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After ‘Unbroken': The remarkable story of Louis Zamperini’s faith

January 20th, 2015

Fox News
By Franklin Graham, December 24, 2014


FILE -- May 9, 2014: Louis Zamperini speaks at a news conference in Pasadena, Calif. (AP)

FILE — May 9, 2014: Louis Zamperini speaks at a news conference in Pasadena, Calif. (AP)

FILE -- In a July 13, 1936 file photo, Don Lash of Indiana, left, Louis Zamperini of Los Angeles, center, and Thomas Deckard of Indiana, who will represent the United States in the Olympic Games in the 5,000 meter team, at the Olympic tryouts in New York. Zamperini, a U.S. Olympic distance runner and World War II veteran who survived 47 days on a raft in the Pacific after his bomber crashed, then endured two years in Japanese prison camps, died Wednesday, July 2, 2014, according to Universal Pictures studio spokesman Michael Moses. He was 97. (AP Photo, File)

FILE — In a July 13, 1936 file photo, Don Lash of Indiana, left, Louis Zamperini of Los Angeles, center, and Thomas Deckard of Indiana, who will represent the United States in the Olympic Games in the 5,000 meter team, at the Olympic tryouts in New York. Zamperini, a U.S. Olympic distance runner and World War II veteran who survived 47 days on a raft in the Pacific after his bomber crashed, then endured two years in Japanese prison camps, died Wednesday, July 2, 2014, according to Universal Pictures studio spokesman Michael Moses. He was 97. (AP Photo, File)


Actor and director Angelina Jolie has done an incredible job in following the remarkable story of Olympian and World War II POW Louis Zamperini, as told in the book “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand.

Unfortunately, Jolie’s movie, by the same title, stops before Louie’s real battle begins.  He was broken by his own memories of anger, fear, alcoholism and the abandoned promise he had made to God while adrift at sea in 1943.

I met this incredible man in Long Beach, California in 1998 where I was hosting an Operation Christmas Child (OCC) airlift of shoe box gifts for children in developing countries.  I was impressed, as anyone would be, with this gentle but powerful individual.

Returning to life in California after World War II revealed what the Japanese couldn’t do to Louie Zamperini; they couldn’t break this hero. But Louie’s real battle was still ahead.

For a time he enjoyed the celebrity of heroism and hob-knobbing with Hollywood.  He met and married a beautiful woman named Cynthia Applewhite and life was good.  But when all the glitz and glamour faded and reality set in, reoccurring nightmares of war and memories of Louie’s torture by his enemies tormented him.

To escape these horrors, Louie turned to alcohol.  Pent-up anger overcame him.

His wife who genuinely loved him felt she had no choice but to divorce him.  The man who had endured horrific physical and mental abuse, and emerged unbroken from the ravages of war, had succumbed to an enemy that would not let go — himself.

Meanwhile on the corner of Washington Boulevard and Hill Street in Los Angeles, my father Billy Graham and his team had erected a 480-foot tent in a vacant parking lot to embark on a three-week evangelistic campaign in September of 1949; it was extended to eight weeks because of the massive response.

It was under that tent that Stuart Hamblen, a cowboy and West Coast radio personality and Jim Vaus, an electronics wizard and mob-connected wire tapper, discovered God and turned their lives around.  And so did the Zamperinis.

When they were invited by neighbors to hear Billy Graham preach, Louie walked away.  But Cynthia walked into what became known as the “Canvas Cathedral.”

When my father invited people to turn their lives over to Jesus Christ, she responded by accepting Him as her Lord and Savior. That night Cynthia informed Louie that because of this decision she had made, she would not divorce him.

Louie was thrilled.  Though he was skeptical of her religious experience, he began to see changes in her.

Cynthia begged Louie to go with her to the meetings but he refused. As Cynthia and her neighbors prayed, Louie relented and finally agreed to attend.

Sitting under the big tent, Louie shifted in his chair as my father said, “There’s a drowning man, a drowning woman, a drowning boy or girl lost in the sea of life.”

Louie grew angry and bolted out of the tent vowing to never return.

For days Cynthia begged him to go back.  He finally agreed but made her promise that when Billy Graham asked for, “every head bowed and every eye closed,” they would leave.

When the invitation came, he recalled the broken promise he had made to God as he was kept alive while drifting on the Pacific, “If you will save me, I will serve you forever.”

Louie struggled between the urge to get out of the tent in haste or respond to my father’s call to follow Christ. As Louie edged toward the aisle and stepped out beyond the row of chairs bent on rushing for the exit, he went the opposite direction — toward my father.  It was this life-changing moment that blotted out the nightmares and years of torment.

Jesus Christ has the power not only to save souls but to change lives. Louie Zamperini is an example of a life that changed instantly.

When he returned home from the meeting he poured his liquor down the drain, dumped his girlie magazines in the trash, and crumpled up his cigarettes and disposed of them.

He found a Bible that had been issued by the air corps and began reading.  For the first time God’s Word began to make sense to him.

This former prisoner of war had discovered the joy of freedom found in Christ and desired to pass it on to others.

He opened Victory Boys Camp to help troubled boys, many who were renewed and reformed, enabling them to live productive lives.

While Jolie’s movie offers us a glimpse into much of Louie Zamperini’s life, only eternity will reveal “the rest of the story.”



Franklin Graham has devoted his life to meeting the needs of people around the world and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The eldest son of Billy and Ruth Bell Graham, he serves as President and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Under his leadership, Samaritan’s Purse has met the needs of poor, sick, and suffering people in more than 100 countries. As an evangelist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, he has led crusades around the world.



‘Unbroken’ the film

January 20th, 2015

Cal ThomasJewish World Review
By Cal Thomas, December 25, 2014

NEW YORK — I wanted to like the movie because I love the book. Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller, “Unbroken,” is a classic.

While I had heard reports that the turning point in the book never made it to film, I attended a pre-release screening with an open mind.

Audiences are told “Unbroken” is a “true story.” It is true, as far as it goes, but the story is incomplete.

There have been many World War II stories told in film depicting triumphs of personal courage and survival. The story of Louis Zamperini is one such story, but with an added dimension. Zamperini, who died earlier this year at age 97, came home an angry man. He became addicted to alcohol and cigarettes and verbally abused his young wife as he wrestled with his inner demons. The skeleton of his story is in the film — the plane crash at sea while on a rescue mission; the 47 days floating on a raft before being picked up by a Japanese ship and thrown into a prison camp; the relentless torture and eventual liberation at the end of the war.

After returning to Los Angeles we see Zamperini hugging his brother and parents, but the story ends there. Director Angelina Jolie attempts to put some flesh on the bones at the end of the film with some still shots and words that tell us that Zamperini’s faith led him to return to Japan on a personal mission of reconciliation.

In media appearances, Jolie has refused to discuss why the most remarkable part of Zamperini’s story was excluded from the film. That would be the night he was converted at the 1949 Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles. As Hillenbrand tells it in her book, Louis came home, poured his alcohol down the drain, threw out his cigarettes, was reconciled to his wife and became a new man because, he said, he had asked Jesus Christ to be his savior.

As stories about faith have made a recent comeback on TV and in movies, attracting high ratings and large ticket sales at the box office, it is puzzling why Jolie, who directed the film, and the Coen brothers, who wrote it, left out the most important part of Zamperini’s story. Once word gets around that Zamperini’s conversion, which was so faithfully and beautifully chronicled in Hillenbrand’s book, is not in the film, I suspect many who share Louis’ faith will not buy tickets.

Apologists for Universal Pictures say people can always read the rest of the story in the book. Yes, they can, but then why should they see a film that highlights only half a life?

Just before he died, Jolie showed Zamperini a rough cut of the film. He professed to like it and said it doesn’t force religion down people’s throats. That’s a cliche, which doesn’t really fit in this instance. Nothing is “forced” when it is true. The film, “Selma,” which is scheduled for release on January 9, would be incomplete if it failed to depict Martin Luther King Jr. as a minister whose faith motivated him to be a modern-day Moses.

Fortunately, in addition to Hillenbrand’s book, people can read Louis’ story in his own words. His book is titled, “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life.” The One who preserved his life to the end is more powerful than his Japanese prison camp abuser.

In the film “Kings Row,” Ronald Reagan awakens to learn that a botched operation has resulted in the amputation of his legs. “Where’s the rest of me?” he asks.

Where’s the rest of Zamperini’s story is the question I had after seeing “Unbroken.”

You Know Who’s Responsible Don’t You? The Jews

January 17th, 2015

The Federalist
By David Harsanyi, January 14, 2015

Blaming Israel for European tensions is another way of blaming the victims

French mob

French mob

France’s President Charles de Gaulle changed his mind about the Jewish State. There were a number of complicated reasons for his decision, but after the withdrawal from Algeria in 1962, de Gaulle abandoned Israel, and made nice with the Arab world.

Then came the Jew baiting. Not long after the Six-Day War ended, de Gaulle gave his so-called “sermon to the Hebrews.” He liberally conflated Israelis with all Jews, accusing the former of acting like “aggressors” and “oppressors” while arguing that the latter’s “self-assured and domineering people” were at fault for arousing ill feelings “in certain countries at certain times.”

De Gaulle was probably the first Western leader to blame Israel for what was going on in the Middle East. He was certainly the first to imbue Israel’s actions with ugly stereotypes.

I remembered reading about the episode in Robert Wistrich’s brilliant history of anti-Semitism, “A Lethal Obsession,” after hearing French President Francois Hollande take a far more subtle, but comparable, position on the Jewish question. According to Haartez, Hollande asked Benjamin Netanyahu not to attend the unity demonstration in Paris—a march that also featured an assortment of officials representing authoritarians, censors, and terror funders professing support for free expression—so that everyone “could focus on demonstrating solidarity with France, and to avoid anything liable to divert attention to other controversial issues, like Jewish-Muslim relations or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

It is unclear if Mahmoud Abbas, a man was only recently was in talks to form a unity government with Hamas (whose constitution literally works off the premises of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion) was told to stay away from Paris. But there he was. No offense given. Or taken. So was Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. So were others.

Whatever you make of Netanyahu’s politics, French Jews who now live with thousands of security personnel guarding their synagogues and schools were not the ones that Hollande was most concerned about offending. Iran’s Hassan Rouhani could have shown up to publicly deny the Holocaust and there still would be no mob surrounding Grande Mosquée de Paris to terrify worshippers inside. And unlike the four French Jews who were slaughtered at the kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes—and who are now buried in Jerusalem—there will be little if no concern about the desecration of the graves of Muslim victims of terror.

This is probably because there really is no “Jewish-Muslim” problem in France. There is only a Muslim one. To claim otherwise is to create equivalency where there is none and to lay culpability where it doesn’t exist.

Unless, that is, you, like the Islamic gunman, believe that there’s no difference between a Jewish French shopkeeper or the Jewish “settler.” Actually, generally speaking, the Islamic terrorists blame Israel less frequently than, say, a BBC newsreader, we just don’t listen to them. Take Tim Wilcox, who while covering the Paris rally asked a Jewish woman if she believed, even after the terrorist massacre, if the problems France faced could be “resolved” before “it’s too late?”

The woman, perhaps an eternal optimist, said: “Yes, of course. We have to … not to be afraid to say that the Jews are being—they are the target now. It’s not only the…”

Wilcox interrupted to helpfully inform her that, “Many critics, though, of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”

Indeed they would. When Jon Stewart asked Jimmy Carter if he had something useful to add on “The Daily Show,” the former president offered the sort of reasoning that antagonists to the Jewish state will always propose when asked about terrorism: “Well, one of the origins for it is the Palestinian problem, and this aggravates people who are affiliated in any way with the Arab people who live in the West Bank and Gaza, what they are doing now—what’s being done to them. So I think that’s part of it.”

So genocidal Nigerians, Iranian executioners, Saudi monarchs, Chechnya suicide bombers, and Indonesia mass murders are all driven to vile acts of violence because Jews refuse to hand over a slip of land to their sworn enemies in a contested area? I can’t think of a comparable case being made about anyone anywhere in the world. Yet this one is almost inevitably suggested on some level when we talk about terror.

The Daily Beast offered us a glimpse of the fiercely stupid anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that not only infect Muslim communities across the Middle East but the suburbs of Paris. Those Jews and their black magic! Now, maybe I could comprehend the existence of the underlying acrimony. Maybe I could grasp how people can rationalize their hatred by convincing themselves that their targets are evil.  What is more difficult to understand, though, is how any Western liberal leader could feed these excuses for violence by acting as if these conflicts are propelled equally by two groups. It’s a surrender to their formulation of events, which is both morally and factually warped.

Perhaps Netanyahu shouldn’t have gone to Paris, but as the approximately 15,000 French Jews who will likely immigrate to Israel from France this year would agree, I imagine that “Jewish-Muslim” relationship amplifies why the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” matters to them—and it’s not for the reasons Israel critics claim.

Here’s how Commentary put it:

The conditions in France reveal the dangerous complacency of conditional Zionism. Israel was not established as a messianic project or a secular haven. It is not a socialist workers’ paradise. It is not a capitalist-imperialist outpost. It is, instead, a country, now 66 years of age, freer than most, fairer to minorities than most, in which 6.2 million Jews now live.

So when Netanyahu entered the Grand Synagogue of Paris (Hollande left soon after the prime minister showed up) he was cheered heartily. And at the end of the speech, the Jews who were congregated sang La Marseillaise. Israel, as Tablet staff writers eloquently pointed out, matters to those attending because it “means that the Jewish people will never be radically alone.” I suspect few Jews in the West understand this better than the ones in France in these days.

Paris: Grand Mosque Open, Grand Synagogue Closed

January 16th, 2015

Gatestone Institute
by Lawrence A. Franklin, January 11, 2015

A seemingly required inclusion in most reports on the recent mass murder in Paris was the rhetorical question posed by reporters has been: “Will these events invite a wave of anti-Muslim incidents”? Since these Islam-inspired murders, however, there have been only a few anti-Muslim actions — all against property.

Under-reported, however, was how rapidly the assault against Charlie Hebdo migrated into an anti-Jewish mini-pogrom in the heart of Paris. What did shoppers in a kosher market, four of whom were slaughtered, have to do with the cartoon images of Mohammad? Nothing. But the assault on the HyperCacher Jewish kosher supermarket has a lot to do with the true nature of Islamic militancy.

It seems the drawings in Charlie Hebdo offended some true believers of Islam, but the mere existence of Jews also offends them. So, apparently, does the existence of Christians, Yazidis, Hindus, Ahmadiyyas; anyone considered a “disbeliever,” “infidel” or “not Muslim enough;” other Muslims, such as those blown up on the streets of Asia each week or the unfortunate Muslim policeman, Ahmed Merabet, wounded, then slaughtered at point blank range, on the sidewalk for not being “part of the plan.”

French police storm the HyperCacher Jewish supermarket in Paris, as hostages flee the store, Friday, December 9.

French police storm the HyperCacher Jewish supermarket in Paris, as hostages flee the store, Friday, December 9.

In reaction to the murders in Paris, the French capital’s Grand Synagogue was closed for the first time since World War II. In fact, synagogues all over Paris were closed. There were no Shabbat services this Saturday, the Jewish day of rest. The stores in the Marais, the Jewish section of Paris, were also shuttered. In light of all the expressed concern about possible anti-Muslim incidents, claims on television, such as on CNN, that “Muslims are the most persecuted people,” seemed jarring and wrong.

The Grand Mosque in Paris, like mosques all over the capital, was open for business on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer. Moreover, there was little discernible increased security around the Grand Mosque. It seems French security authorities were less worried about attacks directed at Muslim institutions than were America’s media commentators.

Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he served as a Military Attaché to Israel.

Gaza at Year End 2014

January 10th, 2015

Council on Foreign Relations
by Elliott Abrams, December 23, 2014

At the end of last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas, all sorts of pledges were made about rebuilding Gaza. Hamas in particular claimed victory because it had broken the “siege of Gaza” and now all Gazans would benefit.

This was nonsense, and clearly so back then. It was obvious from previous experience that goods would not flow easily into Hamas-controlled territory, especially with Egypt smashing the network of smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Sinai.

What is the reality at year end? This is from the Saudi Gazette:

Two months after donors pledged $5.4 billion to help rebuild Gaza after the war between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian, UN and other officials say barely 2 percent of the money has been transferred. The conference in Cairo had been hailed as a success, with Qatar promising $1 billion, Saudi Arabia $500 million and the United States and the European Union a combined $780 million in various forms of assistance. Half was expected to go to rebuilding houses and infrastructure in Gaza destroyed during seven weeks of fighting, and the rest to support the Palestinian budget. But of the total, only $100 million or so has been received, according to UN and other officials. While the EU and the United States have accelerated some funding that was already in the pipeline, very few new pledges have come to fruition.

Who is to blame? Donors who have not met their pledges, to start.

Then add the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, fighting over power and uninterested in the actual welfare of the people of Gaza. This is from Politico:

The Gazan population is growing increasingly agitated as conditions in the territory worsen, and all because of the continued standoff between Hamas and Fatah over Palestinian reconciliation. This was the deal that ended the fighting in late August — reconciliation as a precondition to reconstruction — and the deal that all the relevant parties — Hamas, Israel, the PA, Egypt, as well as the United Nations — ostensibly agreed to. Seven years of Hamas control over Gaza would be gradually replaced by the Fatah-dominated PA, billions of dollars in donor aid would flow in, and the Gazan people would be liberated from the continued rule of an internationally-designated terrorist organization (and the continued need for an Israeli and Egyptian blockade around the territory). Or at least that was the idea. But all these plans are on hold as Hamas and the PA engage in a game of political chicken, staring each other down….

Who is not to blame? Israel, it seems. More from Politico:

Perhaps even more surprising is that Israel, of all the parties involved, has shown the greatest degree of flexibility towards a Gaza Strip still ruled by Hamas. In addition to acquiescing to the salary payments, Israel has begun easing restrictions on construction materials and other goods entering the territory, and on certain products (fish, cucumbers) and people exiting. Israel has given its consent to an elaborate UN-led inspection mechanism for reconstruction, which as mentioned has not yet begun in earnest due to the lack of a PA presence on the ground. “I can’t say that it’s because of Israel that there has been no movement [on reconstruction] at present,” the senior UN official said, a sentiment shared by several other foreign diplomats I spoke to in Jerusalem.

Actually this should not be “surprising” to anyone. Israel has no interest in immiserating the people of Gaza, but solely in protecting its own security.

A final note: how much credit has Israel gotten for this? None, as was predictable. There are many newspaper stories about the awful situation in Gaza, but very few point out what Politico did: that Israel is playing a positive and humane role in Gaza reconstruction, while the top Palestinian “leaders” in both the PA and Hamas jockey for money, power, and advantage and don’t seem to care much about the people they claim to represent. And as the Europeans debate BDS resolutions and recognition of a Palestinian state, the actual facts about Gaza never even cross their minds. For all too many politicians in Europe, Palestine and Palestinians aren’t a real cause anyway: their real motivation is to attack Israel. Facts that get in the way are easily ignored.

New Year’s resolution: Read the Bible in 2015

January 9th, 2015
By Marek Zabriskie, December 26, 2014


Most Americans make a New Year’s resolution. The No. 1 resolution is to lose weight. No. 2 is to exercise more. But within three days, most Americans quit their resolution because they have no one to hold them accountable.

Why not make a more lasting resolution this year that will spiritually enhance you from within? Make a New Year’s resolution to read the Bible.

In 2011, I created The Bible Challenge and urged my Episcopal church to read the entire Bible in a year. It began a movement that has started to span the world. We now have over 500,000 participants in more than 2,500 churches in over 40 countries reading the Bible in a year.

In 2015, I hope you’ll join us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What lies behind you and what lies before you, pales in comparison to what lies inside you.” If you read the Bible, it will change your life, and you will never regret it.

John Adams, the second president of the United States, read the entire Bible every year. He studied the Scriptures every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. Regularly reading the Bible shaped his character, and his character shaped our country.

Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, referred to the Bible as “the rock on which our Republic rests.” He read three to five chapters each day. Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, called the Bible “the best gift God has ever given to man … But for it we could not know right from wrong.”

Woodrow Wilson, our 28th president, said, “The Bible is the Word of life. I beg that you will read it and find this out for yourself. When you have read the Bible you will know it is the Word of God, because you will have found in it the key to your own heart, your own happiness, and your own duty.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower, our 34th president, and his family used the Bible each day during family devotions, with each family member taking his or her turn in reading a passage. Jimmy Carter, our 39th president, reads the Bible daily and has taught a Sunday school class for over four decades.

Ronald Reagan, the 40th president, wrote, “Inside the Bible’s pages lie all the answers to all the problems man has ever known. I hope Americans will read and study the Bible … It is my firm belief that the enduring values presented in its pages have a great meaning for each of us and for our nation. The Bible can touch our hearts, order our minds, and refresh our souls.”
Here are 20 reasons you should considering committing to read the Bible this year:

  • It’s the No. 1 best-selling book of all time.
  • No book has made a greater impact on the world than the Bible.
  • The Bible magnifies our ability to love others and to love ourselves.
  • No book reveals more about God than the Bible, and God rejoices when we read it.
  • Daily Bible reading centers us spiritually and is so enjoyable that you will want to encourage others to do it as well.
  • Taking time to read the Bible for 15 or 30 minutes each day transforms our lives, our marriages, our relationships and our families. It helps us to be better parents, spouses, neighbors, Christians, workers, citizens and human beings.
  • The Bible is the best understanding that we have of Jesus — the person who has had the greatest impact on history.
  • There are over 2 billion Christians. One out of every three people on the planet practices Christianity. The Bible is their chief narrative. It’s worth knowing why.
  • The Bible has inspired people to found the first universities and hospitals in Western society.
  • You cannot fully appreciate Western culture, literature and art without knowing the Bible.
  • Many of the expressions that we use each day come directly from the Bible.
  • People constantly debate what they believe the Bible says without having read it. It’s worth reading it to find out what the Bible actually says.
  • You can read the Bible every day and constantly find new things within it.
  • The Bible will speak to you in a different way each time you pick it up and read it.
  • Reading the Bible will push you to explore what it means to be created in God’s image, and it will help you understand God, your life’s purpose and why you were put on earth.
  • No two people interpret the Bible in the exact same way. It’s worth developing your own understanding of the Bible and not settling for what someone else has to say about it.
  • The Bible, prayerfully and reasonably read on a regular basis, inspires people to be better persons than they ever would be had they not taken time to read it regularly.
  • The Bible offers the most sustained and vital value system in history, and we cannot live and impart these values to our children and to others unless we read it regularly.
  • The Bible is like a mirror. Reading it regularly develops our conscience, helps us to arrange our priorities and encourages us to make significant improvements in our lives.
  • Reading the Bible keeps our heads and our hearts in the right place, develops compassion and good judgment within us and prepares us to spend eternity with God.

The Center for Biblical Studies offers reading plans and reading tips to help you read through the Bible or the entire New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs in a year. You can find suggestions for daily reading plans and which translations of the Bible are most fruitful to read by visiting our website:

Let the Center for Biblical Studies know if you would join to read the Bible in 2015. We will gladly send you a short spiritual commentary to accompany your daily reading and to help you fulfill your goal of reading the entire Bible in a year.


The Rev. Marek P. Zabriskie is the founder and executive director of the Center for Biblical Studies and the creator of The Bible Challenge, a global ministry. He is author and editor of several books about the Bible, including “Doing the Bible Better: The Bible Challenge and the Transformation of the Episcopal Church” (Morehouse Publishing 2014) and “A Journey with Mark: The 50-Day Bible Challenge” (Forward Movement) a conference leader and rector of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Fort Washington, Pa. You can email him at:

Netanyahu’s Christmas greeting

December 26th, 2014

Jerusalem Post
By Staff, December 24, 2014

PM releases video holiday greeting with the Christians of Israel and the Middle East a “very merry Christmas.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Christmas greeting . (photo credit:screenshot)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Christmas greeting . (photo credit:screenshot)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished Christians in Israel and around the world a “very merry Christmas,” on the eve of the holiday that marks the birth of Jesus Christ.

In a video statement released Wednesday night, the premier noted the persecution of Christians in the Middle East have faced recently.

He stressed that Israel stands as an exception to the “daily staple” of “violence, persecution and fear” that Christians across the region face.

“Here in Israel, religious freedom is a sacred principle. Israel’s Christian citizens enjoy the full blessing of freedom and democracy. Their equal rights are enshrined in Israeli law,” Netanyahu stated.

Speaking from Jerusalem, Netanyahu culminated his holiday greeting with a “call of prayer for a more peaceful and tolerant world.”

A Galilee Christmas tour, in the footsteps of Jesus

December 25th, 2014

The Times of Israel
By Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am December 20, 2014

The New Testament comes alive along the shores of Lake Kinneret.

Jesus of Nazareth’s three-year public ministry began when he swept into Tab’ha on the shores of Lake Kinneret and attracted his first four disciples. Most of his sermons were delivered, and his miracles performed, near the sparkling lake known in the New Testament as the Sea of Galilee.

A lovely (wheelchair accessible) promenade stretches 3.5 kilometers from Tab’ha to Capernaum with paths descending to the lakeshore and to several important sites. The promenade runs parallel to Highway 87, so that visitors with two vehicles can leave one at each end.

The Arabic name Tab’ha comes from the Greek hepta pega, or seven springs. Since there are only three large springs at Tab’ha, the number seven may have another explanation. According to the gospel of Matthew, Jesus cured a man of leprosy immediately after the nearby Sermon on the Mount. Thus, the man’s subsequent immersion in water would probably have been in one of the Tab’ha springs.

Later pilgrims who visited the site rinsed themselves seven times instead of one. This custom referred to an Old Testament miracle: the healing of the Syrian General Na’aman, who also suffered from leprosy and was cured when the prophet Elisha had him dip in the Jordan River seven times.

The Gospels relate that Jesus preached all day to 5,000 men (and, in some interpretations, additional women and children) at a “remote spot” that some believe to have been Tab’ha. When evening came, the disciples suggested the people be sent home, for it was late and they were hungry.

Instead, Jesus told his pupils to gather up all the food they could find – which turned out to be five loaves of bread and two fish – and to divide these among the crowd. Sitting on the grass in groups of hundreds and fifties the people ate their fill and not only was everyone satisfied, but there were twelve big basketfuls of fish and breadcrumbs left over.

Inside the church at Tab’ha (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Inside the church at Tab’ha (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

In the year 350, locals led by Joseph of Tiberias built a simple church here to commemorate the miracle and remains of the original apse can be seen in several spots. A much more elaborate house of prayer was constructed directly over the first chapel a hundred years later. The Byzantines who built it erected an altar directly above the rock on which Jesus was believed to have placed the food for the masses.

Mosaics commemorate the miracle of the loaves and fish (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Mosaics commemorate the miracle of the loaves and fish (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Rubble completely covered both churches until they were excavated in 1932; the current structure appeared in 1982. On view are mosaic floors from the Byzantine church that were extraordinarily well preserved; mosaics have been added so that what you see follows the exact design of the original. Twelve lamps on the wall above the altar symbolize the 12 baskets.

Heading north from Tab’ha, you immediately reach the Church of St. Peter’s Primacy and can follow a path all the way down to the banks of the lake. In winter, St. Peter’s fish congregate nearby, for they need warmth to survive and there are hot springs under the water.

Furthermore, warm waters from the Tab’ha springs flow into the lake a few meters to the south. Fishermen have come here for untold generations to catch St. Peter’s fish (amnun in Hebrew) in their nets.

Interior of the Church of St. Peters Primacy (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Interior of the Church of St. Peters Primacy (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

The Church of St. Peter’s Primacy is located on the beach where Jesus is believed to have breakfasted with a few disciples after the resurrection and Peter was commissioned to take over his mission.

Inside the church is a rock on which the men are thought to have dined. Pilgrims often walk right into the water here, and collect it in bottles that they take back home.

Not far from St. Peter’s Primacy, and across the highway, a dirt path ascends to the top of a hill. This site is considered by some Christians to be the true location of the Sermon on the Mount (others place it at the site of the Italian Church of the Beatitudes nearby). Further up the path is a cave that opens onto a view of the Sea of Galilee. Many believe that Jesus frequented this particular cave when he wanted to meditate.

The next site on the promenade is Ancient Capernaum — Kfar Nahum, in Hebrew, or Nahum’s Village. Capernaum was a prosperous Jewish fishing village during the Second Temple period. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, although there are a number of references in the Gospels.

The glories of Capernaum (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

The glories of Capernaum (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

After he married, Peter joined his wife’s family in Capernaum. Jesus stayed there often, and the village became the center for his Galilean ministry; after Jesus’ death, Peter’s home was the natural meeting place for followers.

For the next couple of centuries pilgrims flocked to the site, hungry to view and to touch stones from the house where Jesus sojourned in Galilee and eventually turning it into a church. It was kept in good repair, and researchers have found inscriptions from that long ago era: prayers to Jesus and some writings that refer to Peter.

Around the year 300 a chapel was built on top. And in 450 the Byzantines constructed an octagonal church over the earlier house of prayer, following the dwelling’s original design.

Right next to this church stand remains from the ancient city, including an elaborate synagogue built of gleaming white stone that forms a striking contrast to the region’s black basalt rock. Coins in the foundation level indicate that the synagogue was constructed from scratch around 390; an adjacent structure was probably a Jewish house of study.

Fabulous stone carvings taken from the synagogue ruins are on display at the entrance to the site, including a Star of David. At the time the six-pointed decoration held no religious significance; it became a Jewish symbol only around 1600.

Stone carvings at ancient Capernaum (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Stone carvings at ancient Capernaum (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

One stone is engraved with a representation of the Holy Ark being carried in a cart with wheels, perhaps reflecting its return from Philistine hands; other carvings include a seven-branched menorah crowning a Corinthian capital, a ram’s horn, grapes and pomegranates. Also on view: a palm tree carved into a synagogue lintel.

Practically next door, a striking Greek Orthodox church with bright pink domes stands on the shores of the lake. Built in 1931 near the excavations of Capernaum and on the eastern portion of that ancient village, the church is dedicated to the 12 apostles.

Interior of the Church of the 12 Apostles (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Interior of the Church of the 12 Apostles (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Two rounded ceilings inside the church feature colorful, symbolic pictures and the walls are covered with icons. Most interesting is the iconostasis, that portion of the church which separates the sanctuary from the main part of the building.

The iconostasis is made of a stunning red marble quarried in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood near Bethlehem, a stone no longer available because the site has been taken over by developers.

In the year 2000, a pilgrimage site was built adjacent to the church. Besides a floating dock for pilgrims who sail over from the other side of the lake, there are long halls suitable for dining and for prayer, as well as a beautiful walkway along the shore.

The Church of the 12 Apostles (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

The Church of the 12 Apostles (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)


This article is adapted from a chapter in Aviva Bar-Am’s book Israel’s Northern Landscapes: Guide to the Golan Heights, Eastern Galilee and Lake Kinneret.

Shmuel Bar-Am is a licensed, tour guide who provides private, customized tours in Israel for individuals, families and small groups.

1/3 of schoolchildren don’t know that Christmas celebrates Jesus

December 22nd, 2014

A third of children aged 10 to 13 don’t know that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus

Parentdish UK
By Keith Kendrick, December 08, 2014

Campaigners blame political correctness for erosion of nativity message.

Christmas nativity play

A third of schoolchildren don’t know that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, according to a survey.

Campaign group Christmas Starts With Christ surveyed 2,000 British families and found that children between the ages of 10 and 13 were ignorant about why we give each other presents every December 25 — and political correctness is to blame.

The survey also found that half the population considers Jesus’s birth irrelevant to their festive celebrations, while only one adult in 10 is able to state four facts about the Nativity.

Francis Goodwin, from CSWC, said: “Britain is fast becoming one of the world’s most secular countries.

“As nations get richer, they think they no longer need God and may only come back to him in a crisis.”

He added: “There is a problem with political correctness in schools. They think they should not focus on the Christian roots of Christmas because of inclusivity.

“But it is misguided. People of other faiths are not offended.

“In a multi-faith, inclusive society, children can learn about the Muslim festival Eid, for example, as well as Christmas.”

Last week, a mum revealed she’s canceled Christmas to teach her three sons a lesson about the meaning of gratitude.

Lisa Henderson said her boys Caleb, 11, Davis, eight, and Beckham, five, had become ungrateful and disrespectful and so, to teach them that it’s better to give than to receive, they won’t be getting any presents.

She says that while the family weren’t canceling ‘putting up decorations, celebrating the birth of our Savior, or any of our other heart-warming traditions’, but they would be going without ‘presents, Santa, and stockings’.

Op-Ed: Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus': Big Story, Small Picture

December 19th, 2014
Jack Engelhard

Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva.

Arutz Sheva, Israel National News
By Jack Engelhard , December 15, 2014

The Biblical Balaam knew what has escaped Ridley Scott.

Director Ridley Scott’s just released “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” is one of those rare movies in which everybody is miscast, but that is not my real complaint.

Here is one part this production did get right – the Land of Israel was promised to the Hebrews, a Binding Resolution that came directly from God Almighty. Scott deserves respect for standing against today’s scoffers. Yes, the Torah was the paper of record long before The New York Times came along.

But how did all these Brits get into the picture, and all of them speaking a different British dialect? The confounding of tongues is the first problem.

You know immediately that despite a $140 million budget, this is something that got cobbled together.

Only Christian Bale (“Moses”) shows up speaking American, too much as though he rushed straight from the set of “American Hustle.” Sigourney Weaver, it seemed, blundered onto the set from another sound stage, quickly got costumed, rehearsed, reminded what movie she was in, and off she goes to collect a paycheck.

The women in this flick, we have no idea who they are or what they want. They have practically no lines and no “faces.”

Somebody forgot that during the Exodus, the real one, our incredibly gorgeous but modest Hebrew women played a big part and that if it were not for Miriam, fuhgeddaboutit, we never would have made it those 40 years. This anti-epic production tries too hard to meet our generation’s hero-averse sensibilities and thus turns a story entirely sublime into a story entirely trivial.

In Scott’s hands, and from the stitching of his four screenwriters, this is not about the Hebrew rebellion against slavery.

Rather, this is about Ridley Scott’s rebellion against Cecil B. DeMille. For everything DeMille did big, Scott does small. If DeMille splits the sea with effects so spectacular for 1956, Scott’s “Moses” in 2014 waits for the Weather Channel to report the next low tide. The Ten Commandments? Nothing to write home about.

In this telling, nobody shines, neither Bale as Moses, nor Joel Edgerton as Pharaoh, nor the digitally enhanced “cast of thousands.”

Cut to Norma Desmond from “Sunset Boulevard” (1950): “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

We know that all movies are about two movie stars, period. Usually that’s boy meets girl. In the Bible sense, usually it’s boy meets God.

So minimalism is good when it is done by someone like David Lean, whose genius was to let a whole big story get told through the eyes of one hero.

But for Scott, there was no fixed position, and this brings me to my complaint.

Why are the Hebrews shown as a filthy rabble? This, to be honest, is no fault of this director alone. All movies that feature the Hebrews of times past give us Jews that are unwashed and uncombed. Watch us against the Greeks or the Romans, and now the Egyptians, and see how well groomed our enemies are against our own tattered Hebrew extras.

The opposite is true. Since we are talking about the Hebrew Bible (more to less), turn to practically any page and there find the rules of cleanliness. Through the Torah, Judaism is all about separating the clean from the unclean; distinguishing the pure from the impure.

Through the Torah, Judaism taught hygiene to the entire world – a world that knew nothing abut the urgency of washing hands until the late 1800s.

The Jews knew it some 3,800 years ago from Scriptures and from a thousand different volumes on etiquette compiled and distilled, like the Shulchan Aruch, to remind us of the laws pertinent to cleanliness and proper behavior. So even as we travelled as slaves throughout those 40 years, we marched onward clean, disciplined and orderly – never as an unruly mob. Never.

Even in the wilderness, pitching camp along 42 stops en route to the Promised Land, every home and booth was a model of modesty and morality.

So much so that Balaam, that man who was dispatched to curse the Hebrews, could not help himself but to exclaim:

“How goodly thy tents O Jacob; Thy dwelling places, O Israel.”

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