Category Archives: Christians

TRANSITION AND CHAOS IN ISRAEL

BLOG 572

July 3, 2022

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert L. Wise has journeyed through the region, giving him insights from behind the scenes. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon. Each week he attempts to present an objective view of current events.

TRANSITION AND CHAOS IN ISRAEL

As indicated in the last blog, Israel has suddenly developed a new government. The transition was complete this week. Yair Lapid officially became Prime Minister at the stroke of midnight between Thursday and Friday, taking office as the 14th premier in Israel’s history.

Lapid’s term leading the country could be a fairly short one, as he takes over a caretaker government ahead of national elections on November 1. But the new Prime Minister appeared determined to make the most of the potentially brief tenure, and bolster his prospects of winning a full term in four months’ time.

“We’ll do the best we can for a Jewish, democratic state, good and strong and thriving, because that is the job, and it’s bigger than all of us,” Lapid said at a handover ceremony with outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday afternoon.

On his first day in office Friday, Lapid’s first agenda item was a meeting with Ronen Bar, the head of the Shin Bet security agency, at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv. A statement from Lapid’s office said the meeting included a “broad defense and intelligence briefing on what is happening on the different fronts.”

Shortly afterward, the new prime minister held a meeting to discuss “the captives and MIAs” — a reference to the two Israeli men and the remains of two IDF soldiers being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

So much for a smooth transition. Here’s the chaos.

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox extremists disrupted three bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies at the egalitarian plaza of the Western Wall on Thursday morning, shouting over the services, calling the worshipers “Nazis,” “Christians” and “animals,” blowing whistles and ripping up prayer books, according to eyewitnesses.

“It was all really, really ugly,” said Laura Ben-David, who was hired by one of the families to photograph the bar mitzvah.

In one case, a young ultra-Orthodox man was filmed ripping a page out of a prayer book, or Siddur, and then wiping his nose with it while smirking. This was a particularly disrespectful act as books with God’s name in them, like the Siddur, are meant to be treated with the utmost respect in the Jewish tradition, which even requires that they be buried when no longer in use instead of being thrown out or recycled.

“How can a nation of Jews allow a reality in which people fear for their security when they are just trying to pray in their own way in a plaza that was specifically designated for this type of prayer?” wrote the Masorti Movement, Israel’s equivalent to the American Conservative movement, in a tweet.

Rabbi Arie Hasit, who officiated one of the ceremonies, said he was “broken” by the ordeal after the protesters called the bar mitzvah boy “a Christian… a Nazi and more.”

“This was an American boy who wanted to celebrate reaching the age of mitzvot, a boy who could have forgotten any connection with the Jewish people and the land of Israel but chose to go up to the Torah in Israel, in front of his parents, his grandfather and grandmother, and some family,” Hasit wrote in a public Facebook post.

There you have it! Just another typical day in Israel.

Readers of my Wise on the Middle East blog will be fascinated by my latest book

MIRACLES NEVER CEASE!

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Filed under Christians, Israel, America, Jews, The Middle East

THE FIGHT IN THE MIDDLE EAST

BLOG 561

April 11, 2022

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert L. Wise has journeyed through the region, giving him insights from behind the scenes. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon. Each week he attempts to present an objective view of current events.

THE FIGHT IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Death is no stranger in the Middle Eastern world. This past week’s attacks in Tel Aviv by a terrorist underlines the fact. However, we have not heard much recently from Egypt where riots and fighting grabbed the headlines not so long ago. Sadly, another killing just occurred.

Sectarian violence is not uncommon in Egypt, where an Orthodox Christian minority, the Copts, is believed to be among the world’s oldest Christian communities. According to Christian tradition, the Apostle Mark founded the first church sometime around 42 BCE.  Coptic Christianity is one of the five oldest Christian churches in the world including the Roman Catholic Church, Church of Athens (Eastern Orthodox Church), Church of Jerusalem, and Church of Antioch. … Copts count their leader as the first of their chain of 118 leaders called popes.

A knife-wielding man mortally wounded a Coptic priest in an attack at a popular seaside promenade in the northern city of Alexandria on Thursday evening, Egypt’s interior ministry said. The ministry reported the priest died while being treated for his wounds. It said the suspected attacker had been arrested.

The priest was identified by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria as Arsanious Wadid, 56. It said he had served at a local parish.

Christians make up more than 10% of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population. Violence between communities occasionally erupts, mainly in rural communities in the south. Islamic extremists have also targeted Christians in the past. Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyeb, who heads Egypt’s Al-Azhar,  the highest institution of Sunni Islam in the Muslim world, condemned the attack, warning that such acts “might instigate religious wars.”

Through out the centuries but particularly in recent decades, the Copts have paid a high price for their faith. Radical Muslims attacked churches and killed many people. A sad, sad commentary on the status of religion in the Middle East.

Further to the East in another hot spot. Tension between the West and Iran continues.  The IRGC  (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp) has become the center of an ongoing debate between Iran and the US as part of the negotiations for restoring the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Tehran has demanded that the IRGC be removed from the US Foreign Terrorist Organizations list as a condition for restoring the 2015 agreement, going as far as threatening to risk negotiations as a whole.

The US has indicated that it will not be persuaded by the Iranian demand, with The Washington Post on Saturday citing a US official who said that the Biden administration will not remove the IRGC from its terror list even if it proves to be a dealbreaker for the revival of the nuclear agreement.

That’s the latest from a war-torn region. Throw in the attack on the Ukraine by a brutal Russian army and you have enough to make you ill for a long time!

Readers of my Wise on the Middle East blog will be fascinated by my latest book MIRACLES NEVER CEASE!

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A SEASON OF GOOD CHEER

BLOG 544

December 13, 2021

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert L. Wise has journeyed through the region, giving him insights from behind the scenes. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon. Each week he attempts to present an objective view of current events.

A SEASON OF GOOD CHEER

Usually, the reports from the Middle East are ominous. Fears of war, terrorism and strife make the headlines. In the midst of the bad news, December brings good news. It’s the season of lights! Celebrate!

So, I thought this blog would pick up on some positive signs happening right now. Here’s a couple for you.

Putting old animosities behind them, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday presented his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry with dozens of Egyptian relics that were illegally smuggled into Israel. Lapid met Shoukry in Cairo after first holding talks with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Eli Eskozido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, joined Lapid to hand over the 95 artifacts, which included two stone tablets with hieroglyphic writing, a piece of a sarcophagus with hieroglyphics, papyrus documents and dozens of small idols of Egyptian gods.

This is, indeed, a celebratory time of year. The Jewish majority in this country has had its Festival of Lights, while Christians are currently gearing up for Christmas. All of which makes it an opportune calendar slot to address musical material of a religious nature.

That is precisely what will be going on in Nazareth between December 16-18, when the third edition of the annual Liturgical Music Festival takes place. The event is being touted as “a weekend of musical peaks” and the programming, courtesy of Nabil Abboud Ashkar, the founder artistic director of Polyphony Foundation Conservatory.  

Liturgical music comes in all shapes and forms. Like any genre, in any discipline the world over, the creative end product takes on local colors, seasoning and the personal baggage of the human conduit of expression. In Nabeel Hayek’s case that presents a multihued tapestry of sounds and dynamics which, no doubt, will come across on December 17 (11:30 a.m.), when the 20-year-old pianist plays the instrumental accompaniment to soprano Nour Darwish at the 19th-century Anglican Church in Nazareth, in an intimate program of Baroque and Romantic works. The repertoire for the occasion is as about variegated as you can get within the varied stratified confines of classical Christian liturgical scores.

And anyone looking to make a day or two of it can also get into the Yuletide spirit by joining guided tours of the Christmassy locale, and enjoy some seasonally priced accommodation offers.

Yes, there are good things happening in the Middle East. Let’s hope the light stays on all through the approaching year.

I have a new book coming out.

MAN ON FIRE can be ordered on Amazon or at your local book store. 

I hope you’ll avail yourself of this inspiring story!

Also these fine books are available now:

I Marched with Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II

Alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals!

by Frank Sisson (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)

You can find I MARCHED WITH PATTON on Amazon.

82 Days on Okinawa: One American’s Unforgettable

Firsthand Account of the Pacific War’s Greatest Battle!

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA on Amazon.

by Art Shaw (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)

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Filed under America, Bible Lands, Christians, Faith, Forgivness

AMERICAN RELIGION IN ISRAEL

BLOG 543

December 6, 2021

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert L. Wise has journeyed through the region, giving him insights from behind the scenes. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon. Each week he attempts to present an objective view of current events.

AMERICAN RELIGION IN ISRAEL

Why would Israelis care what Americans think or believe about religion? Why? Because the Church was a major persecutor of the Jewish people for centuries. Consequently, a recent edition of The Jerusalem Post published some interesting data on American religious ideas. Take a look at what the Post found.

The Pew Research Center discovered half of American Evangelicals say that “my religion is the one true faith leading to eternal life in heaven,” and that members of other religions – even if they believe in God like Jews do – are not included. The survey found that almost three-fourths of Americans (73%) believe in heaven, but they disagree about who can go there.

Nearly a third (31%) of all American Christians say their religion is the one true faith leading to eternal life in heaven, compared with 58% who say that there are multiple religions that can lead to such eternal reward.

Nineteen percent of Evangelicals say that members of other Christian denominations can achieve eternal life in heaven, and 44% of Christians say that many religions can get you there. Catholics are much more likely (71%) to believe this.

About a third (32%) of Americans also say that people who do not believe in God cannot enter heaven, compared with 39% who say that they can. Evangelical Protestants especially feel that belief in God is a prerequisite for heaven, with 71% saying that only those who have it can go.

In other words, Evangelicals in particular do not believe the Old Testament account that God made a covenant with Israel that the Almighty indicated was not revocable. This group rejects that agreement with Moses and David and maintains Jews will never get to heaven. Other Americans hold a similar position.

Why should Jews note these statistics? The idea that Jews aren’t fit for heaven feeds anti-Semitism. Hatred of Jews and attacks on synagogues has been on the rise in the United States as well as Europe. These facts are not only worrisome but continue to create distrust of the Christian faith in Israel. When American evangelists and Evangelicals say they are friends of Israel while believing they are all going to hell, Israeli’s tend to believe they are lying. You might want to check out what your group believes.

Stay tuned. More to come.

I have a new book coming out.

MAN ON FIRE can be ordered on Amazon or at your local book store. 

I hope you’ll avail yourself of this inspiring story!

Also these fine books are available now:

I Marched with Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II

Alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals!

by Frank Sisson (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)

You can find I MARCHED WITH PATTON on Amazon.

82 Days on Okinawa: One American’s Unforgettable

Firsthand Account of the Pacific War’s Greatest Battle!

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA on Amazon.

by Art Shaw (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)

Leave a comment

Filed under America, Christians, Faith, Israel

THE HOLY SPIRIT IN IRAN?

BLOG 458
February 3, 2020

Master+Film+Poster+Alt+Layout

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise 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.

THE HOLY SPIRIT IN IRAN?

Some years ago, I was in Damascus, Syria eating breakfast in a hotel when a couple from Iran came over and abruptly sat down across from me. In whispered tones, they told me that they wanted to escape from Iran and wanted to know if I could help them. I ask why they were wanting to flee. The couple said the leadership of our country is crazy. Interesting?

Recently, I found a report that gives insight on both political and religious happenings in a country where Islam is enforced at the point of a gun. The Western World is keenly aware of the fanaticism inside this country that is the largest supporter of terrorism in the world. Look at what I discovered.

A two-hour documentary called Sheep Among Wolves, seemed to support their conclusion and reported, “The fastest-growing church in the world has taken root in one of the most unexpected and radicalized nations on earth. A revival is taking place inside Iran. The report said, “The Iranian awakening is a rapidly reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women.” The documentary was produced by Frontier Alliance International (FAI), which supports disciple-making teams targeting the “unreached” and “unengaged.” There is a mass exodus leaving Islam for Christianity within Iran, according to FAI.

“What if I told you Islam is dead?” one unidentified Iranian church leader says on the film. “What if I told you the mosques are empty inside Iran? What if I told you no one follows Islam inside of Iran? Would you believe me? This is exactly what is happening inside of Iran. God is moving powerfully inside of Iran.” Many of the ruling class still follow Islam, “because that’s where the high paying jobs are,” according to the film, but the majority of the ordinary people love God and recognize that Islam is the problem.

“What if I told you the best evangelist for Jesus was the Ayatollah Khomeini?” an Iranian church leader asks. He maintains the ayatollahs brought the true face of Islam to light and people discovered it was a lie, a deception. “After 40 years under Islamic law — a utopia according to them — they’ve had the worst devastation in the 5,000 year history of Iran.”

Efforts by the ayatollahs to destroy Christianity have backfired, but have served to refine and purify the church. “What persecution did was destroy the church that were not disciples, and destroy the church that were about converts,” the Iranian church leader noted. “All these church planters found out that converts run away from persecution, but disciples would die for the Lord in persecution. “So our model inside Iran is that we don’t convert to disciple, we disciple so we can convert.” Often a disciple making movement (DMM) begins the first moment someone comes into contact with an unbeliever. “Everything is foundational on prayer. We find people of peace through prayer. We even find locations through prayer,” the Iranian church leader noted.

“When we do DMM, Jesus has gone faster than us. He has come in their dreams or he’s come miraculously in their lives. When we hear this, we know that Jesus has gone ahead of us.” Surprisingly, their emphasis is not planting churches; it is making disciples. “He is letting unbelievers lead other unbelievers to himself and the kingdom of God. If you plant churches you might make disciples. But if you make disciples, you will plant churches,” the Iranian church leader said.

“One thing powerful with DMM is that it is obedience-based discipleship. It is based on the authority of Scripture and every time you read the Scripture you must obey it. This is how people become conformed to the image of Christ and sanctified. They are not just reading the Bible for information. They are reading the Bible to get transformed.”

About 55% of the disciple makers are women, according to one Iranian leader. Such a report certainly gives you something to pray about!

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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Filed under Bible Lands, Christians, Faith, Iran, Prayer, The Middle East

THE SETTLEMENT SITUATION

BLOG 453
December 16, 2019

israel

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise 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.

THE SETTLEMENT SITUATION

One of the major headlines in Israel has been the American declaration that the Israeli settlements in the area claimed by the Palestinians are now not considered illegal. In a historic reversal of US policy, the Trump administration announced that settlements in the West Bank area are now considered acceptable. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referenced a position once taken by former President Ronald Reagan that they were not considered inherently illegal.

The Trump administration felt it was ambushed in the waning days of the Obama Presidency when Obama went against Trump’s expressed wishes and allowed the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that claimed such settlements were a “flagrant violation under international law.” The position stated by Pompeo rejects that previous perspective.

Of course, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately praised the decision as correct and rejected the idea that under international law the settlements in Judea and Samaria were illegal. In turn, the Palestinians completely rejected the new US position and saw the statement as further evidence of the American basis against the Palestinians. Their denunciation was scathing.

A letter from 106 Democratic representatives to Pompeo called on him to reverse his declaration that the settlements were currently considered legal. They stated that Pompeo’s declaration blatantly disregarded international legal standards. The letter written by Dore Gold claims that this decision casts doubt on Israel’s moral position.

What’s going on here?

Fundamentally, it’s politics. Netanyahu is in serious legal trouble and could wind up in jail. Trump has stuck his nose in Israel’s business to affect how Netanyahu is viewed. Nothing new here. Trump had sided with Israel previously with such moves as bringing the American Embassy to Jerusalem. Trump is now facing impeachment and his own legal troubles.

How one feels about these divisive issues rejects the position one took before the turmoil ever began.

Enthusiastic supporters of Israel view these actions as affirming their position. Individuals concerned with the rights of the Palestinians consider the matter as further evidence that America has lost all credibility in the Middle East and no longer can act to bring peace.

Fundamentally, the issue reflects the deep divide in American politics. Republicans do not seem to care what is the evidence against Trump. Democrats don’t want to just impeach Trump. They want to launch him.

Once more. a deep divide exists around the world. With Christmas shortly upon us, perhaps this is a good time to reconsider the meaning of the coming Prince of Peace. The world needs a new perspective.

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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Filed under Christians, Gaza, Israel, Palestinians, Trump

WHAT ARE ISRAELIS THINKING TODAY?

BLOG 451
November 18, 2019

israel

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise 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 ARE ISRAELIS THINKING TODAY?

Two issues dominate public opinion.

Israelis don’t want a third election. They hope Benny Gantz and the Blue and White alliance can form a government before the deadline shuts them down. In general, the public doesn’t want the ultra-Orthodox groups in office. Of course, these extremists have been significant in Netanyahu’s coalition that kept him in power.

One of the country’s important leaders, Avigdor Liberman declared that Gantz must accept President Rivlin’s plan that included a join Prime Ministry led government including a leave of absence for Netanyahu because of bribery charges and that he gives up the ultra-Orthodox bloc. So far, Netanyahu has refused to abandon the religious oriented bloc. Liberman’s refusal to participate in a right-wing government led to the dissolution of parliament and resulting new elections that followed.

What a mess.

The second problem is wide-spread concern because of the abrupt withdrawal of American troops from the Syrian border in an arbitrary decision by President Donald Trump. Israelis are highly aware that Christian and Muslim Kurds are running for their lives because they fear persecution by the Turkish-backed army. These people know well about the genocide Turkey visited on their people in 1915. In a similar vein, the Turks murdered 1.5 million Armenians. Today’s Kurdish survivors know well that they cannot trust the politicians. Both The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel report Israeli concern because they know a vacuum in the Middle East will be quickly filled by a country like Russia. Moreover, the arbitrary abandonment of the Kurds means that the current USA government could just as easily drop its relationship with other governments like Arabia and Egypt … and of course with Israel. However, Israelis have an even more immediate urgent worry. They fear that Trump’s action will be part of paving the way for Iran to come charging in for a deeper and mover permanent relationship with Syria’s Bashar Assad moving Iran ever closer to Israel’s borders. Because Iran has declared even intent of destroying Israel, the citizenry must be ever wary of such Iranian moves.

The local press reports that Israeli government officials privately view Trump’s actions as “a colossal and dangerous mistake.”

Where is it all going? Many indicators suggest a third election is probable whether the public approves or not. And the situation in Syria? Keep your guns loaded!

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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Filed under America, Christians, Israel, middle east, Syria, Trump, World

HEY! SOMETHING NEW ON THE HORIZON

BLOG 394 May 7, 2018

Yes, yes, I know this is a weekly take on the Middle East. Yes, I know your interest is in what is happening in the struggle in Syria, the Palestinians in Gaza, and with the Iranian nuclear peace agreement. Yes, I realize these facts.

However….

I’ve got a new website I want you take a look at because I think you’ll find it important. Our just created The Early Faith For Today website explores the first five centuries of the Christian era and the first three centuries in detail. Most people know very little about this period that sets the stage for all that unfolded. Here’s an opportunity for you to explored the ancient backdrop to today’s Middle East.

Our purpose and mission in this new website is to restore the simplicity, mystery, and awe of the ancient faith. Contemporary viewers will find encouragement and clarity for their daily journeys. The objectives of this website are practical, relevant, and offer theologically sound inspiration for walking on the path coming to us from the beginning. Our goal is to help contemporary times recover the original dynamic and direction of the first Christians. A small band of Apostles with a dead leader who came back to life created a movement that in 300 years over took the Roman Empire. That’s worth knowing about!

Strangely enough, the 21st century is surprisingly like the first century. Both were secular oriented political systems run by people seeking power. Citizens were often confused and struggled to live with limited financial means. Religious plurality existed everywhere. Roman had statues to gods on every corner of the city. While Americans general  affirm only one God (who they hope is out there somewhere), we actually worship money, status, power, and influence. Just gods of a different shape! The general public experienced wide-spread confusion about what to believe. Today, we have 40,000 expressions of the Christian faith. We’re not as different as you might like to have thought.

Next week we’ll return to our regular format, but I thought you might to tune us in. We’re still making adjustments to the website and will be for a couple of months, but I think you will find these old – new insights helpful.

Against this backdrop, the goal of EARLY FAITH FOR TODAY is to bring clarification, insight, and inspiration.  Along the way, you’ll pick up insight into divine interventions. Join us at earlyfaithfortoday.com

THE EARLY FAITH FOR TODAY
Surveying the first 3 centuries, we are examining the ancient Christian faith.
The focus is practical, relevant, and inspirational. TUNE IN

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Filed under Christians, Faith, History, middle east

RUN IN AT THE WALL Part 3

BLOG 361 August 14, 2017

            Hey! Before we go any further … got a special word for you. After today I’ll be in Alaska up there close to the Arctic Circle and hiking through Denali National Park. Sorry, there will not be a blog next week. I’ll finish the summer in one of the most beautiful and restful places in the world.

Now on to today!

My last two blogs on the Western Wall in Jerusalem turned out to be somewhat prophetic. Now, we have a different and dangerous new chapter. For the second time in under a month, terrorist carried out a deadly attack in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Arab assailants were shot in the Temple Mount complex.

In the exchange of gunfire, two Arabs killed two Israeli policemen.  The police report states that the attackers came from the Temple Mount and shot the Israeli’s next to the Lion Gate before returning to the Temple Mount where they were killed by the police. The terrorists used knives, a submachine gun as well as hand guns.

The two police officers killed were Kamil Shinaan and Haiel Stawi who are now remembered as patriots. Prime Minister Netanyahu and other government officials publically mourned the killing of these two men.  They are being remembered in numerous expressions of the media.

Muslims call such attacks part of a holy war that grants the martyrs a free pass to heaven with all the benefits. For them, getting killed is a worthwhile objective. A deadly mindset indeed!

In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu convened a security briefing and a re-evaluation of security. The government will consider harsher measures in protecting the entry gates into the Old City. The incident is far from over. Since October 2015, an undeclared war has gone on between Arabs and Israelis that also hit some tourists during the wave of violence. At least 280 Palestinians have been killed. The Israel Defense Force has seized approximately 150 firearms and raided 20 workshops.  More than 500 illegal weapons were seized.

A couple of years ago, I was in Jerusalem during one of these outbreaks at the Temple Mount. Young men ran out of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and assaulted non-Muslim tourists and then ran back inside. As I was walking through the Jewish sector, I came upon a squad of around 50 young women fully dressed in uniforms and carrying rifles. They were hiding in an archeological site.  I stopped and asked their leader what they were doing.

“If these thugs come out again,” she said. “We’re here to stop them.”

“Your troops are ready to shoot? To Kill?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” the leader said.

I walked away knowing that the Israeli response to these attacks would be more than adequate. A squad of young women could stop the terrorists.

See you on August 21!

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Filed under Christians, History, Israel, middle east

RUN IN AT THE WALL Part 2

BLOG 360 August 7, 2017

Last week we looked at any issue not particularly published in the United States. A struggle over religious observance at the Western Wall has developed into a political crisis in Israel. Prime Minster Netanyahu has been worried about the stability of his government because of this situation that we have been exploring the controversy.

Christians often have a hard time understanding all the fuss over this particular stone wall that has existed back to the Second Temple period. From Judaism’s point of view, the issue is far more than a commemoration of antiquity. Actually, the issue reflects a basic difference between how Judaism and Christianity function.

Christians center their concerns on what people believe. Having a correct theology is basic for faith. Christian denominations have split many times over small differences in how they define true belief. Having the right convictions is everything.

On the other hand, Jewish interest is in proper observance. Judaism encounters many groups with extremely different views of belief and this diversity is acceptable. What counts is ritually maintaining their link to the past. Keeping the high Holy Days is essential. Therefore, praying at the Western Wall touches the heart of Jewish conviction and faith. It is seen as ritual maintenance that links Jews to the past, to the present, and to the body of Israel.

Adding to the current strife, Jewish women are no longer willing to allow men to dominate ritual prayers at the wall in a manner that excludes them. The WOW group (Women at the Wall) has staged demonstrations wearing kipahs (skull caps), tallits (prayer shawls), and carrying Torahs. This infuriates the ultra-conservative Hassidics who believe they own the wall. Bingo! We have confrontation!

The WOW element are charged with being only Feminist without religious interest. I personally know some of these women (including a female rabbi) and recognize their genuine religious interest. They only want a piece of the wall to pray without harassment from the haredi element.

In the current confrontation put on tentative hold on June 30, Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed a task force to review and study the issues. Any legislation on the issue was asked to be delayed until the task force makes its recommendation. The Prime Minister has been well known for side-stepping controversy with such maneuvers. Moreover, Netanyahu has been a flip-flopper when it served his purposes. Haredi leaders Ya’acov Litzman, Moshe Gafni, and Arye Deri had threatened to topple his government if change was not put on hold.

At this moment any decisions are delayed. However, groups like the Shas political party and other ultra-conservative elements remain committed to stopping any change in the status quo which continues to shut Reformed and Conservative elements out. Is change inevitable? The Reformers say, ‘yes.” The Orthodox says, “never.” What’s ahead? We shall see.

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