I am heading to Jordan, one of our most important Arab allies. Research for new book.

kingabdullah-book(Jerusalem, Israel) — After several days here in the epicenter focusing on Holocaust Remembrance Day, and meeting with various Jewish and Christian leaders, I am flying to Amman, the capital of Jordan, on Wednesday.

Given the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the crisis in Syria, the nuclear threat from Iran and the growing strength of al Qaeda — among other critical regional issues — I am very much looking forward to meeting with Jordanian officials and touring the country. My hope is to better understand one of the U.S.’s most important Arab allies, and one of Israel’s most important neighbors. At the moment, I am writing a new book in which Jordan plays a significant element, so this is another reason for the trip.

As readers of this blog will recall, one of my first columns in 2014 was about the importance of Jordan’s King Abdullah II as both a man of peace and a significant agent of reform in the Middle East (see below).

Last month, I wrote about my meeting with Her Excellency Alia Bouran, Jordan’s impressive Ambassador to the U.S., to prepare for this trip.

“I have been to Jordan numerous times and have fallen in love with the country and its people,” I noted in that column. “The Kingdom has a vibrant Christian community. It also has a rich Biblical heritage, with fascinating historic sites like Mount Nebo where Moses died, the site where the Lord Jesus Christ was baptized, and the remarkable Petra, which some scholars believe will play a role in Bible prophecy. Indeed, I believe God has a very special place in His heart for this country. Christians around the world need to be praying faithfully for Jordan’s King Abdullah II, his government, and the people of Jordan. They are strong allies of the United States and the free world and work with us on many economic, social and security issues. They have signed and maintain an important peace treaty with the State of Israel. They are vital players in trying to help forge a true and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. His Majesty has also taken a strong stand against the extremists in the region who are perennially trying to kill Muslims, Jews and Christians and sabotage any prospects for peace and prosperity.”

Please keep me in your prayers, as well, and I will do my best to update you via this blog, Twitter and our “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook.

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Who to watch in 2014 — #1: King Abdullah II of Jordan

January 10, 2014

As we begin 2014, I am going to write a series of columns on key people in the epicenter whom I’m keeping an eye on.

First on my list is Jordan’s King Abdullah II. I’m intrigued and impressed with him as both a monarch and a Reformer. He is actively trying to lead his small, oil-less, but vitally important nation towards progress and freedom, tolerance and modernity. He’s keeping close ties with the Arab world. He maintains a close friendship with the U.S., and is maintaining his nation’s courageous peace treaty with Israel. He’s also actively trying to help the Palestinians and Israelis make peace, as well. All the while, he is standing strong against the Radical forces in the region. Not an easy task.

The Radicals — al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and the mullahs in Iran, among them — desperately want to topple the King and seize Jordan for themselves. In the last few years, the Radical Islamists have seized Tunisia, Libya, Egypt (briefly) and are trying to grab Syria, too. Will Jordan be next? I pray the answer is no.

At the moment, I’m reading a book the King wrote in 2011, Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace In A Time of Peril. I’ve also been reading several books about the history of Jordan, and about his father, the late-King Hussein, and his great grand-father, the late-King Abdullah I. I recently purchased a memoir by his father published in 1962, Uneasy Lies The Head.

The following is adapted from what I wrote in my 2009 book, Inside The Revolution:

King Hussein was an impressive, if imperfect, Reformer in the Middle East in the twentieth century.

The king’s family—descendants of Muhammad—hailed originally from the Arabian Peninsula, and for decades His Majesty was part of the Arab alliance fighting Israel. But to his enormous credit, King Hussein eventually turned against the Radicals and the violent Arab nationalists in a dramatic and impressive way.

The king initiated secret contacts with Israeli leaders in the mid-1960s and maintained those contacts through many difficult and turbulent years. He did join Egypt and Syria in the fight against Israel in June 1967, a catastrophic gambit that cost him nearly half his kingdom (the West Bank), East Jerusalem, and the Old City. Yet immediately afterwards he began discussing terms for peace through back channels and secret meetings with Israeli officials.

He eventually became an ally and close friend of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who in 1979 became the first Arab leader to forge a historic peace treaty with Israel. King Hussein also established a democratically elected parliamentary system responsible for the day-to-day governance of his small desert country. Then he negotiated a peace treaty with the Jewish state in 1994. And he did all this despite living in the shadow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, his maniacal neighbor to the east, and in the shadow of the Assad regime controlling Syria, his despotic neighbor to the north, and despite the fact that Radicals tried to assassinate him numerous times.

When King Hussein succumbed to cancer in 1999, it was a sad day for Reformers in the region.

Fortunately, his son, King Abdullah II, has continued in his father’s footsteps. He signed a free trade agreement with the U.S. in 2000. He became a critically important ally of the West in the battle against the Radicals after 9/11 and during the liberation of Iraq and its aftermath. In 2006 he became the first Muslim monarch to address the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., speaking on the importance of Muslim-Christian relations before two thousand evangelicals from all over the world. And all the while, King Abdullah has tried to move Jordan step by step in a more moderate direction politically and socially, despite constant threats of assassinations, terrorist attacks, coups, and insurrections.

It has not been an easy journey, and there have been setbacks along the way. No one would describe the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as a full-blown Jeffersonian democracy at this point. But having visited the country several times in recent years, I must tell you that I have fallen in love with Jordan, its people, and its leaders. Both as a Jewish person and a believer in Jesus, I have never felt in danger in Jordan. To the contrary, I have had the honor of meeting safely with Reformers from one end of the country to the other. I have interviewed Prime Minister Abdelsalam al-Majali, the man who actually signed the peace treaty with Israel on behalf of His Majesty. I have stayed in the homes of Jordanians who have welcomed me with open arms, taught me about their history, and told me how hopeful they are about their future. As a result, I am deeply impressed with the significant progress the country has made over the past three decades.

Indeed, it is precisely because the Jordanians have made such progress that I am worried by the Radicals’ determination to launch a jihad there, seize the capital, and create a new anti-Israel, anti-Western base camp for Iran and al Qaeda. Therefore, I pray often for Jordan’s peace, prosperity, and continued progress. I pray for King Abdullah’s health and safety, and I pray that God will grant him the wisdom to know how best to move forward in such challenging times. As 2014 gets underway, I hope you will, too.

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Shimon Peres, 90, speaks of his family burned alive by Nazis in the Holocaust. “The murdered live in our hearts….Israel is a momument of grief for their deaths.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres arrives at the Yom HaShoah ceremonies on Monday at Yad Vashem.

Israeli President Shimon Peres arrives at the Yom HaShoah ceremonies on Monday at Yad Vashem.

(Jerusalem, Israel) — Today, I attended more of the Holocaust ceremonies at Yad Vashem.

At precisely 10am, sirens rang for several minutes all over Israel and all of us at the event — and all Israelis throughout the country — stood silently for several haunting minutes to remember the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis.

During the ceremonies, Israeli officials, IDF officers, Jewish leaders, Holocaust survivors, foreign diplomats, and Christian leaders laid wreaths to honor the memory of the dead. An IDF honor guard stood watch. I was surprised but honored to be given a seat in the third row, not far from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, IDF chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and Natan Sharansky, head of The Jewish Agency. It was a remarkable place to see the event up-close-and-personal, and to be praying for Israel’s leaders, that they would be like sons of Issachar, “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (I Chronicles 12:32)

Here’s a picture of Israeli President Shimon Peres arriving at the event. What a remarkable life. He is 90 today. He was 20 — the age my oldest son, Caleb, is now — when his family was burned to death by the Nazis in a wooden synagogue in Belarus, not far from Minsk, as the Holocaust began. (Minsk is where my father’s family escaped in 1907.) Peres has seen the entire span of modern Israeli history, from the Holocaust to the prophetic re-creation of the State, to all the challenges up and to the present, and been a key player at almost every step along the way.

Peres will step down as President this summer. I had the opportunity to meet him in 2005 and interview him briefly, providing material I used in the book, Epicenter. I wasn’t able to talk with him this morning, but I did want to share with you the text of the extraordinary speech he delivered here at Yad Vashem on Sunday evening. Along with the Prime Minister’s speech, I encourage you to read Mr. Peres’ address in its entirely.

The English text of President Shimon Peres’ address:

ISRAEL IS A DETERRANCE AGAINST ANY ATTEMPT AT ANOTHER HOLOCAUST

 

My brothers and sisters, at this very moment I see before my eyes a heartbreaking image.
Tens of thousands of people; young and old, male and female, all concentrated on the banks of the Danube River. They are all under orders to face the river, each one tied to the next. Behind them stand Nazi storm troopers, Germans and locals, who cut them down with bullets to the back. To save bullets they tied weights and stones to them so that the dead will drag the living down with them. Children were tied to their mothers, the young to the elderly. The bodies of the victims are pushed into the chilling, foaming waters of the Danube. Their cries rise to the heavens and are left without an echo. The perpetrators stand with smiles on their faces, as if they carried an act of heroism and won a brave battle. The blue Danube is painted red, in a single moment it became a floating grave, innocent victims, innocent people. Itamar Yaoz-Kest, a Jewish poet born in Hungary and sent to Bergen-Belsen, screams in one of his poems, “What is there to drink? They tell me people. Water with blood?”
It happened in Hungary.
 
But then another image comes to my mind.
A photo of the town where I was born and spent the first decade of my life. Vishneva. In Vishneva the Nazis used a different technique. They didn’t shoot the Jews. They burnt them alive. The Nazis, Germans and locals, gathered up all the Jews left in Vishneva, (half had already emigrated to Israel) and forced them to march to the synagogue which was made of wood. My grandfather, wrapped in a Jewish prayer shawl, stood at the head of the march, Rabbi Zvi Meltzer may peace be upon his soul. The same prayer shawl that I huddled under every Yom Kippur to listen to him recite the Kol Nidre prayer in his beautiful voice. They locked the doors of the synagogue and set it on fire with all the Jews still inside. No-one survived. Nothing was left of the synagogue. I can still hear the Kol Nidre prayer, which my grandfather would recite, in my heart. I visited Vishneva when I was Foreign Minister of Israel and I was accompanied by the Foreign Minister of Belarus, a delegation of senior government officials, and a honor motorcade. On the way to Vishneva we passed the train station at Bogdanov. The station still operates but during the war years the rails were heaving with carriages packed with Jews on the way to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I imagined hearing the trains. The contradiction between the noise of the motorcade and the screams of help from the trains was ghastly. This station, from which we travelled to Israel, is the station that took my people to the death camps. What happened to them could have happened to me. It could have happened to many of us here tonight.
 
“Saved” wrote Wislawa Szymborska, “because you were first, saved because you were last, because to the left, to the right, because it rained, because a shadow fell.” Everything was by chance.
The murdered live in our hearts. Each of us carries in our hearts the grief of his brothers and sisters who perished, like we carry the genius of the creation of Israel. Israel is a monument of grief for their deaths, a monument of genius for their memory, in our homeland.
 
The question still reverberates in our head, which has no answer and which I doubt will ever be answered, “Where were these murderers born? Where were they educated? How did the landscape of cultured Europe transform into a harsh jungle in which wild beasts walked? We know the geographical answer; the human answer does not exist.
 
This year is seventy years since the destruction of Hungarian Jewry. The Nazis invaded on March 19th 1944, a year before the end of the Second World War, and four years before the creation of the State of Israel. They almost immediately set about destroying the Jews. They did it with brutal efficiency. Within a month all the Jews were labeled with yellow stars and concentrated in the ghettos. No-one allowed in, no-one allowed out. The hunger and epidemics preceded the bullets and the gas. Within another month all the rest were sent to the death camps. To Auschwitz-Birkenau. Close to half a million Jews were murdered for no reason. We won’t forget the Hungarian Righteous Among the Gentiles, who risked their lives to save Jewish lives. They are few in number but they carried with courage the image of humanity. The President of Hungary will take part tomorrow in the March of the Living in Poland, a gesture worth of admiration. However, we must not ignore any occurrence of anti-Semitism, any desecration of a synagogue, any tomb stone smashed in a cemetery in which our families are buried. We must not ignore the rise of extreme right wing parties with neo-Nazi tendencies who are a danger to each of us and a threat to every nation.
 
The State of Israel of today is not only the only possible memorial standing for our perished brothers and sisters. Israel is a deterrence against any attempt at another Holocaust. A strong Israel is our response to the horrors of anti-Semitism but it does not excuse the rest of the world from its responsibility to prevent this disease from returning to their own homes. Allow me to say, based on 90 years of experience, that without a state of our own we would continue to live on our weakness rather than, as we do today, live on our historic and contemporary abilities. The State of Israel is not a passing event; it is based upon 4000 years of life. The history of the Jewish people contains no lack of anguish but it is filled with hope – the eternity of Israel will not lie. Israel seeks peace. Between people and between nations. Peace with nations near and far. We pursue peace because we pursue justice for all regardless of origin, regardless of faith. The right to peace is the right to life. I say with confidence – we are strong enough to repel dangers, we should not be scared of threats and we must not give up on peace.
 
As a member of the Jewish people I may not and I cannot forget the horrors of the Holocaust. As a citizen of Israel I will do everything in my power to ensure that the Nazis will not rise again. As a human being I will do everything in my power to bring peace between peoples. Between races. Between religions. Between nations.
 
We lost the best of our parents and the best of our children. But our faith that victories are temporary and values are eternal never erred. We will forever be a people who believe in values of man and values of heaven. In the name of the six million, among them one and a half million children, we will carry the torch of Jewish independence. The torch of freedom. The light of man. The belief that we will know an enlightened world in which every person treats the other as a fellow human being. And in which we are all born in the image of the Lord. May their memories be blessed.

85% of Americans concerned young people don’t know enough about Holocaust or learning lessons of how to confront evil, finds new poll. What can you do to teach your children?

MEME-HolocaustEducation(Jerusalem, Israel) —  “To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it.” 

As readers of this blog know, this has been a theme of many of my books over the years. Yet recently we learned a fascinating piece of data. A surprisingly large majority of the U.S. population is concerned that Americans are not being taught enough about the Holocaust or learning how to confront evil in our time. They are especially concerned that young people aren’t being effectively taught what can happen when evil rises and we do not take decisive action to stop it.

These are among the findings of an exclusive new poll Tyndale House Publishers and I commissioned as we prepared to release The Auschwitz Escape. It seems particularly relevant to highlight such findings on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

McLaughlin & Associates, a nationally-respected polling firm, conducted the survey for us. We asked 1,000 likely U.S. voters the following question: “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘It has been almost 70 years since the end of World War II and the liberation of the Nazi death camps like Auschwitz, but I am concerned that Americans generally – and young people in particular – don’t know enough about the history and horrors of the Holocaust and aren’t learning the lessons of what can happen when evil rises and America does not take decisive action to stop it’?”

  • 85.3% agree
  • 13.0% disagree
  • 1.8% don’t know

Let us consider, therefore, how we can do a better job reaching all Americans — and especially young people – with the history and lessons of the Holocaust. After all, darkness is falling. We are facing rising evil all over the world and Americans are going to have to make hard choices very soon on how to deal with such evil.

One of the main reasons I wrote The Auschwitz Escape was to do my small part to educate myself, and my family, and others, about the horrors of the Holocaust, but also about some of the remarkable true stories of Jews and Christians who helped each other to fight the Nazis and rescue as many lives as possible.

Here are some ways you can teach your family, and others:

  • Consider giving the book as a gift to someone you want to know more about the Holocaust
  • Read the book as a family and discuss it together
  • Use the non-fiction resources — books and films — listed at the end of the book to discover more about the real stories that inspired the book
  • Start a book club and read/discuss this book to get a deeper conversation going
  • Visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington
  • Come to Israel and visit Yad Vashem
  • Start following the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Yad Vashem on Facebook and Twitter and share/re-Tweet what they publish to others.
  • Give to organizations that are caring for Holocaust survivors — The Joshua Fund is one such organization.

May God bless you as you do your part to learn the lessons of the Holocaust, share those lessons with others (especially young people), and take direct and specific actions to care for Holocaust survivors, as well as those who are suffering other global traumas, including genocide.

>> Learn more about the true stories of four remarkable heroes that really did escape the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in the spring of 1994 to tell the world the truth about what Hitler was doing to the Jewish people.

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Netanyahu vows Israel will never allow another Holocaust. Asks, “Has the world learned from the mistakes of the past?”

PM Netanyahu speaking at Yad Vashem tonight.

PM Netanyahu speaking at Yad Vashem tonight.

(Jerusalem, Israel) — What a tremendous honor to attend the opening ceremonies of “Yom HaShoah,” Holocaust Remembrance Day, at Yad Vashem this evening. It was my first time to participate in this annual event, and I was repeatedly moved to tears.

I was moved by Israeli President Shimon Peres’ speech, as he shared personal stories of his family being burned to death by the Nazis in a wooden synagogue in Minsk (the same city my father’s Jewish family escaped from in the early 1900s).

I was moved by the Prime Minister’s address, as he raised some very challenging questions, and warned the world is in danger of making the same mistakes as in the 1930s.

I was particularly moved by the testimonies of six Holocaust survivors, who bore the brunt of the West’s mistakes back in the 1930s and 40s, and by this year’s theme: “Jews ‘On The Edge’ — 1944: Between Annihilation And Liberation.”

As I wrote about in The Auschwitz Escape, 1944 was the pivotal year in the Holocaust. The Nazis were murdering millions of Jews, but the Allied were liberating more and more of Europe. Then Vrba, Wetzler, Rosin and Mordowicz escaped and told the world the truth about the “Final Solution.” It was a race against time. Would Hitler succeed in killing all of Europe’s Jews? Or would Roosevelt and Churchill succeed in defeating the Third Reich, saving the Jewish people, and setting all of Europe and the world free from this horrific evil?

As it is late here in the epicenter, I will post my personal comments and observations on the evening at a later time.

For now, let me simply provide a few excerpts from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s powerful keynote address, which anchored the evening. Let me also provide the link to the English text of the full address (though it was delivered in Hebrew). Please take the time to read the full speech. It is as moving as it is timely.

UPDATE — LATEST HEADLINES:

Excerpts from PM Netanyahu’s address:

WHY DID WORLD LEADERS & JEWISH LEADERS FAIL TO DETECT THE COMING HOLOCAUST IN TIME?

  • I have said many times in this place that we must identify an existential threat in time and take action in time. Tonight, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, I ask myself: why, in the years preceding the Holocaust, did the overwhelming majority of world leaders and Jewish leaders fail to detect the danger in time? In retrospect, all the warning signs were there: the strengthening of the Nazi regime year after year; the horrific anti-Semitic propaganda which grew stronger with each passing month; and the murderous attacks on Jews which began as a trickle and transformed into a huge wave.
  • In retrospect, there is a direct line connecting the racial laws and the gas chambers.
  • Very few world leaders understood the enormity of the threat to humanity posed by Nazism. Churchill was one of them. Few among our leaders, primarily Jabotinsky, warned against the imminent destruction facing our nation, but they were widely criticized and their warnings were disregarded, and they were treated as merchants of doom and war mongers.
  • So I ask: How is it possible that so many people failed to understand the reality? The bitter and tragic truth is this: it is not that they did not see it. They did not want to see it. And why did they choose not to see the truth? Because they did not want to face the consequences of that truth.
  • During the 1930’s, when the Nazis were gaining momentum, the influence of the trauma of the First World War was still fresh. Twenty years earlier, the people of the West experienced a terrible trench war, a war which claimed the lives of 16 million people. Therefore, the leaders of the West operated on the basis of one axiom: avoid another confrontation at any cost, and thus they laid the foundation for the most terrible war in human history. This axiom of avoiding conflict at any cost, this axiom was adopted not only by the leaders. The people themselves, primarily the educated ones, shared it too….
  • Month after month, year after year, more and more information was received in London, Paris and Washington regarding the capabilities and intentions of the Nazi regime. The picture was becoming clear to everybody. However, “they have eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear.”
  • When you refuse to accept reality as it is, you can deny it. And this is precisely what the leaders of the West did. They dismissed the murderous Nazi rhetoric as internal German politics; they downplayed the seriousness of the danger of the military build-up of the Nazis, claiming that it was the result of the natural will of a proud nation, that it should be taken into consideration, that it should be accepted.
  • The reality was clear, but it was cloaked in a bubble of illusions. This bubble was burst by the stealth attack by the Nazis on Europe. And the price of the illusion and desire was very heavy because by the time the leaders of the West finally acted, their people paid a terrible price. World War II claimed the lives not of 16 million people, the unimaginable number of victims during World War I, but of 60 million, including one third of our people, who were butchered by the Nazi beast.

HAS THE WORLD LEARNED THE MISTAKES OF THE PAST?

  • Has the world learned from the mistakes of the past? Today, we are again facing clear facts and a tangible threat.
  • Iran is calling for our destruction. It is developing nuclear weapons. This is the reason it is building underground bunkers for the enrichment of uranium. This is the reason it is establishing a plutonium-producing heavy water facility. This is the reason it continues to develop inter-continental ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads to threaten the entire world.
  • Today, just like then, there are those who dismiss Iran’s extreme rhetoric as one that serves domestic purposes. Today, just like then, there are those who view Iran’s nuclear ambitions as the result of the natural will of a proud nation – a will that should be accepted. And just like then, those who make such claims are deluding themselves. They are making an historic mistake.
  • We are currently in the midst of fateful talks between Iran and the world powers. This time too, the truth is evident to all: Iran is seeking an agreement that will lift the sanctions and leave it as a nuclear threshold state, in other words, the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons within several months at most.
  • Iran wants a deal that will eliminate the sanctions and leave their nuclear capabilities intact. Such a deal, which will enable Iran to be a nuclear threshold state, will bring the entire world to the threshold of an abyss.
  • I hope that the lessons of the past will be learned and that the desire to avoid confrontation at any cost will not lead to a deal that will exact a much heavier price in the future.
  • I call on the leaders of the world powers to insist on a full dismantling of Iran’s capability to manufacture nuclear weapons, and to persist until this goal is achieved.
  • In any event, the people of Israel are strong. When faced with an existential threat, the situation of our people today is entirely different than it was during the Holocaust.
  • Today, we have a sovereign Jewish state. As Prime Minister of Israel, I do not hesitate to speak the truth to the world, even when faced with so many blind eyes and deaf ears. It is not only my right, it is my duty. It is a duty I am mindful of at all times, but particularly on this day, in this place.
  • On the eve of the Holocaust, there were Jews who avoided crying out to the world’s nations out of fear that the fight against the Nazis would become a Jewish problem. Others believed that if they kept silent, the danger would pass. The kept silent and the disaster struck. Today, we are not afraid to speak the truth to world leaders, as is written in our Bible: “I will speak of your testimonies before kings, and I will not be ashamed…listen, for I will speak noble thoughts; the opening of my lips will reveal right things.”
  • Unlike our situation during the Holocaust, when we were like leaves on the wind, defenseless, now we have great power to defend ourselves, and it is ready for any mission. This power rests on the courage and ingenuity of the soldiers of the IDF and our security forces. It is this power that enabled us, against all odds, to build the State of Israel.
  • Look at the remarkable achievements we have made in our 66 years of independence. All of us together – scientists, writers, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, employees, artists, farmers – the entire people of Israel, each one in their own field –  together we have built a glorious state. The spirit of the people of Israel is supreme, our accomplishments tremendous. Seven decades after the destruction of the Holocaust, the State of Israel is a global wonder.
  • On this day, on behalf of the Jewish people, I say to all those who sought to destroy us, to all those who still seek to destroy us: you have failed and you will fail.

Holocaust Remembrance Day: Here are four true heroes to remember.

 

Never forget. Never again.

Never forget. Never again.

(Jerusalem, Israel) — Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, said Santayana. Indeed, let us never forget.

Yom HaShoah begins on Sunday evening, April 27th.

Today, we remember the six million Jews that were murdered by the Nazis, including 1.5 million children. Today, we honor their memories, and pledge ourselves never to forget them. Today, we devote ourselves to making sure such evil is never allowed to happen again. This is not just a day for Jews. This is a day for the whole world to remember.

This evening, I will attend the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel’s renowned Holocaust memorial and research center. It is my first time being invited, and I am deeply honored to be able to participate. After the event, I will Tweet updates, and then post more on this blog, so you can track what is happening and consider its significance.

Over the next few days, I will also attend additional events and ceremonies with Holocaust survivors and scholars, Israeli leaders, and various Jewish and Christian leaders. I am very much looking forward to this, especially because several of the scholars here were enormously helpful as I was researching my new book. Indeed, I am planning to bring copies as gifts for the men and women who were so generous with their time and insights.

My hope and prayer this year is that in addition to remembering those who died in the “Shoah” — the Holocaust — we will also remember the four extraordinary heroes who escaped from Auschwitz 70 years ago this spring to tell the world the truth about what the Nazis were doing, the very men whose remarkable courage and selflessness inspired The Auschwitz Escape. They are:

  • Rudolf Vrba
  • Alfred Wetzler
  • Arnost Rosin
  • Czeslaw Mordowicz

Recently, FoxNews.com published a column I wrote giving their names and sketching out their dramatic stories. I hope you’ll take a moment to read the whole column, and then share it with others. Thanks so much. May more such heroes rise up in our generation.

REMEMBERING FOUR HEROES OF THE HOLOCAUST

They pulled off the greatest escape in human history – from a Nazi death camp – to tell the world the truth about Hitler, but no few know their names.

By Joel C. Rosenberg, for FoxNews.com

To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it.

In 1933, the world was blindsided by the rise of Adolf Hitler. 

In 1939, it was stunned by the German invasion of Poland and the Nazi leader’s bloodthirsty quest for global domination. Perhaps most tragically, most of the world did not understand Hitler’s plan to annihilate the Jews until it was almost too late.

Today, we face dangerous new threats from Iran, North Korea, and a rising czar in Russia, not from Germany. 

Yet curiously, in recent weeks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have each warned that as we confront current challenges we must be careful to learn the lessons of history regarding how the world failed to understand the threat posed by Hitler and the Nazis and deal with it decisively, before events spun out of control.

I agree, and as an example, I would point the extraordinary events that occurred in the spring of 1944. 

Four men pulled off the greatest escapes in all of human history, from a Nazi death camp in southern Poland. They did not simply escape to save their own lives. Nor did they escape merely to tell the world about a terrible crime against humanity that had been – and was being – committed. What set these true heroes apart is that they planned and executed their escapes in the hope of stopping a horrific crime before it was committed – the extermination of the Jews of Hungary.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of these escapes, and to draw attention to the significance these unknown – or unremembered – events, and the lessons they have to teach us, I recently wrote a work of historical fiction, “The Auschwitz Escape.” I changed the names of key figures involved so as not to put words in their mouths that cannot be verified to be their own. But it is my deepest hope that the book will cause many to dig into the real history of these remarkable heroes.

Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler were Slovak Jews. They escaped from Auschwitz on April 7, 1944.

Arnost Rosin was also a Slovak Jew. Czeslaw Mordowicz was a Polish Jew. Together they escaped from Auschwitz on May 27, 1944.

Upon making it safely to Czechoslovakia….

[To read the full column, click here.]

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“The Auschwitz Escape” now 4th week on New York Times best-seller list. Thank you.

NYT_home_bannerThank you all so much for the continued support and enthusiasm you’ve shown for The Auschwitz Escape.

We’ve just learned it will remain on the New York Times’ hardcover fiction best-seller list for the fourth week in a row. The first two weeks it was #11. The last two weeks it has been #20.

I’m deeply grateful for all of you who have talked about the book with friends, and have written reviews of the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, other book sites, on Facebook, your blogs, Twitter, and other social media. If you haven’t done so yet, please feel free to post a review on our “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook. I love to get your feedback.

My family and I are humbled by the interest in this new novel — and the true stories that inspired the book — and your encouraging reactions. God bless you! We so appreciate your support.

Hebrew University scholar says “third day” resurrection a Jewish concept that pre-dates Jesus. What does the Scriptural & archaeological evidence say?

 

"The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls," a fascinating book by Dr. Israel Knohl of Hebrew University.

“The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” a fascinating book by Dr. Israel Knohl of Hebrew University.

Today is Easter, and some two billion Christians around the world are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But did the Jews of Jesus’ time really believe the Messiah would one day come to earth, die as a “suffering servant” as an atonement for sins and the redemption of Israel, and rise from the dead on the third day?

A respected professor and Dead Sea Scrolls expert at Hebrew University says the death and “third day” resurrection of the Messiah is, in fact, a distinctly Jewish concept that pre-dates Jesus.

Dr. Israel Knohl has based on his conclusions on many years of research and recently analyzed archaeological evidence, including a previously unstudied Dead Sea Scroll. Indeed, Knohl argues that this notion of the Messiah rising on the third day is a pre-Christian concept that dates back to before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem Ephratah.

I had the opportunity to sit and discuss this with Dr. Knohl at length last summer and it was an absolutely fascinating conversation. 

I first heard of him when he drew worldwide media attention several years ago for his research, including a major article in the New York Times and several articles in Biblical Archaeology Review — see here, and here, and here.

The Times story, which ran under the headline, “Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection,” begins as follows: “A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days. If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time. The tablet, probably found near the Dead Sea in Jordan according to some scholars who have studied it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings from that era — in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on stone.” 

The tablet has been named by scholars as “Gabriel’s Revelation” because it suggests that the angel Gabriel was instructed by God to direct that the Messiah be raised from the dead on the third day.

The stone tablet was discovered about fifteen years ago and is owned by a Israeli-Swiss Jewish man by the name of David Jeselsohn who didn’t understand its significance when he purchased it. The Times article was published in 2008. Dr. Knohl then published a book about all this in 2009 entitled, Messiahs and Resurrection in “The Gabriel Revelation.” That was a follow up to his previous book, The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls (first published in Hebrew in 2000 and then in English in 2002).

In the book, Dr. Knohl explains the various Jewish theories about the Messiah, including the idea of a “Messiah son of David” who will be a reigning king on the earth like King David was, and a “Messiah son of Joseph” who will be rejected by his brothers, mistreated, left for dead but will eventually reappear and save not only the nation of Israel but the world like Joseph did in the book of Genesis.

As an evangelical Christian from a Jewish heritage (my father is Jewish, my mother is Gentile), this subject fascinates me and my family.

Several years ago, my wife and sons and I were studying the book of I Corinthians. One day we focused on I Corinithians 15:1-5, which reads, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you,unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve [apostles]. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time….”

We studied how the Hebrew Scriptures speak of the Messiah suffering and dying to atone for our sins and how we see these ancient prophecies described in Isaiah 53, in Daniel 9:26 (which says the Messiah will come for atonement, then be “cut off,” and afterwards Jerusalem and the Temple will be destroyed), and Psalm 22. We also looked carefully at the Gospel accounts to show how Jesus remarkably fulfilled each of these prophecies. Then I read excerpts of the Times story to Lynn and the boys, and we discussed why many Jewish people think the idea of a suffering Messiah who dies and rises again on the third day is a Christian idea, when really it is a Jewish idea, as explained with such intriguing research by Dr. Knohl. 

I would commend these articles — and his books — to your attention. Read them yourself. Study and discuss them with family and friends.

And today, on this Easter Sunday, consider the following critically important questions:

  • What if the Gospel story is true?
  • What if Jesus not only died for our sins but was buried and raised from the dead on the third day, according to the ancient Hebrew prophecies?
  • Why should that matter?
  • How should you respond?

Please click here for a simple, concise summary of the Gospel message, and a clear explanation of how best to respond.

Millions of former Muslims will celebrate Easter this year. Meet one, Hormoz Shariat, the “Billy Graham of Iran.”

Hormoz Shariat, the "Billy Graham of Iran," and I discuss the Gospel on live satellite TV broadcast into the Persian speaking world.

Hormoz Shariat, the “Billy Graham of Iran,” and I discuss the Gospel — the good news of how Muslims, Jews, and all people can be forgiven and go to heaven — on live satellite TV broadcast into Iran.

(Washington, D.C.) — In 1979, there were fewer than 500 Muslim converts to Christianity in all of Iran. Today, there are over one million Iranian who love Jesus Christ, have become His followers, and are celebrating Easter.

In fact, this Easter millions of former Muslims throughout the Middle East, North Africa and central Asia are celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whereas they once saw Jesus as merely a prophet, now they are convinced that He is God, and they have renounced Islam and chosen to follow Him no matter what it costs them.

In my 2009 non-fiction book, Inside The Revolution, I wrote several chapters about this extraordinary trend of Muslims leaving Islam and becoming Christ-followers. In the book, I described my travels from Morocco to Afghanistan, interviewing “MBBs,” Muslim Background Believers in Jesus.

One of the leaders of this movement that I profiled in the book is Dr. Hormoz Shariat. He was a Shia Muslim in Iran in 1979 shouting, “Death to America!” on the streets of Tehran with his Muslim wife. But within a few years, they were actually living in the U.S. and had both become Christians after dramatic conversion experiences. They started sharing the Gospel with friends and leading them to Christ. In time, they started planting churches of Iranian believers, and eventually founded a satellite TV ministry to broadcast the Gospel and discipleship training into Iran and the Persian speaking world.

In the book, I dubbed Hormoz “the Billy Graham of Iran,” because God has raised him up to preach the Gospel to millions in their native language of Farsi. Now, a Christian magazine has just profiled Hormoz. I was interviewed for the article and was honored to discuss my friendship and respect for him.

I commend the article to your attention and encourage you not only to read it in full, but to share it with others.

Please be praying for Hormoz and his family and team, as well as for all MBBs this Easter season. They face intense spiritual opposition, and persecution. But they have see the great hope and freedom and forgiveness and peace that comes from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and most are eager to share the good news of God’s amazing grace and love with the Muslim world, regardless of the challenges and dangers they face.

THE BILLY GRAHAM OF IRAN

By Troy Anderson, Charisma Magazine, April 2014

Not long after the Iran hostage crisis, the authorities arrested Hormoz Shariat’s 16-year-old brother, Hamraz, on a minor political charge. At the time, Hormoz was a new believer in America and was confident his brother, a political activist who had a small role with the Mujahedeen, would be released. But in 1984, after two years in jail, Shariat’s brother was executed by a firing squad.

Shocked by the news of his brother’s death, Shariat broke down crying, asking God why He let it happen. He felt anger toward God and the people who killed his brother. A few days later, Shariat told God he wanted revenge—but then he recalled the Bible’s words that say, “Vengeance is Mine” (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19). Shariat told God he hated those who had killed his brother—but then he remembered Jesus said anyone who is angry with their brother has already murdered them in their heart (Matt. 5:21-22).

He says he felt the Lord saying to him in prayer, “You know who your enemy is? These people—the clergy and the leaders of Iran—are not your enemy. They are lost children. You have only one enemy. Satan has been working to bring about this injustice. If you want to hurt Satan, evangelize. It hurts him really bad when you bring people to Christ.”

As Shariat tells it, that’s when he committed himself to sharing the gospel the rest of his life.

“I had a vision that by the end of my life I could bring 1 million Muslims to know Him,” he says. “I also learned that God’s love is the greatest power we have to stop Islam and help Muslim captives be free.”

Visions of Jesus

In the three decades since Shariat set his resolve, this minister—dubbed “the Billy Graham of Iran” by New York Times best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg—has not only watched that goal come to fruition, but has also been given a front-row seat to one of the most astonishing supernatural phenomenon in modern times: thousands of people in Iran and throughout the Middle East reporting visitations of Jesus in dreams and visions.

“It’s amazing,” says Shariat, who founded the satellite broadcasting ministry Iran Alive Ministries in 2001. “God is graciously appearing to people in visions, dreams and through miracles. Sometimes they have dreams or visions of Jesus, run across our satellite television broadcast, hear the gospel, and then they believe. They may have, as children, had dreams or saw visions of Jesus. The vision or dream prepares them for the gospel. Other times they watch our program, ask if this is true or not, and then they have a dream or vision that confirms what they heard.”

Shariat believes the message is clear—that God is telling Christians in the West, “You look at them as terrorists who have no hope of salvation. Are you looking at them that way? I’m not. Look at Me. I’m appearing to them. I’m doing it Myself. Would you join Me to reach out to the Muslims?”

Rosenberg wrote about this phenomenon of dreams and visions in his book Inside the Revolution. “It’s an exciting development,” he says, “and it’s consistent with the Bible prophecies found in Joel 2, in which the Lord says in the last days He will pour our His Holy Spirit and people will see dreams and visions.”

Explosion of Faith

Since the hostage crisis ended in 1981, Rosenberg says the number of Christians in Iran has increased exponentially, from 500 to a conservative estimate of 1 million. Shariat, however,  says the number may be far larger, noting that Iran—the world’s only theocracy, with 76 million residents—has the fastest-growing evangelical Christian population on the planet, according to the latest edition of Operation World’s manual. In fact, more Persians have come to Christ in the 35 years since the Islamic Revolution than in the prior 1,400 years combined—and most of these conversions have occurred in the past decade, as an estimated 62 million Iranians have gained access to the gospel message through satellite TV broadcasts….

[To read the rest of this fascinating article, please click here]

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>> Would you like to read a short explanation of the Gospel, and how you can have a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ? Please click here and read “The Four Spiritual Laws.”

>> An historic Christian awakening is under way in Iran. I discuss the inside story in this 20 minute interview with Dr. Hormoz Shariat.

>> Watch Hormoz Shariat share his story at an Epicenter Conference (YouTube)

>> Hormoz Shariat interviews Joel Rosenberg on satellite TV into Iran (YouTube)

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Leaflets ordering Jews to register in east Ukraine city or be deported creating fear. Pro-Russian separatists say order isn’t real. But someone is trying to scare Ukrainian Jews. The question is: Who? Statement by Natan Sharansky

ukraine-mapUPDATED: Here is a statement issued by Natan Sharanksy, head of the Jewish Agency — “an act of provocation.” 

(Washington, D.C.) — There is a deeply disturbing article in the USA Today that I encourage you to read and share with others. It reports that leaflets are being spread throughout the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk saying that government officials controlled by pro-Russian forces are ordering Jews to register with local authorities and pay a fee, or they could be deported and their assets could be confiscated.

Secretary of State John Kerry today called such actions “intolerable” and “grotesque.” But pro-Russian separatists flatly deny the allegations that they have been distributing leaflets requiring Jews to register. 

The leaflets exist. They’ve been spread all over the city of Donetsk. They’re even printed on official government stationary and they bear the signature of the mayor. But the mayor says he didn’t write it. So who did? Are they a hoax, or official policy?

One thing is clear: someone is targeting the Jewish people of Ukraine, trying to instill fear in them, and trying to get them to leave the country.

The threat left many of the 15,000 Jews of Donetsk ‘shocked and hysterical,’ the chief rabbi of the city told The Daily Beast in an interview on Thursday,” reports the Daily Beast. “He pointed out where one of the leaflets had been left on a tree outside his synagogue on Oktiabskaya Street. In all of his 20-year service in Donetsk, Rabbi Pinhas Vyshedski said, he could never imagine that anything as ‘cynical’ and ‘anti-human’ could ever happen to his community.”

Here’s the latest:

That said, given the long history of virulent anti-Semitism in the region, there is reason to be concerned for the safety of the roughly 200,000 Jewish people in Ukraine.

Consider recent headlines:

As I write about in The Auschwitz Escape, Adolf Hitler made similar legal moves against the Jewish people in the early 1930s, separating them out from the rest of the population. We know where it led — the Final Solution and the gas chambers a few years later. We cannot yet say where the leaders of Donetsk are going with this, but clearly such moves bode ill.

Please pray for the Jewish people in Crimea and throughout Ukraine, for safety and protection and for the Lord to truly bless them amidst this crisis and beyond.

Please also pray for Israeli leaders and other Jewish leaders as they determine how to respond to these developments, should they prove to be true. Is it possible that soon Israel will have to begin airlifting Jews out of Ukraine? If that happens, the Christian community must stand with the Jewish people and help in every way.

Here’s one of the key news reports that set off the international furor:

Jews ordered to register in east Ukraine

By Oren Dorrell, USA Today, April 17, 2014

Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to “register” with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Israeli media.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.

Donetsk is the site of an “anti-terrorist” operation by the Ukraine government, which has moved military columns into the region to force out militants who are demanding a referendum be held on joining Russia.

The leaflets bore the name of Denis Pushilin, who identified himself as chairman of “Donetsk’s temporary government,” and were distributed near the Donetsk synagogue and other areas, according to the report.

Pushilin acknowledged the flyers were distributed by his organization but he disavowed their content, according to the web site Jews of Kiev, Ynet reported.

Emanuel Shechter, in Israel, told Ynet his friends in Donetsk sent him a copy of the leaflet through social media.

“They told me that masked men were waiting for Jewish people after the Passover eve prayer, handed them the flyer and told them to obey its instructions,” he said.

The leaflet begins, “Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and “register.”

It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, “and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk,” a name adopted by the militant leadership.

The leaflet then described which documents Jews should provide: “ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”

Consequences for non-compliance will result in citizenship bein g revoked “and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.” A registration fee of $50 would be required, it said.

Olga Reznikova, 32, a Jewish resident of Donetsk, told Ynet she never experienced anti-Semitism in the city until she saw this leaflet.

“We don’t know if these notifications were distributed by pro-Russian activists or someone else, but it’s serious that it exists,” she said. “The text reminds of the fascists in 1941,” she said referring to the Nazis who occupied Ukraine during World War II.

Michael Salberg, director of the international affairs at the New York City-based Anti-Defamation League, said it’s unclear if the leaflets were issued by the pro-Russian leadership or a splinter group operating within the pro-Russian camp.

But the Russian side has used the sceptre of anti-Semitism in a cynical manner since anti-government protests began in Kiev that resulted in the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych. Russia and its allies in Ukraine issued multiple stories about the the threat posed to Jews by Ukraine’s new pro-Western government in Kiev, Salberg said.

Those stories were based in part on ultra-nationalists who joined the Maidan protests, and the inclusion of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party in Ukraine’s new interim government. But the threat turned out to be false, he said.

Svoboda’s leadership needs to be monitored, but so far it has refrained from anti-Semitic statements since joining the government, he said. And the prevalence of anti-Semitic acts has not changed since before the Maidan protests, according to the ADL and the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, which monitors human rights in Ukraine.

Distributing such leaflets is a recruitment tool to appeal to the xenophobic fears of the majority, to enlist them to your cause and focus on a common enemy, the Jews,” Salberg said.

And by targeting Donetsk’s Jews, they also send a message to all the region’s residents, Salberg said.

“The message is a message to all the people that is we’re going to exert our power over you,” he said. “Jews are the default scapegoat throughout history for despots to send a message to the general public: Don’t step out of line.”

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