Tag Archives: middle east

Afghanistan and the Story of Purim

The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan last year brought conflicts to the surface that surprised most of us! We thought we had made more progress in our relationship with the Afghan people, but to our disappointment, we had not. Tribalism, radical Islam, and anti-Western sympathies were boiling below the surface of this nation of almost forty million people. The Taliban was waiting patiently for the United States to leave to make their next move and take over the country, which is similar to what happened in Iran some years previously. We once again learned not to underestimate the power of radical Islam over its adherents. Indeed, the only force powerful enough to break the hold of fierce Islamist belief and nationalism is the gospel.

Americans realized this disturbing reality for the first time in 2001 when four hijacked planes undertook a deadly mission to terrorize our country. Last fall, we honored the heroes and the fallen at our Chosen People Ministries-sponsored event in New York City, 9/11 and the New Middle East. I hope you will take some time to view the conference, which is available on our website, 911theconference.com.

Afghanistan in the Bible

People often ask me if the United States appears in the end times. I do not see any special mention of our nation in biblical prophecy. However, some of the more general statements about the absence of godliness in the last days and the events Jesus predicted in the Olivet Discourse apply to all people—especially the moral and spiritual decline intensifying as we approach the Second Coming. I am sorry to say we see this in our own country. One would have to don blinders not to see how our world is once again embracing the lifestyles prevalent during the days of Noah, which God’s judgment ultimately submerged.

We can also ask this same question about Afghanistan. Is this nation mentioned in the Bible, and what does the future hold for Afghanistan according to the Scriptures? Regarding this topic, we have more to say than we do about our own country, as Afghanistan is mentioned most intriguingly in the Bible and is part of a critical story describing Israel’s survival.

Afghanistan was part of the Persian Empire from the sixth century to the fourth century ʙᴄ, although the Bible does not use the proper name for the modern nation. However, you can quickly identify the geographic region when you understand the geography and alignment of countries in the ancient world.

For example, Daniel’s vision in Daniel 2:31–45 predicts the Babylonian and Medo-Persian domination of Israel, ultimately giving way to Greece and Rome—a prophecy detailed in chapters two, ten, and eleven. Eventually, all these powerful ancient kingdoms who were hostile to the Jewish people, along with one future pagan nation, will be crushed by the stone cut without hands as Daniel predicted:

In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy. (Daniel 2:44–45)

Ultimately, all human governments, including Persia and Afghanistan, are temporary and will fall in weakness and humility at the feet of the One and only true Creator and King!

Afghanistan and the Persian Empire

This month, we are thinking quite a bit about Persia as we observe the Jewish holiday of Purim that was initiated in the book of Esther. Most Bible students know that the Persian Empire played a significant role in the history of Israel and appears many times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Persia is mentioned 240 times in the Bible. The great Persian kings, including Cyrus, Darius, and Ahasuerus (Artaxerxes), are identified many times as well.1

However, what is not usually known is that the area comprising modern Afghanistan was part of the Persian Empire for centuries during a critical period of the biblical story. Though Iran and Afghanistan are two distinct and unique modern nations, a few remaining historical ties still unite both countries. For example, the Persian dialect of Dari is one of Afghanistan’s official languages. Also, many Afghan people speak Farsi and celebrate the Persian New Year.

The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550–330 ʙᴄ)

The period when the region encompassing modern Afghanistan was part of the great Persian Empire spanned two hundred years—from the ascension of Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II) in 550 ʙᴄ until Alexander the Great conquered Persia in 330 ʙᴄ. After Alexander’s death, the conquered kingdoms of the Macedonian leader were divided into four sections.

Most ancient historians would agree with this statement by the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art regarding the scope of Alexander’s Empire: “The Achaemenid Persian empire was the largest that the ancient world had seen, extending from Anatolia and Egypt across western Asia to northern India and Central Asia.”2

Cyrus, the “anointed ruler,” created a vast empire including Israel and Afghanistan. The prophet Isaiah predicted his rise to power almost 150 years before he became king: “Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut” (Isa 45:1).

Cyrus the Great played a critical role in restoring Jerusalem as Jeremiah predicted (Jer 25:11, 29:10), and Daniel confirmed (Dan 9:24–27). He gave Zerubbabel permission to return from exile and rebuild the Temple (2 Chronicles 36:20–23; Ezra 1:1–11; Isaiah 44:28; 45:1–7). This move was consistent with Cyrus’ view on ruling disparate cultures with varying religious beliefs. He allowed diversity, unlike other ancient rulers. The Lord used Cyrus’ philosophy of inclusion and cultural expression for the good of the Israelites, whom the Babylonians had conquered. The Babylonians also destroyed the Temple, took many Israelites into exile, and forced them to adopt Babylonian religious practices, as the book of Daniel describes.

Esther might be the most significant book of the Bible written during this period of the great Persian Empire.

In Esther 1:1, the author details the geographic expanse of Ahasuerus’ kingdom. “Now it took place in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces.”

Ahasuerus was mentioned in Ezra 4:6 because he ruled during this period, “Now in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” The context is that Israel’s local enemies were trying to stop the rebuilding of the Temple and were antagonizing Israel’s rebuilders from the reign of Cyrus until the reign of Darius (Ezra 4:4–5).

From the boundaries mentioned in Esther, the identification of Ahasuerus (thought to be Xerxes, 485–465 ʙᴄ), and the extent of his kingdom, the events of the book of Esther took place during the reign of this Persian king. Therefore, the nation of modern Afghanistan was a part of the extended Persian Empire.

So, when we think about biblical Afghanistan, we should consider that whatever we read of Persia is also true of what is now Afghanistan. Unlike Isaiah’s specific prophecies regarding Assyria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Babylon (modern Iraq), Arabia, Edom, Philistia, the city of Damascus, and other identifiable nations or geographic areas, whatever the Bible tells us about Persia should include the country Afghanistan.

As a result, we learn quite a bit about the future of Persia and Afghanistan.

Lessons for Today for Afghanistan

As we know from the text, Haman tried to destroy the Jewish people and failed! As a result, the Jewish people were allowed to punish their enemies in Susa, the capital, and throughout the provinces of Persia, which would have included lands that are part of today’s modern Afghanistan.

Esther chapter nine mentions the results of Haman’s failure: “Thus the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying; and they did what they pleased to those who hated them” (Esth 9:5). Additionally, the Jewish people killed 75,000 of their enemies throughout the provinces: “Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces assembled, to defend their lives and rid themselves of their enemies, and kill 75,000 of those who hated them; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder” (Esth 9:16).

By God’s grace, the Jewish people and the promises of God remained alive because the Lord Himself intervened to save His people. As promised in the Abrahamic Covenant, those who cursed the Jewish people were cursed. The entire book of Esther should be viewed as the unfolding of God’s covenant with Abraham and His promises to bless those who bless Israel and to curse those who curse her. His plan to bless the world through the Jewish people was far from over at the time of Esther. The Bible was still to be completed, the Messiah was to come, and the future repentance of Israel that would initiate the Second Coming were all ahead. Therefore, no one could have destroyed the Jewish people (Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 23:37–39; Romans 11:25ff.).

New Hamans Arise in Every Generation

There are new Hamans on the world scene today seeking the destruction of the Jewish people. Israel is under attack, and antisemitism is on the rise worldwide. We understand that all forms of Islamic extremism seek the destruction of Israel. Indeed, almost every manifestation of Islam opposes the existence of the modern State of Israel, though various brands of Islam express this antipathy in different ways. Some are more violent than others. We see Hezbollah and Hamas nestled on the very borders of Israel, perched and ready to attack when they are able. This everyday threat is difficult for Israel and the Jewish people. In these instances, the threat to the Jewish people is more than a person—a modern-day Haman—it is in the ideology, nationalism, and religious fervor of many throughout the Middle East.

We hope and pray that the new Afghanistan will not tolerate terrorism against the West and Israel the way they have in the past. Indeed, those who perpetrated the events of 9/11 twenty years ago found safe harbor in Afghanistan.

According to an article that the website Breaking Defense published in the wake of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan:

Israeli officials are nervously watching the situation in Afghanistan, believing that the collapse of the government over the weekend will enable Al-Qaida to renew its efforts to perform terror attacks against both American and Israeli targets around the world. Defense sources here say that the feeling among the Taliban and Al-Qaida is that after defeating the US in Afghanistan, the “gate is wide open” to launch terror attacks from inside Afghanistan. One source added that the US should get ready [for] Al-Qaida [to] attempt to perform terror acts against American “interests” in the very near future. “There is no doubt that Al-Qaida will take advantage of the situation in Afghanistan to recruit more people and plan terror attacks” one of the sources said . . . . “The situation is bad, very bad,” [Mordechai Kedar, a senior Israeli analyst on Islamic issues] said, adding that while Iran and the Taliban are not allies, certain Islamic groups in both countries may find common ground in targeting non-Islamic nations.3

The rise of global antisemitism has begun to permeate our society and is often subtly wrapped in the guise of anti-Israelism. We see this virulent form of anti-Jewish behavior growing more prevalent on our campuses today. Unfortunately, an anti-Israel position is usually wed to an anti-Jewish sentiment in today’s world.

As followers of Jesus the Jewish Messiah, we should be sympathetic to the Jewish cause. Historically, most faithful Christians have been pro-Israel and pro-Jewish without being anti-anyone else. But today, the winds of change are in the air. Therefore, re-reading what the Bible says about Israel and the Jewish people is essential. Unfortunately, we see a growing disinterest in Israel within the church today that concerns us.

God Is Faithful to His Promises

The promises in Jeremiah 31:35–38 rest upon the foundational passage in Genesis in which God promised Abram that He would bless those who bless the Jewish people and curse those who curse the Jewish people and that through them He would bring blessings to the entire earth (Gen 12:3). God created the Jewish people to be a bridge of blessings and revelation to the nations.

The Lord will not allow anyone to destroy His chosen people—the Jewish people. He promised that the land of Israel would belong to the descendants of Jacob, and we can expect God to keep His promises and bring “curses” upon those that seek the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.

The Future of Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s future is in the hands of new leadership. We know that individuals and nations who mistreat the Jewish people are touching the apple of God’s eye. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for this behavior. Attacks against Israel and the Jewish people will one day be met with God’s judgment. The book of Esther and the price Haman and his followers paid stand as witnesses through the ages of God’s desire to protect His chosen people.

Modern-day Iran has been hostile to modern Israel—we hope and pray that the new Afghanistan will not follow suit. Perhaps the example of Cyrus will inspire the leaders of both Iran and Afghanistan to cherish the freedom of religion once again and establish policies that show respect for the vast differences among their citizenry. It would be an excellent beginning for peace that we know only a relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus, can fully satisfy! Until then, we follow the words of the Prince of Peace, who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Peace begins with prayer! It now appears that the new Middle East will not be as friendly to the nation of Israel as we previously hoped, as it is still only a minority of Arab nations that have joined in the Abraham Accords. Therefore, we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and for God’s shalom to reign in Afghanistan, Iran, and throughout the new Middle East. Let us also pray for our troops and their families, the Afghan people who are suffering under the Taliban, and the nation of Israel.

1 Our Daily Bread, “Iran in the Bible: The Forgotten Story,” January 24, 2020, documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mURWJfSpS7k. This excellent video on the biblical history of Persia is worth viewing.

2 Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, “The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550-330 ʙᴄ),” October 2004, under “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History,” https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/acha/hd_acha.htm [accessed August 30, 2021].

3 Arie Egozi, “Israel Braces for Renewed Terrorism Coming from Taliban-Led Afghanistan,” Breaking Defense, August 16, 2021, under “Global,” https://breakingdefense.com/2021/08/israel-braces-for-renewed-terrorism-coming-from-taliban-led-afghanistan/ [accessed August 30, 2021].

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The Story of Hanukkah

Happy Thanksgiving on behalf of the entire Chosen People Ministries global family! I hope you will be able to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal with your loved ones! If you lost a friend or family member during the last year or two, I also pray the Lord will fill your heart with heavenly comfort and peace.

I am very thankful to God for you and the ways you have stood with Your Mission to the Jewish People this year. Your prayers and support mean so much to us!

We have so much to be grateful for in spite of the circumstances, as our staff continues to reach Jewish people with the gospel both in person and online.

Our outreach has even increased this past year as so many Jewish people are looking heavenward for answers.

Our work among elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel has increased as the need has been overwhelming. Chosen People Ministries—Israel has provided love and company for the lonely, food for the hungry, and of course, the good news of Jesus to these precious Jewish souls. Many young Israelis also attend our online ministry events when we cannot meet in person. We need your prayers as we resume in-person outreaches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and throughout this country of almost seven million Jewish people.

In New York City, we recently commemorated the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 by honoring our heroes and reminding Americans of our unbreakable bond with Israel in combating terrorism. More than 40,000 people joined us for the event online and in person.

We thank God for all He has done in our 127th year of faithful ministry, and we are looking forward to the greater things He will do through you and our global staff in our 128th year (John 14:12). We are focusing on reaching Israelis in Israel and wherever they travel after the army with the gospel, expanding our outreach through videos, podcasts, and social media, and preparing our next generation for leadership in Jewish ministry through our Brooklyn-based and now online Charles L. Feinberg seminary program!

We have so much to be grateful for in Jesus, our Messiah. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

The Story of Hanukkah

I also wish you an early Happy Hanukkah, which is one of my favorite holidays. Growing up in a Jewish home in New York City, I loved each day of this eight-day festival because my parents gave us presents every night as we lit the beautiful Hanukkah candles.

We also eat wonderful foods like potato pancakes (called latkes) smothered in applesauce or sour cream. In Israel, delicious jelly donuts are also a Hanukkah staple. OK… so it is not the healthiest of Jewish holidays! We make our Hanukkah foods with lots of oil as both oil and light illustrate two of the great themes of the holiday.

Let me explain.

The story of Hanukkah takes place during the biblical “silent years”—the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. In 168 BC, the Jewish people rebelled against the Syrian-Greek General, Antiochus the Fourth, whom the Jewish people called “Antiochus the Madman.” This evil Seleucid king took the name “Epiphanes,” which means “God manifest,” as he believed he was the manifestation of one of the Greek gods. Antiochus wanted the Jewish people to worship him rather than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which was at the heart of the reason for Israel’s resistance.

A priestly family called the Maccabees led the rebellion. They lived in a town called Modi’in, which is just a few miles

from Jerusalem. As the story goes, the representative of Antiochus entered the village and demanded that the Jewish people in Modi’in bow down and worship a statue of Antiochus, upon pain of death. In doing so, they would affirm belief in the gods of the Greeks, loyalty to the madman, and rejection of the God of the Hebrews.

This godly family waged guerrilla warfare against the mighty Greek-Syrian army and managed to defeat Antiochus. This victory was a miracle as once again, Israel beat the odds and defeated a much larger and more powerful enemy. Jewish people traditionally view this as God’s blessing upon the Maccabees for their faithfulness to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

After their victory, they traveled to the Holy City of Jerusalem to rededicate the Temple. The victorious band of priestly guerrillas was horrified as they entered the Temple.

They discovered that Antiochus had sacrificed a pig on the altar, signaling the Syrian Greeks’ contempt for the Jewish people. The Maccabees tore down the stones of the altar as it was deemed beyond cleansing. According to Jewish tradition found in the books of Maccabees (1 Macc 4:36–59; 2 Macc 10:1–8), the Maccabees set the defiled altar stones aside until “a prophet” comes, who would tell them what to do with the stones (1 Macc 4:45–46).

Then, according to tradition, they discovered the eternal light in the Temple had only enough oil to last for one day. So they immediately began to make fresh olive oil to keep the eternal light from being extinguished. According to tradition, even though it usually takes eight days to complete and cure the oil, the one day’s worth of oil miraculously lasted for eight!

We do not know whether the story is true or not. However, I was raised in a very traditional Jewish home and taught to believe it was true! Either way, the victory of Hanukkah is one of the great stories of both Jewish heroism and God’s loyalty to His chosen people. For these reasons and more, the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah.

The festival is far more than an opportunity to enjoy the

beauty of family gatherings, Hanukkah parties, or even giving presents. The holiday is more than a wonderful time of playing games with our families, like spinning little tops called dreidels and singing some of the most moving songs within our Jewish tradition.

Jesus & Hanukkah

My wife and children love the holiday as it beautifully connects to our Messiah Jesus in so many ways. After all, Yeshua, Jesus, is the Jewish Messiah. He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), so there is nothing like the lights of the Hanukkah candles to remind us that Jesus the Messiah is the true light that illuminates mankind.

But there is more! Hanukkah is recorded as observed by the Jewish people in the New Testament—not in the Old! John wrote that Jesus celebrated the Feast of Dedication, a title that commemorates the rededication of the Temple after the desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes.

In John 10:22–30, we read:

At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give

eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

In the midst of this moment of intense and heated debate with the Jewish leaders of the day, Jesus makes one of the most remarkable declarations about His person found in the entire Bible.

He is not only the light of the world, but He is God in the flesh!

This message of His incarnation, light, and the deliverance He offers humanity through His death and resurrection is the message we hope to bring to every Jewish soul.

So please pray for Your Mission to the Jewish People—that the Lord will fill us with His Spirit, enabling us to continue our ministry to the Jewish people in Israel, the United States, and throughout the world.

The Future of the Middle East

I am also grateful for the Abraham Accords and other movements bringing peace and hope to a new and changing Middle East! But even more, I look forward to the reshaping of the Middle East when Jesus returns to reign as King!

We are grateful for your faithful partnership. Have a Jesus-centered and joyful Thanksgiving and a Happy Hanukkah!

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Thankful for Israel and the New Middle East!

We are living in exciting but not unexpected days. I am grateful for the ways in which God has demonstrated His power through the survival and restoration of the Jewish nation! Let me list a few specific reasons why I am grateful:

1. Israel is back in the land promised to the chosen people by God Himself in Genesis and throughout various passages in the Old Testament.

2. The Hebrew language has become an everyday modern language—a linguistic testimony to the faithfulness and power of our covenant-keeping God.

3. There are now almost seven million Jewish people living in Israel, out of a total population of nine million. With 14.7 million Jewish people in the world today, a shade less than 50 percent live in Israel.

4. Israel has survived four major wars and a multitude of smaller but deadly wars.

5. Israel is developing peaceful relations with former enemy states in the Middle East, which began in 1979 with Egypt, then Jordan in 1994, and more recently the Abraham Accords.

Imagine what our forefather Abraham would have thought had he known the above amazing achievements when God told Abraham that he would become the father of a great nation! The entire history of the Jewish people—from Abraham to the modern State of Israel—is a series of survival miracles testifying to the greatness of God who created the nation to be used for His holy purposes!

Remember the well-known but fundamental promise God made to Abraham and his descendants:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3)

A CONVERSATION WITH JOEL C. ROSENBERG

I recently had the joy of sitting down with Joel C. Rosenberg, my friend and a best-selling author. He has spent considerable time meeting with Arab and Israeli leaders while researching his new and excellent nonfiction book, Enemies and Allies. When I told Joel that I loved his thriller novels but was eager to read his nonfiction work, Joel said that I might find his new book as much of a thriller as his novels—and he was right! It is an incredible story, and you can see the hand of God on the alignment of nations in the Middle East, which is the subject of many biblical prophecies as well. The nations of the Middle East and even Africa were a favorite topic in the book of Isaiah! The prophet specifically mentions that one day there will be peace among the nations of the Middle East, but only when the Jewish king sits on His rightful throne in His promised capital city—Jerusalem!

Isaiah wrote, “In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance’” (Isa 19:24–25).

I find that passages and promises like the above give me hope and a vision for a brighter future. Perhaps some of what we are seeing today points to this peaceful future. Admittedly, we might see many challenges to peace in the days ahead, but at least Isaiah gives us an idea of what the Lord’s ultimate victory might look like, and we can have this in mind as we observe the shifting relationships of nations especially in the Middle East regarding Israel.

Here is a brief portion of my conversation with Joel that was part of our recent conference entitled “9/11 and the New Middle East” held in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 tragedy and the heroes who selflessly sacrificed themselves for our benefit.

We will be forever grateful for their heroism!

THE CONVERSATION WITH JOEL

DR. MITCH GLASER

Can you share a bit about your developing relationship with the King of Jordan?

JOEL C. ROSENBERG

I wrote a novel and decided to have ISIS capture a cache of chemical weapons in Syria and then try to cause attacks against multiple enemies over the next few books. The first objective is to assassinate King Abdullah, the king of Jordan.

King Abdullah in real life is a fascinating man. He is a direct descendant of Muhammad. He is a former special forces commando. He rose to be the head of all special forces in Jordan. He never thought he was going to be the king. His uncle was the crown prince. His father was the king, but three days before King Hussein died of cancer, he named Abdullah his heir. He was already an action hero and a moderate, so I thought, I am going to make him a character. I am going to make him the king that ISIS is trying to kill.

It turns out that King Abdullah read the novel. One of his advisors stumbled upon it in an airport, read it, brought it to the king, and said, “Your majesty, you have to read this.” The king said, “Why?” He said, “Because you are in it, you are a central character in the book.”

As it happens, the king read The Third Target. Rather than banning me from his kingdom forever, he invited me and my wife to come and visit him for five days, and we accepted.

The first day we were there, he sent a car, brought us to the palace, and he said, “Joel, it is nice to meet you. I was trying to think where it would be fun to meet you for the first time. I thought, well, you did blow up my palace. This is the palace. I thought you ought to see the actual palace that you fictionally blew up.” I said, “It is lovely, sir, your majesty. I did not mean any harm. I wanted to show people a worst-case scenario.” And he said, “If I thought you meant harm, I would not have invited you.”

Then he said, “I see that you made me a character, but my staff, my advisors, these are all fictional names, but I can see who is who. So, I bought copies of your book, and I gave them to my staff. I would say, ‘Here, this is you on page thirty-four. You do not make it through the terrorist attack. You might want to read that.’ Sense of humor.”

Over the next five days, we spent time with a person that very few people get to meet. At the end of it, he invited us to a private dinner at his private palace with just a few of his personal friends. Following a two- or two-and-a-half-hour evening, I said, “Your majesty, I hope you know that I had great respect for you when I wrote the series, but spending time with you, that has been deepened. I’m just curious. I think that other evangelicals would be fascinated to meet you—not someone like you—you. Very few people get a chance to meet a moderate Muslim monarch who is a descendant of Muhammad. Would you ever have any interest?”

He said, “Joel, why don’t we put a delegation together, and you bring over a group of leaders that you think would benefit from this.” That set into motion five meetings with him, five meetings with President el-Sisi in Egypt, two meetings with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, one meeting with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, and meetings with the leaders of Bahrain. Those meetings become the stories that I tell in Enemies and Allies.

DR. MITCH GLASER

This is almost as exciting as one of your fiction thrillers! But hopefully more fruitful, since one of Israel’s neighbors, with whom they are at peace today, might be open to learning more about what followers of Jesus believe. We are all praying for you, that God will give you wisdom and grace as you befriend various Arab leaders and encourage them to think more kindly about Israel and, of course, about the Jewish Messiah, Jesus.

There is a whole lot more to our discussion, and you can watch the full version of the interview at 911theconference.com.

A SIXTH POINT OF PRAISE

Lastly, I am so very thankful for the great work our staff is doing in Israel. Despite wars, missiles, pandemics, and political tensions, the Chosen People Ministries—Israel staff continues to reach Jewish Israelis for the Lord unswervingly! We are a national ministry in Israel, with work established throughout the country in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, the Galilee, and the Golan Heights. We continue to grow and expand as many Israelis are open to the Lord. Your partnership is strategic as we serve the Savior in the land of His birth and the place of His return!

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Hope in the Midst of Tragedy

The fall is an exciting time of ministry for us, especially because we have the opportunity to present the gospel through the Jewish fall festivals. The first of these festivals is the New Year (Rosh Hashanah), the second is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the third is the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). Each one predicts the person and work of the Messiah in such beautiful ways. I call these holy days a Roadmap to Redemption since these significant events are prophetic and point to greater fulfillment in the Messiah.

Your prayers for our staff during the high holiday season are deeply appreciated as I have seen more Jewish people come to faith during this season than at any other time of the year.

OUR 9/11 AND THE NEW MIDDLE EAST CONFERENCE

We are about to begin a conference honoring the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. We have entitled the event 9/11 and the New Middle East. 

Zhava and I will be your hosts for the evening, along with Tom and JoAnn Doyle of Uncharted Ministries. Our speakers include Anne Graham Lotz, Joel C. Rosenberg, Dr. Darrell Bock, and Dr. Michael Rydelnik. We will also hear testimonies from those who served and survived the 9/11 tragedy, including representatives of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Agency, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, and local pastors who gave up their regular ministries to care for the survivors of the fallen.

Marty Goetz and his daughter, Misha, will lead the music and worship.

I experienced the 9/11 tragedy firsthand, so this conference will be very personal for me as that day was a spiritual turning point in our ministry among the Jewish people of New York City. I have many stories to tell, but thought I would introduce you to Darlene Line, a dear friend and Chosen People Ministries staff member who was working for the United States government at the time. Allow me to share some of Darlene’s testimony in her own words.

DARLENE

On June 2, 1991, I was baptized and entrusted my life to the Lord. However, my turning point toward full-time service is linked to the egregious acts of September 11, 2001.

Throughout my career, I have been in numerous situations that required conflict and crisis management. Nothing could have prepared me to be emotionally ready to handle the recovery assignments of 9/11. While working amidst the tragic remains at both the World Trade Center (WTC) Ground Zero and the Staten Island New York Landfill, I and other fellow law enforcement officials and first responders (firefighters, medical personnel, and construction workers) struggled through that horrific tragedy. The overwhelming desire to help, to do more, was paramount. I recall looking beyond the malodorous smoke into the deep crater called the “atrium” where the twin towers once stood. I was reminded that my Lord God is Sovereign, and He prevails. Psalm 18:30, “As for God, His Way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.”

This atrium later became known as “God’s House,” marked by bold, orange letters on a lonely façade where 6 WTC once stood. “God’s House” became a place where many visited to cry, pray, and encourage one another. It was an area where individuals acknowledged God, and there was a sense of unity amongst the rescue crews. It gave credence to the adage, “There are no atheists in fox holes.” A particular cross was in the center of all the devastation in the atrium. It bore a resemblance to the cross at Calvary, and many who labored at Ground Zero signed their names on it. This cross was pictured in many periodicals and kept as a remembrance at the site. It is now in the World Trade Center Museum.

Darlene has served faithfully with Your Mission to the Jewish People for more than a decade, and God has used her to reach more Jewish people than I can count. I am sad that 9/11 happened, but in Darlene, we see just one incredible example of the power of God touching the life of one person who made a kingdom difference for so many.

I love this lesson Darlene learned through the experience:

During this time, Jesus again proved Himself faithful to me. When a situation appears to be beyond our control, it is not beyond God’s. I prayed with confidence that God would act according to His character and with infinite power. He responded to my petitions. I felt helpless, but, praise God, I was not hopeless because of the power of His Holy Spirit.

HONORING OUR HEROES

Darlene would never think of herself as a hero. She was humbly doing her duty for the country and ultimately for the Lord, who used this terrible circumstance to grab hold of her heart for His divine purposes.

One of the ways you can join me in honoring Darlene and others who risked their lives in serving at Ground Zero is to pray for our first responders—for those who served at the World Trade Center and the many who have been faithfully working through the recent pandemic. They are still doing what they can to keep us healthy and safe.

I also hope you will be able to attend the conference, either in person or online. You can register for either venue by going to 911theconference.com. Or you can call our main number in New York City, 212-223-2252. You can also respond on the attached reply card. I know the conference will bless you.

By the way, you can also involve your entire church or Bible study group by becoming a satellite site. There is no cost to you or your church to host the conference locally. You can find additional information that you can even download for your pastor by visiting 911theconference.com/satellite.

WHY IS CHOSEN PEOPLE MINISTRIES SPONSORING THIS EVENT?

In many ways, the attacks on 9/11 created a deeper bond between New York City and Jerusalem, two world-class cities and global symbols of modern Jewish life. Chosen People Ministries is a ministry born in New York City, and we love this city. Our Mission also has tremendous ties in Israel, with a staff of twenty-five people. We maintain centers in the greater Tel Aviv area, in Jerusalem, and throughout the country.

Though very different and far from each other, I have friends and family in both metro areas. We cannot think about what happened on 9/11 without also thinking of the many ways Israel is vulnerable to the same acts of terrorism reflected in the events of September 11, 2001.

Those horrific acts forged a new union between the United States and Israel as, more than ever, we joined forces for the sake of freedom, standing against global terrorism, and creating a deeper alliance between our countries.

We pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and for all who live in Israel. We also pray for the peace and restoration of New York City and the millions of Jewish people who live here.

We also pray that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who loves all people, will make peace in Israel and the Middle East, ending terrorism, and bringing restoration and peace to each one of us.

AN INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE

Jesus promised a bright and glorious future for His kinsmen according to the flesh when He told a group of His fellow Jewish people that He loved them even though they rejected Him as the Messiah:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
(Matthew 23:37–39)

The good news is that any rejection was temporary as a day will come when Jewish people turn to Jesus, and He will return. WOW! What a glorious event it will be! This sure encourages my heart and hopefully yours too.

Darlene and so many other transformed Jewish and Gentile believers who serve with Chosen People Ministries are committed to bringing the message of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to the Jewish people first and also to the Gentiles.

So, what can we do today? We can let the world know that Jesus died, rose, and will return to reclaim the world He created. Your Mission to the Jewish People is ready to do its part. We have missionaries strategically in cities with critical concentrations of Jewish people, and we will continue this great work because of your care, your sacrifice, and your support for our work through your prayers, finances, and love.

Thank you for caring and praying!

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Filed under evangelism, Jews and Christians, New York City

Interview with Joel C. Rosenberg

Shalom, dear friends.

We are living in sensational days! Along with our concerns about COVID-19, the economy, political division, social unrest, the aftermath (hopefully) of wildfires, hurricanes, and more, we also see the unfolding of a new day for Israel and her relationships with her neighbors in the Middle East.

Perhaps this is a reminder that God’s plan for our world marches on in the midst of it all! It reminds me of the verse I latched onto as my guide during these last eight months. The writer of Proverbs says to each of us, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

Therefore, we always have hope, and no matter what happens, we know the Lord will fulfill His promises in Scripture. Those of us who know Him as our Savior and Messiah can count on His leading and caring for us throughout this life (Romans 8:28)! I take great comfort in knowing that He never loses control and that His Spirit is never locked down!

We can tangibly know this truth because tiny Israel remains at the very center of God’s prophetic plan. The events in the Middle East are unfolding quickly, and Israel is becoming even more established. I see this as the next phase of the fulfillment of end-times prophecies.

With everything else going on, I would not want us to miss the significant realignment of nations in the Middle East regarding Israel.

There is no one better to give us the backstory of these recent landmark events than our friend, Joel C. Rosenberg. Joel lives in Jerusalem, and we have partnered with him on more conferences than I can count. Joel agreed to let me interview him, so we dedicate the rest of this newsletter to the interview.

Joel is a best-selling author and founder of The Joshua Fund and the brand-new media outlet, Near East Media. I asked him to enlighten us on the importance of the recent Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

So, strap in, and off we go!

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Joel, thank you for taking the time to tell us part of the backstory behind the recent peace agreements signed by Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain on September 15, 2020.

First of all, can you clarify the different terminology used to describe the nature of the agreements recently signed?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

In effect, the Abraham Accords are peace treaties and full normalization treaties between the State of Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain, with the United States as the broker and witness to the agreements. Those who criticize the accords, saying that these are not “real peace treaties,” are mistaken. It is narrow-minded to think, after a century of hostility in the Middle East, that two Arab states making real, warm peace treaties with Israel—the first two Arab countries to make peace with Israel in more than a quarter of a century—is somehow illegitimate or not serious. If you think about it, it is an offensive thought. I think it reflects more of the partisan nature of what is going on in Washington right now than the reality. Regardless of how one feels about President Trump, he deserves enormous credit for brokering these deals.

The most important element is that these agreements will lead to far warmer and far fuller peace relationships with Israel and these two Arab states than with the two previous peace treaty signers, Egypt and Jordan.

The one key difference is that Egypt and Jordan were in direct military conflict with Israel, and those peace treaties ended that. The 1979 and 1994 treaties kept those borders quiet for decades. While the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain never actually entered a military conflict, they were at war with Israel. They participated in the economic sanctions and embargoes against Israel. They constantly voted against Israel with the rest of the Arab world at the United Nations. They fully participated in the isolation and de-legitimization campaign against Israel for many years, though not recently. There has been real warming of those relationships in recent years, but they have decided to go public and make it formal. It is very exciting.

The flags of the United States, United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Bahrain flutter along a road in Netanya, Israel, September 14, 2020. REUTERS / Alamy Stock Phot

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

What practical differences do you think the treaties will make economically, politically, and even to tourism between the Gulf states and Israel?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Well, if you notice, the first set of memorandums of understanding and other legal documents signed in the days leading up to and following the signing of the Abraham Accords were very practical. They indicate how much benefit both sides will get—or all sides are going to get—from these agreements. There are agreements on civil aviation. For instance, there will be direct flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and between Israel and Bahrain. Those are, by the way, going to go through Saudi airspace. The Saudis are not yet ready to make peace with Israel, but they have agreed to let Israeli, Emirati, Bahraini, and other planes fly through their airspace. This concession is a huge step forward.

The other agreements are regarding banking, private property rights, and setting up small business agreements. The United Arab Emirates has now required every hotel in the country to have kosher meals. That has not happened in Egypt; it has not happened in Jordan. We are talking about major financial deals already in motion.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Do you think that Oman and some of the other Gulf states are going to follow suit?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yes, I think there is a list of countries that are actively considering this. Oman would certainly be near or at the top of the list. The Sultan of Oman invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit two years ago, and then publicized that trip with photos and video. That was very dramatic. That sultan has since passed away. There is a new sultan in power, but there is no reason to think that he disagrees with his predecessor. But, does he feel like he has solidified his leadership and is ready to make such a big decision? That is a good question. I do not have an answer for that yet; we will see.

If Sudan were now to make peace with Israel, that would be exciting. It would be dramatic, but I would note that Sudan also figures prominently in a prophecy of a future war against Israel—the conflict known in Ezekiel 38 and 39 as the War of Gog and Magog. I would not hold your breath for a full normalization, but maybe that prophetic war is many, many years off. No one knows for sure, of course.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

We do not know when these prophetic events will take place, right? So, we should take peace when we can get it!

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Exactly.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Have the UAE, Bahrain, or even some of the other countries you have mentioned considered Israel a place where they can invest funds? Such an investment would boost the Israeli economy.

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yes. In talking to officials from both countries over the last few weeks since the signing of the Abraham Accords, I know that there are numerous business deals and venture capital deals in the works. Again, this is the most significant transformation in Arab-Israeli relations, I think, in the history of the modern State of Israel. These treaties will surpass the peace deals of Egypt and Jordan in the sense that the Abraham Accords are going to set the new model of what peace and normalization can be and what they should be.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Joel, I was privileged to follow your travels at times, as your friend, and was even invited to be part of one of those trips to visit some of the Middle Eastern countries. You brought several key evangelicals to visit, get to know, and extend goodwill to those countries. You were able to see the backstory unfolding in a lot of these nations. Can you tell us a little about what you have discovered?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

I would be happy to. It is extraordinary that evangelicals have had a front-row seat to what has been developing over the last several years. The Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, commonly known by his initials, MBZ, invited me to bring a delegation of evangelical leaders to visit him in the capital of Abu Dhabi in the fall of 2018. I took a group of about ten evangelical leaders with me. Among other meetings that we had in the country, we spent two hours in the palace in an off-the-record meeting with MBZ. There are many things, unfortunately, that I cannot share, but I can share this now:  We communicated to the crown prince that, when it came to the issue of peacemaking and Israel, there were three things we, as evangelicals, wanted him to know.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the United Arab Emirates Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, acknowledge applause and wave to the crowd after delivering remarks at the Abraham Accords signing, September 15, 2020, on the South Lawn of the White House, Washington, D.C. Geopix / Alamy Stock Photo

Number one, we love Israel, and we love the Jewish people, and, for evangelicals, this is a theological position, not a political position. He needed to know that we are deeply committed to Israel’s security, freedom, prosperity, and sovereignty. We wanted him to know that. Number two, Jesus commands us to love our neighbors. We did not want him to think that, because we love Israel, we hate the Palestinians, or Arabs, or Muslims more broadly. Some evangelicals have struggled with language or even positions that are not reflective of Jesus’ command. We wanted to communicate to him that we are commanded to love our neighbors. We do not always know how. We find our way, but we wanted him to know that we do not see it as either/or, that we love both. And while we believe that Israel has a special and unique place in God’s plan and purpose in the region, we want there to be peace today, and we want to build better relations with the Arab and Muslim world.

The third point we made to him was that we are commanded in the Scriptures to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Sixty million evangelicals in the United States alone are praying for the peace of Jerusalem, and we are looking at who will be the next Arab leader to make peace with Israel. As the leader of the delegation, I was the one that made these three points and stressed a little on the third one, “We would love it to be you.” He shocked us by saying, “Joel, I’m ready. I am ready to make peace with Israel, and I believe that the time is coming very soon.” That shocked us because—and I am not saying that we would say these three things in some pro forma way—we did not expect anyone to say back to us what MBZ said. We have said this to numerous Arab leaders in the region; he was the first to say that he was ready.

The question we began to discuss with him is, “How did you get to that point, and where do you go from here?” In these last two years, I have stayed in very close communication with the inner circle around the crown prince. Even up through the summer, I was in direct communications with them because I am writing a non-fiction book that will come out in the fall of 2021, timed with the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Twenty years after 9/11, the book looks at who the bad guys were, who the good guys were, and how our fight with radical Islam is going. It also looks at which Arab countries are fighting radical Islam very actively, and which countries want a much closer relationship with the United States and are even trending toward peace with Israel. The third section will address, “What is the state of the Church and religious freedom in the Middle East?”

I have been working on this book with a lot of exclusive material from these six delegations that I have led. All that to say, it became clear in July, when I was here in Washington meeting with the UAE ambassador, that they were ready, that they had actually put an offer on the table for Netanyahu, through the White House, and that those negotiations were in motion. I said to myself, “You have got to be kidding me.” I knew they were heading in that direction, but it was dramatic.

I will say that I was surprised by how quickly things accelerated this summer, especially when the big topic in Israel was whether Netanyahu would annex or apply Israeli sovereign law over large swaths of Judea and Samaria, which the world commonly knows as the West Bank. That was Netanyahu’s objective all summer, and that seemed to preclude any possibility of peace with the Arab states.

I was making the argument that, while I support the expansion of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria—the biblical heartland—over time, I believed that a peace treaty with one of the Gulf states was a higher objective for Israel in the near term. And I was making that case publicly and in quite a lonely fashion. It is in part because I knew it was possible, but it still stunned me. It is like when you have been praying, as Christians, as Messianic Jews, for decades for the peace of Jerusalem. It is a little like praying for Peter to be released from prison, then he knocked on your front door, and you cannot even believe that he is standing there.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

You are a bit stunned by it all.

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yeah. We know that God can answer these prayers, but we do not always expect the answer to come so quickly! This summer was a game-changing moment.

The flags of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and the United States light up the Old City Walls of Jerusalem to celebrate the signing of the historic peace treaties in Washington, D.C. Nir Alon / Alamy Stock Photo

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

How are the Palestinians reacting to all of this? Then, if you could also tell us, how is the person-on-the-street, the average Israeli, responding to these new events?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

I have not seen any polling yet. Remember, and actually, it is hard to remember at times, that the Palestinian territories are not free societies. They really do not have the freedom to say whatever they want. It does not mean that you will not find Palestinians who tell you, but there, in Gaza, Hamas—the terrorist organization—is in charge. It is very hard to get somebody’s real, direct opinion. In the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, this is tyranny. Mahmoud Abbas is now serving, I think, the fifteenth year of his four-year elected term. There is no freedom there.

I think we are beginning to see fissures inside Palestinian society. And so, we need to pray, as Christians and as Messianic Jews, for the Palestinian people.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Could you take one minute and tell us all about All Arab News and All Israel News, and your role as President and CEO of Near East Media?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yes, I am continuing my work to advance the Joshua Fund, which is essentially a mutual fund to invest in the growth and the strength of the Church and the Messianic body in Israel and throughout five neighboring Arab countries, as well as the Palestinian territories. We also believe that the media bias against Israel, against peace, against the values that we hold dear—anti-Christian media—is so bad that I decided to launch two new websites. One is called All Israel News, and the other is All Arab News. All Israel News is allisrael.com, and the Arab news is allarab.news.

We will provide links to all the really good and credible coverage in the Israeli press, Arab press, and American and other media. There is good reporting out there, but most Christians and Messianic Jews do not have the time to go sifting through dozens of websites to figure out what is real, what is important, what is credible. These sites will become what I call one-stop shopping. We link to all the most important stories in the region. We are also providing original reporting, exclusive interviews, and analysis: what is happening, why is it important, and how do we fit it into the larger picture as evangelicals. We are very distinctly and specifically focused on communicating to the world’s 600 million evangelicals what is happening in Israel and the region and why it matters.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Joel, thank you so much. I appreciate it, and we pray God’s blessings on All Israel News and All Arab News, and we thank you for your time, so shalom and blessings.

I am grateful for the time you were willing to speak with me. I know that those who read The Chosen People newsletter will appreciate this insightful information and pray for Israel, the Palestinians, the Middle East, and you.

Joel C. Rosenberg:

My pleasure.

I hope you enjoyed the interview! I hope it will help you continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And please remember to pray for our staff who are bringing the gospel to Jewish people worldwide, including Israel.

We are so grateful for you!

Your brother in the Messiah,

Mitch Glaser

P.S. There is much more to this conversation! To hear the full interview, visit ourhopepodcast.com.

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Filed under Israel, Joel Rosenberg, Middle East, Palestinian

The Ground War Has Begun

The ground war in Israel is raging! We were of course hoping and praying that it would not happen, but Israel had little choice but to “move in” to Gaza and destroy the maze of Hamas tunnels and remaining rocket launch sites. Already thirteen Israeli soldier has been killed, and more will likely follow – the longer the war continues.

There are many news sites that you can utilize to get information, and one that I personally appreciate is JPost, the online version of the Jerusalem Post.

Another little-known source for news on Israel is www.dailyalert.org. This is a site that gathers information from many news sources.

We have also asked our Chosen People Ministries staff to keep us informed of all that is happening in Israel from an insider’s perspective and to make sure we have current prayer requests so that we can uphold the Chosen People Ministries team and various ministries in Israel during this difficult time. We will provide regular updates to keep you posted and praying! Just click here to see the latest news.

You can also listen to the recording of the teleconference we held this week with our leaders in Israel. I am sure you will learn a lot and be better able to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the work of Chosen People Ministries during this time – especially among some of the elderly Holocaust survivors who live in Sderot and other towns in the South that have been under incredible duress.

Click here to listen to the recording of the teleconference.

Please feel free to tweet the link so that others can learn more about what is happening in Israel today, and listen to our recent teleconference with our Chosen People Ministries staff on the ground in Israel.

Thanks for praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

Mitch

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Filed under Israel, Middle East, Palestinian

Rebalancing Evangelical Views about Israel

PLFI-Videos

This past weekend, we held a conference at the historic Calvary Baptist church in Manhattan – entitled The People, the Land and the Future of Israel. The videos from the conference are now available online for you to watch and share with others!

Visit videos.chosenpeople.com

I believe that these lectures, by some of the most influential and outstanding evangelical scholars in America, can potentially bring biblical balance to the growing numbers of evangelicals who are rethinking their commitments to Israel and the Jewish people.

It is no secret that an increasing number of evangelical Christians are very critical of Israel. Some of these brothers and sisters believe that the ongoing election of the Jewish people was buried at the cross and that there is no biblically justifiable present or future for ethnic Israel.

Some do see a mass conversion of the Jewish people at the end of the age (Romans 11:25-27) – before the second coming of Jesus – as argued by the Apostle Paul. As one brother once told me, “this passage does not fit into my theological system, but I must believe that it is true – because Paul wrote it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” My suggestion to him was that he might consider very prayerfully and carefully changing his theology of Israel and the Jewish people!

Nonetheless, I understand there are faithful believers who do not believe in the future or present election of Israel, based upon their reading of the Bible. This is a well-known and historic position held by a portion of evangelicals, which I disagree with but do not believe is necessarily dangerous or anti-Jewish. Sometimes the position is called Supersessionism or Replacement Theology, and there are many versions of this viewpoint.

However, this position can be dangerous and quite harmful when combined with accepting – rather naïvely – the current Palestinian narrative that has been produced by primarily non-Christian authors, those who hold to a strong belief in a Palestinian version of Liberation Theology. This has led to a growing syncretistic viewpoint that is more anti-Israel than pro-Palestinian.

This viewpoint is sometimes tied to the emerging social justice agenda of a newer generation of evangelicals who tend to “root for the underdog” and uncritically accept this anti-Israel narrative because of their concern for those viewed as politically and socially oppressed.  Previous generations who believed in a future for Israel based upon Scripture and were moved to compassion by the Holocaust felt differently. But, to quote a Jewish poet from the state of Minnesota – the times they are a-changin’!

The question of whether or not Israel has a biblical and covenantal right to the Land must be addressed without being influenced by the political debate, and the lectures from the conference do this quite well. The historical narrative regarding the formation of the modern state of Israel and the accompanying politics also need to be better understood by today’s evangelicals – especially those who, led by compassion, tend to accept the anti-Israel agenda promoted by the active pro-Palestinian evangelical lobby through their many books, films and conferences.

I believe that more light than heat will be gleaned by listening to the lectures from the recent conference, as well as in reading an excellent article recently written by a Christian writer in a Jewish magazine. Robert Nicholson does a superb job of charting the history of this discussion, how it impacts Christian-Jewish relationships, and gives some excellent suggestions on building better bridges between born-again Christians and the Jewish people.

I hope that you will both enjoy the lectures from the conference and the article by Robert Nicholson. Both will give you an in-depth understanding of the issues swirling around the current debate regarding Israel and the Palestinians. The following was my response to Robert Nicholson’s article, which I hope will be published in the forum.

I applaud the well-reasoned and researched article by Mr. Nicholson.  I am a Messianic Jew and appreciate the support of evangelicals who have a love for Israel based upon their reading of the Bible.  This is a more unshakable love that leads to a belief in the ultimate legitimacy of the Jewish state as part of God’s design for humanity.

As part of a historic, 120-year-old “mission” to the Jewish people, we do hope to see many Jewish people favorably consider Jesus – or Yeshua as we call Him – and even believe He is the Messiah.  I also hope that those Jewish people who do become followers of Jesus become more committed Jews, believe in the modern state and future of Israel, and encourage support of Gentile evangelicals for Israel. 

Our organization does tell Jewish people about Jesus, as this is part of our theological conviction and that of all evangelicals.  We also work very hard to help evangelicals learn more about the Jewish people and Israel and speak in many churches, hold conferences and produce literature that hopefully deepens the support of evangelicals for the Jewish people and Israel.   

I have found that most of my fellow evangelicals also accept a fundamental value of Messianic Jews, like myself, and a viewpoint which our organization has stood by for 120 years – that Jewish people who believe in Jesus should remain Jews, be loyal to the Jewish people and Jewish causes, and seek the general welfare and good of the worldwide Jewish community. 

One of the ways we do this is to encourage a thoughtful, biblical, pro-Israel position that continues to extend compassion and grace to others, including Palestinian evangelicals and those raised Muslim or in Historic Christian homes, and works towards genuine reconciliation and peace – which means that we do not readily accept the new anti-Israel narrative and agenda promoted by the groups so well-described in this excellent article.

Please feel free to pass along the link to the conference media (videos.chosenpeople.com) – by doing so, you will be helping to create the balance described above.

What might a new balance produce?

The understanding that evangelicals should pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for solutions to the political and social tensions within Israel, the threat of terrorism and the ever-present efforts to destroy the Jewish state by Hamas, Syria and Iran. And for humble and Jesus-centered communication between evangelicals on both sides of these issues!

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you. (Psalm 122:6)

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Filed under Middle East

Obama’s Visit to Israel

I read through President Obama’s speech given on March 21, 2013, as carefully as I  could in order to try to discern the heart of our president’s message. You can read the transcript in many places – including the New York Times.

Most people who heard the speech appreciated the president’s passion, friendliness and directness. Mr. Obama assured his Israeli audience of American support for Israel and affirmed the common Judeo-Christian and democratic values shared by both nations. The president clearly affirmed the right of the nation of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, though later in the speech he emphatically encouraged the creation of a separate Palestinian state as well.

If you are a believer in Jesus and take the Bible seriously as your guide for life and the filter through which you view all matters of earthly and heavenly importance, then you will probably be disappointed to find that the president’s speech does not refer to any biblical passages, outside of relating his trip to the Passover season!

He did not, for example, say that he recognizes that the Bible is true and the reason the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people is because of God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants, promised in Genesis chapter 12:1-3.

The president did look back into the history of the Jewish people and even to the Holocaust as part of the background for the formation of the state of Israel. Actually, he has done this in the past as well – but at least this time he made more of an effort to demonstrate that the Jewish people had arrived to the land of Israel, historically, prior to the post-Holocaust years.

Obama tried to point the young people listening to his speech towards the future, praising Israelis for being entrepreneurs in technology, biomedical sciences and much more. He commended the Palestinians for much of the same.

He emphasized three major agenda points: security, peace, and prosperity.

I’d like to focus on how we — and when I say we, in particular young people — can work together to make progress in three areas that will define our times: security, peace, and prosperity.

When it came to his comments on security, the president assured the Israelis that the United States would do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He also called attention to the United States’ position on Syria and the threat the Assad regime poses to Syria’s own citizens as well as to Israel. He specifically mentioned the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria against its own population as well as the potential threat these weapons represent if they get into the hands of terrorists.

The fact that Hezbollah’s ally, the Assad regime, has stockpiles of chemical weapons only heightens the urgency. We will continue to cooperate closely to guard against that danger.

He specifically singled out Hamas as a terrorist organization, expressing his opposition to their practices as well as the need for Hamas to recognize Israel in order for peace talks to continue. He said,

And that’s why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

He added, with resounding words that I can only hope and pray will guide our president’s thinking and U.S. policy in the years ahead,

That’s why the security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important; it cannot be taken for granted. But make no mistake: Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist — they might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above, because Israel’s not going anywhere.

It is in his section discussing peace in the Middle East that Obama clearly reveals his agenda – not that it was particularly hidden! He calls for what he views as fair treatment of Palestinians.

It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own — living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements, not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day. It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank — or displace Palestinian families from their homes. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

The president unfortunately paints Israelis as aggressors who do not want Palestinian children to grow up, go to college, get married, receive a great education and have a prosperous and peaceful life.

The president ignores the history of terrorist attacks on Israelis who are trying to secure the safety of their children. Does the president really believe that the level of security in the territories is the result of Israeli cruelty? Or were these necessary security measures taken to prevent further terrorist bombings and missile attacks on Israeli citizens?

He failed to mention the many instances when Israeli officials apprehended and prosecuted Israelis who had attacked Palestinians. Nor did the president mention the displacement of Israeli settlers from Gaza, who were asked to leave their homes and farms and move to other parts of Israel, so that Palestinians could have control of the region. The idea of land for peace was already tried, but was unsuccessful as Hamas took over Gaza and did more harm to the peace process than good.

In the years since the Israelis left Gaza, thousands upon thousands of missiles have been showered upon innocent Israelis in southern Israel, and the security threat resulting from Hamas-controlled areas is the rational basis for the checkpoints and presence of the Israeli Defense Forces in “the territories.”

Unfortunately, innocents on both sides of the crisis are suffering due to the sins of the more militant and aggressive Palestinians and their supporters who have been committing terrorist acts against innocent Israelis for more than a decade. If they were to stop, then the security measures taken by the Israeli security forces would diminish or go away completely – as had been the case before the first intifada.

Obama affirms the fact that Hamas is an unworthy peace partner, but expresses perhaps too much confidence in the Palestinian Authority, especially in light of the veneration still shown by the PLA for Yasser Arafat, an unrepentant terrorist who is accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from his own people and from the governments that had given generously to the Palestine cause.

Now, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who’s dedicated to its destruction. But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.

The PLA and Abbas have yet to show themselves to be the more willing and flexible peace partner our president believes them to be. I too hope that Abbas and the PLA will renounce terrorism and refrain from taking further unilateral action as they did in applying for observer status with the United Nations – as that was not an act of good faith.

Finally, the president shows his true agenda for peace when he says,

But it’s possible. Negotiations will be necessary, but there’s little secret about where they must lead: two states for two peoples — two states for two peoples.

In effect, the president’s solution to the problem is to charge John Kerry, our Secretary of State, to negotiate a Two-State solution with Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. At this stage, this would be a negotiation without the participation of Hamas, which would leave Gaza completely out of the process.

The president said,

Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security.

Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace and that an independent Palestine must be viable, with real borders that have to be drawn. I’ve suggested principles on territory and security that I believe can be the basis for these talks.

So what has changed? Not much. I am glad that the president affirmed his overall support of Israel, but I sincerely hope and pray that he does not somehow make the support of the U.S. contingent upon the success of a two-state solution. After all, some of the hardest issues were not even mentioned. There was no discussion of the division of Jerusalem within a Two State Solution, which would be one of them most difficult political challenges to face.

He also did not mention the ongoing U.S. financial and military support of Egypt, which is deeply troubling to Israel and to those who understand the level of animosity the Muslim Brotherhood has against Israel and the Jewish people. This has been well documented.

Still, it is good that the president visited Israel for the first time in five years! It is also good that he reiterated his concerns over Iran, Syria and both Hezbollah and Hamas. This was to be expected, of course. Israel is still the only true ally American has in the Middle East.

Where do we go from here? I would suggest three agenda items as well.

We need to pray for Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6)

The Middle East crisis is complex, and Prime Minister Netanyahu and the leaders of Israel will need God’s wisdom in the days ahead – perhaps as never before – in light of the nuclear threat and the continuing political and social changes in the Middle East.

We need to pray for President Barack Obama

Personally, I am praying that he comes to terms with the scriptural truths regarding God’s plan for Israel and the Jewish people. I pray that he will be driven by Scripture and understand that the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people not simply because of the U.N. mandate, but because God made a promise and He will keep his promise to the Jewish people (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:18-21). I am praying that the Lord would give our president wisdom and empower him to use his great gifts of rhetoric for holy purposes.

We need to pray for the Palestinians and their leaders

I am praying that that God will give Mr. Abbas and Khaled Msshal (the political leader of Hamas) wisdom and a spirit of cooperation so that any peace that can be humanly developed can be effective and lasting.

Most of all, I am praying for Israelis and Palestinians to know that the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob loves them dearly and sent His only son Jesus the Messiah – an Israeli Jewish person – to live a perfect life and to die for their sins and rise from the dead.

I pray that Israelis and Palestinians will know the hope of the resurrection and recognize that the day is coming soon when Jesus the Messiah will return to reign on His rightful throne in Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace.

And in that glorious day, there will no longer be a Middle East crisis. Palestinians and Jewish Israelis will live in peace… the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and the weapons of war will turn into instruments of peace.

Our friends at the Jerusalem Institute for Justice recently sent out a video that I believe presents some very helpful information in an intriguing way. I hope that you will enjoy it and pass the video as well as this blog entry to your friends.

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Today’s Bus Bombing in Tel Aviv

Shalom and Happy Thanksgiving!

In the midst of a season of great joy and family gatherings, our eyes are also glued to the news as we watch hostilities between Israel and Gaza escalate. Our hearts break for both sides; for Jewish and Palestinian families who perish as innocent victims.

The Psalmist urges us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to be blessed for doing so:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.” (Psalm 122:6-7)

Please remember to pray specifically for the protection of the Chosen People Ministries staff – almost all of whom are Israelis, and a few of whom have been called up to army service.

Please also pray for the leaders of both the Palestinian governments, Hamas and Fatah, and for the leaders of Israel, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. These leaders will need wisdom that can only come from God Himself, and we need to pray that each turns to the One true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for counsel. Even more so, we pray that they will seek Him with such desperation that they might be open to the truth of He who is called the Prince of Peace and who is the only solution to bring peace to the Middle East (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Let me introduce you to Rachel, a staff member of Chosen People Ministries in Israel. She writes from the vantage point of a wife, mother and follower of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah.

Ten years ago during the Intifada, suicide bombers were blowing up public buses. The sound of a massive explosions sent people running. You never knew where or if it would be your bus next, and in Israel public transportation is crucial.

Today, this is all happening again. It feels like we have stepped back in time. For the past few days, rockets have landed in various neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. This is so frightening! You hear the sirens and have a minute to get yourself and your loved ones to a safe place. It is traumatizing… especially when you have a little child!

Now, every whirring motor makes me think the blast of a siren will come next. I cannot imagine what it is like for those living in southern Israel, who are dealing with hundreds of missiles being fired upon them each day. Normal life is over; you live between your home and the nearest bomb shelter.

What do we do? Do we cower and hide in fear; stop going to congregations and Bible studies… or visiting friends and having play dates? We simply cannot! We will trust the Lord and continue to live in His strength!

Robynne, another one of our other staff members who lived through similar events years ago in Israel, describes how she felt about the bus bombings:

Bus bombs flash me back to the 90s when I lived in Jerusalem. You’d hear or feel the boom, and then the panicked phone calls start, asking friends and family if they were ok… exhaling sighs of relief when they answered, or feeling sheer panic if you got their voice mail. I had to ride the bus from one side of the city to the other (Ramat Eshkol to Ein Kerem), and I’d look at small kids on the bus and think, “Get off… Don’t take the bus; it’s not safe.” On the bus I’d see kids, elderly people, university students, Jews and Arabs… I’d also think about the driver’s wife, knowing her husband was on a bus in Jerusalem 8 hours a day. A public bus… not carrying soldiers, but instead packed with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children and friends. The intentional targeting of civilians… I just don’t have words for what we went through (and what you all are currently suffering).

Rachel adds,

Should we allow ourselves to be terrorized by the terrorists? Do we stay away from the parks, pull our kids out of school, walk home, cancel a party, stay at home, hide? No, I tell myself… I cannot. We Israelis are resilient. Our greatest defense is to live normally, yet being ever vigilant and aware. We cannot let the terrorists win.

But tell that to the 28 dear people who are being treated in the hospital after sustaining major wounds from the bus bomb blast. They do not feel like winners right now; they are scared and their lives devastated. Their only offence was that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

They need our prayers and heartfelt sympathy. They need to know that believers in Jesus the Messiah throughout the world are standing with them and that we believe terrorism is always wrong, evil and inhumane!

I agree with Rachel! Should we stop our evangelism? Should we postpone the meals we offer each week to needy and elderly Israelis? Should we cancel the services of our Israeli congregations? We cannot! If we do, then we are giving in to terrorism.

It is the very same reason I opened our offices on September 12th, 2001! Our most noble protest to the actions of those who despise human life and who are only concerned and consumed by their cause is to live as normally as possible!

You can send a note to our Chosen People Ministries Israel staff and tell our workers you are praying for them by clicking here.

Your continued prayers and support during this trying time are always appreciated!

In Yeshua, the Prince of Peace,

Mitch

P.S. Click here to read a statement about Chosen People Ministries’ position on the current Middle East crisis.

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What is Truth… in the Middle East Nuclear Crisis?

Last week, both President Ahmadinejad of Iran and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel addressed the United Nations General Assembly – as did the President of United States.

One of the most critical issues under discussion was whether or not Iran is developing nuclear weapons, how soon they will be developed and ready for use, and when and how the world community – especially United States and Israel – might respond. The discussion focused on whether Israel would perform a “first strike” or wait for sanctions and other behind-the-scenes strategies countering the potential nuclear threat in Iran to have an effect.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his speech, used a picture of a bomb and drew a red line showing the point of no return regarding Iran’s progress in producing a nuclear bomb. He argued that once Iran passed this line, any military response from the Israel or any other Western power would be ineffective. Therefore, he argued, time is running out for a more decisive solution to the threat of a nuclear Iran. President Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, again assured the United Nations that their goal was not to develop nuclear weapons but to use nuclear energy in a peaceful way.

It really comes down to this – do you trust the president of Iran, and you believe he is telling the truth when he says Iran has no intention of developing nuclear weapons?

This seems to be the question everyone is asking, and of course, most of us do believe the Iranians have every intention of developing nuclear weapons. But even if Iran did not have nuclear technology, the threat it poses to Israel and the United States cannot be minimized!

Iran, under its current administration, is a threat to Israel, the West and to the church today. It will be an even greater threat, especially to Israel, when it develops the capacity to utilize nuclear weaponry.

I believe there are even more fundamental issues that need to be considered. What is the real attitude of Iran’s government towards Israel and towards United States and western nations? The Iranian president revealed his attitudes in his recent speech at the UN. He believes the West is corrupt, and that unless a nation faithfully lives an Islamic way of life – according to his view of Islam – then that nation is doomed for judgment. He has made this abundantly clear.

What are his attitudes towards Israel? Once again, he has made his position evident by calling for Israel’s destruction and the removal of the Jewish nation from the Middle East. He does not believe in the God of the Bible and therefore in God’s promises to the Jewish people. He also denies the Holocaust, and he has made all of these positions known through his speeches at the UN and in other public venues.

President Ahmadinejad has made his view of end-times doctrine very clear as well. He believes in a 12th Imam who will become the world’s greatest leader and will fulfill in the role that most Jews and Christians believe is reserved for the promised Messiah. He believes that chaos will rain until the coming of the 12th Imam, and that humankind can and should have a role in fueling this chaos so that the Imam will appear and take his rightful role as the “one world leader.”

For followers of Jesus the Messiah and those who believe the Bible, as I do, the parallels between the 12th Imam and the predicted Antichrist are all too striking. Scripture tells us that the coming Antichrist will hate God, the family of God, and the Jewish people.

One important question is whose voice do we listen to in order to understand what is at the heart of this ideology? Who really speaks for Iran? Is it President Ahmadinejad or someone else? Many do not realize that President Ahmadinejad is actually a spokesman for the true leader of Iran – and it is only when we hear what this leader has to say that we can fully appreciate the grave threat Iran represents to Israel and United States, and can understand why Israel feels so strongly compelled to act.

Ever since the revolution in Iran, the true leader of the country has been known as the Supreme Leader – currently Ayatollah Khamenei. The critical question for us – especially as believers and those who love the nation of Israel – is to try to understand what he really believes, and then decide whether or not we believe what he says.

This is the crucial question that we all should answer in order to know how to respond and even how to pray for the Middle East crisis!

Three following is a small portion from Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech in which he calls upon the United States to abandon Israel:

Now I would like to give a benevolent piece of advice to American politicians who always stood up to defend and support the Zionist regime. So far, this regime has created countless problems for you. It has presented a hateful image of you to the regional peoples, and it has made you look like an accomplice in the crimes of the usurping Zionists. The material and moral costs borne by the American government and people on account of this are staggering, and if this continues, the costs might become even heavier in the future. Think about the Islamic Republic’s proposal of a referendum and with a courageous decision, rescue yourselves from the current impossible situation. Undoubtedly, the people of the region and all free-thinkers across the world will welcome this measure.

It is a revealing speech that was made at the inauguration of the Summit of Non Aligned Powers meeting held in August 2012, and found on the website of the permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations.[1]

I believe the threat posed by Iran towards Israel is very real and very dangerous. Not only because of their development of nuclear weapons, but because of their values. In fact, their values, as so clearly expressed in the speech of Ayatollah Khamenei, are the values of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Bath party in Syria and of so many of the nations surrounding Israel at this critical moment in history. Once we understand the depth of hatred that these leaders and their followers have towards Israel, United States and even Christianity, we better understand why it’s so important to support and pray for Israel and to preach the Gospel more intensively than ever in the Middle East.

This is what Chosen People Ministries is doing in Israel at this very moment. We are building staff, facilities and the capability to proclaim the Good News to a new generation of Israelis as well as speaking the Gospel in love to as many non-Jews in the Middle East as possible. We are also making preparations to care for many who might be affected by war in the event that hostilities intensify in Israel, as we are already feeding hundreds – if not thousands – of Israelis every month at our Centers in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Sderot, Netanya and other cities around Israel.

We believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and the ultimate answer to the crisis in the Middle East!

Israelis are more open to the message of Messiah than ever before, because they understand that the answers to life, hope, safety and a peaceful future are in God’s hands and not man’s. So we need to do more right now to bring the love of Jesus the Messiah to our Jewish people – especially in Israel!

What Can You Do Today?

1. Please take a stand for Israel and the Jewish people and let President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton know that followers of Jesus believe in a secure homeland for the Jewish people… that God promised the Land to the Jewish people and as a nation we want to experience God’s blessing (Genesis 12:1-3) by standing with Israel.

2. Send a gift immediately to Chosen People Ministries for the work of the Gospel in Israel – now is the time that Israelis are more open than ever before!

3. Pray intensely for the peace of Jerusalem – for the Prince of Peace to reign in the hearts of Jews and Arabs, including leaders like Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Ahmadinejad, and Ayatollah Khamenei. It is only when Jesus rules in the hearts of men and women that they know the truth, the truth sets them free, and living at peace with our enemies is possible.

Thank you for reading this note – and for taking a moment to post it on Facebook and to get the word out that followers of Jesus the Messiah must support Israel and intensify efforts to reach Jews and Arabs with the Gospel!

Yours for the peace of Jerusalem,

Mitch

Transcripts of the speeches at the U.N.:

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