinds of suffering.

In later days, it was Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever, rabbi of Bialystok and one of the great leaders of the Hibbat Zion movement, who made a similar comment when the Turkish government was about to banish from the Jewish settlements those Russian Jews who had moved to the country but had not taken Ottoman citizenship. He cried out and said that it is because of “Drive out this handmaiden (Hagar) and her son” that the Muslims – the children of Yishmael son of Hagar –would now cast out the sons of Sarah from their land.

Once again we are confronted with an unbending commitment to truth. Even when running the risk of putting our spiritual heroes in a compromising light, the sages did not shrink from criticizing the Patriarchs and Matriarchs when they felt the need to do so. And once again we hear a daring statement that because of this, Jews still encounter hostility from their enemies thousands of years later.

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Esav’s Bitter Cry

On another occasion, the sages again spoke of the injustice done to the ancestors of Haman. They stressed that much of Haman’s hatred for Jews resulted from the way Ya’akov had dealt with his brother Esav. On the words in the Megillah, “And Mordechai understood all that was done; and Mordechai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes; and he went out into the midst of the city and cried a loud and bitter cry,” the Midrash Rabbah dares to make the following observation:

One bitter cry did Ya’akov cause Esav to cry (after he had stolen the blessings from Esav), as it says: “When Esav heard his father’s words, he cried an exceedingly loud and bitter cry,”  and it was paid back to him [Ya’akov] in Shushan when his offspring [Mordechai and the Jews] cried a loud and bitter cry [because of the great trouble that Haman, the offspring of Amalek and Esav, caused the Jews].

This may have been the reason why the sages declared that some descendants of Haman taught Torah in Bnei Brak, and some later authorities felt that one could perhaps accept members of the nation of Amalek as converts. Somehow, they felt that not all members of Amalek were totally evil; nor were the people of Israel completely blameless.

Why, indeed, did the sages emphasize the injustice by our forefathers? Why not keep quiet? They certainly didn’t want to justify the anti-Semitism of the Amalekites or the hate of the Arab nations. Nor did they wish to embarrass the Patriarchs, knowing quite well that they were men of great spirituality.

They were fully aware of treading dangerous ground when they showed a soft spot for Amalek. But after all was said and done, they took the plunge. A risky balancing act.

I believe that a careful look in the Torah may provide us with the answer. The Torah demands of the Jews: “You shall erase the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens. You shall not forget.” This commandment seems to be a paradox: How can we erase the memory of Amalek if we are not allowed to forget what he did?

Blot out the Memory of Amalek

However, it is very possible that the Torah hints here not only to the monstrous deeds of Amalek, but also to the injustices that were done by our forefathers when dealing with Esav and Timna. “Blot out the memory of Amalek” may quite well mean that we are obligated to uproot from within ourselves the ways in which our ancestors dealt with the ancestors of Amalek. “Do not forget” that this behavior was unjustified and consequently caused ongoing pain to this people, and consequently to the People of Israel.

In other words, the Torah teaches us to erase Amalek’s memory by doing everything in our power not to give cause to unwarranted feelings within ourselves toward nations and people. We create our own enemies, and we Jews have to teach ourselves and others to prevent this by all means.

This, however, cannot be done once and for all. It is a constant demand that should never be forgotten.

The earlier critical observations by our Sages are therefore most crucial. By emphasizing the injustices done by our forefathers, and their disastrous repercussions, they gave us the means to fulfill the mitzvah of blotting out Amalek’s memory and paradoxically never forgetting what they did to us. Not only because they are our arch-enemies, but also because we should not give cause to bring them into existence.

While the sages surely did not want to fully justify Amalek’s or the Arab’s animosity towards the Jews, they made it abundantly clear that our forefathers did not behave with impunity. They carried a great amount of accountability in this most unfortunate situation.

Finally, one wonders, whether the Talmud is teaching us to approach every proselyte with much care and love. Sending them away, telling them that they are unworthy, may be completely unjustified and a desecration of God’s name on top of that. It can lead to major disasters as in the case of Timna.

 The Israeli Chief Rabbinate or any other rabbinate should take notice! 

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Times of Israel

NY Times: Jared and Ivanka Trump are Bad for the Jews

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 01:00

In an article asking “Are Jared and Ivanka Good for the Jews?” The New York Times’ Amy Chozick and Hannah Seligson quoted an anti-Trump Jewish voice accusing Jared Kushner of being a “fig leaf” of support for the Jewish people.

Though the article does include some Jewish defenders of President Trump, whose daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are Jewish, the Times quotes multiple Jewish sources who try to tie the horrific synagogue massacre to President Trump–without mentioning that the alleged shooter was not a supporter of President Trump and explicitly stated that he opposed President Trump’s policies toward Israel. As the BCC reports, “The suspect was not a Trump supporter – he accused the president in online posts of doing nothing to stop an ‘infestation” by Jews.’”

These facts were not mentioned by The Times.

“In the weeks after a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, in one of the most horrific acts of anti-Semitism in years, debates about the president’s role in stoking extremism have roiled American Jews — and forced an uncomfortable reckoning between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and his daughter and son-in-law’s Jewish faith” The Times reported. “To some Jews, the couple serves as a bulwark pushing the Trump administration toward pro-Israel policies, most notably the decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. To many others, they are the wolves in sheep’s clothing, allowing Mr. Trump to brush aside criticism that his words have fueled the uptick in violent attacks against Jews.”

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The Times also makes no mention of the acceptance of anti-Semitic leaders by the political left, including Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour, who embraced the anti-Semitic leadership of Louis Farrakhan.

Jewish conservative activist Ben Shapiro took to Twitter to denounce the Times article.

“This article is an absurdity. Tell me more, newspaper that published a list of Jewish populations by district to push the Iran deal, about why the Kushners are bad for the Jews.

He continued “This article only makes sense if you substitute the phrase ‘Democratic Party platform’ or ‘Obama agenda’ for the words Jews and Judaism. It’s a disgrace.”Shapiro ended: “Looking forward to an article from the NYT on whether Ilhan Omar, Rshaida Tlaib, or the NYT is good for the Jews.”

Reprinted with author’s permission from Accuracy in Media

Israel Needs a Clear Security Policy, Not Confrontation

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 00:00

The Hamas propaganda has succeeded. Some fiery speeches, some sweets being handed out in the streets and the right-wing is convinced Hamas won.

This was the message in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Sunday and at Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s press conference on Monday. Both of them, it is important to note, spoke about the beginning of a new chapter. For a minute there, one could have thought the feeble government had been dissolved and a new one has been formed in its stead.

They said everything is going to change. Excuse me?! The prime minister and the education minister are both members of the Security Cabinet. They are the decision-makers. They were those who decided that restraint is preferable to another confrontation, which will contribute nothing. Netanyahu went as far as praising the restraint policy.

So what changed? Nothing. But former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned, and Bennett made his threats. And all of a sudden, everything is different? Does Netanyahu suddenly know new things that a week ago he did not? Is there suddenly such a gap between his speeches? These are not rhetorical questions. These questions arouse fear in all of us.

Netanyahu’s winning hand was that he was stately and not political as far as security and military matters were concerned. But in a heart beat he abandoned stateliness for politics.

The Israelis living in communities along the Gaza border have been suffering for months. Netanyahu did not succeed in finding a solution. His failure is neither due to a soft or a hard approach, nor because of the Military Advocate General, as Bennett claimed on Monday, sparking even Lieberman’s ire. Netanyahu failed in finding a solution since Israel has no policy. Israel is only retaliating, not initiating. And no, this is not a disagreement between the Left and the Right.

The disagreement lies between those thinking there is a need for a clear policy, which includes forming an international and Arab coalition that will forge an outline to improve the situation of Gaza’s residents in exchange for demilitarization, and those who choose to do nothing—as the current government does.

Since Netanyahu and Bennett are stirring the ship, it is unclear who they are placing the blame on. It is nice of Bennett not to resign. However, what new and surprising security policy is he talking about? Does the education minister intend to fire the chief military advocate general? The IDF chief of staff? Does he intend to drag Netanyahu and Israel to a fire-and-brimstone adventure, which will end exactly like the two last operations in Gaza?

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A change is needed. But change does not equal confrontation; because so far, Israel has been going from one confrontation to another, and nothing has changed.

Change means policy. And it appears policy is exactly what is missing in the new government, which is actually the old one.

Until now it was clear, despite the slandering, that the prime minister has been avoiding military confrontations because of political interests. Has something changed? Let’s pray not. But one shout admit that if, god forbid, a confrontation was to erupt, Netanyahu and Bennett succeeded in creating question surrounding Israel’s chances of winning.

Reprinted with author’s permission from YNet News

DEUTERONOMY 26:9

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 23:16

In the Bible, the Land of Israel is described as a land flowing with milk and honey. In a literal sense, this refers to goat’s milk and date honey. On a metaphorical level, milk is a nutritional necessity, whereas honey is a savory delicacy. Hashem (God) promises that the Land of Israel will not only sustain His nation with the basic essentials for survival, but He will bless the Land with sweetness and prosperity. This inspiration and 15 more are featured in Israel365’s 16-Month Hebrew calendar & Jewish Holiday Guide.

Iran Claims Their Missiles Can Now Reach US Bases

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 16:50

Iran’s military says that U.S. bases deployed across the Middle East are now within range of the country’s upgraded class of ballistic missiles. According to them, the missiles were outfitted with improved precision capabilities.

Israel is Desirable Hot Spot for Tourism

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 09:08

Israel is a desirable tourism hot-spot. Already in 2018, the country has surpassed its 2017 total. It is estimated that more than 4 million people will visit the country in 2018. It is said that tourism has added $4.8 billion to the economy.

Fake News and the End-of-Days

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 08:51

The mainstream media was quick to jump on news predicting the pre-Messiah battle of Gog and Magog, with many outlets misstating facts and misrepresenting the important theological concepts. But Rabbi Pinchas Winston, the victim of this “fake news,” saw the hand of God, using their errors to spread a true message.

Rabbi Pinchas WInston (Courtesy)

On November 12, Breaking Israel News (BIN) published an article titled, “IDF: A Special Army Preparing for Gog and Magog.” The article quoted  former Chief Rabbi of the IDF Rabbi Rafi Peretz, spokesman for the nascent Sanhedrin Rabbi Hillel Weiss, and the prominent author and end-of-days expert Rabbi Winston.

The article was picked up by dozens of other media, many of them focusing on Rabbi Winston’s statements that the ultimate end-of-days conflict described in prophecy as the War of Gog and Magog might begin with the type of conflict being seen on Israel’s southern border at present. He put this into the context of history as well as citing classical Jewish sources. As an author and a rabbi, Rabbi Winston was precise in his language and BIN presented his words in as accurate a manner as possible.

Though most media reposting the story did so in a faithful manner, other media that cited the BIN article were not so careful. The British tabloid Daily Mail online version described “Rabbi Wilson” [sic] as a “former Chief Rabbi of the IDF.” Rabbi Winston has never served as a rabbi in the Israeli army. After being contacted several times, the editors at the Daily Mail still have not corrected the error. Another British tabloid, The Daily Star, described Rabbi Winston as “a prolific doomsayer,” a moniker that was picked up by several other sites that reposted the story. Some sites misrepresented Winston as claiming the current conflict with Hamas is the beginning of the War of Gog and Magog, a claim he was very careful not to make, maintaining that it might be.

In his weekly online Torah lesson, Rabbi Winston addressed the episode, describing the interview with this reporter.

“The basic question was, ‘Can we know what events will lead to the War of Gog and Magog?’” Winston wrote. “The basic answer was, ‘No.’ I explained to him that the War of Gog and Magog is a variable, meaning that its final form can change based upon where the Jewish people are holding at the time.”

Rabbi Winston speaks extensively about the end-of-days, a complicated process discussed in esoteric sources, in a manner not as cut-and-dried or as simple as the one described in the tabloids. There are many stages, each with its own dynamics and meanings.

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“I am well aware of the dangers of making predictions having to do with the End-of-Days,” Winston wrote. “I know the danger of telling people something SPECIFIC will happen by a certain date, and it doesn’t. I’ve learned the curse of the Talmud for people who predict Moshiach’s arrival because of the despair this can cause when it does not come to fruition. I couldn’t predict such a date even if I wanted to.”

“My message is controversial, so I am VERY careful how I say it. There are many things that have been discussed by me which I have not allowed to make it to print. I know how people react to such information. I was reminded of this again just last week.”

“But alas, we’re living in an age of sensationalist journalism and what has come to be called ‘false news.’ So, the Alex Jones Report picked it up, and they added a great sense of urgency to the message, quoting me as saying that the war in Gaza WILL lead to the biblical War of Gog and Magog.”

The Drudge Report, also a right-wing media source, picked it up from the Alex Jones Report, and just like that, a couple million more people potentially were exposed to the War of Gog and Magog beginning in Gaza last week. One person, probably seeing one of these two ‘news sources,’ wrote me personally, angry that I spoke about such a conflict, even calling it disgraceful.”

In a truly inspiring manner, Rabbi Winston managed to find what he called “Divine Providence” in the situation.

“It was just weird, and somewhat amusing…how THIS particular message THIS time got so much attention,” Winston wrote. “The more I thought about it, the more I considered the chain of events, the more it felt as if God had been the One to make a point of making this local message more international.”

“But the message is the message, and when it is not adulterated by sloppy reporting, it is one that I stand by 100 percent,’ he concluded. “And, if God decided to take it to the masses (He obviously doesn’t need my copyright permission), in whatever form it gets there, then you must wonder, what’s He trying to tell us?”

A Pastor and a Rabbi Give Thanks for the Ties that Bind Us

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 07:24

In the past month, the United States and Israel have been reminded of the brutal consequences of religious bigotry and terrorism.

In late October, a white supremacist opened fire on a community of Jews praying in their synagogue in Pittsburgh, murdering 11 people. Two weeks later, Hamas terrorists rained down more than 500 rockets on innocent civilians living near Israel’s southern border.

Christians worldwide continue to face unthinkable acts of violence and terror as well. On November 2, a number of buses carrying Coptic Christians near a monastery in Egypt were gunned down, and seven innocent Christians lost their lives.

In Psalm 34:14 we read, “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” This verse is considered one of the Bible’s strongest statements against committing acts of violence.

Sometimes, when there is so much pain, it can feel like these words of the Bible are simply being ignored. Rather, this Thanksgiving, we can be thankful that while every act of terror is tragic and painful, such events are isolated. Jews and Christians can be thankful for the ties that bind us, including that we “turn away from evil” and stand together against terrorism.

More importantly, we join together to “do good.” As Jews and Christians, we both acknowledge that the Bible is the source of all good, and Thanksgiving reminds us of our shared heritage.

When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and gave thanks for their survival and successes, they looked intently at the Bible for inspiration and established the Book of Books as the foundation for the New World.

The pilgrims were fleeing religious oppression in Europe. They looked to the Bible for hope and even studied Biblical Hebrew in order to read it in its original.

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The pilgrims saw themselves as the chosen people fleeing from the brutal King James I, whom they referred to as Pharaoh, thereby casting off their yoke of bondage and oppression. They referred to their voyage on the Mayflower as passing through the Red Sea into the wilderness and when they arrived in what they referred to as the “Promised Land,” they offered thanks and prayer to God, like the biblical Feast of Tabernacles.

Since that time, the Bible has been the foundation for American values, intertwined with the American people’s ethos and way of life.

At the first presidential inauguration in 1789, George Washington held up the procedures until a Bible was found. He insisted on having one as he took his oath of office, a tradition that has continued to this day when U.S. President Donald Trump used the Bible his mother gave him for his ninth birthday. Every American president has referred to the Hebrew Bible in his inauguration address, often comparing his generation to Israel in the wilderness, confronted with challenges, yet on the verge of the promised land.  

The Jewish people has always claimed the Bible as the source of universal values, such as peace, freedom and hope. Unfortunately, for centuries, while many Christians read the same book and believed in these same values, the Bible served as the number one source of division between Jews and Christians.

However, this long and complex relationship between Jews and Christians is shifting. Against all odds, this Thanksgiving we can celebrate the golden age of Christian-Jewish relations, with the Bible becoming the number one source of unity.

We pray this is only the beginning. Perhaps this unlikely story of bitter enemies eventually becoming allies will serve as a catalyst for greater harmony amongst people of every religion, race, and creed.

 

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About Rabbi Tuly Weisz

Rabbi Tuly Weisz is the editor of The Israel Bible, the first study Bible edited by Jews for Christians and dedicated to highlighting the land and the people of Israel, a #1 New Release in both Jewish and Christian Bible categories on Amazon.

Through his popular Israel365 websites and emails, which reach hundreds of thousands of readers each day, Rabbi Weisz is dedicated to spreading love for Israel, primarily to non-Jews all over the world.

Web: www.Israel365.com

 

About Pastor Jentezen Franklin

Pastor Jentezen Franklin is the Senior Pastor of Free Chapel, a multi-campus church. Each week his television program Kingdom Connection is broadcast on major networks all over the world. A New York Times best-selling author, Jentezen has written nine books including his most recent, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt.

II SAMUEL 22:3

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 05:40

At various points in this chapter, King David refers to Hashem (God) as “my rock.” A rock represents both strength and protection, as rocks can protect travelers from the wind and rain. It is interesting to note that the State of Israel’s Declaration of Independence invokes divine protection by use of the phrase, “placing our trust in the Rock of Israel.” Hashem’s help would indeed be necessary to establish an independent, free, democratic Jewish State in the Land of Israel that would be able to absorb Jews from around the world. Thankfully, the Rock of Israel continues to strengthen and protect the State of Israel.

Israeli Far-Left Holds Conference to ‘Ethnically Cleanse’ Jews from Hebron

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 04:09

Joint List and Meretz Knesset members will host a conference at the Knesset next week calling for the immediate expulsion of Jews from the ancient city of Hebron.

“The settlement in Hebron is the expression of an extremist government policy that pours mass sums of money and endangers human lives to strengthen and maintain a handful of extremist settlers. The evacuation of the settlement in Hebron is a first and necessary step to promoting a diplomatic solution and bringing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end,” Joint List MKs Ayman Odeh and Dov Khenin, as well as Meretz MK Michal Rozin, said in a statement.

The “Hebron First” conference will include a speech by the executive director of the radical pro-Palestinian organization B’Tselem, who was recently invited by the U.N. Security Council to give a speech condemning Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Leaders of Breaking the Silence, Peace Now, Yesh Din, and Palestinians from Hebron are also invited; however, members of Hebron’s Jewish community were issued no invitations to participate or discuss any of the organizers’ statements or accusations. They said the conference reflected undemocratic and extreme policy ideas.

“Let’s just call this conference what it is: a plan to ethnically cleanse the tiny Jewish minority in Hebron and make it Judenrein,” said Yishai Fleisher, the International Spokesperson for the Jewish Community of Hebron.  “This is a type of ‘final solution’—to evict our ethnic minority from the cradle of Jewish civilization in order to appease the jihad — will only make further war against Israel and against decent Arabs who want to live in a free and diverse Jewish state.”

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Organizers of the conference said that the 85 families and hundreds of students living in Hebron represent a “cruel segregation regime,” though Jewish families live in just 3 percent of the city, which is home to approximately 200,000 Arabs.

But Fleisher called Hebron a “part of Israel’s core identity,” and said the organizers’ opinions are “out of touch” with the Israeli public.

“It’s obvious that the organizers of this conference are not in touch with the Israeli public, who visit Hebron to the tune of 700,00 visitors a year, and 40,000 over Shabbat Chayei Sarah, which is also attended by several Knesset members and government ministers,” he said.

“I think they’re totally out of touch with how the nation of Israel identifies with Hebron and how much it is a part of Israel’s core identity,“ continued Fleisher. “Moreover, the Israeli government has just approved new building in Hebron for the first time in 20 years. So that is where we’re going, and that is where the U.S. administration is going, and this conference will only serve to show the true face of the Arab parties and the out-of-touch extreme left.”

Knesset regulations require that conferences be approved by the Speaker of the Knesset, who is Yuli Edelstein. Because organizers anticipated Edelstein’s rejection, they are defining the event as a “gathering” in order to sidestep the parliamentary rule.

Hebron is an ancient city making its introduction to Jewish tradition in the Torah, which records Abraham’s purchase of the Tomb of Machpelah as a burial site for his wife, Sarah. Though control of the city exchanged hands over the millennia, Hebron featured an almost continuous Jewish presence until the present day.

Two Prominent Rabbis Weigh In On The Messianic Movement

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 03:31

Two prominent rabbis, one Conservative and one Orthodox, hold vastly different perspectives on the Messianic movement. Ironically, it’s the Orthodox rabbi who redeems it.

There can be no such thing as a Messianic Jew, claims Rabbi David Wolpe, a prominent leader in the Conservative Jewish movement in the United States and prolific author. Wolpe was named the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek in 2012.     

A few days ago, Wolpe published an essay on Facebook “Why There Is No Such Thing Aa A ‘Messianic Jew”. In it, he argued that, “the clear bright line between Jews and Christians is, and has always been, belief in Jesus as Divine. It was over precisely this question that early Christians separated from Jews. They were Christians because they accepted Jesus. In the first few centuries of Christianity that conviction split the new religion from its Jewish parent.”

In his essay, Wolpe unequivocally rejected the possibility that a Jew can believe in the divinity of Jesus and remain a Jew.
“A ‘Jew for Jesus’ is an insult to Judaism and to Christianity. It takes the central tenet of a faith and pretends that you can hold it without being part of that faith. It is a strategy for conversion, not a revelation, and a transparent one at that. For Jews it is an abomination, no less.”

Wolpe continued, “That does not mean, of course, that individual messianic Jews cannot be nice, sincere or kind people as many are. But they are part of a fraudulent faith, a marketing scheme dressed up as theology, a faith-based oxymoron that no one should believe.”   

In his conclusion, Wolpe stated plainly, “Belief in Jesus does not ‘fulfill’ Judaism. It negates it.”

A surprising counterpoint is presented in a video of a 45-minute talk given by Orthodox Rabbi Tovia Singer in Manila, Philippines last year. Singer is a well-known anti-missionary who has devoted his life to bringing Jews out of the Church.

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Ironically, in this talk, Singer offered a perspective on the Messianic movement that appears to redeem it, at least in the eyes of the God of Israel.

Singer argued that, if you look at the Messianic movement from a historical perspective, the result has been something quite unexpected from what Moishe Rosen intended in 1970 when he founded Jews for Jesus.

“…instead of the Messianic movement converting Jews to Christianity, it took Christians and brought them in to this Messianic movement which presents itself as Jewish. In core, in substance, it isn’t. It is only rabbinic traditions that may appear Jewish superficially,” Singer explained.

“Now what happened to these Christians in a Messianic congregation? Well, for the first six months, the first year, the first two years, this is great! Jewish festivals. The whole deal.

“But after awhile, they get so interested in Judaism, they continue to study more. Now they’ll call a rabbi and say, ‘You know Rabbi, I’d love to study with you.’ They’ll go to a synagogue because it’s just not enough. It’s just superficial. ‘I want the meat!’ And they start studying Judaism even more.

“And what happened is the Messianic Movement, although it was used initially, as a conspiracy to convert the Jews, it became a method God used to bring in the non-Jews to the God of Israel.”

Singer’s startling point was this. “It was God’s way of calling people out of the Church and bringing them home. The Messianic movement became an instrument for non-Jews to come to the God of Israel,” he asserted.

Singer concluded his presentation with a distinction between the Messianic movement, which he explained is focused on Judaism, and the Hebrew Roots movement, which he said was created for Christians.

He appeared to give a stamp of approval to the Hebrew Roots movement when he said, “The Church really has jettisoned the core Hebraic Jewish roots of the Christian religion. And that has to be restored. The Hebrew Roots movement is really focused on gentiles from the get-go, to bring them to a more Jewish expression of Christianity.”

“On This Day,” King David Purchases Jebusite Threshing Floor

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 03:13

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I will buy them from you at a price. I cannot sacrifice to Hashem my God burnt offerings that have cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekalim of silver. (II Samuel 24:24)

וַ יֹאמֶ ר הַ ּמֶ לֶ ְך אֶ ל־אֲ רַ וְ נָה לֹא כ ִ י־קָ נֹו אֶ קְ נֶה מֵ אֹותְ ָך ב ִ מְ חִ יר וְ לֹא אַ עֲ לֶ ה לַ י-ה-וָ -האֱ -ֹלהַ י עֹלֹות חִ נָם וַ יִקֶ ן ד ָ וִ ד אֶ ת־הַ ּגֹרֶ ן וְ אֶ ת־הַ בָ קָ ר ב ְ כֶ סֶ ף ׁשְ קָ לִ ים חֲ מִ ּׁשִ ים׃

va-YO-mer ha-ME-lekh el a-RAV-nah LO kee ka-NO ek-NEH may-o-t’-KHA bim-KHEER v’-LO a-a-LEH la-do-NAI e-lo-HAI o-LOT KHI-nam va-YI-ken da-VID et ha-GO-ren v’-et haba-KAR b’-KHE-sef sh’-ka-LEEM kha-mi-SHEEM

 

King David purchases the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and, according to one classic rabbinic opinion, the entire city of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). That threshing floor, the place where he intends to offer sacrifices, is now called the Har HaBayit (Temple Mount) in Yerushalayim. As this site would later become the location of the Beit Hamikdash (Temple), David purchases the land publicly, just as Avraham did when he purchased the cave of Machpelah in Chevron for a great sum of money and in front of witnesses (Genesis 23). Although, like Avraham, David was offered the site as a gift, he does not want any future generations to claim that it was stolen by B’nei Yisrael (Children of Israel). Since the sale of each is recorded in the Bible, the Sages of the Midrash (homiletic teachings) teach that Yerushalayim, Chevron and Shechem (which was similarly purchased by Yaakov, see Genesis 33:19) are the three places that indisputably belong to the Jewish people.

Airbnb Boycott: Racist and Anti-Semitic

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 02:00

Airbnb, by announcing a decision to remove listings on their site in cities in Israel in Judea and Samaria (aka ‘West Bank’), claiming such settlements are “at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians” decided to become a company which endorses racism and anti-Semitism.

This decision to involve themselves in a dispute and stand against the Jewish State is unfair and disproportionate – a call for a de facto boycott of Israel. There’s a simple double standard at hand here when refusing to recognize cities in Israel – a country the size of New Jersey.

As legal Professor Eugene Kontorovich noted, this is an anti-Semitic policy – noting that AirbNb “…won’t list places in “disputed territories” only when those residences are owned by Jews, and not otherwise. That’s not a policy about disputed territories, but about Jews.”

He added, “Airbnb blacklists Jewish apartments in Judea and Samaria – not Palestinian apartments, not apartments in Turkish occupied Cyprus, in Moroccan occupied Sahara, not in Tibet or the Crimea. Airbnb’s policy is the very definition of anti-Semitism.”

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Israel wants peace and endorsing this boycott of Israel is a fundamental rejection of Israel’s right to defend itself.

The Israeli government – and people – seek peace and long have.  As Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu once put it best, “The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.”

Israel is a proud democracy, the leading stable democracy in the Middle East – this Airbnb racist campaign is unjustifiable, hypocritical and simply wrong. All people who support decency and peace must stand against Airbnb.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News