January 1997 : Volume 19, Number 1


Eyewitness to the Truth

by Zola Levitt

In the last couple of months we have been presenting our usual year-end reports, and now I want to catch up with the news. I typically keep notes on current events, which I would like to share with you now.

          On November 6, I visited the local Jewish Community Center to hear a talk by Hirsh Goodman, editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Report. He spoke about how the Orthodox in Israel reject Reform and Conservative Jewish marriages and other rabbinical views; in essence, the Orthodox are decreeing that the others aren't real Jews. Goodman made the point, "They would have been good enough to put into a gas chamber, and therefore they're good enough for Israel.";

          Genieve Abdo, in a November 10 Dallas Morning News article, quoted an Arab official in Israel as saying, "The Jews must understand, they are not wanted here. " My question is, in what other major city in the world could such a statement be made? No official in New York City or Tokyo or London could get away with saying such an atrocious thing. This is being said in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish state, at a time when Texaco, a major corporation, is under fire for racial slurs. What would we do to Texaco if its executives publicly proclaimed, "The blacks are not wanted here?" Only Arabs are allowed to talk this way in this world.

          Or perhaps more specifically, only Moslems are allowed to talk like that. We could compare the treatment of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan with that of Texaco. Texaco is censured for what was said in secret, but Farrakhan states publicly that Jews are "bloodsuckers." If what Texaco did is bad, what's to be done about Farrakhan?

          The most recent issue of the Jerusalem Report magazine discloses that Texaco is also battling anti-Semitism lawsuits by two of its Jewish employees. These suits have not been mentioned at all in the American press, and Texaco is not interested in settling them. Blacks, with their genuine grievances, can at least complain about the injustices heaped on them. Jews do not have even that small right in the American media.

          It has been a few months now since the Hasmonean tunnel was opened in Jerusalem. The Arabs used it as an excuse to spark several days of rioting, even though the tunnel's new exit would bring tourists from the Western Wall area to the Arab stores on the Via Dolorosa. During my December tour, I personally saw how the tunnel benefits the Arabs, as streams of new customers emerged to barter at the shops.

          Yasser Arafat named a street after Ayash, "the Engineer," during the celebration of the anniversary of his death. Ayash, if you'll recall, was responsible for the bombing deaths of scores of innocent Israeli civilians. This unmitigated respect for a serial mass murderer by the leader of the Israeli Arabs seems to have gone unnoticed by worldwide media commentators.

          On Christmas Eve, Arafat was videotaped in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity "praying" to Jesus, crying, "Help us." While this made a marvelous photo opportunity, Arafat is in fact a Moslem. Christians in Bethlehem, and other areas under the Palestinian Authority, are being harassed and even persecuted. My tours have been visiting Bethlehem for many years, and we could tell it's becoming a Moslem city by the rubbish in the streets and the proliferation of peddlers.

          News Flash: the Palestinian Liberation Organization has not changed its covenant, which mandates the destruction of Israel, as called for by the agreement it signed in Oslo. PLO leadership publicly announced a plan to set up a committee that would decide in six months what items to submit for a vote for possible change. (This wasn't even a commitment to make the changes they promised — just a committee to study the issue.) That committee was never set up, and the six-month deadline expired on October 24th. Anthony Lewis, please take notice. You exulted earlier in your New York Times column about this momentous development. I would encourage my readers to write to Mr. Lewis to let him know that his optimism was premature.

          Concerning other individuals who were fooled by the PLO, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres had stated at the time that this PLO covenant "change" was the most significant development in Arab politics in 100 years. That was a pretty weighty statement to make about a plan that the Arabs never intended to fulfill.

          Danny Bahat, an Israeli archaeologist, commented to me during the filming of our newest series, "I did not vote for Netanyahu. I didn't know him. I did not vote for Peres. I knew him."

          Recent media reports pushed the idea that the policies of Israel's current government have driven that country to the brink of explosion. Our staff theologian, Tom McCall, observed, "There were more casualties when 'things were going smoothly,' according to the press."

          While I was in Israel in December, I read an article in the Jerusalem Post concerning a controversial decision by the American Jewish Committee to invite Thomas Friedman to speak to them. If you remember, I have frequently pointed him out as one of the Jewish commentators in the American press who incessantly criticizes Israel. This AJC choice raised quite a stink. The Post writer asked, "Would you have Louis Farrakhan as a speaker?" He followed this question with, "Would you have Moshe Rosen [founder of Jews for Jesus] speak?" My comment, as one who has read the Jewish Scriptures, is that Rosen would have quite a bit to say to the AJC. (This is just one example of the way that many misinformed Israelis perceive American Jewish believers. To equate Moshe with Farrakhan is ludicrous by any standard.)

          The Christmas Tree from Scandinavia story hit the news once again. In past years, Norway or some other country from that region has donated an evergreen to Israel. This year, Finland sent a tree. And, as usual, that tree had to be quarantined, as does any such item entering any modern nation. (The tree could carry dangerous parasites into Israel, as has happened in our own country, with imported insects destroying crops in California.) This is an annual set-up for more bad press for Israel. It's ridiculous — Israel doesn't need a tree from Finland. It has millions of its own evergreens in both Jewish and Arab areas.

          Jan Willem van der Hoeven, spokesman for the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, addressed my tourgroup in December. He commented that Jerusalem has the only empty tomb. "If you went to the tombs of Mohammed or Buddha and asked for their help, they would presumably say, 'How can I help you — I couldn't help myself?'"

          On a personal note, please forgive me for sounding negative or cynical when it comes to the news. Frankly, it's hard to get through the barrage of media bias, and I find myself growing weary at times of reporting these things. I don't want to sound like Farrakhan, someone who savages other people for reasons that seem pathological. And I'm not prejudiced in any way; I'm just an eyewitness to the truth in Israel, and report it as I see it.

          I do read your letters of criticism and take them seriously. It breaks my heart when a viewer of our program drops out because "you talk too much about Israel . . . get back to the Bible." Israel is what the Bible is about; that small country is mentioned on virtually every page, and 100% of End Times prophecy concerns that nation.

          If we are close to the Lord's coming, as many prophecy teachers hold, then I would be remiss not to tell you everything I can about Israel, especially since I go there often and talk to many Israelis and Arabs about their situation. If, in the end, this newsletter is only desired and read by twelve individuals, then I will still feel that I am doing my part for the Kingdom. Because, after all, that is the number that the Lord chose to cultivate and train for His Father's work. It's not the size of an organization, but Who is behind it. I'm sorry that this is a world that is very negative to describe. But I have to tell it as I see it, and it happens to be more and more like the Bible foretells.

          And with that I will finish, only adding my hopes that the Lord will bless you and your families in this new year — a year that brings us ever closer to the return of our Savior.

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A Note From Zola

Dear Friends,

          I cannot put any good face on the recent action in Hebron by a crazed Israeli soldier. As have some Arabs in the past, this Orthodox zealot let his feelings overwhelm him, and punished his enemy without regard to fairness, mercy, or his real enemy — the so-called peace process. With that said, Hebron, despite its occasional flare-ups, is safer than any American city of comparable size and, like the rest of Israel, virtually crime-free.

          As I have contended from the outset, I don't believe that peace is possible in Israel between these two peoples. We might have conferences between governing officials, but that does not cover the unsanctioned terrorist or the lunatic soldier. In fact, it was reported in the media that the Israeli soldier who wounded seven Arabs in Hebron had a history of mental problems. He had been expelled from a yeshiva for strange behavior. The head of that school expressed surprise that he'd been allowed into the army in the first place.

          On January 9, Israeli Arabs apparently retaliated with two small bombs in the southern part of Tel Aviv. Initial reports as we went to press said that eleven people were injured.

          The news lately has been filled with these Israeli-Arab talks on the status of Hebron. Actually, this has been one of the biggest "non-stories" of the past year. The New York Times has featured it day after day on its front page, as day after day nothing happened. As we go to press, we don't know if they'll settle some agreement about Hebron, but this entire issue is about Jewish and Arab citizens and how to keep them from being murdered.

          In reality, the Arabs are the settlers in Hebron, as they are all over the entire West Bank. Compared to the Jews, they are Johnny-come-latelies. Our archaeological series is in production now with the Israeli footage our TV crew videotaped in December. These programs will demonstrate that, in the West Bank and everywhere else, the Jews have prior title to this land. The sites covered in all cases were established many centuries before the arrival of any Arab in Israel.

          The only real controversy about Hebron is the 450 Jewish people who want to live in the world's oldest Jewish city and worship at the cave where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried with their wives. These Jewish citizens have to live with 120,000 people from a society whose leadership believes that murdering civilians is a legitimate way to further national aspirations. These long negotiations, including complex discussions with American officials, are about three things only: how to prevent the murder of 450 innocent civilians, how to prevent the murder of 450 innocent civilians, and how to prevent the murder of 450 innocent civilians.

          And this is supposed to be part of a "peace process." The media was curiously absent during one of Arafat's recent speeches to his Arab supporters, in which he stated, " We know only one word — jihad, jihad, jihad!" Go ahead and make peace with such a man.

          Frankly, I think the entire Hebron discussion took place in order to dupe the Arabs into being cooperative at Christmastime. It's quite possible that the negotiators stalled until Christmas to ensure another peaceful celebration in Bethlehem — a situation that was routine when Israel controlled it.

          And peaceful it was, as our December tour passengers could tell you. Our pilgrims had a richly spiritual and secure journey in the Holy Land. If you have been postponing a trip to Israel because of its new government, I can tell you from experience that it is unnecessary to wait. That country is safer for travel than any other Middle Eastern country; it's certainly safer than crime-plagued America. Not only are the hotels and food excellent, the Israelis are putting their best foot forward in an effort to expand tourism.

          There's still time for you to get on board Our next Grand Tour !

Your messenger,

          P.S. While in Israel during one of our recent tours, I spotted the following Letter to the Editor in the Jerusalem Post. This redoubtable little lady from Wales seems capable of taking on the whole Israeli government, although it's sad that a Gentile from Europe has to be the one to remind the Israelis of their biblical heritage.

          Sir, I never thought the day would dawn when a Protestant like me would be constrained to complain to The Jerusalem Post, of which I am a keen and regular reader. Having read and re-read Hillel Halkin's article of September 6, "Thinking a little harder about Jerusalem," I am almost too dismayed to say what I think. To suggest that the city of the Great King should be divided, or shared, internalized or whatever, least of all with your avowed enemies, is too painful to bear — and beyond belief! I could never imagine (no, not for a moment) how an article like this would ever find its way into the news-sheets of any other land. This is not free speech but a superfluity of it.

          Ever since I was a child and saw, read and heard evidence of your return to Zion from the killing grounds of Europe, you have been in my prayers to the God who is yours and mine. I believe all that the prophets have spoken; that the return of my Jewish brothers and sisters is part of their inexorable destiny. Silently over the years I witnessed the schemes of men, only to see them topple in confusion, not least during the last administration. But now, alas! it may be time a Christian reminded you that Jerusalem is not yours to truncate — some things do not go under the hammer: it is the city of the Great King; as practicing Jews and practicing Christians, we must align ourselves with the particular and broader significance of Zion, the one that now is yours and yours alone.

          In October, I hope to be in Jerusalem and shall give neither my time nor my attention to anything Palestinian because they are dangerous and untrustworthy: they mean you no good. Yet, these are the very people with whom Mr. Halkin is eager to share the land and the city of Zion! You know your history better than me, but even I know that the world at large and the Arab world in particular will only behave itself properly toward Israel when you refuse to compromise.

G.T., Pontarddulais, Wales

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Where is the Ark of the Covenant?

By Thomas S. McCall, Th.D.
Thomas McCall

          The Ark of the Covenant disappeared off of the pages of history by the time of the Babylonian Captivity. Nothing in the Bible is said about the Ark in the Old Testament after the return from Babylon, but the Apocrypha states that the Ark could not be found when the Jewish people rebuilt the Temple at the time of Ezra and Zechariah. The explanation in the Apocrypha was that Jeremiah hid the Ark in a cave in Mt. Nebo before the Babylonian invasion, and that its location would not be revealed until God was ready for it to be found.

No Ark in the Second Temple

          Thus, the Holy of Holies in the Second Temple was an empty chamber, without the Ark of the Covenant. When the Roman General Pompey conquered Jerusalem around 63 B.C., he demanded the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies. When he did, he came out saying that he could not understand what all the interest was about the sanctuary, when it was only an empty room.

          The fact that the Ark of the Covenant was not used in the Second Temple has led to the speculation of where the Ark is, or if it still exists on the earth. The Ark was so important in Israel from the time of Moses through the Judges and the First Temple era, that it seems remarkable that nothing is said of it in the Bible after the Babylonian Captivity, until the Letter to the Hebrews and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. In Hebrews it is described as it was in the original Tabernacle made by Moses; and in Revelation, the Ark is seen by John in heaven. In neither case is the Ark mentioned as something that remains on the earth now.

Is the Ark Needed for the Tribulation Temple?

          One question that arises is, can the Temple be rebuilt if it does not contain the Ark? The Scriptures indicate that the Temple will be rebuilt and standing during the Tribulation period, and that the Tribulation Temple will be desecrated by the Antichrist. How can the worship of Yahweh be resumed as it was in ancient times if there is no Ark in the Holy of Holies? We have already seen, though, that the absence of the Ark of the Covenant did not keep the Temple from being rebuilt at the conclusion of the Babylonian Captivity.

          The Second Temple stood for over 500 years without containing an Ark, and it was fully recognized as a valid house of worship for the Lord. Christ Himself declared the Temple to be His Father's House. So it would not be unthinkable to build the Tribulation Temple, even if the Ark is not discovered. If the Ark does still exist, however, and it were somehow discovered, it would certainly give rise to a strong movement in Israel and around the world to rebuild the Temple to house the Ark properly.

Is the Ark Hidden in the Temple Mount?

          There persists a legend that the Ark does exist on earth, but is hidden. A recently published book by Randall Price, entitled In Search of Temple Treasures, presents the various views on what has happened to the Ark. Some of the traditions place the Ark outside of Israel, such as at Mt. Nebo, Egypt and even far-off Ethiopia. But all of these traditions have problems and seem unlikely, since there is a lack of any scriptural evidence for them.

          A view that has predominated in rabbinic circles is that the Ark was hidden in a cave beneath the Temple Mount in the very heart of Israel. The theory goes that the priests hid the Ark beneath the Temple Mount, perhaps as early as during the time of King Josiah, since the coming prophesied invasion by the Babylonians was only a matter of time. By hiding the Ark and other Temple treasures, the priests felt that the priceless sacred articles could be protected from desecration by the pagan invaders.

Why Didn't Israel Use the Ark in the Second Temple?

          As it turned out, the Babylonians did invade Jerusalem. They destroyed the Temple and carried away many of the vessels and implements to their capital city a thousand miles away. No mention is made in the Scriptures of the Babylonians taking the Ark, the Menorah, or other key Temple items. If the Ark and the other implements were hidden under the Temple, why weren't they recovered and used after the Captivity? It's hard to imagine that the priests would have knowingly left the Ark out of the Holy of Holies if they could have utilized it during the 500 years of the Second Temple.

          The explanation offered is that they felt that as long as Jerusalem was subject to domination by the succeeding powers of Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome, the Ark and other treasures could be desecrated and captured by the Gentile armies. Thus, the sacred items would remain in seclusion until it was considered safe to bring them out to be placed in the Temple.

The Rabbinical Attempt to Find the Ark

          At any rate, Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Rabbi Yehuda Getz, the rabbis in charge of the Western Wall area, are convinced that the Ark has been hidden in a cave in the Temple Mount directly under the site of the Holy of Holies, since the time of King Josiah. They probably represent the majority of Orthodox rabbis in their views. They have a concept of vertical air space, by which the space of the Holy of Holies sanctifies the ground directly below it. Thus, the ancient priests would have been careful to locate the cave repository for the Ark in the sanctified area below the Holy of Holies. The evidence for all of these suppositions about the location of the Ark, as Rabbi Getz concedes, comes more from the Talmud than the Scriptures. Nevertheless, there is a large and growing group of Orthodox Jewish adherents who believe that the Ark is in this cave below the Holy of Holies, and awaits the right time to be found.

          Rabbi Getz believes that in 1982 he was very close, within 40 feet, to finding the cave in which the Ark resides. He was conducting a search in an old tunnel that had been filled with the debris of centuries, which runs perpendicular to the Western Wall and under the Temple Mount. However, when the Moslems discovered that there were diggings being conducted under the Dome of the Rock, they threatened a general riot and the diggings were stopped. The rabbi explains that, for the sake of maintaining peace with their Moslem neighbors, the Israelis had to reseal the entrance to the tunnel, and it remains blocked up to this day.

Temple Interest an Indication of the Imminent Rapture

          The Scriptures are not clear as to whether the Ark of the Covenant still exists on the earth, but they are clear that the Temple will be rebuilt and standing during the Tribulation. There is no question that if the Ark were found, it would give enormous impetus to the rebuilding of the Temple to house it. Bible-believing Christians should keep a sharp eye out for any developments surrounding the Temple Mount, realizing that it is a key element leading to the Tribulation era. The closer we get to the Tribulation, the closer we are to the imminent Rapture of the Church, which, we believe the Scriptures teach, will precede the Tribulation. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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Letters to Zola

          Some years ago I ordered a scroll and an Israeli flag from your ministry, which I gave to a Jewish woman. She was eighty years old and quite set in her ways, so I never tried to witness to her. She put the scroll in the drawer and put the flag on the wall.

          After some months she took the scroll out and read it. Later she said she thought it would make her mad when she read the claims of Jesus, but it didn't and she received Him as her Messiah and Lord. I believe the reason she didn't get angry was that she had associated the scroll with the Israeli flag in her mind and to her the writing was as Jewish as the flag and scroll, which it was.

Sincerely, J. S.

          Yes, the scroll's writing is all Scripture, and the entire Bible is Jewish writing.

          We are very sad because of the time switch. 4:30 am Mountain Time is where we live and we are old and don't have a VCR. We will miss your new program terribly. But we want you to know, we will always stand with you, love you and pray for our beloved Israel and God's people. Needless to say, we will continue our financial support for your ministry, and pray that God will help you to get another time-slot.

We love you all and Shalom, R. & W.

          Thank you for your letter and your continued help in the work of this ministry. As for our program's time-slot, we are buying the best time that the network made available. We would love to have our program at a better time, but that is the way of the world — "there is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3:11).

          God does work in mysterious ways. A couple of months ago, I went to the synagogue here in Arlington and bought four mezuzahs, one for each of my daughters' homes and one for mine. I sent one to each and told them to put them on the doorsill and gave them the Scripture, Deut.6:4-9. They each promised they would.

Recently I planned a trip to Georgia to visit in my oldest daughter's home. A Jewish business associate of her husband called and she told him her mother would soon be there to visit and would expect to see it properly nailed up on the doorpost. The man kindly explained to her where and how to place it. Then he said, " Sounds like a Jew in the woodpile somewhere." Proudly, my daughter replied, "There is — Jesus." I am grateful she thought fast and declared our Lord to him. Who knows, there may now be further opportunity to witness.

Thank you for your teaching truth. — B. T.

          Quite a while ago you presented the Beresfords and other Messianic Jews who were being discriminated against in Israel because they believe in Yeshua. I have been praying for them and would like an update on that situation so I can pray more accurately.

Thank you, N. R.

          For those who are unfamiliar with this situation, the Beresfords are Jews who were denied the use of the Law of Return by the Israeli government because they are believers, even though they had sons who were serving in the Israeli army. Last we heard, no official decision had been made, and I believe the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, would like to keep the issue permanently tabled.

          I thoroughly enjoy your program. . . . When you reenact the first century and get around to the subject of the burro (the most common critter on the road at the time — every family had one), show the Jesus Stripe. On the back of the donkey, a dorsal stripe runs front to back, then across the shoulder, forming a cross. Legend has it that since the burro is the lowly beast that carried our Lord Jesus Christ, God blessed him with the Jesus Stripe. The educated buyer looks for it when selecting a superior animal.

Shalom, M. S.

That's a new one on us, but we'll pass it on.

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Copyright © 1997 by Zola Levitt Ministries, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. All rights reserved. Brief passages may be quoted in reviews or other article. For all other use, please get our written approval.