Category Archives: Israel

Babylonian conquest of Israel confirmed by archaeology

shimon gibsonNebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem represented a watershed in Jewish history, ushering in the era of the captivity. The carnage in Jerusalem was catastrophic and was lamented by generations of Jews.

But the conquest, narrated assiduously in the Bible, was never discovered in archaeological digs and documented by field researchers.

Until now.

Archaeologists, led by a professor with North Carolina University at Charlotte, have uncovered ruins that correspond to the Babylonian attack. The team unearthed layers of ash, carbonized wood, broken pottery and a mansion.

Nabuchadnezzar conquest Jerusalem jewel ornament“What we’re finding is the result of that destruction. It’s the kind of jumble that you would expect to find in a ruined household following a raid or battle,” says Shimon Gibson, professor of history at the university. “Household objects, lamps, broken bits from pottery which had been overturned and shattered and arrowheads and a piece of jewelry which might have been lost and buried in the destruction.”

Every turn of the archaeologist’s spade confirms another page of the Bible.

Jerusalem became a vassal state of Babylon during the Iron Age but rebelled twice — first under King Jehoiakim and then again under King Zedekiah. In 586 BC, Nabuchadnezzar — the “Destroyer of Nations” — set out to make an example of their repeated resistance and, after a two year siege, breached the gate and tore down all “great houses” and burned them with fire.

excavations JerusalemKing Solomon’s temple was stripped of its treasures and razed. The wall around Jerusalem was leveled.

Gibson and his team found that Jerusalem was a sprawling and rich cosmopolitan city, larger than previously thought, at the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest.

“The combination of an ashy layer full of artifacts, mixed with arrowheads, and a very special ornament indicates some kind of devastation and destruction,” Gibson says in a Haaretz news article. “Nobody abandons golden jewelry, and nobody has arrowheads in their domestic refuse.”

The arrowheads have been identified as Scythian, used during the 7th and 6th centuries BC by Nebuchadnezzar’s troops.

“They were fairly commonplace in this period and are known to be used by the Babylonian warriors,” Professor Gibson says. “Together, this evidence points to the historical conquest of the city by Babylon because the only major destruction we have in Jerusalem for this period is the conquest of 587/586 BCE.”

The jewelry piece is half gold and half silver. It consists of a cluster of grapes suspended from a cup-like top that might have been an earring or a tassel and seems to be a bauble for a Jerusalem elite, not a temple decoration, Gibson says.

“Frankly, jewelry is a rare find at conflict sites, because this is exactly the sort of thing that attackers will loot and later melt down,” Gibson says. “(It) is a unique find and it is a clear indication of the wealth of the inhabitants of the city at the time of the siege.”

The finely worked fragment may have been torn from a more significant artifact but not enough of it survives to identify its original nature definitively, researchers think. Read the rest of Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem confirmed by archaeology.

He sought Allah. He found Jesus.

hazem farraj with adelle nazHis father brought American-born Hazem Farraj back to Jerusalem to teach him the ways of Islam. But the then-12-year-old stunned his parents by adopting a different path, one that would lead to his family’s rejection.

Farraj committed himself to his father’s plan to rediscover his roots. But the more he prayed and practiced the rituals of Islam, the more his doubts grew.

“If you’re praying to Allah, and you don’t see no response from Allah, then you need to figure out who’s listening or who’s answering that prayer,” he says on a Road to Jesus video. “That’s what I had to do. Praying prayers to heaven it was like heaven was brass. They would fall back to me. I was searching.”

But in his quest to know Allah, he grew frustrated and angry. “It made me mad because here we came as a family halfway around the globe from America to the Middle East,” he says, “and the god I came to follow was not responding.”

It only made him angrier to meet upstairs neighbors in his building that were Christian. Why did they have joy and peace while Farraj had nothing? He describes the one and a half years quest for truth as “an identity crisis.”

hazem farraj“I was getting trained culturally as a Muslim, but the Islam I found shocked me,” he says. “Instead of running into the god of Islam, I found Jesus.”

The upstairs neighbors smiled a lot. They were nice. They showed love.

They projected the image of God in their faces, and it bothered Farraj. So one day he challenged the family’s father, who was legally blind. Why hadn’t Jesus, if He were real, healed him?

The man explained everything Jesus had done for him. They talked for four hours. Farraj was intrigued but not ready to relinquish the faith of his upbringing.

Some weeks later, the family invited him to McDonald’s — with a catch: first they were going to church. Would he come with them?

hazem farraj palestinian christian“I was observing all the happy Christians raising their hands and worshiping God, singing to someone they knew was real. To see these people happy and so alive in Jesus was a shocker,” he says.

But then the grave warnings against abandoning Islam reared their monstrous memory in his mind. He was attracted to the Light but fighting it every step of the way.

Farraj left the church and went down to the first floor, where he knelt to Mecca and prayed his Islamic prayers. It was no good.

“When you taste something so sweet and then you taste something so bitter, the bitter became so bitter. So that’s what happened in this prayer,” Farraj says. “I went from this amazing, glorious presentation of a God who loves His people and the people who loved their God to praying and hearing crickets.

“At that point I was so angry. I finished my prayers on my knees, and I said with tears rolling down my face, ‘Whoever you are, whether you are the god of the Koran, I’m needing you to do something because I’m being lost to this Jesus I sure as heck hope that you see this struggle because I’m losing this one, man. I’m trying to do your job and this is not working out. I’m trying to hold on to Islam by the skin of my teeth, wanting it to be real.”

After pledging his loyalty to Allah and asking for help, he considered the possibility of the legitimacy of the antithesis.

“But if you are Jesus who these people are happy believing, whatever the truth is, I’m going to find it.”

He returned to the service.

“I got up and went to sit back in my pew, and I wasn’t angry anymore and I was appreciating that these people were in a place in their relationship with God that I was desiring for so long.”

The next day, he climbed the stairs to talk with the blind father.

Farraj attempted to say, “I want to become a Christian,” but fear kept him from pronouncing the word “Christian.” For 40 minutes, he tried but could only pronounce the “c” sound. Finally the father told him he had to leave, and if he wanted to complete the sentence, he needed to do so immediately.

Farraj gathered all his strength, focused his energies and ripped the words out: “I want to become a Christian.”

Two days later at the appointed time, Farraj accepted Jesus into his heart and became born-again. It was a feeling like no other.

“I literally wanted to jump, scream, shout,” he says. “I didn’t want the Christians to think I was crazy. I literally had to tame my spirit. I was set free. My countenance changed completely. My life changed.” But his Dad was not happy. Find out what happened by finishing the read: Palestinian converted to Christianity.

How an Iranian Muslim went from Israel-hater to born-again Christian who loves Jews

iranians who lie on immigration applicationEvery morning in school, Darwish shouted the customary class-wide chant repeated like the pledge of allegiance in America: “Death to Israel!”

As a Muslim in anti-Semitic Iran, Darwish hated the Jews but never knew why.

He graduated military school and became a commander in the Iranian army. He was moving up the ranks, but he acquired a nasty drug habit. “I became addicted,” he says on a One For Israel video on YouTube.

When he was discharged from the army, he got a fabulous job with great compensation.

why do muslims hate jewsBut he wanted even more success, so he decided to go abroad where opportunities were greater. He made the dangerous journey from Istanbul to Bosnia and finally to England, where he applied for asylum.

On his application, he justified his need for asylum by stating he was a persecuted Christian.

This was a lie, only a ploy to increase his chances of being granted legal status in the West, where he enjoyed freedom and prosperity.

He realized that eventually he would be called to account for his version, so he decided to arm himself with knowledge of Christianity. Dutifully, he went to church. He filled his mind with the basic doctrines of Christianity.

Still, he felt no compulsion to accept Jesus as his Savior.

darwesh one for israel“My brain was full of information,” Darwish says. “But my heart was still dark.”

On the day of his interview, he asked his pastor to go with him, but his pastor refused.

“You are not a Christian,” the pastor told him. “It is all a lie (on your application). Yeshua asked you to stand on truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Darwish was outraged by the pastor’s refusal to support him. Why wouldn’t his pastor help him? He was now in very real jeopardy of being deported to Iran.

That night alone at home, he cried out to God. “If there is any God,” he prayed desperately, “show yourself to me because I can’t continue anymore.

Then something remarkable happened. God revealed Himself to Darwish. “In that moment, He healed me completely of drugs. He touched my heart.”

Darwish was born again, filled with resurrection power by the Holy Spirit. “That was a power just working in my heart,” he remembers. “I tried several times before to give up the drugs, but I couldn’t. But that time I asked Yeshua to start a new life, and He did.”

The next day, he confessed his lies on the application to the immigration official. His status change request was, naturally, denied.

But Darwish wasn’t completely without resources or hope. Most importantly, he had finally started a legitimate relationship with Christ. Embarking on a new life, he also was given a new legal strategy, one based on truth.

He appealed the summary denial of his visa application and was granted a court hearing.

By the ironic sovereignty of God, he wound up in a Messianic congregation. Darwish, the man who grew up hating Jews without knowing why, suddenly found himself in a body of completed Jews.

He even became part of the worship team.

When his court date came, the judge asked him what he had done the day before.

He had led worship. He had been reading Psalm 96, and he recited it to the judge and the court. Read the rest of Iranians hate Israel.

Born-again Palestinian pastor holds hope for Israel, Palestine

Sameer.DabitAs a Palestinian born-again pastor in Los Angeles, Sameer Dabit sees himself as a bridge-maker.

“My dad grew up with a lot of wounds, so I grew up with the mindset of hating Jews and hating Muslims,” Sameer says. “When I got saved at age 16 and started reading scriptures for myself and learning more about God and history, I started to realize, ‘Hey wait a minute. I shouldn’t hate anybody.’”

palestinian pastorSlowly, he began to form his own convictions about what he believes.

Sameer’s Arab father was born in Palestine in 1948 and was forced to move when the Jews took over the newly formed nation of Israel. So he resented the Jews.

But as an orthodox Christian, he also resented the Muslim Palestinians who subjected him to cruel jeering and constant antagonism in school, Sameer says.

When he came of age, dad decided to leave behind the nightmare of the Middle East, move to the United States, study and make his life in L.A. He worked hard at the front desk of a hotel, saved his money and bought properties.

Sameer got to know the simmering anger in his father for the injustices suffered, but he identified himself first and foremost as an American. He changed his name to Sam so that it was easier for classmates and elicited fewer questions about his origins. He loved football.

“I assimilated to America,” he says. “I identified myself more as American than Palestinian.”

kingdom reality LAThen he did something that went beyond his newfound cultural identification. He accepted Jesus into his heart.

At a basketball clinic run by a church, he liked the dynamic music, heard about the forgiveness of sins and wound up wondering why this environment was drastically different from the reverence and mysticism of his family’s religious practice.

Joining the born-again Christians in America created conflict with his dad, who wondered why his son left their church, got re-baptized and hung out with evangelicals who supported Zionism.

“It started to bring an interesting conflict between my dad and me,” says Sameer, now 31. “I was trying to help him understand that I understood where he was coming from. Whatever someone had done to him or his family, I don’t agree with. He was abused. But at the same time, I believe everyone has a right to a place to live, and at the time, the Jewish people were distributed around the world and suffered the Holocaust. That wasn’t right as well. They did need a place to live. Israel needed to be established again, and obviously that was Biblical.

“It was an interesting balance that I had to help him understand,” he says. “That’s why my perspective is interesting because I love the Palestinian people. I love the Jewish people. I love the Muslim people. I love the Christian people. I love that place.

“I desire to see Jesus restore it all. I know ultimately He will when He returns, but I believe He’s preparing His bride to receive Him in Israel as well as everywhere around the world.” Read the rest about Palestinian pastor thinks peace in Middle East possible through Jesus.

Bone regeneration in lab is breakthrough for Israeli scientist

shai-meretzkiIsraeli scientists successfully inject bone grafts created from fat tissue

A bone graft is usually invasive, costly and risky, but now an Israeli biotech firm has invented a lab-grown bone injection that could make the procedure cheaper and more successful.

Bonus Bio Group announced in December that bone tissue cultivated in their labs was successfully injected into the jaws of 11 patients in preliminary studies. Further studies are being launched as $14 million has been raised for the start-up, Jewish News Service reported.

“For the first time worldwide, reconstruction of deficient or damaged bone tissue is achievable by growing viable human bone graft in a laboratory, and transplanting it back to the patient in a minimally invasive surgery via injection,” said Bonus Biogroup CEO Shai Meretzki.

bonus-biogroupBonus BioGroup harvested tissue from patients’ fat cells, cultivated it in the laboratory and re-injected the semi-liquid bone graft back into the jaws of the patients. The substance successfully hardened and merged with existing bone to repair damage during the early stage of clinical trials, Bonus Biogroup reported.

If further studies are similarly successful, the procedure could replace existing methods to repair bone damage. One method harvests the patient’s pelvic crest and is painful and expensive. Another method uses synthetic substances or cells from bone banks, which risk a rejection from the patient’s body.

“I was looking for a way to do it cheaper and easier for the patient and the medical system,” Meretzki said. “We are growing bone through small samples of fat tissue and isolating the different kinds of cells that we need to create the bone.”

Finish reading the article, which was written by one of my students at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

A shield of protection like Numbers 14?

A video posted by Israel News Online shows a cloud of dust and rain serving as a barrier between Israeli troops and ISIS on the other side of the Syrian border.

The miniature storm on Dec. 1 in Israel was such an unusual sight that some commentators attribute the meteorological phenomenom to a divine intervention.

“That’s God!” one comment on the Facebook post proclaims. Non-believers are chalking it up to sheer coincidence.

The video was filmed by Israeli soldiers just days after they repelled an attack by ISIS militants with mortal fire. Israel News Online refrained from speculating about the cause of the curious cloud.

“A weather phenomenon occurred at 8 a.m. Thursday on the other side of the Syrian border, in the same place where ISIS attacked Israel,” Israel News Online wrote with the video. “This strange storm of what appears to be dust, cloud and rain did not cross the border fence into Israel. It sat like a barrier between ISIS and Israel.”

Charisma News compared it to the cloud of Numbers 14, a shield against the enemies of God’s people. No news agency has produced evidence that ISIS was scrambling soldiers in the area at the time. Read the rest of the story.

From Palestinian terrorist to Israeli informant to bonafide Christian

Son of Hamas

His quest for truth pit him at odds with his family, founding members of Hamas.

As a Palestian boy, Mosab Hassan Yousef hurled stones at Israeli tanks and ran from bullets on the West Bank. But misgivings about the intifada arose when he saw Hamas leaders torture fellow Palestinians in an Israeli jail.

“Those people I was hoping would bring justice, happiness to earth by creating a global Islamic state were torturing their own people. They were suspicious that someone was giving information to the Israeli interrogators,” Yousef said in a YouTube video.

“They were torturing their own people without mercy, much worse than the Israelis. One question arose, why do I hate Israel for torturing me and why don’t I hate Hamas for torturing their own people? What my enemy was doing made more sense than what my family and closest friends were doing.”

intifadiDuring his jail sentence, Yousef, then 18, signed up to work as a double agent. He did so thinking he would infiltrate and exact revenge on Shin Bet, the Israeli version of the FBI. But as he witnessed more and more Hamas’ brutality, that plan got scuttled and he collaborated with Israeli intelligence to foil Palestinian plots. He worked to stop senseless deaths on both sides.

He agreed to betray his countrymen on the condition that the Israelis not assassinate but only imprison. He even betrayed his father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder member of Hamas.

“I was the person that put my father in prison. I was working against his organization to destroy the idea of violence.” Yousef said. “If he’s outside, he was going to be assassinated. The safest place for him was in a prison.”

From 1997 to 2007, Yousef halted assassination attempts against Israeli leaders and put high-ranking Hamas leaders behind bars.

Israeli planes bomb GazaAfter a cab driver invited him to a Bible study, he was confronted with Jesus’ injunction to love your enemy. “That made perfect sense,” he said. From his birth, he had been drilled to regard the Israelis as his enemies.

Leaders of the Bible study gave him an Arabic-English Bible. At first they didn’t know his terrorist connections. As he searched and questioned, he eventually accepted Jesus as his Savior, and in 2005 he was secretly baptized in Tel Aviv.

“The religion of my people is a fake religion. It’s a lie. The god of Islam is a liar,” Yousef said. “I hope that I am not offending anybody. This is kind of dangerous to say, but I have studied Islam. My family started the Islamic Revolution in the Middle East. That was our business. This is still my family’s business. After almost 20 years in Islam, I tell you that Islam is going nowhere. My family, my people are suffering the most because of this false teaching.”

On the eve of the release of his autobiography Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices, his father disowned him in 2010.

“I am hopeful that one day we will talk,” Yousef said. “What’s between me and my people, what’s between me and my father, is the god of Islam. This wall. If I can destroy this wall, I will do it with the power of love and the power of my God. I have been paying a very high price because they consider me politically incorrect.” Read the rest of the dangerous life of Mosab Yousef.