By Shira Sorko-Ram
A couple of years ago, Iranian soldiers snatched three completely clueless American youths who had inadvertently crossed over the Iranian border while hiking.
It was a dream come true for the Mullahs. Now they had three American hostages whom they could (and did) trade for three Iranians who were caught in the U.S. trying to procure weapons parts that could be used in the Iranian nuclear program. (The Times of Israel, 28Nov2013)
Iran, in a “good will gesture” freed these youthful “spies” in 2010 and 2011. Of course, there was a price. Not to appear too obvious, President Barack Obama waited some months and then reciprocated by quietly freeing those three Iranians. It was all part of the “quiet diplomacy” taking place between President Obama and the Mullahs during his presidency.
But there was one more extremely important asset the Iranians wanted to get their hands on: Mojtaba Atarodi, an Iranian nuclear scientist, seized by U.S. agents who were “selling” him nuclear parts. Obviously Iran was ready to pay a very high price to get him back.
The facts of his case are still shrouded. On December 7, 2011, Atarodi, a faculty member at the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Tehran - a US-educated electrical engineer with a heart condition, a green card and a brother living in the US - arrived at LAX and was arrested by U.S. federal officials.
A respected Israeli intelligence analyst, Ronen Solomon, believes that the scientist, prior to his arrest, played an important role in Iran’s missile and nuclear programs. Atarodi, he said, has co-authored more than 30 technical articles, mostly related to micro-electric engineering and in 2011 won the Khwarizmi award for the design of a microchip receiver for digital photos. “That same technology,” Solomon said, “can be used for missile guidance and the analysis of nuclear tests.” (The Times of Israel, 29Nov2013)
The U.S. government cloaked the contents of his indictment. But shortly after Atarodi’s arrest, his colleagues - obviously in the nuclear arena - wrote a letter to the journal Nature, protesting his detention. “We believe holding a distinguished 55-year-old professor in custody is a historical mistake and not commensurate with the image that America strives to extend throughout the world as a bastion of free scientific exchange among schools and academic institutions,” they said.
Their impudence is breathtaking. The in-your-face audacity of these professors who live in one of the darkest, cruelest regimes on the face of the earth is beyond comprehension. (The Times of Israel 29Nov2013)
CHRISTIANITY IN IRAN
Which brings us to an American-Iranian Christian pastor, Saeed Abedini, 33 years old, now in an Iranian dungeon. Born to a devout Muslim family in Iran, he was himself a devoted Muslim until he was recruited to be a suicide bomber at the age of 20. As he witnessed the hatred and brutality of his Islamist trainers, he decided that Islam was not for him and he converted to Christianity and soon began to openly proclaim his faith.
In the early 2000’s, Saeed headed up 100 house churches in 30 cities, reaching about 2,000 members when the movement was tolerated by the Iranian government. But with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, the house church movement was subjected to a crackdown by Iranian authorities and the Abedini family moved to the United States.
However, Saeed continued to visit Iran often. In 2009, he was arrested and forced to sign a document saying he would never again involve himself with the Iranian house church movement. In July 2012, he returned to Iran for a humanitarian project - the founding of an orphanage. He was arrested and charged with compromising national security, though the specific allegations were not made public.
On January 27, 2013, Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison for having “undermined the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches and ... attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam.” The evidence against Abedini was based primarily on his activities in the early 2000s. Abedini was told he would serve his time in Evin prison, a very brutal penitentiary. (Wikipedia)
But in early November 2013, Abedini was transferred from Tehran to the infamous Rajai Shahr prison - a place they send you to disappear.
A Dutch diplomat from the embassy in Tehran described the prison this way: Once in there, one stops to be a human being. Political prisoners have to share cells with dangerous criminals like murderers, rapists and drug addicts who don’t hesitate to attack their cellmates. They have nothing to lose; many of them are condemned to death anyway. Murders or unexplained deaths are a regular occurrence.” (Foxnews.com/opinion/2013/11/05)
Abedini is one of three innocent Americans locked up in these most horrific and life-threatening conditions.
Iranians celebrate nuclear scientist Mojtaba Atarodi's homecoming after President Obama released him from incarceration at a federal facility in Dublin, California arrest for trying to procure nuclear weapons parts, hoping to bring Iran to the negotiating table. When the President freed Atarodi, inexplicably, Obama did not demand any American prisoner in return - which could have freed Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini and/or all three of the innocent American citizens locked up in Iran's gulag. (Photo APIMAGES)
“This is betrayal,” Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, told Fox News. “A betrayal because not only did they not get the release of the three Americans, but they said they are working on this ‘on the margins.’ Our citizens are on the margins and then we are releasing an Iranian convicted of working on the nuclear issue.” Sekulow said it should have been easy for the U.S. to insist on the release of the three Americans.
President Obama did say that he had spoken by phone to President Rouhani last September about the American prisoners. But since Obama had already freed the top-level Iranian scientist in return for nothing, there was obviously no motivation now for Iran to free the American prisoners.
NEGOTIATING WITH ISLAMIC JIHADISTS IS A FATAL MISTAKE
The goals of President Barack Obama and Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, are as different as day and night. President Obama would like to leave his presidential legacy with a historic breakthrough of bringing peace in our time with an Iran that uses nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
The Ayatollah Khamenei’s goal is to become a nuclear weapons power as a step toward becoming the superpower in the Middle East and spreading his brand of Shia Islamic Sharia law throughout the Arab countries, and then to the rest of the world. One way he plans to demonstrate his power is to blow Israel off the map. At this point he doesn’t believe anyone will come to Israel’s rescue.
The Ayatollah’s immediate goal at the so-called Geneva talks, of course, is to do whatever it takes (except give up his nuclear facilities) to get rid of the sanctions that have brought his economy to a near grinding halt.
He is convinced he can outwit President Obama and the P5+1 countries (U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China, plus Germany). He knows that mega-companies around the world can hardly wait to rush in to make billions through new investments in Iran. The Ayatollah has sent in his secret weapon: smiling Iranians for negotiators while uranium production continues. The West is captivated.
Already the game has begun. Iran accused the U.S. of publishing an inaccurate account of what had been agreed. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran would continue construction on the Arak heavy water plant, although the official Geneva “Joint Plan” clearly states, “Iran announces that it will not make any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant, Fordow, or the Arak reactor.” (http://eeas.europa.eu/statements/docs/2013/131124_03_en.pdf)
The “Joint Plan” also inexplicably states that from its existing uranium enriched to 20%, Iran would “voluntarily” retain half as a working stock, etc., etc., etc. (Ibid.)
American State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the deal would not require Iran to complete all steps before sanctions relief is actually granted! (thetimesofisrael.com 27Nov2013)
One former State Department official termed the Iran interim deal as largely “aspirational,” as the deal has not yet been hammered out.
In fact, the deal is a sham.
THE MIDDLE EAST REACTS
Lebanon called it the “deal of the century.” Syria and Hezbollah considered the agreement a “great victory for Iran.” There are two giant reasons for their celebration: 1. Sanctions are being lifted (and will most likely completely collapse as businesses pour into Iran) and 2. For the first time in history, Obama publically authorized Iran to produce uranium (for peaceful purposes, of course).
Jerusalem is feeling bitter, dismayed with a helpless sense of “we told you so.”
That elaborate wall of sanctions, painstakingly constructed over years, is already crumbling and “will collapse within months,” prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu lamented. “If tangible steps are not taken soon, the efforts of years will vanish without anything in exchange.” (Timesofisrael.com 01Dec2013)
The prime minister forewarned, “Today there is a regime in Iran that supports terrorism, facilitates the massacre of civilians in Syria and unceasingly arms its proxies - Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad - with deadly missiles. The Geneva deal is a “historic mistake,” he said, “and Israel is not bound by it.”
In fact, once more, the Jewish people and the nation of Israel have been betrayed. But American officials suggest that American public opinion is simply weary of conflict after over a decade of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and this dictates that the administration put matters of foreign policy on the back burner. (Timesofisrael.com 03Dec2013)
Sorrowfully, the Americans and Europeans will regret it.
MIDDLE EAST NATIONS NOW RACE TOWARD NUKES
Meanwhile, Iran proudly announced that it has begun to design its first nuclear submarine.
Already, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and even Jordan are now publically declaring that for their own protection they too will seek to build a bomb.
For the first time, Saudi Arabia, which greatly fears the growing power of Iran, has spoken out against the negotiations. Alwaleed bin Talal, a Saudi prince who occasionally sends up trial balloons for the royal family, called Iran “a huge threat.” “The threat,” the prince said, “is from Persia, not from Israel,” a ground-breaking and memorable public statement. (Daniel Pipes, 3Dec2013)
Jay Sekulow reminds us that Jihadists are not impressed by efforts at “reconciliation.” They are not won over by prisoner releases. They will gladly take our billions of dollars in sanctions relief and use it to enrich their nuclear program.
As the world’s leading economic and military power, the U.S. starting point for negotiations should have been the release of the three Americans held hostage in Iran - the minimum gesture of good faith that would have purchased Iran a seat at the table.
Only then - only after freeing the innocent - should we listen to any Iranian proposals or consider any modification of sanctions.
But the Obama administration chose a different path. They can call it “quiet diplomacy,” but it is a public betrayal.
In the run-up to the nuclear talks, the Obama administration releases a convicted scientist who is a danger to America but refuses to even bring up the unlawful imprisonment of Pastor Abedini - an American who is a threat to no one.
And there is no crueler regime against God’s people on the face of the earth than Iran. If you are in doubt, just read the next article.
“We were weak. Iran was strong. And now our own citizens - including Pastor Abedini - suffer,” said Jay Sekulow.
THE PRINCE OF PERSIA
In the Book of Daniel, an angel (perhaps Gabriel) spoke to Daniel and told him how the prince of Persia had withstood him for 21 days when he had attempted to reach Daniel with a message now recorded in the Book of Daniel. Then Michael, the angel who watches over the children of Israel (Daniel 12:1) came to help the first angel and they broke through Persia’s defenses.
The angel, speaking to Daniel, told him that in the last days, Michael again would stand up against the forces of evil coming to destroy Israel. Clearly, the prince of Persia has again risen up against Jewish people.
The angel said to Daniel, “And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book.” (Daniel 12:1b)
Our work at Maoz Israel Ministries is clearly defined. We must work while it is yet day so that whosoever will of the children of Israel will have their names written in the Book of Life. Will you work with us?
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What It's Like to Be a Christian Convert in Iran
A young woman in Tehran, Iran who introduced her boyfriend to Jesus hasn’t seen him since he fled the city, but his dreams give her hope that he is well.
This Iranian woman has received word that since Armin Davoodi fled authorities who threatened him with death for proclaiming Christ earlier this year, he has been having the same recurring dream he had before he put his faith in Christ and stopped his drug addiction and suicide attempts. She was the one who, two years ago, first explained to him that the shepherd in his dream pointing toward the light was Christ.
Like Davoodi, the young woman (name withheld for security reasons) is also an ex-drug addict and convert from Islam. She met Davoodi in a Tehran rehabilitation center where she worked as a volunteer who taught painting therapy.
They fell in love, and she told him about her conversion and her belief and the wonders of Lord Jesus. He told her about the dream, and she knew immediately the meaning of this holy dream and told him to be patient because “someone is watching over you and loves you.”
Davoodi eventually accompanied her to an underground church.
After five months he converted too, and he never used any drugs again. Also, he never smoked anything again. He became a true believer and devoted his life to the Lord Jesus and chose to evangelize. He wanted to save lives and souls.
In Iran, which is nearly 99 percent Muslim according to Operation World, courts can impose the death sentence on Muslim men who leave Islam and life imprisonment on women apostates. The young man who once wondered about the mysterious forces that seemed to save him from two suicide attempts now lives in hiding, but he tells Christians he is not afraid of the death that authorities said awaits him if he continues to tell Muslims about Christ.
After Iran’s secret service learned he was evangelizing in the Christian rehabilitation center, Davoodi was falsely convicted of selling drugs in the facility and was sentenced to prison. His probation officer also told him he would face death if he failed to show up for his weekly meeting with him.
Unfortunately, the secret police got a tip from someone inside the rehab center about his evangelism activities and arrested Armin. He was beaten and tortured very badly. Since then he has very bad headaches that keep him from functioning for a couple of hours.
Police also went to his home and temporarily arrested Davoodi’s parents, besides confiscating his personal computer and books, including Bibles he used to take to the rehabilitation center.
Armin gave police wrong church address information, and that’s why they beat him badly, but they could not break him, because he knew that he has a Protector, and it really helped him to survive in jail. “So Jesus saved me again,” he told everybody when he got released after a while.
Without evidence for a conviction with a longer sentence, a judge delivered a five-month prison term to Davoodi on charges not only of drug-dealing but activities against religion and being a danger to the government and Islam.
Relatives with strong mosque and secret police connections were able to get him released sooner under numerous conditions, including a requirement that he state in writing that Christians had misled him into the faith and an admission that he sold large amounts of drugs in the rehab center. His parents paid “a lot of money” for his release, a friend added.
He promised and wrote down also that he was never going to church and never talking with other Muslims about the gospel, and that if he did, he will get his real punishment, execution. So he had no other choice but to go with their proposal to get released. He had to see his probation officer at the secret police office once a week, and if he didn’t appear, then he was considered outlawed and had to fear for his life.
Davoodi’s brother-in-law told him that if he detected any Christian activities, he would call his probation officer. Davoodi’s parents received phone calls from people calling them anti-Islamic and drug barons. Muslims who heard that he had returned to drugs, and that he was working as a convert from Islam paid by the church, beat him in front of his home. Neighbors did nothing to help him.
Marks of Armin Davoodi's interrogation
by authorities in Iran. (MORNING STAR NEWS)
He was unable to reclaim his previous job at a rehab center where he had successfully led many people out of drug addiction, and the night school where he had been studying social work sent him a letter saying he was no longer qualified to attend.
He was monitored and shadowed at home by his brother-in-law, in his neighborhood area by almost everybody and sometimes by secret police and militia.
Davoodi eventually found another job in a private rehabilitation center outside Tehran.
He did everything very secretly, because he was aware of the consequences if they catch him again, but he had already chosen his way of life and did not fear anything, even death. Everything went okay, and he was able to help a couple of addicted people by giving them the Holy Bible, taking some of them to one of the secret addresses for Bible studies and helping them to convert. He did it very carefully.
Family members of one of the addicts who had received a Bible from Davoodi, however, visited their relative at the center and asked him how he obtained it. When they got no answer, they called a security officer at the center. Secret police forced the addict to tell them about Davoodi’s activities and the underground church.
A Christian co-worker at the center took notice and sent a text message to Davoodi telling him not to come to work and to try to leave the city. Davoodi has been in hiding since then.
“Nobody knew where he was hidden, that’s why we were worried and knew that he was in danger,” the friend said. “Everybody thought that he was arrested and was in jail.”
Secret police visited his parents, searched the house without a warrant, and took personal property again - computer, books and DVD recorder - and beat his father because of his objections. They found Bibles in the basement and took them as evidence.
The probation officer goes daily to Davoodi’s family-run bakery and threatens to close it as punishment for failing to persuade the fugitive to turn himself in, the friend said.
“But Armin’s dad knows that his son will never do this, because this time the police will never let him go,” he said. “In Iran, these cases are very common, and we see them on TV and the news.”
Every week, vandals break the windows of Davoodi’s family home; they hope to leave the area and move into an apartment.
“The world should know about the situation of converted Iranians,” the friend said. “We cannot understand why they are afraid of giving freedom of religion to us.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that Iran be designated as a Country of Particular Concern for its “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused.”
Noting that many parents of imprisoned children in Iran inquire daily about their whereabouts and welfare and never receive an answer, the friend was thankful that Davoodi is not incarcerated but said he needs prayers for power to survive.
“He called one of his friends and said not to worry,” he said, “because he sees every night the old shepherd dream again.”
Article and photo are reprinted by permission from Morning Star News.
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Partnering With Other Ministries
TO INSPIRE AND ENCOURAGE MESSIANIC YOUTH
Everything we do at MAOZ revolves around EVANGELISM!
Yes, we love being there to help Israeli believers in need through IstandwithIsrael.
But our number one reason for existing is to bring the Good News of salvation, abundant blessing and eternal life through Yeshua the Messiah to the Jewish people.
Katzir Youth Camp
So it is natural that we would partner with other Messianic Jewish ministries who are impacting the lives of our next generation. We especially love investing in the three yearly Katzir (Harvest) youth camps for Israeli teenagers and the yearly ELAV (To Him) conference that brings Israeli Messianic youth and Palestinian Christian youth together to worship in amazing love and unity.
We also help send Israeli musicians to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America yearly conference in July, so they can bring Hebrew worship front and center to the Messianic body worldwide and meet other Jewish believers from all over the world.
Messianic Jewish Alliance of America's Messiah Conference
This last year, our Maoz partners invested a total of $88,782 to deepen and broaden the faith of Israel’s young believers and to give them the opportunity to make friends with others who share their faith. What could be more important?
Over the last 12 months Maoz partners invested $32,000 with monthly help for two Israeli Ethiopian Congregations - both in the center of Israel; an Israeli Arab church that ministers to former Lebanese soldiers and their families; and a congregation in the south under continuous heavy persecution by ultra-Orthodox Jews. All of these believers are blazing lights in their communities.
Last year Maoz also donated a total of $37,000 to two ministries evangelizing among Muslims living in Israel and Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
Ari Sorko-Ram with Pastor Joseph Haddad
Pastor Joseph Haddad prays with his wife Ibtissam
Arab Evangelism in the West Bank
CONGREGATION TIFERET YESHUA
Maoz continues to support Congregation Tiferet Yeshua (the Glory of Yeshua) in downtown Tel Aviv. As a spirit-filled, Hebrew-language congregation, it is a very important component for bringing Israelis to faith and then discipling and equipping them in a warm, healthy and vibrant New Testament community.
The congregation we founded is now in the very capable hands of Asher Intrater and Ron Cantor and is growing each month with new Israelis coming to faith.
Senior Pastor Asher Intrater
To maintain this congregation financially, Maoz has contributed over the last twelve months more than $276,000. Members of Tiferet Yeshua are generous and tithe regularly, but the very high prices of renting in downtown Tel Aviv, plus the high taxes, requires that we stand behind this body of believers to help them continue to prosper and grow.
MAOZ PUBLISHING DIVISION
Maoz Publishing Division is in the middle of translating Dr. David Stern’s Messianic Jewish Commentary of the Jewish New Testament into Hebrew. When it is completed, Maoz donors will have donated over $100,000 just for the translation.
Dr. David Stern and his Messianic Jewish Commentary of the Jewish New Testament
The next step will be the actual printing of this Commentary - the only one in existence! It will be a tremendous tool for Jewish Israelis who, as they study the New Testament for the first time, will have this commentary to explain its meaning from a Jewish perspective.
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ViewThis.com - Reaching out to Israelis on Internet
Our vision for Maoz Media embraces ViewThis.com, our Hebrew website. This site is intended for the Israeli community in and outside of Israel.
Israel is a nation that has more people per capita on their computers than any other nation - especially the young generation, ages 18 to 35. Our plan is to reach this age group by developing Internet programming.
The biggest challenge in presenting the Gospel in Israel is that the entire population has been educated to not believe in Yeshua (Jesus). We believe that Yeshua said: "If they would believe Moses they would believe Me." We will use the Internet to reteach the general public what is actually written in the Scriptures and what Moses really said.
We will reach into homes that have never before been possible. With your help, together, we can do it!
The Lord has appointed us to "be a Light to the World" Matthew 5:14
Dear Maoz Partner,
My favorite aunt just passed away - the last of 12 children.
At 94 years old, she left behind two daughters and sons-in-law, two granddaughters and six great grandchildren.
Aunt Elma was a dynamic and devoted prayer warrior and everyone of her family is whole-heartedly serving God.
Just before she died, her 10-year-old great grandson (who leads worship in his church’s children’s department) with many tears laid his hand on her chest and said, “Goodbye, Great Nana. You were the best Great Nana in the world. I’ll see you in heaven.”
Aunt Elma lived on her social security and some savings she and Uncle Wally had saved up by collecting garbage with a garbage truck he had purchased. They had learned to steward their limited budget prudently and lived a good life. Uncle Wally went to his reward some 20 years ago.
Aunt Elma never forgot from where her blessings came; besides her tithe to her congregation, she gave generously to the Lord’s work. She would send $100. whenever she could to Maoz, to bless Ari and me in our work in Israel.
Ten days ago, she went to an in-house church service in her assisted living facility and felt led to give the pastor’s wife a check for $100. The wife began to cry, saying that their furnace had gone out and they didn’t have the funds to fix it. Two hours later, Aunt Elma collapsed and never regained consciousness until she went to be with the Lord.
Attending her memorial service (I was so fortunate to have been in the U.S. exactly the week she passed away) I again reflected on what is really important in life.
Don’t misunderstand me! Aunt Elma lived a life of joyous occasions with her family and friends. But everyone knew her priorities: first God, then her family, her congregation and her many life-long friends.
A “simple housewife,” her reward will be enormous. She prayed for her family; she gave liberally to the Lord, and she was one faithful lady to her local congregation. (She also served the finest cuisine that made every church or private event an exquisite occasion!)
Her example has again made me think of my own life. Am I doing all I can to bless my God, my family, my fellow workers and my friends?
I was encouraged to press toward that mark of His high calling.
As our partner, whatever you give to the evangelistic outreach of Maoz to the nation of Israel will be part of the fulfilment of your own life while here on earth.
May 2014 be the most effective year yet of your life as you live it with God’s priorities.
Your partner in the salvation of Israel,
Shira (and Ari) Sorko-Ram
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