Israel at War: An Update From Jerusalem
The Armstrong Institute of Biblical Archaeology (aiba) has received several messages from friends and followers inquiring about our staff and families living in Jerusalem, Israel. We are grateful to report that all are safe and well.
Jerusalem, at least for now, has received comparatively fewer rocket attacks from Gaza (certainly nothing compared to surrounding regions), and nearly all the incoming rockets have been successfully neutralized by the Iron Dome interceptors. We are deeply thankful for the courage and Herculean efforts of the Israel Defense Forces (idf) and our larger Israeli family during this trying time.
On October 7, when Hamas initiated its barbaric attack on the Jewish state, we were hosting an event attended by more than 50 foreigners. The early incoming reports alerting us to terrorist activity in communities near the Gaza border were a grim shock to wake up to Saturday morning. They were soon followed by the wail of sirens here in the capital city as numerous salvos of rockets began to be launched from the Gaza Strip, targeting sites all over central and southern Israel.
Both of us have experienced the alarm of air raid sirens and incoming rockets in the past here in Israel, particularly prior to the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense campaign. We were both young and single at the time. Today, we each have a wife and young children, and it is quite something to have to rush to a bomb shelter with small, innocent children in tow. Tragically, living with this constant threat is a grim reality for thousands upon thousands of Israelis. But nothing in the history of the State of Israel (1948 onward) compares to the frightening savagery of that fateful day, October 7, and to the days and weeks that have followed.
After two weeks of numerous cancellations and delays, our guests—much to their relief—were successfully repatriated. Today, three full-time aiba employees and our families remain in Jerusalem.
Now, more than ever, we are resolved to fulfill the aiba mission: To share Israel’s history and biblical archaeology with the widest audience possible. We live in a nation and among a people that has an enemy who wants nothing less than our extermination. Unless you’ve visited Israel, it is hard to appreciate just how small and territorially vulnerable this nation is. Truly, this is an existential crisis, one in which the enemy seeks to eliminate Israel entirely, including its long history in this land.
Although we’re now getting back to work, our hearts are with our host nation and people. We are deeply thankful for the incredible bravery of the idf, the many reservists who have joined the fight, and the countless thousands of regular Israelis who are supporting our defenders with food, shelter and other needs. Many of our close friends have been called up. We have many friends and colleagues here in Israel, every single one of whom has been profoundly and permanently affected by these tragic events. Truly, it feels like our family is now under assault.
As an institute concerned with biblical history, it is clear that this heinous attack by Hamas, a proxy of Iran, is just the latest grotesque incarnation of “the old hatred” (Ezekiel 25:15)—anti-Semitism—and an effort to “blot out the name of Israel” (2 Kings 14:27; Psalm 83:1-5). This campaign to eradicate the people of Israel is as old as the nation itself.
This is a nation and people all too familiar with war and suffering. Israel, more than most, has had its share of tragedy. But Israel’s history, both recent and ancient, is also filled with victory and hope—perhaps more than most.
When it comes to national history, no country or people on Earth has a past as rich, well documented and widely recognized—and as hope-filled—as Israel. This ancient past is contained in the Bible, in the ancient ruins scattered across Israel, and in the minds of believers around the world. The purpose of biblical archaeology is to excavate, analyze and publish this history. When we do this, we not only grow in our knowledge and understanding of Israel’s ancient past, but our hope and optimism grow too.
This is what aiba is all about. This is the real vision behind that classic Bible archaeologist’s mantra: “For Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, And love her dust” (Psalm 102:15, or verse 14 in other translations). Fittingly, under the present distress, this psalm—the motto for so many in the world of biblical archaeology—is headed as, “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord” (King James Version).
Indeed, it is in this moment that we believe our mission is even more important. One of our mentors, a close friend of our namesake Herbert W. Armstrong and former president of Hebrew University, Prof. Benjamin Mazar, once said: “You don’t just fight with guns in order to protect what is needed.” His granddaughter, the late archaeologist Eilat Mazar, elaborated on this thought and often told us that only when a nation’s history is well established, shared and tangible will the people be willing to fight for it. Eilat viewed Israel’s biblical history as the very “soul of the nation.”
Here at aiba, as Israel now defends itself in a life-and-death battle for survival, we strive to help in our own way by contributing to the battle for the soul of the nation. Even now, we are preparing a special issue Let the Stones Speak magazine. This issue will present and showcase the historical and archaeological evidence attesting to the monumental nature of the kingdom of David, Israel’s warrior monarch. This issue, due to come out in December or early January, will accompany our upcoming archaeological exhibit, “Kingdom of David and Solomon Discovered.”
We believe this topic is absolutely crucial. There is tremendous hope and inspiration that can be drawn from this history. The war in Israel has somewhat interrupted the original scheduling for both the magazine and the exhibit. But we are determined to complete both as soon as reasonably possible. Why the urgency? Because the remarkable history of David and Solomon in Jerusalem—and the impressive nature of the kingdom these men created—has never been more relevant!
Thank you to those who have expressed concern for our Jerusalem-based team. We are grateful for your thoughts and prayers, and truly, the trials and frustrations we have endured are nothing compared to those of our embattled brothers and sisters, grandparents and children, living in the border communities or off at war.
We continue to work even now toward our mission—to share Israel’s history and biblical archaeology with the widest audience possible—because, at the end of the day, that history and the lessons learned from it are not just Israel’s. In the words of Isaiah 42:6 (New Living Translation), it is “a light to guide the nations.”