Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 10/16/2016

SUKKOT- Past, Present and Future

Modern day sukkah (click to enlarge)

The Biblical feast most associated with joy is Sukkot, the week-long Feast of Tabernacles/Booths which begins on the 15th of the month of Tishri on the Hebrew calendar (October 16-24, 2016). Twice the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) tells Jews to rejoice during this week, and Deuteronomy reminds them that with God’s blessings they will rejoice again in the future. Torah instructs them to dwell in booths (sukkot) for seven days to remember that they dwelt in booths when the LORD brought them out of Egypt (Leviticus 23:43). Today they don’t all live for an entire week in the sukkah, but many still spend some time outside in that temporary home.

Imagine dragging the wood, hammering the nails, setting up the walls, laying branches as our roof, spacing them just to let in the sun and view the stars at night. Most are simple and very fragile. Maybe that’s why they bring to mind the awesome reliance on God the Jews had during this time – for food, shelter and protection in a harsh environment. Also, they draw to mind the miraculous ways in which God protected them, providing manna daily, and the cloud of glory which led them on their way. Even their sandals and clothing miraculously remained intact. The review of the travels in Numbers 33 describes the journey leg-by-leg, over 41 verses. God led the Israelites (Jews) each step of the journey and that is one of the reasons for rejoicing.

As Messianic Jews and Christians – in the New Covenant, the booths remind us of the Son of God coming to live among us, “tabernacling” with us. John 1 tells us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God through His Son comes to our “tents”, to our experiences, and shares in them intimately. He and His talmidim (disciples) went from house to house, sharing in suffering, in loss, having no place to rest their heads.

Moreover, as Yeshua (Jesus) came to our “tents”, He promised eternal dwellings, saying “In my Father’s house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) He promises another kind of eternal dwelling in the promise of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), saying “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper. . . He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16, 17) Sha’ul (Paul) gives us more depth into this intimacy, telling us, “we have the mind of Mashiach (Messiah)” (1 Corinthians 2:16), and “your body is the temple of the Ruach HaKodesh.” (1 Corinthians 6:19) This is God dwelling among, with, and in us.

Perhaps the deepest reminder within this week of booths is that God Himself tabernacled in the flesh in becoming man; the great miracle that “the Word became flesh” and that our Savior is “the fullness of the godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9) God did not merely set up a tent in human flesh, but united in intimate union with the human soul.

The holy and infinite Creator did not deal with our sin in an unseen or incomprehensible way. Rather, the God of Glory became man, to save man, and to suffer the infinite indignity in experiencing suffering and death. “For, inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death.” (Hebrews 2:14, 17)

Finally, because Adonai (God) has set up the sukkah in humanity, He will send us our final dwelling place, the New Jerusalem. Heaven itself will come down to meet us. Her light will be “like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:11) and the names of the tribes of Israel will be on its gates and the names of the apostles of the Lamb on its foundations. Its light will be the glory of God itself, the Lamb. God leads us on our way—Jew and Gentile in the Messiah Yeshua. He joins us on our way and He brings us a final home with Him.

From an article by Thomas Ackerman, MJAA

To read about customs and traditions associated with Sukkot, visit my post from 2011: The Feast of Tabernacles Is Here!

Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 10/10/2016

YOM KIPPUR – What Is It?

YOM KIPPUR- the Jewish Day Of Atonement
Oct. 11-12, 2016/9-10 Tishri, 5777

…In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work … For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the L-RD. -Leviticus 16:29-30

Yom Kippur is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day. Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of Tishri. The holiday is instituted at Leviticus 23:26  The name “Yom Kippur” means “Day of Atonement,” and that pretty much explains what the holiday is. It is a day set aside to “afflict the soul,” to atone for the sins of the past year. In Days of Awe,  G-d inscribes all of our names. On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these books is sealed. This day is, essentially, your last appeal, your last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate your repentance and make amends.

Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d, not for sins against another person. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible. That must all be done before Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath; no work can be performed on that day. It is well-known that you are supposed to refrain from eating and drinking (even water) on Yom Kippur. It is a complete, 25-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. The Talmud also specifies additional restrictions that are less well-known: washing and bathing, anointing one’s body (with cosmetics, deodorants, etc.), wearing leather shoes (Orthodox Jews routinely wear canvas sneakers under their dress clothes on Yom Kippur), and engaging in sexual relations are all prohibited on Yom Kippur.

As always, any of these restrictions can be lifted where a threat to life or health is involved. In fact, children under the age of nine and women in childbirth (from the time labor begins until three days after birth) are not permitted to fast, even if they want to. Older children and women from the third to the seventh day after childbirth are permitted to fast, but are permitted to break the fast if they feel the need to do so. People with other illnesses should consult a physician and a rabbi for advice.

Most of the holiday is spent in the synagogue, in prayer. In Orthodox synagogues, services begin early in the morning (8 or 9 AM) and continue until about 3 PM. People then usually go home for an afternoon nap and return around 5 or 6 PM for the afternoon and evening services, which continue until nightfall. The services end at nightfall, with the blowing of the tekiah gedolah, a long blast on the shofar. It is customary to wear white on the holiday, which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow (Is. 1:18). Some people wear a kittel, the white robe in which the dead are buried.

Info taken from Judaism 101
Click on Shouting Out to G-d  to watch a brief video of Yom Kippur prayers at the Western Wall.

Yom Kippur traditions

Before Yom Kippur we perform the Kaparot atonement service; we request and receive honey cake, in acknowledgement that we are all recipients in G-d’s world and in prayerful hope for a sweet and abundant year; eat a festive meal; immerse in a mikvah; and give extra charity. Late afternoon we eat the pre-fast meal, following which we bless our children, light a memorial candle as well as the holiday candles, and go to the synagogue for Kol Nidrei services.

In the course of Yom Kippur we hold five prayer services: Maariv, with its solemn Kol Nidrei service, on the eve of Yom Kippur; Shacharit–the morning prayer; Musaf, which includes a detailed account of the Yom Kippur Temple service; Minchah, which includes the reading of the Book of Jonah; and Neilah, the “closing of the gates” service at sunset. We say the Al Chet confession of sins eight times in the course of Yom Kippur, and recite Psalms every available moment.

The day is the most solemn of the year, yet an undertone of joy suffuses it: a joy that revels in the spirituality of the day and expresses the confidence that G-d will accept our repentance, forgive our sins, and seal our verdict for a year of life, health and happiness. The closing Neilah service climaxes in the resounding cries of “Hear O Israel… G-d is one.” Then joy erupts in song and dance, followed by a single blast of the shofar, followed by the proclamation, “Next year in Jerusalem.” We then partake of a festive after-fast meal, making the evening after Yom Kippur a Yom Tov (festival) in its own right.

Barbara Streisand

Click here to watch and listen to Barbara Streisand singing one of the key songs, sung each day by Jews in synagogue, during the High Holy days:
                                           The Christian Perspective

Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement,” is the holiest day of the Jewish year, and provides prophetic insight regarding the Second Coming of Mashiach, the restoration of national Israel, and the final judgment of the world. It is also a day that reveals the High-Priestly work of Yeshua as our Kohen Gadol (High Priest) after the order of Malki-Tzedek (Heb. 5:10, 6:20).

The term Yom Kippur is actually written in the plural in the Torah, Yom Ha-Kippurim (יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים), perhaps because the purification process cleansed from a multitude of transgressions, iniquities, and sins. However, the name also alludes to the two great atonements given by the LORD – the first for those among the nations who turn to Yeshua for cleansing and forgiveness, and the second for the purification of ethnic Israel during Yom Adonai, the great Day of the LORD at the end of days.

May it be a year filled with blessing, peace and prosperity for Israel and the entire world.

Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 10/02/2016


Here is a re-post on the Jewish  Feast of Rosh Hashanna (head of the year) which is celebrated in 2016 from sundown Sunday Oct. 2 through sundown Oct. 3:

Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShannah   

The Feast of Trumpets
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.  Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the LORD.’’”  Leviticus 23:23-25

The Bible calls this feast Yom Teruah, the Day of Sounding the Trumpets. Today it is more commonly known as Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.   To understand the significance of Yom Teruah is to understand the subsequent festivals of Yom Kippur and Sukkot.  Traditionally, sounding the trumpet or shofar (ram’s horn) meant that the Children of Israel were to take note—whether a battle call, a call to assemble at the Tabernacle, or other major event, the Jewish people knew to give great importance to the call. In this case the call was intended to set apart the day in preparation for the holiest day of the Biblical calendar, Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement.  The ten days preceding Yom Kippur are spent in introspection, repentance, and an attitude of awe of God’s grace and mercy—in fact these days were later called by the Jewish people, the Days of Awe.

As believers in the Messiah who was the eternal Atonement of our sins, Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah is a call to take notice of God’s loving sacrifice by sending His Son to die for us.  It reminds us to reflect on our own walk and relationship with God and others.

Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of Tishri. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year.” Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. This name is somewhat deceptive, because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year, and the American midnight drinking bash and daytime football game.

There is, however, one important similarity between the Jewish New Year and the American one: Many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making “resolutions.” Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year.

Click to hear the shofar

The name “Rosh Hashanah” is not used in the Bible to discuss this holiday. The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:23-25 where the Lord told Moses to declare all the Jewish feasts for an everlasting covenant. As grafted in believers, shouldn’t we be observing this too?

This festival occurs in the Fall. So why is it known as the Jewish New Year, when the Biblical calendar’s New Year begins in the Spring? The Bible describes the beginning of the year as Nisan (around April) but for 2000 years Jews have celebrated the beginning of the year on Rosh Hashannah, which is in early fall – Tishri, the seventh month. Perhaps this is because it echoes the day of rest, the Sabbath, a day of recollection and contemplation, or a catching of one’s breath after the six days of hard work, a new beginning, a revival of spirituality.

The shofar is a ram’s horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. There are four different types of shofar notes: tekiah, a 3 second sustained note; shevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone, teruah, a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds; and tekiah gedolah (literally, “big tekiah”), the final blast in a set, which lasts (I think) 10 seconds minimum. Click the shofar above to hear an approximation of the sound of Tekiah Shevarim-Teruah Tekiah. The Bible gives no specific reason for this practice. One that has been suggested is that the shofar’s sound is a call to repentance. The shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on Shabbat.

round challah

No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. In fact, there is a special prayerbook called the machzor used for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the extensive liturgical changes for these holidays.

Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. Also, round shaped foods are eaten to symbolize the cycle of the year. Fish is often served with the head left on, to symbolize the ‘head’ (rosh) of the year. The common greeting at this time is L’shanah tovah (“for a good year”). This is a shortening of “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (or to women, “L’shanah tovah tikatevi v’taihatemi”), which means “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”

Judaism has several different “new years,” a concept which may seem strange at first, but think of it this way: the American “new year” starts in January, but the new “school year” starts in September, and many businesses have “fiscal years” that start at various times of the year. In Judaism, Nissan 1 is the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings and months on the calendar, Elul 1 (in August) is the new year for the tithing of animals, Shevat 15 (in February) is the new year for trees (determining when first fruits can be eaten, etc.), and Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah) is the new year for years (when we increase the year number. Sabbatical and Jubilee years begin at this time).

Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 07/30/2016


GraftedinThe whole purpose of this blog is to show Christians who follow ‘Replacement Theology’ how wrong that theology is, according to the Holy Scriptures and the New Testament, particularly Romans chapter 11. Replacement Theology isn’t a term you will hear in churches, but in so many denominations it’s there behind the scenes, in that Israel and the Jews are counted as cast off by the Lord, and that all the promises made to them are now appointed to Christians. While it is true that Jews need to receive Yeshua (Jesus) as their Mashiach (Savior/Messiah), they have or WILL HAVE just as much opportunity for this salvation as gentiles. God is in ultimate control of history. His call and his gifts are irrevocable.

graftWe gentile believers are the ‘wild olive branch’ which has been ‘grafted in’ to the cultivated natural olive tree. Rather than looking down on Israel and Jewish people, we are to honor them and value them as the ROOT supporting our faith! When the Jewish Jesus came to the earth to die for the sins of men, it was for all men, not only Jews and not only gentiles. The Law and the Prophets did not disappear; rather they remain the basis of all righteousness and truth. Yes, the LORD punished His children severely over the ages due to their ‘adultery’ with false gods, but He always forgave them and re-established His everlasting covenants with them. Note that a Jew who believes in Yeshua does not cease being Jewish – it’s his ethnicity in any case. He does not need to become a ‘Christian’ per se, but he becomes a ‘completed Jew’ just like Paul and the other early believers and apostles. He does not need to attend a church unless he wants to. He is better off attending a Messianic Synagogue where the Jewishness, the foundation, of the Christian faith is observed and practiced (Torah portions, mitzvahs, etc.), along with New Testament teachings. He does not discard the Torah, the law, but in Christ he receives forgiveness for disobedience to it. Read this chapter to see the basis from which I write:

Romans 11 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Remnant of Israel

11 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham,[a] a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that would not see
    and ears that would not hear,
    down to this very day.”

And David says,

“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
    and bend their backs forever.”

Gentiles Grafted In

11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion[b] mean!

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

grafted in pendant17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root[c] of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers:[d] a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now[e] receive mercy.32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.


  1. Romans 11:1 Or one of the offspring of Abraham
  2. Romans 11:12 Greek their fullness
  3. Romans 11:17 Greek root of richness; some manuscripts richness
  4. Romans 11:25 Or brothers and sisters
  5. Romans 11:31 Some manuscripts omit now

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The following is a commentary on verses 11-32 from You Version’s ‘Bible in One Year’ daily reading:

God’s promises to Israel will prevail

“As we have seen, in Romans 11 Paul is answering the question, ‘Has God rejected his people?’ His answer is, ‘No, no, no’: ‘God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable’ (v.29). As The Message version puts it, ‘God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty – never cancelled, never rescinded’ (v.29, MSG).

graftedOliveYet Paul still grapples with the apparent reality that most have not accepted Jesus. He speaks about them ‘stumbling’ (v.11) and experiencing a ‘hardening’ (v.25). They are now like olive branches that have been ‘broken off’ (v.17). In this passage he tries to explain how this can fit with the unbreakable promises that God has made to the Jews. He highlights three key points:

  • First, this hardening was only partial. There has always been a remnant, chosen by grace (vv.11-16).
  • Second, the hardening was fruitful, since it led to riches for the Gentiles: ‘When they walked out, they left the door open and the outsiders walked in’ (v.11, MSG).
  • Third, the hardening was temporary. ‘”Are they out of this for good?” And the answer is a clear-cut No’ (v.11, MSG). ‘This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary’ (v.25, MSG). ‘Now, if their leaving triggered this worldwide coming of non-Jewish outsiders to God’s kingdom, just imagine the effect of their coming back! What a homecoming!’ (v.12, MSG).

This last point is particularly important to Paul, who cares passionately about his people. He eagerly anticipates the full inclusion of the people of Israel (v.12). He goes on to say that ‘all Israel will be saved’ (v.26). He does not say ‘if‘ this happens, but ‘when‘ this happens. He uses an olive tree as a picture of the Jewish nation (vv.17,24). Christ came. The nation rejected him. The tree was chopped down but the roots were left. The gardener grafts in the Gentiles (v.17).

The time is coming when the Jewish branches will be grafted back (vv.23-24, MSG). Then the whole tree will be complete. The Gentiles grow up out of the stump – they do not support the root (the Jews) but the root supports them (v.18). There are three successive stages in the fulfilment of the divine plan of salvation:

First, the unbelief of the greater part of Israel: ‘some of the tree’s branches were pruned’ (v,17, MSG)

Second, the inclusion of many outsiders through faith in Jesus: ‘you wild olive shoots were grafted in’ (v.17, MSG)

Third, the salvation of ‘all Israel’ (v.26)

But, what does ‘all Israel will be saved‘ mean? Some have argued that it means Israel can still be saved apart from Christ. However, this position is not credible. Paul has argued throughout the letter that Jesus is the way of salvation.

Others have argued that it meant the whole nation of Israel, including every single member, will put their faith in Jesus. However, ‘all Israel’ is a recurring expression in the Old Testament and other Jewish literature, where it need not mean ‘every Jew without a single exception’ but ‘Israel as a whole‘ (for example, 1 Samuel 7:5; 28:1; 1 Kings 12:1; Daniel 9:11). This also fits with the context of what Paul is saying here in Romans.

Paul is considering God’s dealing with the nation as a whole. Thus, ‘their fullness’ (Romans 11:12) is to be understood in the same sense as the fullness of the Gentiles. The large-scale conversion of the Gentile world is to be followed by the large-scale conversion of Israel.

Paul concludes: ‘There was a time not so long ago when you were on the outs with God. But then the Jews slammed the door on him and things opened up for you. Now they are on the outs. But with the door held wide open for you, they have a way back in. In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in’ (vv.30-32, MSG).

Thank you, Lord, that the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Thank you that you promise that, one day, all Israel will be saved. Lord, we pray for that day to come quickly, that we will see not only a large scale conversion of the Gentile world but also a large scale conversion of the people of Israel.


Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 05/27/2016


Before reading this post, please watch this brief but dramatic footage over Masada, taken by a drone and published by ISRAELVIDEONETWORK.COM.


Masada“Declared a United Nations World Heritage Site in 2001, Masada National Park features a sand-colored Visitors’ Center which hugs the slopes, a fascinating, interactive museum, and a thrilling audio-visual production. But the most exciting portion of a visit to Masada is a tour of the mountaintop — which is accessible by foot, for stalwart hikers, or by way of special, wheelchair-accessible cable cars.” (I was blessed to take this tour twice – in 2007 and 2009.)

When you glance at it from the highway, Masada looks much like any other mountain in the Judean desert. Yet it was on these heights, and in the middle of this dreary landscape, that King Herod the Great erected a luxurious desert fortress. And it was here, as well, that a group of besieged and desperate Jewish zealots fought the Romans with inhuman valor, then placed their belongings in a corner, set each pile afire, and committed a well-publicized mass suicide.

According to Roman-era historian Josephus Flavius, Jews first fortified Masada during those often exhilarating decades after the Maccabees vanquished the Greeks and tossed them out of Israel. Indeed, coins discovered on the mountain date back to the days of Alexander Janneus (103-76 B.C.E.), one of the Hasmonean (Maccabee) kings.

Israeli-Flag-Flying-at-MasadaKing Herod, who ruled Israel on behalf of the Roman Empire at the end of the first century B.C.E., was the next to build up the mountain. A brutal ruler, justifiably paranoid, the king enlarged and beautified the Jerusalem Temple and built splendid cities, fortresses, and villas during his regime. As a result, he has gone down in history as Herod the Great.

He first put Masada to use soon after being appointed King of Judea by the Romans. Jerusalem was attacked by the Parthians and Herod fled to Petra, after first sending his family to hide out at Masada. It was only some years later that he began his massive construction on the mountain: two luxurious palaces, a swimming pool, several lavish bathhouses, and a giant water system that seemed to raise Masada out of the desert.

The largest building on Masada is the western palace, where Herod apparently conducted business. Remains of the elaborate bedrooms include some gorgeous mosaic floors with geometric shapes and fig and pomegranate decorations.

Near two of Herod’s bathtubs is an enclosure whose inside walls are dotted with square holes. Believe it or not, this was a large desert swimming pool and the holes were lockers for bathers’ clothes! To provide water for his pools, bathtubs, cisterns, and bathhouses Herod built an intricate system of aqueducts and reservoirs that utilized winter floodwaters sucked from the riverbeds and retained in mountainside reservoirs.

Herod’s sumptuous northern palace is located on the highest part of the mountain. Built on three levels along the northern edge of the cliff, it commanded magnificent views of the Dead Sea, the adjoining mountains, and the desert. A steep descent leads down the slopes while other stairs ascend to a tower.

The palace’s elaborate bathhouse is decorated with splendid frescoes, and its entrance included a covered, plastered pool with colored walls where people cleansed themselves before going into the sauna. They then entered — first the tepid room, then the hotter rooms.

Gazing down from a bridge on the mountaintop, you can clearly make out a donkey trail that leads to and from one of Herod’s huge reservoirs. Apparently people high on the mountain loaded donkeys with jugs, smacked the beasts on the behind, and sent them down to the reservoir. There, the jugs would be filled, the behinds whacked again, and up they would come with water.


Troughs for food

Well below the mountain are remains of eight Roman military camps. Following Herod’s death, a garrison remained to guard Masada. At the beginning of the Great Revolt (67-73 C.E.), in which the Jews of Israel rose up against the Romans, a band of daring rebels overcame the mountain’s guards and took over Masada. They were known as the Sicarii because of the dagger, called a sica, which they carried on their bodies.

After the fall of Jerusalem, and destruction of the Holy Temple in 70 C.E., hundreds of Jews joined the Sicarii on the mountaintop. These brave men, women, and children, dedicated to the eradication of pagan rule in the Land of Israel, are known as Zealots. Their harrowing tale has become an eternal symbol of the Jewish fight for freedom.

During those electrifying years, the Zealots lived inside the double walls, known as casement walls, with which Herod surrounded Masada. Among the findings in their simple lodgings were nutshells, eggshells, and other homely residue.” There was enough food and water to supply their needs for years, in long troughs and vast cisterns.


Rolling stones, ammunition of the Zealots (photo by Shmuel Bar-Am)

“In 73 C.E., after the Great Revolt had been savagely subdued, the Romans decided to put an end to the last pocket of resistance: the freedom fighters of Masada. For three years, the Zealots had managed to keep the Romans off the mountain. Now, however, nearly 10,000 troops tried starving the Jewish rebels — and when that didn’t work they utilized every conceivable kind of contemporary siege weapon in an effort to break through the seemingly impregnable fortress. Finally, they breached the wall.

Visitors can look down from the peak to view the embankment that the Romans built in order to wheel a battering ram up to the wall. And – yes – you are looking at a battering ram! This one, however, was used in a 20thcentury cinematic epic called Masada starring Peter O’Toole as Silva. Due to the desert conditions, the Roman siege installations, i.e. the camps, dike, and ramparts, have been fully preserved, and provide archaeologists with the evidence needed to reconstruct the development of the siege.

The embankment, an earthen ramp, was apparently erected by thousands of Jewish slaves whom the Romans brought to Masada especially for this purpose. They were sure that the Zealots would hesitate to shoot at their brethren and, in fact, they were right.

When the walls of Masada were breached, the Sicarii realized that the fortress would soon fall into the hands of the Romans, and decided to do something quite unthinkable.

Knowing the end was near, Zealot leader Elazar Ben-Yair called his people – 967 men, women, and children – together. He reminded them that they had long ago resolved to serve God only, and not the Romans nor any other master. He called upon them to die as free men and women, rather than face capture and slavery by the pagan conquerors.

His heartrending and moving speech persuaded the Zealots to commit suicide before the expected dawn attack by the Romans. They burned their belongings and their weapons, leaving food so that the Romans would know that they had died of their own free will and had not perished of hunger. Eleazar spoke these words to the doomed defenders:

“Let our wives die before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted of slavery; and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually, and preserve ourselves in freedom, as an excellent funeral monument for us. But first let us destroy our money and the fortress by fire; for I am well assured that this will be a great grief to the Romans, that they shall not be able to seize upon our bodies, and shall fall of our wealth also; and let us spare nothing but our provisions; for they will be a testimonial when we are dead that we were not subdued for want of necessaries, but that, according to our original resolution, we have preferred death before slavery.”    (Josephus, The Jewish War, VII, 8.6)

The defenders were persuaded by Eleazar’s speech, and a mass suicide soon followed. (Some maintain that it was not suicide at all, which would have been against their beliefs, but rather they made an agreement to kill each other). Lots were drawn and 10 men were chosen as executioners:  the rest lay side by side and bared their necks. At the end, one Zealot killed the other nine and then took his own life. It was the first day of Passover, the holiday in which the Jews celebrate their freedom from bondage.” Two women and five children hid and were not killed – they lived to tell the story.

In an historic find during excavations on the mountain, 11 pottery shards were discovered in a room nearby. Each fragment bore a name, including that of “Ben-Yair,” the Zealots’ leader.”

Note: Masada is a National Park that opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at 5:00 p.m.; last entrance at 4:00. There is an entrance fee. Much of the site is wheelchair accessible and there are wheelchairs available in the Visitors’ Center.

 Partly from Aviva Bar-Am’s book: “Israel Travels from Metulla to Eilat.”

Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 05/05/2016


auschwitzDo not believe the HOLOCAUST DENIERS. There is so much evidence, even survivors who are still alive to tell about it, thousands of books and movies, photographs and letters to prove that the Holocaust certainly did happen! The Israel Video Network says this: “On this day, we remember the loss of 6 million of our people. We remember this loss that so profoundly defines our past, our present and our future. Especially today, and every Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, we resolve to remember this loss so that we may educate every future generation about this tragic chapter in our history. We remember these darkest days of the Jewish people. We remember how faith and hope led to the creation of the Jewish homeland. We remember the paramount importance of protecting and defending Israel’s existence. We resolve to never forget and to always proclaim “Never Again.”

brandToday, which is also the National Day Of Prayer in the U.S., let us “pray for the Peace of Jerusalem..” (Psalms 122:6a) and pray that the world will acknowledge the Holocaust and stand with Israel and the Jewish people.

Click on this link to watch a 3.5 minute video of the remains of Auschwitz, as filmed by a drone:

Just go to Images and search for ‘Holocaust Concentration Camps’ if you want to see photos too horrible for me to post here. Show them to people who try to deny this ever happened. And, if you are ever in Israel, or Washington, D.C., visit the Holocaust Museums there. You will be overwhelmed. I was.

If we held a moment of silence for every victim of the Holocaust we would be silent for eleven and a half years.




Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 04/20/2016


Passover Seder

   Passover 2016
April 22 – April 30

Posting this again for newcomers to the site – Most people have at least some knowledge of what the Jewish Festival of Passover (Pesach) is all about, even if it is only from watching Charlton Heston as Moses in the movie ‘Ten Commandments’. In the Bible book of Leviticus, God decrees that seven feasts are to be observed every year by His people (an eighth one is the weekly Sabbath).  “‘These are the LORD’s appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times:  The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.  On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present a food offering to the LORD. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.’” (Lev. 23:4-8).

The Passover is basically to remember how God delivered His people from their 400 year slavery in Egypt. The Jews were told by God through Moses, on the night before their liberation, to paint the blood of a sacrificial lamb over the doorposts of their homes to avoid the angel of death to their firstborn. Christians believe that this event was a ‘shadow’ or ‘type’ of what was to come in the future when Messiah Jesus (Yeshua, the only sinless man in history) came to set people free from their captivity to sin and damnation by being the perfect Lamb who was sacrificed. The Passover in Moses’ day was celebrated by bringing a flawless lamb to the high priest to be slaughtered and have its blood sprinkled on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle (“.. without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin..” Hebrews 9:22) The blood of Christ symbolically covering Jewish and gentile believers likewise avoids for us eternal damnation for our sins.

Being a ‘pilgrimage festival’, all the men of Israel were to come up to Jerusalem in the Hebrew month of Nissan 14-21 (usually April – this year (2010) the eve of April 18) for an 8 day holiday beginning with a special meal called the seder (order) on the eve of the first day of Passover (erev pesach). (Did you know that the Christian Last Supper was a Passover Seder?) Today, as then, at the family table there are symbolic foods, special songs and the story of deliverance is retold in detail with the youngest child asking certain questions of the father, beginning with ‘What makes this night different from all [other] nights?’ This liturgy is called the Haggadah (telling your son). Before Passover, houses are swept clean of all leaven (symbol of sin) and unleavened bread (matzah) is eaten for the entire week.


The matzah is striped and pierced in appearance. This is such a picture of the striped and pierced body of Christ at the hands of the Roman guards who pierced Him with a sword, and scourged Him with whips.

Passover symbolic foods

The symbolic foods eaten at the Passover seder are these:

  1. Beitzah – A roasted egg – symbolizes the cycle of the seasons and of the sacrifices in the Temple
  2. Karpas – Parsley (or vegetable) – symbolizes the renewal of spring
  3. Ze’roa – Roasted shank bone – symbolizes the pascal offering in the Temple
  4. Charoset – Chopped apples and nuts – symbolizes the mortar that the Israelites used to build the storehouses for Pharaoh
  5. Maror – Bitter herb (horseradish) – symbolizes the bitterness of the slavery that the Israelites endured in Egypt.
  6. Chazeret – Romaine lettuce – symbolizes spring
  7. Salted water — represents the tears the Israelites shed when they were slaves in Egypt.  The parsley is dipped in the salt water
  8. Four cups of red wine or grape juice — Each cup is related to a different Biblical verse that promises that God will redeem the Israelites from bondage in Egypt
  9. Matzah — the unleavened bread the Israelites baked before leaving Egypt

Finding the ‘afikomen’ (dessert) is part of the celebration of Passover. Three pieces of matzah are ceremonially set aside. The middle one is the afikomen. At one point during the meal, it is taken out, broken in half, wrapped in linen and hidden. Later in the evening the children are invited to search for it, and whoever finds it rejoices greatly as he/she receives a gift. Yeshua also was wrapped in linen and hidden in the grave. Three days later He rose again, a cause for great rejoicing by believers ever since because of the GIFT of Salvation! Our Christian celebration of Resurrection Day (Easter) commemorates the resurrection of Yeshua. Do you see the parallels? There are so many more but enough for this blog post. I will be attending a Passover Seder with the Messianic congregation of Mishkahn D’avid this year (True in 2010 and true in 2016!) . I also attended one in a Jewish family’s home in 2009. Remember, I am ‘GRAFTED IN’!

Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 03/24/2016

PURIM 2016

Queen Esther (costumed)

This year March 23/24 is the Jewish festival of Purim. This fun holiday is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in Ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.” (sound familiar?)

Interestingly, Purim falls on Maundy Thursday this year. In both observances, we celebrate freedom from chains of oppression and slavery. With Purim, the people of God are SAVED from extermination; with Maundy Thursday through Resurrection Sunday, all who believe in Messiah is SAVED from slavery to sin and damnation and become the people of God. I am re-publishing this post on Purim for 2016. The date is different but otherwise the info is the same.

The story in a nutshell:
The Persian empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he orchestrated a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen—though she refused to divulge the identity of her nationality.

Meanwhile, the anti-Semitic Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin) defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed and convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar—a date chosen by a lottery Haman made. Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to God. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At the feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued—granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies. On the 13th of Adar the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar they rested and celebrated.

Purim observances:
There is a special atmosphere in the synagogue during the Megillah (Book of Esther) reading. Children and sometimes adults arrive in costumes. Some costumes are traditional Mordechai and Esther disguises, and some are the more modern Spiderman and Harry Potter costumes. Anything goes on Purim.  Everyone brings noise makers (rashanim) which they shake whenever “Haman”, the villain in the Purim story, is mentioned during the reading, and they boo and hiss at his name. Another custom was to write Haman’s name on one’s shoe soles and to stamp one’s feet until the oppressor’s name was erased. The custom of making a noise when Haman’s name is mentioned is very ancient and widespread. When Mordechai’s name is mentioned they cheer loudly.

Purim Food Customs
It is a mitzvah (good deed) to eat Seudat Purim (a festive meal) on Purim day. Often Purim songs are sung during this meal. There is even a commandment to drink to intoxication (imagine a command to get drunk!), until they no longer know whether they are blessing Mordechai or cursing Haman.

Purim basket

“Haman’s ears”

Another Purim custom related to food is Mishloach Manot or Shlach Manos (sending of portions – food baskets). Part of the Purim atmosphere is seeing children and adults, in costume, walking through the neighborhood giving baskets and plates filled with hamantashan and other goodies to family, friends, and neighbors. At the festive meal, and during the rest of the day, Jews eat hamantashen (Haman’s ears). Kreplach is another food often eaten at the festive meal.

Matanot LaEvyonim is Hebrew for “gifts to the poor.” On Purim, every Jew is required to give a minimum of two gifts to two people in need. The gifts should be food or money. Often synagogues join together on Purim to raise money to give to the needy.

Costumes and Carnivals

Purim Party

The most popular way to celebrate Purim is to dress up in costumes. The costumes mark the reversal of fate and the fact that Esther concealed her origins. Some say it also portrays the mysterious fact that God’s name is not mentioned once (He is hidden) in the Book of Esther, yet He was clearly in control of the whole situation!

Purim Plays, called Purim Shpiels, are also prevalent as a way to increase joy on the holiday. In Israel, street parades, called Adloyada, which means “until we can’t tell” (the difference between cursing Haman and blessing Mordechai), have become popular on Purim. Carnivals and parties are also common ways to celebrate Purim.

Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 03/10/2016

“CHRISTIAN” Anti-Semitism

‘Christian’ Anti-semitism – How Can It Be?

chrantisemIncomprehensibly, there are so called Christians who hate the Jewish people and go along with anti-semitism. How can anyone who loves the Lord Jesus hate the Jewish people? You go to Sunday School and church and rejoice in your ‘so great . . . salvation” (Heb. 2:3), and you sing hymns and worship and yet hate the Jewish people. The same God who who chose the Jews has invited gentiles into His Kingdom also! How can true believers despise those who brought them Our Lord and Savior and beauty and truth including the laws for all true civilized behavior? I am honored to say that I stand with the Jewish people now and will continue to do so forever. I thank God for His Chosen People and His marvelous grace in preserving them despite endless attempts to exterminate them. Please refresh your memory of these passages from Romans chapter 11, as written by the Apostle Paul:


Israel Is Not Cast Away

“11 1I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite,  a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written,

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
Eyes to see not and ears to hear not,
Down to this very day.”

boycott11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! 13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my  fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive (gentile), were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the  rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
27 “This is  My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

hatred28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”


To read a previous post on the same subject please click here:


Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 01/27/2016



remdayAlthough Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed in Israel on May-4-5 this year, the world remembers today. . . .

Bridges For Peace publication

PM Netanyahu greets Holocaust survivors

PM Netanyahu greets Holocaust survivors

Wednesday, 27 January 2016Editor’s Note: Today is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a day that transcends borders and religions as the world remembers the terrible genocide during which an estimated 6 million Jewish men, women and children were murdered.

On 27 January 1945, Russian forces reached the ‪Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and opened the gates to the largest Nazi killing center in Europe. Over the past 71 years, Auschwitz has become a symbol of the Holocaust, representing the depths of evil, cruelty and deprivation.

holoNearly 60 years after the terrible days of World War II and its unspeakable repercussions for European Jewry, a number of those who lived through the nightmare drafted a Survivor’s Declaration.  

“The Age of Holocaust Survivors is drawing to a close,” it reads. “Before long no one will be left to say I was there, I saw, I remember what happened. All that will be left will be books of literature and research, pictures and films, and multitudinous testimony.

“This will be a new era,” the declaration states. “The dark inheritance of the Shoah that was so indelibly stamped on the survivors’ souls and hearts will become a sacred mission imposed upon humanity.” “The Holocaust, which established the standard for absolute evil, is the universal heritage of all civilized people.”

Last night, as sunset ushered in the start of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the importance of remembrance, anti-Semitism and the way forward for the Jewish state.

Hall of the Children - Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, Israel

Hall of the Children – Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, Israel

Following is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s greeting on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day:

“Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is more important today than ever for in this period of resurgent and sometimes violent anti-Semitism, it is commemorations like this that remind us all where the oldest and most enduring hatred can lead.

Unfortunately, in Europe and elsewhere, Jews are once again being targeted just for being Jews. Around the world, Jewish communities are increasingly living in fear. We see anti-Semitism directed against individual Jews, and we also see this hatred directed against the collective Jew, against the Jewish state. Israel is targeted with the same slurs and the same libels that were leveled against the Jewish people since time immemorial.

Islamic extremists incorporate the most outrageous anti-Semitism into their murderous doctrines. We see this in Gaza; we see it in Raqqa; we see it in Tehran. And it’s not just Islamic extremists in the Middle East and Europe. Even respected Western opinion leaders have become afflicted with hatred for the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

The obsession with the Jews—the fixation on the Jewish state—defies any other rational explanation. While across the region, Islamist militants brutalize entire populations, enslave and rape women, murder Christians and gays, the UN Human Rights Council repeatedly condemns Israel. More than North Korea. More than Iran. More than Syria. More than all of them put together. Some things just don’t change.

Today, the world once again marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We remember the six million Jewish and five million Gentile victims of Nazi terror. We also stand with those being oppressed and murdered today. The world needs to remember so that the sins of yesterday don't turn into the reality of today. NEVER AGAIN!!!(Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90

Today, the world once again marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We remember the six million Jewish and five million Gentile victims of Nazi terror. We also stand with those being oppressed and murdered today. The world needs to remember so that the sins of yesterday don’t turn into the reality of today.NEVER AGAIN!!!(Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

But one thing has changed. We have changed. The Jews have changed. We are no longer a stateless people endlessly searching for a safe haven. We are no longer a powerless people begging others to offer us protection.

Today we are an independent and sovereign people in our own homeland. Today we can speak out against the voices of hatred and those seeking our destruction. Today we can protect ourselves and defend our freedom. We have changed and we stand and speak out and we defend ourselves. But where is Europe? Where is the rest of civilization?

When a state like Iran and movements like Daesh [ISIS] and Hamas openly declare their goal of committing another Holocaust, we will not let it happen. But Europe and the rest of the world must stand up together with us. Not for our sake; for theirs.”Source: (This press release was originally published by Government Press Office on 26 January 2016)  Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO

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