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Walk about Zion
Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation. For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end. Psalm 48:12-14

A repository of Biblical gleanings and perspectives from Zion

A teaching ministry of Christian Friends of Israel

Tammy (T-shirt with a picture of Rom) and Galya. (Picture: CFI)

“Nobody in all the world needs to feel like we feel.”

As prayers are answered for the rescue of two hostages, against the odds, after 129 long days, we also remember the agony of those still waiting. We see in the Bible that the God of Israel is most concerned for the mothers who cry to Him on behalf of their children.


Do you remember that Hagar cried out, and the Lord heard? The beautiful Exodus chapter 2, part of the ‘Shemot’ Torah Portion of the beginning of January, this year, includes the cry of the mother of Moshe (Moses) as she entrusted her baby to God as she hid him in the bulrushes. When the dear Son of God Himself was dying, God provided for His Jewish mother by bringing an adopted son alongside her.

Here are four more mothers of Israel, who are crying out to God, and asking us to pray along with them for the release of their precious Jewish boys, still captive in Gaza after 130 days. Jewish tradition is to pray for ‘[name], son/daughter of [mother’s name],’ and at least one of these ladies asked that we also pray that way. The names of the mothers are important. Meet Tammy, Rachel, Shelly, and Sigalit:


Tammy - CFI’s Media Director, Galya Hall (pictured above), met with the mother of Rom Braslavski. Described as ‘a sweet guy with a winning smile,’ the music-loving young man was kidnapped on 7 October after helping to save the lives of others at the Supernova party. In her desperation, Tammy decided to find the office of CFI Jerusalem and ask for help.


“The reason Tammy came to us,” Galya told Paul Calvert at Bethlehem Voice, “is that ever since that terrible day, and ever since her son has been held captive by those monsters, Hamas… can you imagine? How does Tammy live? She cannot function. She cannot think. She doesn’t sleep. She can’t eat. She can’t work."


“This story repeats itself for all the families of the hostages; their lives have literally stopped. And what does that mean, in practical terms? It means they can’t pay their bills; they’re not earning. There’s a lot of financial strain on a lot of these families.”


Galya explains that Tammy heard about CFI from a friend who had been helped by the ministry several years ago and said to Tammy, “You should go and speak to them; maybe they can help you.”


“So we are helping her in that way, but we also promised, and we committed to keeping awareness of Rom alive. Rom was working in security at the party, and when everything happened there, Rom had the chance to leave. He could have left, but he didn’t. He stayed to help other people.


“And afterward, Tammy’s actually been getting a lot of messages from people who Rom actually saved and rescued. If it wasn’t for Rom, they could have been kidnapped themselves, or murdered. Because he stayed, to try and help and rescue as many wounded people as he could, he put himself in harm’s way, and he ended up being kidnapped himself.”


The last time Rom was seen was around 13:30 that fateful afternoon, and then he was taken. Tammy knows nothing more, whether or not he is injured; there has been no information as to his condition in over four months.


Galya stresses the importance of keeping hope alive from the verse in Proverbs 13:12. She has been able to assure Tammy that Christian contacts all over the world are now praying for Rom:

“Obviously, we just pray every day, and we keep our hearts full of hope that he is alive and that Tammy will get her son back home.”

Rachel - All over Jerusalem, one can spot graffiti and posters with the words “Bring Hersh home.” A 23-year-old, again with a beautiful smile, full of zest for life, the dual Israeli-US citizen is clearly a popular guy. But we need him home. His beautiful mom needs him home.


Rachel Goldberg spoke to the recent ICEJ Solidarity Tour Group of pastors and ministry leaders at the Knesset in Jerusalem. With strength, grace, and full of faith, the God-fearing woman bravely addressed the crowd, as she had done from Day 1 of this crisis.


Hersh turned 23 just two days before attending the music festival near the Gaza border. The night before, Hersh told his parents he would go camping with one of his best friends after dinner. As is traditional on Shabbat evening, his parents had blessed him with the priestly blessing (from Numbers 6). Rachel says it was the last thing they did before he left.


“And then when Hersh left that night, he kissed me,” she said. “He kissed my husband, John, and he turned and said, ‘I love you; I’ll see you tomorrow’. And that was 117 [now 130] days ago.”


In Jerusalem, the rocket sirens (unusual for the capital) began around 8 a.m. Being Sabbath-observant, the family would normally keep their phones off, but Rachel said she “knew this was a question of life or death,” and her son was out camping, with rockets falling. So she told her daughters that she would switch on her phone for the first time on a Shabbat, “to make sure the boys are okay.” It was 8.23 a.m. When she turned on her phone, she found two messages from Hersh, the first at 8.11, simply saying

“I love you” and “I’m sorry.”


Twenty-nine young people were crushed into a 5ft by 8ft bomb shelter, trying to take refuge. Aner Shapira, Hersh’s best friend from childhood, managed to keep throwing back grenades that the terrorists were throwing into the shelter. “You only have 4.5 seconds from when a pin is unpinned from a hand grenade until it detonates,” Rachel explained. “He managed to throw out seven. On the eighth, it exploded in his hand, killing him. And when his body was returned to his parents, the remnants of the grenade were still in his hand. Most of those kids were dead. Hamas came to the door and sprayed machine gun fire.” Rachel and the other mothers later heard from the four survivors, who played dead, being hidden under bodies. They recounted that three boys were wounded but alive. Hamas ordered them to stand up, and the eyewitnesses could see that Hersh’s arm, from the left elbow down, had been blown off. “He, like me, is a left-handed young man,” said his mom.


Rachel talked about how Judeo-Christians value life, something for which we sometimes pay a high price. She explained that her favorite groups to talk to are the Christian ones since they are the people who don’t just talk the talk but “show up, get on the plane, and come here.” Rachel asked that the delegates keep talking about the hostages. She quoted Psalm 126: When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,” and she shared how a Christian friend had sent her the verse, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and He will save those who are crushed in spirit.” The friend had added, “I am thinking of Him, and His saving grace, for your beautiful son today."  


“I pray, and I hope all of you pray, that you will get - the next time you see me - to meet my son, Hersh, who will be standing next to me.”

Shelly - Another wonderful and handsome young man, Omer Shem Tov, as a captive himself, kept busy caring for seriously wounded siblings, Maya and Itay, prior to their release in late November. He turned 21 years old in captivity on 31 October.


Omer was also at the Nova Festival and connected with his parents throughout the morning of the 7th, from 6.30 a.m. when the Hamas rockets began falling. At 6:30, he confirmed to his family that he was okay. The last time Shelly spoke to her son was at 8.45 a.m. when he was in a panic and trying to escape from gunshots all around. His sister told him to send his live location. After the call, his parents could see the location of Omer’s phone going towards Gaza, but they didn’t want to believe it and thought perhaps his phone had been stolen.

 “I tried to call him, the phone was ringing, but Omer didn’t answer,” Shelly told delegates at the ICEJ conference. At 8.00 p.m., one of Omer’s friends called Shelly to say, “I’m sorry, but I need to send you a video.” The footage showed Omer and his friends being captured and driven away, handcuffed.


I was shouting to God, says Shelly through her tears: Oh my God, my son! He’s in the hands of terrorists! What will I do now?”


“We are a big family,” Shelly says of the sadly large group of hostages’ family members, desperately waiting, all “in the same crazy situation.


“Our life stopped on Oct 7. It’s a long, long, long nightmare, 118 [now 130] days of nightmare that, you must understand…you know where your son or your daughter slept last night. If you are worried, you can call and ask if they are okay. I know where my son is, and he’s in the hands of terrorists. I don’t know what is his condition. I think nobody in all the world needs to feel like we feel.”


Her youngest son, Shelly said: “We call him our sunshine because, as the sunshine, everybody wants to be near him. So, he’s a good boy; he has a lot of friends, and he loves to love. He loves music. He went to a festival - to dance…and we miss him very much. We are very, very worried about his condition because Omer has asthma and celiac [disease] - and I don’t know if you know how it feels when you can’t breathe - and he doesn’t have his inhaler because nobody, not the Red Cross, nobody, went to see what is their condition.

The two young friends who were held with him and released said that Omer was not in good condition without his medication. One thing that [Itai] told us,” says Shelly, grabbing hold of one positive, “so that I know that Omer has faith with God, and he is strong, is that…Every Friday, from when he was little, he likes to do the kiddush (beginning of Sabbath blessing). And one day, they got their grape juice and they got a bagel with salt, so he took the salt from the bagel. And every Friday, he put a tissue on his head, like a kippa,” to faithfully recite the Sabbath blessings, “in the dark place that he’s in there.”


Shelley says she “knows Omer has faith.” She described a typically messy room of a student boy and said she decided not to tidy it, telling herself, “No, he will come back and arrange it himself. The light is on. Every day [since 7 October], in the morning, I’m going to his room and telling him what the day is today and what is the date today. I’m telling him to be strong and [to have] a lot of faith. I’m praying in his room. And then I [embark on] the mission of my life now - to bring Omer back home… I hope you will tell your community our story. And I hope this nightmare will end soon.” 

Sigalit - It was astonishing to see the peace and composure on the face of this dear woman of faith. Especially when she told members of the media at an event on 30 January that she wasn’t able to eat or sleep, I found myself concluding that she must really be relying on God.


Her dear son, Eliya Cohen, is 26 years old. His name means ‘My God is the Lord’. Eliya “is a marketing person, he loves life, he loves to dance,” Sigalit told journalists. “He has traveled all over the world and has a lot of friends.” Her husband is disabled, and she said that Eliya has always cared for him: “Although he doesn’t live with us at home, he helps with what is needed, has his father’s back.”


Sigalit told the Hebrew newspaper ‘Makor Rishon’: “Two years ago, I went through some kind of crisis, and the only one who managed to wake me up from this crisis was [Eliya]… one day he called and shouted at me, ‘You are a religious woman, a believing woman, so stop being afraid! Whatever God wants is what will happen.’ He was there for me.”


Speaking to Paul at Bethlehem Voice, Sigalit explained that Eliya’s girlfriend, Ziv, only survived by being under a pile of dead bodies - inside the crowded bomb shelter in Kibbutz Re’im, as described by Rachel (above). Alongside Hersh, Eliya was shot and badly wounded, then ripped away from his home, his friends, and his family.


At 10 a.m., Sigalit and her family saw a photo with a logo in Arabic, confirming Eliya had been violently kidnapped. Sigalit asked that we pray “that he will come back soon, and come healthy and alive.”


“It’s very important,” Galya reminds us: “When we’re praying for the hostages, to also pray for their families because they are living through the most unimaginable horror.”


"Those from among you shall build the old waste places. You shall raise up the foundations of many generations, and you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in." (Isaiah 58:12)

With the Kindertransport memorial in Berlin having been vandalised recently, along with a frightening rise in antisemitism in the UK and elsewhere, stories of Holocaust rescue are vitally important to recount. To mark International Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January, Israel-based journalist, Paul Calvert, has been interviewing researchers and survivors.

Tamar Taylor is a British lady who completed a master's degree in Holocaust Studies, at Haifa University. She is now part of a ministry called 'Repairing the Breach', a group of British people seeking to make amends for mistreatment of Jewish people under the British Mandate, in particular the prevention of entry into then Palestine to desperate Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Europe in the 1940s. Paul Calvert spoke to Tamar about her interest in this subject.

Paul: Why did you want to study the Holocaust?


Tamar: Okay, it goes back a long way. Many years ago, when I was 16, I was a very new Christian. I was at a school in north London which had a lot of Jewish people attending. So my curiosity was already piqued a little bit about Jewish people and their faith. But I was studying History for my A-levels, and I went into the school library and just saw this word 'Holocaust'. And believe it or not, at that time, it really wasn't talked about. I just picked out a book, and the first book I read was Elie Wiesel's 'Night', which I don't know if you've heard of it, but it's his story as a boy being in Auschwitz. And I just wept through the whole book as a 16-year-old; I couldn't comprehend it. And I just believed then that God was doing something deep in my heart about just the horror of the Holocaust, and deeper than that, connecting me in a way to the Jewish people and then consequently to Israel. And when we came to Israel to actually do volunteer work, I saw an opportunity at Haifa University that they were offering an MA in Holocaust Studies. And although in that period of time, from 16-year-old, up to when I saw that, I just felt,

I need to learn more about this.

So, I went for it, and I got in, and it was just an amazing study time for me of really, really connecting with the whole story. And of course, consequently meeting many, many Holocaust survivors in Israel.


Paul: Is it a very emotional subject to study?


Tamar: Very emotional on one level... I love history, so, it was also learning really just historically the rise of Nazism, how the whole thing unfolded and became the Holocaust; and it was stages. And it's interesting because of what's going on now, you can just see some parallels, particularly with the rise of antisemitism that's going on right now globally. So yes, it was emotional when you heard personal stories, very, very emotional. But the historical part of it was also fantastic to learn.

Paul: One of your papers was about a man called Nicholas Winton. Can you tell us a bit about him?


Tamar: Well, there's a film that has just been released called 'One Life', and if you get an opportunity to see it, I would definitely say to go and see it because you will hear his story. And it's actually pretty much an accurate portrayal of him and the work that he did. He was actually a stockbroker working in London, just living a fairly ordinary kind of life, living with his mum at the time. But he had a friend who was a very keen Labour Party member, and he had gone out to Czechoslovakia. The background of the history was that this was after the Munich Agreement, trying to appease Hitler in the beginning of 1938, going right through 1938, and ended up with the allies, if you like, France, UK, Russia even, allowing Hitler to take over about 35 per cent of Czechoslovakia at the time, because he claimed that it was actually German land. This resulted in a massive flood of refugees into the rest of Czechoslovakia, and there were already people out there working. But this friend of Nicholas Winton said,

Can you come out? We're meant to be going on a skiing holiday, but can you come out and see this situation because it's absolutely horrendous.

And they had identified lots and lots of many unaccompanied children. And then as the months went on and things were getting worse and worse for families who were anti-Nazi, but particularly Jewish families, they were just fleeing from Germany, from Austria, and they were fleeing into Czechoslovakia.


So, Nicholas Winton, being an amazing organizer, he only spent actually three weeks in Prague, and he left behind an amazing team of other people there, who really got together to get these children out. And in the end, he succeeded in persuading the government to allow these children in as refugees, because it was quite a hard task that he had. And he managed to get families to sponsor these children. He got photographs of the children. Incredible task that he did in a very, very short time because, as you know, by September 1939, the war started.

But between March and September he managed to get 669 children safely out of Czechoslovakia and into Britain, with families that fostered them. Sadly, for most of those children who wouldn't have known at the time, most of them lost their parents in the Holocaust, so were actually orphaned.

And after all this happened, after the war, he kept this story to himself. It never became public until he was in his 80s. And you'll see the story in the film if you go to see the film. But basically, he starts to sort out all of the papers, and his wife is saying, "You need to sort all this out now." And he comes across a scrapbook, and it contains photographs of the children... 

Screen shot of *that* That's Life programme

It contains letters to the government... It's a whole archive, really, of his story of what he did, and what others did, in Czechoslovakia. And to cut a long story very short, he then went on to a programme called 'That's Life', through different contacts who began to hear this amazing story. He went on 'That's Life', with Esther Rantzen in the late 80s, and it's a very moving story of how, when he turns around and they ask people who were the children on these transports - who are now grown up with families of their own - and every single one in the audience stands up. Very moving time.

A statue of Sir Nicholas unveiled in 2009 at Prague Main railway station to mark the 70th anniversary of his his remarkable rescue

And from that time on, in his 80s, of course, the story just flooded, and he actually received a knighthood eventually. He had a film made about him in Czechoslovakia. There's a statue of him with children in Prague, in the railway station where the trains left. And he always did mention that there were many other people in Czechoslovakia, Prague, that really did risk their lives to get these children onto the trains. And they accompanied them... until they were forced to leave when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia and took over the whole country. So, an amazing story about him. 

The Royal Mail’s Sir Nicholas Winton’s stamp – issued following a Jewish News campaign backed by 106,000 people.
Paul: So he was a real hero to the Jewish people, wasn't he? Many lives were saved because of him.


Tamar: He was an absolute hero. And many of the children spoke afterwards, after the TV programme, and basically said that they had spent years trying to find the person who had helped to rescue them, without success, until this programme came. Some of the children ended up in Israel, but many of these children stayed in the UK and made lives for themselves there, and built up a lovely relationship with Nicholas Winton, who didn't actually die until he was 106!


Paul: Wow. I imagine you're really pleased they made a movie about him and what he's done.


Tamar: I can't believe it. And because I love Anthony Hopkins anyway, and he plays the part so well, because... the greatest sorrow to him was that there was one more, I think it was the largest number of children that were about to leave, 250 children that were about to leave Prague when war broke out... and they were not allowed to leave. They sealed the borders. And we only know of one child out of that transport that survived. All the rest perished.


You just see that moment when he's just so emotional .... he always said that he wished that he could have saved more because there were, at one time, I think he had details of over 5000 children that were desperately trying to leave. But even so, he has been called the "British Schindler". He wasn't very comfortable with that title, but I would see very much parallels with Oskar Schindler's efforts to save the Jewish people.

Keep an eye on this blog for Part 2 of Paul's interview with Tamar: The Story of the SS Patria.

To listen to Paul's interview click here

By The Jerusalem Report

Courtesy Walter Bingham

Following on from Part 1 of Walter's story, he continues to write in The Jerusalem Report:

The date of my discharge from the army was December 31, 1947; I declined the opportunity to stay on.

“Here are your civilian clothes and the railway ticket to your chosen destination”

were the last words I heard before I was totally alone as I stepped out into the street. It was hard to adjust to civilian life. After all, for four years the army cared for my every need. Unlike today, there was no aftercare. Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, was not recognized in military veterans. I just had to persevere.

Bingham was honored with a visit to his Jerusalem home by President Isaac Herzog for his 99th birthday. Photo by the President's Office

Much later, and on my own initiative, still while trying to make a living, I enrolled in the Open University and graduated with an upper 2nd degree in politics and philosophy. I followed that with a post-graduate study of political philosophy at London University’s Birkbeck College. Once again, God guided me in the right direction.

I married my wonderful wife, my rock for 40 years until her untimely death in 1990. But her spirit lives on in our daughter, Sonja, who also lives in Jerusalem and takes good care of me.

Bingham with his daughter, Sonja Kent, during an International March of the Living trip in Germany in October. Courtesy Walter Bingham

Without her help, I could not function as well. Having made aliyah at age 80, it is difficult to master the modern Hebrew language. However, I settled in Jerusalem, where English suffices and my knowledge of Yiddish is a good standby. My studies in London enabled me to enter a career there in print and radio journalism, which became my passion.

Today, at age 100, I am proud to be the oldest working journalist and active radio show host in the world, for which I hold both Guinness world records and still broadcast on two Israeli radio stations.

For some years as a sideline in England, I took up acting, worked as an advertising model, and dressed as Santa Claus in London’s largest department stores, Harrods and Selfridges. I appeared in numerous TV shows and movies, including a wizard in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

As I always do things from which many others of a similar age shy away, my hobby, until my eyesight deteriorated, was piloting airplanes. In 1971, I flew a fully instrumented plane, solo, from London to Israel and back! I have since had to change to the relatively benign sport of skydiving.

I jumped out of a plane on my 95th birthday, and God willing, will do my next sky dive sometime soon.

Bingham produces a radio show called ‘Walter’s World’ for Israel National News (Arutz 7). Courtesy Walter Bingham

Besides all that, I still travel to Europe to speak to schools, and at the end of January I am scheduled to be taken to England for a second time within three months for events organized by the International March of the Living.

A friend recently asked me, “When will you retire?”

I had to look up the meaning in the dictionary and I then replied,

“You will have to put up with me for many more years because I am looking forward to being a part of Israel’s bright future in 2024 and beyond.”

Although there are currently some hiccups around the Abraham Accords, there is no doubt that in the smoke-filled rooms of the Arab leadership meetings, there is an air of optimism because, having applied the brakes as a result of Israel’s problem with Hamas and Hamas’s connection with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Arab states which until now have only covertly been talking to Israel, will hopefully be able to openly consider establishing diplomatic relations in the near future. That will also give extra meaning to the slogan Am Yisrael chai! The nation of Israel lives!

Parts 1 and 2 of Walter's article were published as one feature in The Jerusalem Report, on 8 January 2024.

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