BREAKING: Cease-fire announced after 690 rockets. Now, two big questions: 1) Will it hold? 2) Will latest rocket war affect roll-out of Trump Peace Initiative?

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — A cease-fire — negotiated behind the scenes by Egypt, Qatar and the U.N. — went into effect at 4:30am local time (9:30pm in Washington), after the most intense two-day rocket war in Israel’s history. See details below.

Now, we face two big questions:

  1. Will the cease-fire hold? As I post this column at 9:30am local time on Monday morning, five hours after it was agreed to, none of the terms of the deal have been released to the public. In my experience with past rocket wars going back a decade or more, we often see Hamas and Islamic Jihad break the deal several times in the first 48 hours or so, firing off a few salvos of additional rockets, and triggering more retaliations by the IDF. Please pray that this cease-fire holds firmly. Pray, too, that the Lord will comfort both Israelis and Palestinians who have been injured, have lost family or friends, and who have been traumatized by the wickedness and sheer intensity of the past few days.
  2. Will the latest rocket war between Israelis and Palestinians affect the roll-out of the Trump Peace Initiative? At the moment, the plan is expected to be released to the public in mid-June after Ramadan ends. Short version: I believe the administration will likely still release the plan this summer and the roll-out won’t be significantly affected by the rocket war. That said, I believe the latest round of fighting underscores how difficult — perhaps impossible — it will be for the Palestinian leadership to say yes to almost any plan the White House unveils, no matter how good, creative and constructive. I hope I’m wrong. It would be wonderful to see the two sides find a way to make real and lasting peace. But I remain of the view that Abbas has no interest — and no real authority — to make the compromises necessary for a deal. He clearly doesn’t control Gaza. And he is deeply disliked in the West Bank. Some 60% of Palestinians want him to resign. According to the latest poll done in March, “demand for Abbas’ resignation stands at 55% in the West Bank and 68% in the Gaza Strip.” Only 34% of Palestinians support the job Abbas is doing. [Note: In December 2017, fully 70% of Palestinians wanted Abbas to step down immediately; his standing has improved somewhat since then.] By contrast, I believe the Arabs leaders in the Gulf are growing increasingly interested in making peace with Israel and that Palestinian rejection of the Trump plan could actually accelerate movement in a positive direction in the Gulf. We will see soon enough. In the meantime, let’s continue to be praying for the peace of Jerusalem and the entire region. To better understand what is coming, I encourage you to watch online a conversation with Jared Kushner, the chief architect of the peace plan, that he had last Thursday night in an excellent event organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Interview by WINEP Executive Director Rob Satloff, Kushner discusses the administration’s goals, why they believe now is the right time to release the plan, and why they believe past peace efforts have failed. I also encourage you to watch a Washington Institute discussion with Mideast experts analyzing what Kushner said and did not say. 

Here’s a snapshot of the two-day conflict, by-the-numbers:

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UPDATE: We’ve now topped 600 rockets fired at Israel in 36 hours. Israel assassinates senior Hamas leader. Three Israelis & 12 Palestinians dead as crisis intensifies. 150 Iron Dome intercepts, but direct hit on Israeli factory. Here is the latest. #PrayForIsrael #PrayForGaza

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UPDATED at 6:00pm local time: (Jerusalem, Israel) — Here is the latest:

  • UPDATE: “The Israeli military said it struck over 260 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza on Sunday in retaliation for 600 rockets launched from the Strip that have killed three Israelis,” reports Haaretz.
  • UPDATE: “Gaza health ministry says Israeli strikes killed 12, injured 105 since Saturday,” reports i24 News. 
  • UPDATE: “Senior Israeli Air Force Officer says over 600 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip,” reports a correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. 
  • UPDATE: The Iron Dome is functioning at 86% accuracy, but Israelis officials caution that no defense is perfect and under such a heavy barrage some rockets are going to get through and do serious damage, even take lives.
  • UPDATE: As of Sunday afternoon, 13 people in Israel were hit by rockets, missiles and mortar shells from the Gaza Strip, including two seriously injured, two moderately injured and six lightly wounded, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service,” reports the Times of Israel. “Twelve people were also lightly injured running to bomb shelters, while 66 people received medical treatment after suffering anxiety attacks from the strikes.”
  • UPDATE: Eleven Palestinians have been in Gaza, reports Haaretz.
  • UPDATE: “Hamed Khoudary, 34, was killed in an Israeli airstrike less than an hour ago, while he was driving his car. Was responsible for transferring money from Iran to military factions in Gaza. This is the first targeted assassination in a while,” the Washington Post reported in a Tweet, citing a statement by the IDF.
  • After a massive and near-continuous barrage in the early afternoon, we are now at least 507 rockets and mortar shells that have been fired at Israel from Gaza since 10am on Saturday.
  • At least 150 rockets have been intercepted so far by the Iron Dome system, while 70% of the rockets have hit open fields, or malfunctioned and fallen into the Gaza Strip itself.
  • One rocket made a direct hit on a factory in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
  • An Israeli car also took a direct hit, possibly from an anti-tank missile.
  • Three Israeli are now dead — a 58-year old father of four who was taking a smoking break outside his bomb shelter when rockets landed nearby, and two people killed as a results of these new direct hits. 
  • Three Israelis have also been critically wounded.
  • At least 80 Israeli civilians have been treated for stress and trauma.
  • “The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli strikes had killed six Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her 14-month-old niece in their east Gaza City home Saturday,” reported the Associated Press. “However, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Sunday that a detailed review found that a Palestinian rocket had misfired [thus landing inside Gaza rather than reaching Israel] and killed them. He said the Palestinians were ‘trying to sell a story that isn’t true.’ The conflicting accounts could not immediately be reconciled.”
  • More detailed information on Palestinian injuries is not currently available, but I’ll share more when I can.
  • “The Israeli military says it has targeted some 40 additional sites throughout the Gaza Strip in response to ongoing rocket and mortar attacks from the coastal enclave,” reports the Times of Israel. “In a statement, the IDF says the targets include tunnels and underground bunkers, military bases, weapons factories and rocket launching sites. In addition, the military targeted a number of weapons caches that it says were hidden inside the homes of Hamas operatives ‘deliberately near civilian populations.'”
  • “Iran, through Islamic Jihad — its proxy in Gaza — is behind the current escalation in the South, former national security advisor Yaakov Amidror said on Sunday,” reports The Jerusalem Post. “ran’s interest, Amidror said, is for Israel to embark on another major operation in Gaza, freeing up Tehran to do what it wants unhindered in Syria. The Iranian idea, he said, is that ‘Israel will be busy focusing on Gaza and not have enough energy to deal with the building up of an independent war machine in Syria.’ Iranian pressure, Amidror hinted, is the only explanation for why Islamic Jihad would fire on an IDF patrol while its leaders were in Cairo talking about an arrangement with Israel.”
  • Please don’t stop praying for Israelis and Palestinians on both sides of the border. Thank you so much.

For my last blog post on the crisis, please click here.

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BREAKING: More than 450 rockets have been fired at Israel in the last 24 hours. More inbound right now. An Israeli father of four has just been killed. Here is the latest. Please pray for Israelis & Palestinians on both sides of the border. #PrayForPeace

Gaza-rocketsMay5 (Jerusalem, Israel) — Here are the latest developments:

A new barrage of rockets have been fired at Israel in the last few minutes, shattering the relative calm of the last few hours.

As of 12:30pm local time here in Israel, here are the latest developments:

  • ROCKETSMore than 450 rockets have been fired at Israel’s southern communities since 10am local time on Saturday — more than 100 have been shot down by Israel’s “Iron Dome” rocket defense system.
  • RESPONSE: The IDF has struck more than 220 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza over the past 24 hours, including the homes of Islamic Jihad commanders.
  • SCHOOLS: All the schools in southern Israel are closed — more than 200,000 Israeli children are home today to be with their parents and close to their family bomb shelters.
  • CASUALTIES: “An Israeli man was killed when a rocket slammed into his home in southern Israel early Sunday morning, as Gazan terrorists pummeled Israeli towns with projectiles and Israel responded with hundreds of airstrikes,” reports the Times of Israel. “The man, identified as Moshe Agadi, 58, a father of four, was declared dead after being rushed to Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital with shrapnel wounds he sustained when the rocket hit his home in the city at around 2:30 a.m. Sunday. Agadi appeared to be the first Israeli fatality from Gazan rocket attacks since 2014’s war with terrorists based in the Strip.” Please pray for the Lord to comfort this man’s family and friends.
  • THE PRIME MINISTER: “Israel will continue its ‘massive attacks’ against terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday morning in his first public comments,” reports the Jerusalem Post. “In addition, Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting, he gave the directive to reinforce the IDF troops around Gaza with additional tank, artillery and infantry units.”
  • “Hamas bears responsibility not only for its attacks and actions, but also for the activities of the Islamic Jihad, and it is paying a very heavy price,” Netanyahu said.
  • CEASEFIRE EFFORTS: So far, there have been no reports of formal efforts underway to re-establish a ceasefire. That said, I’m sure that at least informal efforts are underway. I’m deeply grateful for the role Egyptian President el-Sisi and his intelligence chief have been playing over the past several years. The Egyptians are actively working to persuade Hamas and other terror groups operating in the Gaza Strip to de-escalate tensions with Israel and to re-unify with the government of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. This is no easy task, but the Egyptians have been steadfast in it. It represents how serious President Sisi is in maintaining — and improving — peace and close security and intelligence ties with Israel, and trying to help broker a real and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

PRAYER REQUESTS:

  • Please pray for the immediate restoration of calm.
  • Pray for mercy for all those living on both sides of the border.
  • Pray for wisdom for Israeli leaders to know how best to deal with the situation.
  • Pray for wisdom for Egyptian leaders to know how best to help.
  • Pray that the suffering Palestinians of Gaza are soon liberated from the Hellish Hamas tyranny that is ruining their lives.
  • Pray for Palestinian leaders in Ramallah to truly and clearly denounce these terror attacks, and play a serious and decisive role in liberating the people of Gaza.
  • Pray for Palestinians Evangelicals to be boldly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their suffering brothers and sisters in Gaza, that they may know the love and hope and forgiveness and “peace that passes all understanding” that is available to all who receive Christ as Savior and Lord.

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BREAKING: Hamas & Islamic Jihad have fired nearly 300 rockets at Israel today. Meanwhile, Saudis invite Jewish delegation to visit & a senior Saudi Muslim leader is going to visit Auschwitz.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — We’re seeing both bad news and good in the Middle East tonight.

Let’s start with the bad. As of 11:30pm local time, here are the latest developments in today’s terrible rocket war:

  • Nearly 300 rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday.
  • Three rockets have just hit Beersheba, Israel’s largest southern city, home to some 200,000 people.
  • The IDF has retaliated by striking 120 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.
  • No Israelis have died, but 41 have been treated at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, near the Gaza border, for a range of injuries or complications related to stress.
  • One Palestinian has reportedly died, and 17 have been injured.
  • No cease fire talks have been reported so far, but it is likely that Egyptian intelligence is working behind the scenes to de-escalate the situation, as this is the role they have played — and played very well — over the past several years.
  • Please continue to pray for calm to be restored and for the Lord to comfort all those on both sides of the Gaza border who have been physically or emotionally wounded during the last 18 hours.

That said, there have been two very positive developments in the region over the past 24 hours, and both involve Saudi Arabia.

First, Dr. Mohammed al-Issa, Director of the Muslim World League (MWL), has announced that in January he will visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in southern Poland. One of the most influential Muslim leaders in the world, Dr. al-Issa is a Saudi national, and the MWL he runs is based in Riyadh. We met last November when I led a Delegation of Evangelical leaders to Saudi Arabia. Dr. al-Issa sat in the two-hour meeting we had with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Then, after we finished our time at the palace, Dr. al-Issa invited our Delegation to come back to the MWL offices where we spent several hours discussing how Saudi leaders are now combatting radical Islamism and promoting moderate Islam, a major change from previous decades.

I believe Dr. al-Issa’s decision to visit Auschwitz, along with the work is doing to combat Holocaust deniers in the Muslim world, is historic and should be applauded. Indeed, “al-Issa will be the highest ranking Muslim leader to visit the Nazi death camp,” reported the Saudi Gazette.

Second, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also decided to welcome a Delegation of Jewish leaders to visit in January. This, too, is being coordinated by Dr. al-Issa, along with the American Jewish Congress, and this is also a remarkable development.

Historically, Jews have not legally been allowed to set foot in the Kingdom. This has been changing bit by bit, with Jewish business leaders, executives, reporters and policy makers being able to receive visas to visit in recent years. 

I was stunned last Fall to become the first Israeli citizen allowed not only to travel into the Kingdom but to meet publicly and openly with the Crown Prince and other members of the Royal Family and senior leadership. 

To be sure, the politics and culture of Saudi Arabia remain highly complicated. The Crown Prince and his policies remain among the most controversial in the world. Many are deeply concerned by the human rights environment in the kingdom, myself included. None of those issues are going away any time soon.

That said, a number of Arab Gulf states — the Saudis included — are making important and positive moves towards the U.S., towards Israel, towards Evangelical Christians and towards the Jewish community. These should not be dismissed. Rather, we should welcome these moves, even while encouraging Arab leaders throughout the region, including in KSA, to improve the quality of life for all of their people, expand religious freedom, end human rights abuses, and work even more closely with the West to neutralize the Iran threat and combat all forms of radical Islamist terrorism.

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BREAKING: 150+ rockets have been fired at Israel today. More inbound at this moment. Here’s the latest. #PrayForPeace

Gaza-rockets3(Jerusalem, Israel) — More than 150 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at southern Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza since early Saturday morning. As I write this report at 5:45pm local time, another barrage is underway.

Thus far, there have been three Israelis wounded. No number of Palestinian injuries have been reported yet, but it is likely that there will be many.

The rockets are reaching deeper into Israeli territory than usual. One rocket hit Beit Shemesh, a religious community about 30 minutes south of Jerusalem.

The onslaught — the most intense we’ve seen after months of calm — comes just days after Holocaust Memorial, and days before Israeli mark Memorial Day and our 71st Independence Day this coming week. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently holding an emergency meeting with senior military commanders at the IDF war room in Tel Aviv.

So far, IDF forces have launched at least 30 retaliatory air strikes, targeting Hamas and IJ command centers and other military facilities. 

Developing…..

  • Please pray for the immediate restoration of calm.
  • Pray for mercy for all those living on both sides of the border.
  • Pray for wisdom for Israeli leaders to know how best to deal with the situation.
  • Pray that the suffering Palestinians of Gaza are soon liberated from the Hellish Hamas tyranny that is ruining their lives.

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Why I wrote “The Auschwitz Escape.” As anti-Semitism spikes, we must teach our children the lessons of the Holocaust.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — Yesterday, Israelis solemnly marked “Yom HaShoah,” the annual day in which we pause to remember the six million Jews exterminated during the Holocaust. At 10am, all over the country, air raid sirens wail for two straight minutes. All traffic stops. All commerce halts. Everyone stands at attention and remembers what was, and what could be again one day if we do not remain vigilant against the forces of evil.

This morning, I’ve decided to re-post a column I wrote several years ago, explaining how I came to write my only work of historical fiction as my way of helping inspire more people to learn about the Holocaust. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read the column, and share it with your children, and with other family and friends.

With hatred of Jewish people once again spiking around the world — a new report released this week finds that anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. doubled in 2018 — and now with the ghastly shooting inside the synagogue near San Diego, this is precisely the right time to be discussing such matters, and how to counter them, again.

REFLECTIONS ON WRITING THE AUSCHWITZ ESCAPE

One of the most important things for a writer to do is get out of the house and go to someplace you’ve never been before. You’ve got to get out of the office and go visit places where fascinating, important things have happened. Yes, spend some money. You can’t just sit around reading and researching, even though those things are important. You need to go and feel and touch and see and smell history. You need to meet people and ask questions, and, most importantly, listen carefully to their answers.

In November of 2011, I decided to go to visit the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. I’d never been there before. I didn’t really even want to go. But I knew I had to. So I invited several friends – a pastor from the U.S. and his wife, and a pastor from Germany and his wife. Unfortunately, my wife, Lynn, wasn’t able to join me. But the trip had a profound effect on me.

It was a surreal and sobering experience to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. It’s hard to describe the emotions of standing in an actual gas chamber where people were murdered, seeing the ovens where bodies were burned, walking through the cell blocks, seeing the guard towers and barbed wire and train tracks. It was haunting to realize that more than one million people were systematically murdered there, and most of them were Jews.

Auschwitz EscapeWhile I was there, I purchased a book that explained that there had been many escape attempts from Auschwitz, but only a handful of successful escapes. I was stunned. We had hired a special guide to take us through the camp. He was a bright, educated man. He had been an excellent guide, and we had learned so much. But he hadn’t mentioned anything about escapes. I had never heard about any escapes. But this book gave a brief description of several of them.

Intrigued, as soon as I got home, I started tracking down any resource I could about these men who had risked everything to get out. How had they succeeded? What was their plan? Who helped them? What did they do when they got out? Did they tell anyone in the Jewish community, or among the Allies, what they had seen, what the Nazis were doing at Auschwitz? The more I learned, the more intrigued I became. It turned out there were several non-fiction books written by several of the men who escaped, and several about them. There were even several novels on the subject. But they were old. Some were out of print. If they once had been discussed – I’m sure they were – they seemed long forgotten.

As I continued to do my research, I realized that April 7th, 2014 would be the 70th anniversary of the greatest escape in human history – the day Rudolf Vrba and Fred Wetzler escaped from the worst of the Nazi death camps. That’s Vrba and Wetzlerwhen I began thinking about writing a novel inspired by these true stories that might draw attention back to the greatest escape in human history by men determined to tell the world the truth about what Adolf Hitler was really doing to the Jews. If I could finish it and release it by the spring of 2014, I thought I might be able help people remember these incredible stories of courage and heroism and faith.

Without question, The Auschwitz Escape was by far the most emotionally exhausting book I’ve ever written. By that I mean I had to immerse myself in the history of the Holocaust – books, documentary films, web sites, museums, research centers, conversations with survivors, conversations with experts, and so forth. And the history is more horrific that you can possibly imagine. Even when you think you understand what happened back then, you uncover more darkness, more evil. My wife and kids could see the effect it was having on me. I could see it, as well.

I knew the story needed hope. Yes, the fact that men escape from this unimaginably cruel extermination camp provides hope. They live. They survive. They tell others. Absolutely. But it wasn’t enough. For me, as an Evangelical with Jewish roots on my father’s side, I wanted to find out if any Christians did the right thing to help the Jews. Intellectually, I knew the answer was yes, there were Christians who had done the right thing. But I also knew that far too many people who said they loved Jesus refused to obey Him, refused to love their neighbors during the darkest period in the history of the Jewish people. Some were too scared. Some lost their faith. Some never had any faith at all, they were just giving lip service to the Gospel. It breaks my heart, but tragically it is true. Far too many so-called “Christians” failed the Jewish people when they needed us most.

That’s when I stumbled upon the story of Le Chambon sur Lignon and the Evangelical pastors of this little Protestant village in France who risked their lives to save thousands of Jews fleeing from Hitler and the Nazis. The more I read, the more I knew this was the story of hope I needed to weave into the novel. And I think it’s the combination of the two stories – the story of a German Jewish teenage boy whose family is nearly wiped out and is sent to Auschwitz, and that a young Frenchman who is a husband and a father and an assistant pastor in Le Chambon, both fictional, but both inspired by true stories – it’s the fusion, the combination of these two story lines, that makes The Auschwitz Escape storyline work for me.

Soon, I got fascinated in who these young men were, how they get sent to Auschwitz, how they met, how different they are, and how they get involved in these escapes. This is what gave me hope, even excitement, if I can use that term, to write every day – trying to understand them and going on this hero’s journey with them both not entirely knowing when I began how the story would wind up exactly.

In addition to going to Auschwitz, and reading everything I could get my hands on, I also traveled to Israel and visited Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum and research center. The leaders there were very gracious and allowed me to come twice, meet with several of their scholars, ask them many questions, tour their facilities, and try to make sure my work of historical fiction was as accurate as I could possibly make it. Several of the scholars actually knew some of the men who had escaped, had interviewed them, had long discussions with them, and their insights were so helpful.

They also took me down into their vaults and showed me copies of “The Auschwitz Protocol,” the document that was compiled by eyewitness accounts from Rudolf Vrba, Alfred (Fred) Wetzler, Arnost Rosin, and Czeslaw Mordowicz, the four Jewish heroes who risked their lives to tell the world the truth about what the Nazis were really up to. Too OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfew people know these four men’s names, but I hope that will change. The Yad Vashem scholars helped me better understand who they were, and what they wrote, and I hope you take time to understand them, too. It was absolutely fascinating, and I’m deeply grateful for their help.

Now that the book is out, I’ll be curious to see how people react and what kind of questions they ask.

The hardest thing for people to really understand, I think, when it comes to the Holocaust, is that it happened at all, and that it could happen again. How could human beings do such ghastly things to other human beings? How could it have happened in our parents’ and grandparents’ lifetimes? These are haunting questions, especially when you think of all the evil that is going on in the world today.

One of the central points I make in the book is this: “Evil, unchecked, is the prelude to genocide.” What I mean by that is when people don’t act decisively to stop evil, that evil grows and grows until it robs, kills and destroys everyone in its path.

The problem is that so many in our modern, Western, “sophisticated” world don’t believe in evil. They don’t want to talk about it. They don’t believe evil is a real force in our world today. And this is dangerous. As I’ve said in the past, “to misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it.”

Americans didn’t understand the evil Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime represented for far too long. So we didn’t act decisively until six million Jews were killed, and millions of others were killed as well. We didn’t understand the evil Saddam Hussein represented until he gassed the Kurds and raped and pillaged Kuwait. We didn’t understand the evil Osama bin Laden represented until he killed some 3,000 of us, and had built a global network of Radical Islamic jihadists that we’re still fighting, more than a decade after 9/11.

The Scriptures tell us that evil is real.

The word “evil” is used 510 times in the New American Standard Bible.

The first time is in Genesis 2:9, speaking of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

The next to last time in 3 John 1:11 – “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.”

The last time is in the Book of Revelation, chapter two, verse two, in the Lord Jesus Christ’s message to the church in Ephesus – “‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.”

But today, I don’t think many world leaders truly understand the evil that the leaders of Iran represent. 

The mullahs in Tehran are telling us they want to “wipe Israel off the map.” They say they want to destroy the United States – whom they call the “Great Satan” — even as they move steadily towards nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. That is evil. The Iranian leadership wants to bring about a Second Holocaust. This is evil. A new poll we just conducted finds that 80% of Americans believe that Iran wants to bring about a “Second Holocaust.”

Americans overwhelmingly understand the danger.

Yet many Western leaderse do not. And I – like many Americans – are deeply concerned that they are not taking decisive action to stop this evil before it’s too late.

Another concern I have is that the longer time passes — it’s been seven decades since the Holocaust happened – and the further away we get from the events, the bigger the danger that people will forget what happened, and stop learning the lessons from the Holocaust.

The good news is that there is more Holocaust education being done today than perhaps at any other time. There are museums and books and novels and plays and movies. But just because more is available doesn’t mean we are really teaching our young people, for example, what happened and how to prevent such evil from triumphing again.

Schindler's_List_movieTake Schindler’s List, the Academy Award winning film by Steven Spielberg. That was a work of art, inspired by a true story from the Holocaust. It was so powerful. But that film was released in 1993. That’s more than a quarter of a century ago. Yes, many people have seen it. But the memory of the film fades, and a whole generation of kids are unfamiliar with it.

Perhaps in some small way, The Auschwitz Escape will help draw some attention back to these important stories, and the vital lessons we can and must learn from them.

Maybe the book will inspire people to take their kids to a Holocaust museum.

Maybe it will inspire them to read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, and The Diary of Anne Frank, and Night by Elie Wiesel, and Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer, or any of the other books that I used in the research for this novel, all of which are listed in the back.

Maybe it will inspire them to start praying for Israel and the Jewish people, to start investing in organizations like The Joshua Fund that cares for Holocaust survivors, or even take their family to visit Israel.

I hope so. A novel has a way of capturing people’s imagination, of drawing people into a story, of helping them go into a world so foreign to them and feel it, experience it in a very powerful way. But in the end, a novel is just a story. We need to do more than read about history. We need to make history. We need to apply what we learn. We need to go show the love of Jesus to people who need His love, His mercy, His kindness.

Maybe The Auschwitz Escape will inspire people to rediscover the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to love Him more deeply, and to love others in His name.

Maybe.

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Last week, I was interviewed by a Saudi newspaper & Christianity Today about the White House peace plan. Here’s what I told them, even as the Turkish & Qatari media spread lies & Palestinians vow to defeat a peace plan they haven’t read.

SaudiPaper-Joel-frontpageUPDATED: Now that the Israeli elections are over, the White House is signaling it will release its much-awaited plan to help establish Middle East peace, most likely around mid-June.

As that release approaches, I’ve been called by reporters from the Associated Press, Axios, the Christian Broadcasting Network, Christianity Today, CNN, the Religion News Service, a Saudi newspaper, and others, asking for insights.

No one yet knows what’s in the final peace plan.

Yet Turkish media, Qatari media (including the Doha-based Al Jazeera satellite news network), and other media outlets are continually attacking President Trump and his team, propagating lies about Israel, attacking the Gulf states who are warming to normalization of ties with Israel, and promoting the narrative of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist and pro-jihadist organizations. What’s more, they are disseminating all manner of falsehoods about what is supposedly in the Trump plan, all in the hopes of scuttling any hope of Arab-Israeli peace and discrediting and delegitimizing the plan before its even released. (for just a few examples, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

“According to one media monitoring organization, since the 2016 Presidential election, Qatar’s flagship media outlet Al Jazeera has savaged President Trump in more than 1,800 disparaging news and opinion pieces, often describing him in crudely anti-Semitic and anti-American terms,” notes an analysis by the Middle East Forum. “The state-run media network has demonized Trump in a manner far exceeding the most derogatory reports from Western media, calling him ‘the conductor’ of the ‘orchestra of Satan’ and insisting that he is controlled by Jewish forces.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders oppose and vow to defeat the peace plan, even though they have not yet seen the final version of the plan. (see more examples here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

Why? How can anyone properly analyze the plan until all the final details have been released? How does it benefit the impoverished, struggling Palestinian people to have their leaders launching continual attacks against the White House and voicing such strenuous opposition when the plan in the end could turn out to be very beneficial to them?

Indeed, news reports just this week suggest that the King of Saudi Arabia offered Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas $10 billion over ten years to help establish a new Palestinian state, if Abbas would be open to and accept the Trump plan — yet Abbas reportedly refused. I’m working to independently verify this report, but again, if it is true then how does this benefit the Palestinian people?

As I tell the reporters who have contacted me, the best I can do at this point is provide some perspective and analysis that is informed, in part, by my meetings with Israeli and Arab leaders, as well as my conversations with various American Evangelical leaders.

As the various stories are published, I’ll post them here and send them out on Twitter and on my Facebook “Epicenter Team” page. For now, here are two.

TRUMP PLAN DOESN’T CUT OFF LANDS FROM JORDAN OR EGYPT AND IS IN LINE WITH THE SPIRIT OF THE ARAB PEACE INITIATIVE by Hadeel Oueis, Washington correspondent for Al Riyadh newspaper, Saudi Arabia, April 27, 2019

In an interview of Al Riyadh, an American Evangelical leader, Joel Rosenberg, who has met with many Arab leaders and U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss the “Peace Plan” prepared by the U.S. administration, says that he is aware of the priorities of the administration and Arab attitudes regarding the expected plan.

But he also sees a counter-plan led by the Arabic-speaking Turkish media and Al-Jazeera [satellite TV news network, based out of Qatar] designed to destroy any chances for peace, and also to broadcast a large amount of lies regarding elements that have not been put forward about the plan in an attempt to distort Arab attitudes towards the plan.

Rosenberg says that Turkey publicly criticizes Israel yet is the one country in the region that has all kinds of relations with Israel, including diplomatic relations.

It should be noted that the agreements between Turkey and Israel go so far as to facilitate the movement of citizens of the two countries without visas. This began more than a decade ago with the launch of Turkey as a global trade and tourism center.

Turkish flights carrying the Turkish flag fly to Israel more than any other airline in the world, and it’s a lucrative route for Turkish Airlines, which has the second most frequent flights to Tel Aviv after the Israeli company, “El Al.”

A second Turkish airline, “Pegasus,” also dominates Israeli aviation markets, though it has no flights from Arab countries to Israel. These airline connections have never been affected by the Turkish President’s high-profile speeches attacking Israel and supporting the Palestinians.

Even President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel didn’t stop even one Turkish flight or Turkish business deal with Tel Aviv.

Rosenberg says Turkey is trying to fabricate lies about the Trump peace plan in order to distort U.S. positions and confuse the Arab street, as well as to keep the Arab states from benefitting from economic relations with Israel.

Turkey likes being Israel’s main economic partner in the region, and fears the peace deal could change this. Turkey is also constantly trying to protect itself from challenges that arise in international relationships by presenting itself as the only moderate state in the region, and hopes to shape the views of Congress and counter the influence of Jewish power in America in order to help Ankara.

Rosenberg says media reports are wrong to say that the Trump “Peace Plan” will take land away from the Sinai or from Jordan, and says the U.S. administration will not put forward proposals that could harm or disturb two very important allies of the Trump administration, Egypt and Jordan.

Rosenberg adds he is familiar with the positions of the key parties in the region. He feels that the Arab states usually adhere to the views of the Palestinians, and have not been willing to distance from them in the past.

He expects that the plan will contain points that make it compatible with the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative, including the emphasis on the importance of a two-state solution, and leaving the issue of Jerusalem’s borders for negotiations without being pre-determined by the Kushner Plan.

He continued: “I have heard from the Arabs who are trying to help the rights of the Palestinians. They are inviting President Abbas to the table to present the proposals and visions that the Palestinians want. In principle, I expect that the Trump plan is in keeping with the spirit of these principles, but this could also make parts of the plan unattractive to the Israeli side. Therefore, the only solution is to open doors to direct dialogue and negotiation.”

Rosenberg warns the Palestinians against ignoring the full details of plan, and not seeing and checking what is really in the plan [when it is released.]

This is just what the critics and the abusers of empty slogans want. Yet these empty slogans and attacks do nothing to help the Palestinians and constantly deprive them of the countless gains that would occur if peace happens.

Rosenberg adds that people should see Al-Jazeera’s contradiction — they use their network to attack Israel and peace but the state that funds it [Qatar] already has quiet, non-official relations with Israel.

Yet Al-Jazeera and its supporters do not want the Arab region and its leaders to improve relations and make true peace with Israel, not just symbols. For this will bring economic gains, foreign investment and peaceful international relations to the forefront.

Rosenberg emphasized that peace between the countries of the region is ultimately not an American affair. It is about whether the people of the Middle East aspire to become major, productive and influential nations, which are close to each other and diversified in their capabilities from energy to advanced technology.

Are they willing to boost their economies and their ability to innovate and stabilize if peace is achieved or steps towards peace are taken?….

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In a scene ripped from the pages of my latest novels, leaders of Russia & North Korea meet in Vladivostok to forge anti-American alliance. Here’s the latest.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Un arrived yesterday in the far-Eastern Russian city of Vladivostok to hold his first-ever summit with Russian Czar Vladimir Putin, having made the lengthy journey onboard a bulletproof train.

The reason for the meeting: to forge a far closer ties between Moscow and Pyongyang, complicate U.S. efforts to bring about peace between North and South Korea, and ostensibly for Putin to persuade his colleague to “denuclearize.” The prospects of these two powers drawing closer should be worrisome to anyone paying attention to Putin’s efforts in recent years to build a far broader and more aggressive anti-American and anti-Western front.

What struck me in particular was that the headlines of the last 24 hours seem ripped right out of the pages of The Kremlin Conspiracy and The Persian Gamble, in which a Russian-North Korean military and political alliance plays a central role.

Consider the following excerpt from Kremlin:

It quickly became apparent where they were heading—Vladivostok, site of Russia’s largest naval base, located on the Sea of Japan at the extreme southeastern corner of the Russian Empire.

Defense Minister Petrovsky explained that he had ordered his staff to arrange the trip on the premise that he would be conducting a surprise inspection of the submarine fleet that constituted the bulk of Russia’s ability to project power into the Pacific. Petrovsky would, in fact, do just that, accompanied by Zakharov. But the real purpose of the trip was something entirely different.

Once in Vladivostok, Russian President Alexander Luganov, FSB Chief Nimkov, and senior advisor Oleg Kraskin would be driven to a secret military facility where they would have dinner with the reclusive leader of North Korea, who would be arriving by train.

“Why by train?” Luganov asked.

“He is petrified of flying, Your Excellency.”

“How far is that journey?”

“Almost five hundred miles.”

Oleg stopped writing for a moment and looked at Petrovsky. Five hundred miles by train? he wondered, though he said nothing….

Oleg could have written a book about the absolutely bizarre eccentricities of the North Korean dictator he observed during the two-hour meeting between the two leaders, from what he wore to what he ate to how he expressed himself. But what truly disturbed Oleg was how close Luganov seemed to be to this madman. Oleg had never participated in—much less created a transcript of—a single call between the two leaders. Yet the evidence suggested the two men had spoken dozens of times over the past few years. They clearly had a history together, and they were using a personal shorthand to build their framework for an entirely new bilateral relationship.

At first, none of it computed. On the plane, Petrovsky had advised Luganov on ways to persuade the North Koreans to end their nuclear weapons program and enter into a new round of six-party peace talks with South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Luganov had acted as if he fully agreed with his defense minister. But once Petrovsky left the room, it became obvious that defusing the North Korean threat was not Luganov’s objective at all.

As Oleg took notes during the meeting between the two heads of state, it was clear that Luganov was trying to clandestinely flip Pyongyang’s allegiance from Beijing to Moscow. In so doing, he seemed willing to help Pyongyang become a regional powerhouse ready and able to intimidate and even dominate Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, and everyone else in the Pacific Rim. To accomplish this, Luganov offered to cancel North Korea’s $11 billion debt to Russia and provide some $2 billion in new Russian grain shipments. That’s why, Luganov said, he’d persuaded five oligarchs to be prepared to invest upward of $25 billion in developing North Korean natural resources like coal and iron ore over the next decade. That was also why Luganov was offering Moscow’s technical assistance with helping Pyongyang build ballistic missiles capable not only of carrying nuclear warheads but of reaching the continental United States.

Luganov’s chilling offers were immediately accepted, but there was more to the conspiracy the two leaders were concocting. They agreed that to throw the West—as well as Beijing—off the scent, Russia would publicly and forcefully condemn Pyongyang’s ongoing nuclear weapons tests. They even wrote the press release together. What’s more, they agreed that Russia’s Foreign Ministry would actively support additional economic sanctions against North Korea at the U.N. Security Council meeting later that month.

It would all be a show. The “Guiding Star” couldn’t have made himself more clear that he eagerly sought to be the Pacific arm of a “rising new Russian Empire.” He agreed to fully share the results of North Korea’s ICBM testing with scientists from Tehran in order to help the Islamic Republic of Iran become the Middle Eastern arm of the new Russian Empire. Then, in the final minutes of their time together, the two men lowered their voices and somewhat cryptically agreed to be helpful to each other on “additional projects of mutual concern.” Oleg wasn’t sure what they meant. Nor was he certain he wanted to know. But he dutifully wrote down every word he heard through the official translator and kept his mouth shut….

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This Passover/Easter weekend, there are some 1 million Jewish followers of Jesus in the world. I’m one of them. Here’s why.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — Last year, a ground-breaking study was released by LifeWay Research revealing there are now some 871,000 Jewish followers of Jesus in the United States alone.

Add in the 30,000 Jewish believers who live in Israel, and the many others who live in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, and there are now about one million Jewish followers of Jesus in the world today.

That’s an astonishing number, especially when you realize that in 1967 there were fewer than 2,000 Jewish believers in the entire world.

I’m grateful to be one of them. Yet, I’m constantly asked — especially by Jewish people — how in the world this is possible.

“Dude, how can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus?

I love this question. I was first asked it in November of 2002. I had just released my first novel, The Last Jihad. I was doing a telephone interview on a hard rock radio station in Rochester, New York, the city closest to where I grew up in Upstate New York. And the radio host, a guy who called himself “Brother Weese,” asked me this very question.

I’ve been happily answering it ever since. 

A nine-minute version of story of my spiritual journey — how I was raised by a Jewish father and Gentile mother, and how I came to believe that Jesus is, in fact, the Jewish Messiah, foretold by the ancient Hebrew prophets — was recently released online by a ministry called, “One For Israel.” 

Click here to watch the 9-minute video.

Click here to see my father, Len Rosenberg, share his spiritual journey.

Several years ago (2015), I recorded a longer and more detailed version. I’m including it here in case you’re interested.

  • My spiritual journey — part 1 — how becoming the author of The Last Jihad triggered people asking me a critical question
  • Part 2 — how my Jewish grandparents escaped from Russia, my father’s Jewish upbringing, my mother’s Gentile heritage, and how they met
  • Part 3 — my mother’s spiritual journey
  • Part 4 — my father’s spiritual journey, and then how I came to faith
  • Part 5 — how I learned I was Jewish, and then my crisis of faith in high school
  • Part 6 — the conclusion of my story, and so what? Why should any of this matter to you?

My hope and prayer is that as you listen to the story, it will encourage you in your own faith, and that it will be something you can share with family and friends to help and encourage them, as well. Thanks, and on this Passover / Easter weekend, may the Lord deeply bless you as you open the Bible, read the Holy Scriptures, and seek a personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

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Come on a cruise to New England & Canada with Lynn and me in Fall 2019. Study Scripture, pray & worship together and learn about the work of The Joshua Fund. Please register today & join us!

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**** We still have space for 25 couples, so if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate — sign up to join us today! ****

Dear Friends —

It is my joy to invite you and your family to join my wife, Lynn, and me on The Joshua Fund’s inaugural Fall cruise, September 28 through October 5, 2019.

During this 7-day journey from Boston to Montreal, we’ll have an opportunity to study the Scriptures and discuss what the Lord is doing in Israel and the Arab Muslim world, even as we witness God’s handiwork in creation, enjoy the colors of Fall, and visit beautiful places along the northeastern seaboard.

Will you join us? [Watch a brief video about the cruise]

Lynn and I founded The Joshua Fund in 2006 with the goals of blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus and of educating Christians in North America and beyond about God’s plan and purposes for the people of the Epicenter. This cruise will give us the opportunity to share with you what we’re seeing God do to build His Church.

During special sessions on the cruise, I’ll be teaching on “Prophecy and Prayer in an Ever-Changing World,” and answering your questions about Biblical prophecy and what is going in the Middle East today. I’ll also be sharing in detail what The Joshua Fund does and how this ministry is blessing so many people.  

Together, we’ll spend time in praise, worship and prayer, following God’s command to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” In addition, we’ve invited Jewish and Arab ministry leaders from the region to join us. They will share first-hand their stories from the field, including how The Joshua Fund is helping them advance the Kingdom of Christ.

Rather than a typical static conference in a hotel, however, you’ll be traveling onboard Holland America Line’s MS Zaandam, and what a special journey it will be. Every detail will be carefully planned for you by our Christian travel provider, Inspiration Cruises & Tours. Come with us and our special guests from Israel on an unforgettable adventure of learning and spiritual growth, as well as rest and relaxation.

We so look forward to spending time with you. Will you make plans now to join us?

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