Category Archives: Faith

NEW TENSIONS BETWEEN JEWS AND EVANGELICALS

BLOG 473
May 25, 2020

God-TV-Logo

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.

NEW TENSIONS BETWEEN JEWS AND EVANGELICALS

An evangelical broadcaster, who boasted of miraculously securing a TV license in Israel, now risks being taken off the air over suspicions of trying to convert Jews to Christianity. The controversy over “GOD TV” has put both Israel and its evangelical Christian supporters in an awkward position, exposing tensions the two sides have long papered over. Evangelical Christians, particularly in the United States, are among the strongest supporters of Israel, viewing it as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, with some seeing it as the harbinger of a second coming of Jesus Christ and the end of days.

Israel has long welcomed evangelicals’ political and financial support, especially as their influence over the White House has risen during the Trump era, and it has largely shrugged off concerns about any hidden religious agenda. But most Jews view any effort to convert them to Christianity as deeply offensive, a legacy of centuries of persecution and forced conversion at the hands of Christian rulers. In part because of those sensitivities, evangelical Christians, who generally believe salvation can only come through Jesus and preach the Gospel worldwide, rarely target Jews.

When GOD TV, an international Christian broadcaster, reached a seven-year contract earlier this year with HOT, Israel’s main cable provider, it presented itself as producing content for Christians. But in a video message that has since been taken down, GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson suggested its real aim was to convince Jews to accept Jesus as their messiah. The channel, known as “Shelanu,” broadcast in Hebrew even though most Christians in the Holy Land speak Arabic. “God has supernaturally opened the door for us to take the Gospel of Jesus into the homes and lives and hearts of his Jewish people,” Simpson said in the video. “They’ll watch secretly, they’ll watch quietly,” he added. “God is restoring his people, God is removing the blindness from their eyes.”

In a subsequent video, Simpson acknowledged that the channel was under investigation by Israeli authorities, saying that preaching about Jesus in Israel is a “very touchy subject.” He apologized for any offensive remarks and said GOD TV would comply with all regulations. Freedom of religion is enshrined in Israeli law, and proselytizing is allowed as long as missionary activities are not directed at minors and do not involve economic coercion.

“In recent decades, millions of Christians have felt the call to stand with the State of Israel and the Jewish people with no hidden agenda,” said Laurie Cardoza-Moore, a Tennessee-based evangelical who hosts a program called “Focus on Israel” that previously aired on GOD TV. “Any attempts to convert Jews or downgrade their religion will only [sow] undue hatred at a time when we should unite in the face of darkness,” Cardoza-Moore said.

The issue remains one of the major “hot-button” issues of our time in Israel. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

YOU MIGHT ENJOY MY NEWEST BOOK HOT OFF THE PRESS
82 DAYS ON OKINAWA
Harper-Collins Publishers
JUST OUT – IT’S A THRILLER!
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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THE HOLY SPIRIT IN IRAN?

BLOG 458
February 3, 2020

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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

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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MISSION INTERRUPTED

BLOG 222 October 20, 2014

Customarily, these blogs are about aspects of Middle Eastern countries and the current military struggles. I attempt to place the region in a balanced and thoughtful framework that attempts to give the reader an enlarged picture of what these struggles mean and where they are going.  Certainly, there is plenty to write about. For example, the Iraqi government finally filled two security posts that had sat empty for far too long because of the religious differences in the country. We’ll save that story for another time. Today I want to take a step in a different direction. Please forgive this mission interrupted digression.

I have just returned from two weeks in Rome and time spent in private discussions with Pope Francis. As you may be aware, the Vatican was holding a landmark assembly dealing with issues facing families, divorced and remarried Catholics, as well as the gay community. During this time, the Pope met privately with me at an early morning hour to discuss bringing a new unity between Protestants and Catholics. Since I am a Protestant Archbishop, such conversations were highly irregular – and vital!

Several years ago my colleague, fellow bishop, and dear friend Tony Palmer and I were in Bari, Italy when the Roman Catholic Church signed an agreement accepting Martin Luther’s position on “Justification by Faith.” Pope Francis now maintains this concord has ended all hostilities between Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pope had become our close friend when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tony had become like a son to Fr. Bergoglio (now Pope Francis). As their relationship developed, Tony and I were shocked when the Archbishop became the Pope after Benedict resigned. Last spring, the Pope called on his cell phone and asked us to come to Rome. He particularly wanted us to carry the message of “unity without uniformity” to the Protestants world. The Pope wasn’t asking Protestants to join the Roman Church, but wanted Protestants and Romans to become friends again as well as brothers and sisters as Jesus prayed we would  all be. (John 17)

On July 20, 2014, at the age of 48 Tony was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Bath, England. Obviously, this tragedy threw our worlds into complete turmoil. Although I had retired as Director of Ecumenical Relations of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, I was called back to help formulate a Synod Tony was working on in Rome and to re-establish our connection with the Pope. During the past two weeks in Rome, I have been working on these issues.

The Pope has asked me to continue Tony’s mission and has called on his wife Emiliana Palmer to head the Ark Community’s ministry that had become the vehicle for communication of unity. The Pope’s title “Apostolic Representative for Christian Unity” bestowed on Tony has now been transferred to me and I will continue Tony’s work. Nothing about this effort will prohibit these blogs and they will continue as usual with a an added dimension.

My new primary mission is to tell the world that Protestants and Roman Catholics have a new compatibility even though many of our views differ. We strive to be one in the days that are before us.

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DISAPPEARING CHRISTIANS

If you haven’t noticed lately, Christians in the Middle East are disappearing. The religious wars raging in the entire region are taking a deepening toil. The decline has two main causes: emigration and declining birth rates.

The irony of the May 24 visit of Pope Francis has highlighted  this problem. The percent of Christians in the Middle East is now 5% of the total population. In 1900, it was 10%. The pope’s hope had been to call attention to the problems of violence and growing religious intolerance that has created the situation. Unfortunately, this laudable intention can do little to halt the rising tide of hostility surging across Middle Eastern countries. Good people are running from bad treatment.

For example, Bethlehem in 1995 was 80% Christian. Today, it does well to claim 30% of a Christian population. For the first time in nearly two millennia, the little town of Bethlehem no longer has a Christian majority. Christians in Jerusalem once outnumbered Muslims, but today the Christians are only 2% of the population.

Here’s other examples. In Turkey, Christians once had a population of 2 million. Today only a few thousand remain. Go further South. One-half of the Christians in Iraq have left.  Where Christians were once a third of the population in Syria, they are now less than 10%.  Prior to Israel’s war of independence, Ramallah was 90% Christian. Today it is a Muslim city.

Egypt has become a good example of the problem. Fundamentalist Muslims constantly target Christians. The situation is similar to the West Bank where Muslims boycott Christian businesses. If these problems continue, bv 2020, the Middle East’s 12 million Christians will drop to 6 million. At this rate, Christians will disappear as a cultural and political force in the foreseeable future.

The problem is often not mentioned about Muslim countries for fear of sounding racist. Nevertheless, converts from Islam to Christianity risk being killed in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and Iran. In other countries they risk severe legal reprisals. Shadi Hami, a fellow of the Brookings Instruction, notes that in religiously conservative societies there is a constant desire for the mixing of religion and politics – not less. To put it another way, if given the choice of selecting a democratic form of government, in a democratic election, they would not vote for the democratic process.

Consequently, the West is caught in a dilemma and a bind. Contrary to democratic values, recognizing this problem in a public and formal manner sounds prejudicial and contrary to the liberal spirit that recognizes all religions as having an equal place in society. On the other hand, the Muslim world is simply not inclusive. Even politically conservative states like Oklahoma went to court to oppose Sharia Law after a vast number of voters indicated they didn’t want the Muslim system to function in their state. They lost.

Even describing this problem makes me feel uncomfortable. The issues feel too intolerant. Nevertheless, the facts remain what they are. The Western world must wake up to this dimension of the problem. The conservative, fundamentalist Muslims consider themselves to be at war with Christians and Western values. Not to pay attention to the facts is to risk being devastated –just as the Middle Eastern Christian are today.

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Filed under Arabs, Christians, Faith, Iran, middle east, Violence

THE END OF TIME?

            The possibilities of Armageddon, the angelic blast of the final trumpet, the clash of armies in Israel, and The End of it all fascinates Americans to no end. Many people believe they have the inside story from the Bible that no one else has found. One of my  friends believed the final battle would begin on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Didn’t happen. Then, he adjusted the date to Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. No better results. He bet me a special expensive supper if he was wrong. After several years of buying meals, he threw in the towel. His number is legion.

A recent report by Lifewayresearch.com indicated that one-third of Americans believe that the war in Syria is part of the end time plan. One-fourth of the country holds the position that a U.S. strike in Syria would lead to Armageddon. They note that women are more likely to see a link between the Bible and the war in Syria than men (whatever that means). Southerners with a household income under $25,000 were the most likely to believe in such an outcome. Northeasterners with incomes of over $75,000 were the least like to accept these ideas. (I’d hate to think income determines your faith, but …)

When I was in college, Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth came out and people were grabbing copies by the arm load. No one knew quite what to think of his linking the headlines in the newspaper to the Bible. During the era of Sputnik, the Cold War, and the Berlin Wall, such a book was seen by many as a road map to the future and Armageddon. Sorry. Virtually nothing that Lindsey wrote turned out to be true, but he got rich through book sales.

Headlines from Syria continue to tell the ongoing story. Several rebel brigades including an affiliate of Al Qaeda seized one of Syria’s largest oil and gas fields. This decisive move will have a strong effect on the Syrian government as Assad needs these resources to stay solvent. The two and a half year war has seriously effected the Syrian government’s ability to have the income needed to function. At this point, it is not clear whether the rebels will be able to hold this oil rich area. Moreover, it remains to be seen if they will be able to resume production.

The government reconciliation minister Ali Haida barely escaped assassination when his convoy was attacked near the Mediterranean coast. The driver of his car was killed. No end in sight to the killing.

Serious doubts can be raised about the Syrian war being the end of time unless you are one of the participants. Then, the issue becomes the end of your time. Keep watching and don’t believe everything you hear.

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MAKING SENSE OUT OF THE NEWTOWN TRAGEDY

            Please forgive me for digressing from my usual analysis of conditions in the Middle East. The tragedy that has consumed America’s attention demands a response.

            Some decades ago, I wrote When There Is No Miracle, trying to help people understand and face tragedy. I came to the conclusion that there is no satisfactory answer to explain why it happened. The only recourse is to ask what can we do in response. This insight is particularly true in Newtown, Connecticut. No explanation can be spoken to the parents of the 20 innocent children or the kin of the six adults that will unravel the mystery of such a draconian disaster. But we must consider what can be done.

We can do more to stop these senseless catastrophes. I do know something about the after effects. I grew up in Bailey, Colorado where a lunatic entered the local high school and killed 16 year-old Emily Keyes. She had been my server on Saturdays at a local cafe. I know many of the local students still struggling with the impact of this senseless tragedy. Littleton’s Columbine High School where two boys shot 12 students and killed one teacher is not that far away. Last summer, I awoke one July morning to discover that Aurora’s movie theater had been the scene of 12 being killed and 58 injured by crazy James Holmes. I have observed the problem up close.

Extreme gun advocates like the NRA have their slogans in response to these tragedies such as, “Guns Don’t Kill, People Kill.” Really? The children in Newtown weren’t shot by bow and arrows? Obviously, guns do kill. The better slogan would be “Guns and People Kill.” We must face the fact that guns are intricate to this national problem. In the USA, there are more gun dealers than grocery stores or McDonalds.

Moreover, evil lays at the heart of the matter. Our national refusal to bring automatic weapons under control has provided the Evil One with a draconian means of completing his purposes. Yes, many of these killings came from disturbed and mentally ill persons. Our society has many such individuals wandering around. Can you think of a better reason to bring weaponry under control?

Certainly the issue isn’t intruding on hunters with sportsmen’s intentions or home owners protecting their property. They have a right to own weapons. The problem before us are the Mossberg 715T Tactical semi-automatic rifles, the Ar-15’s, the M-16’s, and a host of weapons that should have no place in a civilized society. Yes, we can crack down on gun registration and the ability to obtain weapons at gun shows as easily as buying groceries. We can do infinitely better in reining in these killing machines. We halted slavery; we can reduce shootings. Remember when you could smoke on an airplane and in a restaurant? If we reduced the cancer sticks, we can certainly restrict assault weapons.

Oh yes, the argument will be, “but you can’t stop criminals from getting guns.”

The trouble is these public mass murderers weren’t committed by hardened criminals. Just local folks.

Part of the irony of the Newtown tragedy is that shooter Adam Lanza’s mother killed that day was a gun enthusiast. The Glock and Sig Sauer pistols as well as the .223 caliber rifle carried by Lanza were from her stockpile of weapons. Not only did her personal arsenal not protect her, but she died because of it.

The time has come to wake up. We can make a significant inroad into these horrendous tragedies. We don’t need any more evidence. I can’t tell you why it happened, but here are suggestions for what we can do.

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BOOKS YOU’LL LOVE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORIES

                                                        THE ASSASSINS

 

Obviously, my novel is about the battle between good and evil.

 

Novelist have been struggling with this topic for centuries because it is one of the most basic fundamental issues effecting all of humanity. We read about the conflict because we have all been there. It’s our story, our experience. And we keep reading because we’re never sure which side is going to win.

The Assassins begins with a completely evil design. Vladimir Putin intends to have the top American leaders killed and sends out three henchmen to do them in. None of these men is particularly bright, but they all know about murder that they are quit willing to commit. Will evil triumph under these circumstances? The reader keeps turning the pages to find out.

Friedrich Nietzsche lived in the last half of the nineteenth century and was a major philosopher whose impact has not been diminished by time. He appears to have had a deep distrust of words in conveying and describing evil. Our time has seen so much mayhem and murder, I often wonder if we haven’t been moved existentially closer to Nietzsche’s point of view.  Not that we wrestle intellectually with the problem of evil, but that we have become so adjusted to assassination, revolutions, war, and the possibility of nuclear explosions that we no longer are able to find the words that convey the draconian nature of the ongoing situation with which we live.

 

Perhaps, a novel remains one of the best tools to walk us inside the terrors of human manipulation and deceit. The Assassins is of course fiction, but look at the parallels with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned in London. Litvenenko, a FSB agent (formerly called the KGB) got crossways with Vladimir Putin and fled the country to avoid being killed. In London, he remained a harsh critic of Putin’s role in encouraging corruption. A close friend of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, he knew she was investigating his charges against Putin. The female journalist was then shot to death in Moscow. Sound a little familiar?

Can words adequately convey the force of evil in such a situation? Friedrich Nietzsche said no.  The will to power remains too strong. His solution was to create an entirely new language. I’m afraid Nietzsche got too close to the edge, but he does press us to recognize how powerful evil is in the world around us.

Personally, I find novels by Daniel Silva do an adequate job of forcing anyone to recognize the reality of evil. Hopefully, The Assassins does the same thing. While such a story is fiction, by its very nature it forces us to look into the non-fiction world with greater perspective and a more adequate grasp of the power of evil.

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Compulsory Conscription For Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox

 

 

Israel’s Plesner Report recommended 80% of the ultra-Orthodox should serve in Israel’s military  or face criminal sanctions if they don’t. The report would reduce the length of service to 24 months where regular citizens now serve for three years. The aim of this report is to replace the old so-called Tal Law.

When the country began, David Ben-Gurion exempted the haredi at the urging of an advisor. The reasoning was based on religious grounds and had to do with the group’s study of the Bible. It has existed as a source of tension within Israel ever since.

Of course, the Haredi politicians reacted with outrage, calling the document evil and malicious. However, representatives of the Plesner group noted that national service was a religious concept and a Torah commandment. Torah does not oppose military service if a religious lifestyle is accommodated. However, the debate is far from ended, but definitely moving in the direction of compulsory conscription for the haredi.

 

Several years ago, I was walking through the Jewish sector of the Old City. A disturbance had erupted on the Temple Mount caused by Moslem boys throwing rocks at tourists. As I passed by an archeological sight, I saw at least a hundred girls in military uniforms with rifles sitting in the enclosure. Aged 18 to 20, the young women were ready to charge the Temple Mount if the disruption continued. Seeing women armed and ready to shoot stops one in their tracks. Of course, women have always served in Israel, but not without tensions.

Shani Boianjiu wrote in The New York Time about her experience in the military when the secular Jewish world encounters the ultra-Orthodox. She described an incident where she made the mistake of “touching” a soldier during a training exercise. Her job was to teach combat soldiers how to use their personal weapons. During the boot camp exercise, Shani’s task was to make sure that soldiers didn’t fall off balance. The squadding position could be awkward unless the soldiers were positioned correctly. Recognizing an error, she lightly kicked a soldier to expose how unbalanced he was. The man didn’t move. From behind, she put her hands on his shoulders. The man suddenly began screaming, “I observe touch.” Even though Shani was the man’s superior officer and trainer, she had violated a religious rule the military observed.

In her article, Shani Boianjiu, who is secular, described the tension in the military that ancient religious rules often create. One of these statues is that a women cannot touch a weapon in a man’s presence. Once while trying to demonstrate a grenade launcher, as soon as she actually put a finger on the weapon, her trainees disappeared. Their was no problem in being instructed by a women or having her point at the weapon. However, once she picked it up, the ultra-Orthodox soldiers cleared out. Why? While she never could get the point, it had to do with an ancient saying about women and instruments of war not mixing.

One of the major reasons these religious Jews feel they should be exempted from military serve is because of women working as military personnel. Currently, women compose about 30% of the IDF. Another one of these strange rules is that ultra-religious men are not allowed to hear women sing. Shani concluded that the tolerance of Israel’s leaders for religious needs at the expense of others is deeply unfair.

The struggle goes on and must soon come to some resolute as the old Tal Law has now run out. Prime Minister Netanyahu must make a major decision. Soon.

 

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An Update on Israel

 

Change is in the air.

 

A number of incidents have occurred lately that didn’t make headlines in America. They aren’t earth shaking events, but might help you keep abreast of the times are unfolding. Change occurs in the Middle East at the speed of light. Consequently, the more we know, the better we are to judge the situation and make sound judgements.

Were you aware that Russian President Vladimir Putin dropped in for a visit this summer? While the occasion was more of a state formality with a dedication of a war memorial, it is interesting that the country with a hard history of antisemitism should have the newly elected president drop by for a chat. My guess is that the stop-by represents a recognition of the importance of Israel in the world scene and a concern for an attack on Iran (one of Russia’s allies). If so, Putin got an earful. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres made it clear that in their view nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranians remained a threat to Israel and the world. Putin said nothing, but got the message. However, there’s no change with Vadim.

Russia continues to oppose more sanctions against Iran while supplying weapons to Syria (calling them defensive armaments). They have also used their veto power to shield the Assad regime.

While in Israel, Putin helped unveil a monument to the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany. Such remembrances are important because of the enormous price the Soviet Union paid in World War II. Over a half million Jews fought in the Soviet Army and 120,000 were killed. The idea for the monument began with Netanyahu two years ago when he proposed the commemoration to Putin.

On a different front, the former financial adviser to Yasser Arafat Muhammad Rashid revealed that Fatah had a secret bank account in Jordan amounting to $39 million. When Arafat died, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world with a monthly allowance to his wife in Paris of $100,000 a month. Three billion dollars disappeared and has not been found to this date. Rashid stated that only Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and two of his associates could access the account. He challenged Abbas to admit this fact because he had longed denied the existence of such an account. After a long-standing battled with the PA leadership, Rashid has threatened to expose corruption and scandal involving Abbas.

Change? Well, the covers are being thrown back. Seems the Palestinian Authority continues to deal under the table just as Arafat did.

Here’s another surprise for you. East Jerusalem Arabs are increasingly applying for Israeli citizenship. Forty-six years ago, the Six Day War (Yom Kippur War) exploded and the citizenship of East Jerusalem shifted. Because King Hussein claimed the rights to the West Bank and the PLO called these Arabs Palestinians, they ended up in effect non-citizens. Today, 260,000 east Jerusalemites are still non-citizens. A high number of this group were born in Israel, speak Hebrew, and have been virtually absorbed into Israeli society. Today an increasing number are convinced no change will every occur and are applying for Israeli citizenship. The idea of a Palestinian may never be resolved. The status quo isn’t relevant to this group.

Change is moving right along.

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