The New Frontier

“Go South, Young Man”

The Arava desert is the below-sea-level portion of the Southern region of Israel. The Negev is the desert above sea level.

“Everything has its season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Eccl. 3:1).

“There is a national need to establish Tamar at the hub of the Arava . . . and a place for people of the nations to learn together.” When we quoted these words of Shuka Dorfman, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Bible Light on the News (Vol. 13 No. 1), we had no inkling we would be invited to have an initial part in establishing a center and library for that “learning.”

In an e-mail to me in Jerusalem, Dr. DeWayne Coxon, Israeli-appointed Curator of the 53-acre Biblical Tamar Park, said, “We need a strong study emphasis at Tamar and I am wondering if Bible Light Int’l would be interested in establishing an Elmer Josephson memorial library and study center at Tamar. Elmer and you had a connection to Tamar even before I came. It could be a part of the “Welcome Center/Museum” complex. I know that Sapir [Israeli Council in the area] would welcome such an educational center.”

From this initial invitation, the thoughts and plans began tumbling over each other. This opportunity is not only to be a part of “restoring the waste places,” but to help shine “a light to the nations.”  Ministers visiting Tamar for a retreat or sabbatical have expressed disappointment that there are not enough books to read.  With your help we can change that!

But I’m getting ahead of my story! What is the purpose for a learning center, and why in Tamar?

Source Book

What this learning center can mean to the nations is an overwhelming vision. The Prince of Prophets, Isaiah, in chapter 35 spelled it out. (Watch our website for a Bible Study.) Think of the world-wide potential as visitors from all nations take “seed” to their homeland.

And what is the central source of the seed – the granary, or big seed container from which it comes? The Bible, of course. In the words of Zev Kedem: “The Bible raises universal consciousness and defines the only God-oriented ethical basis for universal justice and sanctity of life. It presents a simple single finite ethical foundation that is much needed in times of immoral confusion, fast changing world events and erosion of moral values, as technology and weapons of mass destruction threaten the survival of mankind.”

It all began with Abraham and the covenant El Shaddai made with him and his seed. Three times in Genesis 17, He said it is an everlasting covenant. Verse 7, “I will establish my Covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a G-d unto thee and to thy seed after thee.” The purpose of the Land portion of this contract is a base, a Word Center for the whole world, to bring redemption to every phase of life on this planet.

Ancient and Modern History

Tamar was the southern-most city of the Kingdoms of David and Solomon. We know this because of Tel Tamar. A tel is a mound under which generations of civilizations are buried. In this country, that expands 4,000 years.

Tamar’s ancient history dates to Abraham, symbolized today by the ancient Jujube tree still growing there. It is at least 2300 years old and its roots go back to Abraham’s time. The largest natural spring of the desert is located here – so the tree can’t help but live!

The first time I visited this area, it was a place where hardly anyone could live. We knew a family in Miami, Florida who settled here. Against many odds (some made by their own mistakes and some by others) this family, led by Simcha Pearlmutter, adamantly continued to pioneer. The going was very rough, but the promise of abundant water, plus historical facts of the city, gave hope of life again flourishing here in this out-lying region.

Tamar means “date” and refers to the fruit of the date palm. The Hebrew word for tree is “etz”, so “etz Tamar” refers to date palm trees, which Bible Light friends have made possible at Tamar.

Being the crossroads of civilization, this area was vital to the old spice route in ancient times. It served as fortress for many “conquerors”.

Text Box: Solomon's Gates
Kings 9:17-18 tells us King Solomon built Tamar in the wilderness. The gates of this city have been exposed. Those close to the project say the Queen of Sheba stayed here while going to and from Jerusalem! If the rocks could talk, what stories would we hear? And they are talking today!

Archaeology – Stone Cry Out

Painstaking excavations at Tamar reveal layer after layer of occupation. Most archeological sites in Israel do not go to the depths of Tamar’s because present day structures are on top of them. Since before Jesus’ time in this land, no new construction was built on top of this ancient tel. This makes Tamar the most pristine of Israel’s digs.

A jewel of great price to the descendants of Abraham is the only ­Israelite house discovered in either the Negev or the Arava. And it is at Tamar. Early in 2006, not only were items discovered dating to the Iron Age (the time of Kings David and Solomon), but with Phoenician designs on them, never before found in the Arava. The progress is significant in the excavation of this tel. Christians and Jews working together discovered these proofs of the age of the city. Under the leadership of Dr. Coxon, Christians have stuck it out for a long 25 years of securing, maintaining and beautifying this ancient oasis, the waters of which were drunk by the Israelites under Moses. Now, it’s our turn to help.

Biblical Tamar Park is as rich in history as it is in treasures, boasting the largest collection of artifacts from an archeological site in Israel stored presently at the Jerusalem Museum. For this reason, there are plans for a museum to be built at Biblical Tamar Park along with the replication of the Israeli Four-Room House discovered there. The museum planned will house eight rooms, one for each archaeological period with their 25,000 artifacts. There will also be a lecture hall, a welcome center/gift shop and a restaurant. In keeping with the purpose of restoring Tamar is an educational center in which the ­Bible Light Library and Learning Center will have an integral part.

The vision, not only of Coxon but the concerned governmental powers, is for a museum and antiquities park with accommodations for tourists, affording refuge from winter climates.

Today we put quotes around “city” because Tamar is an ancient city being excavated. During this restoration time, the area is more like a camp ground with caravans to accommodate visitors and workers. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Solomon – and the Lord only knows who else – were here before we were! It is exciting to be here and see the layers of civilizations revealed.

Israel-authorities are calling Tamar, “The Gateway to the Arava” and is also known as the “gem” of the area, as expressed by Yigal Israel, Former District Archaeologist of the Southern Negev, “Tamar is the most important historic Jewish archaeology site in the Arava. Its history dates to at least the time of Solomon and was considered a Jewish city for 1,000 years.”

Did you know that Jericho is not the only city in the Bible called, “The City of Palms”? Judges 1:16, “And the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the south of Arad.” Israeli authorities have identified this as Tamar. I learned, also, that the Israeli authorities want this place to become once more like “a city of palm trees.”  I didn’t know that when BLI began the project of planting date palms.

It seems very significant that our project in the Arava began with palm trees. That project is finished and NOW, Bible Light has been given the challenge of a library and learning center at this location. This is a great honor and meets the goal of both Elmer’s and my heart to see a place in Israel where people of all nations can learn of Israel, her history and the glorious future, as He establishes His Kingdom on earth “as it is in heaven” to bless ALL the nations of the earth.

Why the Learning Center?

“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Evil-doing blasts the headlines every day. How CAN it be overcome? The answers are in the manual for the man God created, a Book of which many are ignorant.  And like most manuals, it is never opened until all else fails! Aren’t we experiencing mankind’s failure in our world today?

Large clumps of dates ripening in the sun.

The palm is a symbol of triumph and victory. In the heart of the date palm is a sword-shaped, unopened frond called the lulav. It is waved during the Feast of Tabernacles toward the four corners of the earth. This is symbolic of the message of the Bible going forth from the Land of Promise.

The palm tree symbol was on coins minted by the Maccabees to celebrate their victory over the Greeks. This symbol was present when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. The multitudes waved palm branches and laid them on the road before him, proclaiming the majesty of the Kingdom. Ornately carved date palms adorned the inner walls of Solomon’s Temple, symbolizing the Sanctuary of God’s Presence as the spiritual oasis in man’s life on earth.

An oasis is a tranquil retreat, a place of rest and refreshment, a joy and relief to sojourners of the desert to find palm trees beckoning to their source of fresh water, offering shade and plentiful fruit.

It seems natural and fitting that our project of planting date palms in the desert would lead to a greater vision of a library and learning center there.

A friend in Jerusalem, John Hulley, has written an excellent book, “What is the Messiah waiting for?” The following excerpt pinpoints, I believe, the timing and reason for the Learning Center. Hulley believes we are on the edge of reconciliation because new understanding of God’s Word will come. He quotes many passages for this claim, such as Isaiah 11. He writes under the title:

Higher truth leads to reconciliation

Since the new understanding will be given to both houses, it should remove the religious obstacles between them. What a time that will be! It may be the one foreseen in glowing terms in the Talmud:

Great will be the day when the exiles of Israel will be reassembled, as the day when heaven and earth were created. (Pesach 88a, BT)

In fact the rabbis teach that in the end-time any or all of their oral tradition may be corrected, along with most of the Bible, leaving only the Torah (=Pentateuch) untouched.

Probably many believers [from the nations - Ed.] would make a similar distinction between Church theology and the Bible. According to one evangelical leader our interpretation of scripture is to be transformed:

The Lord will soon open our understanding of his word and purposes to a depth beyond our present comprehension. The “books” are yet to be “opened” as they will be. When they are, our understanding of even basic truths, such as salvation, being born again, etc. will be enormously increased.

As the two houses unify, there will no longer be rival faiths. No more sects! No more denominations! A great clarification is coming. Everyone will agree. How different that time will be!

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:9-12).

Paul is saying that our understanding of spiritual truth today is childish.

To make the point plainer he goes on to compare it to ‘seeing through a glass darkly.’ The state of glass-making in his day was primitive. In Europe some 16th century houses are still preserved with the glass windows of the time. It is somewhat like looking through glass bricks. Through them you can distinguish between lighter and darker ­areas outside; but you cannot see enough to identify the objects. Paul was saying that our spiritual understanding permits us to tell light from dark – thank God! But as for detail, it is dim compared to what it will be. Then we shall perceive that our grasp of truth has been very limited, and we shall ‘put away childish things’. What we know now ‘shall be done away’. (End of Hulley quote)

Another friend in Jerusalem, who is an orthodox Jew, is doing a lot of research on the lost tribes. Yair Davidiy says, “Rabbinical Commentary more often than not gives an acceptable almost literal explanation of Biblical verses and shows how one part of Scripture throws light on another and how the Bible in general can guide us in everyday existence.”

For some years Bible Light has been having conferences and small “learning centers” with Jews and Christians coming together around the Bible and learning from each other without intimidation and without an agenda of conversion. These same guidelines will be prevalent at the Arava learning center.

We have an opportunity as no other generation to overcome evil with good. Israel is surrounded by evil and her friends are few. Hamas, Hizbullah, their allies and master in Teheran are producing what my friend, Yossi Klein Halevy, has called the “theology of genocide” against Israel. This is a self-destructive path and is actually ripping the mask off this culture of death. The distinction between the evil death culture and the good sanctity-of-life culture is becoming clearer every day.

Many are praying for Israel and there are many individuals and groups here who say they are intercessors and have come to do spiritual warfare. This is very well and good. HOWEVER, we can put feet to our prayers in this project to bring about better understanding of the restoration taking place in our day. We can learn much from our brother, Judah, realizing we don’t have “the whole ball of wax”. Judah can learn from us, also, when we drop our arrogant attitudes and condemning ways and speak as “brothers.” May the Lord help us all!

A Word to the Wise

If you are making decisions about your will, please consider this guide in Ecclesiastes 2:21, “…man whose labor is in wisdom and in knowledge and in equity – yet shall he leave it to one who has not labored therein.” The verse goes on to say that is vanity and a great evil. That’s pretty strong? These are the words of King Solomon who is called the wisest of men. My late husband, Elmer Josephson, ­often said it is best to dispense of wealth while living. He cited II Corinthians 5:10, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad.” Elmer said what we do now during our lifetime on this planet is what lays up treasures in the Kingdom – or ­does not!

One of two stone pillars marking the entrance to Biblical Tamar Park. Date palms will line the access drive and groves will adorn each side of the entryway.

Bible Light friends know we aren’t professional fund raisers. I just want to give you opportunities to bless Israel and thereby bless the whole world. I know no better way than a learning center at the crossroads of the nations such as Tamar.

The Awesome landscape of this area – from the red Edom mountains and the Dead Sea to the quiet rolling of the desert terrain – is a perfect background for prayer and meditation.

The gates of opportunity are swinging wide, even as the ancient gates of the buried city are exposed. I pray you will catch the vision of these restoration days and want to be a part.

What You Can Do?

To begin with there are affordable items available to all in this project and any amount of donation is appreciated. The building material is cement bricks, overlaid with stone. You can purchase a brick for $250. For others who can and want to have a substantial part, a “wall” for $5,000. And some donors may be able to complete a room in the museum, such as one containing some of the library. This can be arranged and would also be dedicated to you and/or your honoree. As the Lord supplies and plans crystallize, more information will become available.

Contributors to this project will receive a certificate of acknowledgement for helping build this learning center in the heart of the Arava. To submit a donation online, follow this link. For those who would like to mail in a donation, please send the name of the person you would like to honor or memorialize (optional) along with your donation to Bible Light Int'l, PO Box 370, Ottawa, KS 66067-0370.

Let’s begin fashioning the setting for what Israeli authorities are calling, “The Jewel of the Desert”.