On Watch in Washington June 4, 2014
June 4, 2014
The world is full of cruelty, but something unfolding in Sudan should interest even jaded observers.
If a million deaths are a statistic, and a single death is a tragedy, this case puts a human face on the genocide of Christians by militant Muslims all over the world. God willing, this story might still have a happy ending if the U.S. government takes it seriously.
Dr. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishig, a pregnant Christian woman, was sentenced on May 11 by a Sudanese government Shariah law court to 100 lashes and then to be hanged. Her crimes? Apostasy, for being a Christian, and “adultery” for marrying a Christian man. Her Muslim father left her family when she was young, and her Christian mother raised her. By Shariah law, children must follow their father’s religion, even if he’s a deadbeat dad or worse. Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims, while Muslim men can.
We pause here to listen for outrage from American feminists about the Muslim world’s “war on women.” OK, let’s move on.
The court allowed Dr. Ishig to give birth to a daughter on May 16 in a prison clinic, but her death and lashing sentences remain.
Dr. Ishig, 27, had been chained to the floor for months during her pregnancy and while caring for her toddler son in a Sudanese prison “that a 2008 U.N. document reported as having an infant-mortality rate of one per day in the summer,” according to a petition to the White House asking for her release.
Dr. Ishig’s husband, Daniel Wani, is an American who lives in New Hampshire. If humanitarianism is not enough to get the Obama administration’s attention, then surely the fact that she is married to an American citizen should. New Hampshire’s two U.S. senators have asked for the State Department to intercede, and Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona has introduced H. Res. 601, calling for her release and granting of refugee status.
Since President Obama famously told us that America is no more exceptional than any other country, thus placing all nations on the same moral plain, U.S. diplomats might be reluctant to make a big push here out for fear of appearing culturally judgmental. Dispatching diplomats to secure Dr. Ishig’s release is a far milder intrusion into another nation’s domestic affairs than, say, Mr. Obama’s bombing of Libya without congressional approval, egging on of Muslim rebels who brought down Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak regime or aiding rebels trying to overthrow Syria’s government.
When Dr. Ishig was convicted of apostasy and given four days to repent or face the ultimate penalty, she declined to denounce her faith in her savior, Jesus Christ. Hence, the flailing and death sentence under a legal code birthed by the “religion of peace.”
Also in the news, Muslims in the Central African Republic stormed a Catholic church in the capital city of Bangui on Wednesday and massacred at least 30 people. A Washington Times article notes that “members of the Seleka rebel coalition looted, raped and killed Christians upon seizing control of Bangui last year.”
In Nigeria, the Muslim group Boko Haram has become famous for kidnapping about 275 schoolgirls and threatening to sell them as slaves, garnering a tweet from first lady Michelle Obama asking them to “#Bring Back Our Girls.” Mr. Obama has since dispatched advisers to Nigeria to assist in the search for the kidnapped children.
During the past two years, Boko Haram, which means “Western education is evil,” has burned churches and schools, and raped, tortured and killed thousands of Christians and moderate Muslims, earning them mention in news articles decrying “sectarian” violence.
In Iran, pastor Saeed Abedini, 33, an Idaho resident, is serving eight years in prison for the crime of encouraging apostasy — trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. He had been hauled off a bus and imprisoned for months before being tried and convicted in January 2013. His wife, Naghmeh, and their two children still reside in Idaho. She has been to Washington and elsewhere, lobbying for his release.
Hospitalized recently for “treatment of life-threatening injuries, including internal bleeding sustained from frequent beatings by prison guards,” according to Fox News, Mr. Abedini managed on April 20 to get out an Easter message, which read in part:
“Jesus said to His Disciples: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (Matthew 16:24).” The courageous Mr. Abedini is bearing a cross that few would want to carry.
In Iraq, over the past decade, about 1 million of that war-scarred nation’s 1.5 million Christians have fled to other countries. Some of them settled in Syria, where they have become targets of al Qaeda-allied rebel factions.
Open Doors, which documents religious persecution, reports that 14 of the 15 most oppressive countries persecuting Christians are Muslim-majority nations, with former basketball star Dennis Rodman’s favorite country, communist North Korea, filling out the list.
As Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Ron Prosor, noted in an April 17 column in The Wall Street Journal, his tiny nation is the only one in the Middle East with a growing Christian population.
As Christians are massacred daily across the world by Muslim terrorists, we have heard very little from a White House that hectors us almost daily about “tolerance.”
Let’s conclude with a story from Afghanistan. In 2009, a 21-year-old Afghan woman was raped by a male relative. Under Shariah law, she was jailed for “forced adultery” and sentenced to two years in prison, during which she gave birth to a daughter. She appealed, and the court extended her sentence to 12 years unless she married her attacker. After an international outcry, she was released in December 2011.
“Honor killings” of young women by their families even in Western nations like Great Britain and Canada for “crimes” such as having the wrong boyfriend or converting to Christianity pop up in the media, but the press moves on quickly.
It’s up to the rest of us to make sure that people such as Dr. Ishig, Mr. Abedini and a growing list of other victims are not forgotten and that many prayers are lifted on their behalf. (Contributor: Robert Knight for The Washington Times – Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.)
From our research, plus sharing with other Christian prayer ministries, we can safely say that many thousands of Christians who have been praying faithfully for Pastor Saeed are now also interceding for Dr. Ishig. An additional prayer focus is on the many kidnapped and imprisoned school girls who are being abused – perhaps some murdered – and horribly victimized. Let us continue to pray for God’s merciful intervention. While the U.S. cannot be the world’s police force, let us pray that official U.S. voices, including President Obama’s, will be raised loudly and strongly against this Islamic sect specializing in murder, torture, and unspeakable evil, and no doubt motivated by demonic forces.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I [Jesus Christ] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.” (Hebrews 13:3)
President Obama on Friday appointed Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan D. Gibson to serve as acting head of the agency, following the resignation of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, who stepped down amid growing calls for his resignation over systemic scheduling problems at VA hospitals.
Gibson’s name has emerged in conversations about possible nominees to replace the outgoing VA chief on a permanent basis. He is a 1975 U.S. Military Academy graduate and former infantry officer who came to VA after leading the United Services Organizations, which supports troops and their families. He also spent more than 20 years in the banking industry, where he served as vice chairman and chief financial officer for AmSouth Bancorporation before retiring from the firm in 2004.
Lawmakers on Friday talked about the qualities they expect in Obama’s next nominee for VA secretary.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said the department needs a leader who will “take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold step to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability.”
Similarly, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) said the next VA chief must “transform the culture of the VA, establish accountability and punish those responsible for the reprehensible manipulation of wait times.”
The White House offered no clues Friday about Obama’s likely nominee, but several notable leaders fit the bill.
Sloan Gibson: He is a third-generation veteran whose father served as a B-17 tail-gunner during World War II and grandfather fought as an Army infantryman during World War I.
During Gibson’s time with the USO, net fundraising for the group grew by 90 percent, according to his VA biography. Obama awarded him with the 2011 National Medal of Arts for “lifting the spirits of service members and their families through the arts.”
“He’s a great leader who gets what’s going on,” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America official Tom Tarantino. “He’s always been an amazing and dynamic leader.”
Lawmakers have praised him as well. “He certainly has a very strong background,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said. “He has the commitment to veterans — he wouldn’t have been the head of USO if he wasn’t.”
Peter W. Chiarelli: The retired four-star general served as Army vice chief of staff from August 2008 to January 2012. He rose through the ranks after completing ROTC training at Seattle University, eventually commanding at every level, from platoon to corps.
Chiarelli now serves as the chief executive of One Mind, which promotes awareness and research of brain injuries and mental illness. He led the Defense Department’s efforts to address post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and suicide.
Stanley A. McChrystal: The retired four-star general helped craft the Afghanistan war strategy as commander of U.S. forces in that country. Obama dismissed him from his job after a Rolling Stone article featured his disparaging remarks about some of the president’s senior civilian advisers, including Vice President Biden.
The White House appears to have made up with McChrystal, having quickly invited him after the dismissal to lead the Joining Forces Initiative, which supports military families.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.): Reed knows Congress and the military, having served in both. He is a former Army ranger and West Point alumnus, making him one of only eight U.S. senators in history to graduate from the academy, according to his Web site.
Reed, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, voted against giving President George W. Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq, saying the plan was a diversion from the war on terrorism. It is unclear whether Obama is willing to put Reed’s Senate seat in jeopardy during what is expected to be a tough election year for Democrats.
Mike Mullen: A retired Navy admiral who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Bush and Obama administrations, Mullen turned to the private sector in 2013, joining the boards of General Motors and Sprint Nextel Corp.
Patrick Murphy: Patrick Murphy is a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania and the first Iraq war veteran to serve in the House, but he lost his seat after two terms during the 2010 tea party wave. He has a regular series on MSNBC called “Taking the Hill,” which focuses on veterans issues.
Murphy said Friday that Shinseki’s replacement should be someone who “will inspire confidence in veterans, who walked in their ranks . . . has an intimate understanding of veteran policy, and has the leadership ability.” He declined to say whether he fits that description. (Contributor: By Josh Hicks and Colby Itkowitz for The Washington Post – Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.)
This article suggests six names as possible successors to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, each one a proven leader. However, General Shinseki’s failed tenure was not due to inability. He was a brave soldier, military leader, and decorated hero. Staff problems included lax oversight, lack of caring, and non-accountability—all spiritual issues. A failure to honor our military, notably sick and wounded veterans, who are among our bravest and best citizens, pervades our culture. Pray for God’s mercy on our nation, for revival, and a return to “[giving] honor where honor is due.” The biblical standard is seen in the Scriptures below.
“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans. 15:1, KJV)
“Now David said, ‘Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?’ And there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba. So when they had called him to David, the king said to him, ‘Are you Ziba?’ He said, ‘At your service!’ Then the king said, ‘Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?’ And Ziba said to the king, ‘There is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet.’ So the king said to him, ‘Where is he?’” (2 Samuel 9:1-4)
The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
The largest measles clusters are in Ohio (138 confirmed cases), California (60) and New York (26), according to the CDC. Almost all — 97 percent — have been brought into the country by travelers, mainly Americans, who contracted the infection abroad. About half of those were people who picked it up in the Philippines, where a large measles outbreak has affected more than 32,000 people, causing 41 deaths, since January alone, said Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
In this country, the biggest outbreak is centered in the Amish community in Ohio, where many of the residents are unvaccinated, the CDC reported. In Virginia, two cases were confirmed earlier this month.
“This is a wake-up call for travelers and parents to make sure vaccinations are up to date,” Schuchat said.
“Measles vaccine is very safe and effective and measles can be serious,” she added. “It’s very infectious.” Forty-three of the people in this country who have come down with measles required hospitalization, most often for pneumonia, she said. No deaths have been reported here.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that generally affects young children, causing fever, a runny nose, a cough and a distinctive rash all over the body. This year, however, more than half the people who have come down with it are 20 years old or older, according to CDC data.
About one in 10 children also gets an ear infection and one in 20 comes down with pneumonia. A person with measles is contagious as long as four days before the symptoms are apparent. Parents and even physicians who haven’t seen measles in years may be unaware of the early warning signs.
The largest number of confirmed cases of measles since the infection was eliminated in the United States in 2000 occurred in 2011, when 220 were recorded. The CDC hasn’t seen this many cases so early in the year since 1994, when 764 people were infected by this time, Schuchat said.
In the past 20 years, a concerted public health campaign, especially among lower-income families, has made measles outbreaks rare in the United States. But an estimated 20 million people are infected in Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere each year, and 122,000 of them die.
In the United States, the number of people who choose not to be immunized for religious, philosophical or personal reasons has begun to become a public health problem, Schuchat said. Others are unaware of, or unable to get, vaccinations before they arrive in the United States. A small number of adults can lose their immunity over time and may need to be re-vaccinated.
Authorities aren’t sure how the Amish community in Ohio contracted the disease, but Schuchat said they believe that people traveling to conduct faith-based work abroad are involved. According to the CDC, 40 importations of the infection were attributed to unvaccinated U.S. travelers returning from abroad.
Steven Nolt, a history professor at Goshen College in Indiana who has written about the Amish, said some groups do travel to places such as Kenya, Ukraine and Central America to do mission or relief work. He said many Amish do vaccinate themselves and their chidren, but others refuse.
Some, Nolt said, have a “more traditional, conservative, old-fashioned way of life and set of sensibilities that views medicine as something that is used to heal or cure, rather than to prevent” disease. Others have a “theologically informed…sense that we should place our trust in God and not in vaccines.”
Schuchat urged anyone who isn’t sure whether his or her immunizations are up to date to get another dose of the vaccine, especially if traveling to places like the Philippines or doing health care work.
Though the vaccine generally isn’t given to children before the first birthday, infants traveling abroad can be inoculated with one dose as young as six months, Schuchat said. The vaccine is generally administered in two doses a few years apart. People whose immune systems are suppressed and pregnant women should not receive the vaccine, she said.
Adults born before 1957 likely had the measles and should be immune, she added. The vaccine became available in 1963. (Contributor: Bu Lenny Bernstein for The Washington Post)
For experienced intercessors, the prayer focus here is clear. Pray first for God’s restraining mercy, that measles, a once-conquered disease, does not reassert itself as a national threat. While 288 cases touching 18 states is far from epidemic proportions, the infected families are suffering greatly. Somehow the measles virus has “come back to life,” overcoming the vaccine that virtually eliminated it from our nation’s medical vocabulary nearly 15 years ago. Let us cry out to the God of all comfort for His healing power. May he manifest His presence to call our nation back to Himself.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:3-5)
Liberals have been piling on Rep. Lamar Smith and his fellow House Republicans for failing to hold more committee hearings on climate change, but Thursday’s often-heated testimony probably wasn’t what the movement had in mind.
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee heard from scientists who poked holes in the prevailing catastrophic theory of man-made climate change and said researchers are under pressure to support more alarming scenarios.
“The science is not settled, no,” said Roger Pielke Sr., professor emeritus in meteorology at Colorado State University.
University of Sussex economist Richard Tol told the lawmakers, “Science is, of course, never settled.”
“Some things are more or less settled, some things are not,” said Princeton University geoscientist Michael Oppenheimer. “The question of whether carbon dioxide is 30 to 40 percent above pre-industrial times, that’s settled. The question of exactly how warm the Earth will become as a result, that’s not.”
The hearing was held days before the Environmental Protection Agency was to release strict new standards for power plants in the name of combating climate change.
“The Obama administration should stop trying to scare Americans and then impose costly, unnecessary regulations on them,” said Mr. Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the committee. “When assessing climate change, we need to make sure that findings are driven by science, not an alarmist, partisan agenda.”
The focus of the hearing was the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose latest report in April called for slashing carbon emissions by 40 percent to 70 percent in the next 35 years to avoid what it said would be disastrous global warming.
Mr. Tol, a lead author on one of the panel’s working groups, said the field of climate research suffers from “alarmist bias” and “groupthink.”
“Academics who research climate change out of curiosity but find less-than-alarming things are ignored, unless they rise to prominence, in which case they are harassed and smeared,” Mr. Tol said in testimony to the committee.
Daniel Botkin, professor emeritus in biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said the U.N. panel’s 2014 report and the White House National Climate Assessment are “scientific-sounding,” but also present “speculative, and sometimes incomplete, conclusions embedded in language that gives them more scientific heft than they deserve.”
“I want to state upfront that we have been living through a warming trend driven by a variety of influences,” said Mr. Botkin. “However, it is my view that this is not unusual, and contrary to the characterizations by the IPCC and the National Climate Assessment, these environmental changes are not apocalyptic nor irreversible.”
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said she worried that the purpose of the hearing was to “cast doubt on the validity of climate change research.”
“I am committed to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop policies that address these new climate realities,” said Ms. Johnson. “But we aren’t going to get very far if we spend our time continually revisiting a scientific debate that has already been settled. Nor will we get far if we continue a recent practice on this committee of seeming to question the trustworthiness and integrity of this nation’s scientific researchers.”
Rep. Paul C. Broun, Georgia Republican, said he objected to the Democrats’ use of the term “settled science” to describe the climate change debate.
“I heard just on the floor yesterday from members of the other party, they were talking about this very issue, that it’s absolutely settled, it’s a closed case,” Mr. Broun said.
“Climate changes all the time, of course,” he said. “It’s called ‘weather.’”
Panelists suggested regular U.N. climate reports at least once a year instead of large reports every five or six years, which they said are outdated almost before they are printed, and forming a separate team of scientists to review the data from an alternative perspective.
“What this should be about is science, and I’m hopeful that we, all of us on either side, whatever we believe can stick to science,” said Rep. Larry Bucshon, Indiana Republican. (Contributor: By Valerie Richardson for The Washington Times)
“Global warming” scared people, so it became “climate change.” Now, new “experts” emerge to tell us what to expect, how to plan, and how much tax money is needed for the next round of research. Science, when captive to politics and greed, loses objectivity and forfeits authority to inform. This is where people of faith have a huge advantage. We may remain calm and allow our prayers and lives to create an effective witness to those gripped by fear. When Christians reflect the peace of God in changing seasons, people needing answers will find them and ask the right questions. Intercessors, take heart, watch, and pray! Fearful times are our days of spiritual harvest.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)
Two Italian priests and a Canadian nun, kidnapped nearly two months ago near Cameroon’s border with Nigeria in a region rife with Boko Haram militants, have been freed, Cameroon’s communications minister said on Sunday.
The minister would not discuss the terms under which the three were released. But past kidnappings of Europeans by Boko Haram in northern Cameroon have involved the release of prisoners in return, along with payments of cash. The three were flown to Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé.
The two priests — Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri — and the nun — Gilberte Bussière — were abducted early on April 5 from their mission in northern Cameroon. That area is used as a rear base by Boko Haram, which is waging a bloody terrorist campaign against villagers across the border in northern Nigeria.
The area is lightly policed, and the militants have carried out four kidnappings of foreigners there in the past 18 months, with the latest being the seizing of 10 Chinese road workers from their camp two weeks ago. The Nigerians have accused Cameroonian officials of not taking the Boko Haram threat seriously enough, and in the past week the Cameroon government has confirmed that it has sent an undisclosed number of troops to the area.
The priests freed had worked in the region for many years. Cameroonian officials met them at the regional capital, Maroua, early Sunday and flew them to Yaoundé, the communications minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, said.
“They have been freed,” he said. “Very early this morning.”
A spokesman for the Vatican, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said news of the captives’ release “fills us with joy.”
Mr. Bakary would not confirm reports that Cameroonian soldiers had engaged in clashes with militants over the weekend. “We never discuss these matters, for reasons of state,” the minister said. “We are at war with the Boko Haram. When the army is at the front, the less said, the better.”
“Boko Haram is an amorphous menace,” Mr. Bakary added. “We must avoid giving out anything that will wake them up.” (Contributor: Adam Nossiter for The New York Times)
Yes, such news fills all Christians with joy, as the Vatican spokesman said. Why some escape the snare of the enemy and the death of the martyrs is a mystery. God is ultimately in control, and from our understanding, even the devil and his minions have restraints set by God’s providence and purpose. So, while intercessors suffer with those who suffer, we may also rejoice with those who are given reason to rejoice. Surely Father God has a purpose in all that is allowed to touch His servants. Let us give thanks even as we continue to pray for those in captivity and suffering for their faith.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
The National Security Agency is reportedly capturing millions of images per day to feed facial recognition programs.
Citing top-secret documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the New York Times reported the agency ‘s reliance on such technology has grown in recent years.
New software allows the NSA to “exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications,” the newspaper said.
“The agency intercepts ‘millions of images per day’ — including about 55,000 ‘facial recognition quality images’ — which translate into ‘tremendous untapped potential,'” the newspaper reported, citing documents from 2011.
Facial recognition is a computer-based system that automatically identifies a person based on a digital image or video source that is then matched to information stored in a database. The technology is powerful, but not always straightforward.
According to the New York Times: “It has difficulty matching low-resolution images, and photographs of people’s faces taken from the side or angles can be impossible to match against mug shots or other head-on photographs.”
The newspaper said it was unclear how many images have been acquired, nor was it clear how many people have been caught up in the program.
An NSA spokeswoman defended the program.
“We would not be doing our job if we didn’t seek ways to continuously improve the precision of signals intelligence activities — aiming to counteract the efforts of valid foreign intelligence targets to disguise themselves or conceal plans to harm the United States and its allies,” NSA spokeswoman Vanee M. Vines said in response to the New York Times report.
“The lawful collection of foreign identity intelligence allows NSA to better identify and track such targets.”
Speaking to the newspaper, Vines declined to comment on whether the agency collected facial imagery of American citizens from social media like Facebook. (Contributor: By Dana Ford for CNN)
Whether the “mark of the beast” is literally the number 666 or another form of marking personal identity by the world system, we do not know. However, Christians with an eye on prophecy and the events usually associated with the “end times,” are understandably watchful and concerned about the power the government of a free society is wielding secretly to record the facial characteristics of its citizens. However, if NSA activities are a reflection of last days, believers are closer to “home” and eternal rest. Luther said, “There are two days in my calendar: this day and that Day.” Let us live and pray in the light of eternal values.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:23-25)
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation unveiled this past Sunday a fully excavated and restored grand hall dating back to the 14th century in the tunnels under the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The hall, which has been converted into an educational center, cost millions of dollars and took 10 years of careful oversight by the Antiquities Authority (IAA) to complete.
According to the IAA, the excavation – funded entirely by Jewish Ukrainian billionaire Zvi Hirsch (Gennady) Bogolyubov – focused on five separate areas below the Ohel Yitzhak Synagogue, which extended into spaces beneath the homes of Palestinians living east and south of the synagogue.
“The IAA unearthed an area that includes several structures, among them the continuation of the 14th-century Hammam al-Ein, a wide domed area from the same period, and remains dating back as far as the 1st century CE,” an IAA official said in a statement.
“Although the majority of the finds are undoubtedly from the Mamluk period, identified with Muslim rule in Jerusalem, the educational visitors’ center will address the genealogy of the Jewish nation and its connection to Jerusalem.”
Bogolyubov, an industrialist and leading Jewish philanthropist originally from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, currently based in London, is estimated to be worth over $10 billion and paid approximately $20 million to excavate the site, as well as the four others nearby.
Since acquiring his fortune in the late ’90s through a banking, oil, media and food empire, the billionaire has supported a number of major Ukrainian, Israeli and British Jewish charities, including the construction of the largest Jewish center in the world, located in Ukraine.
Asked why he donated the millions needed to excavate and restore the underground areas in the Old City, Bogolyubov cited his love and patriotism for Israel.
“I did this because of my strong belief that Jews all over world can feel safe because of the State of Israel,” he said at the catered gala unveiling, which he attended with his wife and four young children.
“Everyone must contribute what they can – some contribute by joining the army, some by national service. I did what I can do.”
According to the IAA, the hall – adorned with highly stylized arches which stand on broad, tall stone pillars – was first detected underground adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza and revealed a window to aqueducts from the early 14th century.
“On the side of the structure, a staircase from the Herodian period, a section of a Roman road, and even a bathing house from the Mamluk period can all be found,” the official said.
“There can be no doubt that this hall represents the wide range of history to be found between the stones of Jerusalem.”
To dig below the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, IAA officials first had to receive permission from the Palestinian residents living above the sites, as the excavations must be conducted vertically.
“The professional reason for abstaining from horizontal tunnel excavations is that archeological excavation must be done vertically, starting from the surface of the earth and digging into the depth,” the IAA noted.
“Otherwise, it is difficult, and often impossible, to understand the significance of finds and to describe the remains that are exposed.”
Although living in London, Bogolyubov remains president of Dnepropetrovsk’s Jewish community. (Contributor: By Daniel Eisenbud for The Jerusalem Post)
When asked why he financed the $20 million excavation and restoration project under Jerusalem, the billionaire philanthropist said, “I did this because of my strong belief that Jews all over world can feel safe because of the State of Israel.” Ironically, that State of Israel itself does not feel safe to Israelis apart from the peace and security Christian believers, including Messianic Jews, possess because of Messiah Jesus. Meanwhile, despite his riches, this sincere (and perhaps pious) Jew has a veil on his heart, not knowing that Messiah has come. When praying for the peace of Jerusalem, let us pray, too, for the salvation of both Jews and Palestinians in that “chosen” but strife-torn land.
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:1-4)
On Friday, June 6, 2014, many of “His people, called by His name” in over 30 nations will be part of a “Prayer Storm” to “scale the cliffs and attack evil” — in their lives and in their nations — in the same way that thousands of brave men took the cliffs of Normandy in WWII.
As these prayer intercessors pray, fast, and sincerely repent, we believe Almighty God will “hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Repentance means to choose to come away from the flesh and the world’s ways to take up His Way of Purity. It also opens heaven for God to go into battle on our behalf and begin to restore the Godly roots of our nations.
Those with spiritual discernment see that we are facing a spiritual battle against evil in our nations today every bit as real as WWII. Moral depravity, apostasy, and other anti-Christian attacks reflect the creeping human secularist agenda that seeks to remove the gift of Liberty that Jesus’ blood gave to all humanity.
This June 6 is a momentous day both nationally and spiritually as it is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Since that day of God’s favor, we have allowed evil to creep back into our lives and in our nations. The weapons of our warfare this time are prayer, fasting and repentance. Our weapons “are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
D-Day was an allied attack involving twelve nations. 70 years later we are now in unity through the Holy Spirit in many more nations. All Christians across denominations and boundaries are encouraged to set aside time on June 6 in their individual prayer closet, or together with others, as part of a “prayer storm” to pray, fast and sincerely repent.
The power of just ONE person’s repentance is seen in the Book of Daniel. Daniel humbly confessed his sins and his nation’s sins, sincerely repenting. God granted the request of this ONE righteous intercessor and brought Israel out evil’s bondage because he humbly stood in the gap for his people.
On this D-Day for repentance and deliverance from evil, will you be like Daniel? Will you storm the cliffs against Satan with us? (Contributor: By Pastor Jeff Daly for Christian Newswire – A model Prayer, a Covenant of Obedience to Scripture, and other free resources are at: www.dayofrepentance.org. This initiative is co-sponsored by Capitol Hill Prayer Partners and National Day of Repentance.)
We encourage intercessors everywhere to stand together in the spirit of intercession encouraged here. Consider that in the Old Testament, in our Lord’s ministry in the Gospels, and in the New Testament period of early church expansion, one of God’s keys for success has always been the unity of His people. In that unity Jesus encouraged agreement of even “two or three.” Intercede that the wider Church will awaken to the need for walls to come down and for unity to prevail, as we pray and engage in spiritual warfare.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Eph. 6:11-13)