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February 18, 2009February 18, 2009  0 comments  Geography

Last weekend we traveled northward scouting sites for a bat mitzvah location. We opted for a return visit to Beit Lechem Haglilit, an idyllic village situated in the hills of the Galilee. Beautiful calanit flowers were in abundance throughout the countryside with cars after cars parked in the endless fields allowing visitors to access the many trails throughout the hilltops where they could admirethe new spring blossoms. The village of Beit Lechem Haglilit is easy to explore by foot or bike and the local historian, Kobi Fleishmann (04-953-2901), will gladly take around tour groups for a two hour stroll through the village by pre-arrangement. Kobi and his family live in a beautiful historic old Templar home and have converted a portion of it to a bed and breakfast as well as a local museum, chronicling the Templar roots of the village as well as the rise of the local Hitler Youth movement, which rose to prominence in this town during the 1930's. Photographs on display in the local museum chronicle this dark period of local history and provide visual evidence of the Nazi Youth parade that occurred in the village to mark Hitler's birthday. The museum showcases much of Kobi's collections of historic Nazi memorablia including flags, pictures and other artifacts, that were from the area. During the war the British rounded up the local "enemy" German-sympathizing residents and put them into local interment camps where they remained until they were deported. Some 222 of the local prisoners were swapped with 222 Dutch prisoners of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. During our tour, Kobi showed us the actual list of the prisoners released from Bergen-Belsen and we, coincidentally, found the names of our relatives on the list.

February 9, 2010February 9, 2010  1 comments  Historical Sites

On January 24, 1986, two fishermen in the Sea of Galilee made a fascinating discovery. Today, their discovery-the Jesus Boat Revealed-is an inspirational experience, a historic artifact, a meticulous reproduction, a national museum of antiquities, a book, and a fascinating DVD. Most importantly, it's a phenomenon with the power to unite a nation.

When Yuval Lufan and his brother, Moishale, uncovered a boat, which-against all odds-had survived for nearly two millennia submerged in mud, they triggered an avalanche of miraculous events. The subsequent excavation, recovery, and scientific analysis of the vessel confirmed it had been constructed during the time of Christ, and possibly, even, belonged to the Messiah Himself.

"The boat changed everything in my life," says Yuval Lufan, a lifelong fishermen from the Galilee seaside village of Kibbutz Ginosar. "The boat gave my life new meaning and purpose. It helped me to find my faith, to find God. This discovery is the greatest thing I could have dreamed of."

In-depth analysis carbon-dated the boat to the time of Christ. But more exciting clues about the Jesus Boat's origins were also revealed; the vessel had been constructed from twelve different types of wood.

"Normally, a boat of this style from this time period would have been built from two or three types of wood at the most," says Alon Kossonogi, CEO of the Jesus Boat Museum Foundation. "Twelve types of wood was unheard of until the Lufan brothers' discovery."

Considering the biblical significance of the number twelve, and the numerous miraculous events connected to The Jesus Boat's discovery and excavation, is it possible all these happenings were merely coincidental?

"Good things happen to people who spend time with the boat; it may take time, but it happens," says Lufan. "We have to have faith in doing the impossible. Science is a great thing, but there are things science cannot explain, and only people of faith can understand that faith is a greater power than science."

During the Jesus Boat's discovery and excavation, people from the Kibbutz Ginosar village witnessed many miracles: one in a million odds of finding a boat in the Galilee were beaten; a rare, brilliant double rainbow crowned their skies; a four-year drought suddenly ended; a rival village volunteered to help; a moonbeam revealed itself; the ninety-five percent odds against a successful excavation were overcome; and a life-long atheist welcomed Christ into his life.

"When people see the boat, they say it makes them think that ‘someone' is behind its discovery," says Kossonogi. "And they truly believe that the ‘someone' is Jesus, showing us he is here and watching...that he brought us this boat as a sign from above."

According to Kossonogi, this is the first time ordinary people have ever found anything historically significant in the Galilee area. Experts in marine archeology had spent decades searching, but gave up, claiming it would be next to impossible to find anything ancient there. But the Jesus Boat is not only ancient, it carbon-dates back over 2000 years to the specific thirty-year time period that Jesus spent in Galilee.

So why is it that the world is just beginning to hear about this twenty-something-year-old historically significant find? Being submerged in water for 2000 years made the Jesus Boat extremely fragile, so it had to be immersed in a special liquid for fourteen years to properly restore and preserve it. And - more recently - with the world becoming a global community, the Jesus Boat Museum Foundation board members began to realize that the boat is an international treasure to be shared with people around the world.

"It's only been during the last few years - with the making of The Jesus Boat Revealed DVD - that the people of Israel have begun to realize how special the Jesus Boat really is," says Kossonogi.

A one-hour documentary movie, The Jesus Boat Revealed chronicles the numerous stories surrounding the boat's discovery and excavation through interviews with the people who were there. The movie illustrates how the vessel is a one-of-a-kind, physical touch-point to the exact time and place of Jesus Christ, and relays the exciting miracles experienced by the people involved.

Weaving two vital, parallel stories, The Jesus Boat Revealed also profiles key people including commanders from the independent war and those instrumental in the establishment of the State of Israel such as Zvi Zamer, former director of Israel's national intelligence agency, the Mossad.

There are also many appearances by noteworthy people such asEhud Barak, Israel's defense minister and labor party leader, and former prime minister of Israel; Skip Heitzig, documentary host and founder and senior pastor of Calvary of Albuquerque; Chuck Smith, Cavalry Chapel founder; Pat Robertson, founder of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), and the Christian Coalition; Jay Seklow, American attorney and radio talk show host; Franklin Graham, Christian evangelist and missionary; Tim Lahey, American evangelical Christian minister, author, and speaker; and Joel Rosenberg, American communications strategist, author of The Last Jihadseries, and founder of The Joshua Fund.

"It's more than just a boat," says Dr. Kurt Raveh, the marine archeologist who organized The Jesus Boat's excavation. "It's really a story of God's promises ... a boat that wouldn't stay buried in a nation that wouldn't stay buried."

September 16, 2009September 16, 2009  0 comments  Museum

  The Righteous Among the Nations Maintaining the trees planted in their honor


In 1953 the Knesset (Israeli parliament) passed the Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance (Yad Vashem) Law, which gives particular emphasis «to commemorate the high-minded Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews». Special legislation recognizes these courageous heroes as Righteous Among the Nations. Yad Vashem has the honor and privilege of being the only body in the world, which gives official recognition to those who saved Jewish lives. To date, the committee has awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations close to 22,000 people from over 30 countries.

The term "Righteous Among the Nations," which is first mentioned in rabbinical literature, has acquired various meanings over the ages, including that of a non-Jew who acted according to the norms of ethical behavior and treated Jews with consideration. The personal stories of the Righteous Among the Nations are of the highest moral and inspirational value to Jews and non-Jews alike. These true histories demonstrate that even in times of war and the most repressive tyranny, men and women retain the inborn right and ability to act upon moral precepts.


Trees Dedicated to the Righteous Among the Nations


In 1962 Yad Vashem commenced on its world-renowned endeavor to plant trees in honor and memory of the Righteous Among the Nations. Since this time some 2,000 trees are now growing across the campus of Yad Vashem, each one of them dedicated to a specific Righteous Among the Nations.

These trees not only serve as a constant reminder of the small glimmers of light that shone through in those dark days, they also provide much needed shade for Yad Vashem's millions of annual visitors. (The majority of the Righteous Among the Nations are recognized on walls in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem.)

 Grafted Tree

Maintaining the Legacy


It costs US$100 per year to maintain and nurture each tree within the Yad Vashem campus. Yad Vashem is seeking donors to partner  in the maintenance of the 2,000 trees of the Righteous that line the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, and affiliate with their legacy. Michael Onifer, director of Eagles Wings Ministries Israel Experience scholarship program recently brought 17 Christian students to Israel on a learning tour which included, among other things, a morning of learning at Yad Vashem. The group adopted a tree and met with a holocaust survivor, who told her powerful testimonial about her life in a concentration camp.



Dr. Susanna Kokkonen, Director; Christian Friends of Yad Vashem









Christian Friends of Yad Vashem (CFYV) was originally established in October 2006 in cooperation with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) to raise awareness about the Holocaust, Shoah, and its universal lessons in Christian communities world-wide.


Truly the Holocaust is a defining event in human history, which generated a credibility crisis of major proportions in our most basic assumptions about the nature of mankind, of society, of the modern state, and of our responsibility as individuals to take a stand against unjust suffering of innocent people everywhere. The Holocaust has therefore become a compelling challenge for concerned individuals all over the world. Today we are seeing an increasing interest in this topic from Christians worldwide, who recognize the Holocaust as part of human experience rather than just Jewish history.


Christian Friends of Yad Vashem seeks to spread knowledge about the Holocaust acting as a facilitator in bringing the universal lessons of the Shoah to the Christian world. This is a way to build bridges between Jews and Christians and to fight anti-Semitism together. In addition, we would like to educate about the legacy of the Righteous among the Nations; Gentiles, who acted to rescue Jews during WWII and have been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous.

So far we have brought and invited Christian educators to Yad Vashem's international seminars on how to teach others about this most difficult topic; we have arranged tailor-made programs including workshops to visiting Christian groups and in general made Yad Vashem's many resources available to the Christian communities. I have visited churches and communities world-wide with presentations and films. As Yad Vashem's motto goes Remembering the Past means Shaping the Future. To understand the anti-Semitism of today, we need to know what happened previously.

We continue signing up Christians as Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. These basic memberships are important because they enable us to continue our vital activities. Christian groups visiting Israel are welcome to contact us ahead of their Yad Vashem visit. We will be pleased to help plan a special program.

The survivor and poet Paul Celan asked "Who will bear witness to the witness". Today we need to become the witnesses bearing the legacy of the survivors. We invite Christians worldwide to remember!




Groups or individuals visiting Yad Vashem can become guardians of a tree by contacting Travelujah or the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem in advance of their visit. A meaningful time around the tree will include reading together the story of the Righteous among the Nations and suitable related poetry. The guardian receives a special certificate confirming the name of the Righteous and the name of the guardian. Yad Vashem and the stories of heroism become alive in a new way when this special connection is formed between the guardians and Yad Vashem.

Norma Youth Group


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