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The Bible in the News
The Sons of Abraham Re-Unite
Bahrain, another Arab State has made peace with Israel, turning the tide on 72 years of hostility.
Saturday, September 12, 2020  Audio & Print versions

As Bahrain joins the UAE in making peace with Israel, we are reminded of the hostile situation Jews faced in Arab lands from the 1880's through the present day. As attention turns to the Arab world, an exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum highlights the miraculous hand of God in bringing Jews from Yemen 70 years ago, and this puts into context the enormity of what is happening today. 

The recent peace agreement between Israel and the UAE, and the flight from Israel across Saudi Arabia’s capital to the UAE has drawn attention to Israel’s relationship with the Arab world both past and present.

Yesterday, the Nation of Bahrain joined the UAE in normalizing ties with Israel. President Trump announced the agreement from the Whitehouse:

“Just few moments ago I hosted an historic call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and King Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain. Both leaders expressed their condolences as well to the American people on this very, very tragic, horrible event that took place upon September 11th, and they very much meant it. I’d like to thank them for that. There is no more powerful response to the hatred that spawned 911 than the agreement that we are about to tell you, you will hear something today that I think is very, very important for not only the Middle East but for the world.

In the spirit of peace and cooperation, both leaders also agree that Bahrain will fully normalize its diplomatic relations with Israel. They will exchange embassies and ambassadors, begin direct flights between their countries, and launch cooperation initiatives across a broad range of sectors including health, business, technology, education, security and agriculture. This is a truly historic day. There have been two peace agreements with Israel in the last 72 years. This is now the second peace agreement that we have announced in the last month, and I am very hopeful that there will be more to follow. I can tell you there is tremendous enthusiasm on behalf of other countries to also join. We think ultimately, you will have most countries join, and you are going to have the Palestinians in a very good position. They are going to come in, they are going to want to come in, because all of their friends are in. We tremendous enthusiasm for coming into the deal. I want to thank the group of very talented people behind me, and you are going to hear from them in a second. It is just a very historic day, a very important day, and so interesting it is on 911.

This is an amazing development. The Arab block has been hostile to Israel since the establishment of the state in 1948, 72 years ago. The response of most Arab states to the vote for Israel’s independence in the United Nations was an attack on their Jewish citizens. The Historian Martin Gilbert recounts:

Even the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain, then under British protection, was the scene of violent attacks on the Jews. The representative of the British Government in Bahrain – the British Resident, Charles Belgrave – recalled in his memoirs…

Even the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain, then under British protection, was the scene of violent attacks on the Jews. The representative of the British Government in Bahrain – the British Resident, Charles Belgrave – recalled in his memoirs…

…existence was cruelly interrupted when a riot broke out in the capital Manama. Beginning on December 5, Jewish shops and homes were looted, and the synagogue destroyed and many Jews attacked and beaten up. During the riot Belgrave, his British Police driver and a British police officer fought off a mob that attacked a home oof a Jewish family who lived above their shop in the bazaar. Visiting Jewish homes after the police had quelled the riot, Belgrave was shocked to see that the houses ‘had been stripped of their contents, and what could not be removed had been smashed.’ When the synagogue was desecrated, the Torah Scrolls were stolen. ‘Miraculously’, writes the historian Norman A. Stillman, ‘only one elderly woman was killed.’

Only Jordan and Egypt made tacit peace agreements, both with many strings attached, following the 1967 and 1973 wars.

What the Scriptures Require

Scripture is clear that two power blocks will exist in the time of the end. Daniel describes a “King of the North” and an “King of the South” who continue the struggle for dominance of the Middle East that dates back to Alexander the Great.

The struggle continues to the latter days:

And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.” (Daniel 11:40–41)

This northern power block is defined in Ezekiel 38. The aggressor is identified as:

‘…Gog, of the land of Magog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal…” (Ezekiel 38:2 - RV)

The southern confederacy is identified in Ezekiel 38 as well:

Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:13)

Sheba and Dedan are the Arab countries that participate in this southern confederacy. Christadelphians have expected an alliance between Israel and the southern Arab states for almost two centuries.  The question was always “how would this be brought about?” As a community have wondered and watched since the formation of the state in 1948. All my life, the surrounding tribes have been hostile. Egypt made peace in 1978 and Jordan in 1991, but the rest of the tribes have not, until now.

Ezekiel’s description of the protestations of these Arab nations along with the merchants of Tarshish and independent their colonies, (the young lions), indicates a trading relationship between the Arabs and Israel.

John Thomas wrote the following in the book Elpis Israel in 1848,

Now any person acquainted with the present insecure condition of Palestine under the Ottoman dominion must be satisfied from the testimony, that some other power friendly to Israel must then have become paramount over the land, which is able to guarantee protection to them, and to put the surrounding tribes in fear. This is all that is needed, namely, security for life and property, and Palestine would be as eligible for Jewish emigration as the United States have proved for the Gentiles.

Britain and the United States have fulfilled this role over the past 103 years.

However in the past month, President Trump, having influence of the Arabs of the Saudi Arabian peninsular and  having “put the surrounding tribes in fear,” is helping to bring this about at a whole new level.

This is a partial fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy:

Surely the isles shall wait for me, And the ships of Tarshish first, To bring thy sons from far, Their silver and their gold with them, Unto the name of the Lord thy God, And to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee. And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, And their kings shall minister unto thee: For in my wrath I smote thee, But in my favour have I had mercy on thee.” (Isaiah 60:9–10)

Britain was first in bringing the sons of Israel from afar, but as the empire waned, the United States picked up the baton and has carried it since. These peace accords will help to reconnect Britain with Israel, as it will no longer have awkwardly stand aloof to protect its relationship with the Arab states.

Isaiah told us that “their kings shall minister unto thee” and that is exactly what Trump has been doing with these peace agreements.

Together, and jointed with the Arab states, they will form “Sheba, and Dedan, and merchants of Tarshish, and all its young lions” who protest the Northerner’s invasion.

Who is Ancient Sheba?

The Arab contingent in this verse is identified as Sheba and Dedan. Who was the ancient nation of Sheba? We know of Sheba from the Biblical record. The Queen of Sheba is recorded as making a journey to visit Solomon:

And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions. And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.” (1 Kings 10:1–2)

Ezekiel records the trade of Sheba and the surrounding nations with Tyre:

Dedan was thy merchant in precious clothes for chariots. Arabia, and all the princes of Kedar, they occupied with thee in lambs, and rams, and goats: in these were they thy merchants. The merchants of Sheba and Raamah, they were thy merchants: they occupied in thy fairs with chief of all spices, and with all precious stones, and gold. Haran, and Canneh, and Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad, were thy merchants. These were thy merchants in all sorts of things, in blue clothes, and broidered work, and in chests of rich apparel, bound with cords, and made of cedar, among thy merchandise.” (Ezekiel 27:20–24)

Ancient historians identify the spice production with the area of Eastern Arabia. Herodotus, who lived about 100 years after Ezekiel wrote in his 3rd Book Thalia,

“Arabia is the farthest of the inhabited countries toward the south; and is the only region in which grow frankincense, myrrh, cassia, cinnamon and ledanum.” (Herodotus, Book III Thalia, 107-113)

Archeology has identified the location of  Sheba with the Sabeans of ancient Yemen. The city of Ma’rib in Yemen with its temples and nearby dams was the center of the spice industry of ancient times. The Temple of the Moon was excavated in 1951-1952 by Wendell Phillips, and again by his sister Merilyn Phillips Hodgson in 1998. The Great Ma’rib Spice Dam has been dated back to 1750 BC, and has archaeological evidence of repairs and renovations in the 700’s BC. It was under control of the kingdom of Saba (or Sheba) until about 115 BC. It is mentioned by famous Islamic scholars such as Ali Hamawi in his geography during the 12th and 13th century.

There is no doubting the connection with the ancient kingdom of Sheba or the Sabeans and the area of the southern Arabian Peninsula, whose capital is geographically located in the modern nation of Yemen, but would have covered a much larger tract of land in times gone by.

Ancient Sheba in the News Today

What is fascinating about the events going on these past few weeks is the reconnection that is being made between the State of Israel and the Arab states in the gulf. Ancient Yemen was in the news this week, not due to the current war, but because an exhibit opened in Israel at the Bible Lands Museum that catalogues the Jewish connection to Yemen.

Elan Yaish, a Yemenite Jew, describes his Yemenite heritage:

I always felt privileged to have been born into a family whose Jewish roots trace back more than 2,500 years to the first Jews that left Israel and went to Yemen before the destruction of King Solomon’s Jewish Temple.

Jewish Yemenite children photographed at the turn of the last century

The archives of The Jewish People’s Museum in Tel Aviv recorded the following:

In 1881, before the 1st Aliyah from Europe, some 2,500 Jews made aliyah with far less fanfare from Yemen. This aliyah, dubbed “I Will Climb The Palm Tree” (after a verse in the Song of Songs) arrived in the Land of Israel for both religious and Zionist reasons. The new immigrants did not shy away from hard work and did not rely on the “Haluka” alms, which were the main source of income for the veteran Jewish population of the Land of Israel at the time.

The late historian Martin Gilbert, in his book In Ishmael’s House, records the early immigration:

Persecution and hardship led many Jews to take the further step of immigrating to Palestine in search of a better life. In Yemen, where Jews had been subjected to extremely harsh rule during much of the Nineteenth Century, Jewish immigration to Palestine began in 1882. A Yemeni artisans’ quarter was established below the walls of Jerusalem., in the Arab village of Silwan. Beginning the following year, however, the Ottoman ruler of Yemen refused to allow the emigration  to continue, and for more than two decades Yemeni Jews could only make their way to Palestine clandestinely. (Martin Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House – a History of the Jews in Muslim Lands. 2010.  p119)

The Co-Founder of the Bible Lands Museum, Batya Borowski,  recalls her family’s aliya or ascent to the land from Yemen.

“Ever since I was a child, Shabbat dinner we would sit and the candles would be burning on the table, and there were no lights in the house, just the candles. And my father would tell these wonderful stories that were, to me they were out of the stories of Arabian Nights. And they were so exciting and so very special.  It left a very strong feeling in me, always, to know more about people and where my father came from, from Yemen. In my last years, because I am getting older, I thought that I would be able to achieve something that I have always dreamed about, and that was to create an exhibition about the history of the Yemenite people in Yemen, and the connections that they had to the State of Israel….

My father’s family came here in 1907. They organized a march from this village in Yemen that they lived in to escape the country and finally come to Israel, the land of their dreams. They had strange, strange stories that he would tell about the adventures, including how the bandits would always attack the caravans they hand to walk. And they hand to walk, and walk, and walk for many miles and for a very long period of time….

Amanda Weiss, daughter of Batya Borowski, is the current Director

of the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. She related:

My Grandfather was born in Yemen. As a small child he walked, it took them two years, and the entire family walked from Yemen until they finally arrived in Israel in 1909. So they left Yemen in 1907, and my my mother grew up on the stories of the traumas and the difficulties of that journey, and their love for Israel, and the goal to ultimately settle here, and they did. They lived the dream.

She describes the connection of the Jews on their epic journey to Israel, and the ancient spice road travelled by the traders of Sheba.

One of the important elements of this exhibition that we wanted you to see was the aromatics (spices). The value of those scents was probably similar to silver or gold in the market today. And they were used all across even through the Roman Empire and that route that they travelled, and they took is what helped the Jews make it from Yemen to Israel itself.

During the period of 1881 to 1914, about 10% of the Jewish population in Yemen emigrated to Palestine. Borowski’s family were part of this contingent.

In 1947, after the vote of in the United Nations to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, rioters attacked Jewish people and their homes, economically paralyzing the Jewish community.

Martin Gilbert describes the some of the events:

The Jews were accused of murdering two young Muslim girls and throwing their bodies down a well. The leaders of the Jewish community were seized in their houses, beaten, taken to prison and chained together by their ankles. A mob burst into the Jewish Quarter, looting and robbing. Only the timely intervention of one of Imams Yaha’s sons, Prince Sayf ul-Islam al-Hassan, prevented loss of life: the prince sent soldiers into the Jewish Quarter to protect the Jews and force the rioters to leave….

Anti Jewish tension was also appearing in other towns across Yemen, as the Arab-Israeli war fanned the flames of Muslim anger. A letter from a Jew in Sanaa, sent on 10 January 1949, reported that the town of Dhamar, Jews were beaten and robbed ‘because of on thing – that the Israelis are waging war on the Arabs in Palestine and are trying to conquer the whole of Palestine.’ The letter from Sanaa contained the plea: ‘Who can pull us out of this iron furnace?”

The answer to that question was another of the Imam Yahya’s sons, Imam Ahmad bin Yahya, who, in 1949 and 1950, allowed 44,000 Jews to leave Yemen for Israel. The Israeli-organized emigration- code-named Operation Magic Carpet – was conducted entirely by air. None of those who left for Israel had ever flow before… (Martin Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House – a History of the Jews in Muslim Lands. 2010.  p232-233)

Travelling on Eagle's Wings

Yemenite Jews preparing board Alaskan Airline Planes to Israel

Many of the flights were conducted by pilots of Alaskan airlines. Pilot Warren Metzger recorded the adventure in his book “On Eagle’s Wings”. The book is named this in remembrance of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt:

Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.” (Exodus 19:4)

In an interview he stated the following:

"It was pretty much seat-of-the-pants flying in those days. Navigation was by dead reckoning and eyesight. Planes were getting shot at. The airport in Tel Aviv was getting bombed all the time. We had to put extra fuel tanks in the planes so we had the range to avoid landing in Arab territory."

"We’d take off from our base in Asmara (in Eritrea) in the morning and fly to Aden (in Yemen) to pick up our passengers and refuel," Warren said. "Then we’d fly up the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba to the airport at Tel Aviv to unload. Then we’d fly to Cyprus for the night. We couldn’t keep the planes on the ground in Israel because of the bombings."

"One of our pilots got a little bit too close to Arab territory when flying into Israel from the Gulf of Aqaba and tracers started arching up toward the plane," Warren said. "Another one of our planes got a tire blown out during a bombing raid in Tel Aviv. One of our crews practically lived on their plane from the end of April through June."

Jewish chilc

James Wooten, president of Alaska Airlines, related his experience on an historic flight where he carried 104 children under 12 years old from Yemen to Israel:

But I never had anything ring my heart quite so badly, or severely, as when we arrived over the battlefield. The two of them on board who could speak English came up and said when reach Israel let us know.

So when we came into the bay of Aqaba and started up the Negev, I said ‘now we’ll probably get fired on in this strip, so you go back and tell them all to be quiet and all, but God is with us, and we’ll get through.’ So she said, ‘We know that, God is with us and we will get through.’ Well I didn’t have much faith in the bold statement that I had made, but by God, after you listen to her, you had to have faith in the statement.

So when we got over Beersheba, we had a pretty sharp east wind, and it veered us toward Al-Faluja where you had 2500 Gypo (Egytpian) troops that were manned by German officers from the Afrika corps. And they had the latest British weapons, that were made here in the United States, 40,000 foot anti-aircraft bulkers. We were within 12 miles of them, but we weren’t over them, and they started throwing that lead at us. But fortunately, we were slight out of range when the first burst came, and by diving we were able to stay out of range, but we had to be very careful because if we veered too far to the right we got over Hebron, and if we didn’t come out on the corridor out to the Mediterranean sea, and then turned around and come back in over Lydda (Lod) we’d get fired on by the Israelis, because the only corridor of identification they had, (they only had one set of radar equipment in the land at the time), was to come in by the corridor over the Mediterranean. And it was a good idea to do that.

So, they were praying when the anti-aircraft fire came, and it was a new kind of prayer to me. But the thing that really impressed me was when we landed at Israel. Every one of them stood up at attention, after we’d arrived at Israel, and sang the national anthem. 104 kiddies, and the oldest one was 11 years of age, but by God every one of them was singing: They had arrived at the promised land!

Wooten was often accompanied by his wife, Phyllis on these journeys. His daughter recounts:

“My father was very proud that my mother had the courage to fly some of the dangerous flights with them and acted as a flight attendant, even though, on two specific flights, as they were running out of gas, she and he had to pour gas from a can into the gas tank to complete the journey without crashing in hostile territory.”

The Operation Magic Carpet was accomplished—and without a single loss of life.

Jerusalem Post recalls the last flight of Magic Carpet

This month is the 70th anniversary of the last journey. The Jerusalem Post ran a headline, Last Flight of the Magic Carpet on September 25, 1950. The article read:

The Magic Carpet came to rest at Lydda Airport tonight. When Shlomo Sirri, from Sana'a, stepped out of the Near East Airline plane shortly before 10 o'clock, the airlift from Aden, which has brought 47,140 Yemenite Jews to Israel since the end of 1948, was officially closed.

Joel’s prophecy of the Yemenite Jew’s return

The Bible Lands Museum in Israel is bringing to light the history of the Yemenite community, and their Aliya to Israel. This is amazing because it is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The prophet Joel writing about God’s recompense for the invaders of the land has the following to say:

Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, And all the coasts of Palestine? Will ye render me a recompense? And if ye recompense me, Swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense upon your own head; Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, And have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things: The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, That ye might remove them far from their border. Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, And will return your recompense upon your own head: And I will sell your sons and your daughters Into the hand of the children of Judah, And they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: For the Lord hath spoken it.” (Joel 3:4–8)

The prophet recounts that he will bring retribution on Tyre and Zidon and the coasts of Palestine (the Philistines), because they sold his children to the Grecians who removed them far from their borders. God tells them that he will return their recompense on their own heads and sell them to the Sabeans. The Sabeans are the Shabiyim (the inhabitants of Sheba in modern day Yemen). If the recompense is going to be returned , it indicates that the Jews were once sold into this area. God tells us “I will raise them out of the place whither ye have driven them” (v7). The word “raise” reminds of Israel described in the resurrection of whole house of Israel from the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 38.  God did raise the Jews of Yemen out of the area they were sold into, and brought them on eagles wings to himself, to his land in preparation for the Messiah to come.

Now, amazingly, 70 years after Jews fled a hostile Arab world, they are starting to make peace with them.

We live in truly epic times when the word of God is coming to pass before our eyes. May we be prepared for our pilgrimage:

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.” (Luke 12:35–36)

 For the Bible in the News this has been Jonathan Bowen joining you.

Printed:  Saturday, September 12, 2020


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