BLOG 415 December 24, 2018

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST Each week Robert L. Wise, PhD, explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wi se first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

What a way to wind up the year! This last week America had the worst stock market drop since the Great Depression. The worldwide applauded Secretary of Defense and key officials related to the war in Syria quit because of a totally unexpected decision by a president who may have made one of the most disastrous decisions in recent history out of the clear blue with no consultation with allies. Trump declared America to arbitrary run from the war with ISIS (which is not defeated but crippled). Because he can’t get his way (in a government based on compromise), the president has shut down the government. This was possibly done to shield attention to the face that the president’s closest legal advisers are off to jail because they lied about his payments to two bimbos during sexual flings.

How bad can it get?

We’ve got to find something better than that scene if we’re going to have a merry Christmas. Can I come up with a Middle East story to offer a better tomorrow. Maybe. Here’s some recent news to give you something positive to remember.

Recent archeological finds hit the jackpot. A number of exciting Israeli archaeological finds have attracted international attention. Experts have deciphered the inscription on a copper-alloy stamping ring believed to be the ring that once belonged to Pontius Pilate. This is the same Roman prefect who sentenced Jesus to death. In the words on the ring is the phrase “Of Pilate.” The ring has a depiction of a Greek krater or jar used in watering down wine. The ring would have been used in daily functions such as stamping documents or certifying their approval by Pilate.

The ring was found at the archeological site of Herodium. Rising up like a mountain from the surrounding fields, Herodium towered over the area and made a safe place for Herod the Great to live or retreat to.  The other evidence of Pilate can be found at Caesarea by the sea in a Roman theater. With Pilate’s name carved in a rock slab, the find had been for his reserved seat in the theater. I have seen both Herodium and the Caesarea theater a number of times. It’s always a thrill to see this remnant of Pilate.

These two discoveries validate the Christian story in the gospels. The other site that always lingers in memory  is to be found next to the recovered remains of the Antonio place in Jerusalem. Beneath the Convent of the Sisters of Zion was found etched in rock a Roman game in which the loser was crowned “King.” The site exactly corresponds with the account of Jesus being crowned with thorns and called the “King of the Jews.”

These ancient sites remind us that today’s political woes and turmoil will pass. The pain and worry we have over these situations will fade and what remains will be the eternal evidence of the plan of God that unfolded in spite of all human nonsense and ineptitude. We can rejoice that in a conquered land filled with struggling people under circumstances of poverty, the hope of the world was born.

Little things often counted the most.


We will be on the road between Christmas and the new year.  So the next blog will be January 7, 2019.

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