An extremely rare 2000-year-old wool fabric from a tassel, dyed a mysterious blue from a source that had been lost in antiquity. Only in the last few days has the source been rediscovered. The Bible commanded Jews to wear tassels with one cord colored blue. (Photo APIMAGES)
Last December Muslim leader Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority sent warm Christmas greetings to the world. He wrote, “In Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born, a Palestinian messenger who would become the guiding light for millions around the world.”
He continued, “Our prayers are with the churches and mosques of Jerusalem which remind the world of the Arab identity of our occupied capital…We are committed to bring a just peace to the region, including ending the occupation of the Holy Land with the establishment of a fully independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 “border” [actually cease fire lines], with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
It is interesting how riled up Israelis get when Palestinians start claiming Yeshua as one of their own.
“He should have read the Gospel before uttering such offensive nonsense, but we will forgive him because he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the Times of Israel. Abbas’s statement is an “outrageous rewriting of Christian history,” according to Palmor.
Abbas continued his tirade against Israel, proclaiming that since 1948 when the UN voted for Israel to become a nation, Christians and Muslims have suffered the vicissitudes of a forced exile.
Now for the truth. The exodus of Christians from Bethlehem began to accelerate the moment the PA took control in 1995, and then turned into a flood during the Second Intifada that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat initiated in the year 2000. Tourists simply stopped coming to Israel during the Intifada, and the Christians, mostly small shop owners whose livelihood came from tourism, closed shop and immigrated to America, South America and Europe.
Before the Intifada, I used to take my visiting friends to Bethlehem often, and knew wonderful Christian shop owners. I watched their revenue dry up, not because of Israel’s “occupation,” but because tourists were afraid to come to Israel as a result of the unimaginable violence of Palestinian suicide bombers.
But that is not the whole story. Living among an Islamic majority is never easy for Christians or Jews, anywhere in the world at any time. So if a naïve journalist travels to Bethlehem and asks the Christians— who are mainly Catholic, Orthodox, Armenian with a few Protestants—why their numbers are decreasing, they will never say it is because of Muslim persecution. That kind of answer can get them a jail sentence—or more. So yes, they will tell the reporter, it’s because of “the Israeli occupation.” What else can they say?
The fact is, the only place in the Middle East that the number of Arab Christians is growing, is in Israel.
THE LATEST TWIST
Arab leaders have recently come up with a new idea. They want Israel to recognize Palestinians as an “indigenous minority.” This suggests that Israeli Arabs are the oldest population in Israel, like the Native American Indians are on the North American continent.
It is only one of a multitude of ways the Palestinians are working to reach their goal to 1) Erase the Jewish nation’s 3,000-year history in the Land of Israel; and 2) Invent an ancient Palestinian people.
At a conference of Palestinian historians in 1998, its speakers called on all universities and colleges to “write” and “guard” the history of Palestine and not enable the enemies to distort it or legitimize the existence of the Jews in this land. They claimed that there is no connection between the ancient generation of Jews and the Jews who now occupy their land.
Muslim columnists and writers have summarily erased Jewish history and filled the void by fabricating ancient histories of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. They claim that Palestinians populated the Land of Israel in Biblical times and even earlier. These fictions are all historically impossible, as the name ‘Palestine’ as a replacement for the Land of Judea and Israel was coined by Rome only in 135 A.D. by the Roman Emperor Hadrian who, incidentally, had the same desire as the Palestinians—to blot out the Jewish people and their claim to the Land of Israel.
Secondly, Islam was established only in 610 A.D., and the first Arabs arrived in Israel with the Muslim invasion in 637. Media watch organizations like www.palwatch.org explains, “Inventing thousands of years of history when none existed is accomplished through numerous distortions and lies, including changing the Biblical Canaanites into Arabs, changing Biblical Israelis, Judeans and Hebrews into Arabs and Muslims, changing the religion preached by Moses from Judaism into Islam, and changing Jesus into a Palestinian who preached Islam and not Christianity.”
As just one example, the PA TV has for several years, been broadcasting a “documentary” with their new history. According to them, “the ‘Arab’ Canaanites established ports on the coast of Canaan, known today as Palestine. Palestine was attacked by invaders, but its Arab Canaanite features withstood attempts to change them. Jaffa [today Jaffa-Tel Aviv] was one of the cities,” says the PA, “whose Canaanite origins the invaders failed to erase.”
A typical article in the official PA daily Adel Abd Al-Rahman writes about the “historical places and sites in Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, in which every plot of land holds the Palestinian-Arab past, [ever] since the first Canaanite stepped on Palestinian soil thousands of years ago.”
It is difficult, if not impossible, for most westerners to grasp the atmosphere of hatred in the Palestinian areas. Using every possible vehicle at their disposal, the PA is promoting inside the West Bank and around the world demonization and religious and ethnic hatred of the Jewish people. We all know that this campaign has been so successful that any means of terror against Israelis and Jews is seen by the majority of Palestinian Muslims as justified self-defense and as Allah’s will.
The Palestinians have been taught from birth that Jews are treacherous, corrupt, deceitful and unfaithful by nature. They boldly insist that Jews plan and execute heinous crimes, including burning Palestinians in ovens, murder, using prisoners for Nazi-like experiments, and more.
The PA assigns responsibility to the Jews for all the problems in the world. Really! Wars, conflicts and civil wars are all said to be triggered by Jews. In fact, Palestinian leaders teach that the Europeans allowed the State of Israel to be created in order to get rid of the evil Jewish presence in their countries.
Day after day, the filth spews forth: “The Zionist enemy has continued, with its corruption and tyranny, to devote its efforts to killing, expelling, and violating everything that is holy to Muslims and Christians.”(Note: No pro-Israel point of view is tolerated.)
Absurd? The problem is that one and a half billion Muslims believe these lies. And this hatred of the Jewish people bleeds into the third world countries—and thus the UN has become a robust tool for Islam with the goal to wipe out Israel.
CORE HINDRANCE TO PEACE
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace proposal to demand that Israel remove all its security presence on the ground in the West Bank in exchange for an array of remote surveillance capabilities.
The Defense Minister responded, “When I’m told about the security answer in Judea and Samaria, and when they talk about satellites, drones and technologies, I say, ‘Guys, you’re wrong.’ The principal problem is education. If in Nablus and Jenin they continue to educate the young generation as it is being educated today, to idolize terrorism and jihad, and that the Jewish people have no right to this land—if this is how they’re educated, then technology stops nothing.”
If the education does not change, then creating a Palestinian state will be creating a Hamastan in Judea and Samaria, like in Gaza. (Jerusalem Post, 31Dec2014)
Ya’alon’s message was clear. No amount of drones or satellites can replace boots on the ground when it comes to containing Palestinian terrorism.
So long as jihad and warfare remain principal messages in Palestinian media and schools, Israel will feel the need to keep “the lid on the pan,” explained Ya’alon. Only a visible, permanent Palestinian discontinuation of systematic incitement to violence will stop the war the Palestinians have declared on Israel.
HATRED OF ZION HAS SPREAD AROUND THE WORLD
But it is not only third world countries. British papers repeat many of the falsehoods as if truth, and carry in their pages anti-Zionist cartoons equalling those the Nazis published.
For example, Britain’s former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, claims that Jewish money controls the American government and Congress, a classic anti-Semitic remark sprouting from the ideology that the Jews secretly rule the world.
But the media in the U.S. is also culpable. One could give a thousand examples. The New York Times regularly slants or distorts what is happening in Israel. It can be blatant or it can be subtle. For example, an unsuspecting young Israeli soldier on a public bus was murdered in cold blood by a Palestinian. How did the NYT present the story? With a stunningly sympathetic picture of the mother being comforted by friends over her 16-year-old son who will now spend years in jail.
Organizations such as http://honestreporting.com and http://palwatch.org are among those websites that try to expose the anti-Semitic slants of western media, encouraging readers to complain to the guilty media outlets.
THE LAST WORD ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Here is the irony of the whole issue. Historically, no Arab entity has ever established a national state in the Land of Israel. No Arab people have ever named Jerusalem as their capital. The land of Israel was conquered in 640 A.D. and occupied by Muslim-Arabs for 431 years. These tribal nomads, constantly quarrelling among themselves, ruled from other locations such as Egypt or Syria. But never did they set up a capital in the Holy Land. Yes, Muslims from different races ruled at other times the Land of Israel, but not Arabs.
Besides the Arabs, there were Canaanites, Israelites, Babylonians, Persians, Hellenists, Jewish Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Kurds, Mamluks who were Turks and Circassians, Ottoman Turks and the British who conquered the Holy Land over the last 3500 years. The Jews themselves ruled over the Land from about 1250 to 587B.C., and again from 142-63B.C.
It was the Romans, starting in 70 A.D., who utterly destroyed Jerusalem—slaughtering, enslaving and scattering the Jews. In 135 Emperor Hadrian renamed the Land of Israel as Syria Palaestina and renamed the city of Jerusalem as “Aelia Capitolina.” He thought he had destroyed the Jews.
In spite of all the hostile nations that conquered Israel’s land, God watched over His people to make sure there were always Jews living in their Promised Land. Sometimes there were more, sometimes less. They were persecuted, massacred, exiled, banned from Jerusalem, but they clung to the promises that God had given to the Jewish people: “To your descendants I will give this land.”How can any Bible-believing person miss these promises? God repeated these promises over and over in His Word:
He has remembered His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded to a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac.
Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
Saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the portion of your inheritance.”
The Battle of the Ages continues and centers over the Land and People of Israel.
Before we think too harshly about the Muslim populations who have no relationship or knowledge of the Bible, let us ponder the fact that the Byzantine Empire which ruled the Holy Land for over 300 years, (313-636), and whose rulers claimed to be Christians, did nothing to help restore the Jewish people to their homeland. Nor did the British Empire, which controlled the Holy Land for a critical thirty years (1918-1948), but worked against the Jews recreating their long lost state from the ashes of the Holocaust. And the Byzantine rulers knew what was written in the Bible.
In fact, we can ponder the fact that the leaders of North and South America and Europe today, who have some familiarity with the Bible, are doing very little—can we say, almost nothing—to help the struggling nation survive.
Thank God, born-again Christians and Messianic Jews who love God and His Word are praying and fighting for the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state—just as God promised. And Christians understand what the renown Jewish pundit Charles Krauthammer wrote about his ancient fatherland:
Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store.”
Ever since the Israeli army won back their ancient capital Jerusalem in 1967, archeologists from around the world have had a heyday with their findings of troves of archeological treasures – spanning from King Solomon’s rule, through the Hasmonean period, to the years Yeshua the Messiah walked the land, and on through the centuries when communities of Jews struggled to cling to the land of Israel in spite of the numerous cruel conquests by Arabs, Muslims and Crusaders. Here are some recent discoveries.
A PEEK INTO KING SOLOMON’S BUREACRACY
The oldest engraving ever found in Jerusalem only a few months ago is on a shard belonging to a clay jug that stored wine, giving its type and date. Discovered by world-class archeologist Eilat Mazar near the southern wall of the Temple Mount, it is considered the most ancient Hebrew engraving to emerge from the archaeological digs in Jerusalem to date. It is over 3,000 years old, from the period of King Solomon.
That inscription was recently deciphered by Professor Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa who published his findings in the journal “New Studies on Jerusalem.” According to Galil, this find lends support to claims of an organized bureaucratic system and provides evidence that writing was prevalent at the time.
“Scribes that could write administrative texts could also write literary and historiographic texts, and this has very important implications for the study of the Bible and understanding the history of Israel in the biblical period,” noted Galil.
FIRST MENTION OF ISRAEL IN EXTRA-BIBLICAL TEXT
Although the world elites, for some reason, have no end of confidence in the validity of the secular writings of ancient kings and rulers, when it comes to the Bible, they have great doubts of its authenticity. Some doubt if there was a Moses or a Solomon, or even an ancient Israel and Judea with its kings ruling from Jerusalem. In fact, some doubt that Yeshua ever lived! However, all Israelis, religious or atheist, believe that Moses, Solomon, and Yeshua lived in this land. They also know the people of Israel have existed and lived in Judea and Samaria for more than 3,000 years.
Providentially for Israelis and Bible-believing Christians, Pharaoh Merneptah who ruled Egypt and Canaan from 1213-1203 BC left to posterity a Stele, written in hieroglyphics. Known as the Israel Stele, toward the end of its 28 lines, the pharaoh lists his conquests, noting that among others in Canaan he had utterly destroyed the people of Israel.
One blogger wrote that it is ironic that the first extra-biblical note of the existence of Israel also lays claim to its total destruction! To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The reports of Israel’s death were greatly exaggerated.” Nevertheless, the stele represents the first documented instance of the name “Israel” in the historical record.
DISCOVERY OF ANCIENT CLOTH WITH THE COLOR TEKHELET (BLUE)
London’s Daily Mail newspaper blazed the headline: “Sacred blue snail dye seen only twice since Jesus was alive is discovered on Israeli cloth.” (Once when discovered and catalogued in the 1950’s and now reexamined with advanced technology.) The article went on to say that a 2,000-year textile containing a mysterious blue dye described in the Bible has been uncovered in Israel.
The reason this discovery is so extraordinary is that the source of the blue dye was lost in antiquity. In Numbers 15:37, the Lord commanded Israel to “make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue.” The word in Hebrew is “tekhelet” (pronounced t-KHELL-et) meaning a type of turquoise.
The Lord told Israel to do this so “you may remember to do all My commandments, and be holy to your God.”It is in commemoration of this lost color of blue that inspired the design of the Israeli flag.
Rabbis have searched for generations to find the true source of this enigmatic blue color. They knew that the color had come from a snail—but which one? Rather than err, for centuries Jews have worn purely white tzitzit [fringes or tassels].
Last December Dr. Na’ama Sukenik of the Israel Antiquities Authority presented her research to a conference on the rare tekhelet-colored cloth that had actually been found in the Judean desert not far from the Dead Sea Scrolls, over sixty years ago.
Until now, the most important clue of the color’s origin had been the piles and piles of murex trunculus (hillazon snail) shells from the same area, which served as a silent testimony to the presence of an ancient dyeing industry in Israel.
But now, researchers say, they have found the proof they were looking for.
Through new technology, Dr. Sukenik found that the wool fabric artifact was indeed dyed with the murex snail secretions and then exposed to sunlight, a method which achieves a shade of blue believed to be the traditional tekhelet.
There are practically no parallels for this discovery in the archaeological record, making the find extremely rare.
Dr. Sukenik’s discovery met with great emotion by the participating scientists and rabbis. One rabbi exclaimed, “We live in a time of the redemption.”
Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York and Director of Yeshiva University Straus Center commented, “The union of blue and white fulfills a commandment as well as the dream of Zionism itself. Israel is simultaneously a modern democratic marvel and a symbol of the Jewish people as the Chosen People.”
SHILOH—ISRAEL’S RELIGIOUS “CAPITAL” FOR 400 YEARS
As Israel’s enemies attempt to deny the nation’s connection to its homeland, archaeologists keep digging up the facts.
In Shiloh, north of Bethel in Samaria, excavations are ongoing. The dig has recently turned up a stone altar dating from roughly 1,200 to 600 BC, known as the Iron Age.
Shiloh was where the Tabernacle—precursor to the Holy Temple—stood for about 400 years during the era of the Judges. It is first mentioned in the Book of Joshua, which also states that the Holy Sanctuary was built there. In the Book of Samuel, Shiloh is mentioned as a religious center, where Elkanah and his family went to bring sacrifices to God. During that pilgrimage, Elkanah’s wife, Hannah, asks God to give her a son—and eventually gives birth to Samuel the Prophet. Previously, it was thought that after Eli the high priest’s death, Shiloh had been deserted. According to their finds, Israelites continued to live there until around 600 BC.
The discovery is the first tangible evidence outside of the Bible that Shiloh was a religious center prior to and during the First Temple period.
The altar is 60 centimeters by 60 centimeters, with a height of 40 centimeters, and was found on the southern edge of the site of ancient Shiloh. It had been partially torn down and its stones used for a Byzantine church. The archeologists have painstakingly rebuilt the altar according to the cut and marking of the stones.
OLDEST HEBREW TEXT DISCOVERED AT KING DAVID’S BORDER FORTRESS
Archaeologists have discovered what they say is the oldest Hebrew text ever found, at a site they believe was King David’s front line fortress in the war against the Philistines. The site overlooks the Elah Valley, where the young David brought down Goliath, the Philistine giant, with a well-aimed shot from a sling.
The text is written in ink on a pottery shard. The discovery, by archaeologists Prof. Yossi Garfinkel and Sa’ar Ganor of the Hebrew University, is being hailed as one of the most important finds in Israel since the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The writing on the shard seems to be a letter sent from one person to another and archaeologists have still not deciphered it completely (and therefore do not publish a picture until it is deciphered). Preliminary analysis shows it contains the words “king” (melech), “judge” (shofet), and “slave” (eved), and that the terms may be parts of names, as in “Achimelech” or “Evedel” (lit. “King’s brother,” “Servant of God”).
Carbon-14 dating of olive pits as well as chemical analysis of the pottery found at the site shows conclusively that it dates from between 1,000 and 975 B.C.E—the time of King David’s reign. The writing therefore predates the Dead Sea Scrolls by about 1,000 years.
THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE for experience and spiritual success in ministry. Dennis and Colleen Rouse, and Steve Vaggalis, pastors of mega-churches in the United States, gave of themselves and their lives as pastors to encourage and equip the leadership of the Body of Messiah in Israel. Israeli pastors are putting to work the principles learned, and they are seeing results!
Most pastors have a burning passion to see souls saved and their flock maturing. But many Israeli leaders are hindered from reaching their full potential because of lack of knowledge or experience in the practical administration of the growth and maturing of believers.
Still others do have knowledge and they make time to go to a conference like EQUIP because they are constantly working to improve their spiritual and practical skills—as they understand the worth of working with more knowledge to see their local body grow.
Dennis and Colleen Rouse gave of themselves in six conferences over three years, teaching the principles that bring spiritual growth—both horizontally and vertically, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through practical skills.
Here’s more feedback from Israeli leaders who attended. As you read, rejoice with us that the Body of Messiah in Israel is expanding at an ever-quickening pace.
Once again, thank you so much for your willingness to provide such valuable input to our lives. Many of the principles and methodology of EQUIP teaching has been applied and found to be very effective. As the two pastors, the things we have learned have enhanced both our friendship and our collegial relationship. We have grown in confidence and as such have succeeded in building around us a confident team.
For the past 12 months new ministries continue to emerge from within our congregation. They make for more effective outreach as more and more skilled co-workers step forward and are trained. We are glad to say we are seeing a steady stream of people finding faith in Yeshua and growing as disciples in our midst.
One of the greatest achievements in the past 12-18 months as an indirect result of the conferences is the empowerment of Beit Asaph women in ministry. Sadly, in past years we have been very conservative in this area of congregational life. Today, the picture is very different. One of our team members who has attended several of the seminars with us, Irena Ben Haim, is now serving as a full-time staff member as our Coordinator of Women’s Ministries. This has literally ‘revolutionized’ ministry life in the congregation.
In his final message of the EQUIP series, Pastor Dennis shared a very important message. He spoke of the essential need for us to connect with our young adults—to listen to them and be ready to make changes that can impact our congregations and make us more relevant for the immediate future. This message has deeply challenged us and already this month we have invited all our young adults (18-30yr olds) to take part in a series of ‘open conversations’ with us. Although apprehensive, we are very excited and sensing that the Lord will bless these steps greatly.
May God enrich you. Please receive our heartfelt blessings and gratitude.
Evan Thomas and Lev Guler
Congregation Beit Asaph
Twenty-five years ago we established a Messianic congregation. In the beginning we had up to 10 people meeting at our home, and now we have 140 people meeting every Shabbat, including 40 children. We are located in Carmiel, a city in Galilee, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee.
Our congregation’s leadership team—three home group leaders, women’s leader and my wife and I—attended the EQUIP conferences.
One of the first topics we tackled was what is the vision of our congregation? We discussed it with the leadership team, as per teachings at the conferences until we reached a conclusion on three central points of our vision as a congregation. We also decided to invest monies and design three banners which show our vision in clarity. (“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk 2:2) These banners will be hung on the walls of our congregational building.
Getting inspiration from the EQUIP teachings, we have combined the youth in our congregational worship: once a month or more the youth group leads the congregation in worship on Shabbat.
Another very important lesson we learned is that we needed an additional leader at the congregation. We identified the faithfulness, gifts, the heart and willingness of one of our members, and he joined me as an additional leader. At this point he still continues to work in a part-time job.
These conferences built me up, and upgraded my leadership capabilities for what the Lord still wants to do in me and through me.
The body of Messiah in Israel is still small and young. Most are first generation of believers—meaning, perhaps more zeal, but less experience. Most of us have grown up in congregations whose leaders did not have much experience in equipping additional leaders.
During the past 20-25 years many new congregations have been established in Israel, and most of the leaders are without formal education at any Bible College. (I, for example, am an engineer by profession. I worked as an engineer for many years and at the same time functioned as the congregational leader. Only during the past 10 years have I been in a full time ministry for the Lord.)
These conferences did not only equip us, but also taught us wisdom for living by those who taught us.
I want to thank you for all of your efforts and investment, for the organization, and also all the donors; their monies were used for a good purpose and were very helpful. Thanks to all who took time off from their daily obligations and came all the way to teach us, especially to Dennis & Colleen Rouse, and the whole Maoz team.
With blessings and much appreciation,
The Way Congregation in Carmel