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Shalom from Jerusalem!

I hope that you will enjoy our latest news letter, there is a distinct theme of old and new this time!
Exciting news for our Sar-El Scroll! Shahar Shilo, a well known historian and lecturer has kindly agreed to join forces with us for our newsletters.  It is a great honor for us and we will share more of his work in future publications.

Please feel free to pass this on to friends and family who would be interested.  

God Bless,
Samuel Smadja

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What's  New In Israel

Ancient Poultry & Arable Farming

  Story courtesy of Israel Hayom 
Recent excavation work by the Sea of Galilee has changed the opinion  of when wheat farming first began. Findings of weeds, sickle blades, and domesticated grains now show that farming wheat and barley in this area was practiced earlier than was previously believed. Domesticated wheat differs from wild species in the fact that the ears of wheat and barley have a scarred, hard casing which prevents the seeds from dispersing and sowing themselves as they would normally from a wild variety.

According to Professor Ehud Weiss of the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology Department at Bar-Ilan University explains that the grains found were unusually well preserved due to a poorly oxygenenated environment; the grains were "charred and then covered by sediment and water".  



Israel Wins 61 Medals at the 2015 Special Olympics


Our Israeli delegation team, image and text  courtesy of Jpost
The Israeli delegation to the Special Olympics in Los Angeles made us proud with 25 gold medals, 18 silver and 18 bronze medals. Athletics proved to be our most successful category with a total of 12 medals won in this alone.  The bi-annual competition saw over 6,500 athletes from 165 countries compete together. The Special Olympics is a world-wide attempt to empower people with intellectual disabilities to become more respected and appreciated members of their local community. We are truly proud of our team and of all their accomplishments!



Goliath's City: Gath

I mage courtesy of Times of Israel. Story, Times of Israel & Israel Today 
Bar Ilan University archaeologists have unearthed fortifications and the huge gates to the biblical city of Gath- home to Goliath the giant (1 Samuel 17:4 "A champion named Goliath who was from Gath came out of the Philistine camp"). Gath is in the Judean foothills between Jerusalem and Ashkelon and was the largest city during 10th-9th century BCE. According to excavation leader Professor Aren Maeir, the gate is the largest ever found in Israel and "...these monumental fortifications stress how large and mighty the city was".

Excavations have in fact been underway since the late 1800's but only recently has it become clear how vast the site is. Also uncovered were parts of the extensive city wall fortifications, a Philistine Temple, pottery and ironwork. There is also what has been described as "widespread destruction" from an earthquake which is suggested to be the one mentioned in the book of Amos. The earliest Philistine inscription to have been found includes two names very similar to Goliath. A horde of weapons along with other evidence links to the destruction of the city by Hazael (2 Kings 12:18).

Points of Interest

From David to Jesus: The City of David in a Christian Narrative

Illustrated reconstruction of Shiloah

Pool in the time of Jesus


In recent years, excavations at the City of David have unearthed a great deal of thrilling evidence related to stories from the Biblical era, the Roman era, the time of Jesus and the Byzantine era. A new tour itinerary offers visitors close-hand acquaintance with the story of Jesus healing a blind man at Shiloah Pool (John 9:7), with the Shiloah church established by Byzantine empress Eudocia, with the impressive findings from the reign of Emperor Heraclius - who returned the True Cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.



The tour begins at Shiloah Pool, which lies at the southern end of the City of David hill. The hills that lie on both our sides form a deep valley whose ancient name is the Tyropoeon Valley, meaning valley of the cheese-makers in Greek. The lower part of this valley was suited for storing water. A large pool was thus constructed on this spot to store water from the Gihon Spring, as well as rainwater drained from the surrounding hills. It is probably here where King Hezekiah built the pool to which the waters of the Gihon flowed through the famous tunnel that was carved on the eve of the Assyrian siege. The remains of these ancient pools were cleared by the builders of the magnificent pool that was built anew on this site by King Herod in the time of Jesus.


"Bulla" (minting stamp) from the 8th century BC bearing the name Bethlehem, the city where King David and Jesus were born.

At the entrance to the site, we see steps leading to a large square pool (which, in the period of the Second Temple, extended over 3,000 sq. meters or 0.75 acres), only part of which has been excavated.


This is the celebrated pool which was the site of one the two miracles carried out by Jesus in  Jer usalem. Shiloah Pool is mentioned in the New Testament (John 9:7) when Jesus blessed a blind man and told him to wash in the pool of Shiloah and he was healed from his blindness. The second miracle carried out by Jesus in Jerusalem was the healing of a lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5 1-13). Thus, according to the New Testament, Jesus carried out just two miracles in the city of Jerusalem itself. It is thrilling to see the connection between the conquest of Jerusalem by King David and the entrance of Jesus, a descendant of the House of David, one thousand years later.

Illustrated reconstruction of the Shiloah church built by Empress Eudocia
Here, at Shiloah Pool, we remember the words spoken by the King of the Jebusite city to the young King David as he prepared to conquer the city - "Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither thinking David cannot come in hither" (Samuel II, 5:6). David had to pave the way to conquering the city by removing the blind and the lame by force. 1,000 years later, Jesus, a descendant of the House of David, would enter Jerusalem and encounter the same problem faced by his ancestor. But Jesus resolved the problem in his own special way - through kindness and mercy, healing and recovery.




Close to Shiloah Pool, Frederick Bliss and Archibald Dickey, of the Palestine Exploration Fund,


Remains of the Byzantine Shiloah Pool at the City of David

uncovered in the 1890s the ruins of the Shiloah church built by Empress Eudocia in the middle of the fifth century AD. Due to the sacred nature and importance of the pool to Christian pilgrims, Empress Eudocia built a large church which extended over the pool and encompassed it on all sides.


During the period of the Second Temple the waters of Shiloah Pool were used in Temple services. During Simhat bet hashoeva, the water drawing ceremony celebrated during the festival of Succoth, "waters were drawn with joy from the well of salvation." In an impressive ceremony, the high priests descended from the Temple, with a fanfare of trumpets, to the pool and re-ascended to pour the water over the altar. From the pool, well-carved stone steps lead westward toward the Temple Mount. The route passes along a beautifully built stepped street that dates from the second Temple period. The well-preserved paving testifies to a high standard of construction.


The Herodian drainage tunne l

The route continues northward crossing the ancient Tyropoeon Valley through an impressive drainage tunnel with a ceiling of stone slabs and walls of carved stone rising 2.5 meters high most of the way. The drainage tunnel, which was built during the reign of King Herod, leads northward to the Givati parking lot site, which was excavated entirely in the Tyropoeon Valley. Here, next to the entrance to the City of David National Park, spectacular remains were found from the Byzantine era, including a large public edifice where an impressive hoard of Byzantine coins was found, under one of its walls, during an excavation a few years ago, consisting of 264 coins in pure gold. All the coins bear the portrait of Emperor Heraclius and were minted during his rule over the Byzantine empire, at the beginning of the 7th century AD. In 614 AD, Sassanid Persians invaded the Holy land from the east, killing thousands of Christian clergy and nuns and causing wide-scale destruction (according to contemporary Christian sources).


The coins which commemorate Heraclius tell a moving story. The Sassanid Persians stormed the  Church of the Holy Sepulcher and returned home with the True Cross which, according to Christian tradition, was found by Queen Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, at the beginning of the fourth century AD. Heraclius did not rest until, after fifteen years of preparations and fighting, he defeated the Sassanids in 629 and returned the True Cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The magnificent hoard was undoubtedly of huge importance to the Byzantine kingdom and it apparently remained hidden at the site when the man who hid them was murdered or killed in the fighting.


Portrait of Emperor Heraclius

   Hoard of Byzantine gold coins (610-613 AD)

All images and text courtesy of Shahar Shilo 

After the Givati parking lot, we continue underground, through the tunnel, towards the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The exit from the tunnel leads visitors to the foot of the Western Wall which rises high above the heads of the visitors and where remains can be seen of the enormous arch (Robinson's Arch) which enabled pilgrims to enter the Temple Mount complex. At the foot of the arch lie store entrances from the time of the Second Temple, where pilgrims would purchase sacrificial animals and exchange money before entering the Temple itself. The New Testament recounts that Jesus scolded the money changers and overturned their tables because they engaged in commerce and thieving next to the Temple. The ruins of these stores and the street itself are moving reminders of this important story.

A Word from Samuel
Dear Friends,
Shalom and greetings to you from Jerusalem!

Very soon it will be Rosh Hashana, the Feast of Trumpets and the Jewish New Year. Another year will end, bringing with it the beginning of a new season.

Traditions often focus on new beginnings but what about the end of this year? What about finishing this year well? "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty." (1 Corinthians 9:24-26) What if instead of only focusing on beginning well, we focus on running the whole race with endurance, throwing off those things that hinder us and instead run with perseverance the race set out before us. (Hebrews 12:1). Athletes do not train only to start well; after all, what is the point of running the race if you can't finish it?

Think for a moment about what you might need to finish this year well.
Is it more grace? Read Hebrews 4:16.
Is it more peace? See John 14:27.
Is it more love? Read 1 John 3:16-18 and Romans 8:35-39 .
Perhaps you need to see God's provision in your life- look up Matthew 6:26, 31-32, Psalm 34:10 and Psalm 81:10.
Maybe you need more joy. Remember Romans 15:13.

Whatever it is that we need, God already knows (Matthew 6:8). "He who began a good work in you will carry it through to completion until the day of Yeshua HaMashiah" (Philippians 1:6). God promises to continue the work He has started in us until it is complete. So we can be confident that whatever it is we need, we can ask for and He will help us, He is faithful and knows all our needs for each time and season that we face.

Lamentations 3:22-23 reminds us that "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!" Let us be encouraged by this. The fact that His love is steadfast means that it is: resolutely firm, faithful, dependable, committed, constant, reliable and true. If we believe God's word to be true then we can trust that He can and will enable us to be who He made us to be and do what He made us to do; His mercies are new every morning, God gives us all we need for each day, everyday! How wonderful it is to have this knowledge! I encourage you to finish this year and start the next believing in this truth and "Let us give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever!"(Psalm 136:1)

At the beginning of this new year, I want to wish each of you all new beginning; a beginning with purpose; a beginning with a goal to finish well. A  beginning with something of meaning to the Kingdom of God; a beginning that will impact the lives of people around you; a beginning of doing something that will be carried with you into eternity. May you be blessed this year.


Have a sweet and fruitful new year!

Samuel Smadja 
Owner and President of Sar-El

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