Category Archives: Egypt


BLOG 548

January 8, 2022


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.


Most of what we discuss about the Middle East proves to be disconcerting or troubling. However, since we have just plunged into a new year let’s stand back, take a deep breath, and look on the lighter side. How about archeology? Something old for the new day? We haven’t considered this field in awhile.

No country in the world has as much going on archeologically as does Israel. Everywhere I looked in the past I found someone with a shovel in hand. For example ….

The area around the Temple Mount always sheds light on where both the Temple and the Kingdom of Judah’s treasuries once stood. Dr. Zachi Dvira and Dr. Gabriel Barkay, analyzed dozens of clay seals that were found over the decades by sifting soil from the holy area where archaeological digs are not allowed as well as from excavations at Ophel Park, adjacent to the southern wall of the Old City. Clay seals were used in antiquity to sign documents or containers, ensuring they would reach their recipients closed and untouched. The seals often bear symbols or inscriptions of kings, prophets, and businessmen and important people mentioned in the Bible. They continue to find important clues that verify the history found in the Old Testament.

Now here’s a different twist. Could the ancient Ark of the Covenant be resting in Ethiopia? Really? But Ethiopia? My oldest son once taught at the University of Addis Abba, in Ethiopia and went to the place where the Ark might be found. The legend says that 3,000 years ago the Queen of Sheba (now in Ethiopia)  met with King Solomon. During this exchange, a man named Menelik brought the Ark to Ethiopia for safe keeping while an exact replica was left in hiding for protection. Another perspective maintains that a Jewish group during the time of King Manasseh took the Ark to Egypt and then sailed up the Nile to Ethiopia.

Either way, today that Ark is in the Church of Our Lady of Zion in the town of Aksium where a man called “The Guardian of the Ark of the Covenant” is the only one who can view it. The guardian lives in a fenced-off area for his entire life protecting the treasure. When he dies, a new guardian will replace him for the rest of that man’s life.

 Who believes this story? Well, Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia did and claimed to be a direct descendant of Menelik. Haile Selassie claimed to be the 225th descendant of King David as well.

Great shades of Indiana Jones! Except this isn’t out of the movies. It has been believed by a multitude for 3,000 years. Give it some thought. A fascinating way to kick off 2022!

I have a new books 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 archaeology, Egypt, History, The Middle East


BLOG 485

September 7,  2020


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.

A number of readers have made responses to the previous blog concerning the new Israeli-United Arab Emirates peace agreement. Certainly, it is a signal of changing times with practical implications for the future. Further analysis suggests some of these possibilities.

The agreement is the third peace treaty Israel has signed with an Arab state, but it is the first to contain the promise of a warm peace. This is in sharp contrast to Israel’s relations with prior accord partners Egypt and Jordan, which are limited to very narrow personal, diplomatic, and security relations. With Egypt, the peace treaty has rarely reached even that threshold. Hosni Mubarak, throughout his 30 years of ruling Egypt, never made an official visit to Israel, which is less than an hour’s flight away. In over a decade of rule, King Abdullah of Jordan. has abstained from visiting Israel despite meeting several times with PA head Mahmoud Abbas in nearby Ramallah.

The UAE peace treaty, unlike the treaties with Egypt and Jordan, was signed under quite different conditions. There is a wide expectation that it will be followed by one or more similar pacts with other states, especially other Gulf States and Saudi Arabia. No such expectations accompanied Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.

One major accomplishment has already been achieved by the UAE-Israel agreement. It has been largely overlooked, perhaps because it is a case of what did not happen rather than what did. Even as an El Al plane flew over Saudi Arabian territory carrying a bevy of Israeli officials, businessmen, and investors to the Emirates with the aim of promoting a warm piece, there were no demonstrations of consequence in the Arab world. Amman, Beirut, Tunis, Algiers, and Rabat, where demonstrations against the Israeli “occupation,” the “desecration” of al-Aqsa, and other charges against Israel are generally well-attended, were silent, at least on the street.

For Iran and the violent proxy organizations it supports, the lesson was vivid and painful. Not only was the Palestinian card they have played for decades visibly diminished in importance, but the lack of protest over the Palestinian issue contrasted sharply with the growing level of protest in Lebanon and Iraq regarding Iranian meddling in their internal affairs to the detriment of the native populations.

It is one more sign of long-term processes of political maturation in the Arabic-speaking public. The late senator and former Harvard professor Patrick Moynihan famously said that all politics are local. Indeed, mature democracies are usually characterized by populations that privilege local interests and welfare over universal concerns.

In today’s Middle East, populations are no longer clamoring for pan-Arab unity. They want better social welfare, greater economic opportunity, good education, innovation, the rule of law, and equality before the law at home. The Israel-UAF agreement fits those needs.

Harper-Collins Publishers
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

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Filed under Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestinians, The Middle East


BLOG 484
August 24, 2020



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.


There’s an old joke Jews tell each other. A wealthy man proposed to give a thousand-dollar check to representatives of faith if they could tell him who was the greatest man that ever lived. He asks the Protestant. The man answered, “Martin Luther, the founder of the Reformation.” “Thank you, the wealthy man said, but that’s not what I’m looking for.’ He asks the Roman Catholic and was told, “It is the Pope.” Again, he said this is not the answer. He asks the Rabbi who is the greatest man who ever lived. The Rabbi says, “Jesus.”

“Good heavens!” the wealthy man said. “I was sure you would say Moses.” The Rabbi replied, “Moses is Moses. Business is business.!”

The Rabbi’s answer describes the situation in the entire Middle-East regardless of country or background. They may scream and holler in public, but when they sit down at the business table. Business is business.

Keep that in mind when trying to understand the shift in politics when the Arab Emirates went public on their working with Israel in secret. They had concluded it was in their best interest to come out of the closet and admit they had been doing business with Israel for some time.

The Arab leaders had heard from both Jordan and Egypt about Israel’s reliability and assistance in times of need. Israel had helped shore up Egypt’s problem with terrorist in the Sinai bringing that intrusion to a halt. On the other hand, Arabs had become increasingly disillusioned with Washington not coming to their aid as they once believed American politicians would do. They could see in the last four years that Washington had backed away from stopping Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power or crippling them with sanctions. Israel was now seen as more dependable than America.

Moreover, the Arab Spring brought the recognition that that popular anger at repression and corruption could backfire on them. Old campaign slogans against Israel were going out of style. The real menace was now Iran. Israel had demonstrated they were prepared to halt Iran by themselves if necessary. Because of the longstanding struggle with Iran, the Emirates were now glad to lean on Israel.

Former head of Mossad, Meir Dagan much earlier recognized an intersection of interests in the Arab world with Israel’s concerns. The old problems were dying as new ones emerged. Prejudices were shifting.

Let’s fact it. Business is business.

Harper-Collins Publishers
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

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Filed under America, Arabs, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, The Middle East


BLOG 480
July 27 2020



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 American press apparently has not touched an important news story brewing in the Middle East because the covid virus has captured the attention of the public and press. However, a new and possible dangerous situation that continues to brew in the Middle East with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stoking the fire.

The Turkish Ottoman Empire was crushed in World War I. Before that defeat, Turkey had virtually ruled the region including what is today Israel. The Muslim Empire practiced genocide on a million and a half Armenians and were known for their brutality. World War I broke their hold on the Middle East and the British gained control of Palestine. Eventually the Arabs formed countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Now Erdogan appears to be attempting to revive the past. Questions are now being raised about whether Turkey and Egypt could be headed for a war in Libya. In recent months, Turkey has increased its military intervention in Libya. They are supporting the Tripoli government’s side of a civil war. The Libyan conflict is complex but has implications for which power will gain dominance in the region. Egypt, Turkey,Qatar and even Russia have their eye on the outcome.

Erdogan’s interest is also on increasing Turkey’s statues in the Arab Muslim world. The Turkish President has always tilted toward the Muslim Brotherhood. In recent years, Turkey has also played hardball with Israel probably to gain favor in the Arab world. In contrast, Egypt’s leader General Abdel Fatah al-Sisis kicked the Muslim Brotherhood out of the country back in 2013. Egypt is not likely to be tolerant of Erodgan’s aggressive actions.

One view held in America is that one day Turkey may turn to Iran or Russia. The idea is that the US must give concessions to Turkey to turn them away from Moscow and Tehran. The issue may end with Cairo’s influence. They currently have a military present in Libya. At this point the kettle is only starting to boil, but the water is hot.

Pay attention to what Turkey is up to. It may well have repercussions for the entire Middle East.

Harper-Collins Publishers
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Israel, Palestinians, Russia, Saudi Arabia, The Middle East, Turkey, War


BLOG 405 October 8, 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. 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.

Egypt hasn’t been in the headlines lately, but that doesn’t mean nothing is going on. Let’s take a second look.

I can never forget the morning I first drove into Cairo with the locals alongside my vehicle. Men rode fifty-year old bicycles next to women on burros. Traditional robes that looked like they had never been washed flapped over sandals worn to the core. A few more affluent appearing business men joined the parade next to a hollowed out wooden cart on rubber tire wheels driven by a bearded guy who must have been 90 years old.

Our parade going to work made a good analogy for contemporary Egypt.

The “Arab Spring” (meaning a new awakening) has become the “Arab Winter” (meaning a return to the past). The man leading the country in the midst of chaos is former general Abel Fattah el-Sissi. While it had been hoped Sissi would prove to be moderate, that has fundamentally not happened. The Egyptian Count just sentenced over 700 demonstrators to death for participation in s public brawl a couple of years ago.  Ousted President Mohamed Morsi remains in jail. The Muslim Brotherhood has been completely outlawed though it remains underground and ready to strike again. Sissi has proven to be a strong man who will not tolerate dissent.

How one views this situation depends on what is brought to the table. The West sees little democracy and views el-Sissi as a dictator. Egypt remains under suspicion. President Obama shut-off aid to the country following the arrest of the former president, but that only sent Sissi’s government looking to Russia and China.  

On the other hand, persons living in Egypt know the country’s instability demands an iron fist at the top. If the Muslim Brotherhood gained control again, the country would be under Muslim Sharia law much like Iran is. The country has too much instability to have a free-wheeling democracy. Police and army control is necessary for balance.

Egypt’s economy has not shown much progress and remains on the down side. On the other hand, Egypt and Israel have developed a good and positive working relationship that puts the Palestinians on the outside. Melania Trump’s just been there and got bad press for her outfit that looked like a business man or colonialist. Come on, folks, who cares what people wear these days.

The story is not over in Egypt. There is much that cannot be foreseen, meaning we will have to watch and see.

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Filed under Arabs, Egypt, middle east


BLOG 402 September 17, 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. 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.

Last week we took a look at Israel’s new Nation-State Law that has upset the Arabs and Druze population within Israel. The anger that has boiled over reflects a number of issues now simmering in the region. While this new law was a ‘big deal” to a majority of Israelis, it is seen as exclusive and divisive by both the Arabs and Druze communities within the country.

Israel  has never had a constitution because the religious parties oppose such a document unless it is based on the Torah. The “Basic Laws” document grants universal rights to the citizens and serves much the same purpose. Consequently, this new law pushes the rights of Jews while leaving out these other two groups.

How one feels about the situation depends on one’s presuppositions. Firm supporters of Israel’s right to be a state unto itself will see no problems. On the other hand, people who favor inclusiveness and want no one pushed into a second-class status will not be happy. One side will believe Israel has a right to declare such laws; the other side will cry apartheid.

That’s where the anger starts to get confrontational.

Across the way in Egypt, a Cairo court sentenced 75 people to death for their involvement in the 2013 sit-in protests in Cairo. This included leaders in the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Eight-hundred and seventeen people were killed when security forces broke up the demonstration. You can bet anger will abound!

A photojournalist received a five year sentence for taking pictures of the anti-government protests. He plans to appeal. Amnesty International said the court’s decision was disgraceful and noted that not a single police officer had been brought to trial for killing at least 900 people in the Raban and Nahda protests. They saw the trial as a mockery of justice.

Shortly after the 2013 demonstrations, General Abdel el-Sisi ran for president virtually unopposed and won 97% of the vote. The hope had been that he would softening these crackdowns, but that has not been the case. Such has not followed.

Much like the divided opinion in Israel, Egypt has a great deal of anger that continues to simmer over this situation. In the Middle East, anger does not tend to evaporate and just go away. There will be more to come!

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Filed under Egypt, Israel, middle east


BLOG 387 March 19, 2014

The issue of “so-called Fake” news has reached an all time high with the prompting of the Trump Administration, leaving an impression with the public that their charges are an attempt to cover the real story (whatever that might be). The issue also has ramifications for the Middle East.

A reported in indicated 54% of the American public believe the mass media while only 36% believe President Trump and trust his charges above the media. The low figure represents about the same numbers for those who support Trump come hell or high water. In 2016, Israel Democracy Institute index pointed to an all-time low in Israel for the public press. In 2017, the trend was reversed with a 4% rise in trust for the media.

The fact is that people don’t like to read about what they already disagree with. The result is that the bearer of bad news is blamed for the story.

A significant divide also exists in how American political parties feel about Israel. The Pew Research Center found 79% of Republicans sympathetic with Israel compared to 27% of Democrats. Never has there been a greater divide between Democrats and Republicans in 40-years of polling. Americans favorably inclined for Israel are less like to believe a two-state solution is possible. The Pew organization noted that the younger a person is, the more likely they are to believe in the possibility of reaching an agreement.

The issue of trust and honesty in the press came to a head again a week ago when it was discovered that Egypt had ties with North Korea.  The media discovery turned up the fact that missiles made in Pyongyang were being sold in Cairo. The  realization that the Egyptians had a connection with an American enemy angered the State Department.

On an island in the Suez Cannel is a statue presented by North Korea of a towering AK-47 rifle with the muzzle and bayonet pointed toward the sky, symbolizing and enduring alliance. The monument remains as a commemoration of the 1973 war against Israel when a North Korean fought and was killed, flying for Egypt.

The world now knows that Egypt buys armaments from North Korean and has allowed North Korean diplomats to use the Cairo embassy for military sales across the region. Washington is currently down on President Abel Fattah el-Sisis’s case over this situation.

Egypt’s cozy relationship with the US has been severely jarred over these economic transactions with an aggressive country under American sanctions. Tensions are probably ahead because the United Nations will eventually report on the cargo inside a rusty North Korean freighter intercepted off the coast of Egypt in 2016. Apparently, the ship was carrying armaments with 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades worth around $26 million dollars. Egypt has denied being the intended recipient.

So far, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Public trust has been jarred.

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Filed under America, Egypt, middle east


BLOG 377 January 8, 2018

Wow! We’re in a New Year. Now, that eight days have passed, you’ve probably already forgotten about those resolutions. Whatever – we have a new year of possibilities and problems before us. What shall we say?

The curtain came down on 2017 with riots in the streets of Iran, the longest since 2009. The younger generation and merchants struggling to survive had enough of the regime spending millions on spreading terrorism and building bombs. The latest report indicates ten deaths, and hundreds arrested. Where will this revolt go in 2018? Probably nowhere because several years ago the Revolutionary Guard wiped out the last group of protestors and probably would do so again.

But problems with Iran won’t go away.

The Arab Spring has fairly well turned into winter. In Egypt the economy is no better than it was before all the rioting. Egypt’s currency is now worth less than half what of what it was in 2011. Tourists are staying away. The killings of 395 worshippers in a mosque didn’t help the country.

The Egyptian Christians possibly had an even rougher time.  Hundreds of Muslims attacked a Coptic Christian diocese south of Cairo. The church’s contents were destroyed and members assaulted before security arrived. The Coptic of Egypt may possibly be the oldest institutional expression of Christianity. However, Christians constitute only 10% of the Muslim population. On December 30, a gunman on a motorcycle opened fire on a Coptic Church in a Cairo suburb. Eight Coptic Christians were killed before the lone assassin was felled. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi tried to prevent yearly attacks, but failed.

Of course, the world is aware of President Trump’s arbitrary decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. The world responded that he further damaged peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Trying to get the United Nations behind the move, America received a rebuke from friends and foes. After the embarrassment, Ambassador Nikki Haley threatened the world that the US was “taking names” and would retaliate financially against everyone in sight. All of which made America look like a bully and further denigrated diplomacy.

Trump’s actions have only isolated Israel further and diminished American’s influence to negotiate for peace. Isolationists could care less while folks struggling for a better world can only mourn.  

With a total unpredictable White House, who can predict what will happen in 2018. Putin will run for office in an already rigged election – but doesn’t take a prophet to predict that result. The rest is up for grabs.

When I was with Pope Francis last June, we discussed the critical situation in the world. The Pope suggested that everyone should pray for peace. I can’t think of a better word for what’s ahead.

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BLOG 374 December 4, 2017

The first time I went to Egypt, I was almost overwhelmed by how ancient the entire land is as well as Cairo proved to be. Towns like Bir al-Abd in northern Sinai are equally ancient in appearance as well as fact. Therefore, turning on the television for the morning news and discovering that at least 305 Muslims were killed while praying in a local Bir al-Abd mosque left me speechless. How could this happen?

The West remains stunned by the fact that ISIS terrorists kill Sufi Muslims. The differences between Sufis and Sunnis amounts to contrary opinions about visiting the graves of holy figures, praying to Muslim saints, and worshiping at their tombs. The Sunnis consider this heresy – and therefore a call to arms!

What these distinctions amount to might be compared to the differences between Methodist and Baptists over baptism. One group immerses; the other sprinkles. Therefore, the Baptist round up their members with shot guns and go marching on the Methodist worshiping on Sunday morning. Shooting up the church amounts to purifying the believers. Really?

Sound crazy? Certainly, but the people of Bir Al-Abd are paying for having a divergent viewpoint.

The story within the story is that the villagers were warned to stop collaborating with Egyptian Security forces and suspend their worship. A week before the attack they were warned not to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Mohammad with their rituals. Three weeks earlier, the villagers had detained three suspected militants and handed them over to the security forces. These two issues brought the wrath of ISIS down on the worshippers.

Egypt’s shortcomings in providing security and fighting ISIS were exposed by the militants attack. As a result the government is now under fire for not being more effective. Of course, the war with militants in the Sinai is not a new story. I have commented on this problem in earlier blogs.

The Bir Al-Abd attack may reveal a shift in ISIS targets. In Egypt they seem to be hitting soft areas like the Coptic Christians as well as the Sufis. Their point would be to further undermine President Sisi and the central government.

Coptic Christians remain one of the oldest, if not the oldest, churches in the world even pre-dating Rome. Traditionally, the start of Christendom was 42 CE when St. Mark started the first church in Alexandria. ISIS has already attacked the Coptic Christians.

A sad story indeed to start December! Unfortunately, there will be more to come.





Barbour Books

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Filed under America, Egypt, middle east


Blog 347 April 24, 2017

           A number of readers wanted to know more about last week’s report on the deaths of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Many Westerners have not been acquainted with the ancient Coptic Church than began in 64 CE when St. Mark came to Alexandria and befriended a shoemaker who in time became their first bishop. Where the first church began now stands a great Cathedral with giant chandeliers. Supposedly, the head of Mark is in a vault in the Cathedral.

            As reported last week, ISIS attacked the Christians because they are Christians and particularly vulnerable in Egypt with only 10% of the population in a Muslim oriented country where Muslims have a long history of persecuting Christians.

Muslim President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi visited Pope Tawadros (the name of the head of the Coptic Church) in Cairo on the Thursday after the attack and vowed to apprehend the parties responsible for the killings. A state of emergency was imposed. However, a local Christian resident responded with the accusation that the state of emergency was called not to protect Copts, but to prevent a revolt by them.

For Coptic Christians, this remains an ancient story. Roman Emperors such as Diocletian began persecuting them even in the first century. The remains of many of these martyrs were buried at the Monastery of St. Mina, an hour’s drive from Alexandria. The seven Christians killed in the Sunday massacre were also buried there as a symbol of high honor and sign of respect. Bishop Kyrillos Ava Mina, who leads the monastery, said the seven are now eternally one with the heroic deaths of Christians through the centuries.

Will this killing stop? Coptics say no. ISIS has only become a new part of the destructive equation. The issues with the Egyptian government and police are both ineptitude and indifference. Christian experience from across the entire country ranges from apathetic shrugs to outright discrimination. Few Christians ever serve in the top ranks of the military and academia. Egyptian expert at New York’s Century Foundation, Michael Wahid Hanna notes that the highest-ranking people in the country will never be Christians.

You are probably asking yourself, “How can this be?” May I recommend a movie that I am telling everyone to see. The Promise is a current well-done movie that is emotionally powerful. The story starts at the beginning of World War I. The basic plot is about what the Muslim Turks did to the Christian Armenians. Once you’ve followed the story line, you will have a deeper insight into what today’s Coptic Christians face in Egypt.

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Filed under Bible Lands, Christians, Egypt, middle east