The simple blessing of foodBy: C4i

Food is one of the most basic pleasures in life. It’s something we both need and also enjoy. But for as elemental as food is to the human experience, it can be so much more spiritually. Food is part of God’s plan for us and can be a powerful way to connect with the Lord and reflect on His blessings.
One of the tragedies of the original sin that often goes unnoticed isn’t just that Adam and Eve gave into temptation when they ate the forbidden fruit, they also turned their nose up on everything else God gave them. God created wonders beyond imagining for them, as it says in Genesis 1:29 
"Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.” 

But they did not appreciate that bounty. We can learn from their mistake. God intentionally created the world to support a wonderful variety of food for us to enjoy and we can celebrate Him and His creation by taking the time to fully appreciate what we have. Here are some ways to glorify God when preparing, enjoying, and cultivating food.

Gather around the table 

The most obvious way to appreciate what God has given us is to give thanks. Prayer before dinner is a traditional and perfect way to honor the blessing God has given us. But there are more ways to bring worship to a meal. One great way is to practice hospitality and charity at the table.
Everybody appreciates a meal, so invite them over. Next time you’re grilling up burgers on the BBQ, ask your neighbor if he would like one. Know an elderly person who doesn’t get out as much as they used to? Have them over for lunch, they’ll be nourished by more than the food you offer them. Call up an old friend and let them know you still care with a homemade dish. 

As we finally emerge from our COVID fear and isolation, now is the time to redefine how you want to live in this world and interact with people. I can’t think of anything more beautiful than becoming a home of warm laughter and meals. When we welcome others into our home, share our blessings with them asking nothing in return, and reflect the values of a Christian life in our actions we worship the Lord.

Reflect on your blessings

Another way to worship the Lord with food is to simply be mindful of it. Food is one of the most essential things in life, in it’s absence it is the most important thing. But in the West, we often take it for granted. I’ll spare us the typical lecture, but it’s true, most of us live very fortunate lives where we’re able to eat the food we like regularly without worry. Just a quick trip the grocery store and you’re set for the week.

So, let’s slow things down. Next time you’re shopping the produce aisle, take a moment to think on how those apples got there in the first place.  Every apple comes from a tree that was planted as a small sapling years ago. It was tended to and made a part of an orchard. Men and women working that orchard harvested that apple, collected it, packaged it, and prepared it to be shipped to a store. Every single piece of fruit, every vegetable, every cut of meat on the shelf has a similar story. One of nature and cooperation, and many hands making things possible. It’s a miracle to live in a world where we are able to have so much and are able to enjoy such access to God’s gifts.

And such a variety of gifts! Not only should you take the time to reflect on what God has given us, we should actively seek out His blessings! There are so many different types of food out there to try, so many ingredients, cuisines, and different preparations. It is a joyous thing to sample God’s creation, so be bold and try new things. Try food from a different culture, be receptive to a new spin on an old favorite, share recipes with your friends and expand your repertoire. It’s all part of God’s creation, the abundance He has gifted his children with, embrace it with gratitude.

Grow food

Speaking of the work involved in food, try growing some yourself. Planting, maintaining, and eventually harvesting a small vegetable garden can be an immensely spiritually fulfilling act. Seeing the beauty of nature unfold in your own backyard is bracing, and the act mirrors the care God has put into us. Every step of the process, from preparing good soil with fertilizer, to planting tiny seeds or plants, to tending to them regularly to keep them well watered, pruned, and pest free, takes love and faith. It might not seem like much, but even a small garden with a few of your favorite ingredients (some tomatoes, onions, a few peppers, some herbs) helps not only to put the work behind the food we enjoy into perspective, it can draw you closer to God spiritually. Carefully tending to His gifts and watching them return 10 fold - the spiritual life in microcosm.

This is something we can all do, even if you live in an apartment or condo and don’t have a yard you can plant in. A window box with a few herbs you use regularly can be enough. It is such a simple joy to pluck a few leaves of basil from the window sill to sprinkle into a soup you’re making, or to pick a sprig of thyme to give your chicken that little bit of extra flavor that makes it special. It’s good to remember that food doesn’t come from plastic packages with focus group approved logos and slogans. It comes from nature, God provides it all.

Stay mindful of the blessings God has provided for us, grateful for all we can enjoy, and ready to share that joy with others, and food can be a wonderfully spiritual part of your life.

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Thank you for standing with C4i for IsraelBy: C4i

C4i update: July 2021:  

Israel Today:  Israel has a new Prime Minister and leader. Naftali Bennett now captains the good ship Israel, effectively ending Bibi Netanyahu's 12-year tenure. The fact that Bibi survived so long on the stormy seas of Israeli politics is an admirable feat. But Naftali Bennett will need fair winds and calm seas, at least in the near term, as he governs an 8-party coalition with opposing views and competing ideologies, some religious, some secular. Multi-party cabinets have a dubious history in Israel – most don't last for long!

Bennett also assumes command in the wake of several days of intense conflict and rocket barrages that forced most Israelis into bomb shelters or safe rooms in their homes. The fact that an uneasy ceasefire is in place hasn't stopped Gazans from sending incendiary balloons into Israel or Israel from responding with new bombing sorties over Gaza. So Bennett will need the Wisdom of Solomon to govern under a myriad of challenges. 

The Gaza Strip: the cauldron of conflict:  The most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas operatives in Gaza (May 10-21) demonstrated once and again that Gaza is a festering sore that refuses to heal – a problem that defies a solution. I have often thought about how Gazans are missing a glorious opportunity to improve their standard of living. With the Mediterranean Sea on their doorstep and miles and miles of beautiful white sand beaches at their disposal, peace with Israel could bring great prosperity. Imagine a coastline dotted with hotels and thousands of foreign tourists arriving daily to soak up the Gazan sun and taste Palestinian cuisine. 

But this vision of a better future seems lost on the residents of Gaza. In August 2005, Israel unilaterally closed all Jewish communities in Gaza and forced the withdrawal of some 9000 citizens. Hamas, a terrorist entity, was subsequently elected to govern Gaza, and it wasn't long before rockets were raining down on Israeli border communities. These rocket barrages have continued almost daily since then, with hardly a mention in the Western media. During the most recent conflict, the media emphasis was on the poor Palestinians suffering under incessant Israeli Air Force bombings. And, of course, there was an outcry when Israel dared to bomb a building shared by Al Jazeera and the A.P. (Associated Press). Never mind that Hamas was using the same building as a cover for their anti-Israel operations.

How can Israelis hope for peace with the Palestinians when Hamas carefully orchestrates regular conflicts for worldwide propaganda purposes? Hamas is also winning this propaganda war since the unwise have no discernment, readily empathize with the Palestinians, and have deep-seated disgust for the Jews!

Prophetic Perspective:  I believe we have entered the Last Days. World events are unfolding as if on prophetic cue. For example, we are currently going through a COVID pandemic or "pestilence," as Jesus prophesied (Matthew 24:7). In addition, unprecedented locust swarms continue to ravage crops across the Middle East, Africa, and India. 

Jesus gave these prophetic warnings nearly 2000 years ago; we are witnessing their fulfillment in real-time today. The gospel writer, Luke, described our troubled times this way: "… and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea, and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth for the powers of heaven will be shaken" (Luke 21:25, 26). 

Over the past two years, China has been experiencing rains and floods of biblical proportions. The U.S. mid-west and south-west continue to suffer under severe and worsening drought conditions resulting in inevitable livestock and crop losses that will negatively impact the food supply chain. But then,  widespread disease and famines have always been part of the prophetic equation anyway!

Israel: The Prophetic Connection:  The Prophetic Connection is now airing on three global television platforms via TCT, Daystar USA, and Inspiration TV.  TPC is available in more than 250 nations and seen by millions of viewers weekly. Thankfully, God is blessing C4i's efforts as we do our best to faithfully declare His TRUTH about Israel to the nations in these last days before Christ returns.

You can always find our updated TV schedule at:

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Walk the road to EmmausBy: C4i

"Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.”

One of the most beautiful moments in the scripture follows after the resurrection. Cleopas and an unnamed disciple are walking along the road to Emmaus. It’s been three days since the crucifixion and their minds are reeling with all that has happened. First Jesus was taken from them, abused, humiliated, and crucified. Although Jesus insisted it was meant to be, it was not something every disciple could comprehend. Then on the third day they receive strange but wonderous news. The stone on Jesus’ tomb had been rolled back and his tomb stands empty, no trace of the Son of God.

What would have been rolling through their minds at that moment? Could it be true, could Jesus have returned as he promised he would? Certainly, that would be their most cherished dream, but could they dare to open their hearts to it? What if it wasn’t true? What if it was? 

It is in the midst of this inner turmoil and conflict that Jesus joins them on the trail. His identity is kept from them, they cannot recognize the man who walks beside them, instead they speak with him as if he is a stranger. He asks them questions about the source of their woe and then offers reassurances that put some fire back into the two bewildered disciples. It is only when they invite this stranger to share a room and meal with them for the night that the haze preventing them from recognizing Jesus is lifted and they are able to rejoice in his true resurrection. 

It’s a wonderful passage, one that both touches on the real humanity and uncertainty of the disciples and the kindness and patience of Jesus. Now, with the newly christened Emmaus trail, we have the chance to follow those incredible footsteps and walk the road to Emmaus ourselves. Another chance to connect with actual biblical history and remind ourselves of what the early members of the church experienced in those glorious days with Jesus.

The Emmaus trail is a new collection of paths and trails between Jerusalem and Emmaus. It is designed to replicate the path taken by Jesus and the disciples and winds through some of the most beautiful scenery the Judea Hills has to offer. 
 
- Photo from https://saxum.org/

The trail begins at the Saxum Visitor Center in Abu Ghosh. This center is worth a visit all on its own, including a museum celebrating the life of Jesus. The displays include interactive 4D projections of holy sites across the country and different periods of time as well as traditional maps and models of local points of interest. The center actually opened in late 2019, just in time for the COVID crisis to tank Israel’s tourism industry. As such, both the center and trail are in pristine new condition, eagerly awaiting the return of Christian pilgrims looking to connect with biblical history.

The trail is broken into four separate legs to make navigation easy and take you to some interesting locations. After a brief walk on a paved road, the trail gives way to the first major leg through the JNF Netherlands Forest, a beautiful green oasis dotted with road signs in Hebrew, English, and Dutch. From there you can continue on to a road station dating back to the Roman and Byzantine days.  A little further on down the next leg, you can find Roman milestones. These stone pillars resemble a kind of shrunken down Stonehenge and were used to mark directions and distance by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago!

Continuing on this path, you’ll soon arrive in Spring Valley. This is the most densely packed area of the hike for historical sites, so be sure to bring one of those guide maps from the Visitor’s Center! Sites to see include a massive tomb carved from a block of stone with no other materials used. A masterclass in ancient stonemasonry. You’ll also find an ancient Roman bathhouse (something that historically would have been a common site on trails between major cities and ports like this back in biblical times), the remains of an ancient vineyard with its own winepress, and more. All of this leads to the final destination on the hike, the monastery of Emmaus Nicopolis. This is a working monastery still attended to by nuns and monks surrounded by idyllic parklands and trees. A perfect place to rest after a long hike!

The Emmaus Trail is far from the only trail in Israel that allows you to retrace the steps of Jesus and his disciples, but it is an extremely pleasant option. In comparison to the ambitious 65 kilometer Jesus Trail that includes long exposed stretches, the Emmaus Trail is a brisk 30 kilometers and includes plenty of shaded portions and opportunities for rest stops. This makes it something that is easier to work into a trip to the Holy Land as you can either make a full day of it, or merely walk a portion before arranging a pickup along the way. A perfect way to connect to one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible while also taking in everything else Israel has to offer!
 

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Heroes of the Holocaust: Sergeant Roddie “We are all Jews” EdmondsBy: C4i

 
Courage comes in many forms. Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds joined the US Army to serve his country and fight the Nazis. He was trained to be a courageous soldier. They taught him how to issue commands, how to storm far-off beaches, and to charge into machine gun fire without missing a step. It was the kind of courage that he needed to survive the fight he was dropped into. He was sent to the field in December 1944 mere days before the Germans launched a massive surprise counter-offensive to retake a Belgium port. You may know the operation better as "the Battle of the Bulge.” The Nazis fielded more than 450,000 troops and 1,500 tanks to halt the allies advance in the single deadliest campaign endured by the Americans in WW2. 

Edmonds was green, this was his first actual combat encounter. And while he did his duty, he was captured like so many others by the Germans and sent to Stalag IX-A, a Nazi POW camp. It was here where he would find a different kind of courage and would cement himself as a hero to his fellow brothers-in-arms and in history.

Paul Stern was a combat medic from New York and a Jew. Like Edmonds, he was also caught in the madness of the Battle of the Bulge. Nobody taken captive by the Nazis was safe, but for Jews it was an almost guaranteed death sentence. Marched for days in deep snow without proper clothing, the deaths began almost immediately. Stern watched as fellow soldiers dropped dead in the snow from exhaustion and hypothermia. When they finally arrived at their destination the situation did not improve. He and his fellow POWs were loaded into boxcars and driven for days with no food to Stalag IX-B. Jewish POWs were immediately segregated from the other prisoners, taken to a specific barracks where the conditions were purposefully more miserable and dangerous than the others. Emaciated bodies kept barely alive on starvation rations, trying to get whatever rest they could in lice infested mattresses. 

This is where Stern most likely would have died if not for a battlefield commission he earned weeks before his capture. Shortly after arrival, the Germans separated the officers from the regular enlisted Jews. The enlisted Jews were taken to a slave labor camp where they would almost certainly perish while the officers were taken to Stalag IX-A, where Stern would meet Edmonds. 

Stern had a secret he kept during this time; he could speak fluent German. While prisoners were asked if they spoke German (and in some cases German speaking prisoners would be used for clerical or other duties more appealing than slave labor), Stern kept quiet. He thought that being able to understand what his captors were saying without them realizing might be helpful. And while it didn’t ever materialize into an escape plan, it did help him survive and allowed him to understand Master Sergeant Roddie Edmond’s courage.

The US Army has guidelines for captured soldiers. These guidelines encourage soldiers to find ways to survive and escape if possible but place extra responsibility on ranking officers. In the event of capture, officers were expected to resist the enemy in anyway possible while safeguarding the care and lives of the men to the best of their ability. Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds rose to this challenge and then some. He became a leader to the men, a source of stability and strength in an oppressive situation. Respected by the men and able to speak German, he became their voice when the Germans demanded something.
After a few weeks, the Germans ordered all Jewish POWs to report in the morning. Everyone knew what that meant. They were preparing to either exterminate the Jewish population of the camp, or transfer them to an even worse slave camp where they would be worked to death. Edmonds organized their resistance.

In the morning, almost 1000 servicemen, Jew and non-Jew alike arranged in formation in front of the camp barracks, Edmonds leading at the front to report. The German officer in charge saw this and reeled on Edmonds "they cannot all be Jews!”
"We are all Jews” Edmond replied in a flat even tone.

Even when the officer drew his pistol and put it in Edmonds face his resolve didn’t break. He spoke in slow, careful German "According to the Geneva Convention, we have to give only our name, rank, and serial number. If you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us, and after the war you will be tried for war crimes.”

Understand what Edmonds was doing here. He was openly defying the commander of the prison camp, making himself and all of his men a target in order to save his Jewish brothers-in-arms. It is one thing to find courage in a battle, to risk your life in the heat of combat. It’s another to willfully and intentionally put your own life on the line to save another’s. Especially when you are confronted with unimaginable cruelties on a daily basis and know that every single one of those cruelties could and likely would be used against you as punishment for taking a stand. But Edmonds didn’t flinch. He didn’t make excuses, he didn’t shirk, he knew what the right thing was in the moment and stuck with it. The courage of a good man.  

Miraculously, rather than make an example of him, the German officer gave up and left the group. No punishment, collective or personally to Edmonds followed. Of the 1000 servicemen who lined up that day, more than 150 of them were Jewish, and they all owed their lives to the courage Edmonds and their fellow non-Jewish comrades for shielding them with their own lives. Incredible bravery in their darkest moment. 

More than 70 years later, Stern would say he could still recall the words Edmonds used to save his life and the life of every Jew in the camp. "We are all Jews.”

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Facebook reveals new “prayer” postsBy: C4i

The COVID pandemic has changed the way many of us engage with our families, our community, and yes, even our faith. While distancing and lockdowns have kept us apart, social media has become increasingly important for staying in touch with those who matter to us. What would have been a quiet conversation with a friend in the privacy of your own kitchen has become a series of private messages. Where you might have once gathered with a church group for discussion, instead you’re joining a zoom meeting. 

In recognition of this change, Facebook is experimenting with a new kind of post and reaction. "Prayer posts” where a user can specifically make a post asking for prayer in a public manner. Similar to how you might bring something up in a church group, this is designed to be an easy way for Christian users to introduce topics they would like prayer support for. Indeed, instead of "liking” these kinds of posts, users can instead click a "pray” button that will show they saw the request and will include it in their ongoing prayers.

It’s an interesting idea and reactions are understandably mixed. On one hand, given everything we’ve been through for the past year and the ongoing strain we’ve been under, anything that makes it easier to connect with our Christian brothers and sisters is a welcome blessing. But there is a hint of crassness that is hard to ignore. Prayer is an intensely private thing, in fact it’s hard to think of something that could be more private and sacred than your personal relationship with God. Clicking a little "pray” icon like it was an emoji could risk undermining the seriousness of what is being asked and given in these exchanges.

This is a valid concern. We must always be considerate and deliberate when we pray. We also need to carefully decide what kind of role we allow technology and corporations to play in our faith. Just because we can do something doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. And knowing what we do about the reach Facebook has and the power of their data collection tools, giving them more insight into our faith and spiritual lives is a little unsettling.

At the same time Facebook is not wrong that there is a need for this kind of feature. According to Facebook’s own internal analytics, the week of Easter and Passover 2020 saw extraordinarily high activity, particularly among "spiritual” pages. A noticeable spike in group video calls and private messages that can be directly linked to Easter and Passover. The rationale here is as simple as it appears, as people were not able to gather together for real in early April, they filled the void remotely. 

We don’t know what a post-pandemic world will look like. Hopefully, things can go back to normal as they were before COVID became an all-encompassing concern, but we can’t say that for sure. It’s possible that continued virus strains, or ongoing worries, or simply new norms will still keep people wary of large gatherings and social contact. If that ends up being the case, we will need tools like Prayer Posts to help keep us in touch with our spiritual community. 

As it stands, the Prayer Post concept is still in the testing phase. Facebook has quietly rolled it out to a small number of users who were given the opportunity to opt in and try it. As is the case with other similar features, it is likely Facebook will spend some time assessing how the tool is used and people’s reaction to it among these limited test cases before rolling it out to the broader public. So while you might not see Prayer Posts yet, you likely will in the near future.

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Israel’s Iron DomeBy: C4i

In the recent coverage of the ongoing strife in Gaza and the West Bank, you’ve probably heard people discussing Israel’s Iron Dome. This defense system is heavily touted in media coverage, but often goes unexplained. What is the Iron Dome and why does Israel need it?
 

The threat

The rocket is the preferred weapon of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and when you look at them it’s easy to see why. Rockets are long range "set it and forget it” weapons allowing terrorist operators to strike at a distance without putting themselves at risk. They are inexpensive. A simple rocket that contains a small payload and can strike a target a few kilometers away only costs around $100. It is a weapon simple enough to be constructed in small scale basement workshops and garages but given the massive proliferation and availability of them in the region, this often isn’t necessary. 

The typical drawbacks of the weapon, that they are typically inaccurate and lack the firepower to attack hardened targets, does not impact Hamas. If you were trying to fire a single rocket to attack a specific target a few kilometers away, you’d be out of luck - it would be like trying to hit a hole-in-one. Especially if you were trying to damage a bunker or tank where even if you did somehow manage to hit it, you still might not do any real damage. That’s why you don’t see modern armies using rockets except under very specific conditions. But what if you don’t care what the rocket hits as long as it hits something? What if you weren’t going after military targets, but homes, apartment buildings, and people? Well then rockets are pretty much perfect.

Terrorist groups in the area have embraced this fact. In a little more than a week, more than 3,440 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza and the West Bank. Imagine more than 3,000 rockets randomly demolishing homes throughout your city, causing fires and knocking out roads. They are the ideal terrorist weapon when your target lives next door.

Thankfully, the Iron Dome stopped more than 90% of these attacks.

How it works

You’ve heard of fighting fire with fire, right? Well, how about fighting rockets with missiles? At it’s most basic level, the Iron Dome is a system that will recognize when a rocket is fired and hit it out of the sky with a Tamir interceptor missile. But just saying it like that does nothing to recognize what an incredible feat this is.
 
 

First, the system needs to recognize that a rocket has been fired. This involves an incredibly complex system of radar surveillance, thermal imaging, and coordination. The equipment here is incredibly fine-tuned. Think of stories where air traffic control loses track of an airplane. They use massive radar systems to identify and track large commercial aircraft flying pre-booked flight plans at high elevations where there is nothing else to get in the way and there are still cases where slip ups happen. The radar system the Iron Dome uses has to identify and track unannounced surprise attacks of rockets that are often less than two meters in length, fly much closer to the ground than a jet (meaning you need to take terrain and buildings into account), and can have unpredictable flight paths. And again, you only have a few moments of flight time to figure this all out!

Then the interceptor needs to be fired and achieve close proximity to the rocket to explode and take it out. This is incredibly difficult! It’s easy to forget what an accomplishment this is when we’re so used to reports of success, but think of what is involved here. The interceptor needs to be fired soon enough to have time to engage the rocket in a safe area, so we’re talking an incredibly short reaction time from detection to launch. Crews need to be manning these stations 24 hours a day to make that happen. Then the interceptor needs to know where the rocket is, stay in communication with all that radar information to know exactly where it is going, and achieve a flight path that will cut off the rocket. And the firing position isn’t always catching a rocket from straight on either, they could be firing at something from a sideways angle, or even having to catch up to a rocket from behind to make the save. imagine if your life depended on knocking one golf ball out of the air with another one and you don’t even know where the other golf ball is going to be originally hit from

That it works at all is extraordinary. That the success rate of the Iron Dome rests between 90%-95% is miraculous.  

Not only does the Iron Dome system do all of this, but it also has a sorting system which measures the likely damage a rocket will achieve. Super computers will look at the rocket’s current heading, maximum estimated range based on the size of the rocket (larger the rocket, the further the range), and likely splash down area. If the rocket is likely to peter out over a field or impact into the side of a mountain, operators will make the call whether or not to deploy a rocket. "Smart” doesn’t do the system justice.

Limitations

All that said, for as incredible as the Iron Dome system is, there are some pretty big drawbacks. The most directly evident is cost. Each of those Tamir interceptor missiles cost in the neighborhood of $40,000 USD. Keep that price in mind and then remember that Israel had to defend against more than 3,000 rockets in a single week in May. Obviously saving lives is worth any amount of money, but the strain this places on the state is impossible to ignore. In a battle of attrition, one side has the luxury of firing off rockets that cost pocket change while the other has to fire the cost equivalent of a fully loaded luxury car at them. This is why the rocket attacks are being done in such high volume. Not only is it an effective method of terror to keep Israeli cities under constant fear of bombardment, it’s also a massive, and perhaps not sustainable, expense. 

This is to say nothing of the massive number of men and women it takes to staff and operate the system and the monetary and human cost associated with them. It’s easy to get lost in the trappings of the technology on display, but it’s important to remember that real people still need to be monitoring those stations, loading Tamir missiles into the launchers, moving and maintaining complex equipment. There are many stories of IDF members pushed to the breaking point to keep up with attacks. 

The system also has a maximum saturation point. While it admirably dealt with the last round of massive rocket attacks, there is an upper limit to how many rockets the system can respond to at once. Enough rockets fire at the same time in the same area will outstrip the tracking and reloading speed of the system.

While the Iron Dome is a formidable and effective weapon against terror, it is not a solution. Israel will never be safe until the tensions, feuds, and generational grudges of the area are dealt with. This is why it is more important than ever to stand with Israel as it faces this latest hostility from Gaza and the West Bank. 


[Comment]

June update from Rev. Dr. John TweedieBy: C4i

 

Dear Friends of C4i and Israel:

Our world has changed since I wrote my last update to you in May. For one thing, Israel has a new Prime Minister and leader. Naftali Bennett now captains the good ship Israel, effectively ending Bibi Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure. The fact that Bibi survived so long on the stormy seas of Israeli politics is an admirable feat. 

Naftali Bennett will need fair winds and calm seas, at least in the near term, as he governs an 8-party coalition with opposing views and competing ambitions, some religious, some secular. Multi-party cabinets have a dubious history in Israel – most don’t last for long!

Bennett also assumes command in the wake of several days of intense conflict and rocket barrages that forced most Israelis into bomb shelters or safe rooms in their homes. The fact that an uneasy ceasefire is holding hasn’t stopped Gazans from sending incendiary balloons into Israel or Israel responding with the air force and new bombing sorties over Gaza. Bennett will need the Wisdom of Solomon to govern under a myriad of challenges. 

As I mentioned in my May update: "Because our support for Israel is 24/7, we do not make special appeals during times of crisis. Instead, we maintain strong communication links with the charities in Israel; this allows us to assess the changing needs and respond as we can. Your faithful and generous support enables us to do the most good whenever necessary.”

I can now report that we have taken action in recent days by responding to special appeals for assistance in the aftermath of rocket attacks on Israeli communities, especially those in the Gaza Border area:

From our colleagues working in Sderot:

"In regards to your inquiry about putting together emergency support, we concluded that we need to focus on the weakest links in this struggling border community:
 1.   Children in special education, kindergartens, and schools, NIS 15,000
 2.   The Bnei Menashe community that immigrated from northeastern India, NIS 20,000
 3.   Immigrants from Ethiopia who immigrated in recent months, NIS 20,000 
 4.   Children and adolescents at risk in clubs and after-school classes, NIS 30,000
 5.   Summer camps and activities: - to make sure that these young children will have planned daily activities in protected facilities, NIS 35,000
 6.   Special recreational trauma care for children at risk and those belong to the above-mentioned categories (still working on it).”


C4i has met all the needs on this list!  Praise God! 

Summer Camps for children-at-risk:
We received the following urgent appeal from The Jaffa Institute only days ago: 

"After 15 very stressful and challenging months, it seems that we are now beginning to return to ourselves.  In one month schools will be closed and the summer will begin.  Hundreds of children will once again find themselves without positive, constructive activities.  The middle class and upper class families will send their children to expensive summer programs.  Many of them will take their children on trips abroad.  I fully understand them.  These were the most stressful months of their young lives and they definitely need time off.  However, the poor children in Jaffa and Bet Shemesh do not have these options.  If we don’t provide them with summer programming, they will spend their entire summer vacation on the streets, and that is no laughing matter.  They will fall prey to the most destructive elements in our society…

The problem is that we are totally underfunded.  During the Corona months we could hardly raise enough money to pay salaries and keep our programs viable.  Now the extra half a million dollars we need for the summer program to accommodate 1000 children is nowhere to be found.  We have started our campaign to raise extra funds for summer, but thus far, the responses are minimal.  This is understandable as many people have been out of work…”

I’m happy to report that C4i responded to this heartcry by transferring significant funds to save the summer program for the children. While we couldn’t supply the full amount, we were able to give enough to save the program.  

Here is the response we received: 
"Dear John, Wow! I am absolutely overwhelmed by your expression of solidarity and friendship.  You just saved the summer camp program. A thousand happy children owe you and Christians 4 Israel not just a great summer, but more importantly their safety and security after such a trying time. I look forward to seeing you again soon.
Warmly, David”

I hope you will be greatly encouraged when you read this report and know that your generous support allows us to respond in times of need. The children of Israel have been through a terrifying time when, day after day, rockets were landing indiscriminately all over the country, forcing families to seek safety any way they could. With your help, C4i has provided small measures of comfort and encouragement to them. Thank you!


Rev. Dr. John Tweedie 

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UPDATE FROM REV. DR. JOHN TWEEDIEBy: C4i

Dear Friends of C4i and Israel:

As I write this on May 19, Israel is at war with Hamas in Gaza in a conflict Hamas started about a week ago. As usual, Israel is under increasing international pressure to enter a ceasefire, which will allow Hamas to both regroup and rearm as before. However, given a choice, Israel's preference is to deliver a knock-out blow that will paralyze Hamas' military capabilities for years to come.

Let's remember that when Israel unilaterally and forcefully removed some 9000 of her citizens from Gaza in August 2005, it was a painful gesture to demonstrate to the world that Israelis wanted peace at any price. The Palestinians in Gaza responded by electing Hamas to govern them. Within a year, rockets were raining down on Israeli Gaza Border communities. By 2014, the situation had deteriorated to the point that Israel had to send ground troops into Gaza. The U.N. immediately began a pressure campaign to force Israel into accepting a ceasefire, which denied Israeli forces the opportunity to silence Hamas forever. 

Since then, Hamas has continued to fire rockets into Israel on an almost daily basis. Hamas upped the ante a week ago by announcing that Israeli forces had attacked and entered the Al Aqsa Mosque, which stands on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This action triggered widespread strife between Arabs and Jews throughout Israel, inflamed the Muslim world, and provoked angry street demonstrations and violent acts against Jews in Western cities.  

Ironically, I just had a call from an influential friend in Israel who told me that Palestinian sympathizers in Los Angeles were attacking Jews today. A similar incident occurred in Toronto last week. The Israeli friend also suggested that a ceasefire is imminent because of increasing American pressure on Israel. An imposed cessation of hostilities will allow Hamas to survive to fight another day, but Israeli mothers like the one below will once again see the terror in the faces of their children. 

The Current Crisis in Israel

One young mother's account: We awoke to sirens at 3:03 am, and grabbed our kids to our bomb shelter room in our house, which we had closed up the Iron windows on Monday already, and stocked it with water, candy (to distract the kids!) and food sleeping bags and a spare laptop, as we didn't know how long we would need to be in there. 

Because our bomb shelter is a "regular" room in our house, we have a sofa bed in there so we were comfortable enough staying in there through hours of booms, even once the sirens ended as we didn't know if/when they would start up again. My littlest slept through the whole thing, from being carried to his bed to the shelter and back. Our middle son held my hand the whole night. My oldest took all his favorite things from his room and put them in the shelter room this morning when he woke up.  

We are shaken up, we are scared, and our children will bear these scars yet are resilient and amazing. 

C4i is active in Israel through our charity partners on the ground! 

Because our support for Israel is 24/7, we do not make special appeals during times of crisis. Instead, we maintain strong communication links with the charities in Israel; this allows us to assess the changing needs and respond as we are able. Your faithful and generous support enables us to do the most good whenever necessary. Thank you! We will also be there for Israel once the latest conflict ends and calm returns to the region. 

Thank you for standing with us for Israel!

Rev. Dr. John Tweedie

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Virtual tours of IsraelBy: C4i

Flashback to 2019. Israel is enjoying a record shattering year of tourism in 2019, flights to the country are up, and interest has never been higher. Everyone in the tourism industry is wondering just how long the good times will last. Well, they would get their answer. Enter 2020 and the yearlong fight against COVID. Overnight Israel’s tourism industry went from a rapidly expanding and thrilling concern to a barren wasteland of cancelled reservations and empty airports. 

Today the vaccine is being distributed throughout Israel, but at the time of writing this article the country is STILL closed for people not holding Israeli passports. If you were planning on a 2020/2021 tour, it’s been a pretty disappointing time! But there are some silver linings. While nothing can compare to the real thing, you can scratch the itch by visiting the Holy Land virtually! 

Tel Aviv Museum of Art

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art has been doing an incredible job of making their museum accessible during this difficult time. Hosting multiple virtual exhibits, you can enjoy the leading lights in Israeli arts and culture from the comfort of your own home!

There are a few different formats for checking out the exhibits. Some include video featurettes that walk you through the exhibits giving details and context to the works and artists behind them. Others simply have high resolution copies of the artwork in question available to be perused. But by far, the most elaborate of these online exhibitions are the "360’ Virtual Tours.” These incredible tours present the museum similar to Google Maps street view, allowing you to pan a camera around in every angle and move about the exhibit as if you were really there. With a few clicks you can zoom in on a work and even read the info label or caption that contextualizes a work.

Not a techy person? No worries, this virtual tour works right in your web browser and is operated with your mouse, no need to download anything or learn any fancy new controls. If this still sounds a little intimidating, use the walk-through feature which will take you through the exhibit in a guided fashion. You can click to stop it at any time to take a longer look at something and resume when you’re ready! A fantastic way to get a dose of Israeli culture any time you want for free!

Google Street View

Not a fan of museums? More of a street life kind of person? No problem! Another great option to get a taste of the Holy Land experience is to simply explore some sites on Google Street View!

Simply navigate to Google Maps, tap in the location of a place you’d like to visit, and presto, you’re there! It’s free, easy, and gives you a nice idea of what life is really like in Israel. Visit incredible locations like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or recreate the experience of the Tel Aviv Independence Trail starting at the first espresso kiosk ever built in the city!

The beauty of exploring Israel like this is that your imagination is the only limit. If you’ve ever heard of a place in Israel that interests or excites you, just plug it into Google and view it at street level! It’s not the same as being there, but it’s close!

Take a road trip

With spring weather finally arriving but COVID still a real threat, many of us are starting to get a little stir crazy. Chase those lockdown blues away by taking a virtual road trip with a young Israeli couple!



At first you might think this video is nothing special, a dashcam of a couple out for a ride. But look closer, this isn’t a normal YouTube video, it’s a 360 experience one! That means YOU control the camera! Rubberneck to your heart’s content as you wind through Israeli country roads and visit some city locations. It’s a brief escape, but it might just be the thing you need to brighten up your day!

We know these virtual options are a far cry from the experience of traveling to the Holy Land. The awe of being able to see historic sites that have stood for thousands of years in person, or the magnitude of being able to retrace Jesus’ steps as he spread the gospel, those are not feelings you’re going to be able to capture on a computer screen or YouTube video. All we can do is hold on for now, pray for stability and a quick end to this crisis, and plan for when we are able to travel freely and enjoy this world that God has given us. 

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Heroes of the Holocaust: Faye Schulman captured Nazi crimes for all to see (Part 2)By: C4i

"When it was time to be hugging a boyfriend, I was hugging a rifle. Now I said to myself, my life is changed. I learned how to look after the wounded. I even learned how to make operations."
- Faye pictured here with young Russian partisans. 

A fresh fugitive on the run from the Nazis still grieving her family’s death, cold and half starving in the woods, Faye Schulman wasn’t looking for a way out. She was looking for a way to fight back. She found it in the Molotova partisan brigade.

Like most resistance groups forged in the pressures of World War 2, the Molotova partisan brigade was an eclectic group. They included Russian soldiers taken as prisoners of war who had since escaped and now found themselves cut off from their comrades in a strange land. There were Polish men who objected to the crimes they saw the Nazis committing and pledged their lives to doing something about them.  And there was one young Jewish woman. A photographer with no military training, no experience living in the wild, but a powerful drive to fight back in honor of her murdered family.

It wasn’t easy, and acceptance came slowly. Faye trained hard to prove herself as a useful member of the brigade. Despite a crippling fear of blood, she trained herself as a combat nurse after discovering there were no medical experts in the partisan group. Her skills quickly progressed from applying simple bandages and stiches to performing lifesaving field surgery. Skills she employed not just on wounded partisans, but also on Jewish fugitives in hiding. Faye learned the skills she needed to save families from the pain she was feeling.
 
- A group photo of the partisans. Faye is in the bottom row on the right. Notice the mixture of uniformed men and civilian dress. A mix of Russian supplied and captured German equipment can be spotted.

Of course, she also learned how to fight. A girl who never handled a weapon in her life quickly became familiar with the kick and weight of a submachine gun. One has to wonder if her skills at lining up the perfect shot for a photograph helped her pick it up faster. The very thing the Nazis spared her for coming back to haunt them. 

Faye’s partisan group raided her own occupied town several times. It was not only to punish the Nazi murderers who lived there, but crucial to their own survival. Raids were essential for capturing supplies, food, and medicine that not only the partisans themselves needed to survive, but also several Jewish families they were sheltering in the woods. These were people living in the most precarious conditions imaginable, making their way in the woods often without proper shelter, never knowing when a Nazi patrol might stumble on them. 

But Faye had additional business in town. As a personal symbol of her commitment to the cause, and an act of defiance against her oppressors, Faye had her old family home burned. "I won't be living here. The family's killed. To leave it for the enemy? I said right away: Burn it!" There was no going back to the way things used to be.

But before they did, they recovered Faye’s photography equipment. It was with these cameras and chemicals that she would document the resistance effort and bring us some of the only photographs we have of these men and women who risked everything for justice. 

In our day of camera phones and overnight development, photography is seen as a common thing. But in the 40’s it was a specialized skill, one that required delicate equipment and conditions. Faye was living in the woods with roughneck Russian soldiers trying to stay one step ahead of Nazi bloodhounds, it wasn’t exactly a studio environment. Nevertheless, she managed to take and develop hundreds of photos. She made her own "dark rooms” with blankets and coats. She developed film with unlabeled chemicals using a formula she memorized. She cast "sun prints” on photo paper in the wild. An extraordinary documentarian effort, one borne of a burning need to shout to the world that yes, this is happening, and people are risking their lives every day to stop it.

- A rare photo of a partisan funeral captured by Faye. In attendance are a mix of Jews, Russians, and Poles, united in their shared grief and struggle. Precious few records exist of moments like this.

Over those hard years, Faye clung to her faith. Despite the incredible circumstances, she managed to keep Passover in 1943, eating nothing but potatoes. She was dedicated to living a Jewish life in whatever small ways she could. It was a way to hang on to the memories and customs of her family and spite the monsters that wanted to exterminate that way of life. Faye possessed not only remarkable inner strength to survive the ordeals she went through, but also an incredible clarity of vision to keep what was important in perspective and what would be necessary for future generations to know.

After the war, Faye moved to Russia where she was rightly considered a war hero. For the first time in years she enjoyed security and stability, with a quiet job as a newspaper photographer, a home to call her own, and three hot meals every day. Compared to the days working under the Nazis thumb or hiding in the forest patching up wounds and exchanging gunfire with German soldiers, it was paradise. But she was joyless. She missed her family terribly, they left a void in her heart that was impossible to fill.

Imagine the overwhelming happiness she felt when she discovered her brother Moishe was still alive. Unknown to her for years, Moishe escaped the work camp he was held at and had himself joined a different partisan outfit. For years they had been fighting the same battles for the same cause, holding on to the memory of each other and the rest of their family to keep them going. And now they were reunited in peace and comfort. A miracle.

Faye married her brother’s friend, a fellow partisan named Morris Schulman and they started a life, a real life, together. They immigrated to Canada where they had two children, started a business together, and put the past behind them to heal. Faye still lives in Toronto today, happy and content. 
You can read her story in her own words in her autobiography "A Partisan’s Memoir: Woman of the Holocaust.”
 

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